by John DiCiacco – Guest Blog (John is a veteran & brother who helps make a difference)
I can’t speak for every person who reads your blogs, but I can and will say this, I have missed not reading them. The only thing that ever depressed me was the first paragraph in your latest blog. You always come up with something that touches someone, whether it be thought provoking or light hearted.
Your words always mean something to someone. Blogs can and should present different topics and when folks consider one to be difficult to read, then they can choose not to read it. But don’t just complain to the author, because life isn’t always a bowl of cherries.
As we all know, you can’t be everything to everyone so don’t try. But please don’t stop writing your blogs. Take it from this Veteran, I have never read a single one of your blogs that made me feel depressed. You write about reality, especially meaningful to veterans and families who suffer from the wounds of war.
I know that some times during any given month you have your own personal traumatic experiences that make life a little difficult and so you do your best to just survive. Just like the Veterans whom read your blogs. When moments arrive that you can’t seem to come up with something to talk about, I can assure you that I do. Or have a Request Button on Note asking the readers if they have something that they would like to talk about through you.
Oh, by the way, your ticket into Heaven has already been secured. Your Ancestors and Guardian Spirits have made sure of that.
As you know, I spent two tours in the Nam and Holiday’s are still very hard for me. Too many Ghosts and way too much guilt for one man to carry. The haunting reality for many Combat Veterans is the same unhealthy thought pattern we carry and wear on our chests like a sort of Medal. That thought is this and I quote: “Why in the hell am I here and not so and so”, or “I don’t have the right to celebrate or be happy when so many of my Brothers will never be here.” Most Veteran’s never come right out and say these things but the thoughts are real and they and their fallen Comrades are there as well.
Of course, in my efforts to be jolly I would have to self medicate and numb the pain just to get through the ordeal. Afterword the Guilt followed by the shame for drinking was much worse.
I don’t know how I got on all of this but I better stop.
You can blog me anytime you want.
Filed Under American Patriotism, Bless Our Troops, Chrisrmas, Christmas, Family, Healing, Holiday Season, Holidays, Journey, PTSD, Tears of a Warrior, Veterans, War | Comments Off on Having a Happy Holiday
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It has been several months since I wrote the last blog. Honestly, I chalk it up to lack of motivation and simply feeling I had little else to say that would be worth anyone taking the time to read. Some individuals even commented on how many of the past blogs were a bit depressing. No kidding! Many of these individuals may have never had the combat experience or served in the military. It is difficult to understand something that has not been experienced. Humor at times can be difficult, especially during the holidays when you live with a person suffering with Post Trauma Stress. The experience is so not funny.
Yelling at those who don’t seem to appreciate or understand this type of suffering would definitely be something I’d have to mention in my next visit to church and confession. Just hope it might be a different priest who won’t say something like…. “Well, seems like you haven’t made much progress in this area”.
At this point my entry into heaven would be further compromised. At the very least I would be on Santa’s naughty list.
So, why am I writing a new blog now? Because it is Christmas. My favorite holiday (along with Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day…). Really, I love the smell of the season, the food, the lights in and outside of homes, carols, and the various displays around town. Unfortunately, as much as I love Christmas, I am reminded of how many of our veterans find this particular time of year a huge challenge. Christmas may be an unpleasant reminder of all that was lost – those who never returned home and those still serving in harm’s way far from home. Depression, anger, feeling alone and removed could be emotions that have to be dealt with once again. It is hard to be jolly or even be around those who are jolly when you are fighting to just keep your head above the waters of Merriment.
Tonight Tony was talking on the phone with a friend and veteran who was facing another season of cheer and trying to simply get through it and keeping his emotions/temper in check. During the conversation Tony mentioned that it was this time of year when he was in Vietnam and severely wounded. He lost many of his men during a horrendous battle and later spent months in various military hospitals trying to heal from his injuries. All these decades later it is not the physical wounds that test him the most. It is the emotional aches that make the holiday season taxing. Instead of all the Ho, Ho, Ho,….. I know that certain days he wants to scream, No, No, No More!!!
For years I had no idea of what he faced or continued to face. My delight during this time of year only exacerbated his loss thus causing more than one argument. Now that we both know better, we finally do better. I try to be a bit calmer in front of him, and he tries to take better care of his emotional needs by having more quiet time, going on long walks or taking Bailey pheasant hunting. And both of us focus on counting our blessings.
We’ll be darned if we let the PTS Grinch steal Christmas ever again.
by Tony & Janet Seahorn
The story of Gail Halvorsen, a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift, in which US forces flew much-needed supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin.
On his missions, he dropped candy to children and became known as the Candy Bomber.
Filed Under American Patriotism, Bless Our Troops, Chrisrmas, Christmas, Combat PTSD, Dream, Holiday Season, Holidays, Tears of a Warrior, Tears of Joy | Comments Off on YES, MY DEAR VETERAN, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
Francis P. Church
At this time of year it may be hard for many to believe in much of anything, not to mention a person named Santa Claus. Nevertheless, I still love the story of how the letter, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” came to be. It was written way back in 1897 by a man named Francis Church. Mr. Church was an editor of the Sun newspaper and when receiving a letter from a small girl by the name of Virginia O’Hanlon asking if there was a Santa Claus he wrote his now famous letter. You see, Virginia’s father told her if something appeared in the Sun it must be true. Golly, how times have changed. At any rate, I still find his response to the small Virginia a reminder how important it is to believe in the kinder, sweeter things in life. How miracles surround us every single day, but in our despair we may only be able to see the cruel, bitter, and oftentimes heartbreaking fragments of the moment. Perhaps reading Mr. Church’s famous letter might remind us all of what is really important during this holiday season. His words are as enduring now as they were way back in 1897.
The answer as published in the New York Sun was:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
If you are finding yourself in the Grinch mode, read Virginia’s letter and think about whatever is good, precious, or beautiful in your life and choose to believe.
by Janet J. Seahorn
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away. The carols are blaring on many radio stations, decorations in stores have been up way before we killed the Thanksgiving turkey, and advertisement to buy what will put you in the poor house are everywhere making one ask after a purchase, “Why the ### did I buy that” and then “How in the ### will I pay for it”. If one isn’t careful, Christmas can increase PTSD and not just in military vets.
When reading through a list of Post-Traumatic Stress indicators I got to reflecting on how many can be aggravated by the holidays. Therefore, instead of making a Christmas list for Santa, I thought it would be far more attention-grabbing to create a list of PTSD Christmas triggers.
- 1. Easily startled – I couldn’t possibly cover all of these but a few could occur with all the bells tingling, unfriendly Santas, and way tooooo many loud people.
- 2. Easily upset – for Tony a short trip to any shopping center quickly attains this mark.
- 3. Feeling tense or anxious – do I really need to explain this one, really? $$$ worries, memories of unpleasant holidays during combat, too much outside stimulation that no one can control.
- 4. Problems maintaining attention or concentrating – advertisers only need you to remain focused for thirty seconds… long enough to give them your credit card.
- 5. Feeling disorganized – WHO DOESN’T at this time of year?
- 6. Nightmares – and these may not be about combat. Think of the songs we hear that aren’t all that cheery like, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, any chipmunk song, and if I hear The Twelve Days of Christmas even once I will go bonkers!
- 7. Experience sudden mood swings – Are you kidding; listen to a sad song, watch a funny commercial, open your bundle of bills… most of us are somewhat emotional challenged during this time of year and PTSD only makes it more FUN!
- 8. Hard time dealing with stressful situations – everything is stressful and the only remedy is visit Mother Nature often, stay home and read a good book, or take a Rip Van Winkle nap until January 15th.
- 9. Feeling tired, stomachaches, headaches, aches, aches, and more aches… – have you ever put up a 16 foot Christmas tree, put together some special present that takes an engineering degree to properly assemble, try to learn how to use your new piece of technology… my stomach is already beginning to cringe just writing this section.
Now that you are thoroughly depressed, here’s the good news. The Holiday Season can be a beautiful, inspiring time of year, yet only if we intentional focus our attention on what is important and worthwhile in our lives. Things like family, friends, good health, personal freedoms, loving relationships and adoring four legged companions. Many times if we focus on helping another being some of our worries and aches disappear for a bit and we experience the true meaning and joy of the coming days. So let us welcome back our Ho, Hos, and get rid of the CRAP. Happy, Happy, Happy Holidays to everyone.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It is time to begin a new Holiday Season. Dang, some stores started playing their carols, displaying Christmas ornaments, and advertising the grandness of spending oneself into shopping debt even before Halloween! I truly expected someone dressed as a reindeer or elf to ring my doorbell for trick or treat.
Now, don’t get me wrong I love Christmas. Really! It is my favorite holiday. Almost everything about it is a special time filled with amazing sights, fragrant smells of evergreen trees, bells, carols, and my list goes on and on. I even enjoy buying a few gifts for family and friends, and I make sure that Tony NEVER accompanies me on these shopping excursions. The Grinch is one of his Christmas heroes which, as you can imagine, puts a huge damper on my jolly shopping expeditions.
Therefore, as we begin this new 2011 Holiday Season, I thought I would put down a few ideas of how to survive the coming days.
- Begin your new Weight Watchers diet. Watch others eat less and lose while you wait and enjoy every morsel of goodies you can grab. As military veterans, you had far too many C-Rations or MREs to endure food rations now.
- Don’t start off on the wrong foot at Thanksgiving, give away leftover turkey and celery to guests, but keep the pumpkin pie at all cost.
- If you have to ask for seconds, you are already sitting at the wrong table.
- If you are the wife of an anti-shopping Grinch, pray for them daily. We’re still a month until Christmas. You can even offer to share your Prozac if they become overly anxious during this joyous (hectic) time of year.
- If you are the Grinch, breath deep, meditate, and appreciate that the Holiday season only comes once a year, even if it seems to be coming earlier each year.
- And, last, if you are worried about excessive shopping and overspending, the banks don’t seem to care if anyone follows a budget anymore, so I’m sure they will extend your credit for say, the next thirty years.
Seriously, I definitely understand the challenges of trying to negotiate the many pitfalls and stimulations of the Holidays and not just for veterans. For many, it is never an easy time of year, which is the reason why I decided to begin this season’s blog with a bit of humor. Some of us are going to need to store up as much hilarity as possible if we are to survive the absurdity ahead.
You see, I am really, really, really trying to stay on Santa’s “Nice” list.
by Janet & Tony Seahorn
It is almost Christmas, a few days left until we celebrate the special event that people around the world have been doing for centuries. Some of us know this occasion as the birth of Jesus. Some call it the “thank goodness the shopping is over season”. And some simply hope the day passes as quickly as possible, overwhelmed by the season of consumerism.
Weeks ago we put out to our readers an opportunity to do something for themselves and others. To do something that would calm the spirit, or an act that would make a difference for someone else. We promised to share a few comments from our readers. I learned something from this experience. Veterans fight courageously, suffer silently, and strive for goodness every day. Here are a few we received.
One veteran’s wife wrote that her husband’s close friend had suffered a serious accident and has been in a coma in the ICU burn unit since mid November. Her husband and several other Vietnam Vets have taken turns twice a week spending the night at the hospital to relieve the wife and family. They watch as their friend “continues to fight ‘awareness’, flailing arms, legs, head, and not opening eyes or focusing. We can only imagine what is going on inside his head, the thoughts, flashbacks of Nam, the unwillingness to come to”, she recounts. Their involvedness has caused her husband and the others to have their own ghosts emerge – burn centers and trauma is a trigger to their days in Nam. Now they also take time to reflect on their blessing.
My brother John wrote: Let us start that list with our name at the top because if one cannot make themselves happy first, then how can we make anyone else happy. Second on the list has to be my best friend and companion Wyatt, my lab retriever. A prayer John uses every morning is “GOD HELP ME WALK WORTHILY THIS DAY SO THAT WHEN I LIE DOWN AT NIGHT I WILL NOT BE ASHAMED”. Then I thank HIM every night for everything that happened that day.
Others discussed how they had written a letter to a family member. Some of the letters were sent to tell a particular person how much his/her presence in life has meant. How by simply being present provided a sense of belonging and safety. Others wrote to ask for another chance, a chance for redemption, a chance to help the estranged person understand the long and difficult journey the writer has endured. Perhaps, after years of alienation, there will be forgiveness, compassion, and a better understanding of each individual’s existence. Possibly a miracle may happen and relationships may begin to heal. At any rate, it is more important that the effort was made.
The last one we will share tells of how a veteran and his wife were in a grocery store when they noticed two nuns shopping. The nuns would pick up an article, look at the price tag, then put it back on the shelf. Obviously, he writes, they could not afford much. As the man was checking out, he kept his eyes on the nuns. When their bill came up, he walked over and told the cashier he was paying for their items. Needless to say, the ladies were both surprised and quite grateful. He is now a part of their prayers. What was most important, he writes,
“At the end of the day I took the challenge and went out with my wife and helped somebody.
Taking the initiative to help others made me feel good about myself”.
Thank you again for sharing your stories. We hope that your season has been healthier and happier. We know for certain each of you reading this Christmas message has made a difference for others. You are simply a blessing for many, and you deserve an abundance of Simple Blessings.
by Janet J. Seahorn
A favorite Christmas carol asks the questions, “Do You See What I See”? “Do you hear what I hear?” “Do you know what I know?” During this holiday season, where many do not feel so holy; where many do not hear the sounds of joy that carols bring and angels sing; where many have yet to believe that good still exists, perhaps there is a message of gentleness if we are strong enough to trust.
Yes, I realize I am an optimist. Truly, it is one of my best qualities, besides a distorted sense of humor. There would be no “today” for me if these gifts were not part of my being. I am pretty certain I would have given up a long time ago for that choice certainly seemed easier. Yet, I’ve always known giving up wasn’t an option or a model I wanted to give others, especially my sons.
So, what do you see? In this challenging world of war, political disgust, and self-centeredness there are abundant examples of crap. But look around. Beauty is, also, everywhere – in the face of an innocent child, in the brilliance of holiday lights; in the fresh whiteness of snow… it exists if we look. On my refrigerator I have a post-it-note that says, “Focus on the possibilities, not the limitations”. It is life-saving advice.
Next, what do you hear? Undoubtedly I hear the weeping of those in pain both physical and mental. Those who have experienced inconceivable loss. Those who live with the memories of combat past and present. Those who are challenged by sickness. Physical aches are difficult, but emotional wounds are far more exhausting, for emotional pains are the ones others cannot see or hear. These are the silent screams of the soul, and they demand a great deal more stamina. Often these cries seem to overpower the humanity of our being. Such times will demand we listen for what is decent and soothing; a breeze rustling in the leafless trees, a favorite song, a small child giggling over a ringing silver bell, or the quiet gaze of love that says more loudly than any words… we are cared for more than we can imagine.
What do you believe? Do you believe in the seen or what is unseen? Believing is a choice. As a scientist I rely on hard, quantifiable data to answer research questions. However, the world’s most noteworthy gifts cannot be counted or even proven. Gifts such as goodness, love, and miracles are beyond the “proofs” of men, yet they exist. One cannot measure honesty; he cannot measure wonder, nor is he capable of determining the reality of love. Yet, these exist. These are the staples of our days. They allow us to continue living in spite of our frustrations and grief. They are more powerful than any pill, any counseling program, or any doubts.
As you move through your sometimes difficult days, focus on the good things you see; listen for what soothes your heart; believe in your personal power and the vast energies of good which are still present in our lives. And believe, “what is needed is on its way, right now”!
Look, listen, Believe.
by Janet & Tony Seahorn
It is a bit sad to think of celebrations as a “thing” to “get through”.
Unfortunately, for many people suffering from trauma and loss, that is precisely the case. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Dinner was scrumptious with tasty fares of turkey, dressing, creamy mashed potatoes, and several great desserts. Laughter was abundant.
Yet, for Tony, the noise, the larger number of people – it was only nine of us total – found it still an effort to make it through the day. After dinner, when we all were playing games, he retired to a quieter room to watch football and relax. Our sons would go down to chat, but it wasn’t the same as having him join us in the fun. After everyone left, Tony felt the familiar pangs of sadness and guilt. He wanted so much to spend more time with everyone, but simply could not manage it. Trauma squeezes an excessive sum of happiness from folks. It is the thief who continually keeps on taking and taking and taking. Unlike the Grinch who stole Christmas, this silent bandit never gives anything back.
It is heartbreaking to watch the joy of this beautiful season being weakened by suffering. Therefore, I am sending forth a challenge to each of our readers; a challenge that may take some real effort each day. This may be a test that will demand some thought and determination if it is to be successful. But most of all, this challenge will only be taken on by those who really do want extra joy in their coming days.
For most us when we are feeling a bit down we have to put forth special attempts to look for the joy around us. At other times, usually when things appear to be quite desperate, we will have to create joy. Normally, the only way we are successful in creating joy is do something joyful for someone else.
To begin this challenge, make a list of things that make you happy, a clumsy puppy, your mates smile, a quiet walk along your favorite path… Whatever it is write it down, then paste a copy on your refrigerator and your bathroom mirror – for obvious reasonsJ
Now, for the next four weeks take time each day to achieve at least ONE thing on your list. If you are absent minded like me, put a mark on the calendar that you made your JOY commitment for the day. Look around carefully, where do you notice someone in need of assistance? Perhaps this is your chance to CREATE joy, doing something for someone else. Taking an action that may take a bit of a burden from a family or person in need. Golly, these are acts that a Grinch would detest, because bandits can’t steal what is being given from the heart.
Finally, and I very much hope Tony and I hear from many of you, sometime before Christmas send us a short message to let us know if this challenge made your holiday season a bit better this year.
If you did perform an “act of kindness”, we would love to hear about that too. In our Christmas week blog we will be a sharing the messages we receive. Do something special this season, take this Joy Challenge.
In doing so, remember this quote by Charles D. Gill,
“Believe that you make a difference. There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them”.
We wish you twenty-five days of amazing goodness. May this season bring you the joy you so richly deserve.
Filed Under Christmas | Comments Off on Twelve Days of Christmas Military Style
-by Janet J. Seahorn
Wow, this is our last blog before Christmas as 2009 comes to an end. There is so much for which to be thankful, and yet, much left to be done in mending the bodies, hearts, and minds of the many individuals who served our country, past and present. Therefore, I thought I’d put together a humorous version of why the “Twelve Days of Christmas” could really irritate the heck out of anyone suffering with PTSD.
Day One: A Partridge in a Pear Tree. Who in the heck cares about a partridge in pear tree?
Day Two: Two turtle doves — Now these can be very helpful with their soothing cooing. I just love turtle doves.
Day Three: Three French Hens – Great for a family barbecue.
Day Four: Four Calling Birds — Exactly, what is a “Calling Bird”? For someone challenged with PTSD, all that noise can be a little disconcerting.
Day Five: Five Golden Rings — This would be a great Christmas bonus from Uncle Sam for services rendered above and beyond the call of duty.
Day Six: Six Geese a Laying — Unless these geese are laying Golden Eggs, they go on the barbecue with the Three French Hens. You can then feed your entire neighborhood.
Day Seven: Seven Swans a Swimming — Since I happen to like swans and their awesome beauty, they would be a great addition to any backyard, given one has enough acreage to build a pretty big pond paid for by the Five Golden Rings.
Day Eight: Eight Maids a Milking — You know, I am not even going to touch this one…
Day Nine: Nine Ladies Dancing — See above. What is so interesting about the “Twelve Days” is the move from a lot of birds to a lot of women. Go figure.
Day Ten: Ten Lords a Leaping — Military serving in Afghanistan know about this one.
Day Eleven: Eleven Pipers Piping — Add these to all the birds and you have a true recipe for a disturbing and irritating experience.
Day Twelve: Twelve Drummers Drumming — Wow, if you didn’t lose it with the birds plus the Leaping Lords, and the Piping Pipers, you will now.
In all seriousness, we wish you and your loved ones a blessed Holiday and a New Year filled with good health and happiness. You deserve it.