Learning To Live With PTSD, Letting Go Of Fear

Filed Under Combat PTSD, Dogs, Fear, Hope, PTSD, PTSD treatment, Tears of a Warrior, Treating PTSD, Veterans | Comments Off on Learning To Live With PTSD, Letting Go Of Fear

Guest post by Jennifer McGregor

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Photo via Pixabay by JakeWilliamHeckey

 

 

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects millions of Americans every year, yet there is still a stigma surrounding it that leaves many people too uncomfortable to start a conversation about it. Often, the reluctance to talk about it stems from either a lack of knowledge or fear of the things that can accompany PTSD, such as substance abuse or depression.

It’s important to find ways to let this fear go, whether you suffer from the disorder yourself or have a loved one who does. PTSD can absolutely be manageable with the right treatment, but the first step to healing is usually starting a conversation.

The causes for PTSD are many and varied, so treatment can depend on the root cause. The most common reasons for post traumatic stress disorder are witnessing military combat, witnessing or being involved in a serious accident or terrorist event, and being the victim of sexual or physical abuse. Often, alcohol or drugs work to numb the pain from bad memories or help the sufferer sleep following nightmares, and the sufferer may form an addiction that leaves them depressed, isolated from friends and family, in declining health, or suicidal. For this reason, it’s imperative to know the warning signs of depression and suicide and be open with loved ones about what’s going on.

If you suffer from PTSD and are feeling negative effects that have you worried about your well-being, it’s important to let go of the fear and shame often associated with the disorder and ask for help. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family members or friends about your feelings, consider calling a hotline, finding an online support group, or contacting a therapist. Trained professionals can help you leave behind negative thoughts and memories, learn to control the track your thoughts take and focus on more positive energy, and help you learn that there is no shame in either PTSD or the events that caused it.

Depression and anxiety can be overwhelming at times, especially if isolation has occurred. Finding alternative therapy may be helpful once you’ve contacted a therapist–do not try to self-diagnose your condition. Rather, consult with a professional to see what will work best for you. It could be medication, particular methods of therapy, or both. But there are things you can do at home to relieve the stress and anxious feelings, including art therapy, exercise, or finding a service dog. Animals can be wonderful companions and can help tremendously in lowering stress levels.

If substance abuse is involved, take heart; studies have shown that exposure therapy–in which the PTSD sufferer is exposed to painful memories over and over in order to face them and find healthy ways to cope–is hugely successful in sufferers who have problems with drugs or alcohol.

“The exciting thing in my view is that the study supports people with drug and alcohol problems having access to other forms of psychological interventions, rather than being fobbed off and told to sort out their alcohol or drug problem first,” says Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center.

It’s important to remember that help is out there. Don’t give up hope. If someone you love is suffering with PTSD or addiction issues, don’t be afraid to let them know you’re concerned. Start a conversation and reach out; you might just save a life.

 

Jennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.

 

 

 

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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It is easy to see what courage looks like.  We observe it in the acts of those who, in spite of intense danger or inconceivable suffering, or endless determination, an individual continues to live on. To move forward.  We see it in the movies where it makes us feel safe and in control in events we know we may never survive.

But what does courage sound like? Does it reveal itself in words, in songs, in other types of media?  Perhaps real courage sounds like Silence.  The silence of grief that cannot be expressed in words.  The silence of a heart being shattered.  The silence of hidden tears and silent screams.

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And what does courage feel like?  It may be different for every person, yet, individually it contains some singular similarities. Our feelings, much like hearing, is silent beyond ourselves.  Emotions, an element of feelings, come at anytime, day or night.  It cannot be quantified, perhaps because we may not be able to find a beginning or end in its infinitesimal existence.  You see, feelings go beyond emotions. They are deeper, often jumbled together with anger, love, gratitude and sadness.  We feel what we feel.  Attempting to put feelings into words can be exhausting, exasperating, and mostly ineffective.

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Courage, like feelings and hearing is also Silent. It is very much present. There is both a sweetness and bitterness in courage. The sweetness of living through a reality that many may never experience.  The bitterness resulting from that very same experience.  It is not about the “why me”, “how come”, or “what ifs” of suffering. Simply having the courage to accept the experience for what it is— an experience that changes a person from the before to the now – and beyond.

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We spend too much time trying to define/identify courage. Most results are superficial at best.  For if, as I believe, courage is found only in the Silence… the empty spaces between the noise and what is seen, heard, and felt.  We often miss or mistakenly identify courage.  Its potential seed lives in most of us, yet, it can only be germinated when or if the time presents itself.  For some of you reading this piece may think, “What the heck is she rambling about?”  For others, those who have lived the courage, you may only nod your head and silently say “true”.

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By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

iPhone 2016 1747 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”.

 

BeFunky_Traveling Wall.jpgIt continues to be an overly busy few months.  We are waiting for things to slow down a bit, yet, as soon as we are done with one “To Do List” another pops up with an even bigger task sheet.  It begs the question as to whether we are really that harried, or if we are more easily exhausted because we aren’t all that youthful any more.  OK, don’t go to that disheartening place.

 

iPhone 2016 589A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do a TED Talk at Colorado State University where I’m a professor in the Education College. Of course my topic was Post Traumatic Stress. After months of putting together the talk and multiple practice sessions, the day finally arrived. Truthfully, when I was first accepted as a speaker I was quite excited. As the day for the TED event grew closer I became more anxious.  It wasn’t the fear of talking in front of large groups of people – we do that often.  It was trying to fit twenty years of research and essential information into a fifteen minute timeframe that drove me to panic. This was more like the old television show, Name That Tune, in which the contestant was given only the first three or four notes of a song and expected to know its name; a seemingly impossible task for discussing Post Traumatic Stress and its effects on the brain, body, and spirit.

 

iPhone 2016 880As I entered the stage area I felt like Katniss from the Hunger Games, going into a life and death battle without the proper equipment. You will have to listen to the talk (the information is in this blog), to see the results.  Be sure to go to watch the very end for a surprise appearance of our service dog, Bailey.  Tony, unbeknownst to me, brought him to the event and sent him up on stage at the very end of my talk.  OMG!!!!

 

Ted Talk: 15 minutes worth hearing!

Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions | Janet Seahorn | TEDxCSU – YouTube

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BEHDQeIRTgs

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WELCOME BACK!

by John DiCiacco – Guest Blog  (John is a veteran & brother who helps make a difference)

Jan & John

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.

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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.

John at Vietnam Wall Memorial

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.

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PUPPY LOVE AND CRAZINESS

Filed Under Dogs, Pets, PTSD, Service Dogs, Tears, Tears of a Warrior, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on PUPPY LOVE AND CRAZINESS

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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            So you think you want to bring home a new puppy. You know, one of those wiggly, darling, sweet looking bundles of joy. They appear amazing innocent in the entire plethora of internet pictures, advertisements, and billboards. Yep, you definitely believe one of these adorable, four-legged, loveable, furry cherubs known as “man’s best friend” will enhance your life and look great on your next Christmas card.  And, you aren’t totally oblivious of what it might take to raise one of these creatures.  You’ve had puppies before, of course. You may have been much younger and more patient at the time. 

You understand that this energetic whippersnapper will take a pretty good amount of time to potty train, learn new commands, and not bolt at the first slight opening of every door in your home. Hiding any and every item that might go into the puppy’s mouth including expensive eye glasses could end in an inflated doggy hospital visit – sure to cost you an arm and a leg. This will be essential to your pocket book and your endearing, four-legged child’s health. Oh, and did I mention how much puppies love the leather seats of your new truck’s interior.

 

If your adorable, small creature is going to grow into a huge, muscle bound tank, like my brother’s black lab, Mato, life becomes even more fun to control. Things like not allowing this boiler of energy to greet others, especially children and the elderly, by approaching them like a freight train and jumping full force onto their chests. This will be crucial to avoid unpleasant verbal encounters or even law suits. Of course that once tiny bundle of fur has no clue that he has grown into a ninety pound bruiser of a beast.

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Oh, and don’t forget that if you have other household pets, bringing a new four-legged nipper into the pack will require an immense amount of patience, both for you and your other domestic companion. My brother, John, wanted to have another pal for his aging lab, Wyatt. We did something similar with our beloved older lab, Chase, when we brought Hunter Bailey into our abode, and told John, how Bailey helped bring new life back to Chase’s daily routines. It actually, we believed, gave Chase a new lease on life and kept him agile and healthy for several more years. To be honest, Chase did not fully support this perspective. Bailey, however, kept Chase’s competitive spirit active.  Chase would not allow his new “buddy” to ever get an edge on any ball, bird, or swimming event.

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However, in our limited experience we forgot one significant point. Just like kids, all dogs are not alike, and Mato (Lakota for Bear) was absolutely not like Bailey. Bailey, as the younger dog, was quiet, subservient, and a fairly mild lab compared to when we raised Chase.  Chase was more like Mato, impulsive exhaustingly active, and stubborn as hell. My brother’s older dog, Wyatt, has always been a gentle people pleaser, more like Bailey. Poor, innocent Wyatt had no clue what a new puppy would bring to his world.

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 Today, Wyatt has extreme doggie PTSD from his adopted brother, Mato. Having a huge puppy leaping on him throughout the day, pulling on his ears and legs to induce play, or taking more than one dog’s share of food would be traumatic for any aging canine.

So, what does this story have to do with Post Traumatic Stress of an aging military veteran, one might ask? Bringing a new puppy into your quiet, tranquil home may generate more stress and anxiety than you ever imagined. Just ask my brother, John. He now refers to his beloved puppy, Mato, as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Need I say more…

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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            So many questions… most unanswered … fill my mind. Questions such as – What is suffering?  Why does it exist in our world? How do we lessen the feelings of hurt, pain, anger, and hopelessness? Very few responses are suitable for any one person, any one situation. Yet, it seems like nature is one of the few healers in our world of chaos and woundedness.

Last week we were privileged to be a part of a Healing Waters activity at the Blue Valley Ranch inKremmling,Colorado. Twenty four vets from FortCarson who are part of the FortCarson’s reintegration program and several who had been former members of the military took part in the program. For four days and nights Project Healing Waters Staff, along with community members and fishing guides volunteered their time and boats to wade fish theBlueRiverand float theColorado. Everyone strived to make the veteran’s activity a nurturing and healing experience.

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Long before the adventure began, participants began learning about the art and craft of fly fishing.  They learned the various life cycles of flies and many even took up fly tying which has proved to be a very important part of their life-long healing. Once the group arrived at the ranch they were fully equipped with expensive fly rods, fishing vests, hats, and other fly fishing necessities. Each veteran was accompanied by a personal guide to assist, coach, and make sure every need was addressed during the four days on the water. BlueValleyRanch is a good steward of the land and the staff works hard to ensure a high level of commitment to their warrior guests.

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But here is the fundamental mission of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing… it is not to merely provide a few lovely days in beautiful surroundings. The primary mission of Healing Waters is to give each wounded warrior an introduction to an activity and potential life experience that can help heal their mind, body and spirit… It is simply not enough to go away for a few days and fish. Staying in touch with the guides, roommates, or others who have touched their hearts is essential. The guides and Healing Waters partners are around to take the participants on future trips. They are available to talk, to go for coffee or a meal, and to merely be an extended part of their new family.

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Yes, Healing Waters most definitely provides comfort and hope to any traumatized individual. However, it is people who heal people. It is communities that offer support and nurturing, and it is being with animals and beautiful surroundings in nature that help a wounded soul believe that even in a harsh world, there is still immense beauty waiting to be experienced.

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Quite simply it is the unpretentious comfort of nature and humankind that brings one back to believing in the humanity that is still present even if one can’t immediately see or feel its presence.

So, go to the river to heal, and be sure to include your faithful dog companion to complete the experience.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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Much of the time we write about the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress, a silent wound no one can see, yet its effects can consume a person’s mind, heart, spirit, and even soul. However, there is a very physical silent wound that many individuals face, especially veterans who have been in combat zones where IEDs, bomb & RPG blasts and other tragic events cause a physical hearing loss.

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hearing-loss-2Losing any of our senses makes negotiating the daily routines of life much more difficult. And losing the loss of hearing separates one from the ability to participate in the most common of daily tasks. Simple activities like going to the store and trying to communicate with the checkout person, or straining to understand what your waiter is telling you at a restaurant can be challenging.  Consider, also, what it takes to have a conversation on the phone.  Most of us take these common everyday tasks for granted. Thanks goodness for new technologies like texting.

It was an early Friday morning and I was heading to the airport to catch a flight to Louisville, Kentucky. Tony had accepted an invitation for both of us to speak on several panels regarding hearing loss and combat veterans. In between the acceptance and the trip, he got a special opportunity to spend ten days in Alaska fishing for salmon and halibut. This proved to be an offer he couldn’t refuse. So you guessed it, I was doing this one alone, kind of like Tonto without the Lone Ranger.

Once I arrived in Louisville I had the wonderful privilege of spending several days with four wounded veterans and three of their wives. All of the vets had severe hearing loss from an IED explosion or near a suicide bomber, and one who had contacted an unusual illness that caused him to lose his hearing due to the cartilage in his body being eaten away. Three of the four vets also suffered with pretty severe traumatic brain injuries.

hearing-loss-3What was quite amazing about this group was not what they had lost, but how far they had come in addressing their condition and moving forward. And to make this situation even more remarkable was that each had a wife who was incredibly supportive and tenacious on making sure that her husband fought for his recovery as she helped fight for appropriate services in the healing journey. One of the wives had a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy while another had a background in working with the deaf and was skilled at sign language and other techniques to use when working with individuals faced with hearing loss.

What was an Aha Moment for me after being around these couples is the fact that there are “tip” sheets to assist with adjustments to hearing loss.

-Tips like stand still and face the individual with whom you are talking.

-Talk clearly.

-Try to keep to the point and don’t overuse words.

Darn, these were things Tony and I learned the hard way. I could have benefited knowing these years ago. The list reminded me of training our dogs… you do the same things… when giving directions or a command. Stand still. Use minimal words such as stay, sit, down, eat, kennel, etc…Kind of showed us that training ourselves sometimes is very much like training our animal friends.

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For any person with a hearing loss and especially our returning veterans and families, get informed about all the new technologies and assist devices that can greatly enhance the ability to function. If you are in this category you will have to be your own fervent advocate. If you aren’t satisfied with your services, keep pushing for any new ideas or programs that are available. Do your Google searches. The Veteran Centers are pretty overwhelmed with the number of veterans needing services, therefore, you will need to be the bull terrier not willing to give up or give in until you are convinced all that can be done, has been done.

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Adapted hearing devices are available through many American companies. One such organization is Hamilton CapTel. It produces a caption phone that has been a Godsend to Tony. Hamilton CapTel has just launched a new program called Heroes with Hearing Loss  www.heroeswithhearingloss.com  The program focuses on education and information for navigating the world of the hard of hearing. Take a look at their video. You may even want to “Like” them on Facebook to get more information.

http://www.multivu.com/mnr/62613-heroes-with-hearing-loss-new-program-debuts-vfw-national-convention

In the end I am reminded of a quote by Joseph Fort Newton.  It clearly captures the essence of so many of our military personnel and their families who continue to wake up every day and courageously move forward toward their personal healing and their mission of making a difference for others.

We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us, how we take it, what we do with it —– and that is what really counts in the end.”

by Tony & Janet Seahorn

            The human heart and mind are amazing in their capacity to experience intense sadness and abundant gratitude at the same time. That lump in the throat is still there as are the tears that cloud my eyes. Yet, the weight of the death of our wonderful Chase seems to be a bit lighter.

            Earlier this week, we visited Chase’s most beloved mountain meadow, high on the Snowy Range in southern Wyoming. It is a beautiful, alpine meadow filled with wild flowers and a running brook. This is the place we chose to spread his ashes and place a stone memorial on a wooded ridge overlooking the peaceful valley below. 

            We promised to make this journey after the early summer snow melt and before the wildflowers were in full bloom.

            His very essence now glides in the winds and rolls gently with the flowing water. White and yellow flowers line his final path. He is at peace, as are we. And younger brother Bailey still romps through the brightly colored grasses chasing after his cherished tennis ball – a reminder that joy is always present around and within our souls.

            As we paid our final respects it seemed as if Chase was giving us his final message:

I am now in my meadow; my ashes white as angels’ wings float with the Wind and flow through the mountain streams to places I never ran in life. 

Peace and beauty will always surround me with a green and white and purple blanket of sweet columbines.        

This is where I was finally meant to be.

Therefore, honor me not with tears of sadness, but with hearts of joyfulness.

                              Remember me with stories and laughter.                               

And most of all know that as much as you loved me I loved you even more.

 

Black Forest Chase

April 23, 1999 – January 4, 2013

CHASE’S LAST ROLL CALL

Filed Under Aging, Dogs, Family, Healing, PTSD, PTSD treatment, Service Dogs, Tears, Tears of a Warrior, Tribute | Comments Off on CHASE’S LAST ROLL CALL

 -by Tony & Janet Seahorn

Black Forest Chase:    April 23, 1999 – January 4, 2013

 

Dear Readers, today is an incredible hard day for us. It is a day of celebration, gratitude, patience, letting go, and joy. Today our black lab Chase made his final retrieve. We will miss him dearly. He was our special Wonder Dog and his spirit will remain with us. He loved to fish and bird hunt and guide the raft on its journey downstream. His companionship and love was unconditional and he will never be forgotten. Chase has been our guardian angel calming Tony as he battled with the demons of PTSD. We’ll miss his wonderful presence as we explore new waters and return to familiar haunts. Chase, we know you’ll be happy flushing birds & brookies in the great beyond.

Peace old buddy.

           Many will walk in and out of your life, but only a true friend will leave paw prints on your heart.   ~Anonymous

 

 

My brother, John, sent us this poem earlier this week.  I know it will offer us comfort, but for now we must travel the Road of Tears.

In Memory Of A Beloved Friend

Skidboot:

Born in 1992 and passed on in 2007

 

Touch me with your voice as a puppy young and new,

And let me know my presence is what is pleasing you.

Touch me with your Spirit, for God sent me here to you,

To teach you of that precious bond known only by the choicest few.

Touch me with your hands as I grow tall and strong,

I need you as my mentor throughout my whole life long.

Touch me with your lips, and brush them softly on my brow,

Please kiss away the fears that I am feeling now.

Touch me with your eyes as I become full grown,

To validate unspoken love that we have always known.

Touch me with your heart as our bond keeps growing stronger,

And words need not be used in our language any longer.

Touch me with your breath, so soft and warm upon my face,

As I try to bring you comfort in life’s never ending race.

Touch me with your love when my muzzle turns gray,

I live my life to please you, each and every single day.

Touch me with your scent when age has dimmed my sight,

To reassure me always that you will be my light.

Touch me with your face when your tears are meant for me.

So I may bear your pain and let your heart be free.

Touch me with remembrance when I have traveled on,

And, I will hold your heart in mine forever when I’m gone. 

-Credit  Skidboot-

 

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 

It is a slow Sunday afternoon. One of those undemanding days when there is not much pressing to do; this leaves some time to spend on whatever catches my fancy. Tony has taken his four-legged children on a short fishing trip, allowing me some REAL personal time. Since there are several decent movies showing, I decided to go to a film called The Way.  It is the story about a father, Martin Sheen, who takes over a journey his dead son began. The task was walking a trail from France to a sacred place in Spain. Unfortunately, the son died in an accident his first day out. Of course, the deeper meaning of any such trek is a journey in finding oneself, whether that test is religious, career oriented, healing, or simply the trial to see if one can achieve such an arduous hike.

 

So I got to thinking while watching the movie, what is the Way of a Warrior? Is it a way of violence, death and suffering? Is it a way of courage and sacrifice? Is a warrior’s way a way of freedom? Perhaps a warrior’s true north is a way of Faith. Whatever the answer, one thing is certain; the way of a warrior is not easy and definitely not glamorous. More often than not, war makes it even more difficult for the warrior to find his or her way back to any kind of normality and trust of humanity. Finding the way back can be a lifetime journey for many past and present combatants.

 

One line in the film was pretty reflective, “Life is not about the career you choose but the life you’ve lived”. There can be no doubt that most warriors have lived a variety of lives in one short life time. They have lived the life of a warrior, a friend, a son, a father, a husband, a shattered soul, and a triumphant being. What then will be the rest of a life lived for a warrior? What will be his/her remaining Way?

 

It is my hope the remaining days of every warrior’s way will be softer, kinder and more peace filled. For those who have suffered years of sadness and remorse, may the new way be one of forgiveness and acceptance. During this Holiday Season and anticipation of a New Year, may every person find a special Way to give of themselves in some endeavor that makes a difference… adopt an animal from a shelter, smile and acknowledge that homeless person on the corner of your downtown street, or simply say a silent prayer for another soul in need of comfort.

 

During this season of reflection, find your own unique, individual Way to live with greater joy, less suffering, and fewer reminders of the demons that may have accompanied you home from combat. You and your family deserve a prosperous Way of living each and every one of your future days. Begin NOW!

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