Guest Post by Sally Harper

Battling_PTSD_(4949341330)For many soldiers and veterans who return home after a war, PTSD is a scary proposition that can affect them. It is a mental health condition whose symptoms may include reliving traumatic events, flashbacks & nightmares, persistent fear, feelings of anger, horror & detachment and guilt. Inability to sleep, concentration issues, aggressiveness and self-destructive behavior are other symptoms of the condition. PTSD can also have devastating effects on victims, families and caregivers who live through the experiences of patients who are suffering.

Early detection is crucial in treating PTSD with standard remedies including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and drug treatments. For patients who are not willing to discuss their trauma with a therapist, virtual reality-based therapy is also an option. The main aim is to keep their identities as soldiers, but steer away from the trauma of the war so that they can integrate into society easier and live normal lives. Stress management, exercise and good diets are complementary ways to cope with post-traumatic stress.

Take a look at this article for more information on the causes and symptoms of stress as well as how to control it.

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Two Quotes from Rumi:

(Rumi was a 13th-century poet of immense talent. His work highlights the power of literature in its ability to transcend time, language and geographic locations)

 

1)  Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.

 

2) The wound is the place where the light enters you.

 

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

It isn’t easy to move forward in life when you seem trapped by events that happened in the past. Often times the harder you try to get unstuck, the more bound you become to that very past. So how does one resolve such a dilemma? It probably won’t be without effort, time, and even some painful moments.

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In the book/movie, The Shack, the lead character is tormented by an unimaginable personal tragedy. No matter how hard he tries to move forward beyond his pain and horrendous memories, he can’t. Being caught in a terrible incident he is unable to see past his pain to the extent that very little joy or happiness can enter his life. In order to heal he is forced to go back to the place (the shack) where he got stuck; the place where the horror, the anguish, and the future was taken from him.

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I think this is what Tony was doing when he decided to return to Vietnam.  In order to heal more completely he made a choice to go back to the place where he became stuck, a space that over the last many decades unconsciously became his “shack”. Since his military service in Vietnam he has worked incredibly hard to move beyond the memories and the demons, but there were still times when the burden of combat obscured his vision and ability to live fully.  As part of the healing process he had to exhume the old earth in order to plant and allow for new growth to occur. He will be explaining more in his future blogs.

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Toward the end of the movie there was a beautiful metaphor about life.  A truism that most of us already know…. life is not neat or precisely organized.  It is messy, bumpy, and often unbalanced. Yet, it is this very assortment of messiness and disorder that make us who we are and who we can become if we are brave enough to return to our “shack”  to become unstuck.

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So what is your “shack”? What might you do to become “unstuck: (that doesn’t mean you have to physically return to a specific location to heal). Just know that this “becoming unstuck” will most likely not be easy, orderly, or without some deep potholes. It is a journey, like Tony, you may need to take alone. However, the reality is that you will not be totally on your own. Like Tony you will have the thoughts, prayers, and support of family and friends that will accompany you in spirit and hope.

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by Tony Seahorn

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We often talk and write about spending time in nature as an important element of the healing process.

For those with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD or more accurately PTS), finding solace in natural places helps us realize and appreciate the marvelous wonders of the world.

Following is a link to an article that appeared this weekend in Parade Magazine worth reading.

Living in awe…

Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness

 

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By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.

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Once upon a time there was a very young boy who lived an incredibly difficult childhood. He was the oldest son of a family of five children – two younger sisters, one brother and a step brother. At eleven years old he became homeless, kicked out of his family by an abusive father. Drinking and beatings by his dad were endured on a regular basis.  For five years he lived on the streets until he was old enough to join the army (1956-1965).  Being of Navaho Indian decent, Vince the Prince was a fledgling warrior, and warriors always fight with perseverance and courage.

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However, the trauma of his early childhood experiences followed him into the military. He was always in trouble, and believed he would get shot, knifed, or killed in prison. Life was pretty hopeless. Anger often consumed him, a normal coping mechanism many children of abuse use to mask their pain and unpredictable daily circumstances. But, Vince the Prince was a survivor, often called a “smart ass”. Being tough kept him alive, and being enraged kept him “feeling”.

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How does a person ever survive such a life? According to Vince the Prince in 1970 he found faith in the spirit of the Lord, and this discovery saved him. Talking with him was pretty amazing as he could quote scriptures from the Bible better than most clergy. His personal commitment to the Lord handed him the hope that he lacked in his younger years and offered him a purpose in how he would live the rest of his life. In 1973 Vince was ordained as a street Evangelist.  His parishioners were those confined to the jails and prisons in Chicago. He worked with the street people offering kindness, optimism, and faith. Having this new mission made him think of others before himself. He was no longer in the survivor mode, but in a vocation of serving those who, like him in his early years, were crushed by life experiences far beyond the control of a young boy. In 1983 he even completed his GED after having only a fifth grade education.  Yep, pretty darn remarkable.

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I asked him at the end of one of our conversations “What has been your greatest lesson?”  His response, “No matter who or what you are, in God’s eyes you are precious.” And, ‘When all else fails turn to Jesus.”

Vince the Prince continues to work with young teens, many who are homeless like he was in his early years. Who better to understand their struggles, their fears, and their despair? Who better to provide a sense that no matter how dire your circumstances may seem there is always hope and that hope can lead to a miraculous future. Living life with purpose and a wicked sense of humor make Vince the Prince a very special human, indeed.

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(I recently spent a week with Vince at a remote fishing camp in Canada called Rushing Wind. Tony and I were invited to work with veterans who have experienced the effects of combat and are finding ways to heal from the wounds of war.)

 

 

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Listen peacefully to the wild call of the Loon.

 

 

 

 

Another New Year

Filed Under Happy New Year, Healing, Tears of a Warrior | Comments Off on Another New Year

Janet Wyo 2016by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 

It is January 2016 – another New Year. Where I live in Colorado and Wyoming the ground is covered by a layer of fresh snow. The brilliant white blankets the landscape with cleanness, somewhat like an artist’s blank pallet before she begins to paint. The idea that I can begin this year with a clean slate – that I can create whatever I choose brings a sense of hope and optimism for the coming year.

Interesting, my morning meditation topic was “I make a difference”. What a perfect goal for this new year that every day I have the opportunity to make a difference however large or small. Perhaps it is simply a smile to a stranger, a phone call to a friend, a quiet prayer for someone in need. Perhaps it is picking up one piece of trash on a sidewalk, shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk or bringing a meal to someone who can’t get out to a grocery store.

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There are countless ways I can make a difference. The important issue is not to merely THINK about doing a good deed. The essential action is to DO IT! The thought is nice but the ACT is necessary. If I was into tattoos – I’m not…. I hate needles – I would engrave on my wrist the following words, “I can and choose to make a difference”.

Happy New Year – make each day forward count.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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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.

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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.

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“Mom Told Me You Are a Hero”

    -Constance Gibbons

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            Who didn’t like to use crayons and a coloring book as a child?  I remember spending hours trying to use my box of many colored crayons to make the pages of my special book alive with various shades of whatever I thought the picture called for at the time. It never seemed to matter what the theme of the coloring book was about. The important thing was the simple act of making something of my own creation entertaining and exciting. When I was sad it took my mind off my childhood troubles… which sometimes were pretty significant for a young mind to understand. When I was tired, it gave me a way to stay occupied and calm.

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It has been a long time since I’ve thought about the benefits of my early years of coloring. Then a friend told me about a children’s book she was writing to help young individuals process the reality of a parent serving in the military. What made this particular project so interesting was that it included a coloring book with crayons that went along with the original book.  Gosh, I only wish I had thought of such a brilliant way to reach young minds dealing with the unique situation of having their moms or dads away for long periods of time and sometimes on numerous deployments.

The title of the book is Mom Told Me You Are a Hero by author, Constance Gibbons. There is a hard copy edition along with a coloring book with the same text. In my work, constantly studying brain development and the importance of early literacy, having both options is brilliant.  The child can have the hard copy read to him/her, and then have the opportunity to color the pictures exactly as he/she desires. By doing the coloring, the child will be looking at some of the words in the text. The words explain the complex topic of war, yet, not in a scary manner. It describes how veterans come in all ages, sizes, shapes, colors, and genders. There are even examples of injuries a veteran may endure.  It is very well written at an appropriate developmental level for children two years and above.

If you would like more information about these delightful and helpful books you may contact the author at cogconnexion@gmail.com

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The Pain of Pain

Filed Under Healing, Injury, Knee surgery, Pain, Tears of a Warrior, Trauma | Comments Off on The Pain of Pain

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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Knee pain 2  Golly, it is hard to believe that it has been several months since we posted a new blog.  To be honest, we’ve been pretty busy with traveling, teaching, and working with veterans across the country, yet during any down time we had, I just didn’t feel like writing. Until now and even today I can’t fully admit that I’m eager to write again. But today, I simply suspect that I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself and want to at least think that by writing this blog I am doing something more useful than sitting on the couch or the toilet, lying in bed, and attempting to hobble around the house one more time.

A week ago I underwent knee replacement surgery.  For the life of me I am still trying to convince myself that this was a good idea or even necessary, since even on my worst day I never felt this awful or been in such pain. Does this sound a bit like whining? To quote Bret’s famous line at the end of the movie, Gone With the Wind, “Frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a damn!” Doctor’s never fully explain or show videos of how much fun the recovery process will be, especially, the first two weeks.  If they did, I wonder how many candidates would opt for the procedure.  It’s kind of like when one is going through pregnancy classes, they never show the birth movies until close to the end of the nine months.  Not that it is going to change one’s mind at such a late date or would make any difference because that living football inside of you has to come out sometime, and trust me it will not be “deflated”.

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During my whiney period, I got to contemplate the effects of pain on our mental and physical world. My acute pain, hopefully, is only going to last for ten days to two weeks. So many of our veterans have to endure months and even years of unbelievable hurt not knowing when or if the agony will ever go away.  I think about the thousands of individuals going through horrendous procedures to combat cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many challenging illnesses.  It is this kind of pain I really can’t imagine.  I can’t imagine the stamina and courage it takes to get us through each day only to face another twenty-four hours of hell.  One of my sister’s had to make this cancer journey and even today she continues to be one of my heroes.

The effects of severe pain at times can take over not just the body but the mind. It is hard to remember when you felt normal; it is tricky to maintain any kind of short-term memory. Heck, I couldn’t tell you what I did fifteen minutes ago, nor do I care. Thank goodness my children are grown and not in need of a “functional” mother. Bailey, my husband’s service dog, is pretty persistent, however, to remind me that he needs fed (if Tony isn’t around). The constant pain impacts my ability to maintain a positive attitude. It is so much easier to be gnarly than to be kind. Reminds of a Maxine cartoon my sister sent me. Constant, acute pain make it difficult to be empathetic to others in need or to even realize that even in your worst pain, there is probably, someone out there enduring an event even more challenging and taxing.

 

 

The only things I can do at these difficult moments are to take a deep breath, pray, count my many blessing, and be hopeful that this too will end. Oh, and to shout very, very loud, “I am never going to go through another ##### knee surgery again!!!!” Unless, dementia fails to remind me of how #### fun this experience has been.

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Guest Post by Carrie Hagen

SGT-TN Army National Guard

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This is my Quilt of Valor.

There are many like it, but this one is mine. My Quilt is my gift. It represents my service life. I will appreciate it, as it was made in appreciation of me. My Quilt, without being made with love and support, would be meaningless. Without love and support, my service is meaningless. I must keep my Quilt always. I must respect those who show respect to me. I must remember my time of service along with those who remembered me. I will… My Quilt and I know that what counts in serving our country is not the places we’ve gone, the things we’ve done, or the battles we’ve fought.

We know standing for those in need makes it count. For them, we will stand… My Quilt of Valor is proud, as am I, because it reflects kindness found in American life. Thus, I will love it as a brother. I will love its wearing, its tearing, its patterns, its threads, its comfort, its true meaning, and its creators.

I will keep my Quilt dear and close, even as I am held dear and close. We will become part of each other. We will… Before God, I thank my supporters. My Quilt and the military are symbols of the services dedicated to our country. We are the pride of the people who made us. We will hold the memories of our military service life.

So be it, until we lay to rest and there is no enemy, but peace!

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