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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Ruminations…

Filed Under Life, Tears, Tears of a Warrior, VA Hospital, Veterans, War Injury, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on Ruminations…

by Tony Seahorn

 Tony & Bailey               

Reading and reflecting on Jan’s recent blog made me realize – one more time — that life is truly fragile.

The Vietnam War was a life changing event for the countless veterans and families who were directly impacted, including me.

For those of us who were fortunate to return from the field of battle, the everyday living of life will continue to be defined by what we experienced then.

 

The Man I Didn't Know

war

 

 

 

Fast forward to the present day – 2014.

In May, following recovery from knee surgery at the Cheyenne, WY VA Hospital, I had my annual physical – including EGK and Treadmill Test. Other than the fact that the cardiologist reminded me I’m no longer 21, the physical and other tests all looked good.

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Periodically I have chest pain as a result of remaining shrapnel and scar tissue from combat wounds; cardiovascular tests have always been negative for heart problems.

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During our annual Wounded Warrior Event in late June, I was guiding a wounded veteran during high-water run-off on the Upper North Platte River. Unfortunately a raft from a separate river party encountered a dangerous log strainer in the main river current and capsized their raft. Three of the rafters made it to shore while a fourth person was submerged and pinned beneath the raft under the huge log jam.

I was able to secure my drift boat and veteran in a small backwater and spent the next hour in vain trying to rescue the rafting victim. The water was freezing and after an exhausting attempt, I was unable to save the trapped person. The time spent in the water subjected me to hyperthermia, but I eventually recovered sufficiently to continue the river float as the day warmed.

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In late July, I spent a week with our two sons in Montana on a fly fishing adventure. Toward the end of the week, we were climbing out of the Yellowstone River Canyon when I began to experience mild chest pain. By walking slowly and resting I was able to resume our hike and had no problem for the remainder of the trip.

Chris & Chad

 

 

 

 

 

 

In September, my VA doctor wanted to perform a follow-up exam on intermittent pain I was having in my right shoulder and chest from what we thought was caused by shrapnel. During the tests, an abnormality was found on the EKG and Treadmill that did not exist during my physical in May.

An electrocardiogram located a blockage in my main exterior frontal lobe artery. A heart procedure was performed via my femoral artery and a stint placed in mid-October. The team of Cardiologists concluded that I must have experienced a minor heart attack during the river rescue recovery in June. The cold water and lower body temperature prevented any pain or other potential damage.

As fate would have it, a week following the heart procedure, I was rushed to the local ER for severe stomach bleeding. Prescribed Plavix blood thinner combined with high doses of pain medication is not a good combination. Three emergency surgeries later and 8 units of whole blood finally stopped the bleeding. My hospital stay: 4 days ICU and 3 days recovery and monitoring.

Now 15 pounds lighter, I’m still weak and lack energy, but hopefully on the high road to recovery.

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Life is full of challenges as well as an abundance of blessings! Today my black lab, Hunter Bailey and I are going pheasant hunting.

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Life is good.

Tony & Janet

Guest Post by R. Scott Armbruster

Sound Pillow Sleep System

Sound Pillow 4   

My name is R. Scott Armbruster. I have a constant annoyance in my head. It never stops, day or night and goes by the name of Tinnitus. I know the exact moment the blast of sound hit me a/k/a the “acoustic insult”. It was the fall of 1994. I worked in the concert production industry and headed stage left, to reposition a laser effect when the talent (a classic rock-n-roller) screamed into his microphone and began his signature anthem. With my ear about 6 inches from 100,000 watts of sound, my knees buckled and I hit the floor. Being young and dumb…I had no ear protection.

I could handle my condition, during the day. However, it was the quiet of the night that was challenging. Some nights, I just couldn’t sleep; which made life, in general, more difficult. So I started working with the concept of speakers in a pillow by way of a product call the Sound Pillow. I liked its potential so much, I bought the company, then overhauled the pillow, from the inside out, until I developed a Sound Pillow that was very comfortable and sounded great. The next step? Finding the right sounds.

I attended Tinnitus seminars and symposiums, held by the industry’s leading doctors and researchers and just listened. The vast majority of the time, I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. When they said “some patients responded well to white noise sounds like the rain, oceans, streams, fountains…” And “stress can make the perception of tinnitus worse while relaxation and meditation can lessen the perception of Tinnitus…” I understood exactly what the said! And thus, the concept for the Sound Pillow Sleep System was born. The next step was to find the right sounds.

Sound Pillow 2

Ten years later, I found them…Real sounds from nature and super relaxing music that helped me to cover-up the sounds in my head, “turn off” my racing mind and relax me to the point of sleep. The Sound Pillow Sleep was born – a ready to use straight-from-the box sound conditioner. It worked so well, it is now used by our service men and women in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. As it turns out, tinnitus is the number one injury, in all of the military.

Sound Pillow 3

There is no known cure for Tinnitus. There are, however, talented researchers looking for it. You can learn more about the current research efforts and connect with thousands of other Tinnitus suffers by visiting the American Tinnitus Association’s web site at www.ATA.org  and by following them on Facebook or Twitter.

To learn more about the Sound Pillow Sleep System, visit:  

www.SoundPillow.com

Testimonial: I was introduced to the Sound Pillow Sleep System in early 2014. As a result of combat related hearing loss, I also have severe tinnitus. Getting to sleep has long been a problem, but with the soothing music and relaxing ocean waves of my preferred listening program, I find falling to sleep much easier. Thanks for a sound system that can truly help make a difference.

-Tony Seahorn, Vietnam Veteran

Sound Pillow

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 

 

            Every so often we get asked a question about why past war veterans like those from World War II seemed not to suffer as greatly from Post-Traumatic Stress. Our answer is that “they did” but as in all past wars very few knew what they were experiencing or how to talk about such a silent wound. Who would understand their despair? Who would judge them for being inferior, less courageous? How could they talk about what they were suffering when there were no words/names to this despondency?

            Once again, one of our friends sent us an article by Duane Jeffrey, an emeritus professor of biology at Brigham Young University. The article was titled, “Mental Malfunction in Mankind’s Wars. The author gave some staggering statistics about World War II veterans both American, British, and even German troops.  It made me wonder, not that these veterans were troubled by Post-traumatic Stress, but that they somehow were able to move forward each day not ever knowing or understanding what was happening to them.

            When we read about the various battles of any war, it is pretty obvious that the horror and devastation of what our young men and women went through was beyond mere words. Mr. Jeffrey’s writes, More than 1,393,000 U.S. military personnel were treated for psychiatric “breakdowns” in WWII. Forty percent of all medical discharges were for psychiatric reasons. That amounted to 504,000 troops formally discharged due to “psychiatric collapse.” The battle for Okinawa alone produced some 26,000 cases of psychiatric stress and care.

Teams of psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists tried to screen men headed for combat, to identify which would reach a breaking point and which would not. This proved fruitless: It soon turned out that anyone, everyone, had a breaking point.”

            In addition, he went on to write, that during the battle of Guadalcanal more than 500 Marines were reduced to “sensitivity to sharp noises, periods of amnesia, tendency to get panicky, tense muscles, tremors, hands that shook. … Men were frequently close to tears or very short tempered.” 

            According to Dr. Jeffery’s research, a report in 1946 indicated that severe emotional trauma in infantry soldiers occurred “in the first 90 days of combat”. The article went on to state that “of those soldiers who survived 60 days of fighting on Normandy’s beaches and the hedgerows immediately inland from there, fully 98 percent… became psychiatric casualties”.

            After reading this article, it made me pause to once again wonder how much our current military can take when being deployed for so many tours. Since we have known about these statistics for decades, why are we asking so few to continually sacrifice so much? Surely as a nation we can and should do better.

            Over this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to not only thank every veteran you may know, but to pray for those and their families still serving.

           And lest we forget, remember those who made the supreme sacrifice and never returned home.

NEW TERM FOR PTSD: POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS “DISORDER” becomes “INJURY”

Filed Under Post-Traumatic Stress "Injury", PTSD, PTSD treatment, Tears, Tears of a Warrior, Today's War, War Injury | Comments Off on NEW TERM FOR PTSD: POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS “DISORDER” becomes “INJURY”

by Tony & Janet Seahorn

 

            Wow, double Wow, and Wow again! Finally a more accurate term for Post-Traumatic Stress which leaves off the BIG “D”. 

             It has been a long time coming and we certainly hope that those in charge of giving terms to the various wounds of war will carefully consider renaming PTSD to PTSI– Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. We have constantly said that Post-Traumatic Stress refers to a reordering of the brain neuro networks. But calling it an injury versus a disorder is a huge step in the right direction.

            Think about it, we don’t refer to cancer as a disorder, or a broken bone as a disorder. Trauma caused by outside forces essentially is an injury, however, the injury goes far beyond the mere physical damage of an organism; these wounds also impact the soul, spirit, and emotional stability of the individual and are far more challenging to heal.

             For the longest time in the early 19th and 20th centuries, cancer was not openly discussed and considered by some as an illness brought on by an impoverished life style both of the mind and body. Afflicted folks often felt responsible for their illness and were shunned by some in their communities. By gaining a more accurate understanding of any problem we are able to provide better treatment and services for both healing and coping.

            And so it may be tentatively happening for those struggling with post-traumatic stress. We have heard from several readers about this change of wording. For those who have not yet read about the change in terminology, we are including this short clip from Sunday, May 6th Denver Post:

 

PTSD MAY GET NAME CHANGE TO HELP VETERANS

            It has been called shell shock, battle fatigue, soldier’s heart, and, most recently, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

            Now, military officers and psychiatrist are embroiled in a debate over whether to change the name of a condition as old as combat. The potential new moniker, post-traumatic stress injury.

            Military officers and some psychiatrists say dropping the word “disorder” in favor of “injury” will reduce the stigma that stops troops from seeking treatment.

 

            Let’s hope those with the power to make such a change will give the new term their best consideration. Word/terms do make a profound difference between how we view and treat those who have given so much to our country – along with other sufferers. Calling combat trauma an injury is far more correct than calling it a disorder.

            With any luck we can get it right this time.