Filed Under Black Lions, Combat PTSD, Courage, Healing, Military, Pain, Peace, Return To Vietnam, Tears of a Warrior, Trauma, Veterans, Vietnam Today, War | Comments Off on Healing From The Wounds Of War
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.
Filed Under Black Lions, Combat PTSD, Courage, Events, Faith, Family, Healing, Hope, Journey, Love, Pain, Peace, PTSD, Return To Vietnam, Tears of a Warrior, Veterans, Vietnam Today, War | Comments Off on GETTING UNSTUCK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filed Under Brain Injury, Dogs, Post-Traumatic Stress "Injury", PTSD, PTSD treatment, Service Dogs, TBI & PTSD, Tears of a Warrior, TED Talk, Vietnam Today, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on TED TALKS AND PTSD
By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It 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.
A 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.
As 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
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
In the space between an end and a new beginning, life unfolds and we are given a greater understanding of the meaning of our journey.
So what is wisdom? How do I get it? How can I recognize it? Some would describe wisdom as insight, a type of intelligence gained from age, good judgment, level headedness, and knowledge. In my many years I have observed children who seem to have an inner knowing and awareness of the world far beyond their years and I have seen adults who have the impulse control and selfishness of a two year old.
For most of us, we may not always recognize wisdom but we pretty much know when someone does not possess it. Many of the wisest individuals that I know did not gain this trait by living an easy life. Indeed, much of their insight came after living and enduring a great many experiences, both good and difficult. My neighbor, Mary, who is now 104 years young, is a true example of a wise person. She grew up raised by a single mother after her father abandoned the family when she was a child. Her first husband died of a heart attack leaving her with four young children. Life was hard, but she kept working to support her children and herself. There was no time for complaining, only time for doing. Another trait Mary holds is a way of looking at the world in a positive manner. This is not to say she didn’t have her difficult moments, but she didn’t allow these times to last long. As she states, “I didn’t have enough energy to waste it on being negative. I had children to raise and work to do”.
So many of our veterans have the “Mary Factor”. War took much of their youth and innocence but it never took their will to go on, to live a productive life, to contribute to their communities and families. Life after combat has not been easy, yet it has given these warriors a sense of personal knowledge, and insight into the world. Many people who have endured far less do not always develop this trait. Veterans have a different kind of wisdom regarding the world and freedom. They understand sacrifice and pain, but most make a conscious choice to focus on more productive things. And they understand the wisdom of this old Rwandan Proverb:
You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.”
And so, like Mary, most of us struggle to come to terms with the inside running, and such a journey collects its own wisdom.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Ok, I’ve been duped and I am not too happy about it. Several of what I thought were reputable websites have been taunting for years that only about 1/3 (850,000) Vietnam veterans were still living. I must it admit it was an unbelievable number which is why I checked it out with other sites to confirm. Turns out all of these sites were wrong, DEAD WRONG!
This weekend Tony and I received his Vietnam Veteran’s of American magazine (March/April 2011). In an article, Not Dead Yet: Mortality Rates Among Vietnam Veterans, Patrick Brady explains where the misleading statistic originated and what the real numbers are… as far as anyone can estimate. It seems the polluted numbers came from a nine-minute video originally posted on YouTube by a group called Veterans Appreciation Alliance. What makes this even crappier is the group was “seeking sponsors and contributions for its Grateful Red, White, & Blue Appreciation Tour” (Brady, p. 29 March/April 2011). This is a pretty despicable way to prey on the hearts and minds of patriotic Americans and makes me even more annoyed. The group’s various websites (yep, they had more than one to capture audiences for their fund rising), even used the Naval Health Research Center as one of its resources. The Center was totally unaware of what was occurring. By the way this particular source was one reason I thought the data was accurate.
So where did this MYTH first originate; according to Brady it came from a phony website, The American War Museum, which seem to disseminate “much false information for reasons only its originator might know” (VVA, March/April 2011). A different site, The American War Library, appears to be run by another one man operation in California by the name of Phillip R.Coleman. Looks as if Mr. Coleman has over two dozen alias such as Otis Willie and Roger Simpson. Yikes!
Now, for the good news according to the Center for Disease Control: “In-country Vietnam veterans accounted for about a third of all Vietnam-era veterans, and if they were dying only slightly faster than the others (veterans serving in the military but not in Vietnam), then the 800,000 era veterans who died from 1960s through 2000 should have included fewer than 300,000 in-country veterans” (Brady, pp. 29-30, March/April 2011). What this really means is only around 325,000 to 350,000 out of 3,566,000 Vietnam veterans serving in-country have died, versus over 2.5 million. Quite a discrepancy in the number of deaths.
Appears many of us were duped by deceitful websites using fancy patriotic names. Thanks to the excellent article by Mr. Brady, I’ve learned my lesson. I am a little wiser, a bit less trusting, and a lot more aggravated at those who try to capitalize on the goodness of others.
by Lawrence Fuller
This is a guest post by Larry Fuller who is presently in Vietnam on a road of rediscovery. Larry is a friend of a friend (Charlie Dana). Following is a shortened version of his letter home:
Recent storm knocked out power and computer at my hotel, so I have wandered over here to the post office to see about sending some stuff home. Low and behold…I have found some good computers to use. I wonder how much it’s going to cost?!
Since the storm knocked out power, most of us sat in the lobby and talked by candlelight. After everyone decided to go to bed, I decided to go out in the storm (it was just a little storm). I wanted to find this Indian restaurant, strangely named “Omar Khyam’s Restaurant.” I knew the guy. He struck me as an excellent businessman and very organized.
Wearing my Wal-Mart special bright yellow poncho, I wandered the deserted streets and BINGO! There it was…a beacon of Indian de-light! He had the generator running always hopeful for another customer…and I was it!
I pulled off the poncho, hung it on the coat rack in the corner, and found a table facing the street. Outside, the wind was whipping the branches of the trees and the rain was beating against the windows, Inside, it was as cozy as could be with gentle classical Spanish guitar music playing over the speakers. Yes…it was one of THOSE moments!
I decided to order the Lamb Curry with hot masala tea and relax. He and I talked. He was Indian and was one of these guys who just got up from where he was, got out of a bad situation, and had built 8 restaurants throughout Vietnam.
I took my time and enjoyed the meal. The storm lashed the streets and his restaurant’s background music couldn’t have been more appropriate. I had selected one of the more expensive dishes on the menu. After all, it was Australian lamb! I thought, “Dog gone it…I deserve it and am worth every penny.” Filled with the delicious meal, I finally got up, paid the $3.50 bill, donned my trusty poncho and stepped back out into the night.
The street was filled with the bustle of motor-bikes, trucks, bicycles, cars, peddle rickshaws, and other indescribable forms of transportation.
Suddenly, I heard an American voice behind me, “Can you tell me how to get to a park.” I twisted around and noted a gentleman about my age standing there. His name was Lloyd, and he was 60 years of age. He wanted a place where he could just sit and think. He had been an American Army draftee, who had served multiple tours in Vietnam way back when.
I could sense some sort of identity with him and could see on his face that he had struggled mightily with life. He was from Indiana. He needed someone to talk to and I didn’t mind. As a matter of fact I wanted to…talking with someone who cares and could use some help.
He had struggled with the demons that had crept inside him from that War. He had lived a life of alcoholism crashing from one disaster to the next. His latest setback was a home and a bank that had foreclosed on him. No one had helped him with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder until just lately.
He had been angry with the Army and angry with every thing. He had finally quit drinking 6 years ago and now…every day was a challenge. He said he had returned to where his Vietnamese Army camp was located and found the Buddhist temple where he once entered with a gun.
I didn’t push for details. He said he had just broken down in tears when he left the temple and I think this had been a good turning point for him.
We talked about Heaven and Hell, good and bad, the reason for our existence, and America. We both knew we had an appointment up the road. I said, “Let’s get up and find that park.” He was going to head for Laos the next day.
We found the park and he thanked me. We were both on the road and I am grateful for having met him.
May God bless him.