MIA (missing in action)

I apologize for MIA status with this blog.  I assure you- I’ve been writing A LOT.  I’ve been working on finishing the first draft of my untitled non fiction project about my Dad’s experiences in Vietnam and how his PTSD affected us (my sister and I) growing up.  There is a section in the project where I examine PTSD and its affects on family from a therapist’s perspective.

I’m very excited about the project but I will continue to keep THIS blog about PTSD, Mental Health and the like.  I won’t cross post unless the topic applies to both,

If you would like to follow my progress on the book, feel free to visit my Author Website HERE and/or follow my progress on Facebook.

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An Open Letter to Children of Combat Vets this 4th of July Weekend

First my disclaimer- Yes, I know that men and women can have PTSD.  I’m writing this as the Dad being the combat Vet because many studies show that while both male and female Vets get PTSD, men tend to display more symptoms, while women tend to shut down and become depressed.  Neither is a good thing. If you think you have PTSD, get help.

All of that being said, I wish this is what someone would have said to me when I was a kiddo, begging Dad to take me to the fireworks on Ft. Bragg and not understanding why he would either say no, or take me (and my little sis) and then sit in his truck for the whole show. “Daddy, you’re missing it!” we would shout, while he sat in the truck, eyes closed.

So I write this for a new generation of children of Combat Vets.

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“Your Dad loves you.  He wants you to be happy this 4th of July weekend.  He also wants you to be safe, because you are so precious to him.  There are going to be a lot of fun things to do this weekend- parties, cook outs, swimming, water fights, ball games and of course, fireworks.  Have fun enjoying all of those things with your family and friends, but please understand that your dad might not want to participate in every event.

See,  4th of July is a little different for your Dad.  It’s a big reminder of why he joined the Military.  When he sees all of the ‘patriotic Americans’ and hears the Lee Greenwood songs, he might be thinking about some not so great memories.  He might be thinking of war, the sacrifices his fellow Service Members made, and those that didn’t make it home to spend Fourth of July with their families.  Or he might be doing his best NOT to think of those things, but its hard, with the aforementioned patriotic Americans and Lee Greenwood blasting from every station.

I know you want to see the fireworks, and hopefully, someone will take you to the show.  Your dad might not want to go, because fireworks shows encompass a lot of things he is trying to avoid- large crowds, traffic, smoke, heat, constant noise, and the fireworks themselves, which equal loud booms and flashes of light. If your dad does take you, don’t be upset if he doesn’t want to watch the show.  He might just be happier to sit in the car and listen to music.

Please remember that your dad has some issues and he is hopefully working on them. Overall, remember that he loves you and you can help by understanding his needs on this holiday weekend.

Happy 4th of July!”

 

Happy 4th of July, Dad.  I am taking a page out of your books this year, and we will enjoy the fireworks from the comfort of our air conditioned living room. Front row seats and no traffic!  Love you.

 

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Happy Armed Forces Day. What not to say to SMs/Vets

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First of all, Happy Armed Forces Day to all Service Members past and present. 

When thinking of blog topics, I admit that I had thought of doing a “things not to say” post, but figured that would be unnecessary.  We’ve been doing OIF/OEF for what seems like forever and I’ve seen this topic in numerous military related magazines, websites, and seminars.  I’ve seen it in national papers and magazines too.  However, two clients recently told me of Service Members being approached and being asked the “how many guys did you kiil?” question.  Overall, as a nation we say we support our men in women and uniform.  While every SM is different, here are some generalized things you should know.

PTSD

Not every SM has it. 

Not every person that has experienced combat has it/will get it.

You don’t have to have experienced combat or even be in the military to have PTSD.

There is a huge difference in how you treat Combat PTSD and MST (Military Sexual Trauma) PTSD.

Each case of PTSD is different- different symptoms, different reactions.  Don’t assume.

 

Things NOT to say to SMs or Vets

What was it like over there?

Did you kill anybody? How many people did you kill? Did you see any dead bodies? (or any variation of these)

It’s not like you were in any real danger.

But you got extra pay.

That’s nothing, my dad/uncle/grandpa. was in Vietnam/Korea/WW2.

I don’t believe in the war/ what are your beliefs on the US’s involvement/any anti-war sentiments.  (Many SMs and Vets don’t agree 100% with the politics behind the war , but they have no choice but to serve. Your opinions don’t add anything positive to the conversation.)

Are you glad to be home?

Let me buy you a drink!

 

I want to say that many people don’t understand that what seems like an innocent question can actually cause triggers, guilt or bad memories for someone that has served.  If you have small children, it’s best to explain to them before the arrival of a SM that it’s not polite to ask about dead bodies/killing people, etc.  Even the youngest of children have been de-sensitized to violence and won’t understand that their questions can cause problems.  What they think is “cool”- dead bodies, blood/guts, etc. could trigger an SM.

I don’t want the tone of this post to seem that we have to walk on eggshells around Veterans. Treat them normally, just be aware of what you’re saying.  If you’re not sure what to say, it might be best not to say anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ft Hood Shooting, PTSD and the Catch 22 that lies within…

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Everyone has been following the Ft Hood Shooting that took place on 2 April.  The media was quick to point out that SPC Ivan Lopez (the shooter) had been to Iraq, and was quick to question if he had PTSD.  This started a debate all over the internet- can someone that only went to Iraq for 4 months have PTSD?  It’s possible.  It’s also possible that he had previous trauma that was somehow triggered.  This blog post isn’t about diagnosing the late SPC Lopez. It’s about the dangers of jumping to blame PTSD.

The PROS:

There is A pro of the media bringing PTSD up in this situation.  More awareness of PTSD.  Possibly the Military realizing they need to allow Service Members to go off base and choose their own Behavioral Health Providers instead of insisting they use the on base military providers.  It gets even worse when you decide to build a huge Behavioral Health building in a busy area on post.  Now EVERYONE knows that SGT Smith is going for help.  (I’m looking at you, Ft. Bragg.)

 

The CONS:

The cons of the media immediatlely suggesting that SPC Lopez had PTSD far outweigh awareness.  Many Service Members are still afraid of seeking help for their issues. Some that have been diagnosed as having PTSD are not getting help.  Now if the media starts a PTSD scare people are going to tiptoe around Service Members that have PTSD even more.  Civilians will shy away from them.  “When is HE going to snap?” they might wonder. This could also encourage others to use PTSD as an excuse. (This is far fetched, as most people I’ve met are very honorable, but we can’t rule it out.)

 

An even bigger point that I think some are overlooking is this- SO WHAT if SPC Lopez had PTSD?

PTSD does not justify or give anyone the right to shoot someone else.  It’s a diagnosis.

For me, this draws a comparison to the 1993 shooting that was reported nationwide- when a 22 year old Soldier named Kenneth French walked into a popular Fayetteville, NC restaurant and shot and killed 4 people and wounded 6 others.  SGT French did not kill himself.  He went to trial, where his lawyer claimed that SGT French was in an alcoholic blackout.  So what?  He is still repsonsible for his actions, alcohol or no alcohol. 

SPC Lopez is still responsible for his actions- no matter what.  PTSD, prescription drugs, TBI- it doesn’t matter. 

Please remember the families of the victims of the Ft. Hood shooting in your thoughts.  Also remember, SPC Lopez’s family, I’m sure they are hurting too.

 

 ***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

 

 

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The Army REALLY messed up today…

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This is by no means a political blog, but at times I find myself advocating for my patients (Veteran or not) and their rights.  Advocacy can have some political ties.  I’m not in Washington DC throwing big $$ like a lobbyist, but there are many other ways to advocate.

And today, I can say, I am bitterly disappointed with “The Army”.  I’m not speaking of the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers that make up the Army, that are the core, the backbone, the lifeblood of “The Army”.  I’m upset with the individuals that let General Sinclair go with basically a slap on the wrist.  Way to back your SHARP program, Army,

Those of you not familiar with SHARP (Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response and Prevention) program- it looked good on paper.  If a Soldier felt they were the victim of sexual harrassment or assault, they could do an unrestricted report to their unit SARC or a Victim’s Advocate.  An unrestricted report means that the person reporting (the victim) does NOT have to disclose the attacker, and does NOT have to seek punitive actions against said attacker.  They are more than welcome to, but they don’t have to.  The SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) can take this report or the victim can go to a Victim’s Advocate.  SARCs are in each company and get specialized training.  Victim’s Advocates are available 24/7 via phone and emergency rooms at most larger forts.

That’s just the reaction piece.

The prevention piece included trainings geared towards enlisted, senior enlisted, officers and senior officers.  It included stand down days, one of which I was happy to take part of last May.  A full day of training for Soldiers and their spouses in a fun, non threatening environment.  Yes, mandatory “fun” and training, but it beats a day in the motor pool or doing a layout, right?

They might as well have saved their money if this is how they are going to punish those that harrass and assault.

Pardon my bitterness.  The therapist part of me wants to believe that MANY people benefit from the SHARP program and that maybe some harrassment and assaults were prevented.  I want to believe that victims come forward because of this program and get the help they need.

The human part of me, that part that hears my Soldiers (male and female) cry and lose sleep over their MSTs (military sexual trauma) is just really, really bitter.  I can only hope that this doesn’t stop their fight, or the fight of other Soldiers who still suffer in silence.

flush career

Unless you are a General, of course!

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Love Yourself- It’s Sanity, not Vanity

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This week on Square One’s Facebook page (have you liked it?) I’ve been focusing on self love.  Yes, the teenager in you wants to snicker when you hear “self love” but I’m being serious.  Something that amazes me is how poorly we tend to treat ourselves.  I’m not just talking about toxins and physically stressing our bodies, I mean how we treat our selves- our souls, our spirits, our minds.

If I walked up to you on the street, as a stranger, and told you that you were ugly, stupid and a jerk you would most likely want to punch me.  I don’t blame you! If a stranger said that to me, I would have to really hold back not to attack.  So why would you hit a stranger for calling you an “ugly, stupid, jerk” when you often say MUCH WORSE things to yourself? 

Negative self-talk is emotionally damaging. I see it in a lot of ways- sometimes it’s sarcastic, sometimes it’s muttered under your breath.  Sometimes it’s even proclaimed loud and proud in front of a group of people, “Wow, I really am an as$h*le!”.  Admitting your mistakes, taking blame when blame is due is one thing.  Negative self-talk is an entirely different thing.

 

So love yourself this Valentine’s Day.  Start small. Be aware of how you talk to yourself.  Treat yourself like you would a friend.  If a friend screwed up, you wouldn’t yell at them harshly (I hope!).  You would explain the problem, offer a solution and help them.  Do the same for yourself.

Take a self inventory.  What frustrates you the most about your self?  Is it something you can change? If so, make steps to change it.  If it’s not something that can be changed, explore why it bothers you so much.  See if you can come to peace with whatever the issue is.  Many issues that can’t be changed are something you’ve done/experienced in the past. If that’s the case, you need to forgive and forget.

Love yourself- there is only one You!

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Grief- there is no timeline.

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Death and dying, grief and loss are all things that everyone will encounter at some point in their life.  People’s individual reactions to grief are unique. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope, and that is something I often bring up in session with clients that are grieving.  Something I also stress is there is no timeline.  If you lose your mother, for example, and one of your siblings is “fine” and back to work in two weeks, another sibling cries daily for three months and takes a leave of absence from work and you don’t get out of bed for a week, you are all reacting to the loss of your mother. 

 

The Kubler-Ross model of grief is well known.  The “Five Stages of Grief”  (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) are often discussed in support groups, therapy sessions, and amongst the general public when the subject of grief is brought up.

Did you know that Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief are NOT referring to what a grieving person experience but what someone that is FACING DEATH experiences.  This is a little known fact, and too often people try to classify their grief over the loss of a loved one into these five stages. Kubler-Ross later expanded her theory to include grieving people, and now it has been applied to everything, to include divorces, break-ups (relationships) and loss of a job.

 

So what are some examples of healthy coping skills of grief? Crying, talking to the person in spirit, memorializing the person, contributing or volunteering to a cause that was important to the person,  expressing your emotions to others, etc.

Some examples of unhealthy coping skills would be: drinking excessively, drug use, excessive tranquilizer use, bottling up your feelings, ignoring your feelings.

So when should you worry about your grief or someone else’s? What about the above example, with the person that stays in bed for a week, or takes a three month leave of absence?  My answer is that grief becomes a problem when it interferes with your daily life.  There is no time table to give as an example.  No one can say “crying afer a week is depression” or “anything after six months after the loved one has passed is a problem”.  People heal at their own pace.  The important thing is to experience and deal with the grief as it occurs. If not, it can re-surface years later or turn into a chronic resentment, problem, or addiction.

Checking in with a therapist, a support group or a trained clergy person is a good way to see where you are in your path of healing and allow them to help you build healthy coping skills.

If you’re currently experiencing grief, I’m sorry for your loss.  Do yourself a favor and don’t let anyone put you on their grief timeline.

 

***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

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