Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past / Chapter 15 Excerpt

For many children, Christmas is a time of year filled with wonder and excitement . . . it's Jesus birthday and Santa Claus is coming!  Pine trees are dragged indoors to be decorated.  Strings of colored lights transform a normal house into a magical castle.  The children's anticipation is electric! 

Joy and laughter dominate our TV screens.  Polished white smiles coax us to spend more than we should as we scramble to find the perfect gift for each name on our list.  Others show beautiful people dressed in stunning outfits attending lavish parties.  This is what we strive for . . .    

Everything appears perfect!

This is what we see and are made to believe.  But for many, these images are far out of reach and simply crumble at their feet.

Holidays can trigger memories to slip to the surface when least expected.  We each walk our separate path in life, which leaves indeliable footprints from the past.  Many we cherish and share with family and friends.  Yet there are others we'd like to forget.  Certain holidays can bring back strong feelings, depending on the path we've traveled.

Right now, you can probably recall your happiest holiday ever.  But also, maybe another you wish you could forget . . . like an elephant standing in the corner.

For me, I desire to dwell on happy, simpler times, shared mostly with my children.  Their innocence and goodness gave my life meaning when times were difficult . . . .

"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way."          -  Douglas Pagels

Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, shows the best of times and the worst of times for one ordinary couple. The mystery of falling in love, the clumsiness of courtship, and the struggles of a new family trying to make it work. Gradually, moments of simple joy entangled with the trials and tribulations of PTSD, become normal. 

And there were holidays . . . like the one I share below, a simple and quiet time . . . a happy memory.

December 14, 1974   
     It was eleven days before Christmas and we were off to buy a tree.  The children chased each other down the sidewalk before piling into the back of Lorne’s car, each clamoring for a seat by the window.  Their carefree giggles warmed the chilly afternoon air.  On the surface we looked like any ordinary family . . . too bad it wasn’t true. 
     “Okay kids,” Lorne shouted across the lot.  He struggled to free another tree from the huge compressed pile at his feet.  Then one broke loose; he vigorously pounded the trunk on the ground, releasing the branches.

     “Run back, and tell me if the trunk’s straight,” he called, surveying the tree up close.          

     Cory ran over to me, his pale hair flying, his cheeks flush.  “Mom, Mom, come look,” he said, tugging me by the hand.  “Can we get this one?  It’s a real good tree.” 

     His innocent wonder was like food for my soul. 

     Later that evening, Lorne sat quietly watching the children rummage through the dusty old boxes I had dragged down from the attic.  Each year they helped me trim the tree; it was our tradition.  They would hunt for treasured ornaments stored in boxes wrapped in tissue paper, calico stars and hand painted angels they had made in kindergarten; stained glass ornaments embellished with their names, made by their Aunt Karen, my sweet sister.   

     Once the last ornament was hung on the tree and baby Jesus was safe in the manger, I turned off the lights, signaling Scott to plug in the tree.  It sprang to life, fat and robust, dancing in lights.  Draped in gold garlands and layered with shiny red balls, tiny gold flutes and red velvet bows, the tree resembled a Norman Rockwell painting. 

     “Okay kids, its way past your bedtime,” I announced standing up.  “It will still be here in the morning.”

     I left Lorne staring into the twinkling tree lights while I put Tiffy to bed.
     “Mommy, when is Santa coming?” she asked, crawling under her covers.

     "In eleven days,” I replied, tucking in her blankets.  I leaned down, tweaked her nose and gave her a kiss.  “He will be here before you know it.”

     I knew the boys no longer believed but I hoped to hide it from her as long as possible.  When the boys brought up the subject trying to corner me, I simply said, “Santa doesn’t bring presents to children who don’t believe in him.” And for the time being, that worked.    

     Once the boys settled down, I kissed them goodnight and headed downstairs.  Glancing over the banister, I noticed Lorne was still fixated on the tree. 
     "A penny for your thoughts,” I said, sitting next to him. 
     Lorne turned, then reached out and took my hand.  A strange look covered his face . . .

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

 “Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.”
- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Our Soldiers are Returning / Write Your Heart Out

The holidays are upon us and the busy-ness is endless, so today I've done something different . . .

Our soldiers have returned from Iraq this week, just in time for the holidays, and I decided to repost a blog from May . . . which shows what's in my heart and why I write

My heart is over-joyed for these families that have been reunited, yet in the dark recesses of my mind, I remember so well and worry.  My prayers are that these men and women are counseled and debriefed before being expected to fit back into society, and are given a solid contact name to call, if needed.  Someone who has been where they have been, someone they can trust with their feelings!  Also, that their families and friends have compassion and patience as these warriors try to adjust back into family life.

This is their GREATEST DESIRE . . . please remember where they've been and what they've been through.

The trick is keeping your heart open.     Natalie Goldberg

May 5, 2011

This blog began as a tool to move me into publishing.  Accountability for my time and actions was my purpose.  Most entries have been lighthearted and chatty, other than the first.  But the time has come when I must share more.  And I'm uncomfortable.  So please bear with me.

Write your heart out.  Never be ashamed of your subject and your passion for your subject.     Joyce Carol Oates

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation.  And will continue until the end of time.  This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet.  It's not the way we'd like it to be . . . it is the way it is.

Brave men and women fight wars in hostile lands where life is valued differently.  Armed with rifles, they're exposed to sights and sounds no human being should ever witness.  And at times, they must engage in unthinkable acts to save their friends, which riddles them with shame and guilt.  Or they survive an ambush and the others don't. 

Can you imagine the horror? 

It's not a movie in the theater you pay to watch . . . it's real life!  And it's happening this moment in remote parts of the world.  How does a warrior return to a normal life with this running through their head?

It's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder . . . a normal reaction to abnormal life threatening stress. 

Those who know me know my story.  They know what I wrote about, and why.  And those who don't know me, other than through this blog, will one day share an experience . . . one that will be hard to forget.

My book?  It's a love story.  And shows how I met the love of my life and we were married.  He was a Vietnam vet.  I didn't know he had post traumatic stress disorder.  I didn't know what post traumatic stress disorder was.  Nor did I know I would develop PTSD from living with my husband's illness. 

The ravages of war tainted our marriage eclipsing it into a nightmare.  And by grace alone, my love gave me the strength and the courage to survive.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  Love suffers long and is kind . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  

Excerpt from my book proposal . . .

Diary of a Vet's Wife shows the innocence of love unblemished with hope and promise, unaware of the imminent demons vowing destruction.  And all too soon her impossible dream is shattered by nightmares her husband doesn't recall and hidden pain he refuses to share.  Her love is unyielding, her journey is long.  She retreats to a life of secrets in order to spare the children and her family from the truth, yet she has no place to turn.

The reader will slip into her world like a fly on the wall as she takes them places most have never been, while bonding with others who know the terrain that only love dare travel.

So there you have it . . .

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Be open to your readers opinions . . . they're one of the reasons you write.

Show compassion to our brave men and women who have served and suffered for this nation, and our safety. You never know what a person is going through by looking at them.  Would you lay down your life for your country?  Please do me a favor.  When you see someone in uniform, or meet someone who has served in our military, go up to them, shake their hand and say, "Thank you."  It would mean so much to them.  I know from experience . . .

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Has PTSD Touched You? / Chapter 26 Excerpt . . .

Once I was brave enough to tell my story, actually said the words aloud, I realized how many others had been touched by this disabling illness.  I was shocked!  Almost everyone knew someone, whether directly related, a close friend, a neighbor, someone from church, a friend of a friend . . . almost everyone!

“Mental illness is so much more complicated than any pill that any mortal could invent ” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

I lived with this nightmare for 15 years.  Then it had no name and there was no help.  The longer you live with post-traumatic stress disorder, the deeper you become entrenched with no escape . . . no reasonable escape.  You can't hide in a closet or pull the covers over your head.  You learn to live with it, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, never knowing from one minute to the next, what's lurking around the corner.

In Diary of a Vet's Wife, my memoir, the man I love battles his demons alone, in the only way he knows how, unwilling to admit he's in trouble and refusing to let me in.  I'm not strong enough to fight him, I can only stand in the shifting shadows and watch . . . and be there for him when he needs me. 

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit
- Peter Ustinov

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD?

It's natural to be afraid when you're in danger.  It's natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone else you know.  But if you feel afraid and upset weeks or months later, it's time to talk with your doctor . . . you might have post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.

You don't have to be physically hurt to get PTSD. You can get it after you see other people get hurt, such as a friend or family member.

What causes PTSD?

Living through or seeing something that's unsettling and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:
  • War or combat
  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.
  • Plus many other things
Related diseases and conditions:
  • Stress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However, over-stress now points to being involved in various diseases and conditions.
  • Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things
  • Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving, and continued drinking despite alchol related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law.
  • Suicide is the process of intentionally ending one's own life. Approximately 1 million people worldwide commit suicide each year, and 10 million to 20 million attempt suicide annually.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is a mental illness in which a person has at least two distinct personalities. Symptoms and signs include lapses in memory, feeling unreal, blackouts in time, and hearing voices in their heads that are not their own.
  • Drug Addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior despite consequences to the user and those around them.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by prevasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image and behavior. This instability disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individuals sense of self-identity.
  • Insomnia is the difficulty in falling to sleep, waking frequently during the night, or waking too early in the morning.
  • Sleepwalking is a condition in which an individual walks or does other activities while asleep. Conditions that have similar symptoms are night terrors, confusional arousals and nocturnal seizures.
  • Nightmares are dreams that cause high anxiety or terror. They occur during rapid eye movement (RIM) sleep when related to post traumatic stress disorder.


Spring 1976 - Giving in too easily

     The torrential winter rains with their raging rivers of mud had all but dried up, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.  The newness of spring brought proof that life goes on.  Our new house was finally under construction but far behind schedule.

     "Feel like riding out to see the house?" Lorne asked, standing in the kitchen, his hands deep in his pockets.  "It's a gorgeous day.  I think it would do us both good."

     He had strolled in long after midnight and knew he was in the doghouse.

     "Sure . . . I guess," I said, staring out the window as I rinsed the breakfast dishes.  "Give me a couple of minutes to change and situate the children."

     The Sunday morning traffic was light.  The brittle breeze engulfed us on the bike, stinging my cheeks and numbing my fingers.  I perched behind Lorne and clung to him.  The warmth of his familiar body melted my anger and soothed my soul.  For a while, I felt safe and secure.

     The naked wood frame of the house looked lonely against the clear blue sky, like a barren tree in winter.  Lorne got off the bike and turned to face me.  Putting his hands on his knees, he leaned down to look squarely into my face, smiling warily.

     I always gave in too easily . . . I turned my head, but he took my hand and pulled me towards him and off the bike.

    "I got the message," Lorne admitted.  "You're still mad about last night."

     "I'm able to get off by myself, you know," I said, resisting his pull like a dog going to the vet.

     Lorne ignored my stubbornness and led me into the house.  Stepping over a maze of wall braces protruding from the floor, we surveyed the layout.  Lorne ducked under a crossbeam and headed  over to check out the plumbing.  I stroked the fresh new wood, trying to imagine living here.  As I looked around, I could only hope our new home would be the answer to Lorne's problems.  Only time would tell.

     Construction was finally moving forward and it should be time to celebrate, but the joy and laughter were missing.  I worried about Lorne.  Just the other day, he told me he was having problems at work.  And this was not the first time.

     Lorne was a brilliant man.  He had the mental capacity to calculate complex mathematical formulas in his head at the snap of a finger, yet feelings of insecurity gnawed at his self-esteem like terminal cancer, leaving him suspicious and vulnerable.  He complained the people at work were out to get him, purposely conspiring to make his life hell.  He told me not to worry, he was dealing with it.  But I did worry.  Lorne had already changed jobs once since we were married, for similar reasons.

     Then there was a speeding ticket I only learned about.  To make matters worse, he was driving his company car.  Most of the time, Lorne kept problems to himself, and even though I begged, he chose not to involve me.  Entangled in his silence, I searched for a reason.  At the same time, I wrestled with my own feelings of lonliness and despair.

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

"This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted."    - C.S. Lewis