Monday, 25 August 2014

PTSD / Diary of a Vet's Wife / Be Tenacious

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, of which have the potential to turn a life around.   ~ Leo Buscaglia

Yesterday I was stuck in traffic on the way to work. I was running late but it was my own fault. There always seems to be one more thing calling my name before I leave the house. Cars were bumper to bumper in front of me and it took the light forever to change. 

When the traffic finally started to move I noticed a silver utility box on the sidewalk scrawled with graffiti ... or so I thought.

As I pulled up next to it, I saw what it said ... it put a smile on my face!


I planned to take a picture to share on my blog on the way home, but later when I drove by, it appeared the utility company had covered the smile provoking words with silver paint. 

It made me sad because it could have brightened so many more lives as it had mine ...

Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my memoir, has become my mission to reach as many families as possible dealing with the unpredictable chaos this malady plants in the middle of our dreams. I've been there and I know the helplessness that leaves you weak and the endless tears that warm your cheeks at night.

My heartfelt desire is to give you HOPE in the only way I know how ... by sharing my journey and what I've learned through SURVIVAL. It's not a quick fix, but it is POSSIBLE. All I ask is that you read what has happened to me with an open heart and mind. Try to savor the words without judgement and feel the healing begin to fill in the holes.
Are you living with PTSD?  The road back may look impossible but remember all the people in your life who love you ... including me because I know where you've been and where you are now.

If you've read Diary of a Vet's Wife, you already know what happened to me. The time has come where I need to begin to alternate my viewpoint from our shared pain to the peace and understanding waiting in the wings.

Today I read something that told me it was time to move forward and begin to share the healing process that continues to amaze and embrace me. I believe the words that are touching me so profoundly will also nourish your heart with love and strength. Please promise to give me a chance ...


Dr. John Maxwell says one day when he was discouraged and tempted to quit, he took out a dictionary and looked up the word "quit." After spending a few minutes considering that option, in a symbolic act of defiance he took out his scissors and cut the word right out of his dictionary. It didn't make his problems go away, but it sure did strengthen his resolve. 

When every avenue looks like a dead end and you feel like you've exhausted every possibility - you haven't. There are always other ways, other options, other opportunities. Even if you don't see them right now, they are there. So don't give up. Former heavy weight champion Jack Dempsey once said, "A champion is one who gets back up when he can't. People who reach their goal keep going when they think they can't. They're tenacious, and as a result they keep moving closer to their goal day by day. Some days they may be moving only a few inches at a time, but they're moving forward. They believe in their God-given destiny, they believe in themselves, and they say so. 

Now, saying you believe in yourself won't guarantee your success, but saying you don't believe in yourself will guarantee your failure. The truth is you're not alone, God is with you. "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isaiah 40:29). So be tenacious!

(Taken from: The Word For You Today - August 25, 2014)

My post today is shorter than usual, but this way I will be motivated to write more often on the spur of the moment. Long posts take time to create like a chapter in a book. This approach with be something new for me and I hope it will be met with your favor. 

Better Things Ahead 

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."  C. S. Lewis (2006)

Monday, 26 May 2014

PTSD / Diary of a Vet's Wife / Remembering

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. 
~ Nancy MacMillan, author

On Memorial Day, we honor all the military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and freedom. These brave warriors rest in peace not only on American soil, but approximately 125,000 are buried on foreign soil.

Our country is split by war. Each of us longs to live in peace and harmony, but how can this be attained without welcoming terror to our shores with open arms? There is no easy answer.

Memorial Day still ignites an ember I thought had diminished with the years. Yet, memories from the past flood my mind. If I dare close my eyes, I see my husband's handsome face, the twinkle in his eye, and his crooked smile waiting for me as though he never left me behind.

The yearning to step back in time is powerful. If only I could relive just one day of happiness with him. That would be enough. But I'm lying to myself. I know I'd want more. Then reality, like my guardian angel, steps boldly between us with hands on her hips, shaking her head and I know this can never happen ... at least, not in this lifetime.

I share personal thoughts today that live in too many hearts. Yet how do we stop the insanity of war? I may never be whole again, but my life without my husband, the love of my life, is still worth living. He is the reason I now have a mission - Public Awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To share with others who wonder, exactly what PTSD is all about. I have found peace and joy in this new journey I travel, since I found the Lover of my soul ... but there is still this longing like a familiar song, playing over and over in my head ...

The day I finally FACED reality was the day I went to visit "The Moving Wall." I know now, that up until then ... I had been living in a daydream.

"As for all I can tell, the only difference is that what many see we call a real thing, and what only one sees we call a dream."   ~ C.S. Lewis 

I had been writing "Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my memoir, for many years. In doing so, I was still spending time with my husband, the high-highs and the low-lows, through my thousands of words. We were still connected. Most every day I would be at my computer by 4 A.M. with my morning coffee, and begin writing or rewriting until I had to get ready for work. For sixteen years, my husband was with me through every step of this process. My muse. Need I say more?

On September 29, 2011, I was attending a writing/publishing class in Santa Barbara the same day "The Moving Wall" arrived at Chase Palm Park. Was this a coincidence?

An excerpt from: "The Moving Wall" - An Experience I will Never Forget!" ... October 3, 2011

I followed a sidewalk to the street and headed toward the monument. A photographer toting a heavy camera passed by. Towering palms scattered the patchy green grass. The sight of The Wall off in the distance, the sky and the ocean it's backdrop, enfolded me like a loving grandparent I'd never met. I felt timid, yet I knew I belonged . . .

They walk as if on hallowed ground. They touch the stone. They speak with the dead. They come to mourn and to remember, memory mixing with grief, making an old ritual new, creating in this time another timeless moment.                  - 25th Anniversary Commemorative

In the distance, the long narrow black wall appeared to rise out of the ground where people stood like toy soldiers set in groups of two or three. Flags of many countries rose high against the hazy afternoon sky, furling in unison. A large khaki tent stood guard off to the right. As I drew near, the black panels began to reveal meticulous white lettering. Snapping flags overhead muffled the soft murmurs of family members, some clutching framed  photographs to their chest, as they stood solemnly talking with counselors near The Wall.

It was surreal . . . until it hit me.

The avalanche of names washed over me. Dear God, so many names. Too many names. Each called from the wall. I could hardly breathe. 58,226 names including 8 women. The Vietnam war. They all died in battle. This was all that was left of these warriors who were part of us, never again to feel the sun on their faces, or taste the salty air from an ocean breeze.

A train echoed from afar. A lean-muscled man riding a bicycle pulled up. His fluorescent green jacket and trimmed white beard reflect off the shiny black wall like a mirror. He straddled the bike as his eyes eagerly searched the names. One woman wandered a distance from the wall. Maybe fearful as I was to get too close. Afraid of being swallowed alive by the reality before us.

(This entire post is accessible in the sidebar of this blog under 2011).

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” 
        ― C.S. Lewis

Take time today to remember these brave men and women who gave their lives for our country. They deserve so much more. We have freedoms in America that many only dream about. These brave warriors stepped forward to fill the shoes of generations past who fought for these same rights. Let us honor them today, they were each someones child who had dreams of their own ... and please pray for PEACE in all nations.

                        What memories does Memorial Day bring back to you?

Monday, 28 April 2014

PTSD / Diary of a Vet's Wife / The War Within

"We want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is."               ~ CS Lewis

Today, I pose a question ... WHY do you stop to READ my blog? Are you living in the shadow of PTSD as I once lived? Are you a writer looking for insight? Or simply curious? Readers from seventy-four countries continue to SEEK my blog. What are you hoping to find? 

I can only guess. You want ANSWERS. Yet all I can tell you is what happened to me. And SHARE what I'm LEARNING ...  

SOCIETY markets the idea that happy thoughts and fresh flowers on the table will BRIGHTEN everyone's day. Pursue the GOOD in people and not the bad. Do random acts of KINDNESS. Lighten up. Enjoy life and the people in your life. It sounds IDEAL, but does this work?

Maybe for some, but not for the hundreds of thousands who are living in the uncertainty of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ... the aftermath of war. No one knows these demons unless you've lived with them! We can't ignore their existence or the impact of this disorder on our warriors and society as a whole. We can't hide them in the cellar like they don't exist.

I care deeply for these brave men and women caught in this nightmare. I know their plight. I lived in that menacing shadow too long not to. But how can one woman make a difference? How can I reach them?

That's why I MUST continue to SHARE where I've been and what I've learned. Even if I reach ONLY ONE person before it's too late ... 

Progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.  ~ CS Lewis

As some know, I began to write Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, three years after my husband, the love of my life and a Vietnam vet, committed suicide. There. I said the word. I hate that word and what it does to families. My husband left a hole in my heart the size of Texas. He suffered with PTSD for eighteen years before he LOST the battle. A brave warrior. But I couldn't help him. His counselors thought Prozac was the answer, but mixed with alcohol it was deadly, 

Public Awareness of PTSD is my mission! My memoir shares not only the love and laughter in our relationship, but the heartbreak of this disorder woven throughout. I share LETTERS my husband wrote describing what was happening in his mind. I later learned I had developed PTSD during our fifteen year marriage, through association. The reader will relive my experience much like a fly on the wall.

Two million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA estimates 1 out of 5 suffer with PTSD due to so many going back for a third, fourth and fifth tour. The Veterans Health Administration has been overwhelmed with PTSD patients. Now, with the help of two new therapies thousands of veterans are in the process of getting their lives back.  
                 Psychology Today - November 26, 2013 

My research revealed an article in Psychology Today entitled Two New PTSD Treatments Offer Hope for Veterans, which later viewed on a 60 Minutes broadcast. The treatments are called "Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).

This DISCOVERY is long overdue and the FIRST positive results I've seen since PTSD stepped into my life. It's not a cure but it offers HOPE to those willing to fight back. A MUST SEE for anyone living in the shadow of PTSD. If you have time to watch the 20 minute episode, you can decide for yourself ...  

Click here

Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy works for many people who have experienced trauma. According to the VA, there are three main components:

  1.  Breathing - Controlled breathing is a skill that helps you relax to manage immediate distress.
  2.  Real world, "In Vivo" exposure - Practice approaching situations that are safe which you may have avoided because they are related to the trauma. A veteran may avoid driving since he experienced a roadside bomb while deployed.
  3.  Talking through the trauma and replaying the tape - Talking about your trauma over and over with your therapist, "imaginal exposure." Talking through your trauma will help you get control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma and helps make sense of what happened.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

The VA is offering this second experimental therapy. This therapy begins by writing an impact statement to share with the group in which the veterans talk about how their lives are still "held in the grip of war."

Participants seem to bond and recreate this sense of camaraderie with other soldiers in a safe environment.

Through CPT veterans begin to consciously make sense of the trauma and 'face the dragon head on' instead of trying to avoid thinking about their memories. CPT makes it easier to cope with traumatic events and get back to living their life to its fullest.

According to the VA, there are four components to CPT:
  1.  Learning About Your PTSD Symptoms
  2.  Becoming Aware of Thoughts and Feelings
  3.  Learning Skills
  4.  Understanding Changes in Beliefs

By CHOOSING to approach your experiences in a NEW and DIFFERENT way, you will be able to decide how your past affects your future ...

Conclusion:  If you have PTSD, "Don't Judge it." Reach out and ask for help.

Across the United States, 77% of vets who go through the program will see a decrease in PTSD symptoms. Though it's a start, it is not a cure. "We have to teach people that they can live with this and live a valued life, a life they want," Dr. Reeder concludes ...

If you, or someone you know, is a veteran suffering from PTSD, please talk to your VA health provider about getting Prolonged Exposure and/or Cognitive Processing Therapy. A list of Veterans Affairs facilities can be found online at: VA Facilities Locator.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, of which have the potential to turn a life around.
     ~ Leo Buscaglia

If you or a loved one seems overwhelmed by PTSD symptoms, please remember, there are many resources available to you. If you need immediate help, please GET IT NOW! PTSD does not go away on it's own ... and will only get worse left unattended.

Below I've listed the number of The Veterans Crisis Line. Please check out Veterans Crisis, even if you don't think you need it now. Get familiar with the resources available, and save this information for easy access.

PLEASE call ... my husband, the love of my life, never had this option.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs resource that connects Veterans in crisis and their families with qualified, caring VA professionals through a confidential toll-free hotline and on-line chat.

The new VA suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), recently reported that it's received more than 55,000 calls, averaging 120 per day, with about 22,000 callers saying they were veterans.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, 21 February 2014

PTSD / Diary of a Vet's Wife / A Gift of Love

"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." ― Mark Twain

The day we were born we entered into a story that has been ongoing since the beginning of time. We had no choice as to our parents, our country of origin or the color of our skin. Then much too soon we step out of this story ... again not by choice.

Why is it we pop into existence for a mere seventy, eighty or ninety years, compared to the age of our universe? Believe it or not, there is a living spruce in Sweden said to be carbon dated at 9550 years old.

Are we here merely to propagate the planet, raise a family, make a living and have fun?

Have you ever thought about it?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: Your natural life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or  you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else.

Humans are endowed with natural gifts that no animal possesses nor will any computer ever duplicate ... our inner being, emotions and conscience. We possess the innate ability to love and to laugh ... we feel compassion for others ... we can cry tears of happiness and grief ... and inherently we know right from wrong.

Our non-ending media coverage has allowed society to grow in awareness to the plight of our fellowman both here and abroad. People worldwide are selflessly striving to help those in need, sharing their knowledge and resources to better the lives of others sharing our small planet

Why then is our existence so meager?

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."   - Mother Theresa

Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my memoir, shows my day to day struggle trying to make craziness appear normal. My husband, the love of my life, battled PTSD and the demons of war, yet I found no way to help him ... and no one to help me. Isolated without hope, I had nothing to cling to and no solution.

Throughout the world other families are living like I did. Never knowing when the left shoe will drop. When will the demons strike again? Pretending becomes commonplace as we travel the maze of confusion like white mice scurrying to find a way out. Our children are being cheated out of the family they deserve.

I understand that helplessness ...

For three years, I fought the need to write this book. I had no idea how to write a book ... nor where to begin. The nagging persisted. The notion that I could help others and show them that they were not alone continued to pound on my heart until ... I gave in.

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  ― Francis of Assisi 

I've traveled a great distance from the helpless victim of PTSD in my memoir to the compassionate, joy-filled woman I am today. I no longer hide behind the pain of my past as every morsel of my being wants to share what I came to learn through my tragedy. 

If only I had known then what I know now. If only someone had told me, my life would be different today ... but no one did!

That's why I'm so compelled ...  

Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.      C. S. Lewis

Sometimes you have to reach the lowest point to understand who God is, and what He can do for us. And when you do ... you will never be the same again.

For me, it happened one day while I was listening to the radio. My days were like walking in a tunnel through a dark cloud. Bleak, black and white routine without hope or color. The words I heard that day changed my life ...

     "God allows us to go through trials for a purpose . . ."
     "God speaks to us all the time; we have to begin to listen . . ."

And that day I came face to face with the God of the bible, when he stepped into my life and wrapped His arms around me. I had never felt such love.

We've been separated from God. But God loves us. God hasn't turned his back on us. I didn't know He was waiting for me to find him.

From the time I was a little girl I wanted my life to have some sort of meaning, I wanted to make a difference. Now I know what that means.

I came to learn how much God loved me and that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins, so that I could have God's gift of eternal life. 

My heart was hungry and I was touched. I believed what I was hearing. I was tired of living half-a-life in darkness. I knew I was a sinner, selfish, jealous, angry, and so much more. I needed forgiveness. I repented. I asked God into my heart because I  believed Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven ... like we will do one day. 

My life changed when I asked God into my life. He alone filled the hole in my heart left by my husband's love. Now I have a relationship with God I never knew could exist. I am no longer who I was ... I am a new creature in Him. 

Each one of us is created in His image for a purpose. I believe my purpose is to share this journey with you and show you the love and peace God has given me. It takes time. Each day is a new beginning as I absorb the wonders of this amazing new life I found. The bible has come to life and I now understand what I read. 

I believe we've been given just so much time to make this choice. And if we don't choose it, we lose it. Who wouldn't choose life over death? The life we've been given by God is a gift. 

These basic needs are the same the world around. What may be broken in your own heart and life can be made new again in Jesus. This simple prayer can open the door to eternal life.