June 30, 2012

Healing the Unseen Wound in San Diego, California

Another great program in California, makes me want to move there.

June 25, 2012

USA Cares Program for Post 9/11 Veterans

I’d like to take the time to introduce USA Cares as a fantastic resource available to many of you.

USA Cares exists to help bear the burdens of service by providing post-9/11 military families with financial and advocacy support in their time of need. Assistance is provided to all branches of service, all components, and all ranks while protecting the privacy and dignity of those military families and veterans who request our help. Since 2003, USA Cares has responded to over 36,000 requests for assistance with more than $9,000,000 in direct support grants.

Warrior Treatment Today

The USA Cares Program, Warrior Treatment Today helps bridge the gap between personal financial demands and the need to receive treatment. Specifically, our program seeks to remove the financial barrier that exists for many service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI), but cannot afford to leave their employment for treatment.

Warrior Treatment today pays essential household bills while the service member/veteran is attending residential treatment such as:
  • Rent 
  • Mortgage 
  • Utilities 
  • Car payment 
“A Hand Up- Not a Handout” Services are free to service men and women and their families without obligation to repay, providing “A Hand Up not A Hand Out” and sharing the sacrifice with those who serve America. No fees are ever charged and no repayment is ever requested. Financial assistance is not given directly to service members or their families; instead, payments are made to mortgage lenders, utility companies, and other vendors. Each family accepted for assistance is assigned an advocate from our family resource center who assures that assistance is timely and effective. These advocates often mobilize additional support for families from other military assistance groups, and the service member’s community of local organizations, stores and church groups.

How To Apply

Applying is simple with the online application found on the website usacares.org Just fill out the online form and a real live person will follow up with a return phone call and to determine how we can help.

Getting The Word Out

We try to martial our resources so that most of our funds go to the troops we serve. Typically more than 80% of all contributions received from donations and grants go directly to support service members and their families. As such, our outreach program is on a shoestring budget. Don’t underestimate the power of Word of Mouth. So, tell everyone you can think of. Reblog, tweet and like us on Facebook.

Together, we will get the word out:

USA Cares, cares. 
Guest Blogger - Theresa DeMario

June 24, 2012

Combat PTSD Veterans Need a Strong Inner Circle

To the people who are near but seem the furthest away. I need a strong inner circle, which I lack. People in my life have the designation of friends but have never been to my house even though I have been to theirs, you stop inviting people that never come over. Others hold resentments and make it my responsibility for our relationship. I understand that my people skills can suffer and I withdraw quite a bit, but this is when I need people the most. The last thing I need during these times are petty resentments or ignorance and fear to interfere with my deep need for human connection.

Most people don't want to talk about dark and emotional conversations, it triggers people's unresolved issues. That's when they tell you to get over it, that people don't want to hear about it all the time, or tune you out, etcetera etcetera. We do need to talk about it often sometimes, but sharing on that level requires a tremendous amount of trust. Which is why we don't share much, even with our loved ones the bonding needs to be a high level for us to embark on telling our stories. It's important the immediate circle see our condition as a psychological injury and become educated in how to interact with someone with a mental wound.

Active Listening is the first lesson. Listening has important components to employed that will increase your ability to communicate effectively.

What is active listening? (www.cdcr.ca.gov/CSA/STC/docs/active%20listening.ppt)
  • It’s a communication skill that involves both the speaker and the receiver.
  • In active listening, the receiver tries to understand what feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are being communicated and accepts it as the person’s own.
  • The listener feeds back only what they believe the sender’s message meant - nothing more, nothing less. It involves feedback and verification that the receiver correctly understood the senders message.
  • The active listener avoids getting stuck in another person’s “helpless” feelings.
I employ much empathy and compassion in my friendships, along with active listening. Depending on many of the factors above I share with my most trusted freely. Sharing here is different than in person or with someone I have a strong personal bond. People's insensitivity and unintentional attempts to support often become offensive and another case of my mental feats of dispatching evil thoughts going unnoticed. I'm tired of being told to just get over it, or told try and not to think about it, or being told that no one really wants to hear about my issues all the time. I understand people's intention when giving this "advice." I try and see these as teaching moments. But, it is difficult to have a great need to unburden myself when someone gives really bad advice. It usually clams me up and sends my mind spinning.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD need a strong and unconditional support network in which to begin to heal. Unfortunately people mistake many PTSD and behavioral issues as character defects and not symptoms of a mental wound. This turns people off. Additionally many people are put off by the way I break down their facades quickly and call them on their shit; a defensive behavior to shut others down. I am learning that a friend to keep is one who shares in the good and bad. We don't need people to understand us completely. But, we do not wish to be alone in our pain or joy anymore. We need people close to us who are willing to learn about our condition and dish and take some shit; aka then still be there.

PTSD people have this thing with calling everyone out on their shit. People have to be ready for that, no really.

I have a mental and spiritual wound, my struggles are symptoms manifested. What is your excuse?

June 23, 2012

The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium

I am excited to announce my attendance as a participant in The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium on July 5-7 at Eastern Kentucky University. I will be working on two projects for submission in The Journal of Military Experience.
Attention Military Veterans and Those Who Support Them:

The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium will take place July 5-7, at Eastern Kentucky University. 100 veterans–from all over the country–will receive three, free days of lodging, meals, textbooks, and workshops to help them express themselves through the creative arts.

The MEA has three goals in mind:
  • To expand the type of one-on-one help provided to veteran contributors to The Journal of Military Experience to the masses
  • To celebrate veteran writing and art through a number of activities and events open to both veterans and the general public
  • To educate individuals about the healing capabilities of creative expression through testimonials and public lectures by experts in fields that provide veterans with creative, cathartic outlets for veterans to express themselves on their own terms.
The best part…If you are reading this YOU are cordially invited to take part in the festivities. Below you’ll find a day-by-day schedule of the offerings. We hope to see you in July at Eastern Kentucky University!


Travis L. Martin
Director, Military Experience and the Arts Symposium
Editor, The Journal of Military Experience

June 21, 2012

Suicidal Thoughts: Recovering From the Darkness

NOTE: I am in therapy and have an appointment in an hour and thirteen minutes and will be discussing the below. I have a safety plan called Smoke Break if the thoughts become persistent. When I can think of nothing else, it's time to check myself in to the local VA, for the 7th time if necessary.

If a veteran admits they have thought about killing themselves, then they mean yes, hell yes, too much and maybe even all the time. We talked about the compulsions to kill myself in the last post. Now I want to address the buildup to compulsive behavior; the compulsive thinking and the many reasons not to live rolling around in my head.

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has helped me several times over the years, so call 1-800-273-TALK.

I have few close friends locally and family comes around every so often; my dog and a few friends, that's it. I do not want to keep feeling this pain in isolation. Been fantasizing about how ending it would 'show them' or how 'they wouldn't care' while stoking my resentments and devising a list of who cannot come to my funeral. The obsessive thoughts of self assisted doom have been patrolling my mind to seize upon my life. There's no loved one or caregiver here, or resources for assistance for a non-Post 9/11 and undeserving veteran. I don't have a plan, just unmet needs fueled by distorted and delusional thinking leaving me vulnerable to the compulsions to kill myself. But, such is life.

Along comes detachment and numbness to replace the physical and mental pain, a different kind of anguish that makes us relish the void and can last for as long as life for some. It's another kind of hell to be cut off from the out going person I used to be, that deep down my desire to be among loved ones out in the world is buried under the fears of loosing my reality to the past, cyclical thoughts fueled by petal to the metal emotions raging on and on to loose myself. Or yourself if you are stuck in this pattern thinking. Below is how I get through moments of utter inner panic, most do not see it. But, those in the know do.

If you need a therapist in person or over the phone, click the Give an Hour picture above to get you in touch with mental health practitioners in your area free of charge.

Chronic traumatization causes our survival mechanisms to become hard-wired into our neuropathways; a veritable surgical steel Swiss Army Knife of fight, flight or freeze. A constant threat assessment on the battlefield was a lifesaving skill to master, at home it can manifest in distorted and delusional thinking, a major component of chronic Combat PTSD. The entrenchment of our evolutionary and primitive defensive mechanisms makes us prone to reactionary and compulsive behavior in civilization. The evolutionary defensive mechanism confound us with cyclical and repetitive thinking that may or may not be grounded in reality. Over time I have been able to become less reactionary by learning coping skills, education on my condition and triggers along with treatment. I can attest to the plasticity of the brain as per becoming a completely different person from 7 years ago, it has been exhausting most days but well worth the hard work.

Accept that you cannot prevent all of your triggering events and see them as a window into your suppressed self. 

The compartmentalized part of the mind acts as projections into the environment as seemingly inconspicuous triggers such as the unconscious sensory stimuli exchange of a tailpipe backfire for a battlefield bullet discharge. The damaged subconscious suppresses the ability to consolidate past and present memories thus giving birth to the dissociative features of Combat PTSD; a phenomenon we experience most days. It will make you question your own reality. During PTSD moments our arguments may have paranoid and delusional components set within circular arguments and backed by defensive mechanisms. As we learn our triggers, defensive mechanisms and look into what our subconscious is trying to communicate to us we begin to see a perspective from the out side of the chaotic, we begin to see more options. When we get caught up inside the circle and the battle is on. Anxiety and panic attacks can be coped with to where they pass without making us freak out. Meditation and pray have been my greatest tools to work through mine.

Meditation and mindfulness exercises like guided imagery can give you the sense of letting your thoughts go, or clearing your mind.

How? Imagine a body of water representing and matching your emotional level from raging seas to the calming stillness of a pond. Start with was an open body of water with the waves matching the level of your stress and anxiety. Visualize the waves calming to the point of stillness. This tool can be used to gauge internally your stress level and as a way to self sooth during these moments. Where there was no emotional gauge before, now if I am out of touch with my emotions accessing this image helps me gain perspective again. Coping skills such as guided imagery and other mindfulness techniques help by giving us a visual representation of our emotions so that we may better self sooth our anxiety and stress levels. Keep practicing and remember is not about perfection, it's about addressing our dangerously detached and compulsive behavior.

I ask God to take the power of it and practice letting go rather then holding onto.

Part of Prayer is asking God's blessing, an oft looked over piece is the sharing of the burden. We do not have too onerously endeavor, a trick of the Defensive State of Mind is to believe that we are alone. The sharing of the burden is living a prayerful life, venting to God and all who will listen is doing His work. Do you think the Apostles and saints talked calmly to God? By sharing your experience, you are the change you wish to see in the world. Your footsteps blaze the path where many will follow

Maybe it's time for us all to begin healing, if in your heart you feel the welling sense of hope beginning. Please, do not squelch this; you will be happy again given time. Also, accompanying may be apprehension and a sense of foreboding. This is a normal response, you were meant for more than you have been living and your being resonates this. You will become what you dream, if you dare to accept what is in your heart and act soon, if not now.

June 13, 2012

Vets Prevail: for Vets by Vets

Our veterans face a severe 30% shortfall of therapists and mental health practitioners in both the government and private sectors. It's estimated that 70% of soldiers and veterans needing help do not seek it. Our Veteran's Administration budget is strained and cannot handle the patients they have let alone address the on coming tsunami of help seeking veterans.
The Vets Prevail program is much different than the rest of the veteran's sites that only offer information in base form, such as this one. The interactive skills teaching aspect and the asking and answering questions section are paramount in helping to address the veterans and soldiers mental health problem. This program can get a soldier or veteran the skills needed to navigate life successfully. It can get the warrior fast tracked and ready for therapy and treatment by teaching them skills needed to process traumatic memories.

It's centered on proven coping and behavioral skills building concepts, values and emotive identification. All needed as a strong foundation for therapy and recovery from the Unseen Wounds of War. The interactive program is thoughtful, creative and a much needed tool for the veteran suffering in silence. Veterans can learn the skills they need to safely navigate their Combat PTSD in and outside the home.

June 10, 2012

Mental Health Emergencies

An overwhelming sense of hopelessness may lead a person to think of only one way out. I want to say that we all have errant thoughts of others being better off without us, but that's probably a symptom of something in me. Obsession is an often overlooked component of the hypervigilance portion of PTSD, coupled with the delusional aspects of traumatization cause the suicidal thoughts to be seen as a way to escape the emotional and physical pain.

Upon percolation the overwhelming and despondent thoughts often lead us too constantly resist compulsions to drive head on with a truck or off an embankment. Picking up a sharp knife to chop veggies for dinner becomes an ominous dilemma or looking out the window makes me wonder if the second story is high enough. When the higher thought processes shut down and give way to base emotional states we become susceptible to reactionary and compulsive behavior. In our hearts and minds we are torn between the vast chasm of the macabrous to spiritual enlightenment, of which in war we felt simultaneously.

Get help now, for your mental health emergencies. Don't sit alone waiting for months on end. Your life depends on getting treatment and reducing these obsessive thoughts.

Attention New York and Surrounding Area Veterans

The Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is conducting a research study, if I was there I'd go.

Biomarkers for PTSD
ID Number 09-0765

Contact Information
Charu Sood
Tel: 718-741-4000 x6152
E-mail: charu.sood@va.gov

Did you serve in Iraq or Afghanistan? If so, you may be eligible to participate in a study designed to identify biomarkers associated with PTSD. You may be eligible for participation whether or not you have PTSD symptoms.

June 9, 2012

Memory and PTSD

I have lost large blocks of my memory, so much so that I have to rely on loved ones to piece my life back together. The more people share with me, the more memory I am able to regain. But, many still remain out of reach. Much like our childhood memories fade, except last week is foggy and a couple of years ago mostly I can't recall. Unless triggered by talking with someone, then a flood of memories come like they were always there. Kind of unsettling when not expecting it and can trigger other less wanted memories that only nightmares can dream.

by Scott Lee
The same with my combat experiences, once I researched my unit movement the memories of the individual engagements began to come back. There we so many for three days straight night and day one after another without a break. Imagine gearing up for a fueled up  three day binge on energy drinks and playing "The Greatest Tank Battle in the History of War" video game where you drive an infantry vehicle at  the tip of the spear for your company and brigade. It's a nonstop meat grinder and you get to lead your tanks into position, just under our Apache's hellfire rain. The night sky's a red glare illuminating the exploding carnage as you weave through a hail of enemy artillery.

Now, multiply that sugar and herbal remedy rage beyond a pure adrenaline wave of controlled ride through combat and, now. CAN YOU IMAGINE FORGETTING ANY PART OF IT?

Know of a veteran that needs help? Send him or her the link to this site as I detail how to prepare for therapy.

June 7, 2012

PTSD: Get Over It

Ever been told to get past it? Or told to get over it and can't?

I wouldn't ask you to beat your noggin against that wall, my head hurts just thinking about it. But, working through it; that won't be as difficult. Our language says much. "Getting past it" or "getting over it" suggests it's something to be pushed aside or to get around all at once. To work through suggests that it can be managed, one trauma at a time, and one therapy session at at time. Outside of therapy you can start by learning from others who have been in your shoes through online social media sites; Facebook is an excellent tool to network Additionally I suggest learning coping skills, guided imagery to lessen anxiety, becoming familiar with your triggers, and mindfulness of thoughts and feelings to help process. Grounding techniques such as putting a rock in your pocket can help ease anxiety along with learning to pray and meditate. Journaling is a tremendous instrument in purging and self reflection, a tactile sensory expression of our experiences allowing differing perspectives on ourselves.