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Some Surprising Facts and Help for Suicidal Combat Vets

By , April 4, 2014 5:33 pm

I’ve just spent well over an hour visiting the AmVets website, and reading their terrific magazine “American Veteran.”

There is an article in the Fall 2013 edition, spotlighting Tom Donwen, who is Chairman of the Suicide Prevention Committee. Donwen served in the United States Navy from 1957 to 1960 as an Air Traffic Control Operator. He was stationed and served in Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands for one year and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.

Donwen joined AMVETS in 2007, because he was retired and wanted to do more than “play golf.” He had several friends who were already members of AMVETS and he’d always had a soft spot for veterans, especially for Vietnam veterans, given the treatment they received coming home.

Donwen holds several titles within the AMVETS organization, but decided to focus primarily on the prevention of veteran suicide.

“We’re losing 22 veterans a day to suicide. In my time in AMVETS, I have talked with hundreds of vets who have no idea help is available.”

He also notes that:

“Around 70 percent of veterans committing suicide are of between the ages of 50-59. I believe they have been dealing with their demons for such a long time and they get tired of having to cope with that. They just can’t handle it anymore. We lost 54,000 veterans in Vietnam and since then over 85,000 have died from suicide. It’s an absolute disgrace!”

He has worked tirelessly to spread the message throughout the veterans community about the assistance available for the men and women who are having a hard time. He uses materials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and bracelets or brochures he and his team have made to spread the message.

The program was started in 2010 and was named Operation Save Just One. Since then there is over 10,000 California AMVETS working together to hand out materials and speak with veterans to let them know they are not alone. Continue reading 'Some Surprising Facts and Help for Suicidal Combat Vets'»

A Great Book to Help Us Make Sense of Suffering and Traumatic Events

By , March 21, 2014 2:46 pm

I like to post reviews of books that have helped me along on my healing journey, living with PTSD. Years ago, someone recommended the book “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood. At the time, I was going through a horrendously difficult time in my personal life. I learned so much from that book. It was, as they say, “a lifesaver.”

Much later, I was drawn to her follow-up book “Letters from Women Who Love Too Much” which opened my eyes even further and saved me from making a huge mistake that would have had life-threatening ramifications. Her last book is for those of us who are asking the deep questions, such as why is there so much suffering in the world and what are we to make of it? I believe it may be especially meaningful for combat vet spouses who are searching for comfort and understanding.

 

Why Me, Why This, Why Now: A Guide to Answering Life’s Toughest Questions

I’ve been a big fan of Robin Norwood’s work ever since I first read her classic work “Women Who Love Too Much.” That book was instrumental in bringing the topic of relationship addiction into the mainstream.

Her work has been vital to my own healing from dysfunctional relationships. Norwood has been a marriage, family and child therapist, who specialized in the treatment of chemical dependency and codependency.

Her success after her publication of “Women Who Love Too Much” was followed by a series of traumas. She experienced a divorce and a life-threatening illness. While convalescing, Norwood entered into seven years of isolation and reflection. That period of her life gave birth to this book.

She began to read books on astrology, palmistry, tarot, healing and reincarnation. She notes she was finally exploring in earnest what she’d always believed to be the correct focus of psychology: the study (-ology) of the soul (psyche.)

Gradually, her worldview shifted. As she continued to study, she began to realize that our life on earth is about learning, evolving and growing spiritually through our experiences. Continue reading 'A Great Book to Help Us Make Sense of Suffering and Traumatic Events'»

Here’s Another Great Website for Help with Alcohol/Drug Issues

By , March 14, 2014 4:20 pm

In my post of February 28th,  I addressed the “survival roles” that develop when someone in the family becomes addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. We know that too many combat vets self-medicate with substances, some legal and others illegal. The effects on family members can be insidious and devastating. Knowledge is vital when dealing with these situations. 

As noted expert Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse notes, “no one escapes from a chemically dependent family.” I’ve come across an excellent website where you can find numerous articles on this complex subject. Peggy Ferguson, Ph.D. is a licensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor. She has over thirty years experience in chemical dependency and family counseling, and is currently in private practice.

I’m very impressed with the amount of valuable information she provides on her website.

Some of the articles focus on:

  • Marriage
  • Family Dynamics of Addiction
  • Recovery
  • Addiction Recovery
  • Relationships in Recovery
  • Divorce

 To learn more, go to: http://www.peggyferguson.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center- A Place for Returning Veterans to Find Help

By , March 7, 2014 4:27 pm

I’ve just learned of another great place for veterans to find support and assistance. The Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center has been ranked among the 100 top sites for military and veterans assistance by Military Online Colleges.

Based in Little River, South Carolina, the center is a non-profit organization. The center is not affiliated with any government agency, including the Veterans Administration.

The center was established for the sole purpose of providing veterans with much needed assistance in learning about and applying for benefits due to each individual veteran.

The center was founded by veterans and others who support veterans and their rights. The center staff is currently an all-volunteer group (no staff receive any money for any reason).

The board and staff invite all veterans and any other interested parties to stop by and visit the center. Staff will be available to provide information and answer questions regarding the center’s work.

Their phone number is 843-427-4568. Visit their website at:

http://www.veteranswelcomehomeandresourcecenter.org

 

Understanding Family Roles within a Chemically Dependent or High-Stress Family

By , February 28, 2014 5:04 pm

While sorting papers in my office recently, I came across an excellent pamphlet titled “The Family Trap” by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, an esteemed family therapist and author. She is an expert in understanding the patterns of behavior in the family of a chemically (or otherwise disordered) family member.

Finding it, I had a rush of emotion and was taken back to an important event in my life. I had been in counseling after my divorce from my combat vet. My therapist mentioned an upcoming weekend seminar that focused on grief, codependency, and the effects of living in a “high stress” environment.

The seminar was led by two therapists and was held in a small building that was called “The House of Hope.” It was certainly an apt name for the attendees, as I soon learned that the thirty-so people enrolled there (and myself!) needed hope so desperately. At the beginning of the seminar, we were each given a copy of “The Family Trap.”

It seemed we all could have been classified as “the walking wounded” as stories emerged of family trauma. There were those in the midst of divorce, those battling various addictions (and those who loved them,) those suffering depression, victims of sexual abuse, etc. etc. I’d say PTSD ran pretty rampant in that room.

We broke into small groups where we could share individually. One lovely young woman cried as she spoke of her heartache. Seems her father had been sober for twelve years and had fallen off the wagon. She was grieving the loss of the wonderful father she knew, as he descended once again, into chemical insanity.

The author of “The Family Trap” writes in the foreword: “This booklet was designed with three goals in mind:”

  • To recognize the primary nature of the disease of chemical dependency.
  • To recognize the family dynamics contributing to, contained within, and affected by the progressive nature of the disease.
  • To understand what is needed for recovery of the chemically dependent family.

Cruse writes that chemical dependency is a family disease and a primary disease within each family member. Continue reading 'Understanding Family Roles within a Chemically Dependent or High-Stress Family'»

Check Out This Excellent Book on Drinking and Drug Abuse–by Dr. Joseph A. Pursch

By , February 8, 2014 4:06 pm

There are a number of studies that have found a connection between having PTSD and the use of alcohol in order to self-medicate distressing thoughts or feelings related to traumatic experiences.

While self-medicating with alcohol may be common, it too often brings more problems that it solves. Fortunately, we are living in times where there are great amounts of information available to us, on the insidious effects of the abuse of mind-altering chemicals.

Years ago, I became familiar with the work of Dr. Joseph A. Pursch, M.D. Back in 1968, Dr. Pursch was a luncheon speaker at an overseas officer’s club. He was booked as the Navy’s medical expert on drug abuse. His topic was “Drug Abuse Among Young Soldiers.”

Dr. Pursch found that while he was “enlightening” his audience about young soldiers getting high on marijuana and LSD, the officers themselves were getting loaded on booze. Pursch had a sudden realization. The youngsters were on pot and pills, and their bosses were on booze and beer!

Pursch notes that from that day on it was easy for him to see “the big chemical picture.” This well-known and respected psychiatrist is now one of the most notable addiction specialists around.

His book “Dear Doc” has helped me immensely and I’m posting a review here in order to sing his praises and share his knowledge. It’s a classic and phenomenal work on alcoholism and drug abuse.

Dear Doc…The Noted Authority answers your questions on drinking and drugs

—Dr. Joseph Pursch

This book is an absolute must for anyone needing to understand the complexities of alcoholism. Dr. Joseph A. Pursch, a psychiatrist, is a nationally recognized leader in the field of alcohol and drug abuse.

He has treated many well-known figures such as Betty Ford, Billy Carter, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and thousands of others, both famous and not-so-famous. Dr. Pursch also has achieved an impressive military career, serving as a Navy flight surgeon, as well as becoming the director of the Alcohol Rehabilitation Service at the Navy’s Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

The question and answer format of the book is very effective in helping educate the reader on the many aspects of the disease and how it affects family members, as well as those who come in contact with people suffering from addiction to booze or other chemicals.

In the Introduction, Pursch writes, “What’s a nice person like you doing with a book like this? Chances are you don’t have an alcohol or drug problem yourself, but you know somebody who does. You probably want to learn more about it, or maybe even do something about it.”

This book answers the question “When does “normal” use end and alcohol and drug abuse begin? On p. 10, the author observes our American way of drinking:

 “We drink when we hear good news, when we hear bad news, when we go off to war, to celebrate peace, to commemorate a birth or mourn a death. We drink at birthdays, reunions, Christmas, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. Drinking goes with courting (“Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker,” said Ogden Nash), with engagements, marriages, anniversaries, and nowadays, even with divorces.”

While the problem is pervasive, Dr. Pursch offers hope and encouragement that with the proper help, recovery is possible . Continue reading 'Check Out This Excellent Book on Drinking and Drug Abuse–by Dr. Joseph A. Pursch'»

Here’s a Great Memoir on Living with Traumatic Brain Injury

By , February 1, 2014 3:22 pm

Hello readers,

I’ve just finished reading a very interesting and informative memoir by Su Meck. She suffered a severe head injury when, of all things, a ceiling fan fell on her head! What a bizarre accident.

While she wasn’t injured in combat, putting her life back together could be compared to waging a war with her own brain. With perseverance, she and her family have survived and thrived.

So for those of you who are struggling with similar issues, or just want a good read, I’m posting my review:

I Forgot to Remember- A Memoir of Amnesia

–Su Meck (with Danile de Vise)

A Courageous Woman Learns How to Live with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Su Meck was living a normal life as a young wife and mother, when out of the blue a very bizarre accident changed everything. From the day that she suffered a severe head injury, normal no longer existed for Su or her family.

This is a timely story, as so many of our returning combat vets are living with TBI, and their families are struggling to adapt.

Her accident left her with a loss of memory so devastating that she no longer had a past, nor recognized her husband or children. Like many amnesiacs, she was told she had trouble even remembering that she had a damaged memory. Her case was puzzling to her doctors, who stated that hers was one of the most severe cases of retrograde amnesia on record.

This is a heart wrenching story of how a family survives and adjusts to such a drastic change in circumstances. Su became more of a peer than a parent to her two small boys, as she couldn’t even remember how she had been parented during her growing-up years. Continue reading 'Here’s a Great Memoir on Living with Traumatic Brain Injury'»

Here Are Some Inspiring Affordable Housing Projects

By , January 24, 2014 4:22 pm
 
I’ve received a very interesting infographic from Scarlett Jackson, on some amazing housing projects from around the world. These unique communities are not only beautiful and functional, but also energy-efficient. They represent futuristic architecture.
 
While none of these projects are currently in the United States, perhaps in the future we will see similar endeavors which could benefit our citizens and hopefully, many of our veterans and their families.
 
Let’s face it. For most of us, housing takes up a huge chunk of our incomes. Affordable housing should be a higher priority in our country. It’s encouraging to see what is possible. The title is “30 of the World’s Most Impressive Social Housing Projects.
 
Here is the link:
 
 
 
 

This Emotional Life- A Great Resource For Veterans and Their Families

By , January 17, 2014 3:28 pm

I’ve just come across another wonderful website that can be helpful for all of us. It’s called “This Emotional Life” and it is a national, public service effort to foster awareness, connections and solutions about emotional wellness. It’s noted that one in four adults in our country struggle with a mental health issue that stands in the way of happiness.

Plus you’ll find an excellent article focused on our returning combat vets.  It’s titled “Coming Home: What the Future Holds for Our Veterans and Their Families” and it’s written by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen.

This PBS website is full of  helpful blogs, aricles and videos with up-to-date information on mental health subjects. There are personal stories from the famous as well as every day people.

You may also join their community conversations on Facebook and Twitter to share your own story and keep up with the latest offerings on emotional wellness.

Check it out at:

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs

 

 

A Vietnam War Novel That Tells Us So Much about PTSD

By , December 24, 2013 4:09 pm

Many wars have followed after our Vietnam War era. But every war contains similar aspects, after-effects, and too much PTSD. 

Karl Marlantes is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who spent thirty years writing and rewriting the book Matterhorn, in his spare time. He accomplished this while also supporting a large family, by working as a business consultant. I’m posting my review of the book, in hopes of spreading the word about this marvelous war novel. The book is long (almost 600 pages) but is certainly worth the time invested in reading and absorbing it.

Matterhorn–Karl Marlantes

It’s All Here- The Monsoons, The Leeches, The Terror, The Brotherhood, and More Pieces of the Vietnam War Puzzle

 

Karl Marlantes personal story of how his book came about is a fascinating one. To spend thirty years of his spare time writing and rewriting this book, proves the power that the Vietnam War still holds over so many of us.

The stories of Nam will continue to be born, as if the dead of that war cannot remain silent. And so many of the living who experienced it are, and will continue to be, compelled to tell their tales. Reading the book, for me, is to go back to my life in high school, when all my young male classmates and acquaintances had the draft hanging over their head, and many were leaving for Nam right after graduation. Some dropped out of school to enlist.

Falling in love when I was but a teenager, with a young marine who ended up serving two tours in Nam, means that I can relate to Marlantes work on a visceral level.  The mere mention of words such as camouflage utility jacket, chopper, dee-dee, klicks, DMZ, hootch, trench foot, lifer, patrol, point, perimeter, and so many other terms, brings back a flood of memories, snapshots in my mind, and a stirring up of old pain.

While it’s hard to go back to that time and place, I’ve taken the journey with Marlantes protagonist, Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas, because I still long to understand the combat experience, and its effects on a soldier’s psyche. For civilians, this is an experience we can only vaguely begin to understand.

But fighting alongside Lt. Mellas, through the elephant grass, the heat of the jungle, the merciless pounding of the monsoon rains that resulted in rain-soaked boots, then jungle rot, the “humping into the bush with seventy-pound of gear on one’s back” all these things give a smidgen of insight into the sheer physical challenges our soldiers in Vietnam faced.

We are also allowed into Lt. Mellas’s combat “mindset.” On p. 403, we learn “Mellas didn’t hate the NVA. He wanted to kill the enemy because that was the only way the company would get off the hill, and he wanted to live and go home. He also wanted to kill because he had a burning anger inside him with no place to go. The people who he had hated- the colonel, the politicians, the protesters, bullys who’d shamed him in childhood, little friends who’d taken his toys when he was two- weren’t available, but the NVA soldiers were … he had to admit that he wanted to kill because part of him was “thrilled by killing.” Marlantes shares a lot of brutal truths in this book.

Some of the things I learned from this novel are:

1) War is full of terror.

2) It is also full of exhilaration.

3) There are times of terrible tedium and boredom.

4) War creates the strongest of bonds among men.

5) Racism was rampant in Vietnam.

6) There is agony and despair on the loss of one’s friends.

7) War does not allow time for grief. The grieving comes later.

8) War rarely achieves the desired results.

9) War is only understood in retrospect.

I am in awe of this veteran, not only as an author, but as a man who has been able to accomplish such phenomenal things in his life after returning from Vietnam.

I believe that every combat veteran who is able to find the strength to tell their story offers us a great gift, the gift of understanding another person’s journey. Especially a story of going to hell, and coming back out again. Kudos to this author for giving us awesome, memorable characters, and an unforgettable story.  Very highly recommended reading, especially in these (still) war-torn times.

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