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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.

Here’s An Inspiring Story for Anxiety Sufferers

By , December 7, 2013 3:25 pm

I recently read and wrote a review of a newly published book, which gives great insight into how an anxiety disorder can affect one’s life. Scott Stossel, the author, has accomplished monumental things in spite of his lifelong struggle with anxiety attacks.

He also goes into great detail of the many medications and treatments he has tried. It’s a very worthwhile book for those of us who are affected with anxiety disorders, and for those who just want to learn more about this too common affliction, and learn about the history of anxiety disorder research.

While Stossel is not a combat veteran, he has certainly fought his own war with this dreadful illness. So I share this review hoping that my readers will be inspired by this courageous man. Continue reading 'Here’s An Inspiring Story for Anxiety Sufferers'»

Here’s a Great Book for Those Who Love an Alcoholic

By , December 2, 2013 8:14 pm

As we are approaching the season of holiday parties and often, too much excessive drinking, I’m posting this book review I’ve recently written.

I believe it is one of the best books out there that describes the effects on the family, when living with an alcoholic.

Beyond the Booze Battle–by Ruth Maxwell

Brilliant- A Phenomenal Help for Educating Loved Ones of Alcoholics

I first learned of this book while attending a treatment center that gave lectures on alcoholism and its effects on family members of an alcoholic. What an eye-opener it is!

It certainly gave me great insights into the true nature of the disease and how terribly it affects the emotional and mental states of those who live with, and love an alcoholic/ drug addict.

The first chapter is titled “You’re Not Crazy.” Maxwell writes, “If you are living with someone who is harmfully involved with alcohol or drugs, you may be questioning your own sanity. You’re not crazy. You may feel shattered, but you are not crazy.”

What a relief it is to hear this from a professional like Ruth Maxell, who is a renowned therapist dealing with chemical dependency and all of its destructive elements. Continue reading 'Here’s a Great Book for Those Who Love an Alcoholic'»

Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with PTSD

By , November 19, 2013 5:12 pm

I am pleased to post this very important article from guest blogger Ram Meyyappan, of Social Security Disability Help.

 

Tips for Applying for Disability Benefits with PTSD 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can qualify you to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

The following information will help you better understand the Social Security Disability programs and how to navigate the process of applying for benefits.

Understand which Disability Program You Qualify For 

You may qualify for either or both of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability programs.

  • If you have a work history and paid Social Security taxes during your previous employment, then you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • If you have limited income and other financial resources, then you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which is a need-based program.

For specific qualification criteria for SSDI and SSI, visit: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/

Make Sure that Your PTSD Medically Qualifies for Benefits 

Although there is no dedicated listing for PTSD among the conditions in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) standard manual of potentially disabling conditions – the Blue Book – you can still qualify for benefits, if your PTSD is severe.

The SSA will use the listing for anxiety related disorders to evaluate your claim for disability benefits. In order to qualify with PTSD under the SSA’s listing you must suffer from disruptive flashbacks, nightmares or memories that regularly cause you distress. These episodes must interfere with your daily activities, such as your ability to concentrate at work.

You can also qualify without meeting a blue book listing through what is called a medical vocational allowance. To qualify under a medical vocational allowance, you will have to fill out a mental residual functional capacity form to prove that you cannot perform the jobs you have performed in the past or any similar jobs due to your PTSD.

For more information on medically qualifying for SSD with PTSD, visit: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-and-social-security-disability  Continue reading 'Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with PTSD'»

In Honor of Veterans Day, the VA Offers New Way to Explore Their Website

By , November 11, 2013 4:13 pm

As a subscriber to the VA’s newsletter, I just received news of their efforts to make finding what you need from them, easier than ever.

In honor of Veterans Day, they note:

“As we pay tribute to your service, we encourage you to find out more about the benefits that may be available to you or your loved ones.”

Here are some of the subjects you’ll find:

  •   Dependents and Survivors
  •   Disability Compensation
  •   Education and Training
  •   Employment Services
  •   Health Care
  •   Home Loans and Housing
  •   Life Insurance

They also offer information about their Media Room which has books, videos, and other publications. There’s just a lot of good stuff to be found on the site. Check it out.

You can now go to:

http://www.va.gov/explore

Note to my readers:

Today is a rather melancholy day for me and many others. When I think of the sacrifices of so many in my family, of friends, school mates, and acquaintances’, much less the families of our soldiers and all military, I can hardly wrap my head around it. Thanks seems too small of a word.

I wish peace and love to all … and hope that those who have gone before us somehow know that today, especially, they are remembered.

 

 

Here’s an Excellent Book for Those with PTSD

By , November 1, 2013 3:43 pm

I’m sharing here a review of one of Aphrodite Matsakis’  top-notch books on the subject of PTSD and trauma.

 

I Can’t Get Over It- A Handbook for Trauma Survivors (Second Edition)

Author Aphrodite Matsakis is one of the foremost experts on post-traumatic stress disorder and its many aspects.

She covers many topics in this book, such as:

  • Find out if you have PTSD.
  • How to cope with ptsd, anger, grief, and survivor guilt
  • Recognize related problems such as depression, substance abuse, compulsive   behavior, and low self-esteem.
  • Identify “triggers” that set off flashbacks, anxiety attacks, and other symptoms.
  • Gain a sense of empowerment and hope.

Chapter 1, “What is PTSD? Do I Have It?” and Chapter 2, “The Biochemistry of PTSD” are designed to help you determine if you suffer from PTSD and whether you have a clinical depression or engage in some addictive behavior as a result of PTSD.

Chapter 1 will help you decide if you have full-blown or partial PTSD, or just a few PTSD symptoms.

In Chapter 2 you will find a questionnaire which will help you know whether you are suffering from a clinical depression, one of the various addictions, or both.

Matsakis writes:

 “If you discover that you suffer from one or more of the problems described in these chapters, do not disparage yourself; you are more than your problem. You, as a human being, are more than just a PTSD case, an alcoholic, or a compulsive eater. These are but parts of yourself. But left unattended these problems can consume more of your life than you want to give them. One reason for reading this book is to understand your conflicts and pain surrounding the trauma, and to prevent the symptoms you so despise from dominating your life (p.11.)

Some other chapter titles are:

  •   Feelings, Thoughts, and Traumatic Events
  •  Why Am I Acting This Way? Triggers
  •  Understanding Grief and Sorrow
  •  War and Combat
  •  Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse
  •  Getting Help- Survivor Groups and Therapy Programs

This is one of the most informative and comprehensive books on PTSD that I have found. It contains great information about specific traumas and suggests techniques for dealing with them. It offers lots of references and resources.

This is an excellent book for both professionals and lay people. It is a “must-have” for anyone living with PTSD, or for those who love them. Very highly recommended reading!

 

Veterans and Homelessness: A National Tragedy

By , October 11, 2013 2:39 pm

I’ve just received a link from Rosalyn Willson to an excellent infographic article titled “Gimme Shelter: Homeless in America. It focuses on the many faces and causes of homelessness in the United States.

The article notes that there are approximately 62,000 or 13% of the homeless population that are veterans. In a 2011 HUD study it’s was learned that veterans are 50% more likely than other Americans to become homeless.

Also, homelessness has increased in 2013 by 6% from 2012. Veterans are more susceptible to homelessness due to many factors:

  • Physical injuries
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Mental suffering

The article extensively delves into the broad depth of the homelessness problem in our country. There are two main trends that are largely responsible for a rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years:

  • A growing shortage of affordable rental housing
  • A simultaneous increase in poverty

While the article cites some pretty grim statistics, it also provides a small glimmer of hope. It lists some famous people who were once homeless and where they stayed. It’s quite surprising to learn of them.

Here are a few:

  •  Kelly Clarkson (Streets)
  •  Ella Fitzgerald (Streets of Harlem)
  •  David Letterman (His truck)
  •  Joan Rivers (Car)
  •  Martin Sheen (New York Subway)

I hope all my readers will go to the following link and read the full article. It is very informative and should make those of us who have a home realize how very fortunate we are.

Plus it may prompt us to see what we can do to become part of a solution to this crisis. It’s heartbreaking and shameful. As such a rich nation, mustn’t we do better?

http://www.superscholar.org/homeless

 

There Are Many Advantages to Being in a PTSD Support Group

By , October 4, 2013 3:05 pm

I’m constantly amazed by the many ways people can connect and learn from each other, in our age of the internet. I’ve just spent a little time looking over SupportGroups.com.

You’ll find an amazing array of categories of subjects that affect millions of lives. Here are just a few:

  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Divorce
  • Loneliness
  • Brain Injury
  •  PTSD
  •  Military Family

I’ve been in and out of support groups for many years. I can see the value of being in the physical presence of others who are sharing similar life issues. But I also like the fact that as an online user of support groups, there’s a certain anonymity that adds a feeling of safety to share things that one may not have the courage to discuss in person. Today there is no reason to suffer in silence.

For me, an added bonus of being in a physically present support group was that I met my current husband through a man I’d met in my long-term group. You just never know what possibilities may be presented in a support group!

Plus another added benefit of being in a group, is being able to help someone else. You never know what a profound effect you may have on another person’s life and that can be extremely gratifying.

So check out SupportGroups.com: http://www.supportgroups.com

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.

 

Pets For Vets- A Great Organization Helping PTSD-affected Veterans

By , September 13, 2013 1:52 pm

I’ve just learned of another wonderful organization dedicated to helping our returning combat vets and their families. It’s also a fantastic way to help so many deserving animals find a welcoming home, and a chance to be loved and needed.

Pets for Vets, a non profit organization, is dedicated to providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who can benefit from a companion animal.

Their Mission:

Bringing together man’s best friend and our returning soldiers to show them both we have not forgotten about them.

As is noted on their website:

Sadly, there are alarming statistics of suicide, family abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder facing veterans returning to civilian life after military duty. This can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression. It is our belief that companion animals can be the life saving therapy or friend that many returning service men and women need. Continue reading 'Pets For Vets- A Great Organization Helping PTSD-affected Veterans'»

Can a Cup of Coffee Prevent Suicide?

By , September 6, 2013 2:04 pm

Well, I always knew coffee had its positive aspects, but this is a new one. I found an article titled “Take a Cup of Joe and Call Me in the Morning– Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Suicide Risk.” It fits in well with this week, which is National Suicide Prevention Week.

In the article by Dr. Michel Lucas and colleagues, (published on the Psychiatric Times website) about a study they’ve done, the results show that drinking caffeinated coffee actually decreased the risk of suicide.

That is, specifically drinking two to three cups (8 oz) of coffee per day appeared to lower the suicide risk by about 50%. This was compared to study participants who consumed only 1 cup or less of caffeinated coffee per day.

The study also found that there were only slight increases in benefits of drinking more that 3 cups per day. As previous research has proposed, caffeine boosts neorotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain, and these have mild antidepressant effects.

This may account for the apparent reduced suicide effect. Researchers still caution about the dangers of too much caffeine intake.

To read the whole article, go to: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/suicide/take-cup-o-joe-coffee-consumption-linked-lower

Note: I know myself, as a moderate coffee drinker, that when I have another half-a-cup in the late afternoon, I feel better overall and it generally helps my mood.

With suicide being such a huge problem with our combat vets and in the general public, this may seem a simple measure, but it doesn’t hurt to look at all the things that may help improve a depressed mood.

 

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