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Posts tagged: Vietnam veterans wives

Writing Can Help Heal Your PTSD

By , April 1, 2013 5:20 pm

It’s a well-known fact that writing about one’s personal experiences, especially those that have been particularly traumatic, can bring great healing to the body, mind and soul.

I never set out to be a writer; not consciously at least. But when I went back to school later in life (and after my divorce from a Vietnam veteran) I took many of my prerequisite classes with gusto.

Then on a whim, I took an elective class, which turned out to be Creative Writing. Shortly into the course, I found myself pouring my guts out on the page. It was as if a dam had broken and my feelings about, and experiences with the Vietnam War and how it had affected my life, just burst forth from me.

Those early writings have led to much of the healing I’ve found today. I share this poem with you now, in the hopes that you too, will try your hand at writing about those deep feelings that you may not even realize are lurking in your self-conscious.

Good luck!

The Children Must Be Fed

Their voices call within my head,
“Mommy, please get out of bed! We’re
starving, starving, we gotta go to school.”

I hear them but my mind’s too numb
to make my muscles move. No sleep
last night, Daddy had another flashback.

Visions of napalm, he was back in Nam.
Back in Nam. He needed me, he needed
me. I want to sleep, I want to hide. This

is not what I expected as a young bride.
Dear God, where is the peace I crave,
is it on this earth, or in my grave?

 

 

More Thoughts on Validating the Sacrifices of Combat Vets Spouses

By , July 6, 2012 5:12 pm

Part Two:

Thank goodness, today there seems to be a greater awareness of the high price military families pay when their loved ones go off to war.

I know that the day I listened to Bert Carson, a Vietnam veteran speak, (back in the early 90′s) was an integral part of  healing my psychic wounds. When he asked those women in the audience who were wives of combat vets, to stand up and be recognized, I felt I was no longer invisible and alone.

Only those who “have been there” truly know just how hard life can be when your loved one comes back from war and is not the person you said “goodbye” to. Looking back on my experience of being a spouse of a combat vet, reminds me that my life back then, was anything but “normal.”

When my Vietnam vet husband came back from Nam, he left the military. Therefore, we were pretty much on our own. We never received any material from the military advising us that we might be eligible for counseling should we encounter problems related to my husband’s service. We’d never heard the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” It was like we were stumbling around in the dark, trying to find the light switch.

I doubt that any of my civilian friends were experiencing nights like I had, where my sleep was interrupted 3-4 nights a week, by a stumbling, incoherent drunk, mumbling about things he’s seen and done in Nam.

I rarely shared what was happening at home with friends, and never with relatives. I felt it was “private” and “embarrassing.”

Today I know that my “keeping of secrets” was what helped me become seriously depressed, physically ill, and feeling hopeless.

It was only years later, after my divorce, that I was able to “speak my truth.” What a freeing thing that was. Every time I spoke about my experience (to counselors and often to strangers) I felt a lifting and renewal of my spirit. I found that once I realized I was “proud of myself” for enduring what many people wouldn’t or couldn’t endure, I could use that truth to heal my deepest wounds.

I hope that all of you out there now, who are going through the toughest of times with your veteran, will pat yourself on the back. Don’t be afraid to “speak your truth” to a listening ear.

If you can’t find someone to listen, (but I’m sure you will) pour your heart out on a journal page, or even speak into a recorder. There is great POWER in owning your experiences, and acknowledging your personal sacrifices.

Hopefully you will find that Earnest Hemingway’s words “life breaks us all and afterward many are strong at the broken places” apply to you.

Today I know that has been true for me. Even with all the heartache, drama, and trauma, I take great pride in having been a spouse of a war veteran.

I wish all of you well on your personal journeys. Speak your truth and Keep the faith…

 

 

Thoughts On Recognition of Sacrifices of Combat Vets Wives and Sweethearts

By , June 27, 2012 1:01 pm

Part One:

I’ve been reflecting on the importance of telling our stories, as combat veterans wives (or in my case, an ex-wife.)

There is nothing like the feeling of being in “Sisterhood” with other wives and loved ones who have had similar experiences. There also is nothing to compare to being recognized by other combat vets, for the sacrifices WE may have made.

Back in the early 90’s, I self-published a book of poems, (plus a short story) about my life as a Vietnam veteran’s wife. I was in college at the time (after our divorce) and had taken a Creative Writing class.

While in that class, at the beginning, I was totally unaware of what was coming. Shortly into the class, I wrote my first poem about the impact Vietnam had had on MY life. It was as if a dam had broken, and a flood of anger and heartbreak broke out from my soul.

It was hard to “lay myself bare” in front of strangers. Yet there was no stopping once my heartache had been released. And I was amazed by the reaction of my professor and fellow students, all of whom were much younger than myself.

They seemed “hungry” for what I had to offer, and as a result I felt validated in my sharing my “traumatic memories.” This led to my being recognized as a “poet with promise” and I did my first public reading. Again I felt “validated” by the applause from more students and high members of the faculty and administration.

It was much later that I had written enough poems to put together “a collection.” I looked for ways to market my book, and through those efforts, I heard of a Vietnam veteran named Bert Carson, who did motivational speaking.

I attended one of his speeches where he spoke of his experiences in Vietnam, plus the aftermath. At the end of his speech, he said “I want to acknowledge all the combat veterans wives or sweethearts who our in our audience. Would you please stand up?”

I’ll go into this subject more on my next post. Stay tuned.

Denial- A Central Feature of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By , March 2, 2012 3:32 pm

Lately, I’ve been re-reading Vietnam Wives- Facing the Challenges of Life with Veterans Suffering from Pos-Traumatic Stress. (Second Edition, revised, 1996). Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D. is like a touchstone for me when it comes to trying to make sense of my own PTSD experience.

For our veterans and their families of today, I’m sure it’s impossible to think of a time when there was no public discourse about PTSD, no internet, few books or literature to turn to when one was suffering in silence.

Back in 1987, when I reached out for help from the Veterans Outreach Center, they handed me a pamphlet which gave me information about combat-related PTSD, as it affected the veteran. There was no literature focused on a spouse’s reaction or the effects on the family of living in proximity to a veteran afflicted with PTSD.

But sometime later, I came across Vietnam Wives (First Edition, 1987) while browsing in a bookstore. It felt like a miracle; a life-preserver. Here was a book written for me and all the other Vietnam veteran wives. My reaction was sheer joy and I felt like shouting out “Hallelujah!” At last, someone had recognized my plight.

Matsakis writes (pg. 39)

 

“Denial is a central feature of PTSD. Like alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsive overeating, PTSD is a condition that tells its victims that they don’t really have a problem.” ‘That’s what I told myself for years’, explains one vet. ‘I thought if I’d ignore it, it would go away.’

Matsakis also notes that some vets even pretended that the war “didn’t really happen.” This denial serves as a major defense against feeling the extremely uncomfortable feelings that often went along with the Vietnam experience—specifically, fear, guilt, and rage, as well as moral confusion.

Isn’t it amazing how the mind can play tricks on itself, in self-preservation? It took me years to come out of my own denial of how dysfunctional my life had become. And it’s been comforting to learn from an expert such as Dr. Matsakis, that denial is a normal part of having PTSD.

Yet denial helps us stay stuck in our own misery. We cannot make changes if we don’t acknowledge that there is a huge problem. It often takes a major crisis to shake us out of our denial. That’s what happened with me, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

It’s something to think about…as they say in Al-Anon, If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Author Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D.– a Tremendous Resource for Families of Combat Veterans

By , December 6, 2011 3:28 pm

Recently, I’ve been re-reading Back From the Front—Combat Trauma, Love, and the Family, by Aphrodite Matsakis.

I became aware of her work way back in the late 80’s when she first published Vietnam Veterans Wives. I’ll never forget the shock and excitement I felt when I found the book in a bookstore. I remember thinking “Finally. Someone knows that I exist!”

That book was priceless to me, and has helped in my education of PTSD, as well as in  my recovery. The fact that Matsakis published the book, helped me to feel somewhat “validated.” Up until that time, I had felt invisible and alone.

I believe she is a national treasure. She has worked with combat vets and their families for many years and her insights are amazing.

In Back from the Front, on pg. 439, she offers advice for the significant others of combat vets.

  •       Do not tolerate abuse of any kind. Under no circumstances should your veteran’s difficulties be used as an excuse for emotional, physical, sexual, or economic abuse of you or anyone else.
  •      Educate yourself. Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about PTSD, clinical depression, dissociation, addiction or whatever type of traumatic reaction and symptoms your loved one is experiencing.
  •      Develop a support system for yourself. There will be times when your vet will not be emotionally or physically available to you. Hence you cannot make him the only source of  affection, companionship or affirmation in your life.

                   And always try to remember. Your veteran is important, and so are you!

I hope all of you will become familiar with Matsakis’s work. She is one of the most knowledgeable psychologists working with combat vets and their families. She has been in the field for over thirty years and has many trauma-related titles available.

I have been studying PTSD for many years, and I still continue to learn about this most complex of illnesses. Experts like Matsakis can teach us so much! Her website has listings of all of her books, plus many wonderful, insightful articles.

Check out her website for more information:

http://www.matsakis.com

 

“Facing the Wall- A Mission” is a Good Book for Understanding Effects of Combat PTSD on Family Members of Vets

By , October 11, 2010 4:01 pm

I’m continuing to post reviews of books that have helped me in my understanding of the long-term effects of living with PTSD. Family members of combat vets often suffer terrible consequences of being in close proximity to their beloved veteran, whether the PTSD is untreated or treated. True recovery does not come easily. Too often it doesn’t come at all.

Reading  real stories of those who are making it, day-by-day, can provide hope and raise awareness of this ongoing issue. After finishing Mary S. King’s memoir, all I wanted to do was give her a hug. She certainly deserves one for all she’s been through, and all that she has given. My review is of the First Edition of “Facing the Wall.” (It’s now available in a revised and expanded version).  

Facing the Wall- A Mission- a never-ending journey by Mary S. King

This Should Become a Classic —”PTSD is a Family Issue”

Mary S. King has written a book that should be required reading for every American citizen. She deserves a Vietnam Service Medal, as she has served, and continues to serve our country in an honorable way.

She has taken her marriage vows seriously, as she loves and supports her combat veteran husband, Jim, who is still suffering from his wartime experience. With this book, she invites us into their world. It is a world of broken dreams. She has had to accept that the early promise of her marriage to a decent, caring man, has deteriorated into a lifetime of their having to fight horrendous demons of the war.

With great bravery, she takes over the role of breadwinner and support system for her husband, who is too damaged mentally and emotionally to handle that role. She loves her husband and their two sons fiercely, going above and beyond the call of duty as she stands by Jim through his depressions, flashbacks, and eventual hospitalizations in the VA.

It is only after he is officially diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome that things improve somewhat. As Mary notes, “when you fight PTSD, or any illness, it is easier to struggle against it when you know what the demon is that you are fighting.”

Their ensuing trip to The Wall in Washington, D.C. is an emotionally wrenching scene that is hard to forget. This book provides great insight into the true emotional, physical, mental and spiritual costs of war for veterans, their family and friends.

Mary is a true American heroine, standing for the values of faithfullness, courage and hope. Her story speaks for legions of women who have paid a steep price for loving a war veteran. I know of what I speak, for I was once a “Vietnam wife.”

How sad that this book is so timely, as the Iraq war rages on. Fortunately, the wives, sweethearts, and families of our veterans in this latest war, will have this book to inform, inspire and encourage them.

It’s a book Mary, myself and so many others wish we could have had many years ago, when there was nothing written for or about us.

Thank you Mary, for shining a light on us!

http://www.amazon.com/books

Note: This review was written before we were so heavily embroiled in the war in Afghanistan. That war seems to have no end in sight.

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