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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It is getting close to holiday time, so I am going to mention my articles in the Post-Traumatic Gazette. They are all online at under the tab that says PTSD help.
#10 and #16 both have versions of the article "PTSD and Holidays." One of my therapist subscribers wrote me that some of her vets had their first good Christmas since Vietnam after reading that article.
The next one I wrote is in #22, "Can't you just be normal for one day?" a pretty common and also unreasonable request around this time of year. The article talks about why this is hard and how to accept that and take care of yourself.
in #34 there is an article, "When Holidays Hurt" which might be helpful. if you read the whole issue there is a lovely letter called Welcome to PTSD land in reply to my article in issue #33 also called "Welcome to PTSDland," which is one of my favorites.
#28 has an article on a different kind of New Year's Resolution. #1 has a clear explanation of PTSD in plain English which makes sense. #2 ditto for effects on the family. There are also issues on guilt, dealing with anger in effective ways, grief, feelings, etc. Please check it out if you feel stressed or just want information.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


I have been posting on a couple of Facebook groups that deal with PTSD. On one I can link to stuff I have written already. On the other, I don't think it is allowed so I don't.
I am really finding it so wonderful to be able to help encourage people to look at PTSD as normal and not weird but definitely unusual. For instance, vets with PTSD get enraged by waiting because they are not waiting for whatever it is the person with them is waiting for. For them waiting is dangerous and can get you killed, so while you are waiting to be served, they are waiting for death. It is a really different perspective and makes their reactions more understandable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Solace for the Self

Here is one of my gazettes with a bunch of ways to practice self-care including learning the HEALS technique developed by Dr Stephen Stosny which was one of the things that changed my life.
For some reason the link does not want to post correctly:, (Rev) Solace.pdf
as a link so I hope you can copy and paste.
You can also reach it from this page where all the Gazettes are listed. It is No. 7, Solace for the Self.…/PTSD_Help-Gazettes.html

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

KIckass book

Just read a book that kicked my a**, Civilianized by Michael Anthony, who also wrote Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's Story of Death, Deception and Dishonor in Iraq. Both are well written and hard to put down. Civilianized is a post deployment story, sad, funny, upsetting and inspiring. I am very glad this guy made it back and sorry he went through the hell of his own particular war. I highly recommend the book if you would like a taste of reality.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Are you having a hard time with the Holidays?

Please go to my website if the holidays are bothering you, or if you are totally numb about them, and look for PTSD and Holidays, Can't you Just Be Normal for One Day, When Holidays Hurt, and any other articles that interest or touch you. I wrote the Gazette for 7 years and much of it is still helpful if you have lived through war or other trauma, or live with a trauma survivor.
Some of the available topics:
PTSD and Holidays
Can't you just be normal for one day?
When Holidays Hurt
PTSD and Physical health, also New Years Resolutions
The war at home
 Why is Daddy Like He is?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Last part of What Are Post Traumatic Stress Reactions? from the first issue of the PT Gazette.

Here is the last section of of first article in The Post-Traumatic Gazette #1, copyright Patience Mason 1995, 2005,
What are Post Traumatic Stress Reactions?
Denial and discounting are the skills society has developed to deal with trauma, as expressed in “It wasn’t that bad,” and “Aren’t you over that yet?” Statements like these cause secondary wounding in trauma survivors. They reinforce the mistrust trauma evokes in all survivors who no longer can believe that the universe is fair and just. Secondary wounding by the medical community has been a serious problem, from the incest survivor, revealing her rape by her father and being told by the male psychiatrist (trained to believe this), “You know you wanted it,” to the thousands of misdiagnosed, mistreated Vietnam veterans of the seventies,( many of whom are now dead).
It is a problem that still persists.
In DSM IV, published in 1995, the APA has dropped the list of what is traumatic, and the all important sentence which points out that if it would be upsetting to almost anyone and it isn’t to this person then maybe that’s one of the symptoms of PTSD, and added the peculiar phrase that the person has to have felt “fear horror or helplessness” at the time.
Most trauma survivors that I know can’t feel. The diagnostician or therapist is the one who may be able to call up appropriate feelings (eg. grief, rage) about the incident. The survivor shouldn’t have to and probably can’t without a lot of healing. What this really says is that if bad things happen to you and you don’t feel the authorized feelings, they weren’t bad. This is neither logical nor scientific. It will create a class of good survivors who get diagnosis and treatment, and another (bad) class who due to numbing get misdiagnosed and mistreated, just as veterans were after Vietnam. If the APA really needs to list feelings, a more realistic and more diagnostic set would include disbelief, betrayal, feeling nothing, and feeling comfortable. The latter two would signal to any experienced therapist that this person already had PTSD before this latest stressor. Many people have multiple stressors over the course of a lifetime, and have already developed PTSD long before they see a professional. Most trauma survivors never do see a professional.
Adding the words “fear, horror, or helplessness,” to the diagnosis has made it more inclusive in one important sense. It keeps therapists from “pooh-pooh-ing” experiences that terrified individual survivors. The words fear horror or helplessness were added to the diagnosis because trauma turned out to be far more prevalent than the APA expected. (Yes, I am laughing!) The whole diagnosis of PTSD reflects the upper middle class idea that trauma itself is rare. It ain’t!
Rather than redefining trauma as evoking particular emotions, I’d like to see us open our eyes to the invisible effects of trauma.
We must become aware of the costs to survivors, society and families of all forms of numbing and hyperarousal including socially acceptable dysfunctional behavior. By ignoring it, we often simply put off to the next generation the cost and effort of recovering from trauma, and the effects of trauma increase geometrically. This is particularly true because something which might be mildly traumatic to a grownup, particularly one who is numb, is terrifyingly traumatic to a small child. As Beverly James points out, the well known phenomena of the “good” hospitalized child who “misbehaves” when the parent shows up is actually a terrified traumatized child displaying learned helplessness and the freeze response who becomes brave enough to voice his or her terror when the parents are around.
What else can’t we see?
One of the facts we need to face is that PTSD is an epidemic. For every incest survivor, every battered woman, every combat veteran, every holocaust survivor, every survivor of a fire, plane wreck, night club fire, rape, torture, mugging, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, every cop, nurse, firefighter, EMT, for everyone whose pain is not listened to and felt and accepted and healed, the effects of the trauma spread geometrically. Drug abuse, AIDS, heart disease, obesity, all related to the epidemic of PTSD through the compulsive behaviors people use to numb their pain and the inability to take care of one’s self which numbing causes.
If 17% of the teenagers in Detroit had tuberculosis, it would be a national emergency. Because they have PTSD, and PTSD is not acknowledged nor well understood, no one is talking about it. But we can.
New notes: Because it is so distressing for many professionals to know about trauma, there is a historical record of a period of acknowledgement followed by a period of denial and forgetting. Right now there are conflicting currents. The American Psychiatric Association has transformed the description of traumatic stressors in DSM III into a numbing ritual in which big Latin-rooted words alternate with the word “or” until the person reading it is practically asleep. This makes it hard to comprehend when someone has been traumatized
There are even academics who are once again doubting the diagnosis, saying it is overused. This is quite popular with those who don’t like paying the entire costs of war.
In addition soldiers resent the term PTSD. It feels like a stigma, and is treated as one in some commands. In Canada they use the term Occupational Stress Injury and include anxiety and depression as well as PTSD. Here some military psychiatrists are using CSI, Combat Stress Injury, which service members find less stigmatizing. I suggest Stress Injury with subtypes: Occupational for first responders, peacekeepers, etc; Combat for soldiers; Crime for survivors of rape, incest, interpersonal violence; Disaster; Betrayal; Neglect, etc.
Service members, unlike previous wars, are being sent back into harm’s way on medications with PTSD. This illustrates the ethical problems inherent in military psychiatry, which focuses on getting people back into action. Is it safe? Probably not. People with PTSD can be hypervigilant and overreact, instead of being vigilant and react with appropriate force.
Will it make them worse to go back with PTSD? Yes it will. But that is their job, and many of them want to go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fifth section of What Are Post-Traumtic Stress Reactions?

I am publishing this on my personal page, on my author page and on my book page, Recovering from the War.
Here is the fifth section of of The Post-Traumatic Gazette #1, copyright Patience Mason 1995, 2005,
What are Post Truamatic Stress Reactions?
A healing perspective on reexperiencing is that this is an appropriate and effective message from the survivor’s inner self that he or she has been through something that is too much to deal with alone. We are human, a species that is interdependent, that forms families, bands, tribes, communities, and talks about stuff. Survivors were not meant to face this alone as if they were polar bears or some other solitary non-verbal species (although they may wish they were).
The brain is a “better-safe-than-sorry” system. It would rather you get a million false alarms than be surprised by danger once. Part of reexperiencing may be the brain going haywire, triggering full alerts in an attempt to keep you safe.
Reexperiencing is circumstantial evidence that a person has been through too much to handle alone. Reexperiencing can also be seen as appropriate and effective because it sends more people to get help than anything else. Finally, human beings are communicators. Turning the flashes of memory in the reptile brain into a narrative memory in the frontal lobes seems to stop most reexperiencing.
Although this is not part of the current diagnostic criteria, I believe the message from the inner self can come as a physical symptom. Somatization (the development of physical symptoms) has disappeared from studies about PTSD although it was the primary symptom in soldiers’ heart, hysteria, railway hysteria, shell shock and combat fatigue. People who will not listen to their own need for healing often experience a lot of physical symptoms. The body is trying to tell the story that can’t be told. In light of George Vaillant’s recent findings that 56% of WWII Harvard-educated combat vets without “diagnosable” PTSD were chronically ill or dead by age 65, this looks like a field ripe for study.
Many trauma survivors also appear to reenact their traumas, self-mutilating, getting themselves into the same type of trouble over and over, or doing to others what was done to them. These behaviors probably serve the same unconscious purpose of speaking the unspeakable. Although such behaviors have been observed, they are not enumerated in the diagnosis yet, and may never be. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep them in mind in our search for healing.
For a survivor to be diagnosed with PTSD, three numbing, two hypervigilant and one reexperiencing symptom have to last a month. If you have seventeen numbing symptoms, one hypervigilant and are not reexperiencing this month you won’t be diagnosed with PTSD, but traumatic events will be ruling your life.
Symptoms may come on soon after the trauma or fifty years later. That is the post in PTSD. It is normal for symptoms to come up again in the face of further trauma and in times of high stress. It is normal to be affected by trauma. 17 % of the teenagers in Detroit have diagnosible PTSD according to one study. Another study showed that 69% of the surviving spouses of police officers killed in the line of duty have diagnosible PTSD. 66% of Vietnam veterans exposed to high war zone stress have had diagnosible PTSD at some time since the war and 33% still do today. Several studies of WWII combat/pow veterans in the hospital for other problems have shown that at least 50% of them have had PTSD and about 30 % still do.
Israeli studies show that people who have been traumatized react faster and more deeply to each subsequent trauma.
In addition, the effects of a traumatic stressor are worse when the cause is human neglect, betrayal, or human cruelty.
There are other post traumatic reactions which have not been studied including workaholism which might be invisible to workaholic doctors. Family system effects are just beginning to be studied, but many survivors manage to look good at great expense to their families. A child playing the role of family hero is not seen as a sign of family dysfunction, but as proof of good psychosocial adjustment. As a community of survivors, family, friends, and therapists, we need to look at our experiences, examining everything to see how it relates to trauma because what happens to people affects them.