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Friday, April 3, 2015

I love this poster. Wish IAVA knew that my website (patiencepress.com) exists with a lot of help on it.
It is normal to be affected by what you live through!
Different people need different things to get better.
There is no pill for PTSD and no therapy that works for everyone (no matter how "evidence based").
The symptoms of PTSD all start in the primitive parts of the brain as brain based survival skills: attention to threat leads to hypervigilance; rapid adaptation to what's happening leads to numbing and then avoidance to stay numb (including alcoholism, drugs, and other addictive behaviors); and the brain's better safe than sorry system, which does not speak English and can't tell time (except when anniversaries roll around) tries to keep you aware that the universe is a dangerous place with intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and anniversary reactions.
NORMAL, people! Not weak! Not weird! We are made to survive if possible.
Having PTSD is evidence that you have been through traumatic events and also evidence of strength, courage, speed, luck, etc, and survival! I am glad you lived through it and made it home.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Do you still think of Vietnam by Kerry "Doc" Pardue,

This is a beautiful essay!

 

Do you still think of Vietnam?

by Kerry “Doc” Pardue
A couple of years ago someone asked me if I still thought about Vietnam. I nearly laughed in their face. How do you stop thinking about it? Every day for the past forty years, I wake up with it- I go to bed with it. This was my response:
“Yeah, I think about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I never will. But, . I’ve also learned to live with it. I’m comfortable with the memories. I’ve learned to stop trying to forget and learned to embrace it. It just doesn’t scare me anymore.”
A lot of my “brothers” haven’t been so lucky. For them the memories are too painful, their sense of loss too great. My sister told me of a friend she has whose husband was in the Nam. She asks this guy when he was there.
Here’s what he said, “Just last night.” It took my sister a while to figure out what he was talking about. Just Last Night. Yeah, I was in the Nam. When? Just last night, before I went to sleep, on my way to work this morning, and over my lunch hour. Yeah, I was there
The Wall
My sister says I’m not the same brother who went to Vietnam. My wife says I won’t let people get close to me, not even her.They are probably both right. Ask a vet about making friends in Nam. It was risky. Why? Because we were in the business of death, and death was with us all the time. It wasn’t the death of, “If I die before I wake.” This was the real thing. The kind boys scream for their mothers. The kind that lingers in your mind and becomes more real each time you cheat it. You don’t want to make a lot of friends when the possibility of dying is that real, that close. When you do, friends become a liability.
A guy named Bob Flanigan was my friend. Bob Flanigan is dead. I put him in a body bag one sunny day, April 29, 1969. We’d been talking, only a few minutes before he was shot, about what we were going to do when we got back to the world. Now, this was a guy who had come in country the same time as me. A guy who was loveable and generous. He had blue eyes and sandy blond hair.
When he talked, it was with a soft drawl. I loved this guy like the brother I never had. But, I screwed up. I got too close to him. I broke one of the unwritten rules of war. DON”T GET CLOSE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO DIE. You hear vets use the term “buddy” when they refer to a guy they spent the war with. “Me and this buddy of mine.”
Friend sounds too intimate, doesn’t it? “Friend” calls up images of being close. If he’s a friend, then you are going to be hurt if he dies, and war hurts enough without adding to the pain. Get close; get hurt. It’s as simple as that. In war you learn to keep people at that distance my wife talks about. You become good at it, that forty years after the war, you still do it without thinking. You won’t allow yourself to be vulnerable again.
My wife knows two people who can get into the soft spots inside me-my daughters. I know it bothers her that they can do this.It’s not that I don’t love my wife. I do. She’s put up with a lot from me.She’ll tell you that when she signed for better or worse, she had no idea there was going to be so much of the latter. But with my daughters it’s different. My girls are mine. They’ll always be my kids. Not marriage, not distance, not even death can change that.They are something on this earth that can never be taken away from me. I belong to them. Nothing can change that. I can have an ex-wife; but my girls can never have an ex-father. There’s the differance. I can still see the faces, though they all seem to have the same eyes. When I think of us, I always see a line of “dirty grunts”sitting on a paddy dike. We’re caught in the first gray silver between darkness and light. That first moment when we know we’ve survived another night, and the business of staying alive for one more day is about to begin. There was so much hope in that brief space of time. It’s what we used to pray for. “One more day, God. One more day.”
And I can hear our conversations as if they’d only just been spoken I still hear the way we sounded. The hard cynical jokes, our morbid senses of humor. We were scared to death of dying, and tried our best not to show it.
I recall the smells, too. Like the way cordite hangs on the air after a fire-fight. Or the pungent odor of rice paddy mud. So different from the black dirt of Iowa. The mud of Nam smells ancient, somehow. Like it’s always been there. And I’ll never forget the way blood smells, sticky and drying on my hands. I spent a long night that way once. The memory isn’t going anywhere.
I remember how the night jungle appears almost dreamlike as pilot of a Cessna buzzez overhead, dropping parachute flares until morning. That artificial sun would flicker and make shadows run through the jungle. It was worse than not being able to see what was out there sometimes. I remember once looking at the man next to me as a flare floated overhead. The shadows around his eyes were so deep that it looked like his eyes were gone. I reached over and touched him on the arm; without looking at me he touched my hand. “I know man. I know.” That’s what he said. It was a human moment. Two guys a long way from home and scared to death.
God, I loved those guys. I hurt every time one of them died. We all did. Despite our posturing. Despite our desire to stay disconnected, we couldn’t help ourselves. I know why Tim O’ Brien writes his stories. I know what gives Bruce Weigle the words to create poems so honest I cry at their horrible beauty. It’s love. Love for those guys we shared the experience with.
We did our jobs like good soldiers, and we tried our best not to become as hard as our surroundings.You want to know what is frightening. It’s a nineteen-year-old-boy who’s had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you. It’s a boy who, despite all the things he’s been taught,knows that he likes it. It’s a nineteen-year-old who’s just lost a friend, and is angry and scared and, determined that, “some*@#*s gonna pay”.To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling.
As I write this, I have a picture in front of me. It’s of two young men. On their laps are tablets. One is smoking a cigarette. Both stare without expression at the camera. They’re writing letters. Staying in touch with places they rather be. Places and people they hope to see again. The picture shares space in a frame with one of my wife.. She doesn’t mind. She knows she’s been included in special company. She knows I’ll always love those guys who shared that part of my life, a part she never can. And she understands how I feel about the ones I know are out there yet. The ones who still answer the question, “When were you in Vietnam?”
“Hey, man. I was there just last night.”
~Kerry “Doc” Pardue

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday stuff from the Post-Traumatic Gazette


For anyone who is having a hard time at this time of year, here are all my holiday articles:
http://www.patiencepress.com/doc…/V3N4PTSDand%20Holidays.pdf
http://www.patiencepress.com/documents/V4N4Normal.pdf
http://www.patiencepress.com/docume…/V6N4Holidays%20Hurt.pdf
and on on New Years Resolutions which is not the headline article
http://www.patiencepress.com/do…/V5N4%2828%29%20Physical.pdf

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holidays


Stress and the Holidays
This is basically good advice from the Department of Defense, along with a bunch of apps for keeping calm.
I left a comment with links to PTSD and Holidays, Can't You Just Be Normal for One Day? and When Holidays Hurt.
When I sent out the first PTSD and Holidays I didn't even think of it as a major topic. The issue was on Anger and the holiday article was on page 5. It was shorter than the one I linked to above, but I got a letter from a VA social worker who told me her WWII combat veterans had had their first good Christmas since the war after they read that.
Maybe it will help you too!
When I was doing the PT Gazette, it was subscribed to by a bunch of good therapists who used it for topics in group.
BTW, I checked back with the DOD blog and they did not accept my comment. Why do I feel slighted? Why am I surprised. I have experience. They have theory...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

When I look over at Bob every morning, I am so grateful he survived Vietnam, that we managed to stick together through the worst days of undiagnosed (because there was no such diagnosis) untreated PTSD, and that we are still together and happy.
I look at him and I see the costs of war when he was a wild man, drinking, smoking pot and taking valium which just kept him down to WIRED. He could not have survived without those things so I am glad he had them, even though at the time they pissed me off.
I see him not able to sleep during an anniversary period last year and how they jerked him around at the VA because he went in and asked for Valium. That made him a junkie in their stupid eyes, although they could have checked his medical records and seen he hadn't had or needed it since 1995. They tried every other thing for 12 days on the weird ward (as Bob calls it), even an elephant tranquilizer, and finally sent him home with a dangerous cousin of Valium that you're not supposed to give to old people, and then told him to go to the ER when he called to talk to the psychiatrist about how drugged it made him feel. Like saying "F*ck you!"
I also look at him and think how grateful I am for his new VA psychiatrist who treats him like he is a valuable human being instead of a veteran shaped blob. She has helped him more than any psychiatrist he's had at the VA, and he's had some doozies.
I see him immersed in learning new things. I see him sometimes totally disconnected from me, and I know that is part of the price of war. I used to think it meant he didn't love me. Now I know it is the anniversary of something, some time when he flew into a hail of bullets because it was his job and then later went back to pull out wounded or bring ammo because he and his fellow Vietnam helicopter pilots would do anything for the grunts.
Sometimes he grins and says it's all gravy, that he never expected to live this long. I laugh, but I am so grateful that I get to live with this brave, strong, smart, funny, sarcastic, wonderful man.
To all the veterans out there: I am glad you made it back. I hope your life is good. If it is not, you deserve to heal your wounds and find how you can have a good life. Believe me, it is not in a bottle or a pipe or on TV, although you may need those things sometimes just to stay alive. If you need help, please go ask for it at a Vet Center or wherever you can find it. And if you don't think you need help, but people are nagging you about it, maybe you can pause and ask yourself what you would say to some younger guy who was acting like you? Would you think he could use some help?
Veterans Day is about the living as well as the dead. Alive, but feel dead? That is PTSD and there is help.

For all vets

To all veterans of every war, thanks and welcome home.

Just found this letter I sent to a soldier a few years ago who wrote me he was feeling worthless, cutting himself and questioning why he was alive. We are still friends. This is what would like to say to all vets:
I hear your pain. I wish I could help.
I wish you had never had to go through the things you went through.
I wish you were healed, and you can be.
You are doing the right things, asking for help and writing about what you feel, but healing takes time and it is painful. I'm sure you realize this from the pain when your cuts heal.
Pain is a sign of healing.
Pain is also a sign that you are a good man, no matter what you did, didn't do, or saw, because if you were not innately good, it would not bother you.
Writing is a good way to get this stuff out of your head onto the page.
Please write me and tell me what happened to trigger this.
Please think about what the cutting is doing for you, and how you could meet that need in another way.
Please have compassion for yourself. You have been through a hell you did not create, nor did you deserve it, and coming out on the other side is a slow process. You've taken the first step-looking for help, but it is a process, and progress not perfection is a good motto.
I'm sure you'd rather be fixed in two days...I know I would,
Instantaneous gratification is too slow!
Take care of that wounded soldier within you. He needs you
Love
Patience

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I will post on ptsd here at patiencemason.blogspot.com and at the Facebook page Recovering from the War a few times a month from now on. Hope some of you will be following the stuff I write. If you have questions you would like answered, post them in the comments.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 30 of National PTSD Awareness Month:
So here we are. I have explained my take on PTSD and why I think it is a more helpful way of looking at it. I have talked about most of the symptoms and how they can save your life and make it painful later for you and your family.
If you want more about that there is a free pamphlet at patiencepress.com "The War at Home." It started out as a talk for a retreat the National Conference of Vietnam Veteran Ministers gave for couples. At the end of what I thought was so obvious, everyone cheered. You don't usually get cheers at a spiritual retreat. So I made it into a pamphlet.
I have also talked about types of help and why it is important to look for extra things that help you. I found the 12 steps helpful especially in accepting and sitting with painful emotion. Bob learned that from meditation. It is a skill you learn in many kinds of therapy and it is essential for recovery, because you can't heal what you can't feel.
So no matter where you are in the journey to recovery, I wish you well. It is not easy to change and grow. It is not fair that after all the shit you survived, you have also to do the painful work of recovery. The only thing I can say is that it will be worth it.
When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I  forget and give Bob some advice. Instead of getting mad like he did in the old days when I thought everything I said was RIGHT, he just grins. I go, "Oh, sorry. Doing it again." He gets this ridiculous meek look on his face and says, "Don't worry, honey, I'm used to it." We both laugh like crazy. Then, since it is irresistible, I say, "Well if you need any more shit, let me know, because I have plenty." More laughter.
I love him more every day. And he, oddly enough, loves me!
Every change I made in myself gave him room to change. Since I was only able to make very small changes, I know that is how people change. Every time he makes a little change, I know how hard that is so I appreciate the effort. I used to not notice because I was so wrapped up in how messed up he was.
It is not easy living with PTSD for either of us. I was just kidding him today because occasionally our PBS station messes up. One of those round TV signals that used to come on when the station went off the air comes on. Bob used to sit and watch that and then the snow after that went off. After I said "You used to watch that and the snow," it hit me. I realized and said, "You were in such hell." He looked up at me and I could see it had been hell. But it isn't now most of the time. For that I am glad.
Our suffering has been transformed.
We have been able to help others.
That is a blessing.