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Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions by Patience Mason
© Patience H. C. Mason  1999 
Feel free to copy and distribute as long as you keep the copyright notice. 
From The Post-Traumatic Gazette No. 28
This won’t arrive before the New Year.
Practice not being perfect, & do it anyhow! Let me know how it works!
Every New Year, I used to swear I was going to lose weight, get my house perfectly clean (and keep it that way), and be unfailingly kind to Bob and Jack. Every year by January 2nd, I had failed at one or another of these, so I would give up on them all. “ What’s the use?” I used to tell myself. “I can’t do anything right, and I can’t change.”
I think a lot of people have similar experiences with trying to change.
Today, I do my New Year’s resolutions differently. The Tuesday before New Years, at our ACOA group, the one I’ve been going to for 14 years, we make a list of things we’d like to leave in the old year. Mine includes old ineffective behaviors that still sometimes crop up, worries, habits, old reactions that I’m recycling. Going around the circle, we read our lists to each other, crumble them up and throw them into a central wastebasket.
After that, we write a list of things we would like to take into the New Year with us and read them to each other. We keep that list.
My list always includes having all my feelings back, program friends, the chance to work at what I love (writing about PTSD and recovery), the 12-Steps, the 12-Step programs I belong to, the tools of the program (writing, literature, meetings, telephone, service, anonymity, etc), my growth in the qualities of honesty, gratitude, self-acceptance, compassion, and acceptance of others.
Over the years, my lists of what I want to leave behind in the old year have evolved from long detailed descriptions of behaviors that were making me (and Bob) miserable to their present form. As I worked on myself, applying the steps and principles and tools of the program to every problem, a lot of that old stuff has just faded away.
I believe this is because rather than resolving to eradicate old behaviors, as I used to, I have been focused on learning new ways of looking at life and new skills for dealing with life.
My ideas about change always involved perfection before. Now they are focused on “progress, not perfection.” It makes a big difference.
Everyone said that I could just erase some part of myself I didn’t like if I tried hard enough. I was full of shame because I didn’t have the stick-to-itiveness to succeed. Today I know that was erroneous information. Suppressing stuff makes it stronger. Bringing behaviors to light and seeing what they have done for me in the past helps me to look at what they may be doing to me today. Then I can change. I expect change to be slow. I used to think it would be instant.
If you have been making New Year’s resolutions about behaviors you want to change and have failed repeatedly, here are some suggestions:
1. Make a list
of things you would like to leave behind. Although you might find your self listing “house, bills, spouse,” I think it is more effective to list your own qualities that may contribute to problems in these areas. Like “my inability to say what I want or need to my spouse,” or “my compulsive spending which makes it hard to pay my bills.” I started out with things like “Telling Bob how to drive places.” Now I might write, “Still sometimes thinking I know what is best for people.”
2.For each item
think about what value it may have had for you in the past. Defensiveness (thinking everyone is against you, or hearing disagreement as criticism instead of as another way of looking at things—not a threat) is often based on experiences of trauma. You needed to defend yourself.
Not being able to say what you want or need can be based in childhood experiences of being punished for having wants and needs or on the effects of basic training.
Being a spendthrift may be based in having to grab anything good that came along because it might be taken away.
Making friends too fast, trusting people before you know them can be based in having to trust abusers who have power over you. To survive, you have to live in denial of the abuse for as long as you are in their power. This is as true for veterans as for people who suffered child abuse. (“The best trained [there is no training for combat], best equipped [M-16’s that wouldn’t fire] military force ever,”) Add to this the need for community which we all have and people can make some very choices that look dumb. Numb not dumb is a better way to look at it. If we didn’t get community at home, we look for it elsewhere, but we don’t know how to be friends and we’ve been trained to ignore our own safety. On top of that, numbness makes it difficult for a traumatized person to pick up on warning signs that other people see. And finally, when normal people see a wall, they tend to respect it. Abusive people want to take it down because they like power, so they pursue people who have put up walls to protect themselves. The masquerades of great romance or perfect vet buddy often end with retraumatization.
3. Think about
the drawbacks of the behavior for you today. What is it doing to you? For example, defensiveness may be preventing you from getting the support you need. Gullibility may be getting you in trouble with abusive people. Not saying what you want may lead to relationship problems.
4. Let go of the
list of items in some symbolic way. You could share it with a group and then throw it away like I do. You could share it with a therapist or spiritual advisor or sponsor and then burn it. You could share it with nature or God and then burn it.
When I do my daily devotions, I always do a short version of this. I say my version of the 7th step prayer: “Harmony of the Universe, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to harmony and to my fellow beings. Grant me strength as I go forth in harmony. May I walk in harmony always.” then I mention the behaviors or characteristics that seem to be causing me the most trouble that day and ask for them to be removed. It works.
5. Think about
the resources that are available to you today that you didn’t have when you were being traumatized. For instance, you are probably older, no longer a powerless child, or even a Private E-1. You may have more education, more experience, more spiritual resources, been in therapy or a 12-step group and have more recovery resources. You may be able to write, may have a list of feeling words, a list of slogans (this too shall pass, one day at a time, etc.), books that validate your problems and suggest solutions, may have developed interests that lift you out of depression...
6. List qualities and resources
you would like to bring into the New Year with you. Include things you like about yourself and any new skills you have learned that have made life more liveable. List the changes you have made that have improved you life and the qualities you are developing that make you more like the person you would like to be.
Sharing this with someone may make it more concrete for you.
7. Accept that it
takes time to change. You will quite naturally find yourself repeating and recycling some of the things you would like to be rid of. When you do, tell yourself it takes time to change. If it causes you pain, let the pain help you re-commit yourself to trying out new actions and reactions which will replace the old ones. Substitution is different than erasure, both more gradual and more likely to happen!
If you slip, be kind to yourself. Say “Whoops! that was a free sample of what I am trying to get away from. No charge and sorry about that!” Laugh!
Tell yourself that trying and failing is better than not trying at all. Human beings are never perfect. Progress not perfection.
8.Look at your
list and acknowledge how far you have come. Even if it is only three inches and you have miles to go, remember that it is extra hard for trauma survivors to change. Whatever changes you have made, no matter how tiny, are the beginning of a path to healing which only you can create. With the help of other survivors and caring professionals, you can find recovery that works for you.
9. Remember
there is a lot of help on the way if you are open to it. Sometimes it is words said at a meeting or by a therapist or friend. Sometimes it is the sunlight on a leaf or the cheerful call of a chickadee. Sometimes it is discovering a feeling of peace in exercise or meditation. Sometimes it is your own inner voice saying, “Yes, it hurts, but I deserve to recover. Take a break, yes. Have compassion for myself, yes. But never give up!” Small things can make a tremendous difference in your life. What works for someone else may not work for you, but then again it might!
10. Keep the list
to remind you of your personal path to recovery.
None of us can do this perfectly. We don’t have to do it the way someone else would find convenient or says is the right way.
We do have to find our own path, using the principles we aspire to, to become the people we were meant to be.
When you are having a bad day, take your list out and look at it.
Have a good year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

More Grace

I also got a call a few months ago from a guy who had read my Suggested 12 Step Format for Veterans Family and Friends and thought it was brilliant. He called me a few days ago and the first meeting of Combat Vets Anonymous will be January 8th in Pennsylvania. I am sooo happy about that.
Contact is
The link to the format is
You can download it and use it if it seems helpful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I got an email the other day which was just the subject line: 
Subject: Thank you so much for your blog and PDF files. That was the whole message.
So I wrote back, "You're welcome." 

I got this reply, which I post with permission:
"I have PTSD and this is my first major holiday in 45 years that I have determined to Not go through it like I normally do, with denial and hiding in my basement....I was having a real hard time today and typed into Google, "Pain and PTSD and Holidays" and you were the first on the list of links. I spent an hour with your Files and Blog and then was able to continue my therapy with a renewed sense of purpose and energy....The PDF files are wonderful and I am able to now access them without having to be on line....
Again, Thank you so much, M"
Needless to say, this made my day. The link is below.
PTSD and Holidays is in Gazette #16. It is also the second essay down on the page
 It really means a lot to me to  that my stuff is helpful enough for someone to actually write and tell me so. When the first version of this essay came out, one VA therapist wrote me that her WWII combat vets had had their first good Christmas since the war! Hope my readers find it helpful too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I am happy to hear that Anne Freund's wonderful book, Taming the Fire Within, is now available for free downloading at
This book has the right attitude about PTSD as a normal reaction to abnormal situations. It also clearly explains symptoms and common reactions to war experiences in plain old everyday English instead of the psychological jargon which usually makes people with PTSD feel like there is something wrong with them.
I hope most of you know, I think PTSD proves there is something right with you. Number one, it is proof of survival. Dead people don't get PTSD. Number two, it proves you give a shit. If you're numb, that proves it more, because you would not have to get numb to survive if you didn't give a shit.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I had two great things happen this week or maybe last. The first was getting an email from Amazon saying since you like history, here are some books you may like: Recovering from the War,  Chickenhawk, and two others. 
I about fell over.
They have mentioned Bob's Chickenhawk before, after all it is the bestselling Vietnam memoir and the best selling helicopter book ever, but they have never mentioned my book before, so I hope this is an email to a lot of customers because I know the book is helpful to vets and their families and friends.
The other thing was that I got an email from the wife of a current vet who is in the hospital. Her 5 year old was upset and acting out, so she took him to a counselor who gave her Why Is Daddy Like He Is? The kid LOVES it and apparently it has made a big difference. I cried, I was so happy. Click on the title to go to my website where you can download a free copy of the book. There is also a kids book for the children of women veterans.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Here is a prayer I wrote which was recently used in a book, Resilience by Dennis Charney, MD and Steven Southwick MD:

Prayer for People with PTSD
Higher Power, I know that it’s not within the harmony of the universe that I be healed from the trauma of remembering ____________________________ without pain.
Help me through the pain.
Surround me with the golden light of healing, fill me with the white light of peace and love.
Help me to bear the pain as I go through these memories. Help me to c
Help me to remember.
Help me to love myself no matter what happened to me or what I did to survive.
Help me to release and to let go of my survival skills, the things such as anger and numbness that helped keep me alive, as I become aware of how ineffective they can be in getting me what I want today.
Fill me with light and love until I am green and growing again in the harmony of the universe, if it be thy will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More helpful places.

I have recently found a couple of new websites:  has a link to a group on yuku that has many wives sharing experience strength and hope. (Families and Soldiers Together)
A lot of people are struggling to find ways to help.

There was also a well written post:
Top 10 things  not to say to someone with PTSD
1.There's nothing wrong with you. It's all in your head.
2. Just stop dwelling on it and pull yourself together.
3. I understand. It is like when I ...
4.  How many people did you kill or People die. It's life.
5. At least you came home.
6. Are you okay? Have you taken your meds?
7. You volunteered for it.
8. You're not gonna flip out and kill someone are you?
9. At least you didn't lose your arms and legs.
10. PTSD isn't real.

It was originally from but I can't find it there.
They also posted this
1. we will also put number 2 here. PTSD is not something you can just get over or will away.
3. You don't! You can't possibly relate any experience you have had to what they saw in war.
4. You don't have to kill people to have PTSD.

5. Yes they came home, but many have survivor's guilt for coming home when their brothers didn't.
6. I am human. I have bad days too.
7. Yes we volunteered for it. We did it so you and others didn't have to and protect your freedoms.
8. We are not monsters. You can thank the media for painting us that way.
9. Not all wounds are visible. PTSD is a injury too.
10. PTSD is very real, there are physical changes in the brain.

Ten things your combat vet wants you to know

Found this on Operation Resilient Warrior. 
Very well said!!

Top 10 Things Your Combat Vet Wants You To Know:

1. He is addicted to war, although he loves you. War is horrible, but there is nothing like a life-and-death fight to make you feel truly alive. The adrenaline rush is tremendous, and can never be replaced. Succeeding in combat defines a warrior, places him in a brotherhood where he is always welcome and understood. The civilian world has adrenaline junkies as well; just ask any retired firefighter, police officer, or emergency room staff if they miss it.

2. Living for you is harder. It would be easy for him to die for you because he loves you. Living for you, which is what you actually want, is harder for him. It is even harder for him if you are smart and do not need him to rescue you, since rescuing is something he does really well. If you are very competent at many things, he may at times question if you need him at all. He may not see that you stay with him as a conscious choice.

3. "The training kicks in" means something very different to him. It is direct battle doctrine that when ambushed by a superior force, the correct response is "Apply maximum firepower and break contact." A warrior has to be able to respond to threat with minimal time pondering choices. While this is life-saving in combat, it is not helpful in the much slower-paced civilian world. A better rule in the civilian world would be to give a reaction proportionate to the provocation. Small provocation, small response (but this would get you killed on the battlefield). When the training becomes second nature, a warrior might take any adrenaline rush as a cue to "apply maximum firepower." This can become particularly unfortunate if someone starts to cry. Tears are unbearable to him; they create explosive emotions in him that can be difficult for him to control. Unfortunately, that can lead to a warrior responding to strong waves of guilt by applying more "maximum firepower" on friends, family, or unfortunately strangers.

4. He is afraid to get attached to anyone because he has learned that the people you love get killed, and he cannot face the pain again. He may make exception for his children (because they cannot divorce him), but that will be instinctual and he will probably not be able to explain his actions.

5. He knows the military exists for a reason. The sad fact is that a military exits ultimately to kill people and break things. This was true of our beloved "Greatest Generation" warriors of WWII, and it remains true to this day. Technically, your warrior may well be a killer, as are his friends. He may have a hard time seeing that this does not make him a murderer. Although they may look similar at first glance, he is a sheepdog protecting the herd, not a wolf trying to destroy it. The emotional side of killing in combat is complex. He may not know how to feel about what he's seen or done, and he may not expect his feelings to change over time. Warriors can experience moments of profound guilt, shame, and self-hatred. He may have experienced a momentary elation at "Scoring one for the good guys", then been horrified that he celebrated killing a human being. He may view himself as a monster for having those emotions, or for having gotten used to killing because it happened often.

6.He's had to cultivate explosive anger in order to survive in combat. He may have grown up with explosive anger as well.

7. He may have only been nineteen when he first had to make a life and death decision for someone else. What kind of skills does a nineteen-year-old have to deal with that kind of responsibility?One of my veterans put it this way: "You want to know what frightening is? 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 fucker is gonna pay. To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling."

8. He may believe that he's the only one who feels this way; eventually he may realize that at least other combat vets understand. On some level, he doesn't want you to understand, because that would mean you had shared his most horrible experience, and he wants someone to remain innocent.

9. He doesn't understand that you have a mama bear inside of you, that probably any of us could kill in defense of someone if we need to. Imagine your reaction if someone pointed a weapon at your child?

10. When you don't understand, he needs you to give him the benefit of the doubt. He needs you also to realize that his issues really aren't about you, although you may step in them sometimes. Truly, the last thing he wants is for you to become a casualty of his war.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One of the free things on my website, is a format for a 12 step group for veterans and families and friends. Recently I have gotten two phone calls from veterans who have been in 12 Step programs for 20+ years who are interested in starting Combat Veterans Anonymous. I hope it happens.
I wrote the format for Vets and Families, but like AA and Alanon, I think the two groups would do best to be separate. There are three or four other things on that page related to the 12 steps, too.
I am in a couple of 12 Step programs and find them really helpful in dealing with life, the universe and everything...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Change of plans: The Spiritual Retreat for Combat Veterans and Spouses, put on by the National Conference of War Veteran Ministers November 4 - 6, 2012, at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Mariottsville, Maryland.has been cancelled because no one signed up for it. So I won't be there!
I am sorry this is not going to happen because I love connecting with veterans and their wives.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I just had a funny conversation with a VA secretary from a hospital out west.
She wanted to order my pamphlets After the War and The War at Home.
She was actually on my website and didn't notice that I was giving away the all the pamphlets and kids books I used to sell.
I led her to the PTSD Help links for the Gazettes, for Kids, for Spouses, for Twelve Steps, and the Essays, which has Home from War  for the new veterans, several popular essays from the Gazettes, plus Returning from Vietnam by William Crapser and Approaching Trauma Survivors from a Spiritual Perspective by Caterina Spinaris and even A Short History of PTSD by me.
It made me wonder if the site is not clear enough for people to use.
Please let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fan page for Robert Mason, my vet

Just started an author/fan page for Robert Mason, Author, otherwise known as my husband, Bob. If you like his books please like the page.
It is at
Bob wrote a memoir about Vietnam, Chickenhawk. He came home with PTSD when "it didn't exist" and wrote a second memoir, Chickenhawk:Back in the World, about that. They are both good reads.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Petition to Prevent Veteran Suicide by Addressing the Hidden Wounds of War Before Service Members Leave The Military

Prevent Veteran Suicide by Addressing the Hidden Wounds of War Before Service Members Leave The Military This is probably the most important thing we can do for veterans, reach them before they are alone in a room with a gun, or driving a car into a telephone pole because they have lost everything including themselves, or are about to because they do not understand what is happening to them and think it is weak to be affected by war.
Everyone is affected by war. War hurts. It makes you angry, alert to danger, annoyed at those who don't understand. It makes you intolerant of everyday concerns, cold to your loved ones, and it sticks itself in your face day and night when you don't want it and least expect it.
I hope everyone who reads this blog will sign this petition and share it on facebook or whatever groups you belong to.
And if you feel alone and crazy, there is help, starting at Patience Press where there are a bunch of free articles that might make you feel like a survivor instead of a loser. After all, PTSD is proof of survival. Dead men and women don't get it. It is evidence of courage, luck, skill, fast reflexes, and a whole bunch of other positive qualities.
Beyond that, there is a lot of help out there including free therapy from caring therapists who volunteer.
And my heart is with you, along with the hearts of a lot of us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Post-Traumatic Gazette # 2

Post-Traumatic Gazette # 2
Gazette Number 2 was a lot of fun to write because it was a chance to share what I had learned about myself as I worked on my own recovery. I really enjoy laughing at myself because I was soooo uptight before I got into recovery for myself.
A favorite quote:
"trying to fix Bob. I didn’t know he had PTSD, but I knew he had problems (not me) so I kept coming up with solutions: read this book, see a shrink, move, new job, read this book. None of them ever worked, partly because I did not know what the problem was (PTSD) but mainly because I didn’t know whose problem it was. I thought it was my problem. I thought he was my problem."

I discuss some of the ways I reacted including:
"•Personalizing: The families of trauma survivors may personalize everything due to our very natural frustration. I feel hurt, therefore he or she meant to hurt me. Feeling Good, by Dr. David Burns talks about this kind of cognitive distortion. The book was very helpful to me and Bob. Family members feel the survivor is doing this to me. Angry at me! Depressed because of me! Jumpy because of me! Numb because he doesn’t love me anymore! It may have nothing to do with you, but if you are wrapped up in someone else’s life the way I was it is almost impossible to conceive of the idea that something not related to the relationship is at the root of the survivor’s reactions. And of course being human, survivors will tell you it is your fault, especially if they don’t know about PTSD. Yeah, if you kept the kids quiet, I wouldn’t be so jumpy. It’s not true, but it seems reasonable so we try harder and harder so the survivor won’t be upset. It doesn’t work. There is also a seductive egotism in personalizing everything—we are so important. This can also lead to the idea that after all I’ve tried, if I can’t fix it, nothing can. Don’t believe it."

Probably my favorite part is in the article "PTSD and Me"
"We lived with PTSD for 14 years without knowing its name, because it didn’t have one until 1980. I felt tremendous guilt, became very controlling, and started an other-centered quest for the thing that would fix my life: when I got Bob straightened out. I had no idea what was wrong, but I was sure it was my fault.
I thought he didn’t love me because of his emotional numbing, his attempts to isolate himself, and his lack of interest in things we had done together. I concluded I was unlovable. I saw his substance abuse not as self-medication to maintain numbness in the face of unbearable thoughts, feelings, and memories, but as deliberate naughtiness. Wild rides on his Honda 750 looked to me like stupid immaturity (except when I joined in) instead of a sense of a foreshortened future. The fact that he couldn’t sleep became a joke. Rage attacks meant he was a jerk. When he couldn’t remember something I’d told him, I got mad because I had never heard of the inability to concentrate, another symptom of PTSD.
My whole life became centered on fixing Bob. My upbringing told me that I could make other people happy. He wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. I figured I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I knew you can do whatever you put your mind to. It never occurred to me to try another way. Even after I found out what PTSD was, my quest was still what we should do to fix Bob. I had no idea that I had problems and that my actions and reactions were making it impossible for Bob to get better. We were stuck in a series of ineffective patterns....
I can only change one day at a time, (much more slowly than I’d like), but that gives me compassion when I see how hard it is for others to change. This has let Bob recover in his own way: His symptoms are much less distressing to him and to me than they were. Five years ago, I wrote in Recovering that Bob absolutely could not say when he was having a bad day. Today he can. That is a miracle."

The last article in this issue, "How Families Can Recover" suggests a lot of things families can do to recover, like taking the focus off the vet and working on ourselves.
I hope this issue will inspire people to stay together and work on recovery together, so the family becomes a sanctuary instead of a battleground.
If it is a battleground today, change yourself and see what happens. It is a slow process, recovery, but slow growth is good growth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Post Traumatic Gazette #1

When I started the Post Traumatic Gazette in 1995, I thought our country would never be involved in another war, especially one like Vietnam without front lines and where anyone could turn out to be the enemy. I was wrong.
Because I knew so many survivors of other traumatic events, I wrote everything with them as well as veterans in mind. It took me more than six months to write issue #1, because I wanted it to explain the symptoms as survival skills in a way that would not be hurtful to anyone. I wrote and re-wrote and polished it till I felt it was as good as I could make it.
Here's one quote I am proud of:
"This is not some random collection of weird behaviors, but appropriate and effective biologically based reactions to extreme stress. They have a purpose: survival."
Many descriptions of PTSD symptoms make no logical connections between them and give no insight into why a person would react like that, but that was my big question when Bob got home from Vietnam: What happened to him? Why does he have that reaction?
Another quote I am proud of:
"These PTSD survival skills tend to become less appropriate and less effective with time and can wind up being really crippling ineffective behaviors. For a healing perspective, we need to keep in mind that the behaviors of trauma survivors are direct evidence, sometimes the best evidence, of what they have survived, of their experience. They are also evidence of ingenuity, creativity and courage. Reframing the behaviors in this light can be an enlightening experience for the survivor, families, friends, and therapists. Instead of being bad behaviors, they become useful evidence about the nature of the trauma or traumas and the guts and brains of the survivor, who, after all, survived."
A final quote which one guy wrote me started him on the road to recovery. It is from the second article: How to Begin to Recover:
"Willing to vs Wanting to: There is also a great deal of difference between the words “want” and “willing.” Spelled differently. Mean different things. Willingness may mean I do things I don’t want to do! If I wait till I want to do the things that will help me recover, I may never recover."
I hope some of you will go read the full issue and tell your friends about it if you find it helpful.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I finally got the Patience Press website online. Bob has been working on it for weeks. Everything I have written since Recovering about PTSD is now available free online at
Please visit and let your friends know.  I will be blogging on various articles in the future.

A book I am dying to read

The Long Walk by Brian Castner sounds like my kind of book. He was a bomb disposal guy in Iraq. Since he lived, I assume he didn't jerk the wires of all the bombs he found like the hero did in that silly movie The Hurt Locker.
This is a book about the effects of war and apparently contains some episodes of typical VA crap, like one shrink telling him he didn't have PTSD. Reminds me of the time when the VA was trying to convince Bob he was a  manic-depressive because sometimes he was happy and sometimes sad... Fads come and go, but PTSD is a service connected disability and they don't like that...
There is so much effort by the military to prove that war does not affect anyone, while they pay lip service to trying to get rid of the stigma of having it. Here is a brave guy with PTSD who has written an honest book about it, and I am dying to read it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Telling the kids

Here is a killer quote from Alanon's One Day At a Time daily reader for June 26th:

We who really try to use the Alanon program have various reasons to be grateful as we see the results.  This was one member's experience, which she told her friends at a meeting.
Her greatest difficulty concerned her children. "I never knew what to do about them when my husband came home drunk and disorderly. I felt they should be shielded from violence, yet over-protection wouldn't be good for them. I didn't want to influence them against their father; I knew he loved them, and they him.
"I found all the answers in Alanon. I made sensible explanations about their father's illness and found them naturally compassionate. I avoided scenes by not allowing my frustrations to erupt into anger. I tried hard to be consistent and fair to them. The results have been everything I hoped for, and I am so grateful to Alanon for this."
Today's Reminder: Our children are a first thing to consider first. Our attitude is the key to a successful family relationship - and their normal growing up.
"And above all, I never use the children as pawns in any conflicts. They respond so well to respect."

For me, this is what I would to do when one of the parents, father or mother, is suffering from PTSD in the  acute stage. Or even the chronic stage. When I recognize that my husband, Bob, is not trying to hurt me, is not able to calm down and that what I choose to do (argue or let go) will be the primary decider in the way the day goes. It helps me give up trying to point out what is wrong with him and work on myself, on being the kind of person who can say, "You may be right," and let go. I may be thinking on Mars, but I don't have to say it. After all, I don't have PTSD. He does. I married him for better and for worse. If he had cancer, I would not be expecting him to get over it, put it behind him, or be the same person he was. War changes people, but it also gives them experiences that can propel them to new levels of usefulness to their fellows. Like talking about the costs of war.

For a sensible explanation of PTSD symptoms for children, use my two kids books, Why Is Daddy Like He Is? and the deployment version of Why Is Mommy Like She Is? I was told by VA therapists who use the book that the kids stop at every page and talk over the symptoms and relate it to their lives and it is really helpful to them to understand that they are not causing the symptoms. Kids commonly worry that something they are doing is the problem. These books will be available as free downloads in the next week at Patience Press. Right now there are thirteen free articles available there. Hope you will download them and read them and find them helpful.

I will post when the kids books are up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I was talking to a Vet Center counselor the other day about these manualized 8 to 12 week therapies for PTSD which some VA's are using now and calling a cure.
I don't like the word cure in relation to PTSD.
I really believe that these therapies do cause remission of very painful and troubling PTSD symptoms for a while. When they have 20 year follow-ups with no return of symptoms on all the participants, I will take it back. Meanwhile, the only person I have met who went through one of these programs and was "cured" and wanted to give a talk at a reunion, decided that they weren't treating him right, so instead of asking the organizers for the equipment he wanted, he never contacted them and just stayed drunk all weekend. Didn't seem like a cure to me.
To change the habits of a lifetime can take the rest of your life, and if the habits were learned to save your life, it will be hard to give them up.
One thing the Vet Center counselor said to me was that if someone told the mother of a young person killed in Iraq or Afghanistan that she could cure her grief in 8 to 12 weeks, everyone would be up in arms. Here are men and women who have lost more than one buddy (closer than family if you have been in combat together) and you are going to cure that grief, plus the pain of killing, the anger at waste of lives, the fear of dying, all that in 12 weeks???
I am not saying not to try out this kind of therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, because I have heard it explained and seen the positive changes it produced in a workshop I went to. What I am saying is that if it helps, and then PTSD rears it's ugly head again, go back and do more.
That's what will help if symptoms come back: More of what helped before. Don't believe for one moment that you are a hopeless case. Get more help. People are always developing new treatments for PTSD. Your job is to find what works for you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the link for the giveaway at goodreads
I am giving away 5 copies to celebrate the fact that Recovering is now available as a kindle, an ibook, for a Sony reader, on Kobo.
It is available for iPad and iPod too. I used to turn it into an ebook and they were quite good.
If you could pass this on to your friends who might be interested, I would appreciate it. I can always use reviews on any of the sites or on Goodreads itself.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Woohooo!  Recovering from the War now has both the book and the kindle showing on the book page! It is $4.99 and I am doing another book giveaway (of actual books, not the kindle) on  Goodreads to celebrate. Please let me know if these links do or don't work.
You can look inside the book on the Amazon page and read my fans blurbs and the two new introductions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I just managed to get Recovering on Amazon as a kindle for $4.99. So far it is not linked in the bookstore but if you look in the kindle store, it is there. I am going to do another book giveaway on, too.
Recovering from the War is a systematic investigation of the costs of war for veterans and their families, including information on how to recover from combat trauma. The examples are from Vietnam, but the experience is universal, so the book is helpful to active duty service members. Part One, Vietnam: What it was, consists of a series of chapters containing interviews with Vietnam veterans: Who Went,...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For Memorial Day

I wrote this poem about my husband and about my entirely human inability to understand what he had been through. I think it illustrates the difficulties wives face when someone comes back from war.
If you pair it with Bruce Weigl's Song of Napalm I think it does a good job of explaining some of the post-war problems couples have and why it does not simply go away with time.
It takes understanding (as opposed to misunderstanding), loving detachment (as opposed to personalizing), and compassion (as opposed to judgment) to make a happy life with a veteran, on both sides.
I always say to vets to remember how they felt about their wounded buddies, how much they wanted to help. We see you bleeding, and we want to help, and quite often everything we do has the reverse effect, so that is our pain.
Bless all vets.

I remember how your voice wept

I remember how your voice wept
when you told me

His balls were gone
His leg too
a bloody stump
The skin flapped and sprayed
blood all down the side of your ship
over the gunner and the gun
You flew as fast as was humanly possible
mechanically possible
He still died.
The wedding ring on his left hand glinted
As they flipped him onto a stretcher
And headed for the body piles.

A horrible story. I wept for you inside
but then I had to go make supper,
sing Jack to sleep
wash the dishes
do my homework
run out to buy the quart of whiskey that let you sleep
for a few hours between 1 or 2 AM and your 8 o’clock class
which you could barely sit through even with two stiff whiskeys
under your belt
And after all,
it was just a story to me—
something awful that happened to you
on the other side of the world—
Not real
running down the side of the helicopter
not real
blown away
not real
with the wedding ring glinting
©1989 Patience H. C. Mason

Monday, April 30, 2012

Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion

Due to a mistake, no one knew I was speaking on Saturday afternoon because it wasn't in the program they were handing out. So I did my usual talk, Recovering from the War, to three people. Kind of disappointing, but I can say that what I said helped those three so it was worth it to me.
Bob got really mad when I called and told him and said I should never go again, that they don't respect or appreciate me. I was really down in the dumps, thinking he was right.
The next day, my talk was in the program, but it usually overlaps with the service by John Steer, so once again I gave the talk, The War at Home, to just a few people. Luckily they got a lot out of it and laughed at all my jokes. When I said it was probably my last visit, one couple who come every year got really upset. I was talking to a Korean War and Vietnam vet and to a really lovely Donut Dolly and a Navy nurse and a Special Forces guy and his wife, when the upset couple disappeared.
As I was packing up the free handouts I'd brought and my books, the treasurer of Vietnam Veterans of Brevard, Ralph, showed up with the upset couple to personally apologize and ask what they could do to get me to keep coming.
I suggested they announce my talks on the main stage and do some PR. He offered to put up posters if I could mail them down so they would be up before I get there next year. He suggested that the talk on Sunday should be at noon so it wouldn't be interfered with by the church service. He also said he'd write Bob and apologize. I hope he does.
I did a talk for VVB a few years ago, just so they would know what I was saying over there at the wall pavilion while they are busy running the reunion, and he remembered it and said it was so helpful. So maybe I will be there next year. I do love giving the talks and talking to vets and their families afterwards and Donut Dollies.
One of my pet peeves is that the Red Cross claims the Donut Dollies weren't employees and weren't in danger (yeah, right! like no one ever rocketed or mortared every place they could in Vietnam) so it denies them help with PTSD treatment.
So it was an interesting lesson in how little control I have over events and how perhaps my speaking up will lead to a better result next year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Link to the readio show

Here is the link for the  radio talk. I just listened to it and am pretty happy with it except for the guy who wanted to help me by letting me know PTSD is not caused by war but by chemical stuff. I am only on for the first hour, but I have no idea how to only link to the first hour.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Radio Talk

I just spent an hour on the Donnie Moses Show on WBOB AM 600 in Jacksonville, FL, with Bill Carter, talking about PTSD. Within a week the podcast should be available at scroll down to Donnie Moses show and click on today's date, 4/21/12. It looks like they only keep them online for a couple of months. You can either listen or download. Download if you want to keep it. That's what I plan to do and hope to put it on my website.
One guy called in to help us with PTSD by saying it was caused by chemical exposures and if we just read his book and went to these special doctors (because the VA doesn't treat it) we would all be fine. I tried to be polite, but I told him that PTSD is caused by traumatic events and in soldiers it is caused by hundreds if not thousands of traumatic events. Then Bill, who was a helicopter pilot in the 1st of the 9th Cav, a unit that went looking for bad guys all the time, told him an abrupt goodbye. The rest of the broadcast was about PTSD and I got to say most of what I think is important, that it is normal to be affected by what you live through, that the symptoms of PTSD start out as survival skills built into the "reptile brain" which doesn't speak English or tell time, so that part of you does not know it is over, and that avoidance perpetuates it, which is why writing and talking about it help you heal. I also talked a bit about triggers in the family and how we can misunderstand and personalize things which leads to a lot of fighting and disharmony.
I thought it went well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Infants Possess a Sense of Justice: How this affects anger in PTSD

This article reinforces one I read about monkeys also having a sense of justice (give one a banana and one a cucumber, and the cucumber monkey gets pissed). I believe that part of the root of PTSD is a sense of justice. People who are traumatized know it is not fair, even if they are told they deserve it by perpetrators or it is part of the job in the military. It's not fair and it's not right and on some level they know it and it makes them mad. It also makes them mad when people try to kill them or hurt them or their friends... so anger becomes a big problem.
Life isn't fair unfortunately and worse things happen quite often in war and other traumas than people are able to deal with. Finding someone who listens to your anger and doesn't tell you not to have it can be very healing.
Blowing up is the reverse of healing.
Most of what we think of as anger is dysfunctional and ineffective.
Here is my article from the Post Traumatic Gazette
Dealing with Anger in Effective Ways
One of the most terrifying things for trauma survivors is to fly into a rage without any warning. Family members friends and therapists can be terrified, too, although they may not show it. If you have read earlier issues of this newsletter, you know that irritability or outbursts of anger are one of the cluster of hyperalert symptoms that include not being able to sleep, lack of concentration, startle responses, etc. You may still be mystified or afraid that you will do something in a rage that you will regret for the rest of your life. And maybe you already have. I suggest using the pain from incidents you regret to motivate change.
The first task in dealing with anger is to distinguish between anger, which is an emotion, and violence, which is an action. Most people think they are the same thing.
Extreme startle responses can be violent. The violence occurs in nanoseconds when the person is surprised by something, way before the amount of time it takes to process something that pisses you off in your fore brain and get mad. Violent startle responses are very upsetting to the person who has them. Often the person goes from shame and despair (what is wrong with me?) straight into an eruption of anger at the victim of the violent startle response. In one sense it makes no difference to the person you are yelling at or hitting, but it can make a difference in how you handle the incident. Instead of erupting in anger, you can learn to say, “I am so sorry. That was a startle response. I am not angry except at myself for having it.”
Anger is based in thinking. One person is treated rudely by a clerk and thinks “She must be having a hard day.” Another person thinks, ”She cant treat me like I’m nobody,” and gets angry. Same behavior, one way of thinking results in compassion and the other in anger.
Anger is a signal that you have a problem to solve and you probably feel you are about to be harmed. The problem may be real (someone is hurting me) or it may be that what is going on today brings up feelings from the past (what is happening reminds me of my abuser or a traumatic event). Anger is an emotion, not an action like exploding into violence.
Anger can be managed if it is brought to awareness and feeling is separated from action. Boundaries and knowing about emotional reasoning can help here. Say to yourself, “I am over here. That person is over there. He or she has a whole history, feelings, thoughts of his/her own. I may feel pain but that does not mean that person is trying to hurt me (emotional reasoning, a cognitive distortion, says I feel it so it must be true). It may have nothing to do with me.” Just saying this much to yourself will help you pause. When you can pause, you can also learn to act in new ways instead of reacting in old ineffective dysfunctional ways that get you into trouble, ways you may have learned in childhood or in combat. You can learn new skills. It ain’t easy, but it can be done, one little bit at a time!
Several aspects of PTSD contribute to the problems trauma survivors have with anger.
Knowing you are angry: You may be so numb you can’t tell when you are beginning to get angry. It seems to explode out of you but there may be early warning signs that you could learn to detect. Regularly scanning your body for physical signs can help you become aware of this: are you clenching teeth or fists? Is your stomach churning, throat tight, lips turning into a thin blue line? Ask your family or associates how they can tell if you’re getting mad. You may start to twitch in a particular way that you are not aware of, moving your shoulders, drumming your fingers, rubbing one ear. If you know your own signs, you can walk away or calm yourself down.
Knowing why you are angry: Once you start to be aware of what is going on inside you, I’ve found that it helps me to identify other feelings I have numbed which lead me to anger. Most people learn to cover up painful or frightening feelings by getting angry. Anger causes a surge of adrenaline and a feeling of power which is more tolerable for most of us than feeling helpless, afraid, hopeless, needy, fearful, despairing, lost, abandoned, guilty, ashamed, or whatever.
If this is true for you, as it is for me, paying attention to your emotional state will help you deal with the primary feelings under the anger. I find that I do better if I just feel them, no matter how painful, for a while, maybe write down what I feel. The feeling passes and I am okay. “This too shall pass,” is a good slogan for me.
Another PTSD symptom, hypervigilance, constantly scanning for danger out there, makes it hard to concentrate on your inner life and be aware of what you are feeling. This can compound the effect of numbing. Using an affirmation like: “I am safe. I am __years old and no longer in ______. I have more resources today than I did when I wasn’t safe,” can help remind you that hypervigilance may not be necessary today. Fill in the blank with your age and the place you were traumatized whether it was Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, or your own home. Change the wording so that it works for you.
Other symptoms of PTSD can contribute to anger problems: lack of sleep makes you irritable. You may also carry an irritating residue of bad feelings from nightmares into the world of day. Trying to avoid feeling common feelings can be a constant irritation. Plus cultural conditioning says men can be angry; but they can’t cry about things they need to cry about, like losing friends. And women are never supposed to be angry so we tend to stuff and stuff till we blow up.
Changing: If you want to change, the first step is to identify what lies under the anger. Keeping a list of common feelings handy can help you learn to name them. List the beliefs you have which get you mad. A lot of them will have the word should in them. Stopping to identify feelings and beliefs turns out to be a good pause-button for those of us who tend to go off like a rocket.
Knowing your own history is important here, too. If you can identify why that clerk pissed you off so much (like the lifers in Vietnam or the teacher who humiliated you in front of the class), it is easier to go on with the thought “but this isn’t Vietnam. or school, and I’m older now and have more resources, one of which is to write a letter to his/her boss...” Taking a healing action is so much better than letting others push your buttons and jerk you around like a puppet.
When you want to yell, look inside for the feeling beneath the anger. Is it fear that your kid was dead when he stayed out late and didn’t call? It will be a lot more effective to tell him that than to rage. Is it feeling unloved and therefore unlovable because someone forgot something they said they’d do for you? If you can identify that you can be honest about it (I felt hurt when you forgot my sandwich/birthday) and you can also examine whether you are putting yourself in a position to be hurt over and over by relying on unreliable people or expecting someone human to be more than human. Then you can work on that pattern, too.
Much of anger comes from what are called “hot thoughts.” We see someone’s behavior as reflecting on us. I used to see my dog’s unwillingness to let go of the ball after she fetched it as proof that I was no good (Couldn’t even train my dog right!). It would enrage me. One day in the park, I found myself screaming at her, “This is not a game!” as I punched her for not dropping the ball! Me! Nice Patience! It got me to examine my rage and see what I was saying to myself about her natural playfulness vs. having the perfect dog. Today I try not to be perfect or have perfect dogs, plans, parties, newsletters, etc. It is a lot easier!.
Hot thoughts can be as simple as “she should have dinner ready when I get home.” If there is an emotional rush associated with a simple event, the uprush of emotion signals to me that this feeling is probably from a different time zone and I need to examine it. For me, often the intensity of the anger is a cue that my needs were not being met, whether that zone is a traumatic childhood, recent traumatic events, or Vietnam. It helps to remind myself that I have more resources today.
There are a lot of slogans and sayings which help to cool down hot thoughts. “Easy Does it,” is an old AA one. “This is not a life or death situation,” is one many veterans use. “I can handle this,” helps remind me that I have more resources today than I used to have. “Chill out! Cool down! Slow down and take a breath. What is the problem here that I need to solve?” all are helpful phrases.
Disputing your thoughts can help too. Whenever I think “I’m no good,” (which is an old pattern for me), due to the fact that I’ve been working at recovery for nine years, I almost instantly say to myself, “Wait a minute, I’m fine. I’m not perfect but who likes perfect people? I’m okay the way I am.” It really helps. You can learn to do it, too.
Letting go of unrealistic expectations that other people will put your needs first can help. I’ve found that most people can be trusted to be human and think of themselves first. It is okay. So do I most of the time.
In 12 Step programs, we use steps four through nine to free ourselves of anger: not to suppress anger but to become free of it. This involves self examination (the inventory), becoming willing to let go of old patterns which may have served us in the past but are ineffective today, asking for help from our higher power, listing people we have harmed, and making amends to them. (Sometimes it is human nature to be angriest at those we have hurt.)
Feeling vs. Action
I have come to believe that almost none of us sees anger used effectively in this society. And most of what we think of as anger are angry actions which are ineffective and dysfunctional. Yelling, hitting, throwing things, blowing up, hitting pillows, withering sarcasm, getting drunk to pay someone back, shopping till you drop, screwing someone because you were screwed either literally or figuratively are all ineffective actions. There may be a momentary feeling of power, but I don’t think it lasts very long. The effects of such actions usually do last.
The idea you should get anger out to get rid of it also seems to indicate that anger isn’t an acceptable feeling. It is to me. I am allowed to be angry. I prefer not to act in ineffective ways. I can “say what I mean but not say it mean.” I see a distinct difference between the feeling of anger and my old “let me tell you what is wrong with you!” shaming and blaming way of handling it. That was ineffective action. So today I try for the feeling, to sit with it, examine it, say what I need to to keep my side of the street clean (be honest).
Here’s an example from recent experience. Someone yelled at me recently. It really pissed me off. I would have yelled back in the old days but I am really aware through experience of how ineffective that is. So I said to myself, yelling back is my old pattern. I need to use the principles of the 12 step program to find a new solution. She may not even know she is yelling. She also doesn’t know how I feel when she yells because I always act like it doesn’t bother me. In my mind I went from “Shut up, you _____! Don’t yell at me! You’re not perfect!” (my instinctive response) to thinking of saying “I know you don’t realize what an idiot you are being but blah blah blah.” Didn’t say that either because it was you-based and therefore blaming, not telling what I was feeling (not honest but defensive). I needed an I-statement. I ran through other possibilities in my head, shortening it each time. I wanted it to be short because I have a tendency to lecture (as you may have noticed if you read this newsletter). I wanted it to be honest. I did not want to argue the point she was making because, unfortunately, (and this really pissed me off) she was right. (And I had said she was right, but she went right on being mad!) I finally said simply, “I hate being yelled at.” That was honest. It was short. She didn’t like it. That was okay, too. She was allowed to be angry. I no longer want to control what other people feel (most of the time). After a while the yelling stopped. A few hours later she said to me she got carried away and hadn’t meant to yell, and I said “Thanks for saying that.”
Being yelled at is painful, but I can be in pain and survive. Part of the reason it isn’t intolerable anymore is because I know I don’t deserve it. I may have made a mistake, but that is okay. Someone else may be having a hard day, and that is okay too (healthy boundaries and letting go of having to be perfect— or having to have others be perfect).
Like I said, I try to feel my anger today. I don’t stuff and repress it but I also don’t scream and yell. Some studies indicate that geting-it-all-out escalates and reinforces anger. A recent report in the Mind/Body Health Newsletter said that men who blow up and men who repress anger both have significantly higher cholesterol levels than men who were flexible in dealing with anger. Since both those styles are characteristic of PTSD, as is having rigid reaction styles and doing the same thing over and over, it seems important.
Flexibility: So how do you become more flexible in dealing with things that make you angry? One way is working on becoming more flexible in everything. I’ve heard the suggestion of driving home from work a different way every day, a small action that can have far-reaching effects. It may not be the one that works for you, but you can find some small new action to take that fits you better.
I can also use the upsurge of adrenaline I get when I am angry to help me do something healthy (for me) and effective. It is nice to have a number of choices. Keep a list for those desperate moments when you can’t think. I can go for a walk, go outside and let the birds and trees remind me that I am part of the world, clean house, write a letter to my congresswoman, call someone who will understand, motivate myself towards self-examination or simply feel the pain. For instance, when Bob is right about something I haven’t done that I said I would, I can look at myself and see that I’m not perfect, but I can learn to do better one day at a time, starting now. I feel compassion for me, and it makes it a lot easier to be compassionate to others. Then I don’t get mad.
Using the HEALS exercise mentioned in issue #7 (Vol.2, No 1) has helped me develop compassion for myself and for others. Here’s how to do it:
Healing” comes into my mind in flashing letters.
Explain to myself what hurt I am feeling (disregarded, unimportant, guilty or mistrusted, devalued, rejected, powerless, unlovable) and feel it for a few seconds.
Apply self compassion (because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I’m worthless, because someone forgot me doesn’t mean I’m nothing...)
Love myself (It is okay if I’m not perfect. I’m fine the way I am. It is okay if someone forgot what I wanted. I am still lovable and I can love myself).
Solve the problem. (since I don’t have to blame, accuse or attack, I can use more of my brainpower to find a solution).
Another way to become flexible is developing a sense of humor about your self and your life. There is nothing funnier than the way all of us sometimes behave when we are mad. I think of myself swearing “I’m not angry,” as smoke was probably pouring out of my ears and I have to laugh. I didn’t know I was angry but those around me sure did.
And isn’t it sad that I thought a normal emotion, which I can use to signal that what’s happening is a problem for me, was so terrible I couldn’t admit to having it? So I’d lie to myself and to those around me until stuffing no longer was possible and then I’d blow up, all the time blaming their actions and not my own inability to see and use my anger effectively as a signal and a tool to change me.
Today I know I can’t change you, but today if I feel angry I can walk away, write a letter, speak up in a nice way, take my business my friendship or my love elsewhere. I do have options, but I couldn’t see them without self awareness.
Honesty about how anger affects us
Most people have no idea how scary they can be when they are mad, and I, at least, never used to mention it. Today I even try to be honest about that.
I find that I do best if I use my pause button before I try to be honest, keep it short, and I keep it in the “I.”

Heard at a 12 step meeting:
An expectation is a pre-meditated resentment.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hard Road Back

The New York Times is doing a series on wounded soldiers which has simply kicked my butt and made me cry. I am really glad they are doing this. It's video as well as print and it helps show that the war is never over for many people. Check it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Giving a talk to a small group

I just came back from giving a talk to a local group of vets and their counselors. Not going to say exactly where for confidentiality reasons, but I really love giving vets my perspective on PTSD, because it is so different from the medical model with its random collection of weird symptoms and the current 8 week cures. One of the counselors said, and I agree completely, "These new therapists say they are going to cure these guys in 8 weeks. It is insulting. No one would tell the mother of someone killed in Iraq or Afghanistan that they were going to cure their grief in 8 weeks!"
Combat PTSD involves HUGE amounts of grief over friends, ideals, beliefs, and body parts lost. How do you cure that in 8 weeks?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy of PTSD has a short track record and does not "cure" everyone, but only a percentage. The follow-up studies do not cover a lifetime. PTSD comes back with further trauma because it is a set of survival skills built into your brain, which are activated by war and other traumas. There is nothing a therapist can do to keep you from suffering further traumatic events. Life happens. Shit happens.
The CBT therapies were not developed using combat vets. I think they work on some people. But people need to find out what works for them, not what works for the therapist.
Of course it is easier to apply a manualized therapy and pretend that's it, but for our vets often that isn't it. They simply stop talking and looking for help.
This recently happened to a friend. He finally went to see someone at the VA about his depression, and this woman told him, "I just don't allow myself to become depressed." Well if he could do that, he wouldn't need her help. He felt insulted. Needless to say, he won't be going back.
At one VA I gave a talk at, they told me that the CBT therapist don't let them swear in group. How do you talk about war, real war, ugly, bloody, horrible experiences if you can't swear. It is like these therapists are so full of themselves they have absolutely no comprehension of what vets have been through. I wish they would read Recovering From The War, or some of the recent vet memoirs, and wake the fuck up!
One thing I love to see is a bunch of vets start to nod and sit up and look interested and hopeful as I explain how hyperalertness (attention to threat and the ability to move faster than thought) are built into the reptile brain. So is the ability to rapidly adapt to whatever is going on so you can be in control, which means you become numb so you can do whatever you need to survive and keep others alive.
The talk I gave, The War at Home, goes through each PTSD symptom, giving the vets an idea of what it did for them during the war, what it may be doing to them now, and how that may affect the family. Most of them have never heard anything like what I say before.
I love doing it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book giveaway at

I am giving away 5 copies of Recovering from the War at If you go to the website, you will see how to join.
Part of the reason I am doing this is that I am in the process of bringing out the book as an ebook which will have a new introduction for the new vets and a Mother's Introduction by the mother of one of our new vets. The printed version does not have these, but I think having a book, in my hands at least, is always a comfort. So if you'd like to enter to win, please visit the website and enter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion Talks

I will be giving my usual two talks at the Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion at Wickham Park, 2500 Parkway Drive, Melbourne, FL. When you enter the park, drive around to the right till you see the Moving Vietnam Wall. The Wall Pavilion, where I give the talks will be in front of it.
At 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, I will be talking about Recovering from the War. Since PTSD is a normal reaction to war, I discuss the symptoms as survival skills, give a little history (Saul and Achilles had it), discuss effects on the family and make suggestions for how to begin to recover.
At 10:30 AM on Sunday, I will talk about The War at Home. I talk about what each symptom of PTSD did for the veteran during the war, then what it may be doing to the veteran today, and how that may be affecting the family.
My husband served in Vietnam, but I have been told that the talks I give are helpful to the new vets. I will have free handouts and copies of Recovering from the War for sale.
I try to share my own experience, strength and hope at these talks. Hope to see you there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Huge Grant will change human nature! NOT!

So the VA is spending 3.5 million dollars to change human nature. Normal people are bothered by what they live through, especially if it is traumatic. Survival capacities which are part of what we called "the reptile brain" in high school are activated. They don't speak English and they can't tell time.
These survival skills are easily reactivated by further traumatic events, including starting new wars.
“The ultimate goal is to prevent the effects of traumatic stress from occurring in the first place. Having said that, another goal is to determine how we can mitigate the effects of stress once symptoms have occurred,” says principal investigator Seema Bhatnagar, assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn/CHOP.
This makes me crazy. Professor of Anesthesiology???? Her research has been into stress on rats.
There is always a chance she will come up with something that will help some veterans, and I am for that.
At least she is not saying "cure" like some of the developers of new therapies. You can't tell if someone is "cured" of PTSD in less than a lifetime, despite the unscientific claims of some therapies. A four year follow up is considered a cure. Tell that to the vet who is back in the throes of PTSD and feels like a total loser because he (or she) was told he was cured. Does he realize that what helped once will help again, or does he give up?
I have seen my PTSD veteran husband have good years and very bad years. It seems to be a lifetime condition to me. The survival skills (PTSD symptoms) are always available at the drop of a hat.
I predict that if something helps some vets, the upper management of the VA and the military will apply it to all vets and then call the ones it doesn't work on defective in some other way like a personality disorder.
People who have been traumatized need to talk or write or process what happened in some way to move the events from the "reptile brain" where they are stored as images, smells, words, feelings, etc, into the forebrain where they become narrative memories. They also often need to re-inhabit their bodies and deal with intractable stress through meditation, yoga, any kind of body therapy or sensorimotor psychotherapy. Learning to live in the now is a continuous process of recovery, more like managing PTSD than having it surgically removed or "cured" with pills. So I would like to see the upper management of the VA provide continuous care for veterans with PTSD and quit screwing around.