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Happy Veterans Day?

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, a holiday set aside to honor all those who have gone to war, but reflecting on that started me thinking (sometimes a very dangerous activity).

First of all, there is the theory of just war. I don’t think looking back on all the wars fought in my lifetime that there was ever a just war. Secondly, for the 13 years of the new millenium, there has not been a day that I have not read about a war we as a nation are involved with. And lastly, we say we honor our veterans but then I ask the following questions:

If we care about our veterans, why do we (especially those who decide wars) send them in to battle to be wounded and maimed and killed?

If we care about our veterans, why do we offer such poor help when it comes to post traumatic stress syndrome? Why do we let so many of our veterans live their life out in terror from the things they have witnessed and received in war?

If we care about our veterans, why don’t we give them and their disabilities, both physical and mental, treatment with more speed and caring?

If we care about our veterans, why do we continue to use stereotypical answers for the service that do? We call them heroes when some of them are ashamed of what they have been asked by their country to do.

Mental illness is not dealt with well in the armed forces. Our veterans (and those presently serving) are not given the necessary tools for for coping, the necessary resources to understand and TALK about what they are or have been experiencing.

Is it macho to hide the fact that horrible happenings have attacked the minds of those called into battle? Is it asking too much for the people who send these mostly young people into war, to make provisions for their mental and physical care, giving them the best available? And is it too much to ask to give them this help in a very immediate and timely manner?

I remember having a party at our house. A couple who were good friends were in attendance. During the party, the husband, a Green Beret in the Viet Nam War, would often disappear into our back yard. I remember going and asking him if he needed anything. He shook his head and said, “Only if you can stop the cries and the blood and the screams that play out time and again in my mind. I don’t want to be part of having hurt those people but I am.”

Happy Veterans Day?

– Bernadette

Not AGAIN????

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Yes, another shooting.  And yes, they say, the shooter was mentally ill. And yes, guns don’t kill, only people who are mentally ill kill people.  The ease of ownership and use of guns doesn’t play a role.  The lack of good assistance for the mentally ill isn’t a factor and certainly post traumatic stress and its lack of recognition and treatment don’t factor in.   

Simone Weil, a French philosopher and Christian mystic,  wrote, “I suffer more from the humiliations inflicted by my country than from those inflicted on her.”  I too am embarrassed that our country solves its problems often with guns and violence.  I am saddened beyond belief that we often blame the mentally ill, and, even in those instances where the illness does play a part, we fail to help or change the system.  And it tears me apart that week after week, month after month, these episodes happen and we express shock, rage, anger and then we do nothing.  We do nothing to change the system, we do nothing to address the enormouse presence of guns in our society, we do nothing to discover other ways of solving our problems.  

Yes, there was another shooting.  Yes, the shooter was mentally ill.  Now, let’s do something so it doesn’t happen again. 


PTSD, Depression and Courage

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, I learned as much as I could about the disease and its treatment.  I thought I was prepared.  However, I was not prepared for the emotional ride that took place.  No one talked about it.  No one acknowledged that it was part of the situation.  Instead, I learned about it after the fact and I got it confirmed on a recent post from PTSD Perspectives, an excellent blog dealing with the subject.  Check it out at http://ptsdperspectives.org/category/ptsd-blog/

I was not prepared for the emotional ride that had me crying when I least expected to.  It had me feeling like I was in another person’s body, observing what was going on.  It caused me to be in a place that I neither knew nor trusted.  I was the proverbial stranger in a strange land.

What was going on was post traumatic stress.

I encountered PTSD again at a meeting Amy and I were giving for caregivers.  One of the participants was the sister of a soldier returned from Iraq.  She had observed the changes in her brother, had seen the mood swings, had noted the strangeness at times of his behavior, dealt with his depression.

What she wanted was not just for him to feel better.  She wanted, as she put it, her brother back.  She went on to talk about how they would have talked about anything and everything, how they could laugh and cry together and have a good time.  That was no more.  Another person had taken over.  She missed her brother, and not only was he dealing with PTSD, she was also.

There are different levels of PTSD that affect individuals but whatever level a person may have, it does not make it any less difficult.  PTSD also affects those who love and care for those with full blown PTSD.  These caregivers need to learn how to deal with a “new” person, one who has been shaken to the core by a very difficult situation, to stay centered despite the surrounding depression.  The caregivers have to deal with a new person, grieve the loss of the old one, and at the same time help their loved ones through the terrors that haunt them.

I am reminded of the words of Solomae, a spiritual teacher, who wrote, “Opening the heart is an act of courage.  Keeping it open is an act of love.”  That’s what people with PTSD and depression and those who love and care for them have to face each and every day.  They are courageous people.