Sunday, May 31, 2009

Professional Perspective: How Forgiveness Helps Us Heal

Since forgiveness seems to be the dominant theme this week, it seems only fitting to include a professional take on the forgiveness question. Dr. Nancy Irwin has a winning approach to helping her clients. In her own words,

"As a therapeutic hypnotist and doctor of psychology, I know for a fact that we are all born to win. We learn to fail, and what we learn, we can un-learn. Therefore, I work to clear away the negative programming, undesirable habits, and limiting beliefs to free the inner winner in my clients."

A survivor herself, Dr. Irwin's words of experience and deep thought add great context to the forgiveness question.


"If we say that monsters [people who do terrible evil] are beyond forgiving, we give them a power they should never have...they are given the power to keep their evil alive in the hearts of those who suffered most. We give them power to condemn their victims to live forever with the hurting memory of their painful pasts. We give the monsters the last word." - Lewis Smedes

Why We Don't Forgive

For years I felt that it would be impossible to forgive my perpetrator (clergyman) of adolescent sexual abuse. I hopped up on my high horse pretty quickly when anyone even suggested I do so. He was WRONG and broke the LAW, yet year after year, I began to grow tired of living in my self-righteousness and superiority, rage, depression, deep sadness, and giving my power not only to the perpetrator, but to the past!

Forgiveness puts YOU in control, calling the shots over the trauma, allowing you to enjoy the now and your future. It frees you to create a happy ending for a movie that had a very scary scene.

Though not an overnight accomplishment, I had to learn to stop making the perpetrator "wrong." I had to see him as a flawed, emotionally arrested human being who operated with the only set of tools he had. Learning to shift my thinking from his being "wrong" to his being "inappropriate" opened up a whole new world for me. It was as if glacial shifts began occurring.....allowing me to settle into a more solid space.

I then had to forgive myself for all the years I lived in hatred and bitterness. I had to review what really happened, express all my feelings about the trauma and the abuser, all my feelings toward those I blamed for not rescuing me. I sorted all this out through therapy, through writing letters and finally through a confrontation. I let him know what his actions had cost me in life. Unfortunately, I was met with defensiveness and denial, yet I got to speak my peace and forgave him his denial, defensiveness, his ignorance, and his inappropriate actions. And almost overnight, 30-year-old symptoms began dissipating: fear of men (especially those who looked like him), my rapid startle reflex, fear of engulfment, fear of intimacy, and more.

What Forgiveness Gives to Us

Forgiving is the ultimate in standing in a place of acceptance and healing. Yes, the scar may remain, yet you are stronger in that place. As a survivor of traumatic experiences myself, I am a psychotherapist/clinical hypnotist specializing in trauma recovery, I have learned to abandon the "why me" questions that kept me trapped in my victimization. When I began asking "how could this experience help me or others" questions, I was able to reclaim my power. Trauma comes from Greek word "wound." As we all know, wounds can be healed. They may leave scars, yet scar tissue is tougher and allows the wounded area to be more resilient than before. I discovered that there was great meaning to my trauma; not that I'd wish it on anyone on the planet, of course, but it led me be the healer that I am.

Like the physical body, the psyche is designed for survival and protection, and is quite resilient. Trauma can leave marks on the psyche that act as warning signals for future similar dangers. This "default setting" may seem like that of a computer program; some are tougher to re-set than others. To avoid automatically reverting to the fear state that the original wound set up for you, there are ways to re-program that amazing computer of your subconscious mind: intervention, treatment, normalization, acceptance, and finally forgiveness. Forgiveness is NOT condoning deviant or criminal behavior. It gives you permission to move forward in your life with peace of mind. Further, you give the perpetrator permission to be accountable and responsible going forward. Staying in righteous mode (while the ego loves it!) disallows growth for all parties.

Things to Think About as We Move Forward

Everything and everyone has a positive intent. No one (including Mother Nature) does anything to be bad, stupid, wrong, or even evil. Even serial killers (and I'm certainly not defending them!) have a positive intent: to be in control or feel powerful. The goal in therapy is to find a healthy way to meet that need without harming others or the self. Just like your responses to trauma have a positive intent (protection, releasing and healing), so do the causes. In the case of natural disasters, the planet is shifting into a more settled position, or is releasing congestion and toxins from the atmosphere.

Many perpetrators are unable to forgive themselves for their behaviors. While it may be tempting to proclaim a resounding "Good! They SHOULD suffer!" this perpetuates the blame-shame cycle and no one is free. The best way to decrease further victims is to forgive the offender. Then, and perhaps only then, can future victims be spared. Yet forgiveness is for YOU.
We tend to have irrational beliefs such as "No harm should ever befall me" or "Others should always be appropriate" or "S--- never should happen to me." Until that Utopia exists, a more rational belief to operate from is: "While I hate the ignorance and inhumanity of others, I forgive the acts and find meaning from it to further my growth as a compassionate being."

If you have found a way to be at peace and in acceptance and do not need or want to forgive, I applaud you. Again, forgiveness is not essential to recovery. If my words here are offensive to you, or anger you, I honor your feelings. I can almost promise you that with the passage of time, the burden of anger will grow exponentially heavier than the trauma. When you forgive, you open the door to freedom.

Dr. Nancy Irwin graduated from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Tarzana, California with honors and the Director's Award. She is a member of the Hypnotists' Union, the California Psychological Association, the American Academy for Experts in Traumatic Stress, and the California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO).

Dr. Irwin is also a certified practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy and Emotion Free Therapy, combining these modalities with hypnosis to effect the most rapid change possible in her clients. While Dr. Irwin treats over 100 different issues, she is dedicated to treating victims of child sexual abuse as well as abusers.

In addition to earning a doctorate in psychology from Southern California University of Professional Studies, Nancy has a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance, and her background as an opera singer and stand-up comedian adds heart and humor to her healing. A popular keynote speaker she insists, "Change does not have to hurt!"

(Photo: Nancy Irwin)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PTSD in the News: Weekly Roundup

I'm trying out a new format for the news today: short synopses rather than just a linked title. Like? Dislike? Don't care?
Let me know what you prefer....

Also, a short note before the news: For those of you chiming in and/or following the 'Forgiveness' thread going on here with Nancy Richard's post and then mine, I think you'll find Jaliya's latest installment a really interesting way to further the ideas being bandied about.

Civilian PTSD

PTSD Can Surface for Years After Initial Trauma, 9/11 Study Shows A new study that assessed New Yorkers exposed to the events of September 11, 2001 provides additional evidence that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface up to 2 years after the event in individuals with preexisting emotional or social problems

Protocol for investigating genetic determinants of posttraumatic stress disorder in women We posit inherited vulnerability to PTSD is mediated by genetic variation in three specific neurobiological systems whose alterations are implicated in PTSD etiology: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the locus coeruleus/noradrenergic system, and the limbic-frontal neuro-circuitry of fear. The secondary, exploratory aim of this study is to dissect genetic influences on PTSD in the broader genetic and environmental context for the candidate genes that show significant association with PTSD in detection analyses.

Bitterness as mental illness? Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job, relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens -- they don't get the promotion, their spouse files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team -- a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. -- Still wondering how anyone can call this a disorder of the PTSD variety.

Bitterness: The Next Mental Disorder? In its discussion of post-traumatic embitterment disorder, the APA may have correctly gauged the mood of the country, but as usual it has ignored or shunted aside most of the explanatory context, to pathologize the individual in all of her or his frustrated grievance. -- I'm, um, beginning to feel a little bitter about these stories.

Tornado survivor finally finds relief. Getting help (in the form of EMDR) was key.

Combat PTSD

TEAGUE'S PTSD MEASURE LOOKS TO AID TROOPS Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., said Wednesday he will introduce next week a bill aimed at bolstering services to address post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition affecting a growing number of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation, titled the Kyle Barthel Veterans and Service Members Mental Health Screening Act, would mandate mental health screening for personnel upon induction into the military, before and after deployment to a combat zone, and before discharge.

Post traumatic stress, suicidal soldiers and the nightmare. The consensus amongst physiatrists and psychologists alike is that suicide can be attributed to brain injuries and severe stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because there is a stigma among Western society and certainly in the military concerning mental illness, soldiers are hesitant to seek help and treatment. New programs are being implemented to educate service men and women to identify symptoms and to encourage them to seek help for PTSD.

Army Launching Program To Train Soldiers To Combat Post-Traumatic Stress. Faced with a growing number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases in the armed forces, the U.S. Army will begin a program this summer to proactively address the problem by focusing on building the mental resilience of its personnel.

Rowing for Veterans. Cook's trip is sponsored by Rivers of Recovery, a non-profit program that helps raise awareness for veterans with disabilities. As executive director of the program, Cook is stopping at major metropolitan areas along the Missouri River and visiting veterans' hospitals to get the word out about the physiological benefits of recreational activity.

Paula Schnurr is a leading expert on post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD - at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She told EarthSky that 15% of those serving in Iraq might suffer from this disorder.

Veterans Affairs Money Flows To Rural Oregon Programs. The Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center found out Thursday it will receive almost $2 million for rural mental health care in Oregon.

McCormick Foundation, Major League Baseball Announce $2.6 Million in Additional Grants for "Welcome Back Veterans". The McCormick Foundation's Board of Directors has approved $2.6 million in 2009 grants as part of Welcome Back Veterans, a national public awareness and fundraising initiative to address the mental health and employment needs of America's veterans and their families.

New weapons available to fight military stress. Wounded soldiers back from the battlegrounds rehabilitate at places like Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed. Now the military is taking steps to improve their care once they leave.

"A Wound in the Mind", a short novel of combat-related stress disorder penned by Francis J. Partel Jr. Mr. Partel was a young naval officer who served in the Southeast Asian naval theater in which his book takes place.

VA reaches out to veterans. Years of free health care are available to those who served in 2 battle zones.

Horse therapy helping Ft. Huachuca soldiers cope with war stress. The Warriors in Transition Unit helps soldiers adjust their feelings of isolation, anger and grief. One way to help is with horses.

Online Network Available to Veterans. California has a sophisticated new web site this Memorial Day weekend, linking veterans to thousands of different services. Network of Care directs war veterans and others to programs designed to mend wounds both visible and invisible.

(Photo: Claudiaveja)

PTSD Education: Wrapping Up How We Tell The Outside World

Whoa – another month just flew by in the BRIDGE THE GAP healing workshop. We covered many aspects about how to educate friends, family, partners and colleagues about PTSD, including:

Communicating with the Outside World
Deciding Which Family Member to Talk To
7 Tips For Talking about PTSD
Navigating Negative Reactions
8 Dos & Don'ts For Breaking PTSD News
The Importance of Attitude
Educating Partners
Dealing with PTSD at Work

Of course, there’s no way to 100% predict the response of someone else. For the people we bring into our confidence this is going to be A Big Idea. It’s going to cause them to reconceptualize who we are – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Until the day I told my family what was going on I’d always felt like the bitch in the bunch; the brat; the ‘difficult’ daughter; the ‘temperamental’ artist. Not because they labeled my family labeled me that way, but because I did. With the naming of my condition though, I felt a little freer to be me and also, that that me was justified. I was struggling, dammit! I wasn’t just awful; I was on a path.

When I methodically and with knowledge presented the facts and how my past and present wove together I showed my family (and later some select friends) what the PTSD problem was while still respecting myself and without making apologies for any of it. My attitude was matter-of-fact. And, OK, so I had family and friends who love me and that made it easier because I expected a baseline of understanding, but the bottomline is this: We have to find an even keel of expectations, not putting all of our hopes for recovery in this one conversation, and not assuming we will be decimated by it either.

If I had behaved as if I was less than everyone else who didn't have PTSD, the reactions may have have been different than the rallying around with positive focus and a can-do plan for my recovery. If I had worried about being ridiculed or spoken to unkindly I might never have attempted to communicate. In the end, the act of educating others is as much for as it is for them. We need to practice reaching out. We need to find a support system. We need to take responsibility for who we are and own it. If we don’t find understanding in one place we have to look for it in another face.

The goal in educating others is for people to understand us and offer a support system we can rely on while we do the work to heal. But in order for others to give back to us what we need, we must give them a roadmap for navigating the topic the right way. This begins with our own approach to it. We must understand and know the facts about PTSD, and then speak about it with an attitude of honoring ourselves. We are the experts in our experience and recovery. As much as we don't feel like we are, we must develop that perspective so that friends, family and colleagues can hear what we have to say and follow our lead in how to perceive it.

(Photo: J&G)

Friday, May 29, 2009

PTSD Symptoms in the Work Place: How We Deal

So, I asked you all for input about how to deal with PTSD at work and there were no takers for thrashing out that challenge in the comments. But: I received several personal responses via email and an online PTSD group I'm in. I'll post them here for an overview of how we deal:

I do believe that honesty is the best policy, however I feel it is best to wait a while before confiding too much in others. This gives a person a chance to show that they can perform well despite the PTSD symptoms and also allows time for trust to develop. My personal belief is that people with PTSD have enhanced skills and gifts which are very beneficial to employers and they need to see that. I also think it is better to focus on the symptoms rather than providing too many details of the causes.

...become aware of company or organization policies can prove beneficial as well because it can give insight on minimal info to be disclosed dealing with any disability in the workplace.

I did everything I could to keep my job!!! Life is worse without one.

I told my boss I was in therapy, and that's about it. Months later after I received numerous customer compliments, and positive work reviews, I started to reveal bits more here and there in casual conversation. I don't advertise, but I control the flow of info, and bust through stereotypes one person at a time.

It's important you take slow steps in talking with employers and colleagues, but the new ADA law now protects us and gives us the right to talk about it, or not. It also gives us the power to ask for extra help or new training.... any one with a mental health issue has the same rights as someone in a wheel chair.

I would be very careful about when and to whom you disclose your disability. PTSD is a hidden disability, and some of the symptoms or reactions are not understood at all by many employers and colleagues. If you need accommodations to maintain working, then you need to disclose the disability. I'd be very careful about disclosing the cause of the PTSD especially if it is childhood trauma.

I think your gut will let you know how much you want to share. I know as years pass my boundaries are shored up to where I feel safe in sharing.

And now, some very innovative tips for alleviating PTSD pressure at work -- from a guy who really knows how to find and hold his center, even with PTSD:

I arranged on some days to work from home and so when it was possible I did some days of working at home and made damn sure I had something to show for it at the end to repay the trust.

Sometimes I’d book into a B&B near to work so that I could not do a commute on one day or two and have an evening walk or something nice and cheap.

I’d get coffee/water from a machine that was not the nearest one so that I could have a bit of a walk away from my desk.

I’d walk to the shops at lunchtime to get a break.

I sometimes took a small tent and booked into a campsite that was about 20 minutes away from the office so that on some weeks I could have a mini-holiday and be an office-worker during the day and ‘on holiday’ in the evening.

Sometimes I took a small tarp and free-camped in countryside near work. It broke up the week with some sense of adventure.

(Photo: Lady_Assassin)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: And I Think It's About Forgiveness

When we're wronged by someone we can spend hours, days, weeks, even years thinking about how much we've been hurt, how we're owed an apology, how we didn't deserve whatever thing was done. We can lose ourselves in the victim mentality and fall down that rabbit hole of wanting an apology so that we can move on.

And we should do that. We need to acknowledge what's been done to us and hold the perpetrator accountable, even if that's just in our own minds.

And then what?

Many times the liklihood of getting an apology is a long shot. So, we're waiting for recalcitrance that will allow us to forgive and move on and.... that scenario never does come. We get stuck in a form of purgatory, floating through our lives unable to move forward or back. Instead of an apology and release what we get instead is just another layer to our PTSD that drives us crazy. What we get is another situation where someone else holds all the power and we are powerless.

What happens then? We hold onto the stress of that lack of power and it gnaws at us and, over a period of time, we need that apology even more. We absolutely will not forgive until we get it. We get lost in a moral and ethical conundrum all by ourselves -- and the perpetrator's (and the past's) power grows and grows and grows. And we wonder why our PTSD keeps getting worse.

Over the years our mental state withers and deteriorates and we develop more extreme PTSD experiences and then, in addition to the trauma we suffered, and the forgiveness we cannot give, we begin to turn the light on ourselves and hate the way we are behaving, and hate our overwhelmed emotions, and hate that we cannot 'just get over it', and hate that we live the way we do and are powerless to do anything about it. And so what began as the innocent wish for the apology we're taught is what we'll get when someone is wrong, becomes a pretty big stake the heart of our healing.

I've been thinking this week that the whole heal and forgive issue seems like a sort of chicken and egg theory -- which comes first? How do we forgive? Whom do we forgive? And in what order? In response to Nancy Richards' guest post I received this email from a blog reader:

I know from experience that you can't force yourself to forgive, trying to do that is a stumbling stone and in the end comes back and hurts even more. I think the two, healing and forgiveness, work together, but there is a lot of "push me/pull you".

I have found that most of the time, when I need to forgive someone I need to forgive myself for something first and that, of course, involves healing. We need to accept forgiveness, too, when we have hurt someone else and they come openly to us asking for forgiveness. It hasn't always been easy for me, that whole forgive and forget thing.

No, it isn't easy, but I think here's where I come down on the issue: I think Nancy and this blog reader are right - we need to heal ourselves so that we can forgive, but I think maybe that healing involves forgiveness of ourselves.

We have to forgive ourselves for wanting the apology. We have to forgive ourselves for needing it. We have to forgive ourselves for the behavior that need is causing. We have to forgive ourselves for our focus on getting it, waiting for it, expecting it.

And then there's this, which was particularly difficult for me, who didn't think she had any forgiveness issues: We have to forgive ourselves for our participation in the trauma; our behavior during the moment, our reaction or non-reaction, our response in ways that we think or deem was or was not right, appropriate or heroic. We have to forgive ourselves for the experience, our memories, our grip on the past and our resistance to letting it go.

Healing ourselves enough to forgive someone else has, at it's base I think, the critical component of needing to forgive ourselves first, so that we become whole, integrated and powerful enough to forgive someone else. Forgiveness is a magnanimous gesture. It cannot be done from a perspective of victimhood. He who forgives is in the power position. In order to do that, we need to see ourselves as holding the power.

Not any easy thing to do, for sure. But despite what has been done to us, we are not powerless. We have the right to choose to change. Healing is about just that: choosing to change -- behaviors, perceptions, thoughts, ideas, wants, desires and needs. Most of all, healing is about choosing to change from powerless to powerful.

When we make choices we take back our power. When we take back our power we heal. When we heal we grow strong. When we are strong we can forgive. When we forgive we can let go. When we let go we are set free.

(Photo: Claudia.Annette)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PTSD Symptoms in the Workplace

Today, I need your input. The workplace is not somewhere I ever discussed my PTSD.

I could, of course, write about how I managed my physical and emotional PTSD symptoms at work – which was just to bear with them, control them, get the work done, and go home.

I could write about how I never told anyone what my interior world was like. Or, how I just kept quitting jobs because I crashed physically and couldn’t work, who knew why?

I could write about the day I told my boss about my escalating physical deterioration and she was wonderful to me. I put myself out there and she was empathetic and supportive and agreed to help me put in place whatever I needed to manage.

But all of that would be without the PTSD factor. The problem with all of these stories is that I wasn’t diagnosed until 3 years ago, so my whole Manhattan career I had no idea what was wrong with me; nothing specific to tell and so no employer or colleague who needed to learn that something mental was taking place. By the time I was diagnosed I was working in a family business; easy enough to be honest about it there.

I believe everything we’ve considered in the past couple of months – about PTSD education and reaching out – is relevant to dealing with and addressing PTSD in the workplace. But there are special considerations in business that are not present in the private sector.

Today, I hope you all will educate me about how to discuss PTSD at work.

  • What have you done?

  • How did you approach your colleagues?

  • Whom did you bring into your confidence?

  • What was the outcome?

  • What tricks did you learn about presenting the problem?

  • What tips would you give someone who needed to spill the beans to an employer?

  • What are the pros and cons, and which outweighs the other?

As I think of how we PTSDers move through the world I constantly come back to this: We need to live our reality, not sap our energy with lies.

How do we do this at work and still keep our jobs?

(Photo: Stuart-Forster)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Survivors Speak: Forgiveness & Abuse

A few months ago I stumbled upon Nancy Richard's blog, Heal and Forgive, and was immediately taken in by this statement in her bio:

"When I finally mustered the courage to buck societal expectations; not to forgive; and to put my own healing and well-being first, I achieved a level of healing that I never thought was possible."

Don't you need to hear more from this person? I know I did. And now, I'm really delighted she's written a guest post just for us. Her views on what comes first, forgiveness or healing, might surprise you. Or, you might agree it's something you've suspected all along...

At some point in most abuse survivor’s healing journey, he or she faces the question of forgiveness. Are there some abuses too atrocious to forgive? Is it possible, or even healthy, to forgive someone who has never asked to be forgiven, someone who has never acknowledged any wrongdoing, and someone who continues to practice the same abusive behaviors?

All too often, well-intentioned people ask us to forgive and forget. For decades, I heard from friends, relatives, therapists, and fellow Christians, that I needed to forgive my abusers in order to heal. This advice - and the attempts I made to forgive before I'd learned to exercise personal boundaries - left me open to further injury and damaged me deeply. When I finally mustered the courage to buck societal expectations; not to forgive; and to put my own healing and well-being first, I achieved a level of healing that I never thought was possible. My period of not forgiving created the space necessary to achieve the greatest emotional growth of my life. Wow!

Sometimes it is necessary to place a moratorium on forgiveness until healing has taken place. This affords us the opportunity to 1) validate our stories with sympathetic listeners, 2) express our anger in appropriate ways, 3) mourn our losses, and 4) protect others and ourselves from re-injury.

After many years of militantly not forgiving, I was both shocked and surprised to find that the unintentional by-product of this healing was - ironically – forgiveness.

At that time, I realized that the old adage, "Forgive and Heal," was backwards. For me, it was "Heal and Forgive!" If I only knew *then* that adequate healing had to come first, it would have saved me a great deal of time and pain. So, now I shout it from the roof tops "Heal first, THEN Forgive!"

How then do we heal?


Our greatest opportunity for healing comes from the offender. When the person who harmed us is willing to offer restitution, we are truly blessed. This means the wrongdoer must be willing to acknowledge the harm he or she caused us, offer a genuine apology, demonstrate a willingness to restore what was taken and change abusive behavior. However, because of the chronic nature of abuse, most victims do not have their abuse acknowledged by the offender.

Still, validation is key. When we do not receive acknowledgment from the person who harmed us we need to have our abuse acknowledged by other individuals, so we feel as if justice has been served.

For me, justice came in the form of supportive friends, a therapist, and support groups who stood by me during my 14 year estrangement from my family. Each time someone validated my experiences, I became stronger and clearer about what happened to me and the effect it had on my life. For most survivors, abuse is our only reality. Even if we are aware of our childhood abuse, we often live in denial about the effect the abuse had on us until another party bears witness to our trauma. Support and validation from others, dissolved my isolation and gave me the necessary strength to journey forward to the life I deserved.


Forgive and forget. Anger corrodes. Only through forgiveness can you heal. These often heard statements usually instill within us a sense of urgency that implies we must forgive immediately. Yet, healing and forgiveness are a process.

It is important to note that for most survivors, it isn’t anger that holds us back from forgiving - it is fear. I was afraid that if I forgave, I would be hurt again.

Anger has its place. We can’t deal with our fear until we deal with our suppressed anger.

It wasn't until I received validation from other people that I found appropriate ways to discharge my rage. I gave myself permission to be constructively angry - to use my anger as an aid in moving forward - until the hurt no longer felt present. Expressing anger in the company of trusted confidantes gave me the sense of not being alone, and validated that I had a right to my anger.

There is an important distinction between - a) perpetuating anger by raging at the individuals who harmed us, and - b) releasing pent up anger in safe environments apart from the individuals who caused the harm. Bringing my injuries "into the light" and acknowledging my anger in the safety of supportive individuals brought me the emotional freedom necessary to find a measure of peace.


Discharging my anger freed me to honor my pain and mourn my substantial losses.


An important and often overlooked aspect to healing is that of protecting others and ourselves from further harm. In order to heal, we must be free from the anxiety of re-injury. Boundaries issues are common in abusive family systems. When a child’s body, heart, and soul are routinely violated, her life is constructed in the absence of boundaries. Forgiveness must go hand in hand with learning to set and maintain clear, respectful boundaries.

Each survivor has her own individual time-table that must be honored. As long as I carried unhealed wounds – forgiveness would have to wait. Healing requires a great deal of time, self-examination, hard work, and pain. Yet, I have learned that once an adequate amount of healing has been accomplished, forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we “excuse” offensive behavior; it doesn’t mean forgetting or even trusting the person who harmed us. Nor does it require us to “let go” of our safety. Rather, for me, forgiveness meant healing enough to let go of resentment and find peace.

Nancy Richards is an adult survivor of childhood abuse. She is the author of "Heal and Forgive: Forgiveness in the Face of Abuse," "Heal and Forgive II: The Journey from Abuse and Estrangement to Reconciliation" and co-author of "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Volume 2."

Copyright © Nancy Richards. All Rights Reserved.

'Survivors Speak' is a weekly feature written by or interviewing a survivor and PTSD experiencer about some positive aspect of healing. If you would like to participate in the series (anonymously if you prefer), please email thoughts, ideas, and topic suggestions to Michele: parasitesof.themind @

(Photo: Nancy Richards)

Monday, May 25, 2009

PTSD Symptoms: Educating Partners About What To Expect

It’s a holiday today, so John and I stayed up late last night watching a movie, taking Baylee for a post-midnight walk and then flopping on the bed for a long, lazy talk. I love those evenings when I can lie against John's chest and we are just still for a while.

I wasn’t always able to do this sort of thing, relax with my partner. I was too antsy to sit at home and watch a movie, too agitated to be lazy, and faking my entire identity too much to allow anyone to get close.

With John it’s different. I’m comfortable and open and able to sink into the peace of any moment. OK, part of it has to do with him: For the first time I’ve chosen wisely in a partner. John has a calming presence. He's very Zen, practical, philosophical and steady. I feel safe with him - physically, mentally and emotionally.

The other aspect is that from the very beginning I’ve chosen to be myself with John. When we met, I was right at the beginning of healing my PTSD. I didn’t sleep much. I was strung out, depressed, anxious – you know the drill. Normally, I don’t tell my partners about my psychological issues. It’s a lot to throw at someone and for years I didn’t know there was a name for what was wrong with me, so I didn’t have anything to explain. I just was that way.

However, from the time I met John I decided to be up front with him about my PTSD journey. I told him right away I was dealing with some heavy stuff. He’s kind and compassionate and empathetic; I felt I could trust him with my struggle. I was right.

Letting John in on the secret allowed me a great deal of freedom: I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I was, instead, able to be completely real and not sap extra energy putting up a front. When I had a nightmare, John understood why and just held me more tightly. When I couldn’t sleep he wrapped around me and put his palm on my forehead, which for some reason calms me instantly. When I was depressed he knew to be quiet, hold my hand and let me find my way.

There’s a big benefit to full disclosure about PTSD: if you’re in a relationship with the right kind of person this sort of teamwork builds and strengthens a partnership. Recently, I asked, What did you think when I told you about PTSD? John paused for a second, shrugged, and said, I thought there was more to you than that.

I’ve been thinking lately, as we come to the end of this month of considering how we educate others about PTSD, that while we have to be careful and choose our confidences wisely, if we are truthful, this helps us live honestly and in the moment. Healing comes when we are more, not less, of our real selves.

(Photo: Bob Murray)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PTSD in the News: Weekly Roundup

A sort of light newsweek, but still some interesting topics.....

First, how do we feel about this:

The psychiatric community recently discussed at a conference the idea of Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. Modeled after PTSD this is a ‘mental illness’ of people who are wronged and then seethe with the need for revenge.

Are we feeling generous enough to let them co-opt our lingo? Does feeling embittered qualify on the same level as feeling life-threatened? Or, are you really just sore and a little more OCD than PTSD?

General PTSD

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common PTSD symptom – here, A Holistic Approach to Healing IBS

As far away as Thailand People Tap to Heal

Combat PTSD

Auburn, WA – Restoring the Earth Helps Vets Heal – Green education and employment opportunities help vets re-enter civilian life with purpose

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Talks PTSD

Greenbrae, CA – Marin Services for Women to Help Female Vets

Washington – ‘Real Warriors’ Campaign Takes Aim At Mental Health Stigma

(Photo: Darco Drincic)

Friday, May 22, 2009

PTSD Education: 10 Tips For Understanding Someone With PTSD

We can talk all we want, but sometimes friends and family (and anyone else who is not the source of our PTSD but is standing by us while we're in it) needs a PTSD survival guide, something they can refer to that speaks directly to their experience and gives them a sort of road map. Today, a post just for them:

For all of you who love someone with PTSD, here's a Top 10 list of things you need to know in order to ride this horse with us. Armed with this knowledge, insight and awareness you'll have an easier time knowing how to react, respond and relate to us during our healing process.

#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.

We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.

#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe - as do you - that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were.... This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.

Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.

#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening.

Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.

#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe.

Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.

#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.

Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.

#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don't always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do.

Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.

#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it’. From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.

Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.

#8 – We’re not in denial - we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.

Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.

#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you.

Continue to approach us. We need you to!

#10 – Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. It makes a difference to know that although we lash out, don't respond, are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.

Stick with us! Your love, support and encouragement matter.

Regardless of how long the recovery process takes, it is possible to overcome trauma and PTSD. It is also possible for PTSD experiencers to preserve relationships with the people who matter to us most. To do this we need you to give us some room, cut us some slack, understand our struggle and not abandon us. In the darkness of PTSD you can be beacons of light full of information, guidance and encouragement, love, compassion and patience. It’s not easy. But on behalf of all PTSD experiencers, Thank you for making the effort!

What would you add to this list? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(Photo: Save Shayne)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: PTSD is a Hard Habit to Break

I hear over and over that 98% of what we do every day is by habit. And I read recently that 95% of the population is habituated. The psych community has assured us it takes 21 days to form a habit. And the breaking habits pros say it takes just as long to replace bad habits with good.

All this has me thinking about how those numbers apply to the PTSD experience. As in:

To what extent do and have we become 1) habituated to PTSD and, 2) habitual in our PTSD so that these involuntary actions and reactions are part of our unconscious approach to every day?

And if (as of course, we do) we say that, yes, PTSD has become habitual, then doesn’t that mean that another way we can strive to overcome it is by breaking the PTSD habit??

I did some research; there’s actually a lot of info out there about how to break a habit. Check out these step by step guides:

How To Break A Habit

And then let me know what you think. 21 days to break a regular habit might be a little ambitious for PTSD, but the theory and actions are grounded in really positive changes that we can immediately put into effect.

Without thinking about it all this clearly, my decision to pursue joy was a way to break the PTSD habit. And it worked. In spades.

Which makes me think that an additional therapuetic tool can be consciously taking actions to break the PTSD habit. Do you agree, or disagree?

(Photo: Colin Key)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PTSD Education: What’s Your Attitude?

In studying organizations, institutes and associations’ tips and tricks for speaking about mental health, I’ve come to the conclusion that it all boils down to attitude – our attitude in terms of these two things:

1 – what we want to accomplish
2 – what we think the reaction will be

Knowing What You Want
For many years I was a publicist. This meant I was often pitching people about news stories they didn’t necessarily want to hear. My strategy: like every good salesman I had an end goal and a outline. I wanted the reporter to write about my topic; I had 3 main points I needed to make by the time the conversation ended. Needless to say, I wasn’t always successful, but having a goal and a strategy allowed me to stay on topic regardless of the reporter’s reaction to my pitch.

Going into a conversation about PTSD you should be just as clear about your job. What do you want the end result to be? Is this just a let-me-tell-you-how-it-is discussion in which the goal is flat out exposition? Or are you presenting the facts at the end of which you’ll ask for help? If action is the goal, make sure you know what kind of help you’re seeking. Be specific. I need… I want… If you could… Friends and family might fall all over themselves trying to help you, but if it’s not in the ways you need – and instead in ways that make you feel more anxious – then their participation will be worse than useless; it will be detrimental to your progress.

Knowing what you want to come out of this honest conversation can help you focus and outline your thoughts. 1. Here are the facts. 2. Here’s how they affect me. 3. Here’s what I need to do. 4. Here’s how you can help. When we’re clear it immediately gives our audience a way to proactively grasp and see things, too. (This approach can help keep your own emotions under control. You know what you want, you have a plan, you execute that plan. This perspective can give distance that allows you to perceive yourself and this conversation as less ‘personal’ and more ‘professional’.)

Finally, having clear goals can help keep the conversation on track. Whenever it goes astray you can return to what you want to accomplish and use that to steer the discussion back to what’s beneficial to you. Internal clarity gives strength and authority.

Knowing What You Expect
When I worked as a publicist I went into every pitch expecting …. Well, you don’t know what to expect, do you? People surprise you. People are open who you didn’t think would be. People are closed who you thought wouldn’t be. The thing is, we have to be prepared either way.

Before beginning the PTSD education of those around you, take a minute to conceptualize what you think the response will be. Imagine how you will react to it. Visualize the scene in your mind and become comfortable with either outcome. Have a strategy for going more in-depth because people ask you to, and have a plan to cut bait if the reactions make you uncomfortable. What will you say if someone asks, Tell me more? What will you do if someone is not kind? Knowing what you expect from others and from yourself helps keep you grounded in the moment.

Before you speak, think about what it is you expect to receive. We hope we will find the support we need, but we must not be shattered if we don’t get it.

Knowing You’re in the Driver’s Seat
In the end, we have to remember that family and friends don’t know what’s coming; they can’t prepare for this conversation. But we can and should. This is our problem and it is our recovery and we are the ones who should be in control of the process. A discussion will go much better if we ourselves have the right attitude and use it to be clear in how we want someone to react and how we hope he or she will help.

Our attitude and how we present the topic can and will (in some cases drastically) impact how our audience perceives us and PTSD. If we talk about our situation with strength, knowledge and focus then friends and family can follow our example. If we demean our situation and ourselves we open the door for others to do so, too.

People learn by example; in educating about PTSD it's up to us to set the right attitude and tone so that in as many situations as possible we get the support we seek.

Do/did you have a clear idea of what you want(ed) the outcome of your friends and family PTSD conversation to be? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(Photo: Half Pinay - Laretta)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Survivors Speak: Speaking to Friends & Family Through Poetry

I'm meeting a lot of survivors who are poets, which makes me wonder: Are we poets before our traumas, or does trauma - and then PTSD - bring out the poet in us?

From my own experience I know I've been a writer since I was 7 and was writing poetry before my trauma at age 13. But it was through writing poetry, 20 years later, that I began to cross the bridge back to myself.

And so, the question remains: Are we artists before fate intervenes, or does fate turn us into artists as we struggle to recreate our world?

Today, two poems by a survivor who, when I invited her to write a guest post about the connection she felt between music and healing, showed me poems that are about so much more than that - they are poems about the universal PTSD experience, and the voice of each of us who struggles to communicate from the dark.

Just stop and listen

The more you push
The further I withdraw
The more you talk
The less I listen
The more you think you are helping
The more annoyed I get

Just stop and listen

If you spent a moment in my mind
You would be terrified
The pain I suffer
I'm just trying to take a break
Feel the music

I need to spin off the planet
For a little while
I need to disappear and dance
Stand by me, I'll be okay
In the morning
I’ll go back to my hell

my invisible disease

i have this disease no one can see
i have no cane no glasses
no casts, no crutches
my hair isn’t falling out

i take meds to function
they tell me it’s a crutch
they say suck it up and deal
i wish they could understand!

i hate this illness that swallows me whole
i hate that i can’t predict the triggers
i hate that i can’t stop the panic attacks
i feel like i'm working so hard and getting
no where

i'm a let down a failure
i wish i could just get over it and move on
i can’t find that magic wand

'Survivors Speak' is a weekly feature written by or interviewing a survivor and PTSD experiencer about some positive aspect of healing. If you would like to participate in the series (anonymously if you prefer), please email thoughts, ideas, and topic suggestions to Michele: parasitesof.themind @

(Photo: My favorite Gulf War Vet who wishes to remain anonymous.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

PTSD Education: 8 Dos & Don'ts For Breaking the News

Let’s face it: While there are literally thousands of resources for how family members and friends can and should approach us about mental illness, there’s not a single resource for how we should approach them. Time to get creative and make a resource of our own.

I’m taking as my inspiration here one of my favorite (and the most fun) mental health bloggers, Alicia Sparks’ piece, ‘Don’t Avert Your Eyes: Know How To Talk About Mental Illness’. In this great piece (for people who don’t have any mental issues) Alicia outlines how family members should approach us about our problems. I’m going to turn the tables for a minute and use Alicia’s list to our advantage in how to approach family and friends to discuss our PTSD experience and diagnosis. Here are Alicia’s 8 dos and don’ts, from our PTSD point of view:

DO spark up a conversation
As difficult as it can be (and as stressful as it may be to think about doing) it really is necessary to speak to select family and friends about your PTSD diagnosis condition. Bad things grow when you hide; good things wither when you don’t take care. It’s so easy in the beautiful isolation of PTSD to just let familial and friend relationships fall into disrepair, but these are exactly the people who can turn out to be a part of the support system we need to build for health. Opening up to them is an important step and can be done simply by telling someone or the whole clan you’d like to discuss an important issue. Get their attention by letting them know something serious is at stake.

DON’T Be Aggressive
In the PTSD state we’re already so frustrated, annoyed, anxious and angry that it’s easy to take this out on family and friends when they don’t immediately understand or embrace what we’re saying and asking for. But let’s think about this from their perspective for a second: We’re telling them there’s something wrong with us – and they can’t do anything about it. Their own natural reaction could understandably be: frustration, annoyance, anxiety and anger. It won’t help the conversation if we don’t reign in our emotions, or don’t allow our audience to have emotions of their own. Getting angry will effectively shut down everyone on both sides. Before you spill the beans do some centering exercises (i.e. breathing, meditation, relaxation, yoga) so that your own core self is as calm as possible.

Do Show Concern For Them
As much as it feels like it, this conversation about your PTSD diagnosis is not all about you. Take a step back and realize that this news can be overwhelming to family and friends. Tell them you understand this, and that you’re willing to answer as many questions as you can so that they can better grasp the situation and what it means. If we set the stage for compassion it can more easily be returned to us.

DON’T Act Like It’s The End Of The World
This is a serious conversation, but it doesn’t have to feel like the earth is about to implode. PTSD is not exactly a mysterious, rare disease. Using facts about symptoms, stats, and causes, let your family know that PTSD is not unusual given the trauma you experienced. Outline for them the many treatment options you have and let them know that people can heal. Although it takes time, PTSD is not a death sentence; don’t present it as if it is.

DO Spend Time With Your Family & Friends
Even though all we really want to do is crawl under the bed and stay there, for our own sake and that of friends and family it’s better that we try to remain in touch. True, sometimes we just have to fake it when we’re out and the fog descends or panic sets in, but this is part of how we learn to cope and manage our symptoms. PTSD can mean we become hermits, or we can decide that we’ll go for a 2 hour dinner with family or friends and then scurry home. Especially after we explain our PTSD diagnosis, people will worry about us and want to reach out. Make it easy for them to remain in touch while continuing to maintain the boundaries you need to cope and get well. In everything there is a balance; strive to find it.

DON’T Smother Anyone
The tendency toward isolation can be overturned once we reach out: When we know people appreciate and understand our situation it is easy to then just fall apart all over them. Not a good idea. While we want, need and should have the support of family and friends, we still need to support ourselves. While we have every right to lean, we don’t have the right to assume anyone’s full-time job is now going to be taking our sobbing phone calls at all hours and running around the globe picking us up when we crumple. Sharing the facts of our situation doesn’t give us license to assume anyone now becomes our personal caretaker. This is still a battle to be won by our own acts of self recovery.

Do Keep It Light
Find the humor in your symptoms. When you’re dragging around exhausted from insomnia, let people know your subconscious was particularly chatty and kept you up all night. Personalize PTSD in a human way so that rather than being frightened of it friends and family can view it as its own (albeit unwanted) presence. You have a shadow; everyone should become friendly with it. The last thing you need is for anyone to add to your heaviness by lending some of their own.

DON’T Act Like It’s A Joke
While a little levity never hurts a situation, don’t use any humor that connotes something negative about you. Don’t say, Well, you know I’m nuts after all. You and PTSD are separate entities temporarily conjoined. You are not crazy. You are coping with symptoms. While you can make light of the symptoms, never demean or make light of your experience of them or your struggle to be free. You are doing the best you can (aren’t you??) given the circumstances. Always respect yourself, your battle to overcome, your intention to heal, your commitment to be well and your desire to be free. The attitude you project – one of strength, knowledge and strategy – is the one others will mirror. Plan wisely. Speak well.

Everyone’s situation is different; everyone’s family and friends more or less supportive than we’d like. But when it comes to educating those around us this list gives us a good starting point.

What would you add, clarify or define here? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(Photo: Shade Thinker)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Professional Perspective: Seeing the World with New Eyes

You can only imagine that a man whose blog is part of the Joy and Balance Community would have some interesting things to say about, well, finding joy and balance on the path to healing PTSD. True enough, when I asked Dr. Dan Kaufman to write a guest post about how we might support ourselves and so further healing, Dr. Dan dove right in with this great post about how we can learn to change perspective - and why it's so important that we learn to see through our own eyes.

How We Learn To See
We all grow up learning to see the world in our own unique way. Our picture is shaped by what we learn from our parents and from our interactions with the world. For most of us, that particular picture limits our ability to “see” outside of the frame that our picture is hung within. For many, the image of the world that was learned was further impacted by traumatic and painful experiences that further narrowed how they were able to view the world and what new experiences they were able, or willing to, let in. The less able we are to see the world with new eyes the more stuck we are in our current paradigm.

The experiences that created our worldview are literally etched in our brains in the form of mental models, schemas, or neural pathways and also embedded in our bodies in the form of armor and conditioned responses whose initial purpose was to protect us from further harm. In the west, the tendency is for our mental models to form within the framework of a self-limiting and separatist ego that isolates us from others and from new experiences in order to maintain its integrity (image of itself). We use both the way that we think and the way that we inhabit our bodies to define our separateness and to protect ourselves. The more trauma we experience the more this is true.

So, how does one peek outside this box that we have come to inhabit? How can we change the way we see and experience the world so that the painful self-limiting picture we have developed can open itself to new thoughts, images, and experiences that allow us to literally and figuratively let go of the pain that has shaped our world and our experiences?

Learning to See Differently Through Mindfulness
One way is to shift from ego-based western thought to a more open and interconnected framework like Buddhism. I only use Buddhism as one example of how we can change views by learning to experience the world in new and different ways. It is not the only way. Sitting meditation or mindfulness, for example, teaches us to view thoughts as empty, to see all humans as interconnected, and to view compassion as that which binds us together.

As one engages in sitting he begins to experience the world and himself differently. Through flashes of insight and awareness gradually he begins to experience and interact with the world in dramatically different ways. Mindfulness can support opening to pain that we've keep hidden away, to learn to accept ourselves exactly as we are with compassion, to use that compassion to connect with others who have also experienced pain, and to reduce our isolation.

Using Somatic Practices
Engaging the body through somatic practices like centering provides another path to self–awareness and more freedom. As you learn to experience your body at rest you also, by contrast, notice the conditioned responses and armor that has formed to protect the Self from further harm and pain. Learning to be fully present and recognize when we respond from old patterns allows us the opportunity to make new choices rather than to continue to be reactive and guard against new experiences that might help to chip away at old narrow ways of experiencing the world creating a paradigm shift.

The Intersection of Science and the Mind
Neuroscience is teaching us much about how the mind operates and how we learn. Scientists have been able to outline for us how repeated experience carves out neural pathways that become our way of "seeing" the world and creates habits based on those repeated behaviors. They've also shown us how, through changing our behaviors and practicing new skills, we can create new visions of the world and new habits more in line with a new and more desirable Self-image.

The change from Newtonian physics to Einstein's physics did not come with the flick of a switch. Over a period of time anomalies occurred during research that led to new thoughts and questions and therefore new possibilities. Eventually, these little glimpses of a different worldview coalesced into a whole new paradigm that makes us wonder how we ever lived under what was, up until then, the only way to view the world.

By slowly changing our habits and behaviors we too can eventually discover anomalies that open us to new questions and awareness and carve out in our minds eye a new way of seeing and being in the world.

Dr. Dan holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seattle University, completed doctoral level work in Counseling Psychology at the University of Southern California, and holds a Master’s degree in Psychology. He brings a wealth of experience from his background as a school psychologist, mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, coach, and special education administrator. He has worked in the mental health and educational fields for the past 30 years.

Dr. Dan develops coaching programs for families whose children are in need of alcohol and substance abuse treatment and/or behavioral interventions, works with leaders of both for and non profit organizations and helps individuals identify and reach their goals for a more fulfilling life. Dan has a passion for helping individuals, families and organizations become more collaborative, and caring. His compassion, desire, and personal commitment to be a support for others growth and development guide his life and work. For more information visit his web site Spiral To Health.

(Photo: Dan Kaufman)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

PTSD in the News: Weekly Roundup

Before we get to the news, just a reminder that the PTSD community is joining together to help me build the most survivor-friendly and PTSD resource oriented web site on the net. If you haven’t already read about this project, read this post and leave a comment or shoot me an email with your thoughts.

News for both civilian and combat PTSD: An Adventure In Grief – memoir about a woman dealing with grief over the suicide of her Vietnam Vet husband. The book is interesting in that it looks at both sides; the PTSDer and the family member, both on their own personal journey.

Civilian PTSD

Television Show ‘Healthy Minds’ goes national, including PTSD episode

Treating Children Traumatized by War & Tsunami

Help for Depression and Other Mental Illnesses

Women At Greater Risk for Depression and Anxiety

Controlling the Brain’s Perceptions of Emotional Events

Energy Psychology Book Wins National Award

Police and PTSD

Combat PTSD

Yoga Center Has Answer to Military Stress Crisis
Following the news of the stress-related shootings at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Yoga For You, a privately-owned yoga center in eastern North Carolina, today released plans for a special restorative program aimed specifically to relieve symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For more info

For Veterans Back From War, Writing Proves to Be A Balm

John Wayne Attitude Cited in Military Mental Health Issues

House passes HR 2346, the supplemental appropriations bill that covers necessary costs to fund our troops and support their families

Kansas National Guard on Oprah re: Healing PTSD

Vietnam Vet with PTSD turns to fiction

Your Military Life: Combat related PTSD; radio show with Bob Page, Marine turned Navy senior chief talking about his own PTSD healing.

Why PTSD Rates Keep Climbing

Did Doctor’s Deny Iraq Shooter’s Stress

Can Lessons On Vietnam Help Iraq’s Vets?

Local Veterans Affairs Boosts Treatment for PTSD Patients

Mental Health Military Style

Veteran Talks About PTSD in Hopes of Helping Others

Female Veteran Talks About PTSD

Soldiers on the Homefront: Adjusting to Life After War

Montana’s National Guard Tackles Stress, PTSD with community meetings

PTSD Vet Program in Las Vegas

Research Proves Vets Overcoming PTSD with EFT

Iowa Soldiers Watch for Signs of PTSD

Top 10 Veterans News

Review: The Secret Life of War

Often Ignored, PTSD Surfaces Slowly

(Photo: LittleImage)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Survivors - I Need Your Help!

The usual BRIDGE THE GAP post is suspended today for a very important public service announcement:

Behind the scenes this month I'm working on writing copy for the Heal My PTSD, LLC, web site, which will launch in June. I want this to be the mother of all survivor-friendly sites for PTSD awareness, education, treatment and self-empowered healing. Covering and including all types of PTSD in every segment of the PTSD population, my goal is to design a site that is written with the survivor in mind. That means not a cold and clinical site, but a warm, informative, resource and inspiration driven, community-oriented site that speaks to and from the survivor experience rather than only speaking about it.

The Heal My PTSD, LLC, web site will be a clearinghouse for all kinds of PTSD experiences and needs. It will be a site built for the PTSD community, to help heal the PTSD community, so it's only fitting that it be built by the community.

In addition to the sources already available on our Information Page - plus any and all subjects/sources you particularly find helpful - I'd like to expand our coverage of the following topics:

- Traditional PTSD

- Complex PTSD

- Combat PTSD

- Post-Partum PTSD

- PTSD & Adolescents

- PTSD & Children

- PTSD treatment

- Alternative PTSD treatment

- Blogs of suvvivors striving to heal PTSD

As I and some volunteers work to pull together the best resources for the site, I'm asking you to lend your voice, too. Please send me links to your favorite sites for all kinds of PTSD information, plus your favorite PTSD blogs, and PTSD and healing related books, too.

If you have found something worthwhile I want to know about it! And if you'd like to join our volunteeer crew, let me know. A party gets even better when more people arrive.

Please leave a comment or email links and info to:

I look forward to hearing from you, and to working together to put in one single place the resources all of us need!

(Photo: Luluinnyc)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meandering Michele’s Mind: The Most Negative Voice of All

Reeducating family can be tough – an enormous job where we have to overcome negative reactions, assumptions, comments and perceptions. I was corresponding with someone about this today when all of a sudden it hit me: the most difficult person to educate in my family was… me!

I’ve written before about how avidly I fought my PTSD diagnosis. As if dealing with the symptoms wasn’t enough, I complicated things by hating myself for the fact the diagnosis described and fit me, and that I couldn’t just overthrow it all with a willful flick of the wrist.

While I was lucky enough to have a family who was respectful of my diagnosis and the healing journey I needed to take, I was the one saying to myself,

Why can’t you just let it go?

Get over it already!

How tough is it to stop thinking about the past?

How long is this going to take??

How is it possible you need more therapy?

I beat myself up, berated my emotional and psychological state, banged my head against the proverbial wall of healing, and in general made myself more miserable than I already was because I demeaned myself for needing help or taking my time to sort things through. Whew! Healing is exhausting.

While we spend a great deal of time lamenting family reactions, today I’m thinking about our own reactions to ourselves. The more unkind we are to ourselves the slower we will heal. Almost more than anything we do for ourselves we need to cultivate a spirit of generosity. While we’re figuring out our healing journey is a time to give ourselves room, to make demands that we actively engage in healing – but not demand how quickly we achieve it. To tell ourselves it’s time to look forward, but not smack ourselves around each time we steal a peek back. Recovery requires a safe place; our own minds need to be the first element of that space!

I’m thinking back to an evening I wailed to my mother that I would never be free, that I was lost and incapable of finding my way back; that I just didn’t have the strength and was sick of being in my own head. It was about a year after my diagnosis and I was just done. Things were not going well, physically or mentally. I had no idea how to move forward, no energy to figure it out, and felt doomed to live the PTSD way forever.

My mother listened empathetically, and then refuted everything I said. She believed in and supported me. She told me to hang in and continue trying; that freedom was worth struggling for and it might be closer than I thought. She reminded me what she had always taught us growing up, Live the questions.

We don’t have all the answers when we’re in the PTSD blackhole. We feel we should. We want to and wish someone did if we don’t. But we can’t let our own negative thoughts about ourselves and our inability to instantly heal get in the way of our continued progress. We have to live the questions of healing, and treat ourselves the way a loving parent or friend would: with dignity, respect, understanding and a generosity of spirit. My own healing took off when I stopped trying to force it or denigrate myself for how long and circular that process seemed. I healed faster when I was nicer to myself. Not soft on myself, but nice.

Albert Camus wrote, Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. We can’t give our all to healing if we’re battered by the voice that’s in our head.

Be generous, be generous, be generous….

(Photo: Spongita84)