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    hope that no matter what difficulties arise in family, health, or finances, a family can survive it and get to the other side. 'How' is not just one response, rather it's an evolving idea. Solutions present themselves as you go along the path. As you seek the thing it is you want to achieve, so will an idea come to you. I do not attribute it to a god or a religion, though I may have one or both of those. This is life. Hope. Live with me,... 



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    Entries in trauma (9)


    Editing Your Life's Stories Can Create Happier Endings

    The following excerpt is from a story NPR released about overcoming traumatic events in one's life... I love it. Take a look: 

    ...'The process is called "story editing." ...small tweaks in the interpretation of life events can reap huge benefits.

    The idea is that if you believe you are something else — perhaps smarter, more socially at ease — you can allow for profound changes to occur.

    You can try story-editing yourself at home with these writing exercises. Simply pick a troubling event. And write about it for 15 minutes each day for four days. That's it.' 

    read more


    Then It Was All Up To Me

    One moment he is in country, the next moment he is ripped out suddenly, leaving brothers behind is not what they are trained to do. Transitioning from a war zone to a home with three small children in three days was not the best of situations for a combat experienced infantryman. He relinquished his weapon, he boarded that jet. You could say he was lucky, and nobody was prepared to deal with what would come of it all...


    Be Understanding of Your PTSD Family Members and Friends

    "I think Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year for a PTSD family. The one with PTSD is forced to put him or herself into certain trigger situations, simply because it is socially expected of them. Even though most extended family will not try to accommodate their disability. The spouse is then forced to act as a bumper to anything that will trigger them and usually fail because the extended family makes it impossible for success. All the spouse wants is a happy holiday and has waited years for it. Said "failure" to control the environment causes lot of stress on the couple. Please know I'm thinking of each and everyone of you. Both sides of the partnerships. We all deserve a measure of peace." -Shannah 



    Tension can only build so long before it has to be released...and today was that day



    What happens when you combine combat experience, mourning over a recent death of his father, troubled childhood, years of marriage, four children, a special needs child with multiple severe disabilites, no college dregrees, all your military plans out the window due to war injury, multiple job losses, and trying to keep a house over your head? A daily surprise that we are still here. 

    There are many things aggravating my husband this week, and by that I mean triggering his PTSD and abilty to cope with the normal circumstances of life. As my daughter says "It's annoying" and later asked "Why haven't you run away?" 

    On so many levels, Blurg. 

    {photo via overflowing}



    What healing and self care look like for a combat soldier,...

    Learning and finding ways to recover from PTSD and TBI can be a journey to say the least. It just takes time. There is a long list of different methods my husband has employed to find peace and healing, all of which I believe intertwine and collaborate together to create a total outcome. And everyone's list may look different. I will talk about our experience because that's what I know, and it has worked for us. More details on the ingredients to our family healing later...

    Recently a story was put together about Marco's progress with these photos I wanted to share, it gives a great visual to some of the therapies he uses continually. I also love that this place in our journey is archived. It really gives me the photo journalist's perspective, which I appreciate immensely. Sometimes being inside the "foxhole" keeps your vision and perspective narrowed to just surviving. 

    Here is Marco and Echo posing for a photojournalism story by Que Arrington, on soldiers using alternative healing methods. Thank you Que, you did excellent work! 

    Marco at the Samaritan Center where he receives alternative and traditional treatment for PTSD/TBI


    Marco and best friend greeting acupuncture therapist.


    Marco receiving acupuncture.


    Marco relaxing on acupuncture table with very tranquil and soothing music.


    Acupuncture needles being inserted in Marco for therapy and relief of PTSD symptoms


    Marco in session with is counselor at The Samaritan Center, a non-profit non-VA treatment center that helps soldiers returning from combat.



    Marco checking to make sure all is in good working order with an air conditioner, a new job skill he recently learned to help his work atmosphere accomodate ptsd




    April 7, 2003

    *Warning: Graphic Content

    Today I am fortunate enough to be spending Memorial Day with my husband, a former airborne infantryman who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the US Army. Perhaps it is because of the short time he has been out, short meaning 8 years. Perhaps it is just the heaviness of war that he does not necessarily look forward to this three day weekend and the arrival of Memorial Day as "Lake Day." His PTSD probably doesn't look forward to joining a large group of people to "celebrate" either. And we usually don't do that on this day. I took this picture from our trip out to a memorial and did it up for an article I wanted to post. This was his reaction when he saw the photo: 


    "Not all kids have the freedom to play safely in this world, my son does. That picture reminds me of these two boys in Baghdad. In that city, the Iraqi army left a bunch of mines in the soccer fields, and the kids wanted to move them out so they could play. They thought they were just big pieces of steel. The mine was the size of a flour tortilla box, and weighed about 15-20 lbs. One day, 2 kids started bringing a mine towards us, they thought they were helping us by giving it to us. It went off. When we looked up, the little boy was blown up, and his brother behind him was thrashed through the stomach causing his intestines to fall out. When they fall out they inflate. Their parents came, and he was still alive as they got home to his house. He was unconscious, and the special forces guy put him back together...he stitched him up and used blood from the parents. 2 weeks later as we left Baghdad to Mosul, we saw he was still alive and taking his medicine. He was probably eight years old. His bother was about 12 who died in the blast. The same age my sons are today, in this picture. 

    We tried to warn them, but they kept moving towards us to hand us this mine... We yelled "no no no no!" "Put it down" "run away, go away!" with drastic hand gestures. Nothing could make them stop until it exploded. I remember when that was now, just a few days before my birthday, April 7, 2003. 24 about to turn 25 years old."



    Caught in the Aftershock

    Kids of Combat Veterans

    There is so much talk about veterans that are suffering after combat. Now there is even talk beginning about caregivers as the VA turns their attention to the wives and family members who are helping the soldiers the government system is letting down. What I hear little of is about their kids.

    Not every combat veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, mental illnesses, or physical injuries have a family, a wife or kids. The American population who served in any military branch is less than 1%. That means the percentage of those who fought in combat and have children,... even more minimal. That leaves us with a small population of scattered families coping with the aftermath of war, with their kids looking on. These kids are surrounded by neighbors that have no idea what they are struggling with inside their homes, going to schools that are not addressing anything related to what they are dealing with, and walking along side their peers and a society oblivious to their needs. This is not the natural order of the military child. They are taken out of a supportive military environment, with post family resilience groups, get togethers, and other children living exactly the same experiences, and thrust into a void of understanding. Couples and soldiers go through minimal deployment return training, and soldiers may be given a few tips on how to re-integrate into civilian society once they are discharged. But kids? They are expected to just move from one house to the next, go back to a new school, and adjust. Sometimes, without even a discussion from a supportive mother or father. Granted, the parents are dealing with such a huge amount of stress already. 

    When we were discharged from the military, swiftly after an emergency return from the Iraq war in 2003, we were not prepared for what lied waiting beneath. Our soldier came back looking as if he was unharmed. We were all ready to continue as normal now. And we tried, for years, not understanding why things were not going as they should. There was no talk of PTSD at this time, or TBI, or even mental illness that could come of experiencing combat. Neither of us were from military families, and were unaware of what could come up. Once we were civilians, we thought we had to be up to par with everyone else immediately. We also thought nothing was wrong. This worked against us, and made our journey so much longer. Had we been informed of the possibility of any of the above, getting help would have been a much faster process. Understanding would have also given light of the proper action needed,...

    ...And our children watched.

     I don't want to admit to all the occurrences they observed, the verbal exchanges, the triggered episodes, the anxiety they felt. It breaks my heart. For over half of those years I was the shock absorber and the great pretender. I hid everything I possibly could, and shielded them as much as possible. I suffered. Eventually, I broke from all that I was trying to contain and continue to hide. I could not do it anymore. My plan wasn't working. What I thought I could cover up and fix wasn't fixing. They then saw not only my husbands symptoms, but my own begin to emerge. The only thing I could do now was be more honest with them about what was going on, bring it out to the light, and get them the support they needed, as well as myself and my husband. It wasn't until 2010 that we finally found out his diagnosis', and began to feel less shame about all the turmoil we had been through. 6 years after discharge, that is too long of a time to wait. 

    Even as we began to learn about PTSD and TBI and it's co-occurring mental illnesses, I was lost for words on how to explain things to my kids. I said very little, but began to at least mention reasons and labels. It is barely now that I can say I am ready to truly explain what he is personally dealing with on their level in greater detail. Most importantly, I want to share with those of you raising children of combat veterans, a couple of things I know so far.

    5 Ideas to Start: 

    1) Put on your own oxygen mask first. If you don't have the answers, you certainly can't give any to them. Get the support you need, then pass it down. It doesn't work the other way around. Just don't even try it. You'll have to role model everything they will need to know. Get your own counselor first, work out your depression first, begin healing yourself first. Then help your kiddos. 

    2) Teach. The coping skills you've learned on this journey so far are the same coping skills our children need adjusted to their developmental level... for they are experiencing the same stressors, and will have a tendency to attempt the same unhealthy reactions they've seen modeled if they are not taught healthy ones. Hopefully by now, as a caregiver, you have learned you need to practice self care, have time to do things you love, and know how to communicate assertively. Teach these to your kids. Model good communication, give them words to use and examples of how to deal with difficult exchanges they have with their veteran parent, show them how to have fun even when things can be stressful at home. Remember, laughter and fun are great coping skills. I just did a puppet show using crayons at a restaurant table of good ways and bad ways to speak to one another. I showed them what they can say to a frustrated or triggered veteran parent. Or what they should not say. I also showed what is not appropriate for a triggered parent to say to them. This was just as effective a show to my husband as it was to the kids, LOL. 

    3) Create a safe place for them to go in the house if a parent has a tendency towards outbursts. We claim this as a drama free zone, and mark boundaries around it, physical or imaginary, and ask that everyone respect that area for the person. Disagreements cannot happen there, others can't go there without being invited in, etc. Mine is an area in the master bedroom. I keep a journal there, a yoga mat, and my favorite blanket. My daughter's is in her room on her window seat. Everyone should have one, the veteran, wife, AND kids. So far, it's totally working. Also create another space outside the home they can escape to, have another family member's or friend's house they can stay with if it's a a stressful week and you see your veteran triggered all over the place. This can relieve stress for both the parents and the kids, and time to reset to some healthier patterns. 

    4) Give them words. Talk to them casually about what is going on. In our case, for example, their dad just received a service dog and they had no idea how to answer questions their friends might bring up about it. So, we practiced dialogue with each other. I taught them that they don't have to divulge every detail, but answer simply and generally. What to say, why the dog helps, what it is for, etc. I even practiced with them how to say "I'd rather not answer that right now" Answering is not required. But if they choose to, they have the vocabulary and understanding to share. 

    5) Allow them space to be upset. They can be just as disappointed by the realizations or experiences as you have been. Sometimes, all someone needs is someone to sit next to as they cry about it. We can't fix everything or make life perfect, but we can choose to always stay by one another's side. 

    My intention is for all of us to find the words together to explain things to our children. To share our resources with one another of how we supported them, and re-unite the community that once served together on these military posts. If anything, at least virtually. There is so much more to come,... 


    Get Over Your Hill, See What You Find There

    100, 200 300,... he showed up today for another soldier. One who died putting himself in the line of fire to help the rest of his men, Lt. Michael Murphy. It was a typical day, and a workout familiar to him. Push ups, pull ups, and running. A great reminder of how the days of PT and getting to formation early felt. Everyone stretched, warmed up, and did their workout. People cooled down, talked about the goal of raising enough money to buy a wounded soldier a home, and this disabled soldier looked on and participated. For a few moments he forgot about the ptsd, the traumatic brain injury. He forgot about the struggle to pay a mortgage, or keep his cool around his kids. His body worked, his mind followed. A few of the guys finishing up noticeably were doing the workout with a weighted vest. He walked over to an unused vest and picked it up, and found himself in Iraq.

    ...Cavalar and flak vest lying next to him on the floor, there crouching beside his hum-vee, shaving. He and his section were ordered to prepare for chemical attacks, he had to have a clean shave for the gas masks. They had made it to Fallujah at this point, looking for the Iraqi soldiers that were bombing their supply. Suddenly one mortar went off, then another,... hitting closer and closer each time. Quickly he finished that shave and threw on his helmet and vest, as soon as he wrapped it around his chest he watched the next truck beside him take a hit that threw him back against the hum-vee and knock him out. That would be the last time he saw a couple of his comrades. The gunner shook him awake and said, "can you drive!?" Half aware he drove out of there. Eight years later, fighting with the veterans association for help with his TBI from the incident....eight years later trying to manage his own symptoms and memories. Eight years later showing up to support his fellow veterans and challenge himself again. This time, to make it through the day, keep a job, get through this workout, keep his sanity and somehow feel good.

    That vest, the weight of it in his arms and around his chest. Physical body memory released at the most unexpected time followed with words. 

    I am glad I was there to hear his story.