Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Veterans with PTSD - Heroes or Monsters? My thoughts...

In a time when hundreds of thousands of heroes and families are living with “invisible injuries,” injuries that cannot be seen, but have a very real impact on their daily lives, the Dr. Phil show had an opportunity on Thursday to make a difference.  It had the chance to educate the general public about the wide range of stories that live behind the mask of post-traumatic stress disorder.  It had the responsibility to help and not hurt.  But, it missed the mark… by miles.

I am the wife of a Combat Infantry Veteran who has PTSD among other injuries.  I am also an advocate that often spends 20 hours a day working with families like ours while caring for my own dear hero.  I know their stories, their challenges, their fears.  I also know that our heroes are not monsters.

Many families I know were approached by the Dr. Phil show to be part of Thursday’s show, and each one refused because of the tone of the producers.  Spouses who were trying to talk about how their family was coping, about tools and support they’d found to help, were interrupted with endless questions about whether their husband was hitting them, about how often he was taken over by rage,  about how horrible their lives were and how bad things “really” were.  Those orchestrating the show were not looking for hope… they were looking for sensationalism.

So now, I feel a responsibility… a responsibility to try to tell the rest of the story… to fight against the stigma of PTSD that many warriors and those who love them face every day.  It’s a stigma that was sadly strengthened on Thursday because of a drive for ratings.  And thanks to that sensationalistic tactic, the jobs of advocates and spouses nationwide just got harder.

Why are our jobs harder?  Because our veterans already sometimes feel like society views them as monsters.  They are injured, they are living in broken places, and the majority of news coverage about PTSD covers the worst-case scenarios - the situations where heroes go too long without care, where their symptoms and struggles are ignored, where their family does not have the help and support it needs, where those in their support network are not educated with real-world information about this injury.  While these stories grab headlines, they leave out the huge number of heroes and families who are coping, even when days are difficult, and building a new life with PTSD.  This sort of coverage (which includes Dr. Phil’s episode entitled “From Heroes to Monsters?”) only serves to widen the gap between those who have served our country and those who benefit from that service but have little understanding about what post-traumatic stress disorder “looks” like in the average household.

That kind of coverage makes Veterans nervous about seeking treatment and getting “labeled” with a PTSD diagnosis.  That kind of coverage makes potential employers less likely to hire current and prior servicemembers who have PTSD (the current unemployment rate for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is at 12.1%).  That kind of coverage makes it much harder for families dealing with the injury to reach out and find support.  That kind of coverage makes the children in our Veteran community less likely to share their story (and thus find needed peer support) with friends.  Basically, that kind of coverage is exactly what we don’t need.

What do we need?  We need people to understand that while our families may be broken, we are not giving up.  We need society to comprehend that PTSD does not automatically mean that the heroes we love are violent.  We need healthcare providers to step in before our stories become headlines and help orchestrate proper, thorough care.  We need people who are willing to use their platforms to showcase the resolve, determination, and unbridled stubbornness within our community to pull ourselves up and persevere in the face of PTSD.  We need to spread hope and information about successfully coping… not spread panic and alarm.

I will not say life with post-traumatic stress disorder is easy.  Our family has been living with it for almost six years.  Many days are a struggle in our household… a battle between this invisible thing that attempts suck us dry and the life we’re building post-combat.  But, we continue… and so do hundreds of thousands of other heroes and families.

So, Dr. Phil, I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was by Thursday’s episode.  And, I challenge you to offer a second look… a look at the heroes and loved ones who now spend their days educating themselves, pushing for treatment at all costs, finding ways to cope, and often helping others like them to do the same.  I challenge you to showcase the families who are, slowly but surely, pushing forward.  I challenge you to highlight the heroes and spouses who have faced domestic violence as a result of PTSD and have found their way back.  I challenge you to tell the non-sensational stories… the stories that may not garner huge ratings… but will actually help foster hope and understanding.  I challenge you to make a difference in the lives of those who have laid themselves down for you.


Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and Life After Combat!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Momism: Walk in Their Shoes Before You Judge

This weekend has been a roller coaster of emotions following the Dr Phil show Thursday. The intent was probably a good one, but the intro turned it into a controversy that actually took away from what the message was most likely (hopefully) suppose to be.

PTSD has been a stigma ever since it was first associated with the Vietnam war. Yet other people in other situations can understandably have PTSD and it seems to be deemed acceptable: rape, the death of a loved one. A young father has to identify his precious son's body after he was killed by his mom's boyfriend. When PTSD was diagnosed, it was no surprise to me. I could certainly understand.

Jurors are told they could get PTSD after serving on cases that involve the deaths of children. Again, understandable. Just hearing about a child missing or murdered brings tears to my eyes.

When police officers have to “use deadly force” in a situation, they are given time off to cope. Understandable. Yet a soldier in a war zone does not have that option. He/she must keep constant guard for the next IED, roadside bomb, decoy.

What's NOT understandable? Soldiers and veterans with PTSD. Oh, no, why are they complaining? Why are their families complaining? So they go to war in a foreign country after being on a boat in their own country (Pearl Harbor) or woke up to the news that their country had been attacked and nearly 3,000 killed (9/11).

Soldiers, some of whom were away from home for the first time except for basic and AIT, some teenagers themselves, hearing a woman cry out in an alley, rushing to her aid only to find out it is an ambush. Soldiers finding mass graves, some with notes about the dead person's “crimes” against Saddam. Really, what did a child do to him?

Soldiers calling home because a young girl going to school for the very first time or playing soccer reminds them of their younger sisters or daughters; young boys remind them of their younger brothers or sons. These same children being used as decoys and bombs, most probably without their own knowledge.

Serving in combat and having a brain injury or PTSD does NOT make our heroes monsters. It makes them victims of a war they fought in order to defend our country. Now, perhaps the show intended to try to do good with this particular show. I don't really see that, starting with the title itself. Still, the difference is I am giving it the benefit of a doubt. A small one, however...VERY small.

They say that those who can, do, and those who can't, teach. I don't agree with that because I know some remarkable teachers who have done awesome things in their lives. Yet, I am curious, why is it that those who have never been to battle think it's no big deal? I have seen people shrug off my worries and experiences along with my son's yet they turn around and “whine” themselves about things that have not changed the course of a person's journey in life. They “whine” about their own mood swings, running out of coffee, being called in to work, a television channel messing up.

I think the worst way to handle PTSD is to continue stigmatizing. Calling our heroes monsters does NOT help. I think the best thing we can do is remember this: do not judge if you haven't walked in someone's shoes. I have had bad things happen in my life but I am the first to say I have never experienced anything like what my son must have in combat.

Another good thing to remember is that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. This doctor with his own talk show has been called a monster before as well. Whether the allegations are true or not, they are certainly all over the internet for people to see, as well as in newspapers and tabloids.

The bottom line, our heroes are not monsters. They are courageous men and women, some paid the ultimate price, some paid a significant price. As the saying goes “All gave some, some gave all”. I'm the mom of someone who gave quite a bit. Yet even when I hear of people making the stigmatizing worse when they are in positions to make it better? I don't wish what we have gone through on them. I consider myself lucky and blessed not to be in their shoes at all. Hindsight is better than no sight at all in my opinion. But what do I know, right? I'm just a mom. I actually like that. It gives me the added advantage when I need to “go Mama” on someone.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Survivors' Guilt Happens to Families, Too

Survivors' guilt. We've all heard of it. A soldier comes home. His combat buddy doesn't. He doesn't feel like he deserves to seek help, apply for benefits. Why should he be compensated for that brain injury, PTSD, or lost limb? He got to come home.

That is the thinking of many of our returning troops and veterans. It is actually a pretty normal one for them. What some people don't know, don't realize, is survivors' guilt affects families as well. I'm here to tell you it's nothing to be ashamed of.

When our loved ones came home from combat, it didn't take long for most of us to realize something was different, something was missing. It was the light in their eyes, the laughter and spontaneity. Instead, there were hours of silence, a distance as if they were someplace else.
I was grateful my son came home. I'm still thankful every day that he survived Iraq. Yet I knew there was something wrong. The wonderful young man who loved his family, was popular with the girls, sparkled and lit up a room every time he entered, who didn't hesitate to go to war when called because he believed in his country, that young man came home with nightmares and epileptic seizures caused by a brain injury. He came home with mood swings and memory loss. He came home with PTSD.

But he DID come home. And it was because he did that I felt my own survivors' guilt. I was lucky. But there came a day when I had to put aside the fact that I was indeed blessed to have him come home and start the journey to get him the help he needed.

I remember going to a funeral with my husband. A family member was deploying. I didn't mention my son or his TBI and PTSD. I didn't want to “whine” when someone was going to be leaving. Yet after that person was safely home, I began to express some of my own experiences with my son's TBI and PTSD. I was then blasted in a private message for whining by another family member. My son was injured. Her husband was not. By the end of the day, I had removed her from my Facebook. We still do not speak to this day.

I was told by a spiritual counselor that perhaps she was dealing with her own survivors' guilt. Just as I would feel bad that I was dealing with a TBI and PTSD while others had lost loved ones entirely, she was facing the fact that her loved one was bragging about being protected in a bunker while some such as my son were on the front lines. Yet to this day, I wouldn't wish the front lines on her husband or anyone else.

Survivors' guilt affects our veterans and affects us as families. Neither is something to be ashamed of. Both are natural. Both are understandable. Reaching out to each other instead of blasting each other can help tremendously. Find a support group in your area. If you need help doing so, let us know. We'll help you find the resources you need.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tragedy Through My Eyes

On September 20th 2008, my husband experienced the most horrific tragedy in his life.  Working overseas in Pakistan, he nearly lost his life in a suicide bombing.  Miraculously he survived the catastrophic bombing, but has suffered ongoing side effects since that horrendous day. 

He arrived in Pakistan on a 40 day job assignment, only to experience tragedy three days later. The first time I heard his voice over the phone, it was sheer anguish.  All he could utter was, "I'm okay."  But was he really?  Would he survive his injuries?  Was his heart slowly beating now but after we hung up the phone, would his life suddenly fade into eternity? I had no answer.  I was told that he was involved in an accident, had facial lacerations, a doctor would be doing stitches and that he would be okay. But his voice....all I could remember was his anguish as he lay in a corner of a chaotic Pakistani hospital trying desperately to hold on.

As time slowly ticked by, more and more of the story began to unfold.  Much of it continued to remain a mystery, such as his whereabouts.  I sat at home helpless, waiting and hoping for the next phone call to come.  I wanted to be with him but I had no idea where he was or how I would get there. 

The answer was clear....Terrorism.  A 1,700 pound bomb exploded throughout the luxurious Marriott Hotel killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 250.  As the bomber drove up to the heavily guarded hotel, he detonated more than a ton of explosives leaving a 30-foot deep crater.  It's a good
thing I didn't hear those details and the fact that my husband just arrived at the Marriott and was sitting in the parking lot, 35 yards away when it happened.  If I had seen the photos of that parking lot, that almost every vehicle was completely demolished, I would have lost all hope of him ever

Due to the sensitive nature of the work my husband was doing, I was not able to share details with anyone.  I lived in fear of saying what I shouldn't, but wanting and needing to be comforted as a wife who lived through her own personal tragedy. I didn't know what I could and couldn't say, yet I needed prayer from people in my church and from my close friends and family.  The gravity of the situation was horrible and yet I had to suffer a little more silently than I would have liked to.

Travel arrangements were finally being made so that I could join my husband at the hospital.  He would be flown to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany,  a place I was very familiar with after having lived in the area for 8 years. I was picked up by a special escort who led me to the place where I would finally get to see my husband. 

As I walked slowly down the corridor, heart pounding, not knowing exactly what my eyes would see, a man walked slowly down the hall in my direction. When our eyes met, an incredible feeling washed over both of us.  He had no idea I would be coming to Germany and he was overcome with emotion.  We embraced for a few moments taking in the reality of what has happened, and
then made our way back to his room.  I gazed over his fragile injured body that had received numerous wounds and injuries both internal and external. He had multiple wounds and his face was imbedded with glass and shrapnel. How he was physically even able to walk down the hall I don't know.  I wanted to hold him and kiss his lips, but was afraid to cause him even more pain.  Every part of his body appeared swollen, especially his face.  This was the beginning of a long road to recovery.

The days and weeks at home passed slowly.  Most often our days were spent driving from one appointment to the next, seeing a different specialist for each separate injury. The healing was slow but steady and appeared to be moving in the right direction. Some appointments were not planned but came suddenly when a piece of glass would seem to be working its way around the eye causing discomfort, and therefore had to be removed.

Before long, my husband was back at work doing the job he loves.  He didn't   reveal the extent of his numerous injuries to anyone for fear he would be kept from the work he longed to do.  He loved his country and was willing to fight for it and die for it if necessary. 

As life went back to normal, ours eventually did too.  But the long term effects of that type of injury is something we were not aware of.  We did not think that progress in the right direction could take a sudden turn. That is the day to day reality we are living in now. 

Succumbing to the inability to control the pain, the desire to want to live a normal life yet unable to.  Being at the mercy of a body that has moments of wanting to fight and moments of wanting to give up because the pain is unbearable.  Desiring to take that prescription medication just to ease the
pain, but hating the fact that a day can't be lived without it.  Frustrated and angry over not being able to do all that came so easy before.  Wanting to be strong for your family yet feeling weak and unable to complete a simple task.  Dealing with other symptoms such as fatigue, hearing loss, migraines, memory loss, trouble concentrating, emotional trauma, poor vision, dizziness, loss of balance, back and leg pain, sleep disturbances and nausea.  Yes, life goes on but for the one who suffered a traumatic injury day to day activities can be wearisome and agonizing.

I don't know if total healing will ever come.  I don't know if my husband can ever enjoy the sound of a thunderstorm again without his heart racing out of control.  I don't know if he will get through a day without intense physical pain.  I don't know if he will be involved in an accident someday
because he is so fatigued.  I don't know if the day will come when he doesn't have to refill his prescriptions because he no longer has a need for them.  I don't know if he'll ever sleep undisturbed through the night or wake up feeling refreshed.  I don't know if he'll be able to do all the
physical work to keep up our home like he once did.  I don't know if the memory loss will increase little by little over time.  I don't know if he will be in too much pain to hold his new grandchild or if he will be able to play ball or sports with him as he grows up.  I don't know if he will ever regain his health that he had prior to September 20th, 2008. 

The only thing I am certain of is that I will honor the vow I made to him on June 2nd 1990, to love, honor and obey in "sickness" and in health.  I am proud of the man he is and for the love he has for God, family and country. He is a true warrior.  That is the man I am proud to be married to.

Submitted by Marion Esposito

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My World, Now and Forever

The inspiration to write this came from the recently ended “Love Letter Campaign”.  I’m currently assigned to a WTU, and have basically nothing but time, so I spent part of today looking through the FOV blog.  It was touching to read all of those heartfelt letters to spouses.  Even though the campaign is officially over, I felt that I needed to contribute.  Not as a spouse that’s a caretaker, but as the spouse with PTSD.


When I first met and got to know you, I was awe-struck.  You had a way of carrying yourself that showed confidence and intelligence, and your beauty was spell binding.  It took me a while to wake up to the fact that you were attracted to me, and I’ll admit that you made the first moves, but that was because I figured you were out of my league. 

Now it’s ten years later, and you’re still out of my league.  Your beauty has only improved over the years, and your qualities of intelligence, compassion, resilience, selflessness, and dedication have grown beyond the levels that any normal person should have.  I love you for this.

You’ve moved, worried, and cried over the last eight years in support of my job and me.  You’ve given so much and never asked for anything material in return.  You’ve held me when I needed it, gave me space when I’ve needed it, and called me out when I’ve needed it. I love you for this.

I don’t know how you’ve held it together over that last few trying years.  Your strength is amazing.  You’ve been my caretaker, my counselor, my friend, and wife without fail.  You never took me for granted, and didn’t leave when I shut down, or raged, or lied, or drank, or wanted to die.  I love you for this.

You have done nothing but improve as a wife, a woman, and a friend, even while I was slipping into my own hole.  Your support, love, conversation, affection, and stubbornness helped pull me out of that hole.  Now that things are slowly getting better, I appreciate you more than I could ever express with words.  The time we spend together, even when it’s doing something as simple as watching TV, is precious to me.  Small things, like rubbing my back as I’m about to fall asleep remind me of why I love you. 

You are my world, now and forever.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Tears of Terrorism

I wrote this in February of 2011 for my English class I finished it the week my husband (Chad Eppinette) left me and our child because he thought we would be better without him. It was read by my sister at his funeral after he took his own life in July 2011. This poem/essay means a lot to me and it has very personal meaning. I hope it touches someone's heart and really reaches out to someone in need.

According to the Webster Comprehension Dictionary, terrorism is defined "as the act of terrorizing. A system of government that seeks to rule by intimidation or unlawful acts of violence committed in an organized attempt to overthrow a government." The problem that I have with this definition is that it is so simple. It is meant to be taken literally with no room for interpretation. Terrorism has taken a new meaning for the United States of America. Terrorism use to be thought of randomly and only related to foreign countries. It wasn't something that we thought of everyday. It is not just an act of violence to overthrow a government. Terrorism is a way of life for many people, a constant haunting ghost, and an unseen force that affects everyone it touches. Terrorism is generally defined as a physical act of violence. It is never defined for what it really is... A constant internal raging war.

 Terrorism is about making an impact on society and its goal is to affect the society as a whole or disrupt the peaceful existence.

As a military spouse for six years, I can empathize this definition. Of those six years, my husband was serving in Iraq for three of them. I know firsthand how terrorism affects people and families. It is not just direct physical attacks on our security, but mental attacks on our stability and way of life.

Terrorism for me and my family is a way of life, a constant change; not knowing what will happen next. Terrorism is having your family ripped apart. It is living everyday not knowing if your husband will come home. It is waiting on a phone call from someone to tell you your husband has been wounded. Terrorism is the unknown and it doesn't end when the war is over, instead it follows you home. It lurks in the corners of your security, stability, self-esteem, and trust. It is becoming a one parent household in a house that use to be two. It is welcoming a soldier home that you don't even recognize, a new person than one than the one who left you for war.

Terrorism is a constant cycle of sadness, depression, and fear. It is wondering if the person you love will ever wake up. It is not sleeping in the same bed with the one you love. It is your child seeing you cry and being your comforter instead of you being theirs. Terrorism is doing it all because the other person you are supposed to be doing it with is gone. It is growing up fast and alone. It is being a mother, father, and counselor in one. It is not knowing who you are because you are trying to be everything.

For my husband, terrorism is death. Death because of the people he had seen die, the people he may have killed. Death was the constant sea he swam in. My husband, Chad, once said, "A lot of people like to play in the rain, but I liked to play in the mortar fire. I tried everyday not to come home." It is living with the choices he did or did not make. It is never being the person he thought he would become. Terrorism is paranoia, one that everyone and everything is dangerous.

It is insomnia, because when he slept, he remembered. Terrorism is feeling like you have no purpose, but to kill, because they trained him so well. It's being the father he told himself he wouldn't be. It is never waking from an endless nightmare. Terrorism is addiction or self medicating, anything to escape the pain.

It is a love-hate relationship. You love to hate it, but you can't hate what you love. Terrorism is every scar, every tear, every battle lost or won. It is every soldier, friend, or foe. Chad once said, "Terrorism is me."

Terrorism has struck, it started in a war years ago that followed us home. It exploded on our lives and it has battled and destroyed many aspects of our life. The effects of terrorism will never disappear. It hid in the shadows just waiting for the day it could claim it  as its own. Terrorism is a way of life.

I am not the only wife, just as my husband is not the only soldier, and we are not the only family.

Many governments my describe terrorism as a political attack and it may stem from politics, but the roots go deeper than you can ever see.

In Loving Memory of Chad Eppinette

Submitted and written by: Kacey Eppinette

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review: Suzie Bitner Was Afraid of the Drain

My dad made my lunch-
He meant to be sweet, 
But the meal that he packed
I'm not sure I can eat....

This is the beginning to a poem that left me smiling and quite possibly with a few giggles, My Dad Made my Lunch by Barbara R. Vance. As the poem continued, it left me thinking about how life after combat has changed my husband and how this would most definitely be something he would do.

Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain is a book filled with poems and illustrations by Barbara R. Vance. This book is perfect for children and will leave your little one full of laughs, smiles, and things they can relate to. From poems about Patience, Sharing, My Brother Is Driving me Crazy, Braces, someone being Sick to Maisy brushing her teeth and so much more, parents will be thrilled to see their children smiling as they read through 'Suzie'.

Barbara created illustrations for every poem she included in 'Suzie', pulling people of all ages into each page. 'Suzie' will turn a child's mood from sad to happy after reading a few lines of any poem in the book.

While Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain is not a book based on deployments, life after combat or anything related to these things, it is a book that people of all ages will enjoy reading. It is a book filled with things that children and even adults can relate to. 'Suzie' also caught my attention in the fact that my nine year old, who has ADHD, is drawn to it. She can read and comprehend. While reading the poems, it took her to another place and left her with a smile. The way the poems are written and pictures are illustrated

Overall, this book is a wonderful read. The poems and illustrations have been created in ways that kids will understand. 'Suzie' is a book that I would recommend being in all homes and shared with many. As I read through it, it took me back to when I was a child reading Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and left me thinking this is the first book that has held a place next to Silverstein's book.

Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain
Suzie Bitner was afraid of the drain, and so she never showered,
And consequently smelled like milk that was left to long -- and soured,
"I simply won't go near the tub", she pinched her face and cried.
"The moment I turn the water on, it will suck me down inside!"...
Oh, did I leave you hanging onto what happens to Suzie and her bath? Pick up a copy of Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain  for your house, for your child. Bring childhood in yourself to life again as you share the laughs and insight of situations and experiences in this book.

About the Author, Barbara R Vance

Barbara Vance wanted to make a contribution to a cause that she felt was important. Her
grandfathers, father, sister, and brother-in-law had all served in the armed forces; so it’s not at all
hard to believe that she chose the USO’s United Through Reading program as a perfect
complement to her children’s book, “Suzie Bitner Was Afraid of the Drain”.

“Suzie” is a hardcover collection of 124 poems with over 100 black-and-white illustrations. It
has received both a Moonbeam Children’s Award and an Indie Book Award, has been nominated
for a Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literacy Award and for a Digital Book World
Publishing honor, and was in the running for a Texas Bluebonnet Award. Lauded as the largest
collection of children’s poetry since “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, the book has received nods
from The School Library Journal, KERA’s Art & Seek, and numerous others.

The poems range from humorous to whimsical. With situations such as getting stuck in a tree,
training a dog, and a girl who turns into a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, “Suzie” offers a
lighthearted perspective of childhood in an upbeat tone, without any apologies for the little
things that are so important in the life of a child. It is a book that boys and girls can grow with,
appealing primarily to elementary-aged children. To both encourage and teach children, some
challenging words are interspersed throughout and, on her website, the author makes available a
free printable dictionary, written just for vocabulary words found in the book.

But here’s the wonderful part: although the book is available through major retailers, what many
people don’t realize is that books purchased on Barbara’s own website reap a special reward. In
an effort to pair her love of children’s poetry with a cause that means a lot to her, Barbara has
decided that, for each book sold on the “Suzie” site, she will donate one to the USO’s “United
Through Reading” program. Departing service members select and read a book aloud; the event
is recorded; and the book and accompanying DVD are shipped home to his/her kids, so they
have the opportunity to see their parent and hear his/her voice. “It means a lot for the children of
our soldiers to be able to see their moms or dads reading to them, even when they’re far away,
and to follow along as the stories are read to them,” she said. “I am proud to do what I can to
make their time apart a little easier.”

We hope you will get the word out so more books can be provided to our Troops’ families
through this very worthwhile project! For more information, please visit www.suziebitner.com.

Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain
By Barbara R Vance
April 2010 

Brittney Biddle
FOV Communications Liaison

Book Review: Mama Moonlight’s Wisdom for Warriors with Wounded Souls

Theresa Kahle starts with a very small simple introduction.  She gives you her two rules and lets you know that is how she bases all of her teaching throughout the book on.  Now after I read the first two rules, I started to think “wow this isn’t what I thought it was!”  When I read the title of the book, it caught my attention because it gave the impression of a Native American Warrior base of healing and at this point I had nothing to lose.  I personally am not big on the Christian based books, but this one is different.  She has mixed Native American beliefs with those of common Christians. 

Theresa Kahle holds a bachelor’s degree as well as nursing background and working in a psychiatric hospital yet the approach she uses of “Mama Moonlight” gives you the idea that she is trying to help not be a “head shrink”.  Because it is an elder like approach, you almost feel like you have to do what she says out of respect.  That “been-there-done-that” attitude would seem very appropriate for the general male wounded warrior.

The book takes a very “work book” approach at healing a soul of a wounded warrior.  The first half of the book gives you lots of examples and details into why each animal she gives you is right for you.  She works with the healing totem concept and personally I think it’s a great fit.  Her PTSD totem has two meanings, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as Possum, Turtle, Snake, Dog.   

While I read each description and how they relate to a wounded warrior’s soul I could easy see who in my husband’s life were the turtle, snake and dog.  She goes on to explain HOW to walk the healing path, and that you are already on this path, realizing it or not.  She suggests a note book approach to journaling and tracking your progress so that you are more aware of how your soul is healing and where you are in the path.  Something that may be discouraging is that she says that it takes roughly 5 years to heal, however she also states that you may be on the last years of the healing path by the time you picked up this book.  She gives a good list of books, television shows, movies and other media to find more “healing” in.  Each “chapter” starts with a very pleasant quote that really gets you thinking.  She uses both quotes and sections from the Bible as well as Native American ways throughout the entire book. The way the  book is put together you never feel forced into believing a set religion, just the general idea, that this is not in your control entirely but you do have the control and now the means to heal your soul and move on. 

On a personal note, I would highly recommend this book for those who are READY to start a spiritual way of healing.  My husband is a very infantry based man, therefore this type of book may not do him a lot of good and there is also a good chance I’ll never get him to read it.  Even with his background in Native American/ Nature based beliefs.  However, I know that I need healing from past experiences as well as from suffering from secondary PTSD and I know that I can get great use out of this.  I really feel it’s a great book for any spouse who has dealt with the PTSD side of loving a war hero.  Perhaps it may even enlighten a person who is having a hard time understanding why our warriors act the way they do.  The entire section on the possum is a great simple way to compare how warriors deal with PTSD.  There are way too many sections I wanted to quote, this is one of those books that I will push around to anyone who will listen!

Author: Theresa Kahle
 (Copied from Amazon.com)

Theresa Kahle graduated from nursing school in 1979, when PTSD was being explored due to the responses of Vietnam Veterans to war. She received her bachelor s degree in education in 1982 and worked in psychiatric hospitals throughout the eighties and nineties. In 2007, when she began planning to leave the profession, she wrote this book to share her professional perspective with the young men who were coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Far from being a psychiatric theory, it is an attempt to do what she always did in the hospital, which was talk to each person and make sure he knows what he needs to know to cope.

Author: Theresa Kahle

Dorrance Publishing  Co., Inc Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222 United States

Copyright first edition printed  August 13, 2010
60pp $9.99 Kindle $15.60 paperback on Amazon.com
ISBN: 978-1-4349-0669-4 ISBN-10: 1434906698
 Special Features:  Numerous quotes from Native Americans, Bible, additional “healing” recommendations (i.e.; books, movies and Native American Medicine) 
Religion & Spirituality Genre

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Momism: Taking Care of You

Dealing with the effects of a beloved veteran's PTSD and/or brain injury can take a lot out of a person. Dealing with our own emotions can, too. It starts even before PTSD, any injury. It starts when our loved ones have the orders to go to war.

We live in fear (and faith) while they are in combat. Most of us can't help but watch the news. It's hard to sleep at night knowing that it is daylight over there. While communication has increased greatly since the first deployments back in 2003, it still seems like ages between phone calls, Skype or emails.

Keeping the fear inside can cause it to fester. Some of us may not be lucky enough to have a group we can share it with. Parents often fall into that problem. My son was one of the first in our community to go to Iraq/Afghanistan. It took several years even for some people to say they actually knew someone personally who had deployed.

I was still raising two young children at home, one in grade school and one in junior high then high school. They had enough to deal with as the siblings of a deployed soldier. One slept with his older brother's sleeping bag the whole time. The other hugged the huge teddy bear her “Bubby” had given her every night, hoping he could feel the hugs across the miles.

What did I do? I wrote. In my journal, in spirals. I wrote letters to my son so that he would hear his name at mail call every day, even if it was just a short note. Our mailman called the letters “top priority”. I wrote poems and essays, such as how I spent his 20th birthday, how a phone call from him made me feel, how I grieved over the loss of soldiers I will never have the honor of meeting down here.

By getting it out through writing, I wasn't allowing it to consume me and overwhelm me. Yes, late at night when the kids were sleeping, I admit I had the news on. During my lunch hour, the same. But I was able to write down the fears I was too terrified to say out loud. I even turned some of them into a fictional paranormal murder mystery I am finally getting the courage to let go public.

Writing allowed me to hurt and cry when I needed to and also be there for my other two. I was a cheerleading mom, played volleyball with my daughter and her classmates on Friday evenings. I would go watch my younger son's basketball games.

I wrote during my son's deployment and it helped me with my frustrations. Living with the diagnosis of PTSD and a TBI in that same young man, I continue to write today. For so many of our veterans and us as their family members, the war will never be over, although we occasionally get a little “R & R” from it. Still, we live one thing the same as we did during their deployments...we don't know what the next day is going to bring.

It is OKAY to feel frustrated. No one understands what you are going through if they have not gone through it themselves. Yet, even today, I can proudly say I am adult enough not to wish on someone else the roller coaster ride of PTSD.

You are going to have some rough patches as I'm sure you've already discovered. That's probably what brought you here today. During those times, if possible, take a break and get it out in your own way through a healthy alternative...your own passion in life.

Use whatever your passion is to help you deal with your frustrations. If you like to write or journal, do so. If you like to paint, do so. If you like to walk or jog, play a sport, sing, play a musical instrument, do so. Take care of your needs and it helps strengthen you to take care of your veteran. You will soon see a difference in your own strength and outlook. I know I have.