Monday, October 26, 2015

Could The Vows You Make Be The Answer?

We make many vows during our journey through life, either written, vocal, or just a thought, and they get tucked away in our subconscious where, sometimes, we forget about them. But they all have a consequence, positive or negative. Do you ever wonder why certain people or situations are a struggle for you, and you're confused about the way some things in your life turn out? Maybe your vows are behind some of it.

We make vows at any age, but children are especially impressionable, and they oftentimes respond to their environment with vows. The child hears, "You're stupid." So he vows, "I'm too stupid to do anything right, so I won't even try."The child hears, "We don't have money, so stop asking for things." So she vows, "I won't expect anything. Then I won't be disappointed." And so vows are formed and patterns for living are established.

We walk through each day doing what's ours to do, seldom in touch with that subtle something inside that motivates our actions and determines outcomes--those vows we made in the past. But our vows have power, and they do influence our lives. Vows are made for 2 reasons, to avoid what we don't want or to help create what we do want. But each kind can be tricky. And we may not always get the results we want.

Avoidance: We think avoiding something protects us from painful situations, and maybe it does, but it may end up depriving us in the long run. When I was 6 years old, my father died, and no one was there to comfort me. I made a vow that I would never need anyone again and never bother anyone with my problems. I've spent my life true to that vow, being independent and taking care of myself. And I've learned it's lonely being alone inside. Now in my old age, I realize all I missed along the way because I clung to my vow.

A small, shy child who is never chosen for baseball games in elementary school may be a wizard at baseball in his backyard or in the park. But to avoid any future rejection, he vows never to try again. And will never know the thrill he might have had making the winning home run for his high school team. He may also spend his life afraid to compete for anything, like a job promotion or the attention of his pretty next door neighbor.

Positive Creation: When you hold a vision of something you want to bring into your life, but you're afraid to move forward with it, a vow to release what's holding you back can serve you well in different areas of your life. And it can be made in the form of an affirmation such as the following by Louise Hay, "I now free myself from destructive fears and doubts." The vow can be heard in these words, and it can give you the confidence you need to create your vision.

Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. Coco Chanel

You're not being yourself when you're functioning from a vow made in fear. That's not to say you're never afraid. Your human self knows fear, and sometimes that's useful when it's justified. But being authentic means you work toward recognizing when it's the real you or when you're coming from unrealistic vows. So take a look at your life, and make a list of what's working and what's not working.Then ask if a vow could be holding you back when you have all you need to go forward. And ask your Voice within to reveal your answers. Now here's where a creative vow would be useful. "I vow to listen carefully for the answers I need and to draw on my Divine wisdom to guide me on my authentic path." Use whatever vow feels right to you. You're on your way to freedom.

I wish you freedom, wisdom, and much happiness.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

PTSD And Hope For Returning to a Meaningful Life Part 2

Statistics on PTSD reveal that this condition is more prevalent than imagined. According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people in the U.S. experience PTSD at some point in their lives. And according to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of 2013 rates of PTSD have been estimated at up to 20% for vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Information on PTSD is endless. Entire books are written about it. But without first-hand experience, most people know little about it and may not recognize symptoms in others. Some suffering is visible, but sometimes it hides behind a facade to hide feelings of guilt, shame, and weakness. And people may suffer alone rather than seek help.

Causes: PTSD can result from a single life-threatening event, such as a car or plane crash, robbery, fire, physical attack, rape, etc, OR long lasting trauma, such as physical, mental, or sexual abuse, trauma during childhood, traumatic jobs, etc. Risk factors may involve a person's stress tolerance, biochemical changes in the brain and body, and a person having little or no support after the event.

Symptoms: Symptoms can run the gamut from mild to severe. NIMH suggests 3 types of symptoms: Re-experiencing in which the victim re-lives the trauma over and over through nightmares, flashbacks, and thoughts; Avoiding reminders of the event, feeling guilt, depression, numbness, losing interest in activities, not remembering some parts of the event, anything to avoid thinking about it; Hyper-arousal, feeling on edge, on guard, angry outbursts, fear, self-destructive thoughts. They want to run away, but there's nowhere to run. And with some, it can be torture.

PTSD from military combat can be particularly debilitating and even dangerous. When I worked with a Mental Health Team in the jail, I counseled a young Navy man who suffered severe PTSD symptoms. He had been on the ship's bridge in the Persian Gulf when he saw 2 missiles headed for his ship, but the alert was too late to save the ship, and many Navy men were killed. He began having PTSD symptoms and was assigned to help clean up the section where he and his buddies were housed, and he had to pick up their dead bodies from the flooded water. His symptoms increased, and on the way to the ship's U.S. home port city, he experienced severe trauma with frightening flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, and hearing voices. He called his family in another state and told them not to meet his ship, because the city was teeming with dangerous terrorists. After reaching port, he had a psychotic break with voices telling him terrorists were near, and he was arrested for murder. While in jail awaiting trial, he saw a Psychiatrist multiple times, was in the state mental hospital twice, and attempted suicide 3 times, feeling he didn't deserve to live. He was discharged from the Navy, and in civil court was given life in prison without parole. A tragic story for all concerned, and this is not an isolated case. Too many similar situations do happen.

Treatment: Everyone is different, and a treatment that works for one may not work for another. But early intervention and support with psychotherapy, medication, or both are important for any good outcome. The U.S. Department of Defense and NIMH prefer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involving safe Exposure to events, places, etc with tools such as mental imagery and writing; Cognitive Restructuring in a realistic way dealing with guilt, shame, etc; and Stress Inoculation Training to replace fearful, upsetting thoughts with positive, less distressing ones. But with all the intervention, some of the most important ingredients for healing are love, understanding, and compassion from family, friends, and even from people we don't know.

After my car wreck (Part 1) I was fortunate in the nursing home for 2 months of rehab where medication kept my anxiety in check, and a Psychologist helped relieve my fear. I also used coping skills I knew as a Psychotherapist myself. I'm a careful driver, but since that time 10 years ago, I've not driven at night, and at intersections where someone out of my view may be waiting to turn in front of me, my stress rises

. But that soon abates with self-talk and my angels on the hood of my car.

If you have PTSD, get help. If you know someone who has it, give love, understanding, and
compassion. And be happy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

PTSD Overview Part 1

PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition resulting from a traumatic event, either experienced or witnessed., usually with incapacitating symptoms. PTSD affects every aspect of one's life, such as health, relationships, work, everyday activities, etc, and may cause use of alcohol or drugs to cope. May even cause suicide.

Many people who go through a traumatic experience are able to cope with symptoms and, over time, adjust and move on, and not be diagnosed with PTSD. However, those with PTSD may have difficulty functioning, and without treatment may suffer with symptoms for years. According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are 3 categories of symptoms: Re-experiencing the event in various ways, Avoiding reminders of the Event, and Hyper-arousal.

Since each of us is unique, each would have different ways of coping with trauma. My PTSD involved a car wreck in December, 2004. I spent 4 days in the hospital and 2 months in a nursing home for rehab, and went from wheelchair to walker to cane. I still needed the walker when I got home, couldn't drive for a year, and screamed when I saw a car wreck on TV. My treatment involved learning to walk again and learning to trust my surroundings. Months after the accident, writing memories of the accident helped me release and cope. The following is as I remember it.

                                                       I survived, but my car didn't                                                                

Oh,no. Look out. Slam on brakes. Can't stop. Sliding. Skidding. Push on brakes. Harder. Harder. Keep pushing. Hold on. Can't stop. I close my eyes. Help. Oh, Lord. Bang. Crash. Smash. Metal collapsing. Glass breaking. Deafening. No airbag. I lunge forward...then backward. Arms flying. Head bobbing. Helpless. Round and round, a limp rag swirling in a crazy washing machine. Oooh. Please, stop. Aaah.

Thud. Stop. Gripping silence. I open my eyes. The morning sun is too bright. Look around. Dashboard fell apart. Can't breathe. Can't breathe. I lean back against the seat. Gasping for air, but can't stop screaming. Help. Help. Release my seat belt. Get out. Get out. Run. But I can't move. 

Someone opens the door. A man's voice. "Are you all right?" I reach out and yank his shirt. "No," I scream. "Can't get my breath. Please help me. Help me." He says, "Don't move. Calling 911." I lower my head and watch blood gushing onto my beige jacket, dripping down the front across the zipper. Blood everywhere.

Sirens. I hear sirens. Hurry. Men rush to my car. Questions. Questions. "Where do you live? When is your birthday? How many fingers am I holding up?" I rattle off numbers and dates I see in my head. Dot, dot, dot, like a robot. I don't sound like me. Horrible pain in my chest. Something pulling my hair. So scared. Can't stop screaming inside. Get me out. Get me out.

Policemen. I hear policemen talking. The other driver made an illegal turn. His car is wrapped around a pole. He's not hurt. Two EMTs put a brace around my neck and lift me onto a stretcher. They're gentle. Thank you. The ambulance rushes through streets. I bounce up and down on the board beneath my body. Siren blares in my ears. I'm rushed into ER. People surround me. They call my family and my friend. When I get back from x-ray, my friend is there. She takes my hand and wipes my tears. Oh, God, I'm not alone. I'm safe.

Voices. I hear voices. Fractured ribs. Bruised sternum. Ankle fractured in several places. Multiple bruises all over my body. My forehead gashed open. The doctor stands over me sewing it up. "Close your eyes," he says. "There's a lot of blood." My friend winces and turns away. I squeeze her hand and feel the sutures moving through my skin.

My friend follows me to my room. She hugs me goodbye, and I wipe her tears. She leaves. Now medication dulls my brain. How many hours have passed? It's night. My family comes into the darkened room and hovers around my bed. I don't hear what they're saying. I cry when they leave. I float in peaceful mist and watch pink bubbles dance through white clouds. Now I sleep.

Tune in next week for PTSD Causes, Symptoms, Treatment. Part 2

I wish you peace in your heart.


Monday, October 5, 2015

The Road To Freedom After Divorce

As we go through life, we're joined by others on our journey. Some stay with us, while others, sometimes through divorce, may leave or remain in a different capacity. But each one is there for a purpose. I've heard it said we come together for a blessing, but sometimes that blessing comes from learning a painful lesson. Divorce and the major life change can bring that blessing as one grows through it.

Maybe you're dealing with divorce or know someone who is. Or divorce is somewhere in your past. If so, you know how it turns life upside down and makes you question what was real or what was just a dream you thought was real. It makes you question yourself and who you thought you were. And you don't know the answers. You just know it hurts, and you're not sure of your next step when it's over.

You must let suffering speak, if you want to hear the truth. Cornel West.

Mine was one of confusion. I wanted the divorce, but felt no joy when I received it. I'd like to share an excerpt from my book, Silent Echoes, about my reaction when I received my divorce papers. "One afternoon I was getting ready for work and watching for the mailman to bring my final divorce decree, ready to celebrate my freedom and put the past behind me. The divorce papers came, but afforded no comfort. I walked down the hall toward my bedroom and read the return address, Clerk of the Circuit Court. A strange feeling gnawed at my stomach. Where was the joy? My hands shook as I removed the legal papers and read words I didn't understand, but knowing it said the marriage was over. I felt my body slide to the floor, suddenly consumed with sadness and confusion. My tired back rested against the wall. I mourned what I'd imagined as a child but never found with my husband. What happened? Why had it been such a mess? How could we have failed so miserably? I put my head on my knees and watched my tears sink down into the dark green carpet."

Time brought survival, but I still had much to learn, working through one turbulent experience after another in pursuit of freedom to express my true self. We all move at our own pace on our journey, and each experience is like peeling an onion, one layer at a time toward freedom.

You can do the impossible, because you have been through the unimaginable. Christina Rasmussen

If you are experiencing a divorce:  Internal and external issues create a need for inner and outer recovery work. And you may feel like you've been socked in the belly and can't get up. So right now make a determined intention, commitment, to recovery. And write down your recovery statement.

Then find someone who can help you through all that's yours to do--someone who can help you restore your strength and confidence with understanding, validation, and compassion. Without guilt or judgment, own up to anything you could have done different in the marriage, but know that failed marriage is not who you are. You are still the special person as you were created. Look within for anything you need to release--anger, confusion, guilt, shame, sadness, fear, etc. And let them go. Wayne Dyer offers good advice. "Initiate a habit of choosing thoughts and ideas that support feeling good and powerful, and that elevate you to a higher level of consciousness."

Work on putting new things in your life that inspire you. My niece became a Radiology Tech, and is now very happy working in a children's hospital. She says that without her divorce, she would not have realized this blessing in her life. Be patient with yourself, and keep your eye on the future. That's where your blessings appear.

If you know someone in divorce:  Be there and help them with the above strategies for transition to freedom, healing, and positive change. And you will receive a blessing too.

I wish you freedom to be who you are.