Tag Archives: mental health

PTSD: No Room for Denial

What if NO ONE knows your name?

Belonging? It’s pretty important. We don’t always have to go where EVERYone knows our name, but we do need to have people. People who know, understand and affirm us.

People with mental health issues, however, are often made to feel not so normal, which is a feeling that can get in the way of being known and understood.

Normalizing something that has been stigmatized and downplayed is hard.

I remember in the 1980s when Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope. Lots of people had little exposure to people with prosthetics. That changed pretty fast.

Kate, Robin and Stewart are helping us all get a better sense of how PTSD isn’t some obscure, terrifying condition that we should ignore, shy away from or deny.

Denial brings us nowhere, fast.

Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home 

My favourite comment attached to Kate’s Facebook post below is this: “It’s all mind over matter Kate’s great mind= hill don’t matter.” That’s the spirit of confronting denial and changing attitudes!

Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans

Part of denial is social isolation. Part of growth is engaging with others in honest, affirming ways. Part of that process is celebrating together, to solidify growth. This means there needs to be some dancing!

Robin and Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans will be taking off for Victoria on October 12th, so before they leave, they are throwing a big bash to say thanks for all the support, and get some carbs in them… beer is a carb, right?
Come down to The Billy Bishop Legion Branch 176 for some great (cheap) beer, sweet live tunes, belly laughs, and only slight debauchery!
No cover.
Live music.
Cheap, Good Beer on Tap.
Good times.

Details are on the Facebook event page!

You can donate to Kate MacEachern’s Long Walk Home here. You can donate to Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans. – See more at: http://politicsrespun.org/got-ptsd/#sthash.pKKIhmHL.dpuf

I don’t have PTSD!

I don’t have PTSD! by Stewart, who is accepting donations here!

Last week Robin touched on her personal experiences growing up in a military environment and how her endeavour to learn more about PTSD has shone a different light on those memories, reactions, and actions of those around her. It’s changed her. It’s changed how she views the world, politics, war, soldiers, veterans, and even how she views me.

We’ve been so busy running, working, writing, running, eating, running some more, and trying to stay awake in the afternoons, that I’ve not had time to ask her how differently she views me – I hope with more patience. You see, this endeavour has also changed me and in ways I’m finding hard to comprehend. It’s made me reflect on memories, past events, and how I reacted and dealt with them. How my friends reacted to things that happened to them and the different paths we all took when we left the Army. Some started businesses, some became security contractors, some joined back up, while others, like me, left Britain for greener lands. I’m thankful for choosing Canada. It truly is a beautiful country. Yet, those memories and past events followed me here, as did the dark moods that came with them. They’re not as bad as they used to be, although I often find myself apologizing for my army humour.

This isn’t easy to write. I’m literally squirming in my chair. I can’t help wondering why that is. Maybe it’s the thought of letting someone peak under the hood. I don’t have PTSD if you’re wondering. I know I don’t. I’m quite sure of it. I think. I consider myself quite lucky really. Normal I’d say. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. I mean compared to some people. I’ve got all my limbs. They’re even in good working order – it might be different after the marathon though. But, why does this bother me so much…

I know I found life hard when I finally, and honourably I’d like to add, left the British Army. I was lost in civilian street with my RSMs last words, “you’ll never make it sonny”, freshly ringing in my ears. I wish I could go back now and show him different, that I’d made it, but maybe he was projecting his own fears. I remember getting confused about having to pay for water and all the other bills. My new paycheque was hacked down by one bill after another. What was left was a pathetic amount of beer tokens. Everything was taken care of before, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, medical, dental, even water. The money at the end of the month was for me to do with whatever I liked. Things had changed though. Work was a challenge. People were continually squabbling and wasting their days away moaning about what seemed meaningless. All I could think of was what I’d seen, real pain, real suffering, death, the smell, the taste. I was engaged when I left. We struggled though, and soon separated, with her joining back up. I wanted to join back up. To be back with my mates. All of us in the same boat. I didn’t. I guess, in the end, it was those words my RSM spoke and my stubborn streak that kept me soldiering on. I ended up moving away and getting a better job, a house, and a fancy car (or two). But those dark moods would follow, as would the loneliness, and my continual attempts to drown them out.

I have friends who’ve struggled with PTSD. Some still do. It’s a horrible thing to see. It seems to fade with time for some – for the lucky ones. I remember one guy lost it on a firing range, stood up and started waiving his rifle around, until he got decked by the butt of, ahem, someone’s rifle. I was put in charge of him until further notice. To be his shadow. To kick his ass into shape. I didn’t know what I was doing and was far from qualified. But I tried. We’d just come back from Bosnia, which was a mess. The main fighting was over and we were there to rebuild that god awful place. We saw some sights. Most of us would drink things away, but not for him. Some days his eyes had a deadness to them. It was like some invisible darkness had entered him and was sucking the life out of him. I couldn’t get him out of bed some mornings, even when the RSM was coming around to inspect. I tried everything. Gentle encouragement. My boot up his ass. When he screwed up it would be me running around the parade square carrying, pulling, and pushing all sorts of crap. I loved physical fitness though, so it didn’t bother me too much, but I felt angry at those who put him in my care. It was clear they didn’t understand him and just saw him as a nuisance, a pain in the ass, a weak man, and certainly not fit for fighting wars. It wasn’t long before I was sent off to Bosnia again where I lost touch with him. I found out later he discharged himself, went off to London, and hit the bottle with a deadly passion. Until this day I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe he managed to get help and pull things together or maybe he’s on the street, like so many Vets, fighting for each day most of us take for granted. God I regret not being able to do more.

You see, I’ve realized that PTSD is not just about those suffering with it. It’s also about those who’ve escaped it. It’s about their attitudes, knowledge, understanding, patience, compassion, empathy, and heart strong desire to help those who clearly need it and deserve it with the right tools we have to available!!

I don’t have PTSD, but I have friends that do, and it’s for them, as well as for me, that I run and will keep on running. It’s the stigma that bothers me, the sigh when it’s brought up in conversation, the avoidance, and the cognitive dissonance. I’m continuing to meet some inspiring people on this journey who support me while I try to support others. Isn’t that what life’s about – a mutual championing of one another to climb that ladder, to better oneself. I want to say thank you to everyone championing me and my amazing partner Robin. You’re amazing and we’re very lucky to have you in our lives!

Fearing Kate MacEachern: The Latest Canadian Military Blunder

Kate MacEachern and helping others: not on the DND agenda, yet.

Canada’s continued neglect and abuse of our military personnel and veterans continues to enrage me. An epidemic of untreated PTSD has become a new normal. And until citizens compel the government to take responsibility for this neglect–and fix it–they will continue trying to get away with it.

Here’s the latest outrage:

OTTAWA — Less than a year after being lavishly and publicly praised by Defence Minister Peter MacKay for an arduous fundraising walk in aid of injured soldiers, a corporal says she has decided to leave the military after being ordered not to repeat the fundraiser again this summer.

Tank driver Cpl. Kate MacEachern, a member of the Armour School at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, walked 562 kilometres in full uniform and pack from Gagetown to Antigonish last summer in what she called her ‘Long Way Home Walk.’

She raised $20,000 for the military charity Soldier On.

DND says no to soldier’s walk to raise money for injured veterans.

This government seems to fear truth-tellers like Kate MacEachern, even and perhaps especially when they work selflessly and constructively to improve problems and the lives of others.

From the article, it sounds like the military establishment, and the militarism-loving Conservative government in Canada, supported MacEachern’s walk last year. But perhaps after the walk, there may have been a feeling that the military allowing a soldier to shine a spotlight on their neglect of people in need was enough to oppose the event this year, which is despicable, especially considering MacEachern’s motivations. See below.

If all this bothers you as much as it bothers me, here are some things you can do:

  1. Support Kate MacEachern’s walk halfway across Canada at the Military Minds site.
  2. Like the Facebook page and follow the walk.
  3. Don Nicholson was just shuffled into the position of Minister of Defence. Email him this article at rob.nicholson@parl.gc.ca, letting him know that as a new minister/politician, he has an opportunity to put a fresh stamp of integrity on our nation by reversing the decision against Kate MacEachern’s walk AND begin the healing process of all the neglect and abuse of members and veterans from the Canadian Forces.
  4. Support Honour House, One in a Million fund and Hire Canadian Military initiatives.

Here’s some profound inspiration:

“One of the main values I learned from the army is that you never leave anyone behind,” she says. “But the more I opened my eyes the more I realized that a lot of people are being left behind. I signed a 25 year contract to serve my country, Queen and regiment. Until a month ago, I didn’t want to leave. It was honestly a devastating blow for me to have to make a decision between what I believe in and the uniform I wear because I thought they were the same thing. Finding out they aren’t the same thing is extremely hard so I had to walk away.”

MacEachern says she was moved to raise public awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental injuries after suffering a serious injury of her own at CFB Edmonton where she was thrown from a horse during a training exercise — a fact MacKay noted in his speech.

After a year’s physical recovery she was diagnosed with, and treated for, ‘non-combat PTSD’ — a condition she didn’t believe was overly serious until she suffered herself.

“I had pretty much bought into the stigma so many people have about PTSD,” she said. “You can shake it off, suck it up and soldier on. But it’s the complete opposite of the truth. And compared to people coming back from overseas, mine was mild.”

After recovering from her own injuries, MacEachern asked to be transferred to Gagetown to be closer to her family in Antigonish, Nova Scotia — a decision she now regrets.

“I started opening my eyes to what other people are going through and how much pain and struggle there is,” she said. “There comes a point where you have to make a conscious decision. Do you allow everything to keep happening and live with the consequences or do you try to make a difference?

MacEachern echoes the view of many critics who say that stigma against mental injury in the military is rampant and treatment facilities at some bases wholly inadequate.

“One thing I’ve learned over the past year,” she says, “is that having a fancy house or the latest model car and the biggest TV on the block means nothing if you can’t sleep at night knowing that you could have helped and didn’t.”

DND says no to soldier’s walk to raise money for injured veterans.

Should Toddlers Be Held Captive For BC Ferries’ TVs?

I have a few questions for BC Ferries, our not-really-crown corporation.

  1. Does BC Ferries get paid to show TV to toddlers?
  2. Is there some reason why there is a TV in the playground rooms on some BC Ferries?
  3. Should toddlers have to be subjected to TV for most of a 90 minute voyage to or from Vancouver Island?

I’ve already gone into some depth about how the BC Liberal government has privatized BC Ferries, yet remained its sole shareholder, and what I think of the corporate welfare scam of BC Ferries advertising on the bottom of the scoreboard at Canucks games.

But while it is nice for most passengers that BC Ferries has provided little playgrounds for kiddies [in part to ensure they don’t run amok through the whole ferry bugging anyone who doesn’t happen to choose to sit near them], why are there large TVs with blaring sound in the playground rooms?

I find the noise quite loud and I’m used to spending most of the voyage with the half dozen or so toddlers in those rooms. So when I get on the ferry, I typically turn off the TV. Sometimes the switch on those new HD TVs is hard to find. Other times I just unplug the cable. But I haven’t figured out how to disconnect the sound, which gets piped through ceiling speakers. I figure I’d need a ladder for that.

On one voyage I asked a crew member walking by why the TV had to be so loud. He popped his head in and expressed equal disgust at the barrage of noise. He said he’d look into it. I expected his lack of return indicated there was nothing he could do about it.

So why is there TV? To entertain the kids, I guess. Unless BC Ferries is getting paid by Treehouse or someone to play it.

Is TV good for little kids? No. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no TV for kids under two.

Again, why does BC Ferries put a TV in a room with playground equipment designed to keep kids active. After all, kids want to move around and play, but they will embrace the obese zombie lifestyle if you give them a TV.

I watched a debate in Twitter a couple weeks ago about this very thing.

One person apparently had been confronted, “yelled at,” by staff after turning off a BC Ferries TV. She asked the Twitterverse and BC Ferries quite pointedly whether it actually was corporate policy that the TVs must be on in the playground rooms. Now remember, corporate policies are merely arbitrary rules corporations develop to allow staff to sound like it’s an official policy why something can’t be. Is corporate policy the Lord Jehovah’s commandment such that I can’t return this can of soup on the 15th day because the policy is a 14 day return policy? You’d think.

Anyway, BC Ferries Twitter spinner replied with this gem of a circular argument:

TV service is provided for customers in various areas of the vessel. Therefore, passengers expect this service to be available.

This essentially means that BC Ferries decided [for whatever reasons] to put TVs in places. Since they did that, people now expect that, so their hands are tied and they can’t take them away. That’s just foolish for the playground rooms and for other places on the ferries.

The principled traveler replied in Twitter that if it is corporate policy, she felt that to be disrespectful of parents.

Frankly, I find it quite disrespectful to me, an adult, that there are so many loud TVs in so many places on BC Ferries. Whatever happened to a reasonably media-free voyage? What about the often majority of passengers trying hard to avoid the blaring TV stuck near them? Is BC Ferries being paid to show a certain channel on its TVs?

BC Ferries replied to her accusation of disrespect like a good Orwellian bureaucracy:

This amenity is provided in a public space. Note of your concern has been frwd to our Customer Relations department.

I won’t spend an hour explaining how the use of the word “public” is a bother, considering that BC Ferries is a private corporation that used to be a publicly-owned crown corporation that now has one share owned by an arm of the BC government which is democratically empowered to act on behalf of the BC public citizenry. There is no public space on a ferry. There is no public space in a shopping mall. But I’ll let that go.

Claiming that the TV is an amenity, not a threat to the development of toddlers [and others] for instance, means the public shouldn’t complain about something being given to us. Then having the concern forwarded to customer relations is a hearty attempt at handling the situation.

The BC Ferries Twitter spinner chose not to reply to this tweet about the American Academy of Pediatrics:

@BCFerries You don’t care about AAP rec of ZERO TV for kids under 2? #fail

The last thing BC Ferries wants to get into is a debate about whether TV is bad for toddlers when they have TVs in the toddler area. Just ignore the tweet and it will go away. Or will it.

Regardless of the confusion about the public-private nature of BC Ferries, we all still own them, albeit quite indirectly. We have some say over whether they create a two-tiered seating area by cordoning off one section for people who wish to pay $12 to experience the elite accommodations of the Seawest Lounge. We get to decide whether they will pollute our supernatural trip through BC coastal waters with so many TVs, usually in the areas of the ship with the most seats.

In short, we still have some sway, even if BC Ferries wishes to insist they’re a private corporation. We still own that corporation.

So I have these questions for BC Ferries, the ones above and these ones:

  1. Has BC Ferries done any research about whether it is good for the kinds of children who are in their playground rooms to be subjected to TVs?
  2. Has BC Ferries explored policy options about whether parents should have the right to not have TV on in places where their toddlers will spend much of the voyage?
  3. Does BC Ferries follow up with complaints/concerns in an effort to manage the conflict or to actually address substantive issues?
  4. Should parents have the right determine what influences their toddlers?

In the end, we can let ourselves be handled, or we can demand that we have the latitude to parent our children without being mollified with circular arguments from bureaucracies that are supposed to serve us.

In the end, I’m optimistic. The crew member I spoke with one of the times I turned off the playground TVs didn’t yell at me, but was on my side. I think common sense will prevail here, but like justice, we won’t get it unless we fight for it.

A Paradigm Shift is Happening!

A Paradigm Shift is Happening!

That was the assessment of Dr. Marti Glenn, one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 International Congress of The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology & Health, which took place from November 11-14 at Asilomar, California.

Dr. Glenn, who is the Dean of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, began by saying that, “Economists, writers, and researchers are beginning to discover…what we have known for decades: that the events and environment surrounding pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, and early infancy set the template out of which we live our lives.”

“The time is right,” she added, for a shift in the paradigm.”

Recent coverage such as on prenatal health in Time magazine, and epigenetics in Newsweek, symbolize this profound change in consciousness.

Some of the specific insights that Dr. Glenn mentioned included:

  • “Early experiences determine brain architecture.”
  • “By the sixth prenatal month, most of the 100 billion neurons found in the adult brain are already there.”

She also highlighted the most important point of all: preventing trauma in the first place.  For instance, she noted that a father’s involvement during pregnancy can reduce infant mortality.

Dr. Glenn also quoted Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman, who points out that every dollar invested “in the very young” can not only save lives and prevent illness, but it would also save from $4-17 dollars in future costs.

Heckman’s work is vital and demands attention. For instance:

“Recent research demonstrates important differences in the family environments and investments of advantaged and disadvantaged children. Gaps in cognitive stimulation, affection, punishment, and other parental investments for children from families of different socioeconomic status open up early.”

My presentation overlapped with her focus.  The first part discussed the current state of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy, and how the emerging consensus supports his long-held contention that we have underestimated just how fragile we are while in the womb.

I pointed out how Janov believes that too many children have been emotionally damaged from an early age, and that one element of healing is to re-connect with the buried memories.

The second part of my talk discussed how to PREVENT hurting children in the first place, starting from the beginning of life.  In short, research has shown that providing optimal conditions for pregnant women, such as low stress, adequate nutrition, and quality pre-natal care could prevent children from suffering from a host of intellectual, emotional, and physical illnesses.

In addition, around 500,000 women die each year in childbirth.  Adam Jones (UBC Okanagan) has pointed out that most of those mothers could be saved for the cost of – six fighter jets.

The fact is that providing optimal conditions for these mothers and their children would cost only a tiny fraction of what the world spends on advertising, or the Olympics, or the military.

The Paradigm Shift can’t happen too soon.