The potential effects of polio on earlychild brain development with PTSD in the mix.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story
Can polio affect earlychild brain development?
As a follow up note to memory loss implications, it should not be a minor detail that I contracted polio at two years of age. The Polio virus along with other viral infections can affect the nervous system according to research data and cause certain mental disorders and developmental delays in children.  I have been motivated over the years to understand how the polio virus may have made me more susceptible to the effects of stress on brain chemistry.  The trauma connected with child abuse clearly causes extreme stress on a child’s brain chemistry according to early childhood research.   With polio in the mix while growing up in a toxic home, my brain may have been more sensitive to the stress than my siblings.  Another significant factor is the current research connected with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS).  Some symptoms of polio appear to surface years after a person recovers from the initial effects of the polio virus.  All of us have experienced the symptoms of PTSD, but my experience has been far more evident than with my brothers and sister.  Virtually all of the symptoms of PTSD have surfaced in more serious ways in my case and are discussed in this story.  Now in my mid 60’s with many valuable life experiences, I have the ability to make adjustments and manage my PTSD symptoms more effectively, including taking certain medications to help with chronic anxiety. 

Dad’s official diagnosis of “Battle Fatigue” is now compared to PTSD. Thousands of WWII combat veterans were treated at the time when little was known about PTSD.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story. 

“This man (Vernon H. Sparks, BMC, US Navy) was admitted to the sick list on July 23,1945 at the USNT&DC, Shoemaker, California, with combat fatigue, complaining of nervousness and irritability, and he was transferred here the same date.  According to the man’s statement, accepted by the board, he was in good health until the onset of his present symptoms.  He was aboard the USS West Virginia, torpedoed at Pearl Harbor, and was trapped below decks but worked his way clear and swam under burning oil to get away from the ship.  Since that time he has been moderately apprehensive while at sea and his symptoms became aggravated during the 7 Pacific invasions with ‘general quarters practically all the time.’  He returned to the mainland in June 1945, and all symptoms have subsided since admission, with psychotherapy and reassurance.  The physical examination and all indicated special studies are negative for essential organic pathology.  The psychiatric examination reveals a subsiding fatigue state in a previously stable individual with good insight and excellent service motivation.”  From my own perspective, and considering the standard mental health medical treatment procedures of the time, I can imagine that this was a very scary place for Dad to spend six weeks until released in September 1945.”

Following is the specific diagnosis of Vernon H. Sparks: “Combat Fatigue, #2171 Origin: Not Misconduct.  Tense, nervous, anxious, has shoulder that is easily dislocated.  Symptoms came on while at sea, tour of duty 66 months ending some 6 weeks ago.  Sleeps poorly, wakens often, nightmares of combat.  Appetite is variable.  He is sensitive to noise and crowds.  Startle Reaction.  He is moody at times.  Not suicidal.  He is fatigued.”

Dad was released from the hospital and returned to duty on September 6, 1945.  All of these symptoms are included in the modern set of symptoms referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dad was severely damaged emotionally during his extended combat experience during WWII.  Dad came home a different man, who needed extensive treatment for a condition that was not well understood at the time.

Your closest friends are critical in managing and mitigating PTSD symptoms.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.
“I place a very high value on a hand full of friends in my life, including my own wife, Judy.  Charles and Jim are two of my closest friends.    My intense behavior and anxiety does represent a challenge for maintaining long and close friendships.  Knowing more about my condition now makes me appreciate even more all those friends who put up with me for so many years.  If I had known more about my condition earlier it would have been easier to manage friendships better.  But for the most part there are very special memories that resulted from friends who had that extra patience with me and saw something that was genuine, someone they could count on and trust.  And for me it was the same with all of these very close and dear friends of which I mention just two for now, Charles and Jim.  There are others that may come up in this story later.  I do miss Jim, who passed away at age 58, very much and think about him most days.  He seems to be there reminding me of things that make a difference in my behavior and in the treatment of others.”

Reaching out to others and sharing life experiences is healing, and the right thing to do.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.

“It’s dumbfounding to understand just how much damage can be done by one human being. One thing I try to remember about humans is this: one person can change history by a negative choice and one person change history with a good choice. Choosing to heal is a good choice. It helps change life for you now and in the future. It prevents unnecessary pain for yourself and others. It heals you, it helps heal others. Your choice to reach out is a good choice as well and it matters.”   F. Magdalene Austin

“I took this quote from an article, “What are Your Hyper Vigilance and Hyper Arousal Symptoms?” published by Sundrip Journals.  It clearly reinforces my desire and that of others to reach out, share, and heal from traumatic events that result in suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  So far my knowledge of the subject is exponentially larger than before, and knowing more about my past and current behaviors allows a form of treatment for healing and to mitigate certain behaviors that are actually over the top.  My intensity works well in a sales type environment where my career flourished over the years.  But working with a board in a non-profit and social services culture is not conducive to excessive intensity caused by hyper vigilance & hyper arousal.  You simply push people away and make them nervous or resentful or they feel threatened.  This has been a career long behavior in my experience, working very well and effectively in a competitive highly intense and sense of urgency culture, that being sales & marketing.  But it can be troublesome and potentially destructive behavior in a less intense world of people focused on a kinder and gentler daily life style.  And on a personal level, my wife, Judy, has helped me to become more tolerant of others who are less intense because that is who she is or who they are.  It’s helped me to diffuse the “over the top” intensity referred to and shows how important it is to have a support system that can tolerate and coach a person suffering from PTSD symptoms, specifically those referred to here.”  Click to see  F. Magdalene Austin’s beautiful and thought provoking art.

What does it feel like to live in a toxic home culture?

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.
In my toxic home culture, survival was the name of the game.  It was like being in a foxhole all the time, or as my Dad would say sometimes, “it was battle stations practically all the time” when he was at sea fighting in the Asiatic Pacific Theater.  Consequently, one could conclude that inter-generational PTSD could be acquired through simulation of a “battle stations” condition at home as a child.  We were in a constant state of fear.  Anxious about when Dad would go off, or when Mother would freak out.  A normal position at home when Dad walked by was defensive in terms of putting arms and hands over heads for protection of a potential blow that might come out of nowhere.  My brothers and I had to be ready for anything all the time, morning, noon, or night.  Moments of tranquility came when we were alone in the house when the parents were not there.

With the help of family members, memories of the “wedding that didn’t happen” are being restored.

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.
Laura remembers all of the excitement when I came home to marry my loving fiancée, Sheryl.   Laura thought Sheryl was so beautiful and the wedding planning was like a fairy tale to her at nine years old.  Laura loved playing with her Barbie and Ken dolls, imagining beautiful and perfect lives for them! Laura fantasized, “Here is my big brother Stephen with his beautiful fiancée, real life Barbie and Ken…!”
Laura was especially excited because Sheryl asks her to be one of her bridesmaids, the “junior bridesmaid” along with her younger sister.   Although Laura doesn’t remember her name she remembers playing together at the parent’s home in the San Fernando Valley.

As Laura recalls, Sheryl, her Mom, Dad and sister lived in a beautiful Spanish adobe style home in the San Fernando Valley. The home was surrounded by perfect manicured landscaping with gorgeous old trees, flowering shrubbery, and perfect green lawns. All the homes on the street were different however large and elegant.  The windows were round with iron bars, ceilings with open beams like the old Spanish California missions that Mother insisted we tour in our Family travels.
Laura recalls further, Sheryl and her mom were going to sew the dresses for the girls in the wedding party. They were Ivory linen with ruffles and empire style waist.   Sheryl’s sister and Laura were fitted several times, she remembers.   “It was so much fun and excitement for me,” Laura said with a smile. 
It hurts me to think about how my sister was so very disappointed when the wedding didn’t happen after all.   She remembers Dad yelling at me the night before and all the chaos going on at our home in Gardena, California.
The sad part is that I don’t remember a thing about this event, except the larger and overwhelming torture of trying to figure a way out of the marriage.  Whether this marriage was right or wrong I will never know, but will try to reconcile this hurtful experience in the context of finding peace in what happened.  I apparently hated myself for the cowardly act of backing out of this marriage and using my father to help me confront the family.  I was a “runaway groom” to be sure.  I don’t know how this event affected Sheryl and her family, but it must have been tragic.  I now know it was tragic for me since I suffered a memory loss for many months following this experience until finally coming home again from the Navy to start my life as a civilian.  I will make every attempt to find Sheryl and apologize deeply for not being strong enough to confront the issue directly with her and her family.  It is clear to me now that my behavior, although connected to emotional instability and PTSD symptoms, was inexcusable.  My memory is so foggy on this period of time that I can’t even remember Sheryl’s last name!  I am so ashamed and know this experience will haunt me forever.  Finally, in terms of parental behavior in this circumstance, I would never dream of engaging in this type of intervention with any of my children, never!  Where was my good character?  Where was my mind?  Where was my strength when needed the most?  At age 18 or 19,  I was clearly in need of appropriate guidance from a role model that did not come my way at the time.