Monthly Archives: June 2016

Surviving, Thriving, and Healing from Post-Traumatic Stress… My Personal Perspective…

 

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County, Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

My personal perspective of living with post-traumatic stress…by Steve Sparks…

There were many years that the thought of my big brother getting hit in the head and knocked out by Dad triggered nightmares and uncontrolled emotions.  Although the nightmares rarely happen anymore, the events of that time stay with me.  The horrific nature of seeing my big brother almost killed by our father comes to me almost every day, sometimes more than once.  The never ending toxic turmoil and dysfunction in our home left me feeling numb and without empathy and compassion for others.  The worst of post-trauma conditions is becoming self-absorbed, caring only about your own interests and survival.  There is no world larger than self in the worst case of emotional challenge in life after trauma.  My thoughts were mostly of self-defense and survival each and every day followed by self-medication at night.  Self-talk was filled with trauma from the past and fear and trepidation of the future.  I couldn’t talk to others about my feelings because no one else could possibly get it or understand.  Mental health was, and still is to a large extent, a risky topic to explore with others, especially family members and those you work with in your professional life.  Living in the moment and feeling safe is a life-long work in progress.

It was always challenging for me to trust others without some sort of escape plan and defensive position.  My feeling was that survival was an all-consuming occupation.  Even as kids we would avoid being visible or exposed for fear of being criticized and punished for being “bad, stupid, and sinful”.   For many years spirituality was something connected to religion, not my soul.  I didn’t know how to love until my mid-30s. I never trusted anyone completely and with unconditional love until later in life.

I have learned to live with and mostly mitigate the fear of failure and excessive insecurity in these later years.  For most of my life as a child, through adulthood and midlife years, my fear of failure served me well with intense hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal as a professional.  But these persistent and less than healthy post-trauma stress symptoms did not work well for me at home when free time should be used for peace of mind and relaxation…a mindfulness existence is a gift.

At home in a safe environment, I was always on the move and could not sit still.  When the pain creeped in during weekends, or holidays and sleep deprived nights, I became angry with outbursts and rage at times. The absolute worst part of my behavior is acknowledging how it hurt others close to me, especially my family.  What I know from research and awareness now is the larger tragedy of post-trauma stress on children and families. The transferred emotional pain often appears as a secondary post-trauma affliction in loved ones on the receiving end who become care givers and must try to live with the toxic behaviors of a parent, partner, or mentor. The generational consequences become a much bigger burden on others in your immediate family and society as a whole. 

I drank alcohol for self-medication until age 55.  I got addicted to narcotic pain and sleep medications in later years due to arthritic pain and joint replacements.  The combination of alcohol and prescription medications was a very bad cocktail and almost took me down.  The grace of God and my wonderful, loving, compassionate and caring spouse saved my life!

Yes, I believe now that healing from a painful and traumatic past is possible.  But it takes discipline, focus, and lots of love from family and friends.  Healing for me is fueled by my passion to make a difference for others who suffer from debilitating mental health conditions.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon.

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Click here to download for $3.99. “Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational post-traumatic stress (PTS)…”

Is Society Rejecting 21st Century Change? Adapting to Postmodernism Learning…

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Managing chaos in a changing world…it’s complicated…

Postmodernism  Click here…for more… A quote from NZCR…21st Century Learning

Post-modern just means ‘coming after’ modernism. The term is used to refer to a period in history (the one we’re in now), but it is also used to refer to a set of ideas that ‘go with’ this period in history. This set of ideas is a reaction to—and, to some extent, a rejection of—the ideas of modernism.

According to one theorist, post modernism is the passage from ‘solid’ (stable) times to ‘liquid’ times (Bauman 2007). It is the end of traditional structures and institutions, and the end of what another theorist calls ‘grand narratives’–the big, one-size-fits-all stories of modern thought (Lyotard 1984). There is a loss of faith in the idea of ‘progress’, the idea that we are gradually heading along the one true pathway towards certain universal goals – such as the full picture of knowledge, or equality and justice. Instead, there is an emphasis on multiple pathways and plurality; on diversity and difference; and on the partiality of all knowledge (that is, the idea that we can only have an incomplete picture, and the idea that all knowledge is biased). Change is seen, not as a linear progression, but as a series of networks and flows, connections and reconnections that, because they are always forming and reforming, never have time to solidify.

Thus, where modern thought emphasises direction, order, coherence, stability, simplicity, control, autonomy, and universality, post modern thought emphasises fragmentation, diversity, discontinuity, contingency, pragmatism, multiplicity, and connections.

Read more about some of the theories behind the shift to 21st century learning, or click on one of the specific theories below.

References

Bauman, Z. (2007). Liquid times: Living in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge UK: Polity Press.
Lyotard, J-F. (1984). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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I don’t believe many of us from the baby boomer generation really loved a life of constantly disruptive and painful change, but to survive and thrive we had to adapt fast, especially to rapidly changing and evolving technologies.  Can’t we just get back to the peace and love movement of the 1960 era of hippies and Woodstock?  Nobody could even find us! There is no rest for the weary even now as the 3rd decade of the 21st Century is just around the corner.

I love technology, but hate how it forces humanity to change too quickly for our own good.  My very soul rejects the idea that we are at a point now where practicing mindfulness and grounding is mandatory to get through each hour of the day.  We are asked to “build Rome in a day” every day of the week, even on Sunday during worship services.  Everybody wants something, or wants us to do something.  Being hyper-vigilant is no longer considered an unstable emotional behavior.  Hyper-arousal behaviors have evolved to a 21st Century asset in managing effectively the chaos of every day living and work life.  Our technology devices help us live in chaos and stay focused, but we lose it when we have to sit in a meeting and have a thoughtful conversation.  Thinking about what happened yesterday and being fearful of falling off a cliff in the future is contrary to living in the moment.  We thrive in the modern world by learning as quickly as possible how to fix the mistakes of the past and anticipate the moving targets of the future.  Wow!  We are forced to adapt and become super nimble to navigate successfully our daily life on the planet.

What do we do?  Well, we must learn to live in the modern world, and teach our children to do so.  We are not going back to Woodstock!  That was fun, but my peers of that time in history quickly realized after a few years of traveling the country smok’n n jok’n that we needed to jump right in the thick of all the crap and make a difference for ourselves, our families, and others in a larger context. Our lives could not be meaningful nor rewarding if it is not about something larger than us.  We cut the long hair, stopped the drugs and alcohol, returned to school, started a family, and begrudgingly wore that awful 3 piece suit each and every day.  The good news is we started dressing more casually in the 1980’s.  Politicians and bankers are the hold outs, and still wear suits and ties.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs showed us how to relax more at work with openness, mindfulness, self awareness, self-care and in reaching out to others in collaborative work groups.  Otherwise, in a chaotic world, burn-out comes entirely too early to suit the needs of the corporate bottom line. Work has to be fun or we are not at our best as innovators and entrepreneurs nor as caring and loving human beings.

So, get with it!  Learn to be adaptive and mindful in your life at home and at work.  Stop rejecting technology and start loving it.  An offense is always the best defense.   When you can take ownership and stop rejecting change, your life can be as rewarding and peace loving as you want it to be without returning to Woodstock.  Each and everyone of us are in-charge of our own future, one way or the other. Wake up and smell the roses, and think “I got this” each and every day.  Strike an agreement to own your own future…

Steve Sparks. Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

#TALKPTSD – The PTSD Documentary BURIED ABOVE GROUND – Interviewing Ben Selkow

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Watch! This powerful trailer…Buried Above Ground

#TALKPTSD Click to listen… Very moving interview with Ben Selkow and Kate Gillie, CEO, PTSDchat.org

Buried Above Ground Facebook

WORLD Channel (PBS) National TV Broadcast Premiere Announcement and Mental Health America (MHA) National Conference & Film Festival


After eight long years of researching, developing relationships, fundraising, filming around the country, tears and laughter, witnessing pain and courage, years of editing, launching the film into festivals and community screenings, we are absolutely thrilled to announce BURIED ABOVE GROUND’s national broadcast on PBS America ReFramed on WORLD Channel, Tuesday, June 28th at 8pm during National PTSD Awareness Month! We are so pleased to be a part of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning American Documentary family to bring our film into households around the country.

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I was deeply moved listening to the #PTSDchat Talk Radio interview with Ben Selkow last night. The debth and breath of this film struck me as one of the most pain shaking, delicate, and sensitive research projects yet on post-traumatic stress.   Taking over 6 years to direct and produce this documentary provides the viewer with a heart wrenching but hopeful journey of what we, as trauma survivors from different life experiences find a path of life-long healing.  It is a very crooked road indeed that is navigated successfully but not without setbacks and adjustments, including new traumas along the way.  Ben talks of discovering that post-trauma stress is not an individual matter because it affects the entire family and circle of loved ones in the trauma survivors’ life.  His conclusion is that we must see the larger societal and generational suffering that damages the very fabric and soul of our human experience, especially children and families.  Once we become keenly aware of ourselves and others who struggle with the life long affects of experiencing severe trauma, we will ultimately break the cycle of pain.  This hopeful message is very encouraging and shows that the good work and passion of so many will stop the stigma of mental health and help millions of families who suffer find a path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon…

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2…Survivor’s Speak by by Michele Rosenthal…

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Saving your children, family and loved ones…

 

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Heal My PTSD, Trauma happens, so does healing…

Gene

Dr. Gene Sharratt, Executive Director for the Washington Student Achievement Council, appointed by Governor Jay Inslee

“Steve is absolutely correct, instead of “what is wrong,” how about what happened in this child’s life that can lead to greater levels of support, connection and authentic interest in the child. A listening ear, caring heart, and genuine long-term interest a child builds needed connections, confidence, and respect for the unique and individual gifts of each child. All children need to feel secure, safe, protected and valued. These emotions build healthy childhood and adult relationships. Trusted adults are key to this success and they are found in parents, teachers, counselors and others who, daily, impact the lives of children. The legacy of any great country is found in the treatment of their children. Steve’s wise counsel provides a pathway for building a legacy of hope, opportunity and happiness for our children. His book is a “must read” for those interested in ensuring all children have the opportunity to enjoy a safe and rewarding life.”

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Author’s transitional note:

steve sparks

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

While growing up during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, I felt very lonely and scared most of the time, especially at home.  Although I still live with the painful memories, my journey of healing has given me perspective.  My mind is at peace and there is joy for the most part in my life in these later years.  I now clearly understand that if there had been early childhood and young adult connections that were trusting, the heavy weight of emotional baggage entering the adult world at age 17, would have been much smoother…meaning a healthy growing experience and the challenges that go with maturing as an adult.  My trusted mentors came into my life after joining the US Navy in 1963…sooner would have been better.  As a result, denial kicked in like a strangle hold that wasn’t released until much later in life.

My goal with this chapter is to help kids, parents, teachers, and mentors come together as a closer community family without fear and with growing trust…it takes time.  In the best of circumstances, parents can learn from their children who are building healthy relationships outside of the home, in school, clubs, and at play.  As a community, we do this so much better in the 21stCentury, but it is still a work in progress…

Parents and Teachers Help Prevent Childhood Trauma (ACES)  Quote from this website article from ACES to High News…

“When parents bring a child who’s bouncing off the walls and having nightmares to the Bayview Child Health Center in San Francisco, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris doesn’t ask: “What’s wrong with this child?” Instead, she asks, “What happened to this child?” and calculates the child’s ACE score.”


Steve sparks book

Click the book cover image for author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon…

 

While growing up the question of “what happened to me” never came up…it was always “what was wrong with me.”  This was a terrible legacy as a child to carry forward as an adult.  Even in my later years I have to take a deep breath just about every day and focus on what happened vs. what is wrong.  This constructive thought process saves the day…

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s the conversation at home and in school was “what is wrong with your child rather than what happened to this child.”  Childhood trauma is not new.  We still have toxic homes and neighborhoods, but parents and teachers know more in the 21st Century thanks to the CDC ACES study and testing.  “The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States.”

As a child advocate and vice chair of Neighbors for Kids, a popular after-school program in Depoe Bay, Oregon, we often have to address all types of special needs of kids, including the effects of trauma.  The more we know from collaboration with public school teachers and parents, we are able to pay particular attention to traumatized children and help them effectively.  I know from my own traumatic childhood experience that growing up feeling alone, scared, and asking myself “what is wrong with me” or hearing “what is wrong with you” had long term damaging consequences on my ability to build self-confidence and feel connected with other kids and my adult mentors.  Eventually, joining the US Navy at age 17 as a young adult saved my life.  No child should suffer from emotional neglect and abuse and believe there is something wrong with them…early recognition and special attention is critical!

When you observe a child bouncing off the walls, or looking scared and lonely, please show love and compassion.  As a teacher, mentor, and parent you are in a great position to help children heal from a traumatic experience by seeking more information about life at home by asking “what happened” and providing the loving care and attention all children deserve…sooner than later…

 

Trauma Survivors Thrive…Knowing The Triggers to Emotional Pain… Self Awareness is Healing…

Surviving and Thriving…  Quote from this website…

Every trauma survivor has the right to become a thriver!

We provide support, friendship and advice for adults who have been affected by childhood abuse. If this is the first time you have visited this site, and would like to learn about HAVOCA, feel free to browse around and explore our hundreds of useful pages about the road to recovery.

HAVOCA’s ethos believes that every single victim of abuse has the ability to survive and lead a more fulfilling life.

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“How many of us suffer with the feeling of being broken???”  

“And many years of putting all the ‘broken’ parts back in place.   No easy process but you can thrive!”

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The above anonymous exchange of text messages got my attention.  I have been using “surviving and thriving” together for some time because shifting to “thrive” offers so much hope.  Why?  Because when we do “survive” emotional neglect and child abuse, embarking on a lifelong journey of healing, we more often than not “thrive” while doing so.  It becomes a daily work in progress and a discipline of understanding the symptoms connected with the mental health challenges.  If we are aware of the triggers and behaviors, we can mitigate the unsettling over reactions to the days events, and practice “dialing down” with style…  Hyper vigilance can be a good thing in terms of staying on top of your game, but not so good if it turns into a panic attack or an over reaction that becomes a distraction to others on your team.  Trauma survivors can thrive by using some of the value added symptoms of mental health challenges to advantage.

I have received excellent mentoring over the years from friends, family, co-workers, and mental health professionals to learn the value of  “dialing down” that translates into facilitating emotions or anger that has positive benefits at home and in the work place.  Take a look at the resource and reference site…Surviving and thriving…  Start thinking in terms of practicing how to use the gifts of hyper vigilance and hyper arousal to your advantage…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

 

Honoring and Remembering Father’s WWII and Korean War Service to America… Happy Fathers Day!…

 

Steve Sparks

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, BMC, WWII Asiatic Pacific Theater, USS Belle Grove (LSD-2)   c1943

 

 

 

USS Belle Grove (LSD2)
 

CAREER
Laid down: 27 October 1942
Launched: 17 February 1943
Commissioned: 9 August 1943
Decommissioned: 12 November 1969
Struck: 12 November 1969
Motto: “The Two Can Do!”
Fate: Sold for scrap, 24 July 1970

Vernon Sparks, BMC, US Navy-USS Belle Grove (LSD2)

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Quoting Charles Minter
“Steve- My name is Charlie Minter. I served under Sparks on deck of the Belle Grove. I went aboard on Oct 43 was assigned to the 3rd. division aft. The first chewing out I ever got was from Bosn Sparks. He had the longest arm of any one I ever saw. You didn’t fool with him. He was fair as anyone this little 17 year old ever knew. . He could get loud too. I thought a lot of him on the ship. He was good to me as he got me a pie job on the ship. But with the understanding I would keep his uniforms pressed at all time which I did. Hope this helps.” Charles R. Minter P>O>Box 585 Daleville, Va.

USS Belle Grove (LSD-2) WWII Asiatic Pacific Theater…A workhorse support, supply, and repair ship that survived 7 campaigns. My Dad V. H. Sparks was the ship’s BMC… Quote from this website…read more about the USS Belle Grove history by clicking on this site…

1944
Belle Grove underwent repairs and alterations at that base before taking part in amphibious rehearsals at Maalaea Bay, Maui. On 22 January 1944, after embarking troops of the Army‘s 7th Infantry Division, she sailed for the Marshall Islands. The ship supported the seizure of Kwajalein Atoll, delivering troops and equipment ashore on 31 January, and then served as a floating dry dock and boat pool for the numerous landing craft required in an amphibious operation. These duties lasted until 8 February when she got underway for Pearl Harbor.
With her transport capabilities needed in the Solomons, Belle Grove headed for the Southwestern Pacific on 2 March. After a brief refueling stop at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, she unloaded troops, vehicles, and other equipment at Guadalcanal. The dock landing ship then took on a cargo of pontoon barges and pilings intended for a motor-torpedo-boat base under construction at Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago just north of New Ireland. On 25 March, despite heavy seas that wrenched her stern gate from its hinges, the LSD delivered the cargo to that island. After returning to Tulagi for fuel, she proceeded to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides for repairs. On 22 April, she steamed to Florida Island to deliver a cargo of landing craft. The ship also carried troops and equipment between Manus Island and the Russell Islands before turning north for Oahu.
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While there are many inspiring stories of WWII to write about, I often revisit my father Vernon’s years during the war in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.  Just like many boomers whose fathers served in WWII it has been healing for me to remember my father as a hero who served America with pride and honor.  Prior to researching and writing my book, it was mostly painful to think of my childhood living with a parent affected by the horrors of war.  Making it even more painful was not knowing or understanding how war damages the souls of veterans of all wars, including loved ones in life after war. 

It is no longer a subject for me to avoid or be in a lifetime state of denial.  I am without anger toward my father since writing and publishing my book in November of 2011.  No one should have to live with the pain of traumatic experiences in silence.  But the stigma of a diagnosis of PTSD and the knowledge of moral injury continues to haunt many who are still in need of treatment and relief from the emotional challenges that can live with us for a lifetime.

Although a work in progress, my own recovery has been amazing to me and remarkable to others who observe.  I am convinced that the journey of healing is a path worth seeking.  The outreach and human connectedness experienced from developing a healthy perspective of my father’s severe emotional challenges in life after war has made a world of difference for me.  I see clearly the generational consequences of war that cause children and loved ones to be affected with the same angry behaviors and mental health challenges as a parent who survived the horrors of war.

Rather than live with anger and painful flashbacks of those toxic childhood years, it is now healing to help others by writing about my own recovery and to share the success stories of others.  I write this blog with the goal to help those who are seeking awareness and more understanding of their own challenges and a healthy path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, US Navy Veteran and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Mindfulness Therapy…Learning to Live in the Moment… #PTSDchat BlogSpotRadio with Dr. Deb Lindh…

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Click this image for a larger view…very cool…

Mindfulness Therapy with Dr. Deb Lindh on PTSDchat BlogSpotRadio…  A very uplifting and informative radio show!

Introducing Dr. Lindh in a live video clip on breaking through “triggers” of past traumatic events… How can you use mindfulness therapy to recover from an emotional meltdown?

Dr.Deb

Dr. Debra Lindh @DebraLindh Award-Winning #Stress #Mindfulness Expert, #PTSD Survivor-Advocate, Post-Stress Growth, Practical Mindfulness, President @Mindful_Effect

Dr. Deb’s Questions:
  • How can we use mindfulness as a trigger recovery?
  • Mindfulness has many techniques and disciplines, what are some techniques that are helpful to folks with PSTD and how can we get clarity around the disciplines?
  • What is post-trauma growth? How does a person with PTSD experience post-trauma growth?
  • What about pre-trauma, when you know a trigger is coming…how can mindfulness help?
  • What is the cycle – pre-trauma, trigger, post-trauma growth and why is it important for PTSD?

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I can’t say enough good things about my latest collaboration with www.ptsdchat.org…  Last night was our second #ptsdchat radio show and panel discussion on a most important topic, mindfulness therapy Dr. Deb not only provided her special knowledge and experience on this topic but also, uplifting words of wisdom mixed with humor.  New #ptsdchat contributor, David J. Ortiz Gonzalez, Balanced Soldier Life, joined us on the panel as well to share his work on mindfulness practices, including ‘grounding’ techniques.  We laughed and enjoyed a discussion that is often painful and can cause triggers of past traumatic events and circumstances for many in the #ptsdchat audience. I for one, felt right at home, and very comfortable with the conversation among kindred spirits who know how it feels to live with post-trauma stress symptoms.  We learned so much from Dr. Deb and others on the panel. Please listen to the podcast and Dr. Deb’s video clip.  I’m excited about the opportunity and power of healing that the #ptsdchat radio show brings to our community of peers.  Thank you, Dr. Deb for joining us last night!  And, thank you Kate Gallie for your dedication to making #ptsdchat the very best post-trauma growth forum on the planet…

Please join us next Wednesday night for another lively #ptsdchat radio show.  Our topic for next week will be, PTSD & Triggers: Why Do Triggers Happen?

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Survivors Guilt… “The guilt of being alive is heavy!” Orlando shooting survivor…

Orlando Survivor

Patience Carter, 20, is overcome with emotion after speaking to the media about the Pulse gay nightclub shooting from the Florida Hospital Orlando on Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Raedle | Getty Images)

The guilt of being alive… click here for more…

 on June 14, 2016 at 4:30 PM, updated June 14, 2016 at 5:07 PM

“A Philadelphia woman who was wounded in the attack on a gay nightclub in Florida this weekend read a poem to reporters on Tuesday that expressed feelings of guilt about surviving the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Patience Carter, 20, was shot in the leg during the rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning and is expected to recover. Carter’s friend, 18-year-old Akyra Murray, and 48 other people did not survive.”

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Veterans who served in hard combat will tell you that survivors guilt is a lifetime of emotional pain. Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story. 

“When Dad completed his shore patrol assignment in Hawaii in the summer of 1943, it had been almost two years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was able to return home briefly for a few weeks before returning to war in the Pacific.  He was promoted to Chief Petty Officer (BMC) early in 1943 and subsequently assigned to the USS Belle Grove (LSD2).   He was on the commissioning crew of August 9, 1943. Dad was one of three Pearl Harbor survivors on the BG.  He was held in high esteem.   The BG would become one of the most decorated war ships in the Pacific Asiatic Theater serving in 7 campaigns, included the now famous Iwo Jima battle.  LSD means Landing Ship Dock.  These mighty ships were cleverly designed as a sea going ship repair station deployed in the campaigns to repair damaged ships at sea, land marines on the beach, and to recover the wounded and killed.

These men, heroes to be sure, who landed on the beaches of places like Iwo Jima, knew they were given a 50% or less chance of survival.  My dad carried marines onto shore and risked his life as well, but never felt he was a hero or was doing what his fellow marines had to do.  In other words, he wasn’t exactly on a suicide mission like the rest, so he as well as most sailors felt guilty most of the time for being alive.  This kind of guilt lives with men following the war for the rest of their lives.  It is one of the symptoms creating the conditions for PTSD.  Interesting but tragically, the feeling of guilt also lives with the abused spouses and children of surviving combat veterans.   Guilt is evident in most cases of PTSD whether from combat, surviving an accident where others were killed, or from living in a toxic family culture as a survivor of long term abuse.”

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Of all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, survivors guilt, stacks up as being one of the worst nightmares, leading to chronic depression, anxiety, and anger.  When a survivor, as your loved one or friend, has a panic attack or an outburst of anger, please be sensitive and provide a calming response.  The behaviors of survivors reflect a profound and almost never ending grieving process that can linger for a lifetime.  It takes significant awareness, love, empathy, and compassion on the part of family members and friends to help a trauma survivor through a severe episode of extreme guilt that is hidden in the soul and mind.  Survivors suffer from moral injury and must grieve.  Loved ones can help by being extra sensitive to the circumstances and needs of those who suffer from survivors guilt.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2.  Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

SonsStory

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks… Click the highlighted text to order…

Mindfulness Therapy for Veterans and Others Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress… Learning to ‘live in the moment’ is healing…

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“Veterans with PTSD who received mindfulness-based therapy reported greater (though modest) improvement in symptom severity than veterans in another form of therapy.”

Mindfulness…”Living in the Moment.”  Quote from this link… Great video clip!

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy teaches people to pay attention to the present moment in an accepting way. Past studies have shown it can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, but could it also provide relief for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? A new study finds veterans with PTSD who received mindfulness-based therapy reported greater improvement in symptom severity than veterans in group therapy sessions focused on current problems. Their overall improvement, though, was modest.  PTSD affects nearly a quarter — 23 percent — of all veterans who have returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Left untreated, this condition poses unique dangers to veterans and their families.”

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It is a true story that living in the moment doing the things you are passionate about, including making a difference for others, offers a way to keep the pain of past traumatic experiences at a safer distance and mitigates anxiety about the future.  Some will argue that these healthy distractions achieved through mindfulness-based therapy can keep a person in denial of addressing the root causes of post trauma symptoms.  I say doing both in a balanced way can be effective.  I would rather practice mindfulness therapy than use prescription drugs or alcohol as self medication for the long term.  I also need to revisit and reconcile my own life trauma circumstances as an on-going process to keep a healthy perspective of those early child and young adult years that were so painful living in a highly stressful and sometimes violent home.

I have written often about the topic of “mindfulness”  (click highlighted text for video clip) in the context of life after trauma for adults.  But the practice and benefits of meditation or mindfulness therapy definitely apply broadly as a way to relax for people of all ages.  Children in particular get stressed out the same as adults.  We all need a mindfulness timeout a few times a day to stay calm and focused on the joy of living, learning, and growing.”

Take a look at my author page, and download “My Journey Part 2” and other books and resources to explore mindfulness-based therapy.  I have enjoyed far more peace of mind in these later years by becoming highly aware of my own post traumatic stress symptoms, and engaging in a balanced treatment strategy that works.  Each individual must find their own way, or in the case of children, show them the way by practicing living in the moment techniques.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1 & 2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

 

Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under. “I Worry About the Kids!”

Dakotah

Dakotah, Age 4…a foster child who experienced early child trauma…

Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… quote from Anxiety and Depression Association of America… Click highlighted link for more on this topic…

Two or more of the following symptoms can emerge in young children who experience traumatic and toxic circumstances.

  • irritable, angry, or aggressive behavior, including extreme temper tantrums
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

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Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… BlogTalkRadio… #ptsdchat

I’m asked often why I worry about babies and younger children the most when thinking, talking and writing about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and the toxic circumstances that often go with a family who suffers from PTS.  These are typically families with parents who served in hard combat as warriors and come home with the nagging symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger that affects the entire family, especially kids.  I have taken the opportunity in this blog post to help answer this most important question with the goal to educate parents, teachers, mentors, and loved ones to be particularly sensitive to young children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones impacted the most.  This is the time of a child’s life when parents, teachers and loved ones who care for children can make a big difference in mitigating the potential long term emotional damage caused by PTS.

I started an exercise on a blank piece of paper keeping in mind the question, “why I worry about kids in toxic circumstances.”  I took a break after writing down about 35 “trigger” words that came to me from my own life experience.  These are words that needed to be transformed from fear to constructive healing over the years…redefining myself in a more positive context.  Then, I found the above link connected to trauma affected children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones I worry about the most…they are completely at the mercy of the grown ups in a toxic world that is often not even remembered…I have significant memory loss from my childhood, but the feelings of fear of this time remain with me. I do have vague but painful memories of kindergarten and 1st grade.  My memory then fades until around age 10.  Most all the “trigger” words can be organized and connected to the narrative in this link.  The bottom line in my journey of healing that pushes me forward with joy each day is forgiveness of self and others.

I worry the most about the babies, toddlers, preschoolers and K-1 kids who are damaged emotionally and must then face the real world for the first time with limited socialization. They are scared, very scared of themselves, others, and everything else they encounter.  Kids like this (me during my early childhood) are on alert for danger and behave defensively.  They are isolated, emotional, and often act out.  The ability to focus and concentrate is difficult at best.  There is little or no trust in adults.  While other typical  kids are laughing and playing and learning, trauma affected kids shy away and hide,  minds wondering without self regulation or a positive structure… These kids most often feel detached and out of place with peers.

The “trigger” words caused me to drift back in time and remember how it felt as a kid…So I now worry about children in this way, especially if it is clear they are troubled little souls.  I ask not what is wrong with these children, I ask what happened to them?  There is much sadness in my heart when thinking of children who must endure and survive a toxic home culture.

My goal as a trauma survivor who has done significant research and writing on the topic of PTS, is to produce a trauma informed work book to serve as a lay persons reference guide for parents, teachers, and mentors.  The process of developing a work book is at the beginning stage.   I anticipate a hardcopy publication to be completed by the end of 1st quarter 2016.  We adults must become trauma informed to be better equipped to help young children who have suffered from traumatic experiences.  Our children represent the best hope for the future.  It is during the younger years of a child when we have the best chance to mitigate the longer term emotional damage caused by exposure to traumatic circumstances.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story & My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books…

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)