So how is it that out of suffering we can come to not only return to our baseline state but to deeply improve our lives? And why are some people crushed by trauma, while others thrive? Tedeschi and Calhoun explain that post-traumatic growth, in whatever form it takes, can be “an experience of improvement that is for some persons, deeply profound.”
My experience with post-trauma personal growth has been “deeply profound” as suggested in the referenced article. It is possible through awareness, mindfulness, and alternative treatments, one does walk and run on the trail to healing. But staying on the path to healing is a challenging work in progress, at least for me. Setbacks are part of the forward progress and lifelong endeavor. With each day, weeks, months and years since beginning my own recovery, there have been bumps in the road that can be painful, but also fuel the healing process with a lessons learned attitude. Each of us as trauma survivors find our own unique way or form of healing. Everyone has different life events and circumstances that give each of us a unique perspective. But what has been most beneficial to me in healing from experiencing severe trauma, especially as a child and young adult, is to first, forgive yourself; and second, forgive others! Once this happens you free yourself to find your own special and unique path to lasting peace of mind. Resilience then becomes a key factor as you thrive in life after trauma.
My books and those of others, including blog reference articles, on the topic of post-traumatic stress (PTS) can be extremely helpful in self-discovery and awareness. Writing books and this blog represents my own personal treatment strategy to not only understand the roots of PTS symptoms and behaviors, but also provides a healthy perspective, allowing me a comfortable way to heal emotional wounds of the past.
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
exaggerated startle response
problems with concentration
difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
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.
“The Lone Sailor statue represents all people who ever served, are serving now or who are yet to serve in the Navy. The Lone Sailor is a composite of the U.S. Navy bluejacket, past, present and future. He’s called the Lone Sailor.”
I never emotionally connected with my father’s US Navy career until researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in 2011. I didn’t know him well until long after he passed away in 1998. I didn’t know my mother either…who is still with us at age 96 living in Reno, Nevada. Growing up as a military child during the 1950’s and early 1960’s was hell. Carrying around the emotional baggage of a toxic childhood was worse than hell for decades until learning more about the lives of my parents during the years leading up to WWII and afterwards. I know them both now, far better than those years now lost in time and burdened with anger toward the pain of child abuse and emotional neglect. I am no longer angry!
I stood by the “Lone Sailor” statue in Long Beach yesterday for a long time. I was deeply moved… I thought about my Dad and what he was like when joining the US Navy in 1936. Dad spent his early years as a young sailor in Long Beach, California, no doubt standing in this very place looking out at sea dreaming about the future and what would come. His first ship duty was aboard the Battleship USS Tennessee following boot camp in 1936. I know he had hope and was excited about life. Dad was outgoing, an extrovert, kind of like me. He and mother were married in Long Beach in 1940 and experienced some of the happiest times of their lives until he departed on the USS West Virginia on a secret mission at that time during the summer of 1941. My oldest brother, Jerry, was born in September 1941, three months before the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
I thought about my own US Navy service during the early 1960’s and felt close to Dad while reading the engraved memorial bricks at the “Lone Sailor Statue” site. I also thought about Dad’s final words in his own written account (discovered after my book was published) while standing on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, after abandoning ship and swimming for safety after the USS West Virginia was bombed. He and his shipmates watched the Battleship USS Arizona and the other ships from the US Navy Pacific Fleet engulfed in flames and smoke, and said, “People like myself could go on and on, but that would take a book!” (click highlighted text for the full written account). I am proud of my father, Vernon, and all the “Lone Sailor(s)” who served. I am very grateful to have been inspired to write this book, which provided the personal strength to start my own journey of healing and forgiveness.
“Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta Countyis a volunteer charitable organization, 501 c (3), who are veterans helping other veterans to provide financial assistance to veterans and their families in need, to advocate for veterans, provide education and counseling, and to provide a resource of information and experience.”
Membership shall consist only of veterans from the Armed Forces of the United States of America (Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard).
You may join and contribute as an Associate member, but have no voting right.
We meet every Tuesday, 10:00 am at the Quality Resort, 3505 West Hwy 160.
The last Tuesday of the month will be an evening meeting to accommodate those that cannot make the morning meetings. Location: Same as AM. Time: 6:00 PM
All Veterans Welcome and Refreshments will be offered.
Mission: Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County is a 501 c (3) organization established exclusively for charitable purposes, more specifically:
For veterans to help veterans.
To provide financial assistance to veterans in need.
To advocate for the veteran with the Veterans Administration.
Provide information and experience resources.
We provide outreach to veterans in our community and assist in a variety of needs such as:
Assistance in accessing medical, dental and eye care.
Emotional assistance to help overcome the scars of war such asPost Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries and effects of Agent Orange.
Help provide transportation to out-of town VA appointments.
Hold weekly meetings providing the veteran with up to date information and a place for veterans so they can share information and fellowship.
Help provide information and emotional support to family members of veterans.
Ensure veterans receive access to the Veterans Administration (VA) benefits earned through their service in the armed forces.
While speaking at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Medical Center in Albuquerque last week, I was encouraged to make contact with Veterans for Veterans in Pagosa Springs, CO, to share my story about intergenerational PTSD. I received an enthusiastic response when contacting the group, and was made to feel welcome to attend and speak at their regularly scheduled Tuesday 10am meeting. I came early to the meeting to get a feel for the group to help me with my initial interaction. I immediately felt right at home with my brothers and sisters who have served America in the Armed Forces, especially the many members who served during the Vietnam War.
Before speaking to the group, I had a chance to talk to several of the members before the meeting started and to listen to the formal discussion, including reports from the committees who work on community outreach, fund raising, VA updates and support, and programs to engage veterans with veterans. There are now over 120 veteran members of this lively and active non-profit whose passionate work is devoted solely to Archuleta County veterans of all wars.
I immediately recognized the value of veterans forming their own group and taking ownership for helping each other in rural communities in particular. I could feel the bonding, camaraderie and fellowship. I was impressed with the quality of leadership on the board as well. This is a group that is making a huge difference for veterans and their families close to home. I have written about the value of veterans groups supported by local communities (click on link) to complete the circle of support starting with the transition to civilian life and the outgoing support needs once our veterans return home. The Vets for Vets model is exactly the right solution and is showing results evidenced by the support and enthusiasm of the veterans who are members and volunteers. I could not be more encouraged!
Clearly pumped up with enthusiasm, it came time for me to speak to the group. Sharing my story by referencing the challenges of a post WWII and Korean War military family life during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, connected immediately with the close to 40 veterans attending this meeting, including spouses and family members. There was one striking boomer aged lady in attendance who caught my attention because she appeared highly emotional as I talked about forgiving my father and mother once learning about how war comes home and can tear a family apart in life after war. I also talked about the importance of forgiving ourselves first, paving the way to forgiving others and in making a difference for the greater good. Trauma survivors have a tough time with forgiveness, especially forgiving yourself. But we know now that the journey of healing in life after trauma is not possible until self-forgiveness is experienced.
These are the heartfelt healing moments and experiences that come my way while helping others know more about moral injury and the intergenerational effects of PTSD on children and families of warriors. Helping one person at a time encourages me everyday to keep on writing and speaking about life after trauma. I hope to stay in touch with Veterans for Veterans in Pagosa Springs, and those who purchased my book and came up to chat with me privately following the meeting.