“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.”
Trauma is trans-generational
“In recent weeks astudyabout the genetic affect trauma has been released. Untreated trauma creates enduring anxiety, fear, instability, and hopelessness, fertile ground for reactionaries and extremists. So the most horrifying results of today’s conflicts may be visible only in the future, as hundreds of thousands of children and young people who grew up amidst chronic fear, violence and disruption become adults.
Whatever our politics, there is no ignoring the fact that the number of conflicts in the world (not just in the Middle East) is growing.If we care for the future of our children, all children, we need to give proper care to those who are suffering today.”
I have been researching and writing about this topic since 2011, including publishing 3 books and on-going work through my blog, Children and Families in Life after Trauma. We now know enough about the inter-generational effects of post traumatic stress on children and families, that it is possible with enough awareness and education of treatment strategies to break the cycle of pain for future generations. It is time to focus on taking care of the children and families who are exposed to war, poverty, famine, toxic families and crime affected neighborhoods, especially children before they reach age 6. Research shows that after age 6 treating symptoms of post traumatic stress is highly difficult and often requires a retrofit healing strategy… The very best outcome is finding a path of healing that is a work in progress for a very long time.
From my own experience growing up in a highly toxic and sometimes violent childhood, never assume your kids are resilient. Children inhale the pain of parents, other family members, and friends. Kids are very often silent and avoid confrontation, but the emotional pain sticks like bad genes. Even worse are the long term post trauma effects of abused children, who eventually need to find a path of healing and peace of mind. I waited until age 64 to finally address the roots of my own traumatic childhood and life-long anger, depression and anxiety that lived in my heart, mind, and soul for decades.
Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, ND, Executive Director, is an Army wife of twenty years and mother to an active duty soldier. She taught in the overseas Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Caribbean and currently works for the federal government. In 2002, she compiled the stories of over 150 University of Maryland, Munich, Germany alumni, resulting in two books documenting the history of that campus’ 40-year history. She has been recognized for her unique education programs in the US and abroad and has been published in Eddiciones Santillana’s Strategies for Teaching English in Puerto Rico. She has been featured in the Army Times and has been quoted in scholarly books about growing up on military bases overseas. Circe belongs to the Blue Star Mothers and co-edits the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS) Quarterly newsletter.
As a repository for their stories, we shape the future by preserving our heritage, recording its evolution, and inviting dialogue by sharing our experiences with the world.
Because military families often view the same event in history through a different lens than their service member, they provide a different perspective. In order to fully understand the military families’ experience, it’s important to examine history from all angles.
Military families have lots of stories to tell — and their stories should be recorded to be shared with future generations– happy stories–sad stories–and those almost too terrible to tell.
Navy brat and author Steve Sparks joined the MAMF community in 2013, especially to tell his story, which initially sad and bleak becomes one of inspiration.
Intergenerational PTSD is certainly not new, but until recently, little was said about it. Steve hopes that by telling his story, he can offer comfort and hope to others. By breaking the silence and talking about intergenerational PTSD, Steve hopes people can learn more about resources and tools available to them.
Steve has collaborated on several projects with MAMF, each time presenting different aspects of his life as a child growing up in a “toxic” household–because MAMF wants to present a complete picture of military family life, we would be remiss to gloss over the effects PTSD has on the family unit.
“Allow me to bottom line this for you. If you think hitting your kid with a stick until he bleeds is an acceptable form of punishment, you’re a bad parent. And, more than likely, you’re engaging in a criminal act. Your culture, race, ethnicity, and upbringing don’t matter in this instance. I don’t care where you’re from or what color you are, because when you decide to whip your 4-year-old with the branch of a tree, you are committing a crime. And I hope you face the same charges Peterson is facing.”
I welcomed the news today that Adrian Peterson was suspended without pay from the Minnesota Vikings for the entire 2014 season!
I write about the intergenerational consequences of child abuse in my book. I wrote this story of my family’s post WWII and Korean War struggles and the challenges of growing up in a toxic family culture because we were all morally injured from child abuse…a lifetime tragedy. My father suffered terribly from the trauma of extended deployment as a US Navy wartime veteran. His severe depression and anxiety can be described as showing the worst symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). My father was also beaten and abused as a child, compounding his own mental health issues. During my young life there was little or no awareness, nor protection for kids who were abused. I refer to the worst memories during my childhood as “the too terrible to remember 1950’s and early 1960’s.
““As an added tragic note, my brother didn’t mention the time in Waukegan just before he entered the Navy, that Dad hit him in the head after Jerry was confronted in front of the house by some bullies. He almost took them all on and could have cleaned up since he was so strong. Dad hit his head so hard that it swelled up and we thought he needed medical attention. But Dad was afraid to take him to the hospital. Fortunately, Jerry recovered, but it is my opinion that this incident gave him a severe concussion that needed treatment. I know one thing for sure, as a little kid it hurt me deeply to see this happen. To this day I remember the terrible incident vividly. This horrid event is an example of a man who lived by day as a highly respected war hero training boots at the US Naval Training Center; and by night Dad was a mentally ill dangerous man who kept his family in a cage as victims of extreme abuse. None of us would talk about it for fear of being beaten. The US Navy did not see it, nor probably wanted to see it. This was a man who was solely responsible for our welfare and without him we would have been poor and homeless at the time. We had no choice but to live with him and to avoid his wrath as much as possible. None of us even understood the gravity of the situation until later. Denial certainly helped us survive but all the baggage is clear.”
Please get help if you find as a parent the need to “beat and scare the hell out of your child.” By seeking treatment and support from the mental health professional community, you can stop the cycle of intergenerational child abuse, and break the cycle of emotional pain. As an abused child from a time when there was complete denial and little awareness or treatment strategies, I still live with flashbacks at the prime age of 68. My own journey of healing is a lifelong work in progress… I also firmly believe that Minnesota Vikings star, Adrian Peterson, is a good person and will be a better father in the future…
Like psychological trauma, moral injury is a construct that describes extreme and unprecedented life experience including the harmful aftermath of exposure to such events. Events are considered morally injurious if they “transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (1). Thus, the key precondition for moral injury is an act of transgression, which shatters moral and ethical expectations that are rooted in religious or spiritual beliefs, or culture-based, organizational, and group-based rules about fairness, the value of life, and so forth.
“The context of spirituality is profoundly critical to a trauma victim…a case of right vs. wrong. Combat veterans are often morally injured or compromised while experiencing or engaged in hard combat. The post trauma symptoms of PTSD represent a normal reaction of the mind fighting against the horrors and inhuman circumstances of war…killing and carnage. Trauma victims can choose a path of healing by acknowledging the roots of moral injury with alternative treatment strategies sooner than later…awareness is the first step in healing. Denial of ones spiritual and moral reality as a human being will only keep the emotional pain bottled up inside revealing itself with the painful symptoms of PTSD…for a lifetime if not treated. The higher risk of denial is the adverse affect on the children and families of warriors…secondary and complex PTSD in loved ones living with a trauma victim or the case of intergenerational PTSD. The sad tragedy of the horrors of war on humans is how it damages the moral fabric of society for generations.”
Clark said many of the men and women in his program have tried to commit suicide and had frightening near misses. Attempted suicide by cop, attempted hangings, car crashes, some even tried to kill themselves at home in the company of family or friends. Clark was there himself, no job and struggling in recovery. His experience and those of his friends are what prompted him to scrape up the money to try developing a program.”
“The meditation keeps me sober,” Beckett said of the central technique in the program. “It was only 5½ days but I learned things for my whole life.” One of the things he learned was that there is power in sharing your problem with other warriors.
The combat veteran who suffered from trauma as a child is considered a much higher risk for compounded post trauma symptoms and PTSD. As a US Navy military child growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s living with a father who braved all of WWII in hard combat and a tour of duty during the Korean War…I was already affected with the symptoms of PTSD when joining the US Navy in 1963…but didn’t have a clue. I didn’t even experience combat but was diagnosed with symptoms of severe depression and anxiety while serving in the Navy anyway. I am a strong believer in alternative treatment strategies that include the entire family. Otherwise, it is very difficult if not impossible to stop the intergenerational cycle of pain connected with trauma survivors.
The treatment strategies outlined in this documentary are designed to treat the combat veteran trauma survivor as well as family members. While visiting the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, NMex (click highlighted text for more) in May the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists present during my talk, shared that they think about the need for including the entire family in treatment, but sadly, only have the resources to treat veterans individually, excluding the family as whole.
Don’t let your veteran go it alone once on the journey of “coming home.” Coming home can never be a reality until the trauma survivor finally feels peace of mind, self worth, and a productive member of society who can love and be loved again. Rebuilding trust is the true test of finally coming home permanently…
“Far from the heroic, self-assured characters he’s played — and the joyful person he is today — Stewart was for decades a man plagued by fear and stifled by rage. The roots of his struggle go back to a difficult childhood, marked by poverty and abuse that took him years to understand. Having only recently opened up about the trauma of his early years, he now behaves as a person liberated, and eager, finally, to step out and join the party.”
When self-talk of being too old or who cares enters my mind at the prime age of 68, mentors like Sir Patrick Stewart, 73, come to my rescue. I have written about Patrick Stewart in the past. Patrick’s childhood was toxic (click highlighted text) in a post WWII culture of silence, secrecy, and pain. He grew up in a home suffering from the symptoms of PTSD created by the trauma of his father’s WWII combat experience.
Patrick Stewart’s father (click on highlighted text for video clip) was angry following WWII and was violent toward his mother…but did not abuse his children… It was quite the opposite in my father’s case following WWII. We siblings took the brunt of Dad’s anger for many years, especially during the “too terrible to remember 1950’s.” My mother lived in fear of course, and the constant toxic conditions at home caused her to suffer terribly with secondary PTSD. Mother still has flashbacks at age 96.
Like many trauma survivors following WWII, years of silence, ignorance, and stigma attached to mental health issues caused the emotional pain to linger on for many years and even a lifetime. Those survivors like Patrick Stewart discovered a career passion that kept the pain at a safe distance. Eventually, once becoming aware of the roots of PTSD and alternative treatment strategies, thousands of trauma survivors like me, including Patrick Stewart, have been able to start our own path of healing by reaching out and making a difference for others.
Although a work in progress, it is possible for trauma survivors to achieve peace of mind and a joyful life even after many decades of emotional pain from the symptoms of PTSD. I now feel blessed to have been able to confront my own demons in very healthy ways… Please take a look at my archives and find a topic that gets your attention… To learn more about alternative treatment strategies click “Letting go of what you can’t change,” a recent post.
“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.
PTSD can occur after someone goes through trauma. Learn about PTSD. Connect with someone. Share how treatment can help. Make a difference today
It was a true honor to be invited by the Education Department at the Raymond G Murphy VA Medical Center, to speak about “Children & Families in Life After Trauma” to a group of clinical staff members on Monday June 2nd. My talk and engaging conversation with staff was a way to make a difference by sharing my story of the challenges living in a post WWII and Korean War home as a military child. It was also the first time since publishing my book and writing a blog to meet with mental health professionals to discuss the broader impact of intergenerational PTSD.
I talked about how ignorance on the part of families and civilian community hinders the process of readjustment and healing when warriors return home. We discussed how children inhale the pain of parents and carry the baggage forward as adults. The reality of eventually confronting and treating the symptoms of secondary and complex PTSD as a result of living in toxic home circumstances is evidenced by aging veterans and civilians receiving treatment in later years. It is clear from my own experience that the scope of treatment for PTSD must include the family as a whole.
Most agree that we are just beginning to realize that mitigating the long term effects of PTSD symptoms must start very early, including education and support for children and families. This approach has the potential to break the intergenerational cycle of pain. As a nation, we must address the broader implications of PTSD for the family and society.
With the apparent damaging effects of intergenerational PTSD on the children of warriors, it is critical to provide ongoing treatment and services closer to home. Once the VA transitions a veteran returning home from war to the journey of healing in life after trauma, local community resources must have the awareness and capacity to continue treatment not only for the warrior but for the family as a whole. As a global American community we must step up to the lifelong family caregiving critical to achieving the goal of mitigating PTSD in society and future generations. Treatment and caregiving for veterans of all wars does not start and end with the VA. Local communities everywhere must take responsibility for the caregiving of our heroes and their families to win the battle of readjustment and healing at home.