Category Archives: Uncategorized

Prevalence of PTSD in Teens… A personal recollection…

https://www.amazon.com/SteveSparks/e/B0070CJDCM

The following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story…click here.   I was in my teens when PTSD symptoms started to kick-in and become worrisome. It seemed like my mind was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I had no idea who I was or what I would become…

“I believe all of the mental and physical abuse discussed in this story begs the question of how it affected my own disposition as my teen years advanced.  I was feeling more and more in-secure as time went by, wondering about what was next, and who our new friends would be, and how we would fit in, and what my parents would end up doing, and where we would live.  There was some excitement about returning to Southern California at that time, getting back to school, and meeting new girls especially.  I had lots of goals and my thoughts were often of the future, leaving home and being on my own.  I wanted out of this chaotic and unstable toxic home life.   I was nervous very nervous most of the time.  I believe the early stages of PTSD and unstable behavior started to kick in at that time.  At age 14 or so, I felt exhausted and confused, without direction, and not knowing whether my parents really cared about us at all.” 

Plight of Homeless Military Children…A Testimonial by Jenny Green, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Jenny Green, Age 9

Photo by Captain Hopes Kids…

My Experience as a Former Military Child Who Became Homeless… by Jenny Green

Close to a year ago, little did I know that I would befriend someone who shares somewhat similar experiences from childhood as me.  Although these experiences are generations apart, they are rooted from the same source…both our fathers experienced PTSD from war.  My friend Steve’s father suffered PTSD from WWII and Korean War, while my father suffers PTSD from Vietnam. I am glad I am friends with Steve; he helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there with effects from a family members fight with this dilemma. Now I know that I am not my own little island in the sea of humanity, there are many of us islands.I was fortunate enough as a child to live in Italy and Germany as a military brat. Dad was active duty and a Vietnam vet with USMC and later enlisted with the U.S. Army. What I didn’t realize then, was that he had PTSD. When he would yell, scream, and smack me around I thought it was normal, in fact, to me it was a simple fact of life. What I also didn’t realize, was how my Dad’s PTSD affected my Mom as well. She would go to work early, come home late, and work many weekends for the Stars and Strips Newspaper; staying away from Dad as much as possible. I did not know my mother, and she did not know me, and the only thing I knew of my Dad was the abuse and anger he had towards me.That was my life ’till I was almost 10 years old, then the apple cart was turned upside down, we moved back from overseas.  Dad divorced Mom about a year and a half after we returned leaving us in southern Indiana, and Dad left for good to Michigan. Once Mom realized he was never coming back, the monster she had harbored came out with a vengeance, secondary PTSD.When Dad left, I was lucky enough to be at my Grandmother’s house, as she took us in for six months. Mom slept 14 to 18 hours a day, only getting up to go to use the bathroom, and then back to bed to either sleep or lie there and cry. Finally my Grandmother had enough of us being in her house and forced my Mom and I out, leaving us at a public housing office. After a few nights in a shelter, we were placed in a small public housing apartment called, “White Court” in New Albany, In.I thought this move was going to help give my Mom momentum with having a fresh start; indeed this was not the case, her PTSD got worse. I had to wear the same pair of socks for 8 months; they smelled like ammonia, were caked with filth and were literally plastered to my feet. When I had shoes, I walked out of them at the toes and wear them for months in that condition. My jeans and t-shirt were stained with wearing them for weeks straight day and night, as I did not have night pajamas. There was no washer and dryer, no laundry mat in walking distance, and she would not buy soap or a bucket to wash clothes.                            There was never any food in the house, and if there was something in the fridge it was usually what someone was tossing out because it was spoiling. I was at least lucky to have free lunch from my elementary school, so I knew I could have a meal once a day during the school year. I relied on that food, as it was literally all I had in my life. I hated summers because I would miss out on the lunches from school and would scrap together meager meals of stale hamburger buns and souring bologna, bologna so soured that there was a white pasty film on it that I would scrap off.It was during one of these summers when I was 12 about to be 13 and had to attend summer school, that Mom closed the door to me. It was my last day of elementary school, when I got home all the doors and windows were locked and Mom was not answering. I sat on the porch till 10pm wondering what had happened, asking neighbors if they had seen anyone at the apartment, nothing. I went to a 5th grade friend’s house, but her family did not want anything to do with stained clothed, ammonia smelling kid; they told me to leave and not return. Under the glow of the dim street light I slept on the porch that night.  The next morning I walked downtown to the amphitheater next to the Ohio River. I would sleep in and around this amphitheater for the next three months. Summer school did not serve lunch, so at night for food I would dig in the dumpsters of the local restaurants after they had closed. I remember eating half eaten fried chicken legs, macaroni salad with my fingers, licking pie filling off of paper plates, and using old napkins with lipstick stains smeared on them.  I remember being afraid to sleep outside at night; so I would walk around town, watch the trains, or sit and listen to the coal barges and tugs going up and down the Ohio River till dawn. I was also afraid of the local law enforcement, as I was scared of getting in trouble for being homeless and filthy. I did not know at the time that they would actually have helped me. I kept going home every other day and knocking on the door and no one ever answered, even though I could see the mail was picked up and curtains were moved.The day 7th grade started, again I went back home and knocked on the door. To my surprise my mom answered the door. Dark circles under her eyes, dirty clothes, and matted hair is how she greeted me. I asked where she had been, and all she could say was that she had been busy. I told her 7th grade started today and I need her to go register me for school at the junior high, she agreed and we walked to school. I walk in the office with the same jeans, t-shirt, socks, and shoes I had been wearing for four months since the end of April, as people are staring at us I get registered for school and receive my class schedule. Second period was pre-algebra, and I hated math but I did not know that my life was about to change. I met my best friend Tracy, she didn’t care what I looked like or smelled like. In fact, later in the school year her Mom and Dad invited me over to their house as often as I wanted. They fed me, washed my clothes, and let me shower. By 8th grade I was living in their house. Mom still had custody of me but she allowed for my move. I was in their household ’till just after high school graduation with a 3.75 GPA, college bound, clean clothes and good food.  Someone had finally given me a chance to survive, and I thrived… 

*****  

Jenny’s testimonial was first published in January 2014. Thank you Jenny for all you do for our community! We are kindred spirits!

Your friend always,

Steve Sparks

Stigma! What does it look like?

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What is social stigma?

Description: Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture, gender, race, intelligence and health. Wikipedia

My first shocking experience with mental health stigma as an adult happened shortly after honorably separating from the US Navy in September 1965.  It was in that moment that my world as a young adult with a bright future was seriously threatened.  Following a very productive and exciting interview process with a Fortune 100 company in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician.  I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy as a radioman.  But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications came to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter said, “even though your qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired!”  I thought with complete dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that my hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. It was then that I decided to never ever speak of my mental health diagnosis…my secret, forever put away in a box and out of reach.  This was stigma then, it is still stigma in the 21st Century.  (Note: I was fortunate to receive a job offer from another respectable telecom company and started my career.) We can all do so much more to stamp out stigma. Please help make a difference by taking quality time to talk openly and honestly with friends and family about mental health. Awareness is the first step in healing invisible wounds.

Steve Sparks

“I Worry About the Kids…” by Steve Sparks

My Journey, Part 2, Steve Sparks

My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2: Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)…

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.” ~Pam Leo

Following is an excerpt from my book released for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII… I was moved last week by a talk on a topic near and dear to my heart and soul…”Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).” Click here… We didn’t have the awareness of ACES in the 1950’s. That was a very painful time in my life as a child. But now there is no excuse for lack of awareness and stigma. It is with profound empathy and compassion for children and adult children who suffer with life long emotional pain, that I share an edited version of a preveiously written blog post from 2015. My story as a post WWII military child is reflected in my passion for the loving care of our kids at every step of the way toward a healthy and happy long life.

Chapters

  1. The Wrath of Stigma
  2. Local Community, Partnerships, and Responsibility
  3. Parents, Teachers, and Mentors
  4. Teaching Kids Empathy & Compassion…The dangers of emotional numbness & denial…
  5. How Does Moral Injury Damage Human Spirituality and the Soul?
  6. Museum of the American Military Family…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  7. Romance and Adventure with my Soulmate

Introduction

It has been almost 9 years since publishing my first non-fiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “chain and ball” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a high level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  It is proven that even babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and show symptoms of PTS as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of its own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma…

With a heavy heart,

Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Consultant, Public Speaker

Veterans Day 2018…Honoring and Remembering American Heroes and the Families Who Served Too…

jimdowningbobbenafal

Steve Sparks with Jim Downing, left and Robert Benafal, right. Both served with my father on the USS West Virginia (BB48) in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Oregon Veterans Memorials Directory…  Click on highlighted text for more…

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This is a red granite memorial tablet mounted behind on a gray granite slab with an electric flame on a pedestal in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Flame of Freedom…Newport, Oregon  Click highlighted text for more…

Several  years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial.  When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars.  Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself.  “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic.  He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”

Slane

Depoe Bay, Oregon VFW Memorial…Click photo for a larger view…

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For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Veterans Day, is very personal.  Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too…  I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then.  We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives.  This is a debt that can never be paid back…

So, on this Veterans Day, go visit at least one veterans memorial close to home, and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including 1st responders who keep us safe on the home front.  Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing. 

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 & 2…click here.

Forgive Yourself First!

How to Forgive Yourself…click here

“Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and consistent about offering forgiveness to others, isn’t forgiving ourselves often the most difficult?”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Community Building Consultant, Mental Health Advocate…

Hello again dear friends and followers,

It has been awhile since I have written a blog post, one from my heart and soul that is… It has been an amazing year so far, mostly living a happy and healthy life with my loving wife, Judy, and Simba, our aging kitty. Most importantly, we are growing as senior citizens in a highly active community on the central coast of Oregon near Depoe Bay. We love living at the beach!  We are blessed with loving friends and neighbors who look out for each other. But as life usually works, stuff happens…

Just when I thought my own journey of healing was well in hand; you know, a manageable work in progress, I went off the rails big time in late May and early June! I can’t even know why my heart and soul picked this exact time and moment to revisit a very dark and painful time in my young adult life.  Sometimes unfinished business and a reckoning with the demons of another life can come at the most unexpected and surprising time in one’s life, especially as we age.

It was like my brain was exploding with grief about a long ago severe traumatic experience that I had kept in a hidden compartment…a state of denial.  The last time I grieved with great intensity and healing was while writing my first book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. But that was just a first step in 2011, and a very long way to go in taking an honest shot at truly forgiving myself as a challenged young man. I was woefully unprepared for adult life in the 1960’s and early 70’s, in a marriage that failed, leaving my 2 young beautiful children with a single mom, only to see Dad on vacations and short visits.  A very sad reality for too many young marriages that end in pain. I feel deep regret and profound guilt from this part of my life as a young adult.  But it is now time to forgive myself after 45 years of self punishment and denial.  The lifelong nagging and destructive emotional pain of severe guilt stops now! If you are angry with yourself, you behave in angry ways toward loved ones.

When kids grow up in a less than loving home, as I did in the 1950s and early 60s, they tough it out, but often take the emotional pain and baggage into adult life, affecting loved ones and others in too many negative ways. Read my book and learn more about the challenges of a military child growing up in a profoundly dysfunctional post WWII family culture.

“Learning who you are is a life long labor of love.” This quote, on my home page…Children and Families in Life After Truma came to me some months ago while working as a community building project consultant in Lincoln County Oregon where we live. This personal and professional experience has turned out to be one of the most profoundly humanistic learning opportunities in my lifetime…  It has been a journey of exploring humanity at worst and best. I’ll say more about this in a later post.

Allow me to share a couple of highlights from my summer visits with a wonderful therapist, a psychologist, from my own boomer generation. He is an ol’ surf dude as well…just like me. There was an instant connection of empathy and compassion…great chemistry. It is very challenging to find the right therapist. It is never to late…keep trying.

Before this last spring I can’t remember ever having a therapist who actually provided me with specific tools to help build skills and techniques that showed me how to meditate.  These disciplined self talk and deep breathing exercises proved to me how positive talk can beat back self deprecation and guilt from past emotionally painful life events…post trauma recurring painful thoughts and triggers.

Once the meditation exercises became a daily practice, I was able to effectively divert attention from negative and painful self talk back to the logical part of my brain where living in the moment and mitigating flight/fight responses happens. I learned how to stop the churning of a lifetime of severe guilt from moral injuries during childhood and young adult life…. Peace of mind is a gift at any age!

In my next post, I’ll share more of how my therapy and daily practice of meditation is helping me heal and discover how to live in the moment with a higher level of internal peace and self love. Until then, practice saying to yourself “Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving” or COAL for short. Seeking an attitude of COAL while breathing deeply during a highly stressful encounter or event is worth a try.

With empathy, compassion and love to all who seek happiness, peace of mind and good health.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, by Steve Sparks click here

 

 

 

 

“Smart on Crime…” Lincoln County Oregon Sheriff’s Commitment to Reducing Recidivism…

Lincoln County Oregon Sheriff Curtis Landers

Yesforlincolncountypublicsafety.com 

As a member of the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Group, I can speak intelligently about law enforcement. Lincoln County law enforcement and public safety resources work most effectively as a strong collaboration, a continuum of essential services.  It is a true partnership between city police departments, state & federal, fire houses, emergency services, ambulance, hospitals and the County Sheriff.

The larger and more critical goal is to improve the safety and quality of life for all citizens, including the most needy who frequent the County Jail. Measure 21-186 is a good investment at the right time.

The expanded services from the Sheriff will help reduce recidivism in the County Jail (being arrested again and re-incarcerated); and promote community treatment and recovery. Measure 21-186 is a “ smart on crime” approach that is spreading across communities all over Oregon and America.

Vote yes on Measure 21-186 to make Lincoln County Oregon a stronger and safer community for all residents and frequent visitors of this beautiful coastal region.

Steve Sparks

Vote Yes Measure 21-186! Lincoln County Oregon’s Investment in Smart on Crime…

Vote Yes Lincoln County Public Safety Measure 21-186

As a Lincoln County citizen and member of the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Group, I can speak intelligently about law enforcement and public safety.  Lincoln County law enforcement and public safety resources work most effectively as a strong collaboration, a continuum of essential services.  It is a true partnership between city police departments, state & federal, fire houses, emergency services, ambulance, hospitals and the County Sheriff. The larger and more critical goal is to improve the safety and quality of life for all citizens, including the most needy who frequent the County Jail. Measure 21-186 is a good investment at the right time. The expanded services from the Sheriff will help reduce recidivism in the County Jail; and promote community treatment and recovery. Measure 21-186 is a “smart on crime” approach that is spreading across communities all over Oregon and America. Vote yes on Measure 21-186 to make Lincoln County Oregon a stronger and safer community for all residents and frequent visitors of this beautiful coastal region.

Steve Sparks Author, Speaker, Consultant Depoe Bay Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

April is #ChildAbuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  My journey of healing and awareness has allowed me to thrive under some very tough circumstances while growing up in a post WWII toxic home with parents severely affected by the symptoms of PTSD…  I carried the emotional baggage with me as an adult for many decades before realizing it was time to reconcile the pain of my childhood and young adult life.  My work with children and families through writing books, this blog, and participating in appropriate forums as a spokesperson is a labor of love, and opportunity to make a difference one child at a time.

In this link, Military Kids with PTSD, I posted about my own observations and experience as a military child growing up with parents who suffered severely from the symptoms of PTSD. As a military parent please take extra time to focus on your children. Use not only this month of April…take your increased awareness forward and help kids understand how war affects families of combat veterans, especially children. Use the resources to educate kids with love and kindness. Do not allow the children in your life grow up feeling isolated and alone with the memories that are often painful and misunderstood. As a parent or teacher you can make a huge difference in the lives of kids on this critical issue. We owe it to our children to give them the opportunity to grow up and live a healthy, happy, and productive life…

Please become engaged in community events promoting awareness for the prevention of child abuse.  If there is not an event planned near you, create one using the resources and references in the links provided in this post…. National Children’s Alliance…

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

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

 

 

 

 

#StopChildAbuse #ChildAbusePrevention #StepUp4Kids #EndChildAbuse https://t.co/1Qmkn6k2VH