“Locked and Loaded!” What is it like to live your life in fight/flight 24/7?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger…

https://www.verywellmind.com/ptsd-and-depression-2797533

Research has found that half of all people with PTSD also have a co-occurring major depressive disorder.”

I remember many scary traumatic events in my life as a child, and young adult, including being injured while serving in the US Navy. And the story of trauma continues for a life time…

I don’t remember some events because of repressed memory, an inherant defensive rewire of the brain, creating a flight/fight response. This chronic hyper vigilant and hyper arousal behavior can be annoying to others at a personal level or an asset in your professional life, as was the case for me.

These excruciating painful events occupy my brain 24/7. The horrific experiences as a child and adult do not go away, never ever. It is very easy to give up and complete suicide for too many souls at any age. Aging men, like me, who suffer a life time without treatment can reach a point where the pain is unbearable, and the only escape is to complete suicide.

I’m grateful at age 74 on July 6th to have loving support at home. It’s not easy for spouses, partners, loved ones, and dear friends to be with a person who suffers from serious mental health problems. Without a circle of support and robust behaviorial health treatment, I would be added to the list of aging men and women who live with unbearable emotional pain, and at risk of self injury or worse. It takes a village of kind and loving folks to help those who suffer a life time. These are the people in my life who help me stay grounded and positive. I’m so grateful for my spouse and close friends in our community of Lincoln County Oregon who are so supportive and caring… Thank you all!

Because it is challenging for others, some relationships, especially family, do not survive easily with the secondary emotional pain. Having a consistent loving connection with someone who is seriously challenged with PTSD and major depression is a tough assignment. Love is the only answer to healing as a family. Worse yet, the symptoms can be more troublesome with age and require a daily practice and discipline of mindfulness meditation practices, psychiatric supervision of medications, and trauma informed clinical therapy. I feel lucky to have found the right mix of treatment strategies. I now have hope for better days ahead. Click below…escape for a moment to calm the soul…

The hardest part of mental illness is the stigma that separates those of us who suffer from friends and loved ones more often than not, even for good when the going gets really tough. Worse yet is finding an effective “trauma informed” treatment and recovery support system is very complicated. It has taken me more than five decades to get to a place where feeling safe is possible. Folks with my long list of painful stuff over a life time feel “locked and loaded 24/7” without hardly a moment of peace. You learn to live this way and all too often don’t even realize the roots of the post trauma crises that persists over time.

I would suggest to anyone asking me about my experience and journey of healing that awareness is the first step in finding a better place in your life in managing emotional pain. Baby steps and daily actions that lead to some sense of calmness and stability can open the door to long term mitigation of symptoms that torture the mind and body. It is a work in progress. But it requires commitment, freedom from denial, acknowledgement of the symptoms, robust truama informed treatment, and most importantly, loving support from loved ones and dear friends who are caring.

Get started with your own plan to develop a high level of awareness on mental health. Talking to others and opening up is the first action step. You will easily see and feel the souls of others in your circle of friends and family who have empathy and compassion, and desire to make a difference with a loving and caring response. And, yes, it is hard, very hard at times. Look to each new day with hope and love. It is possible to heal and get better. It is possible to achieve peace of mind in your life. Lost souls do return home with strong faith in a higher power and spiritual growth in your own way. There is no black and white formula for healing.

Best wishes to all for a life of peace and happiness… It’s up to you!

Steve Sparks

click here for my author page…

Memorial Day 2020… Stay Safe…Honor the Fallen…

Stay safe while remembering the fallen and all who serve and served America during the COVID19 pandemic.

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

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.”

VFW Memorial Depoe Bay, Oregon

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For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Memorial 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…

And during this terrible COVID19 pandemic, we remember and honor those who left us while serving on the front lines even though the risk of infection was was far greater than anything experienced before. These are the front line heroes of the COVID19 generation and the families who serve too…

So, on this Memorial Day when so many of us avoid crowds, check out the veterans memorials on-line and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including first 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. 

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…
Steve Sparks, Author, Mental Wellness Advocate, Community Building Consultant. click here for Steve’s author page…

“Fleet of Flowers” on Memorial Day in Depoe Bay…Memories from past years…before COVID


Honoring the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day Depoe Bay, Oregon  Quote from this website…

“On Memorial Day, each year since 1945, Depoe Bay has hosted the FLEET OF FLOWERS. This colorful ceremony is recognized as one of the most impressive observances held in the United States. The event was initiated to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman.  The Fleet of Flowers is to honor those who have been lost at sea.  The event has grown over the years to include members of the Armed Forces as well as fishermen and firefighters who gave their lives to serve others.”

Steve’s thoughts…

Since moving to the Oregon Coast over 15 years ago, we have come to know the honor bestowed on the legacy of coastal fishermen.  Lives have been lost and saved at sea over many decades either because of the extreme weather conditions at times or in a rescue effort by the US Coast Guard stationed in Depoe Bay and other ports along the Oregon Coast. 

Memorial Day is the time for honor and remembrance of those who gave their lives while building Oregon’s fishing industry.  It is also the time to honor the US Coast Guard’s historic role in providing homeland security and protecting the coastal waters of Oregon.  Depoe Bay has a strong presence of the US Coast Guard who serve our community along with the firefighters, emergency medical services, and local police 1st responders.  With great pride, we honor the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day as well.

The long tradition of the Fleet of Flowers on Memorial Day brings much joy and healing to the community.  We celebrate and honor those who have risked their lives while serving America and all the families who served too…

We will dearly miss this very special annual Memorial Day celebration, Depoe Bay’s very own for 75 years.

See you all next year with anticipation. Be safe and healthy…

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

Click here for Steve’s author page…

Mindfulness Meditation Moments from Little Whale Cove, Oregon…

Escape for a moment to calm the soul…

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Warm wishes and good health from the Central Oregon Coast near Depoe Bay, “The Smallest Harbor in The World” to be sure…

Judy and I have deep empathy and compassion for our dear friends and loved ones during this COVID19 pandemic.  All of us have had to take a deep breath, reflect on our values, our dreams, and hopefully reset, finding more ways to live in the moment, and love each other more.  Paying more attention to each other without the interruptions of ‘Before COVID’ (BC) has brought us closer, but not without more than a few moments of healthy combat as we settled into a much simpler life and more resourceful life style.

We are ’70 somethings’ healthy seniors in our mind, but not without the butt kicking challenges of aging. We think young but the aches and pains and mental health challenges remind us that we aren’t young anymore. We both feel grateful and priviledged to be alive and as citizens of the USA!  I’m most proud of my service to America as a young man serving in the US Navy, as did my father during all of WWII and during the Korean War. Not to mention my brothers who served too.

Even after 36 years of marriage, Judy and I remain a team, partners in life, living life to the fullest even during the many uncertain times of the past, especially right now. But this time it is different fightling an enemy we can’t see. We have to fight this enemy together or lose. Fighting with each other doesn’t matter to the Covid19 virus.

We will all get throught this together. We believe that in our heart and soul…

Speaking of  ‘mindfulness mediation’ Judy and I are happy to share the joy of our stunning coastal community by way of short 30 second YouTube clips. There are over 100 clips from Little Whale Cove on my YouTube channel. Start by clicking my YouTube channel above.

Escape for a moment to calm the soul… Please let me know what you think and how you are doing… Stay safe while we reopen our communities…in time for Memorial Day.

Steve and Judy Sparks, Mental Health Advocacy, Community Building, Children and Families

click here for Steve’s author page…

Happy Mothers Day! Remembering The Greatest Generation of Military Mom’s…

Marcella Sparks 1918-2016 Greatest Generation of Mom’s…

“I waited.

And waited…

And then…I waited some more.”


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During the worst of WWII starting with Pearl Harbor, my mom didn’t know if her husband, Vernon, was dead or alive for many weeks. She first learned from the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She also knew that Dad was aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) at the moment the first torpedoes struck his ship. I can only imagine what was going through her mind at the time as a new mom holding my older brother Jerry in her arms… just 3 months old at the time. For weeks it must have been a heart wrenching emotional roller coaster until she learned that Dad survived and that he would soon come home…she prayed and prayed. Mother always had great faith in God and was raised as a Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Click here for Steve Sparks, Author Page



But Mother waited, and waited, and waited some more. Dad joined the Harbor Patrol right after his ship, USS West Virginia (BB48), was sunk in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Mother had no idea when or how he would come home since in those years it was very difficult to communicate with loved ones who were fighting for our freedoms around the globe. Then, Dad showed up one day many weeks after the start of WWII, but only for a short time to see his first born son. Mother said good bye again a few days later not knowing whether her husband, Vernon, would return again. I can only imagine how mother felt at the time. I know she prayed constantly that he would return home safely.

I think of the strength and faith needed for military spouses and moms of that time to endure the emotional turmoil connected with the war. Military wives like my mom had to keep the home fires burning and hold on dearly to faith that loved ones would return home safe. They also knew that caring for the young children born before the war and during the war was of paramount importance to winning the war itself. Military families serve too!

So, it was during this terrible period of American history, that Mother spent the next 4 years as a single mom waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. Finally, Dad returned home from the war in June 1945. She was so happy and grateful that God spared her husband’s life when so many of her friends spouses were killed in action during that time. But then, she soon discovered that the war came home with Vernon, starting with an extended post war “readjustment” period of mental health treatment at the US Naval Hospital in Shoemaker, Ca., near Oakland. We didn’t know much about post trauma stress at the time. It was called “battle fatique” but never discussed in any great detail nor did families know of the life long consequences of experiencing severe trauma in combat as we learned decades later following the Vietnam War.

On this Mothers Day, I honor and remember my mother’s service to America and all the military mom’s and spouses who served too! For it is my belief that without the enduring love and faith of families everywhere, especially spouses and mothers, America would not be free today.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms who love us unconditionally! Pray for the mothers who are no longer with us…they live in our hearts and souls forever…


Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for Steve’s author page…



Northwest Coastal Housing… Public private partnerships provide critical services to the most vulnerable citizens…

Yaquina Breezeyouth

Reflection with NWCH Executive Director

Sheila Stiley, Executive Director, Northwest Coastal Housing

I recently heard a few words that have caused me to pause and reflect.  Reflection on me as a person, our organization and those we serve.  We are a nonprofit organization…..there is a real definition, but in our world, it means a lot is expected on very minimal means.  So, what makes an nonprofit tick?

“Some of the best movements start with sorrow” (Luke Frechette).  That is how most nonprofits begin.  A grass roots organization started by a need, a desire, a burden.  A great sorrow that fills every fiber of a being.  Let’s face it, homelessness, poverty, widows and orphans, hunger, many things that have always been and could continue down the ages, yet, this sorrow to make a difference and impact for change overtakes us.  For us, that is building housing that is affordable for those who need a place to call home.  It is incorporating services into housing and calling it “Housing with a heart” so those less fortunate have opportunity for success.  How many of you came from this background?  If I am to be transparent and honest, I would say I did too.

When I look back over my childhood, I remember the good things (I have been told I am weird).  Our family goes back 7 generations here on the coast.  I am proud of the history and enrichment they provided to our community.  I remember living here at the beach, and spending summers with my grandmother on the farm.  I remember running, playing, laughing, learning, fishing, camping, youth group, hide-and-go-seek, and riding bikes.  But that was not my whole story.

Pictured: Sheila Stiley (on left), mother Sandy and younger sister Jenny

I am the child of a teen mom.  My father was 8 years older and fresh out of the military.  Both my parents came from dysfunctional families leading to alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence.  I spent many of my growing up years in a mobile home park where I made lifelong friendships in a rural community.  I remember being embarrassed when my mom bought all the turkey burger she could, filling a basket, because it was cheap and food stamps were a part of my everyday life.  I wore second hand clothes, was teased and bullied mercilessly in multiple schools, and worked side by side with my mom picking strawberries and garlic in the fields in order to get new clothes off layaway from K-Mart.  I remember when we spent a week in a domestic violence shelter, only to return to my father after he put my moms dog down.  I remember when my mom and I left again, only to be stalked for 3 years by my father and not seeing my younger sister during that time.  I remember everything…..

So, you see, I am just a normal person working a job, but I have this burden, this sorrow to make an impact.  Sure, maybe it stems from my upbringing, but one thing I do know.  This work in affordable housing development is needed.  It is challenging, it is difficult and it takes funding to do it.  That trailer park, that affordable housing, shaped me into who I am today.  One who is giving back and fighting for opportunities and successes for others.  So, I make no apologies when I say, we need your help.  Our organization is developing and preserving housing for the less fortunate and at risk populations, but our operations are beginning to dwindle substantially during this COVID-19 crisis.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday.  Please, if you feel a burden, a sorrow to house those that are in need, please consider donating to our organization, Northwest Coastal Housing.  Together, we can make a difference, because everyone deserves a place to call home.

Click here to make a donation to Northwest Coastal Housing

Mental Health Awareness Month of May…Help Stamp Out Stigma

Mental Health Awareness…Stop Stigma! from NAMI…

“During the month of May, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address all year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of all Americans whose lives are affected by mental health conditions.

1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others.”

Stigma hurts a person’s dignity, and for me, life long implications of emotional pain and denial. Allow me to share my first shock of stigma at age 19 in September 1965 following an honorable discharge from the US Navy.

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 Fortun in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician with the phone company.

I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy. But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications could have come to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter told me…”even though my qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired.”  I asked why, while trying to hide the tears.

I thought with complete shock and dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. I was in complete disbelief because the Navy didn’t say this to me, or decided not to for some reason. I never had access to my medical records until 2014. I had no memory of the event(s) leading up to an early separation from the Navy, the hospitalization or mental health diagnosis. It was a sad ending to a promising Naval career, my dream as a child, teen, and young man. I wanted to follow my father’s foot steps to be sure.

It was then, in that scary moment in September 1965, I decided to never ever speak of my mental health problems…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.)

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, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger click here for my author page…

Re-elect Lincoln County Oregon Commissioner Claire Hall! Experience, passion, commitment…

Lincoln County Oregon Commissioner Claire Hall

https://www.voteclairehall.com/p/donate-to-claires-relection-campaign.html?m=1

I can say with a high level of confidence from my own professional experience working with Commissioner Hall for many years in our County and region that she works harder than anyone I’ve ever known. She knows how to make things happen and empowers others, like me, to execute.

We desperately need her wisdom, compassion, executive leadership and full time commitment, especially now during the COVID19 pandemic.

We wouldn’t be where we are in Lincoln County if Commissioner Hall had not pulled out all the stops during her tenure to bring community partners and stakeholders together in strengthening community based organizations to serve the most vulnerable population.

As a result of Commissioner Hall’s steadfast leadership, we are much better prepared to lead as a County. We increased capacity in recent years to provide community based mental health and peer support services to the most vulnerable citizens. In this way we are able to provide a comprehensive continuum of care to the most vulnerable population, the highest users health care services.

We accomplished this in partnership with Samaritan Health Services, Lincoln County Health and Human Services, Sheriff Curtis Landers, Community Justice, Courts and other critical community partners.

Most importantly and critically, we need to be mindful as citizens of the value of experience during a time of national public health and economic crises. From my own direct experience, Commissioner Hall knows how to navigate the complex landscape of County and State government, and execute effectively. We need Claire at the helm!

Re-elect Commissioner Claire Elizabeth Hall! Experience, passion and commitment!

Steve Sparks
Sparks Associates

Steve Sparks, Community Building/Business Transformation….”Bulding Healthy Communities w/Love”

Mental Health First Aid for Seniors and Loved Ones…

Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults  from NYC Health…City of New York

Go to…Mental Health First Aid 8 hour training…  The Mental Health First Aid USA for Older Adults curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adults ages 65 and over.

I didn’t know until being certified as a Mental Health First Aid Adult Trainer in 2016 that mental health and depression in older adults is often ignored or dismissed. I also didn’t know that among the elderly population, aging white males commit suicide in America at a 98% higher rate than all others.  I was actually shocked at first but now understand (Colorado State University report). “In the United States, older men of European descent (so-called white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group. For example, their suicide rates are significantly higher than those of older men of African, Latino or Indigenous descent, as well as relative to older women across ethnicities.”

Depression is the culprit, especially for those who have difficulty being as opposed to doing.  I consider myself in the category of an older white male who loves living in the moment or being, but also thrives in doing the things I care about.  

When my own retirement became a reality, it was very tough to find the the new chapter of doing something that provided me with the same ego fulfilling experience as did my long corporate and business career.  I found after experimenting with volunteer work in the community and public service that making a difference for others gave me the balance needed to thrive and preserve a healthy mind and body.  

We older Americans, by choice, can map out our lives by being ourselves in the context of all we care about, including pursuing professional and vocational outlets for continued growth and personal rewards.  

We can also take in the romance and adventure offered in life by fulfilling your bucket list of the amazing places to visit and explore around the globe or at home.  There are so many things to do as we age, assuming our good health is maintained.

For me, getting older is a privilege…many never see the morning sun of old age.  We owe to ourselves and others to show the way with our wisdom until the very last day of our lives…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates…

What Have Them Boomers Learned is Anyones’ Guess…

Steve Sparks, Author, Busness Transformation Consultant, Mental Health Advocate

“It’s a failure of morality that drives greed, loss of empathy and compassion.” Steve Sparks..Apr1, 2020

As this thought occurred to me, I started thinking about my own life experience… While at the same time watching the Coronavirus pandemic unfold like a horror movie I once watched in a drive-in outdoor theater long ago. I remember…while it was entertaining, sitting closer to the girlfriend in my dreams, I didn’t give it a second thought just like all the scifi and horror movies back then. We worried about the A Bomb back then.

But this virus thing we can’t see is the real deal global crisis nobody thought much about as citizens. Even for an ol’ surf duude and vet like me, this is stunning and demands the very best of the best at the helm. I trust that we will get through this together as one people.

I’m mostly reminded of what I’ve learned along the way about morality and greed and the war between balancing the two to save our souls. I see it now in fighting this COVID19 pandemic behind the ‘8 ball’ as it were.

Success and super greed kicked in big time for me and most of my friends and colleagues during a high flying era of rock n roll and freedom of spirit during the crazy 70s. You know, long time ago. Although feeling like a ’60 IQ greed head’ didn’t feel right back then, I jumped in with both feet without good shoes and mostly naked morality.

My, my, my boomer brothers and sisters, have we lost our souls?

And I was not alone by a long shot. We came out of a depressed post WWII Korean War period. We were going to build a better place.

But then the ‘rich and famous’ dream of the early technology boom and heart pounding greed distracted many of us, certainly not all for Gods sake!

As we boomers have gotten older we hope to evolve and stay open to change. After all we invented everything IT. We love change, maybe…

I’m probably not the only 70 something that finds peace of mind, not in the old 1965 Chevy, surfboards, wild stuff and dreams of being rich and famous, but in dear friends and loved ones along with the loving communities where we live as one family.

We can’t wait to be able to hug our friends and neighbors again! See you all soon! Hugs from a distance…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon www.survivethriveptsd.org