Tag Archives: #childabuse

Searching for My Lost Soul… A life time of stumbling, bumbling, and surviving to fight for sanity another day…

Most folks know that writing has been a critical source of healing for me. I started writing this blog in April 2011 on the encouragement of my dear friend and best buddy Byron Lewis. Byron passed away in October 2018 after a long battle with cancer. I miss Byron everyday, but he still taps me on the shoulder to help me get back on the right track. Byron encouraged me to keep writing before he passed. I honor my ol’ surf dude pal, Byron, with this first installment of a new series of lessons learned in life…and my personal journey of healing… Bryon also helped me edit my books and contributed to this blog over the years…click here.

Byron Lewis, a true friend who cared deeply for the children in our community. Byron served 8 years on the board of Neighbors for Kids, Depoe Bay, Oregon…click here. He lives in our hearts forever…

Back in the day we surf dudes would look at each other when a bad wipe out was emminent and say, “when you’re fucked you’re fucked!” That’s exactly how I felt at the beginning of this story so very long ago…

It was a gorgeous sunny morning in January 1965 cruising around Oahu near Makaha Beach aboard the USS Coucal (ASR8); a submarine rescue and salvage ship, shown in the above photo…click here. I only have surreal foggy memory from that moment. I was on a break and looking on shore off of Makaha Beach. We were about a football field from shore. I could see surfers taking off on beautiful glassy waves when I dreamed of being on my board waiting in the pocket for the perfect wave. I could feel the waves under my feet, the freedom and control of my destiny for a moment in time…a true mindfulness escape that allowed me to forget everything painful. Impulsively, I just jumped in and swam to shore! Last I remember about that moment so long ago is being at Treasure Island in San Francisco in August 1965, transitioning out of the US Navy with an early honorable separation.

I suffer from significant memory loss over a lifetime, especially during early childhood, teen years, and as a young adult. With a much higher level of awareness from Trauma Informed Care and personal treatment and recovery strategies, my memory is returning little by little and helping me get the closure I so desparately need to finally heal from the too terrible to remember younger years.

Promoted to RM3 in 1964 while serving at Comsubflot5

This was the beginning of 6 decades of running away from mental illness, searching for my soul with a desparation to find my truth and a passion to succeed as a worthy and honorable man. I wanted to prove that mental illness was not possible in my life. At age 19, I didn’t even understand the depth and breadth of my sickness from a terribly abusive and sick childhood that included surviving polio at age 2. What happened? How could I get out of this outrageious disaster? All the rotten memories were blocked out during that time, denial was the only logical direction for me. I would not last 2 minutes on the outside if anything was revealed about my mental illness. My life was on the line. There was no way out but denial. What else could any young man do in my shoes at that time, but pull up his boot strapes and learn how to survive. I felt extreme shame and guilt for letting the Navy down and my family. I believed I was crazy and couldn’t imagine talking about it, not once, not ever!

I was reassigned as a Radioman 3rd Class from Comsubpac/Comsubflot5, a highly secure communications center at Pearl Harbor subbase to the USS Coucal in January 1965. I was given this assignment as a lighter duty station while in treatment and recovery for a diagnosis of acute agitated depression and anxiety…click here. The Coucal was supposed to be an opportunity for me to work in a less stressful duty station, but the temptation of seeking refuge to what felt the safest spot on earth to me at the time was my surfboard. Without hesitation, and in a surreal state of panic, I jumped in to join my brothers in the surf at a familiar and favorite surf spot on Oahu. I was a strong swimmer and in great shape, so swimming to shore was a piece of cake.

I was completely unaware, ignorant, and immature during my early struggles with mental health. Mental illness was a very bad thing to happen to a young man serving with pride and honor in the US Navy. My father, a highly decorated WWII US Navy veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor, Pacific War, and Korean War, would no doubt beat the crap out of me while asking me once again for the millionth time, “what is wrong with you?” There was never a conversation about what happened back then or how to help a young man suffering from mental illness. If you were diagnosed with mental illness, life as a normal person would end. I would be seen as a ‘weak sister’ (vernacular term for weak dudes). I do see my father now with a different perspective. He suffered all his life with mental illness and didn’t have a way to treat his PTSD and major depressive disorder until later in life. My mother and all of us siblings suffered the same, living a life of emotional baggage.

I was never told of my specific mental illness diagnosis when leaving the Navy in August 1965. I learned later that my father was contacted by the commanding officer of Comsubpac and provided an update on my mental health circumstances. The first time I got a hint of it was when seeking a vocational position as a teletype technician with General Tel in Los Angeles in September 1965. At that time medical records of veterans were not sealed, so I was screened out for having a mental illness diagnosis from the US Navy on my DD214. Isn’t that the shits? Imagine how a young man age 19 might feel being told for the first time by a lay person that he is mentally unstable?

As a result of my own traumatic life experiences as a child, it is horrific for me to think of a child living in a profoundly dysfunctional home…click here. I cringe thinking about how children inhale the pain of parents suffering and the chaos presented in troubled homes across America. There are too many kids in my community who are damaged emotionally and morally for a lifetime following a childhood of abuse and maltreatment, including being exposed to substance abuse, addiction, and violence that serves as an intergenerational problem. Reach out to children and families who need community support. We know now with evidence based facts that finding ways to support kids who come to school with challenges early in life will help heal moral injuries that persist over a lifetime. We must stop the cycle of intergenerational pain, and it starts with all of us making a difference each and everyday.

Best wishes in your journey of healing,

Ask What Happened, Not What is Wrong!

I spent the first 6 decades of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me and everything else in my life.  When I finally started learning about post trauma stress (PTS) and trauma informed care, it was clear that empathy and compassion were possible once we changed the conversation to “what happened” not “what is wrong.”  This seemingly basic concept allowed me to begin my own journey of healing in 2011 at age 64.  Everytime I talk to a person suffering from PTSD, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health challenges, I try to find out what happened, not what is wrong.  Once we change the conversation to what happened, the talk shifts immediately to a greater mutual understanding of the roots of the emotional struggles of your friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are suffering from a past traumatic life event. Imagine a combat veteran who came home from war a different person because of being exposed to the terrible violence of war. Think about a child who suffers from persistent and pervasive emotional and physical abuse in a profoundly dysfunctional home. In all these circumstances of severe trauma, we know now that the human brain is rewired, the brain chemistry changes and adapts to extreme survival circumstances and danger to life in war or at home living in fear.   Because we know this as human beings we can have more empathy and compassion for others who suffer for a lifetime. The emotional baggage of war, the violence and carnage, losing a buddy, seeing little children dead in the streets as collateral damage is too much for a once healthy mind to process and get past once home to resume life as a typical citizen. It is far worse to see traumatized children grow up with serious mental illness, including PTSD and life long major depression, that must be treated for a lifetime. It is heartbreaking to know that too many people of all ages resort to suicide or overdose on opioids because there is no hope and the emotional pain is too horrific to live with.

The life long journey of healing takes a highly disciplined personal effort of awareness of one’s own symptoms and strong support from family, close friends and a sustainable clinical and community based peer support treatment/recovery plan. Even so, the 24/7 intrusive thoughts and emotional pain stick for a lifetime for those of us who suffer from a major depressive disorder. I feel lucky to have a strong support system in these later years of my life. There are too many people in my community suffering from mental illness, including co-occuring alcohol and drug addiction, who are not as lucky. We see it in communities everywhere, the homeless and most vulnerable citizens who live among us. The way we treat the most vulnerable population in our community is a direct reflection of who we are, a loving community with great empathy and compassion.

So, with much empathy and compassion, reach out to the most vulnerable members of your community with kindness and love. Listen to them and help them find a safe place to begin living a healthy and happy quality of life.

Steve Sparks

click here for my author page…

What is Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting? And What Happens to the Kids?

 

Ethan Couch

Ethan Couch the “Affluenza” Teen, picked up in Mexico…

Following is an excerpt from the manuscript of my new book project, I Worry About the Kids.

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Profoundly Dysfunctional Parenting

When home life is profoundly dysfunctional bad things happen to parents, children, and loved ones. The ripple effects of toxic behavior created by post-traumatic symptoms can be suicide, school problems, and legal trouble.

“Affluenza” Teen, Ehtan Couch Detained in Mexico…

One recent example of a profoundly dysfunctional home is the case of a teenager from Texas who got off a little too easily after killing four people while driving drunk in 2013. The media used the word “affluenza” to describe the situation in which Ethan Couch, a teenager, was put on probation for this criminal offense. He was not held accountable. Couch is a child from a wealthy family who was given minimal direction and discipline in a home that revolved around too much alcohol, substance abuse, and no structure for the boy. Couch was allowed to drink at age 13 and drive a vehicle without a license. His dysfunctional parents partied as their principal activity and did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. They were not concerned with parenting their son. Mental health issues were also evident. After Couch was released from jail, he and his mother conspired to escape to Mexico to avoid his probation. They were arrested in Puerto Vallarta and sent back to Texas.

This family desperately needed help, but was apparently in denial about the serious situation they were in. All his life, there had been no consequences for Couch’s bad decisions. From an young age, he had been headed for a life of crime because no one called him on his behavior and no one insisted he follow a healthy, sane path. Without effective parenting and mentoring, the pattern of dysfunction continues. Since their arrest in Mexico, the Couch family has demonstrated no remorse or accountability for their actions.

The scope of the mental health problem in kids under six years old is huge and dangerous for the families involved and for society. The following information comes from an infographic, “Are the Kids Alright?”
www.topcounselingschools.org

Youth-Counseling

Click the image to expand the view…

Mental illness is often thought of only as an adult concern. But half of mental illnesses begin to reveal themselves in childhood. Almost 15 million American children have some kind of diagnosable mental disorder, but only 20 percent of those children are identified and treated. The ripple effects include suicide, school problems, and legal trouble. Early identification and adequate treatment can quite literally be the difference between life and death for young people with mental illness.

Signs of mental illness in children aged 4 through 6 include bad behavior at daycare, preschool, or kindergarten; extreme disobedience or aggression; lots of temper tantrums all the time; hyperactivity outside of what other children are doing; excessive fear, worrying, or crying; persistent nightmares; and insomnia. Although children’s brains are still in a state of development, adequate treatment of mental disorders can help put a young person on a path to a healthy future. Options include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, animal-assisted therapy, group therapy, and medication.

Can’t we do more?

Steve2016

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

Author Page, Here…

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)

 

Pain Killers and OPIOIDS Kill! Estimated 28,000 People Die Annually in America! Combat vets at high risk…

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Substance Abuse Statistics…click image for larger view…

Prescription Drug Overdose Guidance Measures…

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

Opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers  and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

Pentagon getting serious about Apparent over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs

StanWhite

Stan and Shirley White of W.Va., whose son Andrew, a Marine, suffered from PTSD. When he died in 2008 at 23, they blamed a “lethal cocktail” of drugs. They were in Phila. fighting the use of antipsychotics for service people. DAVID SELL / Staff

Combat veterans are especially at risk… click here for more…

“During about 300 missions, Andrew had a steady diet of death and destruction.
A combat engineer, Andrew cleared mines and improvised explosive devices from roads before they blew up his fellow Marines, soldiers, and civilians. After nine months, White was sent home and eventually received a medical discharge for PTSD.
“It changed him,” Stan White said of combat. “He became a recluse. In the last four months of his life, he ate two meals with the family. He would take his food to his room.”
On Feb. 12, 2008, when Andrew had failed to meet her for a planned lunch at a restaurant, Shirley White went home. She found him dead in his bed. He was 23.”

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The above quote from the referenced website article is becoming an all too common tragedy by combat veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD.  Since the illness is invisible and soldiers will not even talk about their pain, they become a suicide risk without loved ones getting any warning.  The diet of prescription drugs and use of alcohol as well can cause a person to lose hope and no longer have a desire to live.  I know from my own experience that the side effects of medications can cause psychotic episodes that put you and others at risk.  I remain hopeful that the continued monitoring and research of anti psychotic drugs, especially mixing with other prescription medications, including alcohol will help mitigate a troubling trend.

Pain killers came into my life after decades of using alcohol for self-medication.  Physical health challenges hit me like a baseball bat once entering mid-life, especially in my 50’s.  My doctor was very stern with me about the risk of mixing prescription medications or opioids with alcohol.  I drank too much back then anyway, but my ego and self-talk rationalized a determination to start on pain killers and continue my self-medication ways of the past.  After just 12-18 months on this new regimen of pain, sleep, and anxiety medications along with alcohol, I was a total basket case to say the least.

At age 55 with strong support from my family, doctors, and own hyper-vigilance, I stopped drinking, period!  But what I didn’t do is curtail or manage effectively the use of prescription drugs.  I became addicted and kept taking prescription drugs as long as recovery from multiple surgeries to replace joints and fix a severe arthritic condition with chronic pain.  It took me until my mid 60’s to finally get off of pain medications and other opioids, only to discover then the many alternatives of non-narcotic medications and mindfulness exercises.  Now at almost age 70, my life is completely free of narcotic based medications for pain, sleep, and anxiety challenges.

And what a gift in life it has been not to take anything related to narcotics or alcohol!  I feel very lucky to still have a relatively healthy body and mind for the coming golden years of new opportunities and adventures in life.  I’m thankful for my wife and soul-mate who has been so supportive and loving for all of our 32 years of marriage.  I treasure the many years of happiness together.  But without a close friendship and dedication to working together confronting our life challenges, there would not be a future of hope and joy in these later years.

My passion to give back and help others who suffer from post-trauma stress has been strengthened by my own life experience.  I know we can save lives through building awareness and in advancing the conversation of post-traumatic growth that literally saves the lives of so many children and families in life after trauma.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of healing in Life After Trauma, Part1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff…from Amazon.com.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate