Tag Archives: #childrenofwarriors

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 imminent 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,

Memorial Day 2016…The Children & Families of America’s Armed Forces…

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

“Saving your children, family and loved ones from intergenerational Post Trauma Stress (PTS)…”

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

Following is an excerpt from my new book released for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII…

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 5 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 their 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.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page.

Steve2016

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee.

 

Post-Trauma Growth Awareness Month of June… My own journey of healing…

banner-public

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD.”

ad_banner_war

Returning home from war… click this link…

What is PTSD?   National Center for PTSD June 2016

The goal of my book and this blog since the beginning has been to raise awareness of PTSD.  I spent the first 64 years of my life not knowing about moral injury and combat stress, especially how it affects the families of warriors returning home.  During my childhood we lived in a chaotic and abusive home.  Even after leaving home, it appeared convenient to push all the bad stuff under the rug and move on. For so many years there was a knot in my stomach that never went away.  I always felt troubled emotionally, but never understood why… I used intense exercise, adventure, and my professional life to channel all this hyper-vigilance and anxiety.  My home life was the most challenging when there was a little free time on my hands.  With the help of my courageous and devoted wife I took small steps over the years to rid myself of anxiety and depression, but never knew or understood the root cause.  It was following retirement that, with continued support from loved ones and friends, it became more urgent to revisit my childhood and early adulthood to put my own life experiences in perspective.

Since researching and publishing my book in November 2011, my life has been transformed.  I no longer have a knot in my stomach and there is  very little anger left in my heart.  Much of my time, in these joyful later years in life, is spent helping others and making a difference in my community as a major part of my own journey of healing.  It is in the spirit of my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and writing this blog daily that my goal is to help others take the first step toward healing by becoming aware of moral injury and PTSD.  Please take some quality time this month and learn more about PTSD.  Then start your own conversation with others and perhaps your own journey of healing.  It is not easy, and continues to be a work in progress.  For me, it has been worth all the sweat equity and time ten fold to finally have peace of mind.  My life has been transformed and each day is now a blessing and full of promise for the future…

Be well and help others who suffer from post-trauma stress, especially the children and families who are the caregivers of our heroes both military and 1st responders.

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

P.S. Take a look at these helpful ideas below from the National Center for PTSD.

Do you think treatment is only for people with extreme problems? Have you ever felt that you just don’t have time for treatment with all the other things in your life? The truth is that trauma can happen to anyone, and getting help is taking a step forward, not weakness. Making PTSD treatment a priority will help you get back control of your life.
This week’s step challenges you to think about all the benefits of getting help for PTSD, supporting someone in treatment, or learning how to offer the best care for your clients.

  • Meet Veterans who faced PTSD and turned their lives around at AboutFace.
  • VA providers can use the VA PTSD Consultation Program to get peer support for clinical practice, assessment, improving care, or programmatic issues.

Take the Step: Explore the options.

What can you do if you need help for PTSD? Whether you are learning to manage your own symptoms or you are a caregiver looking for resources, you have options. The steps you take to get care should be the ones that are best for you.
This week’s step gives you information about options for care and support resources to help you make the best choices for yourself or your clients.