Tag Archives: brain

The Dread

Expectations of a mind with PTSD lead to dread. Hope hides behind it.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. May dares to Hope.

“Nothing is more frightening than a fear you cannot name.” (Cornelia Funke, Inkheart)

I would change that a bit. “There is nothing more dreadful than a fear you dare not admit.”

Dr. Hart relates a story of a Vietnam Veteran who came to his office appointment in an unusually good mood one morning. It was unusual because, like many combat Veterans, he faced dread most mornings, expecting something bad to happen.

When things are good, we expect them to turn bad. When things are quiet, we expect them to get loud. So, why was this guy happy this morning? Because he had a flat tire on the way into town.

He was driving along the straight highway through the agricultural fields in the Colorado River Valley. Some farm laborers were working in the fields by hand—hoeing or laying irrigation, maybe.

A tire on his truck blew. Boom!

Now, here was a combat Veteran already in his usual state of morning dread, and his tire blows, sounding a little like an incoming mortar or artillery round exploding. Suddenly, the field hands looked Vietnamese and the fields like rice paddies. He was instantly back in the war.

All the same stuff happened. His tongue went to the roof of his mouth and he stopped breathing. His brain told his body to dump a load of adrenalin, his heartbeat doubled in rate and volume, and he went into survival mode until he got out of his truck, took a few breaths, and regained his time/space bearings.

So, he fixed his tire, got dirty and sweaty, and went to see Dr. Hart with a smile.

Why the smile? Because his dread was gone.

Sometimes we get the notion that our dread is a form of premonition telling us to look out, that something bad is coming. Really, we do. And to be honest, our dread makes us expect some bad things so that we are ready for them. Sometimes we even prevent them by being careful, so dread does have survival value.

For this Veteran on this day, his tire blew. That was a bad thing, right? Then he went into a bit of a flashback and started to get sick. That was another bad thing, right?

Well, that was over with, now. The bad stuff had already happened and he was not only alive, but well.

This was going to be a good day. The dread had worked and was now gone. He could feel the hope.

The dread is real. The cause is real. It just isn’t here and now.

Waking with dread is nothing more than a reminder that I have PTSD, a reminder to breathe, kiss my wife, meditate, and do something useful with this day. A few hours of that and I find hope. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes. Sometimes I wake with no dread at all.

You don’t need to look for the dread, but deep down inside, behind that dread, can you find signs of hope?

Happy Tracking!

Let It Rain

Acceptance is the key that unlocks Faith.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Recovery is a grieving process, for we have lost something of ourselves in the traumas of our experiences. We have left something of our youthful exuberance, even innocence, and joy for living. The person we were no longer exists. The world we knew before our trauma no longer exists, and that is the hard truth of it.

The wife I lost because of that truth told me she always thought I had lost my soul in Vietnam. There is an irritating grain of truth in that observation.

It was not my soul that was lost in combat. It was Faith. I no longer had the faith that the world works the way I had thought, the way I had believed it should.

The subconscious response to that faith-shattering conclusion is to fix it. Change it. Change the world.

So, we go through some stages of grief. We continue to negotiate the past in the sub consciousness of our nightmares, in our feelings, in the part of our minds (yes, brains, too) that process information irrationally.

This time it will turn out different. This time they won’t die. This time I will see it coming. This time, this time, this time….

I am a problem solver. It is what I do. Drives my wife crazy. Whenever she tells me about something she finds unacceptable, I fix it—or, I try. No, that is not a consequence of combat trauma, but it is an exaggerated development of a pre-trauma tendency. I had studied science because it is a problem solving enterprise.

I cannot fix Vietnam. I cannot save the two million Cambodians lost in the “Killing Fields.” And, I cannot regain my zeal for Cytogenetics that I had in 1968. Not ever.

But, I can accept it.

Yes, I know that feels, somehow, as abandoning those who were lost. Yes, I know that sounds like surrender. I know. I know.

When I feel myself sinking into despair deep in the chasm between the grief stages of anger and acceptance, when I forget acceptance is on the other side of that rift of depression, I find myself wandering to the arms of Nature. There I find acceptance, and Faith begins to grow, again.
During my first Vision Quest on our land in northern Wisconsin, it rained. It rained all night (8 inches), washing out roads, flooding my stream valley, sinking boats. It was wonderful.

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Some of my thinking will never change. That is real as rain. My thinker is broken. Now, what?

The moment I accept the reality of my condition, it ceases to be an active addiction. I can learn ways of compensating. I can learn new ways of thinking. I can remember that Faith is free, over there on the other side of depression, holding hands with Acceptance.

From Vision Quests I have learned that I can gain acceptance in four days.

Of course, I can lose it in four seconds. My answer is to make life one Great Vision Quest.

Recovery is a quest for Vision. It is a process of seeing the tracks of our pre-trauma selves, deep down inside, in places we have thought dead.

Happy Tracking!

Meditation by Attention

Focus all of your attention on everything.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

One of my least favorite statements by young people is, “I’m bored.” Quite frankly, I do not understand it. In the first place, I had so much work to do, and so much playing to do, when I was a child and teen, I never had time to be bored. Perhaps it is a kind of dependency in the expectation that someone or something else is responsible for my entertainment. I grew up believing I was responsible for my own amusement and, I reckon as a corollary, my own education.

“When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Perhaps you have had a psychology course or otherwise learned that the human brain can only attend to one thing at a time. Okay, so that leads you to believe that you cannot pay attention to everything, as meaning all things, at the same time. I have a challenge for you.

Go someplace where interesting things happen. I prefer Nature, but a mall or campus will do. Sit down. Quiet down. Look straight ahead, perhaps at some interesting object such as a tree, statue, or fountain. Keep you eyes pointed directly toward that object but change the focus of your attention.

How? Choose. Simply choose to pay attention to any and all happenings around that object all the way out to the limits of your peripheral vision. Tom Brown, Jr. calls this wide angle vision. You will soon notice movement of people or other animals, maybe plants in the wind, far away from the object your eyes appear to be focused upon. You will begin to notice any, and maybe even all, movements within the range of your vision.

You are paying attention to everything all at the same time. How is this possible? In my simple mind, it is a choice to view everything as one single thing, the whole thing. So, the next time you begin to entertain the idea that you might be bored, try this. It is free of cost or calorie, and it is good for the soul.

“How long do I have to sit there before something happens?” you might ask. There is a simple answer: Try it—more than once. We call this science. Instead of inventing an answer by reason and rhetoric, and instead of accepting an answer of some authority like Erv Barnes or Tom Brown, Jr., take your butt someplace happening and experiment.

I challenge you to sit through four days and nights in Nature, say the Nort’ Woods of my Lonesome Pines, without experiencing something interesting.

Meditation is just a term from Greek meaning to think about. Trust me or try it for yourself, but my conclusion is that thinking about stuff is a marvelous cure for boredom. Wide angle vision is certain to reveal tracks everywhere, tracks that you could not see while you focused your attention upon one tree, one statue, or one fountain. A little practice just might also reveal some really important tracks in your mind.

But maybe boredom is really a euphemism for your denial and avoidance of those tracks in your mind. That’s okay. You may not want to see all those tracks at once, so I recommend beginning your practice of this eyes open meditation the way you may eat an extra large pizza—one bite at a time. And, before you are ready, you may want to read next week’s blog on Intention.

Don’t forget to breathe, and Happy Tracking.

Choosing Love

It ain’t easy, this love stuff. The instruction manuals are not written in English. Maybe that’s why some of us need dogs and little children to teach us how to do it. Labrador Retrievers are really good at it.

Dr. Hart counsels Combat Veterans upon the hazards of getting stuck in our combat roles. If we had a lot of responsibility in combat, we tend to take on responsibility back at home. If we had little responsibility in combat, we tend to avoid it at home.

Me? I tend to get stuck in the middle. I was a Lieutenant.

I do not like making decisions—at least, not alone. I tend to feel traumatized, as though I were still deciding who would die, or afraid I might make a mistake and the wrong people would die. Life or death choices are not for me.

I taught school and got sick every semester at grading time. Imagine how I would have done as a surgeon or emergency room physician. I couldn’t even be a paramedic although I know biology and have a knack for diagnosis and triage. So, I avoided it.

After several viewings, Forrest Gump still amazes me. He always knows what love is. He always seems to know the right thing to do—good at life, you know. Of course, when he didn’t know, he ran for a few thousand miles. I tend to sit in the woods and listen to the wind.

One reason Combat Veterans isolate themselves is because we see people as more dangerous than lions, tigers, and bears. Fear is that reason, and it makes sense in combat terms.

Another reason is love. Yes, this is another dilemma. Love is the antidote for PTSD, but it also causes us to isolate. I have found two reasons for this.

First, loving and losing is painful. It goes back to the avoidance of FNGs, the new guys. People who have experienced combat loss of friends simply choose not to make new ones. It hurts less when they die.

Back at home, we lose all our friends. They get reassigned or ETSed (Expiration of Term of Service). So, even if we all make it home, we lose each other, anyway.

Second, being loved is also painful. Oh, sure, it feels wonderful to have an intimate friend, someone we can trust, but….

Isn’t there always a but? Being loved is a big responsibility—because it entails power. Being loved gives us the power to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt someone. For Combat Veterans stuck in the middle (between seeking responsibility and avoiding it), this is another dilemma.

Now, add some symptoms of Combat PTSD. The Veteran is certain to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt the very people who love him or her. We cannot help it. Our brains have been trained, even re-wired, that way. After awhile, we get very tired of failing at love. So, we avoid it—the very thing that might support our recovery.

Love is a grave vulnerability for most Combat Veterans because it threatens us with more loss, both loss of our loved ones and loss of ourselves when our disabilities fail us in love.

We cannot recover alone. We need love, but we need more. We need understanding. We need mature love beyond philos of brotherly love and way beyond eros of sexual attraction. We need a Natural love.

We must relearn that failure is not terminal. And, we need friends who can accept our defects and failures as progress.

When a Combat Veteran returns without an arm, we no longer expect him or her to applaud. When a Combat Veteran returns with a shrunken hippocampus and working memory, with an aggressive amygdala, and a need for security, we must not expect her or him to enjoy party crowds, fireworks displays, and air shows. It is us, the people who stayed home this time, who must change our expectations.

Changing our expectations is a way of choosing love which just might grant the Combat Veteran freedom to choose love, again. Is that too much to ask, America?

Love Echoes

There are spaces between the trees, today, where my friend and companion of thirteen and a half years no longer walks. Our Yellow Lab, Serenity, has passed from the pain of this physical world, and her absence leaves a void.

Across that void I feel the echoes of her love. That love lives. It touches me. And, I reach back.

Love is like that. It transcends. It echoes across the void, reverberating softly without end.

Spring flowers come and go. Trees endure a few more years. Even rocks become sand and silt carried to the sea. But love remains. I can feel it upon the land.

We leave tracks, you and I, physical tracks upon the Earth, emotional tracks upon the hearts, and spiritual tracks upon the void. We cannot do otherwise.

PTSD is a kind of reverberation; echoes of tracks from our past, only these were not the tracks of love. I think we can just leave it at that.

Some words attributed to Chief Seattle haunt me: Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe. Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events…. (I do not use quotes because Seattle did not speak English.)

The wake of a Combat Veteran riding wildly through the noradrenergic dysregulation of the brain’s limbic system, a Dinosaur Dump, is turbid turmoil. It is stressful. PTSD generates more PTSD.

Love is the antidote. That, I conclude, is the whole point of this inquiry into love beyond Eros.

But, love lost is painful. I miss Serenity. I cannot touch her, hear her, see her, smell her.

Or, can I?

Love leaves tracks. I know that.

There are places I love and places I do not. Some places make me nauseous. Some call me back, again, and again.

I believe the last time I grieved a loss such as this, when I said goodbye to Serenity, was the day I said goodbye to my little farm in Cambridge, WI. I lost more than land, that day. I lost all the tracks on that land.

Twenty years I searched for more land until I noticed an ad for this place in da Nort’ Woods. I did not buy this land. The land adopted me and I inherited all the tracks upon it.

A year later, a puppy adopted us. Her tracks are upon this land, her best memories in the woods and water (and, mud) of this place. I cannot own these. I can only accept the responsibility to care for them for a little while longer.

There are many days when I feel I have made enough tracks. Including today. That, however, is not my choice to make. My choices are only what kind of tracks I leave, today, and how I care for the tracks left by others.

Today, I choose love, and I believe Serenity is happy about that. I feel it in the echoes.

Repelling Love

To this day, Nancy still claims 1999 as the year she received her best Christmas present, ever—so good, in fact, it is unimaginable to replace her. She is Goldberry’s Serenity Dreamer, a registered yellow Labrador Retriever. The only registered dog either of us ever had, she is the most wonderful pet and friend.

But, she is old and her health is failing. Her eyesight has dimmed, her hearing is almost gone, and many parts of her body are susceptible to infection and other inflammation. She can no longer keep up with this old man in field, forest, or desert, but we are committed to keeping her as comfortable as possible as long as she still finds enjoyment in life, which she does.

Replacing her is not really conceivable. It took us about ten years after Cheese, our English Setter mix, died before we bought Serenity. We cannot imagine going through this process, again.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Combat PTSD. The answer in “Funny” New Guys..

Audey Murphy became the most decorated American in WWII when he was still a teenager. He also had a baby face, so he could play his younger self in the movie of his life story, TO HELL AND BACK. In that story, two new replacements arrive while the platoon is engaged with the German enemy. They are immediately shunned.

The point is emphasized when one brings in a backpack stove he found. One of the veterans grabs it away, takes it outside the farm house, and buries it. It had belonged to his friend who had been killed that morning.

Audey shuns them, too, telling one who volunteers for a patrol, “We don’t need you.”

In Vietnam, we called them FNGs (“Funny” New Guys). Yes, they were shunned partly because unseasoned warriors do stupid things. But the emotional reason is simpler. Nobody wants new friends because nobody wants to see one more friend die.

It is a simple, subconscious decision about love that goes something like this: You get to love people. People die. It hurts more when the people who die are people you love. Solution? Don’t love anymore people.

Loving anyone or anything makes one vulnerable, and to feel vulnerable is dangerous to anyone with Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. Our brains don’t like vulnerability. If we fight it, some kind of rage ensues. If we succumb to it, we sink into depression. So, we avoid love and other vulnerable activities.

It takes a lot of resilience to love a dog.

It takes more to love a person because people are more likely to bite.

We are unnaturally loyal to our friends, but we shun most new people. It’s an old habit. For self protection, we repel love—in part because we know it hurts to lose it.

Recovery requires a partner. Care to dance?

Undying Love

She was in her ninety-seventh year and fading like her eyesight and her insight, but she still recognized me, my brothers and sisters, and many of her grandchildren, although she got some names confused. She mixed up faces, calling a great granddaughter by her mother’s name. Only some of that was age.

Sixty years ago, I sometimes thought my name was Rodney Butch Erv. It is a product of large family size.

Her family was huge, and she could still report on the pride and problems of many of them, keeping track of about a hundred of us. But this year, that faded, too.

She still remembered my wife, Nancy, but not always her name. She would ask if she were with me.

“No, Mom, she’s in Arizona, working.”

“That’s far away.”

And she would look far away, out the big window of her assisted living facility, and watch. She would describe what she saw, and I would think it was real—at least in her mind. But, sometimes it was only an artifact of an aging brain.

She lifted her hands and studied them in something like mild horror.

“Something is wrong,” she told me. “They don’t work right, anymore. I’m falling apart.”

“I know, Mom.”

She held my hand. Arizona is so far from Wisconsin, and I said goodbye every time I left, for about four years I think. Then, one day, I would drop in and she would recognize me, ask about her (Nancy), and report on the family.

Sometimes she held my hand. One day she studied me, tearing up a bit.

“I just love you so much,” she told me.

“I love you, too, Mom”

The Rub

“To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;” (Hamlet soliloquy, Act 3 Scene 1)

While I was discussing combat PTSD with friends, a WWII Veteran asked if someone could get that from bombs. Then he shared that he hardly has a night without a nightmare.

Reminder: For the past few months, this blog has been dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

“One of the most common complaints of combat veterans with combat post traumatic stress disorders is the problem of sleep.” (Hart, 2000, p. 144)

For years, until a few weeks ago, I maintained that I did not have sleep problems—that I did not have nightmares. I was wrong. While it is true that I do not have recurring dreams of combat experiences, I do have frequent dreams, and even night terrors, with recurring themes of helplessness, frustration, and/or danger. I have concluded that my trauma is as much situational and conceptual as related to one specific incident or engagement.

I also have concluded that dreaming is not just what I thought it was. Dr. Hart describes a physiological reaction to decreased respiration as an endocrine response of hormone secretion. This triggers our brain’s reticular activating system pulsing electricity through neural pathways, and we dream. He says, “Our dreams are the result of electrical stimulation of specific areas of our cortex.” (p. 145)

He then goes on to describe the production of RNA and amino acid rearrangement as learning. I find that really cool. Okay, I’m an old geneticist, and the DNA–>RNA–>protein thing fascinates me, partly because I find it plausible as explanation.

Deep in the subcortical regions of our limbic system or primitive brain lie the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus, the latter associated with long term memory management. Trauma survivors have reduced hypothalamus (short-term or working memory) capacity and enlarged amygdala structure and function (fight/flight response). We also seem to have impaired hippocampus function. It is less effective and the amygdala takes over. The result is an increase in feelings of terror and panic (I would add, rage) in response to stimuli including these electrical impulses called dreams. This is my conclusion or inference from Dr. Hart’s discussion. I invite you to read the original.

“Combat veterans are frequently diagnosed with sleep apnea.” (Hart, 2000, p. 146) He goes on to explain why: We have a tendency to not breathe when we are stressed, a natural reaction to threat that prods the body to produce adrenaline for the fight or flight. We can awake in full arousal reaction even into a wild ride of dysregulation (Dinosaur Dump).

This is not conducive to marriage.

There are many avenues of help, and my friends in group report successes. Medicines improve sleep time and quality (with side effects, of course, including male impotence). Machines support breathing while we may be holding our breath. Some life habits improve our sleep significantly as can certain practices.

Dream inoculation is one that fascinates me although I have not tried it. (Note to self: Try this.)  Just before dozing off, I tell myself that if I dream I will recognize that I am in a dream and I will be able to change the outcome. It is a metacognitive process of seeing myself from outside or above.

Deliberate relaxation with deep breathing and beautiful visualization before bedtime really helps. It is a matter of making it a habit. Watching news or disturbing TV does not.

Because of serotonin production is conducive to quality night sleep, periods of peaceful relaxation during the day helps. Again, it becomes a matter of discipline. A few minutes listening to the birds (real or recorded), babbling brook, seashore, or Native American flute music not only improves my efficiency during the work day, it improves it the next day as well because I sleep better at night.

It is hard to be a good guy on a bad night’s sleep. There is help. Rest easy.

Mental Mire

1970 is a year that lives in infamy, if only in my mind.

It actually is a very significant year: Apollo 13, Cambodian Incursion, Kent State shooting, Sterling Hall bombing, Woodstock cleanup, I came home, My Lai trials. Now, honestly, is any of that stuff on your mind?

“…Always on my mind…”

Reminder: For the past few months, this blog has been dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

We don’t really know why one person develops symptoms of PTSD while another person doesn’t. I overheard a cell phone conversation (well, half of it) on campus as a girl postulated that maybe one person already had a reduced hippocampus volume. It is very good to hear that anybody cares, but we really don’t know. That is not a bad hypothesis, though.

One thing we do know, however, is that people affected by trauma are often stuck in time. Sigmund Freud called it fixation in reference to his stages of development (oral, anal, sexual). There is an arrest of psychological/emotional development—as though some obstacle keeps us from moving on.

The obstacle is that the experience just doesn’t make any sense. So, here may be a susceptibility or pre-disposition to PTSD. People committed to making sense of the world get stuck in a time that makes no sense.

It would seem that introspection may contribute to ongoing symptoms of post traumatic stress. On the other hand, not thinking about the time leaves us stuck subconsciously and we never make recovery. Now, isn’t that a dilemma—a Post Traumatic Stress Dilemma.

“When people overreact to a moment, become too angry, too sad, too aggressive, too anxious, to a particular situation, it is most likely that the events of that moment have triggered unfinished business.” (Hart, 2000, p. 139)

An emotional conflict remains unresolved. The trigger can be as simple as an encounter with others expressing strongly held beliefs. Oh, campaign season is not comfortable for me. It feels like war, and the metaphors do not help. I am stuck in 1970. The war is not over for me.

In many ways, my emotional development arrested in July of 1970 when I was transferred from my A-Team camp on the Cambodian border near Thien Ngon to finish my tour in a recycled French villa in Bien Hoa. I never finished my work. We hadn’t ended the war. Even though I was twenty four, I was still a rather naïve college student in a First Lieutenant’s uniform.

Dr. Hart explains that those with little responsibility in trauma often have difficulty accepting responsibility, later. Those with a great deal of responsibility in combat tend to take charge, later. I was stuck in the middle.

In the middle I seem to be stuck, today. I am very comfortable accepting certain responsibilities for small groups of people. Teaching school was good for me, particularly teaching high school where students accepted a great deal of responsibility for their learning. College might be even better.

The intense emotional response triggered by a situation is the result of my amygdala, part of the primitive brain, grabbing the stimuli and shunting the information directly to the primitive fight/flight reaction. Recovery requires struggle—an effort by the high road of stimulus processing through cerebral cognitions of the smart brain. We have to think our way out of the mire.

Breathe. Left brain, talk to right brain. Remember that these feelings are left over from 1970 rather than caused by the situation I face, today. Use peripheral vision to desensitize (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Slide into my clear space. Go do something, especially something for somebody else.

And turn off the damned news.

Of One Mind

“I wish you could just cry,” my wife said. Many, many times.

I can sometimes cry, but not often, and not at times when it would be healthy and appropriate.

“For combat veterans only anger as a feeling or an emotion is easily expressed.” (Hart, 2000, p. 82)

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

Human brains are complex in both structure and function; we live interesting lives through complicated minds.

The mind of a combat Veteran with PTSD is divided against itself. Recovery is a process of learning to reunite these parts of ourselves.

Dr. Hart says, “Many times we have difficulty integrating our thoughts and feelings.” (p. 83)

We think and we feel. It seems the feelings exist or occur through primitive brain structures while more the complex and advanced cerebral hemispheres accomplish thoughts. While it may become necessary to distinguish thoughts from feelings, for today I will only say that thoughts can be manipulated and built while feelings simply exist.

And, then there are emotions. When feelings, perhaps through the power of thought, generate physiological responses (increased respiration, sweating, heart rate and blood pressure changes, nausea…), they become emotions.

We all have feelings. We cannot help that. That is the way things are.

But, feelings hurt. We feel vulnerable and guilty, and we don’t like it. So, we try not to feel. We ventilate; however, we do not share our vulnerability and grief because, well, we believe that that would make us feel more vulnerable.

Then there is the whole cultural miseducation of human males. We are trained to carry a stiff upper lip, particularly in cowboyAmerica. We learn to suppress feelings and deny emotions, but our thoughts won’t let us. The consequence is that we act out. Boys will be boys.

Peace is the way of a unified mind, a confluence of thoughts and feelings, an elusive state difficult for a combat Veteran with any symptoms of PTSD. It is elusive but not impossible to attain.

How does a person who has been trained to suppress and deny feelings, whose feelings tend toward guilt and vulnerability, and whose thoughts obsess on changing the past, find the peace of confluence?

My answer is science and art.

Science is the design of cognitive or conceptual meaning, the study for understanding of feelings, thoughts, and emotions and the processes of learning at behavioral, cognitive, and affective levels. It is working the problem in logical and empirical pathways of recovery, pathways that may include therapy, medication, and renewed coping skills. I write this blog.

Art is expression. I wrote a lot of poetry during times of intense vulnerability, and occasionally still do. More recently, I have been writing fiction. Sometimes I walk in the woods, listen to music, or play with my grandchildren. I feel that through art I am free to express feelings and emotions with less awareness of vulnerability. And, when I look at my art, when I share it with others, I learn about myself. I am able to experience my own feelings with less vulnerability and guilt.

That is a very good thing.

Yes, you can help. No, I’m not going to suggest ways you can encourage your Veterans to pursue science and art in their recovery. I’m going to suggest you pursue your own.

If you love a Veteran with PTSD, you probably have secondary PTSD.

Experience science and art in quest of your own confluence, your own peace, your own recovery. If you want to help your Veteran, be, yourself, of one mind.