Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

The Empty Balloon

That’s what my cranium feels like today:  a balloon that went all over the room expelling air and then flopped down on the couch.

Partly it is sort of a new pattern here, of frantically working on a project and completing it (or whatever passes for completion in the moment) and then, THE VOID.  Perhaps it’s just shock.  I did my taxes and for the first time in…well, years, anyway, I’m getting refunds.  Which once again reminded me that the massive worry-thons that get launched around here are generally total wastes of time.

For some reason anxiety and depression and worry have been floating around in the the topic bowl.  It’s pretty clear that worry and fear become habits, not that they cannot be shifted but the responses become so “normal”  you don’t necessarily realize that you’re essentially “praying for what you don’t want” as I heard a musician say on the radio a few days ago.  William Styron’s DARKNESS VISIBLE addresses this as well.  His memoir of a descent into profound clinical depression, this book is quite riveting in its lucidity and in the accuracy of the descriptions of almost indescribable mental states, of the unbelievable pain people suffering from depression experience.

These difficult mental states, disorders, illnesses if you will, what are they?  We are learning more and more about the chemistry involved in them, how life experiences affect that chemistry and our behavior.  There are many options now for dealing with such a state of things, and one thing they all take is time.  And attention, of course.  But we can shift our behaviors by paying attention to them and not continuing in the ones that don’t serve us.  This behavior change can restructure neural pathways, and ultimately old pains may, and do, recede into the background and are no longer in the driver’s seat.  Sometimes it takes more assertive intervention, of course, and sometimes even Western Medicine, that thing we love to hate, can be helpful in balancing brain chemistry- as long as it is done consciously, and not with the intent to mask symptoms and continue on in the same old ways.

In essence, and as usual, we have to want to let go of this constellation of feelings and thoughts, as we have to want to let go of anything we wish to change.  So often it seems that people want to stay the same but be more comfortable there.   Our socialization leads us to view life as a continuing dance of pairs of opposites.  The duality doesn’t leave much room, and it is easy to feel stuck in such a paradigm, swinging between poles of artificial distinctions that don’t ring deeply true.  So, liberation, which is ultimately the goal in every endeavor I think, is a movement toward unity; toward a consciousness of expanded awareness.  When we stay stuck in the pairs of opposites, it can be overwhelming.  Those poles loom large and absolute, and this can make us think that we can never “get better”/”recover”/move on/whatever it may be.  It seems easier to stay as we are, perhaps.  To my mind, liberation is a process of education.  This education leads us to see much larger horizons than those simply of our pairs of opposites.  These larger horizons contain all sorts of questions that lead to answers, and those answers can really help us be happy where we are, which is the essential first step.  Letting go of the perceived loss and pain we can see where we are.  Then we can begin again, and begin to truly live our lives.

There are all sorts of things that happen in life, catastrophic and terrible things, happy things, innumerable and perhaps unnameable things.  Perhaps part of really being alive is finally being able to step past all the “things” that have “happened”, without judgement but with acceptance and honesty.  Then we step into World, and it’s quite a different experience.  It isn’t necessarily easier, there’s still pain and joy, but there is a majesty and light to it that seem to help with the basic guidance.  So there’s less crashing into unseen mountains, less fearing them.   In short, it does get better.  But I think you have to be willing to put everything down before you can pick it up properly and go on again, into your life.

Veteran’s Day

It has been a really fun day around here, Gentle Reader.  The guys across the road let their dog bark the sun up so that provided just the wonderful element we needed to face yet another day, blearily.  They responded like a$$#@^$ and it remains to be seen what the next installment will be.  The dog is really the only one there who manifests any signs of intelligence so it’s a bit dicey.

The car crash of earlier in the week continued reverberating a bit, we were out of milk and it’s cold and gray.  Veteran’s day depresses me, actually, because I think of everything it means, involves, the pain and suffering and sacrifice and service- usually, it seems to me at least in my lifetime, in service of something I absolutely do not and cannot agree with.  I totally support our service members but it breaks my heart to see the use they are put to.   Integrating back into any society, much less this one, can only be challenging beyond what the average person can even begin to imagine after such a set of experiences as combat involves.  So I’m depressed and angry and sad.  As an alternative modality practitioner, I think I have things to offer in this arena that would be positive and helpful.  It’s pretty hard to get anybody to listen, so far.  The Partner has his own question.  Knowing what will happen to you when you’re in the military, yet going anyway?  I think the Iraq Vets Against the War deserve all the support we can give them- they are on the right page and their message needs to be heard.   The rich cannot be allowed to throw the bodies of their country people into the conflagrations caused by their greed.  Oversimplification, yes.  Essentially true? Yes.

Meanwhile, Herman Cain continues to astound.  He made a joke referring to Anita Hill.  This is a person you want running ANYTHING? SERIOUSLY? A JOKE ABOUT ANITA HILL?  This man is, astonishingly, really an actual jerk.  It’s all pretty scary today, in short.  We hope that tomorrow will provide enough mood elevation to involve baking.  That’s usually a good thing to do to restore perspective- today, just not up to it.

What Page Were We On?

Sometimes, well let’s face it, most times, I feel that we in Rancho Boozilla are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page, as our happy neighbors around us.  Having come to terms with the disorientation of all that and forged ahead nonetheless, things still pop up that leave us with our beaks hanging open.

I was reminded over the weekend of something that I knew, but had swept under my mental rug.  This reminder had the physical effect of making me throw up.  The issue was this.  People are being sent back to Afghanistan and Iraq with active, full blown, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We all ‘know” that people are reassigned and what not.  But it is all too easy to forget what that really means.  For one thing, it means that any work toward healing the PTSD and returning to any kind of normalcy goes right into the dumper.  For another, it most likely means that any time stateside is poisoned with terror about the impending return.  Those two things alone are going to demolish families and lives, not to mention the other potential corollaries like coping with major physical injuries.  For a third thing, which should have some meaning to the average citizen, it means that ultimately society at large is going to have a really big pool of vets who are in so much pain and have been so severely traumatized that help is going to be a long, long way away.  This affects YOU, as I try and say to my neighbors.  (I do engage in pointless activities from time to time.)  That person who goes ballistic in the shopping center? Where do you think they came from?  Not to mention the, I’m betting large, pool of opium and heroin addicts who will be returning to a society that will not understand them.    In the lowest, and I do mean LOW, common denominator this will cost money.  Pure selfishness should make society rethink how this issue is being handled, if nothing else.  If not a sense of compassion and respect for our fellow beings.    If not a deep sense of heartbreak about all this suffering.

This whole thing makes me so angry I can’t think straight.  The whole thing is so wrong.  Historically Afghanistan has been a deal breaker in a big way.  If you pay attention to history, that is.  Which we seem not to be since we are repeating it.    The euphemisms used on television about returning service people, if they are mentioned at all, make me nutty(-er, OK, OK. NUTTIER.  Happy?).  Our country is engaging in something that has never worked in the past, that is, war and violence.  It isn’t working now, I don’t believe it WILL.  We are sending our kinsmen and women, basically, to destruction and danger, and then behaving as though we don’t know what is going on.  It needs to stop.

Not Again (or, Another Opinion)

I can’t quite express the horror  and dismay I felt at being subjected to Dick Cheney on television again.  Over and over.  I don’t want to hear anything from that individual, ever again.  I think we can safely say He’s Done Enough.  

Cheney no longer holds any office in government and I fail to see why we should be subjected to his opinions any further.  Opinions from someone who doesn’t, apparently, understand how a democratic society is to function (justice and liberty, for example), someone who has no respect for humanity, and someone who will justify any means to get to his desired end.   I also wonder how appropriate his appearance was, considering he was Vice-President, not President.  Presidential remarks might possibly have been appropriate.  Given his theoretically lower position, his remarks were not appropriate, actually a bit disrespectful,and his whole litany was as offensive as ever and, basically, as thoughtless.  I can’t help but wonder why he got so much attention.

 I had to laugh when I heard Jesse Ventura say, after hearing Cheney’s remarks, give me an hour to waterboard Dick Cheney and I’ll get him to confess to the Sharon Tate murders.  This summarizes the view on the veracity of information gained by torture  (er, excuse me, what is it? enhanced interrogation?) of virtually every long term professional in the military and intelligence sector, many of whom have written quite extensively on the subject: It is extremely unreliable.  So why would you torture someone knowing that?   Knowing that you cannot count on getting the truth, knowing that the United States represents a supposedly higher moral ground, and knowing that torture is expressly banned by the Geneva Convention, to which the last time I checked the United States had been a signatory.  ( Perhaps Cheney confused the Geneva Convention with the Kyoto Protocol?)  In any case, torture is also completely contrary to that other document with which Cheney continually seemed to be unfamiliar: The Constitution of the United States.

Personally, I really really want Dick Cheney to go away, now.  Go away and stay away and don’t come back, ever.    In my view, he’s shamed the country by hugely participating in the dragging of it into a situation that was misrepresented from the beginning, violating the Constitution and kicking Habeas Corpus to the curb, and also: Profitting from it.  Haliburton ring any bells?   My opposition to torture, by the way, is in no way a denigration of the individuals who are forced to do it under orders they must obey.  ( Don’t bother to think about the public health consequences of that, Dick.  All the people who can’t live with the darkness they’ve inhabited. )  Cheney’s comments in that regard were even more insulting than his usual standard.  Which is high.

Dick Cheney has been my meditation practice about compassion and forgiveness for the past few years.  I’m not making alot of progress judging by how I felt watching him on TV.  Or perhaps I have.  I have compassion for him, but I see no need to allow him to continue in his injurious ways which have led my country to the brink of disaster.   I don’t know what someone like Gandhi or Dr. King, Jr. would have made of all this.  I still don’t think such a person as Cheney deserves media attention and analysis.  His time is over, and he should have enough sense and self possession to acknowledge that.

Keyboards of Fury

I was already a bit torched off this morning and this afternoon the match got  put on the gasoline soaked papers. Oh, well.

The first smouldering embers were stirred when I was thinking about the, to my mind, cavalier response one friend had to another’s disclosure of dire financial circumstances.  Only someone who really did not want to pay attention or who had led a rather sheltered life would make such a patronizing response, as though these things weren’t as serious as the person thought they were.   Or what the real possibilities are in today’s world? Which last time I looked, are grim if you don’t have enough money.

 It reminded me of the my recent research on PTSD.   I’ve been reading two wonderful books:  ODYSSEUS IN AMERICA, by Jonathan Shay, MD, and in THE FATHER OF ALL THINGS, by Tom Bissell.  One thing mentioned is, the responses an individual receives to disclosures to friends and family members about combat related incidents and stresses often fall into two categories: Either the patronizing and dismissing “You’re a hero, what’s the big deal” or the fearful and dismissing “How could you have done that”.  Neither response is listening to the speaker.  Neither response is making any effort to understand the speaker.  Both responses want the speaker to go away.  This, I think, the speakers get.  They stop speaking about such things.  (The thing that made me crazy this morning combined what’s the big deal with let me fix you, just as a point of info.)  

One thing in all this that makes me so sad and angry is:  We don’t have enough listeners to go around apparently.  If a person has been through an experience that you have not, don’t presume to know all about it.  You can certainly share what you know, and that can certainly be helpful.  But you cannot pontificate or dismiss or give advice without being, basically, fearful and insensitive.  What happened to listening to what someone is saying? The average pontificator is not going to cop to this of course, because after all they’re just trying to help you.    The other thing is that we do, indeed, have a two tiered world now even though many are denying that fact.  On one tier are people who are still managing their lives reasonably well, haven’t been in combat, haven’t lost their jobs.  The other tier contains a large group of individuals who are now, financially speaking, “poor”.  It contains people with serious illnesses and PTSD, it contains people who don’t have work, who don’t have money.

The deal here is that the unspoken view is that there is something “wrong” with you if you don’t have money, if you’re sick.  It’s your fault.  Somehow.  So, someone who is in dire financial straits is circling the area where you become, shall we say? cootie infested.  And when you feel that way, you feel terribly bad on many levels.  When you are suffering from PTSD, something similar happens.  Nobody can understand, you may think.  But you also know on some level they don’t want to hear it, can’t really hear it.    One place I’m going with this in case you’re wondering is:  Where is the help in such a case?   Isolation doesn’t really help although it is a tempting choice, especially when you confront the few options available.

Here we arrive at the complete conflagration, which I hope I can make clear.  And, in a feat of legerdemain, tie into what’s written above.  Let’s see if I can do it.  Right now Suze Orman is on Oprah, advising people on how to get through these times.  Live, she said, on half your income.  That works if there IS an income, or is likely to be one.  If there isn’t, let’s see here: One half of Zero is….and then there’s the getting to one half of zero after a while of living on half of whatever you’ve pulled out of thin air.   Now they’re getting to the topic at the center of the flame for me, which is health care.  Health insurance is prohibitive, as we all know.  The Cobra incentive in the government’s current program, picking up the Cobra insurance co-pay for people who’ve been laid off will work for some but certainly not all.  And what happens to you lucky folks who don’t have health insurance?  While the State of California seems willing to pay for your baby (or eight) to be born , if you are a man, or a woman for that matter, between 21 and 60-something? Who has no income and no job? And you’re not disabled? or pregnant? or in a nursing home?  You get exactly nothing to help defray health care expenses.  Period.  Sorry, but you are not eligible.  So, if you get sick? Tough.  Too bad, so sad, in short.   It is easy to say that this is bad, but wait until it affects you personally.  Then, it is an unmitigated disaster. And it is both humiliating and infuriating to realize that you are someone the society at large thinks can be flung on the junk heap.   While a veteran has health benefits guaranteed, many are not getting the help they need, either.  With no other public health help available, I’d say we no longer have people falling through the cracks.  We have a deluge.

Perhaps a point? you’re thinking…pleeeeeeeze?  Money cannot be our God, our point of reference.  It can’t be every thing for everybody all the time, which translates into most of it for a very few and the rest….well, whatever.  Thinking has to come back into public policy all across the board, we have to truthfully come to terms with the fact that we must take care of each other, and that means all of each other.  And, taking care of each other doesn’t mean allowing unbridled birth rates, it doesn’t mean letting the “free market” dictate anything, it doesn’t mean that the bottom line looking good is all that matters, it doesn’t mean letting the chips fall where they may as long as you personally are OK.   It means, perhaps, going back a bit and looking at what is, and always has been, important.   And that is not “stuff” and designer logos.  It is heart and soul contribution to being worthy of living on this beautiful earth, who has been so patient with us for so long.  It is loving your brother as yourself.