Helping Kids Deal With The Moore Tornado and other Disasters

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Children can be particularly vulnerable to distressing weather and events.  Even children that were not directly affected will be deeply disturbed by these community wide disasters. Most parents have not been taught to look for signs that children are under stress, or even intense stress. This blog, by request, will give you some tips on helping your children recover from the devastating tornadoes in the midwest.

First know that your child is stressed. Some signs that children are stressed include:

– repetitive talk about the event 
– repetitive drawing of the event
– unusually irritable
– unusually withdrawn
– needy and clingy
– more forgetful than usual
– having trouble regulating emotions: laughing silly “highs” crash into sullen “lows”
– hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
– disturbed eating
– disturbed sleep

We forget what it is like to be a child. Under 14 years of age, children have some awareness that they cannot survive without adult assistance; this is especially true for very young children. Children watch their parents very carefully and take their cues from them about whether they should be upset or not. In addition children have losses in the storm that adults may trivialize or not realize the depth of the loss. For instance, a parent may not know that a stuffed animal was more like a best friend, or that a destroyed work of their art has taken away a precious sense of self. Because parents are suffering their own losses and in survival mode they may not feel like children are dealing with anything significant, but, of course, they are. 

Here are some ways to help your child heal in the aftermath:

1) Limit media exposure of the event. Adults tend to watch traumatic events obsessively but we know from 9/11 that this can create traumas in kids who may not understand that they are seeing the same event repeated rather than several different events. TV may make them think the world is ending

2) Set some “processing” time aside every day for your kids where they can express their feelings. Young children (3yrs-8yrs) might be encouraged to color, draw a picture, or engage in puppet play. 8-12 years olds might want more information about storms, or just to spend time playing games. (Experienced child therapists know that most kids need to be occupied with a game or activity in order to talk about their feelings.) Teenagers may be able to sit and talk if they are mature, and are invited to participate in a judgment free zone. Also, ball throwing and basketball hoop shooting are excellent ways to get kids to open up. During this time turn off your phone and your own agendas and create a lot of space to just listen or answer questions.

3) Try to keep a normal rhythm to the day, even if you are in a shelter. Have regular mealtimes, structured activities and a bed time.

4) Speaking of bedtime, be aware that sleep may be difficult at first. Kids may be having unpleasant dreams processing the storm. Be patient and non-judgmental about this, while helping maintain a schedule.

5) Monitor your own reactions. Calm yourself down as much as possible. Do not share horrible new stories with your kids or in earshot of them. They will be alarmed but will not tell you.

6) Understand that quiet kids may not be OK. Invite them to play with you or help you with simple chores. Reinforce any sharing with your attention and love.

7) Provide lots of hugs and affection. Take time for yourself and for them. You both need the contact!

8) If your child has a pronounced behavioral change reach out for professional help ASAP. Red Cross will have referrals for free and low-income therapy professionals.

9) Be active in reassuring your children that life will get better. Hold the optimism for them, even if you are feeling discouraged. This is kind and wise parenting.

10) Lastly, cultivate patience! Be patient with your kids and be patient with the city and be patient with yourself. Stop and breathe as needed. Practice self-care and stay aware of your own needs! Then you won’t resist the children’s needs when they are up.

Know that there are so many of us pulling for all of you and your kids. Our hearts go out to yours. Be well and be safe!




24 Hours With PTSD

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 I wrote this post so that those without PTSD can begin to understand and so that those with PTSD know that someone else has been there before.  I do not have PTSD any longer. WARNING: MAY BE TRIGGERING.

     I wake up groggy, with remnants of a bad night’s sleep still clinging to me. I don’t want to go back to sleep, but I’m not sure I can face the day either. I cannot remember my dreams, but I know they weren’t good. Last night I didn’t yell in a nightmare and disrupt my husband’s badly needed sleep. That, at least is good. I cannot remember the last time sleep felt refreshing. Now it feels like another form of deprivation, another instrument of suffering, another of the myriad losses of PTSD. I wonder if I will ever have a good night’s sleep again.

     My joints and gut ache as they do every day now as I push myself up to sit on the side of my bed. If I don’t move slowly I risk dizziness. Lately my body doesn’t seem to know where it is in space. I have bruises that I don’t remember getting from bumping into doorways, edges of tables and chairs. It’s like having the PMS clumsies all the time. The bruises don’t hurt though. On the contrary, I hardly feel them. It’s the pain inside that absorbs all my attention. I breathe, attempting, without success to ground myself before beginning my day.

     My kids are waiting for breakfast and a ride to school so I need to get a move on. Every day my prayer is the same. Please let me be a good mother. Help me protect them from what I am going through. Give me the strength to do what I need to and I will deal with my PTSD later. It doesn’t always help, and guilt over bad mommy moments is a constant companion these days.
Mornings are particularly bad with PTSD. It is as if someone has gone through my sensory system and turned up all the knobs to high. Light stabs my eyeballs making me squint with pain. Sounds are amplified as if I am in an echo chamber. Internal feelings and emotions can rev to highs and lows with no warning. I keep a very zen environment. The kids know not to talk too loud, bang their plates or scrape their forks. My husband is encouraged to leave the kitchen without cleaning it because the running water sounds like white noise in my head. We keep the lights low. I never know how bad it is going to be and they don’t either. Fortunately, my kids are not morning people either. They move slowly and quietly. I worry that I’ve become too controlling, but the stakes are too high to do anything different.

     I’ve tried to explain what it is like to live in this body now to my very calm, stoic Lutheran raised midwestern husband. If there is a superpower for nerves of steel, he has it. My husband deals with life and death in his cath lab on a daily basis. He works in the space of millimeters for hours on end to open blocked hearts when his patients’ only alternative is life threatening surgery or certain death. He has not experienced PTSD or any mental affliction. His mental health and stability is both an asset and a hazard in our relationship. Sometimes I just need him to lose it on my behalf, to show that he really, really gets it.

     I explain to him that on bad days I feel like I have ground glass running throughout my nervous system with sharp jaggedy edges. I explain how triggers make me want to jump out of my skin and how that jump is always accompanied by intense emotion, either a tornado of disintegrating rage, or fear or both. I explain how I know what some of my triggers are, but that every day, as I work through my healing in therapy, new ones are popping out and that we can both be caught off guard. I want him to understand that the constant flow of adrenaline makes me look alert and energized on the outside but that inside I feel exhausted. Wired and tired is how I put it. The foot is full throttle on the gas pedal, but the car is stuck in neutral. (I look for good manly analogies.) I explain that I need him to not react to my irritation and anger, to not take it personally, that it is only the PTSD rearing its ugly head. He nods his head with understanding, but the next time he does take it personally. And why wouldn’t he? Another source of guilt and rage for me. And a source of fragility for our marriage, a marriage that has always been strong. Is PTSD going to take this away from me too?

     Normally couples can make up with physical intimacy. But even the least little bit of this comfort is now denied me. When the PTSD first hit, even hugging through two layers of flannel pajamas made me nauseous and dizzy. That initial shock has settled into a distant sort of numbness. I hug out of habit, but I can’t really feel it. I can’t feel my connection to myself or to him. The only connection that is safe for me is the kids. Thank goodness I can still feel my love for them. I realize that it is possible that my husband has become a trigger. But I’m not sure. Is it him? Or is it the trigger? Is our marriage viable? I have no idea, and I have to live with that uncertainty for months, and so does he. I decide not to decide until I have progressed in my healing.

     After everyone leaves for the day, I face hours alone, just me and my PTSD. I am both relieved and terrified. Some days are better than others. Some days I have therapy with the shaman therapist. He is helpful and powerful, and there is no state he cannot bring me out of. I am very, very lucky to have him as a resource. Still, there are many hours to fill.

     With PTSD I am never really happy. I miss simple happiness. I miss joy. I take my dogs on a walk and watch them run with abandon, big wild dog joy grins on their faces. On a good day, my insides feel like a grey, shadowless Portland winter day, flat and featureless. On a bad day, a howling storm is raging that threatens to obliterate me. Unless I am in the bleakest place I will myself to do my job as mother and housemaker: cook something, clean something, pay something. Self-care and hygiene is no longer a natural act, but something that must be chosen and willed every day. When I am in the darkest states, I curl up for hours on the sofa waiting for my next therapy appointment.

     Fortunately, I did not just fall off the turnip truck. I have had a lot of training and life experience. I can meditate. I can do breathing exercises. I can walk (until I have a very bad skiing accident, but that is another story). I know by virtue of my age and therapy that this too shall pass, that there is no way I can stay in this state forever, that I am working actively on my healing. Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it really doesn’t.

     PTSD taunts me with loneliness. If I had cancer, or some other major medical illness, if I were a victim of a current crime or in a car accident or had something visibly wrong with me, people would know. People would sympathize, maybe bring over a casserole, send a card, check in with me or take me to lunch. But nobody knows. I cannot talk about my disability because to talk about it makes me feel much, much worse. Talking about it makes my head spin and my stomach want to retch. Even if I could stand to see the look on people’s face when I tried to talk about my condition, most of them, like my good husband, would not really understand. They might nod their heads politely and say that time heals all wounds, or that I should be grateful for what I have now. I might have to kill them for that. Or myself. So I remain silent and withdraw unnoticed. I go to school events, put on a brave face and then crawl into bed exhausted.

     If I am lucky I make it through the day without any major triggers. But it feels like walking daily through a mine field. At the end of the day I lose myself briefly in spending time with my happy amazing kids. I manage to stay focused on them and their needs until their bedtime. But then I am used up and collapse on the sofa exhausted. I have nothing left for my spouse. I try to look back over my day and find one thing to feel good about. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I just want to hurt myself. I watch these moods come and go with the experienced eye of a therapist and meditator. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

    I have no idea how people make it through without the level of support that I have, and then I realize that many of them don’t make it.

     Bedtime comes, and with it, intense dread. I used to love bedtime. I couldn’t wait to snuggle down into flannel sheets, cozy up to my hubbie and drift off feeling our warm connection. Now we sleep on the edges of the bed. I tell him I love him, but please don’t touch me. Trained doctor that he is, he falls asleep instantly. I am left with the final battle of the day.

     Sometimes I can fall asleep easily sometimes I can’t. But I never stay asleep. Every 90 minutes like clockwork, my mind and body pop out of sleep. It is exhausting. REM sleep is where our bodies process intense emotion and memories. I think about how waking people up before REM sleep is a torture that can result in psychosis. As I slip into the dream state the nightmares come. They are bad. Sometimes they are screaming and striking out in my sleep bad. But more often I wake up before I can even have them, a new conditioned response that is out of my control. I meditate. I do yoga to relax and start over. I read. Sometimes these things help and sometimes they do not.

     I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better, but I hope it will. And when I can’t hope I endure.




The Root of Violence: Solutions for a Beleaguered World

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When I was in high school and the world’s population was at about 4 billion, I saw a video about an experiment in rat overcrowding. The researchers showed very clearly that up until a certain population the rats were civil, harmonious and happy. When they became overcrowded, the rats turned on each other and a cycle of violence began. I remembered wondering where that tipping point was for humanity.

Today the world’s population stands at about 7 billion, ready to top 8 billion in the next decade. I cannot help but wonder if the world is getting too crowded to maintain civil societies. At least in the old models.

Fortunately, we are not rats. We are human beings with a plethora of ingenious human tools at our disposal, the foremost being a thinking, self-reflective brain. We can not only reshape our environment, we can also reshape our bodies, personalities and even our own brains.

Clearly, it is time to evolve.

What would it take to stop the violence?

Currently it is popular to blame religion for violence. But I don’t buy it. Historically, nationalism was blamed for wars. But we didn’t abolish nations, nor could we. Anymore than we can abolish religion. The search for God and religion seems to be hardwired into the very fabric of humanity. And that’s potentially a good thing. Innumerable hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable endeavors have been supported by large religious bodies.

Look, I’m a therapist. I’ve spent a lifetime peering into the hidden mechanisms of human consciousness. I’ve worked with victims and perpetrators of violence, religious, atheist, you name it.

And the root of violence is pretty simple. The recipe is this: take a human ego, prone to intense biological impulses like sex and aggression, add a dose of rejection, violence, or trauma and withhold empathy, attachment and kindness. Don’t forget to add the testosterone, or all that violence will turn inwards. This is the basic formula; there are of course endless ways to “spice” things up. Anything that disinhibits a human helps: drugs, a charismatic leader, any kind of reward real or imagined, spiritual or material. You get the picture.

When the world becomes an overall less kinder place to be, when governments exist to punish and control rather than support, when adults are too busy trying to survive than to connect, when children are subjected to all manner of abuse growing up, when basic needs are withheld (food, shelter, education), then we can be sure the rise of violence is around the corner.
My little piece of contribution centers around psychological trauma. Like the tipping point for rat populations, I believe that there is a tipping point for the number of citizens with untreated abuse and trauma issues that starts to unravel societies and the fabric of civilization gets weak, gauzy and prone to tears.

That is why I wrote The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out. But one book is not enough to stem the tide.

If we want to turn this around we need the biggest investment in our humanity the world has ever seen.

Our healthcare system is broke.
Out educational system is broke.
Our national aggression is disproportionately funded.
PTSD is a national (and global) epidemic.
Our TV and media is a wasteland of violence, sex and empty, puerile stories aimed at the basest nature of humans.
Adults can’t find meaningful work or time to connect.
Children can’t get their emotional needs met so they are turning to early sex, drugs, computers and violent videogames.

Like the global climate crisis we are in, we are in a crisis of our own humanity.

We need to ask ourselves: what does it mean to be human? Are we living lifestyles that are in alignment with our values and ideals, or have we given up?

The answers are simple. Accomplishing them requires insight, wisdom and the will of the people.

1) Convert from a permanent wartime economy to a peace economy. Stop trying to control the world and get back to taking care of American citizens.
2) Reinstate the important status of mothers in the world by funding them to stay home with their children as needed. Working mothers is a redundant, and obnoxious term. We need to recognize that all mothers are, by definition, working.
3) Stop projecting our own internal demons onto other groups: immigrants, “terrorists”, “dirty hippies”, whatever. And affirm the dignity of all human beings, the vast majority of whom merely seek to be happy.
4) Reign in the vast greed industries and interests in Washington.
5) Recognize that only people are people. Corporations are sociopathic entities.
6) Fund a single payer healthcare system and come into the 21st century.
7) Throw out the educational dictates of the last 20 years and create sound educational ideas that really engage students and teachers in learning in the new millennium.
8) Turn off your TV. Or at least have enforced rules about usage .
9) Heal your traumas. Help yourself.
10) Recognize that your children, friends and neighbors may be struggling quietly and desperately in need of help. Help them.
11) Spend more time with your kids. Quality is not enough. Quantity is also required for healthy kids. Don’t let computers and TV parent.
12) Create community events for connection. Host a potluck once/month. Get involved. Talk to your neighbors. Get over your fear of the ‘other’.
13) MEDITATE. Rats can’t meditate, we can. If we all just calmed down and healed our own brains, it would be enough.

OK, then. We do have choices. It’s either us or no one. We can cower in fear waiting for the next attack, the next screw gone loose, or we can start changing our communities here and now.

I vote for now. I’ll go meditate on it, and then I will act.




Defending Dr. Drew

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My husband is an interventional cardiologist. Most of the people he sees are in manageable stages of cardiac disease. Some of his patients are quite sick and come in with advanced stages of illness. A few are dead and dying when they reach his cath lab. Miraculously, he can bring a few back to life, or ease their suffering greatly with stents and medications, saving them the trauma of open heart surgery.

Nobody is surprised when some of these people die. Sad. But not surprised. And certainly not outraged.

I’m a mental health professional, as is Dr. Drew Pinsky. In the media Dr. Drew has been blamed for the recent death of country singer Mindy McCready, who appeared on his show Rehab a few seasons ago. Like my husband, we both see people in various stages of illness. We’ve held people’s lives in our hands in our offices as surely as my husband has in his cath lab.

Dr. Drew, on his show Rehab, treats the sickest of the sick. He admits people to his hospital who have a terrible prognosis, many of whom have been told they are going to die if they don’t get treatment. They are in the end stages of addiction, a disease just as surely fatal as heart disease.

Yet, for some reason, when these patients die, the good doctor is blamed. Why? He is treating those who need intensive intervention and treatment in a psychiatric facility, just as my husband treats people in his hospital. These patients can get well with interventions for a period of time and then fail, just as cardiac patients can.

I can only chalk this reaction up to the ignorance and wishful thinking of the American people. Here is what I, as a lifelong mental health practitioner, would like the general public to know:

1) Addiction is a deadly disease, no less of a threat than cancer, heart disease, or a terrible accident.

2) It takes a highly skilled practitioner, one with hundreds if not thousands of hours of training, practice and supervision to help these people get better, and, yet, like other physicians, we still may lose our patients.

3) When we do lose our patients, we feel terrible. We work so much more intimately with our patients than, say, my husband does with his. We know their secrets, their character. We have laughed with them and possibly cried with them. It is impossible to be a good therapist without attaching to our clients and they to us.

4) Clinicians don’t just ever treat addictions. Addictions are always a symptom of a much bigger problem, and, frankly, that problem almost always involves boatloads of psychological trauma.

5) Working with traumatic stress is incredibly taxing for patient and practitioner. Frankly, not that many people want to do it. If you don’t believe me ask yourself when the last time is that you asked someone to tell you about their history of abuse and neglect and then listened all the way to the end of their story. Never? I rest my case.

6) Mental health clinicians are the pariahs of the medical community in the same way our patients are pariahs in the public’s eye. We treat “losers” so we must be losers is how so many of us are seen (if you wish you can substitute the word “crazy” for “loser”). Most of us are undervalued, underpaid and disempowered, but we soldier on because we believe in our work and enjoy helping people end their suffering.

7) My husband never lacks for the tools to do his work. His patients have the best equipment, the best care, and only leave the hospital when they are well enough to go home. Often they go home with assistance of some kind or another. This is rarely true in mental health work. Our patients do not have long enough stays to get better, have trouble accessing clinicians who know how to treat them, and are often discharged without enough support at home.

Even with the best support money can buy, some patients, like the country singer Mindy McCready, fail. Some people do well until they are put under undo stress and then they collapse. This was the case, as far as I can tell, with Ms. McCready. She’d already had several suicide attempts until the completed suicide of her boyfriend. She snapped.

How is this Dr. Drew’s fault? Now, I know there is some controversy about publicly airing shows on mental health treatment, and the questions are valid. Yet, as a professional whose work is always done in complete opacity, I’m happy that the general public gets to see some of what I and thousands of my colleagues give to our clients on a daily basis. I can’t participate in Take Your Daughter to Work Day, but we can sit down and watch an episode of Rehab.

I am sorry that Mindy lost her battle with depression and addiction. I am sad that Dr. Drew is getting blamed for losing a patient in the end stages of a terrible disease process. I hope we can all use this event to deepen our understanding of the terrible costs and demands of mental health and addictions instead of using it as a way to take a cheap shot at a profession that works in areas that no one else will touch.




Healing Together With An Infinite Mind

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HT_logo_HPI just returned from my favorite conference of the year, the Healing Together Conference put on by Infinite Mind.  Infinite Mind is a group of people with DID, which is Dissociative Identity Disorder.  You might know it better as Multiple Personality Disorder.

Why is this my favorite conference?  Many reasons.  This group of people who suffer from DID and those who support and/or treat them are the most dedicated, open and knowledgeable group I have been involved with.  There is no lying, no minimization, no disinformation.  Pain is acknowledged but not dwelt on. Jaime Pollock, the main organizer, is known for her organizational skills, her comedic timing and her immense sensitivity to the suffering of others.  She is completely open about her own journey, but never triggering.  There is an art room and a quiet grounding room with lots of pillows and blankets with student psychology interns available to help as needed.

Remember the movie Sybil?  Well, the real Sybil, Shirley Mason painted her way through her treatment.  There was a beautiful and moving exhibit of some of her paintings during the conference.  Despite the recent book questioning her diagnosis, most people who knew her, and most specialists believe, she was, in fact, DID.  The pictures in this article are some of hers.  Some facts about them: she often painted telephone poles, sail boats (to sail away from her pain?) and yellow, she said, was the color of her mother’s screaming.

Another famous multiple, Truddi Chase, wrote the runaway best seller When Rabbit Howls.  Her daughter, Kari, gave a very moving account of what it was to be the daughter of a multiple growing up.  It was very clear that a distant, mean father was much more of a liability to a growing child than a mother with DID.  Another interesting presentation was a mother-daughter pair from England discussing the same topic.  Carol, who only “discovered” her DID later in life brought some remarkable videos of herself in other personality states (called ‘alters’ or ‘parts’).  Her daughter with much patience and humor described a mother who often could not remember what she had said five minutes ago, but she was fun to play with!  They shared a very dramatic and, at times,  journey of healing which continues today.

On a more serious note, the mental health system in England and other places is severely lacking and there is much international work to be done on educating practitioners not only about the reality of DID, but how to work effectively on integrating painful memories.

Here are a few important facts to know about people with DID:

 1)   DID begins at an early age, usually before 7 but is often not diagnosed until later in life.

2)   DID is always the result of severe and prolonged trauma.  There has to be immense force involved to shatter a mind.

3)   Most people with DID are law-abiding and peaceful people who suffer from extreme internal torment.

4)   Many people with DID grow up to be loving (if somewhat dysfunctional) parents.

5)   Children of parents with DID can thrive, especially with support from the community.

6)   People with DID hold jobs in all sectors of society.  They are preschool teachers, lawyers, police officers, writers, hospice workers, etc.

7)   You cannot tell if someone has DID by looking at them.

8)   With appropriate treatment people can integrate fully and heal from DID and their traumatic histories that were the cause of their problems.

9)   People with DID almost always have problems with losing time.  Often people think they are pathological liars because different alters give different information. Over time they learn how to compensate for these difficulties.

10)  DID is fairly prevalent.  It is estimated that  1 out of 100 people in the USA suffer from DID, and it is found in every country.

 I had the privilege of giving trauma informed yoga classes in the morning and presenting two workshops: one on Yogic Modalities For Healing From PTSD and one on The Effects of Abuse and Trauma on Developing Children. The audiences were engaged, and responsive.  

 If you are a therapist, a physician, someone suffering from DID or you know someone with DID I would highly recommend this yearly conference as a place to learn, to laugh and to commiserate with a group of compassionate and knowledgeable people. It is held in Orlando, Florida every year in late winter.  I feel very grateful to be involved with this amazing group.

 




Jung on Freud, War, Death

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Too many people have forgotten the wisdom of psychotherapy’s Western fathers: Freud and Jung.  This interviews reveals the spirituality, the genius, the humanity and humility of Carl Jung towards the end of his life. He advocates greater awareness and psychology to avoid war. “We know nothing of man. Far too little. We are the origin of all coming evil.” Highly recommended viewing!




Find Your ACE Score

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Last year I posted about the largest study you’ve never heard of : the Adverse Childhood Events Study.  ACE has shown by using over 17000 participants data over several years that the more adverse childhood event categories you’ve been exposed to, the higher your chance of illness, obesity, mental problems, and socioeconomic ills.  You do not have to have full blown PTSD to be exposed to these risks.   People with the highest scores died, on average, 20 years sooner than people with the lowest scores.  The good news is that getting treatment and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors can mitigate your risk.

What is your risk?  Take the questionnaire below:

 

Finding Your ACE Score While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?

or

Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Yes No If yes enter 1

2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?

or
Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

Yes No If yes enter 1

3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever…
Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?

or

Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
Yes No If yes enter 1

4. Did you often or very often feel that …
No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?

or

________

________

________

Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

5. Did you often or very often feel that …
You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you?

or

Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

7. Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?

or
Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?

or
Ever repeatedly hit at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?

Yes No If yes enter 1 _______

10. Did a household member go to prison? Yes No If yes enter 1 _______

Now add up your Yes scores:  ___________

For more information go to www.acestudy.org.

 




The Power of Persistence (or What you Resist, Persists)

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I don’t know how to say this to you any other way so I’m just going to say it:  There is no easy way to heal from psychological trauma.

There is no pill, no elixir, no magic wand, no therapist, no book, no workshop, no yoga class, no blogger that will give you a quick fix from your suffering.  I’m sorry; I truly am.

If you want to heal from PTSD you are going to have to work very hard for a long time. You are going to have to spend money (probably a lot of money relative to your income) to get help to overcome what you feel should have never happened to you. And then you will have to work some more.

In my book I compare the journey of healing PTSD to the journey that Frodo takes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy to cast the evil, all powerful ring back into it’s source: a dangerous volcano hidden inside of an even more dangerous enemy territory governed by an all seeing magical evil sorcerer.  Frodo has two choices.  He can either stay in his comfort zone in the bucolic shire of his childhood and live in denial until his land is ultimately overrun with evil mutant elves and destroyed while the ring has corrupted him (or someone else) completely.  Or, he can man up and take the journey, one that is most perilous and with no guarantee of success and try to destroy the thing forever.

This is basically our choice as well. Is the journey so easy? If it were, everyone would make it.

Yes, I know it sucks.  But suck it up folks. That is the way it is.  I can only say this to you, not because I am cruel and heartless, but because this is a journey that I’ve taken.  I’ve done the dirt time, so to speak, in spades.

It is totally worth it.  The sooner you get over resistance to healing and begin, the better.  Healing PTSD takes a chunk of your life.  Not healing from PTSD takes your entire life (and possibly future lifetimes if you believe in that sort of thing).

Take a moment and review the pros and cons of healing:

 Pros                                                                 Cons

 Peace of mind                                                  Nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of your life, chronic anxiety

 

 The ability to love and be loved                  Failed relationships; people who are afraid of you; persistent loneliness

 

 Bodily health                                                  Heart disease, migraines, joint pain, digestive issues, diseases

 

 Wisdom                                                           Ignorance, bitterness, confusion

 

 Compassion for self and others                   Self-pity, entitlement, self-loathing, shame

 

 Money well spent in healing                        Money ill spent in addictions, diversions and distractions

 

Well, you get the picture. 

 So which will it be?  Healing PTSD does have an endpoint.  It brings gifts beyond compare but only if you finish the job.  You have no more time to lose. Put this at the top of your New Year’s Resolutions and you will ring in a much brighter 2014.

Blessings on your journey of healing!

 

Endurance is the most difficult of all the disciplines but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes. ~ Buddha

 

 

 

 

 




The Relevance of Mind Control and Mass Shootings

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At least one of the recent spate of murderous shooting rampages show evidence of high level mind control of the perpetrator. The Aurora shooter, James Holmes is reported to have told another inmate that he thought he was in a video game at the time of the shooting and that he had been programmed and rehearsed to complete the shooting at the movie theater.

Crazy, you say?

Well many therapists, many of my colleagues have treated patients with credible stories of mind control perpetrated by factions within the US and other governments. These techniques were developed and honed in the Nazi death camps. Those “technologies” were then imported along with clandestine Nazi scientists into the USA through the infamous Project Paperclip program. Scientists have been perfecting these techniques for decades beginning with the famous MKUltra program and others such as Projects Monarch and Bluebird. These programs are well documented by releases under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Unfortunately under the Bush administration many previously released documents were reclassified or redacted to the point of illegibility. Nevertheless copies remain in the hands of a few.These programs were publicly discontinued several decades ago, but the research and the programming has continued clandestinely under ultra secret black ops programs.

I have heard disclosures from prominent therapists and psychiatrists, one of whom revealed in a public workshop that some of his clients could trace their programming back to “scientist and program” and that he had shared a hallway with Martin K. Orne who used to brag about his ability to make people do anything he wanted. (Orne has sat on the famous and fraudulent False Memory Foundation and is implicated in the MKUltra programs of the 1970s).

Any time therapists and their clients have tried to step forward with this information we have been threatened, attacked and sometimes had our licenses revoked. Therapists have also been harassed with reports of mutilated animals being left at their houses and even break-ins. There has been a profound media silence in the United States about such matters even while Canada publicized a national case of successfully suing and winning a settlement with the CIA over the mind control practices executed in that country.

Today a colleague whom I respect highly sent out a release about this article on her blog about why therapists have not been credible in the media and the attacks to which we have been regularly subjected on behalf of our clients.

I hope you will take a moment to read it, but I must warn you that if this information is new to you or if you have been a victim of these programs, you will find it highly disturbing.

If you want answers and want things to really change you must educate yourself on the unthinkable. These programs must be exposed and disbanded and the thousands of citizens subjected to them require healing apace.

You can find the article here:

Common Forms of Misinformation and Tactics of Disinformation about Psychotherapy for Trauma Originating in Ritual Abuse and Mind Control by Ellen Lacter, Ph.D.







Sandy Update 3: Top Five Reasons You’re Eligible to Apply for SBA Disaster Assistance | SBA.gov

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Sandy Update 3: Top Five Reasons You’re Eligible to Apply for SBA Disaster Assistance | SBA.gov

If you have property destruction from Sandy, please read this very important article.  You don’t have to be a business owner or to have insurance to apply for a low interest loan from the Small Business Administration.  You might also be able to apply even if you live in a Coastal Barrier Zone.  Most loans are made at four percent! The remainder are at six percent. Read the article for complete details.




PTSD and the Holiday Season

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Here’s the sad truth. PTSD often worsens during the holiday season. One would hope it was different, that holiday cheer, food, friends and good spirit would pop up like champagne on one of those commercials we see on TV where people are toasting each other, smiling and all looking fit, young and strong. But alas, it is not and here are some reasons why:

1) Holidays come with lots of triggers. We can be around too many people or too few. Even if we want to be with people, loneliness can be enhanced by the inability to connect in the midst of deep emotions such as fear, grief, or rage. There is no lonely like the lonely that comes in the midst of a group of friends or family.

2) We tend to eat foods that aggravate our nervous system. PTSD causes an inflammatory reaction in the body (see my HPA Axis posts). When we pile on the sugar, alcohol, fatty foods and just plain junk that pervades holiday fare our delicate and taxed nervous system can come under a lot of strain. Eating aggravates our anxiety, and anxiety aggravates our eating, repeating until New Year’s Resolutions come.

3) Feelings of self-loathing tend to emerge more strongly in holiday season. Perhaps we are trying to live up to an unattainable ideal of our religious faith or maybe proximity to family reminds us of our (and their) shortcomings. Whatever the reason, the phenomenon is real.

4) There is a lot of stimuli in the environment! Bright lights, flashing lights, loud music, smells, endless holiday music, crowded shopping environments all add to the load on the nervous system. Not to mention traveling on overcrowded airplanes and roads in dangerous weather. Not exactly a good environment for the hypervigilant and stressed.

If you think avoiding the holidays is easy, just watch the hilarious movie, Christmas with the Kranks. A lucky few might escape to Hawaii or a cruise but even then the holidays follow and are on our mind (if not our neighbors).

So, what to do? If you see a therapist and can afford it, scheduling extra sessions can be helpful. For those of us not lucky enough to have that resource, protection from the holiday barrage starts with our own awareness.

Pace yourself. Take some time every day to see what it is you do and don’t want to do. Say ‘no’ as often as you must. Stop worrying about hurting other people’s feelings, and focus on healing your own. Remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. For it will.

Better yet, dig down in yourself to find your own meaning of the holiday – whether it is about religion, vacation, or promoting your business, find the meaning that will be best for you.

Move into alignment with the season. In Chinese philosophy, winter is a time to move inside, to become dormant like the plants outside, resting so that our roots will be nourished and the plant flourish in the Spring. This is my favorite meaning of the winter holidays: renewal, self-nourishment, quiet companionship with those you love, sleep. Lots of sleep. 

So here is my wish for you in the holiday and end of year time: Know when you are triggered and move to take care of yourself as needed. Cultivate compassion in your heart for yourself and others. Rest. Eat well. (And read The Trauma Tool Kit as needed.)

Happy Holidays. 




Research is in: Meditation works!

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Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain

The good folks at Mass General Hospital (MGH), Boston University and other research institutions have shown conclusively in a research setting, for the first time, that an 8-week meditation program affected brain function in a positive way even when the subjects were not meditating.  The amygdala (our crisis response center) was positively affected by their modest practice.  Highly recommended reading!(Click on the title to go right to the article.)







Helping Kids Recover From Hurricane Sandy

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Children can be particularly vulnerable to distressing weather and events. Most parents have not been taught to look for signs that children are under stress, or even intense stress. This blog, by request, will give you some tips on helping your children recover from Sandy.

First know that your child is stressed. Some signs that children are stressed include:

– repetitive talk about the event 
– repetitive drawing of the event
– unusually irritable
– unusually withdrawn
– needy and clingy
– more forgetful than usual
– having trouble regulating emotions: laughing silly “highs” crash into sullen “lows”
– hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
– disturbed eating
– disturbed sleep

We forget what it is like to be a child. Under 14 years of age, children have some awareness that they cannot survive without adult assistance; this is especially true for very young children. Children watch their parents very carefully and take their cues from them about whether they should be upset or not. In addition children have losses in the storm that adults may trivialize or not realize the depth of the loss. For instance, a parent may not know that a stuffed animal was more like a best friend, or that a destroyed work of their art has taken away a precious sense of self. Because parents are suffering their own losses and in survival mode they may not feel like children are dealing with anything significant, but, of course, they are. 

Here are some ways to help your child heal in the aftermath:

1) Limit media exposure of the event. Adults tend to watch traumatic events obsessively but we know from 9/11 that this can create traumas in kids who may not understand that they are seeing the same event repeated rather than several different events. TV may make them think the world is ending

2) Set some “processing” time aside every day for your kids where they can express their feelings. Young children (3yrs-8yrs) might be encouraged to color, draw a picture, or engage in puppet play. 8-12 years olds might want more information about storms, or just to spend time playing games. (Experienced child therapists know that most kids need to be occupied with a game or activity in order to talk about their feelings.) Teenagers may be able to sit and talk if they are mature, and are invited to participate in a judgment free zone. Also, ball throwing and basketball hoop shooting are excellent ways to get kids to open up. During this time turn off your phone and your own agendas and create a lot of space to just listen or answer questions.

3) Try to keep a normal rhythm to the day, even if you are in a shelter. Have regular mealtimes, structured activities and a bed time.

4) Speaking of bedtime, be aware that sleep may be difficult at first. Kids may be having unpleasant dreams processing the storm. Be patient and non-judgmental about this, while helping maintain a schedule.

5) Monitor your own reactions. Calm yourself down as much as possible. Do not share horrible new stories with your kids or in earshot of them. They will be alarmed but will not tell you.

6) Understand that quiet kids may not be OK. Invite them to play with you or help you with simple chores. Reinforce any sharing with your attention and love.

7) Provide lots of hugs and affection. Take time for yourself and for them. You both need the contact!

8) If your child has a pronounced behavioral change reach out for professional help ASAP. Red Cross will have referrals for free and low-income therapy professionals.

9) Be active in reassuring your children that life will get better. Hold the optimism for them, even if you are feeling discouraged. This is kind and wise parenting.

10) Lastly, cultivate patience! Be patient with your kids and be patient with the city and be patient with yourself. Stop and breathe as needed. Practice self-care and stay aware of your own needs! Then you won’t resist the children’s needs when they are up.

Know that there are so many of us pulling for all of you and your kids. Be well and be safe!




Hurricane Sandy: Ten Tips to Help You Weather the Storm

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Sandy is a big unsexy monster ready to pound the East Coast. Here are some tips for surviving the storm and its aftermath.

1) Don’t be afraid to get help! This is no time for pride. NGO’s and government assistance programs exist to help people in need. Helping in emergencies is a core function of government (and your taxes) and, indeed, a mark of a civilized society. If you wait too long to get help you may end up inconveniencing and/or endangering yourself, those around you or those who can help you. It’s really OK. We all need assistance some time in our lives. Maybe it’s your turn.

2) FEMA is a great resource. Many states along the Mid-Atlantic and the East Coast have shelters open in response to Hurricane Sandy. Search for an open shelter by texting SHELTER + a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA). You can also download the FEMA disaster app for the device of your choosing here:http://apps.usa.gov/fema-mobile.shtml.

3) RED CROSS (NGO) is over 130 years old and helps approximately 70,000 people a year survive and thrive after disasters. Be prepared: From your mobile phone, call “**REDCROSS” (**73327677) and they will send you a link to download the app to your phone or you can download them directly from the iTunes or Google Play app stores. If you don’t need them, great. But if you do, you will have their information at the ready! Use them; you can always make a donation later.

4) Know where your local homeless shelter is. Up and down the East Coast homeless shelters have been expanding services. If your home or apartment becomes unlivable during the storm, go there! Here is a link for all the homeless shelters in the state of New York:http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/newyork.html

5) Find a church. Any church. Whether you are a believer or not. Churches have been gearing up for this storm for days. They don’t care about the state of your belief or non-belief. They just want to help. Let them.

6) Make sure you stay on any and all medications! If you run out or something happens, get more at your local Emergency Room. When I worked on the no-name storm (aka Perfect Storm) one of the biggest problems was people who had lost or gone off of their medication. You can become disoriented and ill quickly going off some medications suddenly. Set timers and be sure you stay on schedule! Time gets wonky when there is a big storm or emergency happening. If you have to evacuate suddenly, make your medications a priority in packing!

7) Keep yourself busy and happy. Storms bring unexpected bonuses in terms of companionship, comraderie, time off, clearing of pollution, quiet, relief from inane media, and neighborliness. In the no-name storm, people who ventured out onto the beach after the storm found hundreds of flash-frozen lobsters ready for the picking!

8) Check on your neighbors – especially those who are infirm, elderly or who have children. You might become somebody’s patron saint!

9) Don’t do work beyond your capacity (be a foolish hero). There is an abundance of emergency workers on call for power outages, health emergencies, etc. Let them do their work as professionals. You do them the biggest favor by staying out of their way and keeping yourself safe.

10) Don’t panic over material goods. There are many resources available to help you build your life and home back after the storm. One of these is the Small Business Administration. According to their website: “The SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.” http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/disaster-loans




Halloween: A Tough Season for Ritual Abuse Survivors

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Ritual Abuse. Yes, it’s real. Yes, I know there are many of you white knuckling your way through October. Hang on!

For an unfortunate but larger than you might think number of Americans, Halloween is a time that activates ritual abuse memories and/or programming.
I know nobody talks about this. Therapists have been running scared since the sham lawsuits and harassment of the last two decades by the now discredited False Memory Foundation.

But I’m here to tell you , it’s real. And I feel for all of you who have been hurt in this fashion.

Ritual Abuse (RA) survivors have a unique set of triggers. Because so many are abused in rituals around Halloween (Satanic and Witchcraft ceremonial time) these triggers can get very activating. In some cases, there may be programming to return to the cult for ceremony. These internally installed prompts may be conscious or, more likely, unconscious especially for those who are still under cult control and connection.

If you think you may be a ritual abuse survivor, you may want to check out this page of Ellen Lacter, Ph.D.’s comprehensive RA survivor website, endritualabuse.org. 

If you know you are, here are some reminders:

~ know that Halloween programming and compulsions will pass right after the “holiday”

~ surround yourself with safe friends

~ plan to make extra appointments with your therapist

~ go on a media fast until the end of the month

~ take extra good care of yourself and your “littles” this month

~ affirm your own inherent spirituality unrelated to any rituals

Know that there are many of us out here wishing you safety, healing and freedom. Take good care of yourself!







ACE (Adverse Childhood Events): The Most Important Trauma Study You’ve Never Heard About

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In order to understand why his obesity patients were dropping out of a successful weight loss program, Dr. Vincent Felitti dived into their medical records and interviews for clues. What he found launched a several year study that has enrolled more than 17,000 people. These patients were talking about incest, abuse and neglect, extreme adversity in their childhoods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Felitti with Kaiser Permanente launched a study to look at adverse childhood events and their effect on health and longevity over the lifespan. 

What is an adverse childhood event? For the purposes of the study it is:

– sexual abuse 
– physical abuse
– emotional abuse
– physical neglect
– emotional neglect
– a home where the mother was treated violently
– substance abuse in the home
– mental illness in the home
– parental separation or divorce
– one or more parents imprisoned

Count up the categories that apply to you. That gives you your ACE score. Anything above 4 predisposes people to substance abuse, dysfunction and health issues among other things. People with the highest scores died on average 20 years earlier than people with low ACE scores. (For more information about the mechanisms of these effects see my earlier blog posts on the HPA Axis.)

You can check out more information about the study here. Highly recommended reading for everyone: those of us who suffered difficult childhoods, caregivers, treaters and public policy setters.

This can feel overwhelming as we delve into the truth. The good news is that we are beginning to finally come to terms with the widespread effects of trauma and PTSD and the need to heal from it!




Help! My Partner Has PTSD: Seven Strategies for Coping as a Couple

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If you are partnered with someone who is struggling with PTSD or you both have PTSD, you know your life together is challenged in some very profound ways. Fights can be explosive, resulting in fireworks or endless stony silences. Misunderstandings can abound. The non-PTSD partner may start to develop secondary or vicarious trauma just being exposed to the intense PTSD in their loved one. Life can start to feel very unpredictable, like threading one’s way through a minefield. It can be easy to start walking on eggshells or conversely getting fed up and moving away from each other. Love and connection are harder to feel. PTSD challenges couples like nothing else. Waiting it out doesn’t work and neither do threats or force. What to do?

1) Educate yourself. PTSD is a whole body process that affects every aspect of the human being. It has predictable stages (see my book, The Trauma Tool Kit) and effects on the person and the partnership. You would educate yourself if your partner had a major medical illness, right? This is no different. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.

2) Set some clear boundaries around behavior in the relationship. Just because someone is suffering does not give them the right to be abusive. The anger/fear response is hardwired and amped up in full-blown PTSD. Often people with PTSD dissociate when they are angry and don’t even realize what they are doing. Sit down with your partner, ahead of time, and set rules for what is tolerable and allowed in the relationship and what is not. These can change over time depending on where each of you and your life circumstance. For instance, shouting might be OK if it is just the two of you, but if you have a child in the next room, shouting can become off-limits behavior. Violence or abusive behavior is never to be tolerated under any circumstances.

3) Learn to take time-outs, or, as we call them around here, amygdala resets. Your amygdala is the part of your brain that is the crisis response center. When it goes on red alert it highjacks the brain to deal with threats, whether real or perceived. With the amygdala in the red zone, people are very close to being out of control or they are out of control. Taking 20 minutes, the average reset time, to reboot the brain for both parties, will lend itself to a more peaceful and safe outcome. Either partner should be able to call time-out at any time. Be sure to make it a time out not an end to the discussion. Always come back together to resolve the issue at hand. If it is just too explosive get into couple’s therapy. Which reminds me…

4) Get into couple’s therapy! More research is showing that couple’s treatment can be very helpful in coping with PTSD. Individual therapy is great, but couple’s issues are complex and require their own special interventions. Not all therapists like to do or can do couples’ work well. Look for someone with previous education and training or with a degree in family work, who also is knowledgeable about trauma. Even a few sessions can make a tremendous difference. If you are worried about money (and who isn’t these days) know that there are many organizations that provide these services for low and no cost. If you are a veteran or married to one, you may be even more eligible. If money is still on your mind, remind yourself of how expensive divorces are, as long as you both shall live.

5) Study triggers together. Big rages and emotional swings are almost always brought on by triggers to PTSD. A trigger can be anything at all. I worked with a couple whose partner was an Iraq war veteran. He became severely triggered one afternoon by three events happening in close succession: he saw someone in the parking lot of the restaurant with camouflage clothing; he got a freeze headache, and he got closed in when more people joined his table. The clothing and feeling of being trapped are obvious triggers, the freeze headaches not so much. But it turned out he’d had a number of them in the desert, and it had become a trigger. The more triggers you figure out together, in the calm times, the easier it becomes to avoid setting the PTSD partner off, or resolving it more quickly if you do. This is an empowering step that often brings couples closer together. In this case, the couple avoided, what would have been in the past an angry meltdown on his part. His partner then could respond with concern and compassion.

6) Make healing PTSD a joint task in your relationship. Strategize together. Discuss medical options. Open up lines of trust and communication. Often a spouse or partner is the only person to tell one’s story to with complete safety and trust. Don’t avoid the issues just because your partner wants to. Avoidance is part of the disease of PTSD. Don’t collude with it.

7) Join together in mental and physical fitness. Develop couple’s routines around calming down the mind and body on a daily basis. This could be through prayer, meditation, tai chi, yoga, or long walks. The evidence is pouring in daily about the beneficial effects of calming techniques on PTSD. You will both be better for it!




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