Author Archives: stevesparks

About stevesparks

Depoe Bay, Oregon, United States A retired information technology sales and marketing executive following over 35 years beginning with the US Navy as a radioman in 1963. Graduated with a BA in Management from St. Mary's College, Moraga, California. Married to my soulmate Judy and living on the Oregon coast, I have 3 grown daughters and 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. My current passion and life work is mentoring and improving the education of K-12 kids, including helping the responsible nonprofit agency www.neighborsforkids.org achieve sustainability.

Finding Forgiveness and Peace of Mind… Maya Angelou…”There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Oprah-Maya-Angelou

Maya Angelou… “There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Clice here for video clip…

Peace of mind in life after trauma…  Quote from this website article…

THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES: A healthy outlook on life makes full recovery more achievable:

  1. Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, “I always have bad luck…nothing will better from now on…everything is going wrong,” with, “Is there any real reason to think that…maybe things will change for the better.”

  2. Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace “I’ll never get through this,” with “I can do this, but it’s okay to feel scared.”

  3. Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a “power base.”

  4. Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, “I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life.”

  5. Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.

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I used to hate the thought of calling my Dad on most days, especially on his birthday.  I really didn’t see the point of saying “Happy Birthday” to someone who was perceived as an SOB.  I would rather celebrate his birthday by feeling the gift of freedom from his sphere of control and the chains of bondage…  Let’s all face it, my father’s behaviors were unacceptable and abusive toward loved ones, both emotionally and physically.  None of us really understood PTSD during our childhood and most of our adult life for that matter.  I spent my time trying to distance myself from Dad as a child and adult proving to him that I would not fail as his son; rather I would succeed beyond anybody’s dreams.  Although I was able to prove this to Dad before he passed away, it really didn’t feel very good.  It seemed like a no-win accomplishment.  We still had a rocky relationship and didn’t like each other, but know we loved each other still.  I do believe there was a kinship of sorts tucked away somewhere that needed to be released.  That didn’t happen until years after Dad passed away in 1998.  My anger was so deep I did not attend his memorial service.

It’s a new day!  I have a better relationship with Dad now than when he was alive.  I talk to him everyday through my work as an author, blogger, and speaker.  I am completely free of anger toward my parents in general.  The painful knot in my gut has been gone for over 6 years now since writing my book, starting this blog, and speaking at book signing events and participating in forums…keeping the PTSD awareness conversation going.  If I had known what I know today about Dad’s severe emotional suffering from combat stress during WWII and the Korean War, we would have had a different relationship.  I know our life together would have been different but not easy.  The difference would have been understanding the roots of his behavior and how the invisible wounds of war damaged his heart and soul.

I can’t go back and change anything.  I can go forward with my own journey of healing and help others heal along the way.  I am a survivor of traumatic life events, but now thrive with a sense of forgiveness, healing, and peace of mind never achieved until later in life.  My relationship with Dad also thrives, and now it is with honor to acknowledge his birthday each year. I do wish he were here though.  Our conversations would be far different today than they were before he left us in 1998.  But I have the feeling that he sees what is happening in my life and is very proud of his son taking up the cause of PTSD awareness to help others who are challenged each day with the painful symptoms of moral injury and PTSD…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC).  Click here for my author page.

 

Mental Illness Crisis in America’s Jails…Stepping Up Initiative… A long anticipated solution in Lincoln County Oregon…

Mental Illness Crisis in America’s Jails.  Find out more about the solution, Stepping Up Initiative in Lincoln County Oregon USA Click the highlighted text for more…

Steve Sparks…Click here to listen in… Lincoln County Connections with Casey Miller, KNPC Radio, January 16, 2017

Also take a listen to this video clip from a recent talk at the Oregon Coast Learning Institute (OCLI), Salashan, Oregon…

 

Awareness…The First Step to Healing… Advocacy…The Fuel that Heals the Soul…

 

Click here to listen in on a powerful video clip from the Trauma Informed Care Project…

My personal perspective of living with post-traumatic stress…by Steve Sparks… Click here for my author page.

There were many years that the thought of my big brother getting hit in the head and knocked out by Dad triggered nightmares and uncontrolled emotions.  Although the nightmares rarely happen anymore, the events of that time stay with me.  The horrific nature of seeing my big brother almost killed by our father comes to me almost every day, sometimes more than once.  The never ending toxic turmoil and dysfunction in our home left me feeling numb and without empathy and compassion for others.  The worst of post-trauma conditions is becoming self-absorbed, caring only about your own interests and survival.  There is no world larger than self in the worst case of emotional challenge in life after trauma.  My thoughts were mostly of self-defense and survival each and every day followed by self-medication at night.  Self-talk was filled with trauma from the past and fear and trepidation of the future.  I couldn’t talk to others about my feelings because no one else could possibly get it or understand.  Mental health was, and still is to a large extent, a risky topic to explore with others, especially family members and those you work with in your professional life.  Living in the moment and feeling safe is a life-long work in progress.

It was always challenging for me to trust others without some sort of escape plan and defensive position.  My feeling was that survival was an all-consuming occupation.  Even as kids we would avoid being visible or exposed for fear of being criticized and punished for being “bad, stupid, and sinful”.   For many years spirituality was something connected to religion, not my soul.  I didn’t know how to love until my mid-30s. I never trusted anyone completely and with unconditional love until later in life.

I have learned to live with and mostly mitigate the fear of failure and excessive insecurity in these later years.  For most of my life as a child, through adulthood and midlife years, my fear of failure served me well with intense hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal as a professional.  But these persistent and less than healthy post-trauma stress symptoms did not work well for me at home when free time should be used for peace of mind and relaxation…a mindfulness existence is a gift.

At home in a safe environment, I was always on the move and could not sit still.  When the pain creeped in during weekends, or holidays and sleep deprived nights, I became angry with outbursts and rage at times. The absolute worst part of my behavior is acknowledging how it hurt others close to me, especially my family.  What I know from research and awareness now is the larger tragedy of post-trauma stress on children and families. The transferred emotional pain often appears as a secondary post-trauma affliction in loved ones on the receiving end who become care givers and must try to live with the toxic behaviors of a parent, partner, or mentor. The generational consequences become a much bigger burden on others in your immediate family and society as a whole. 

I drank alcohol for self-medication until age 55.  I got addicted to narcotic pain and sleep medications in later years due to arthritic pain and joint replacements.  The combination of alcohol and prescription medications was a very bad cocktail and almost took me down.  The grace of God and my wonderful, loving, compassionate and caring spouse saved my life!

Yes, I believe now that healing from a painful and traumatic past is possible.  But it takes discipline, focus, and lots of love from family and friends.  Healing for me is fueled by my passion to make a difference for others who suffer from debilitating mental health conditions.

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

My Journey of Healing… A life-long work in progress…

 

Vernon H. Sparks and Marcella K. Sparks..Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Fernley
Lyon County
Nevada  USA

  • Honor
  • Remembrance
  • Forgiveness
  • Healing
  • Love

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My journey of healing is truly a life-long work in progress that has provided a peace of mind never before achieved.  My life transformed after publishing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story in November 2011.  I no longer have anger or hate in my heart from growing up in profoundly dysfunctional family circumstances.

Like tens of thousands of families living in the post WWII and Korean War era, we lived without any awareness of the painful outcomes resulting from exposure to traumatic experiences from wars, domestic violence, child abuse, maltreatment, and alcohol self medication.  My family was fractured over 7 decades, consumed with the challenges of post trauma stress symptoms that replaced the gift of love with the pain of anger and hate.  In our military family life, the wars of our father never ended when he came home from years of hard combat.  The “battle stations” experiences of his deeply held emotional struggles came home to the dinner table.  My mother was scared and numb from this exposure as well.  We children feared going home from school or play with friends.  Our family life was profoundly dysfunctional, especially during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

I now have a completely different perspective of a most challenging childhood circumstance and experience.  I see my parents as doing the best they could do with what was available in their parental toolkit during this difficult time in the lives of so many who returned from extended deployments in hard combat during WWII.  We did not have a trauma informed society back then…just the opposite.  Sailors and soldiers were told to go home when the war was over and forget about it, never talk about the horrific experiences, battle buddies who were left behind, death and carnage almost daily for months and even years at a time.  But the severe emotional pain became bottled up in the heart and soul of these hardened combat veterans.  The pain did rear its ugly head at dinner tables all over America for decades, including the post Vietnam War era, until we started learning about severe trauma’s long term affects on the children and families of sufferers.

For those of us lucky enough to find a path of healing and recovery from the damage of severe traumatic experiences, it is possible to achieve peace of mind.  It is possible to learn how to love yourself and others.  Forgiveness seems like a gift rather than giving in   Being vulnerable is not only okay, it is a healthy disposition in our daily lives.  

I think about Mom and Dad with love in my heart and a healing soul…  I could not have felt or said this a short 7 years ago.  I feel blessed and at peace, living with joy and love for family and friends. My journey of healing continues each day with the good work of public service in Lincoln County Oregon, being mindful of living in the moment, and appreciating the blessings each day offers.

Steve Sparks with Judy Sparks…author, blogger, child advocate, mental health champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Trauma Informed Care Takes Center Stage! Stigma takes a back seat…

Listen to this powerful video clip…click here… Quote from this site…

“No one is immune to the impact of trauma. Trauma affects the individual, families, and communities by disrupting healthy development, adversely affecting relationships, and contributing to mental health issues including substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. Everyone pays the price when a community produces multi-generations of people with untreated trauma by an increase in crime, loss of wages, and threat to the stability of the family.”

Trauma Informed Care is Within Reach! Quote from this site.

“Research tells us that experiencing traumatic life events can affect the way people learn, plan, and interact with others. Providing human services to individuals who have experienced trauma calls for an approach that takes into consideration their trauma histories.  This guide is designed for professional human services providers to help them decide if their services are trauma-informed and how best to deliver and design those services using evidence-based, evidence-informed, and innovative practices most relevant to their needs.”

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For me, the most encouraging news for children and families in these past few years is we know how trauma impacts the way we live, learn, and interact with others.  During the past 6 six years since researching and writing my books, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part2,  I have observed a huge investment on the part of communities everywhere, with great support on a national level, both public and private, to address the full impact of post traumatic stress on society. We now know trauma is a generational disease that can affect families for decades, even unborn children.  The research and evidence is indisputable.

In the beginning my research and writing was limited to understanding PTSD and the effect on my own post WWII and Korean War military family experience.  Although tackling a painful research project of revisiting the impact of growing up in a profoundly dysfunctional home was emotionally challenging at best, the end result was keen awareness, which led to forgiveness and healing.  I have discovered in my research how the wars we fight abroad come home to haunt families and loved ones at the dinner table.  We can no longer be silent as a society and allow our children to inhale the pain of their parents who suffer and expect these kids to grow up as typical healthy adults.  It is not just the wars we fight that haunt us for generations, it is violence in neighborhoods, crime, alcohol, drugs, and anger that feeds more violence and dysfunctional behaviors.  More seriously, these behaviors can carry forward to the next generation, over and over and over again.

We can stop the cycle of pain in its tracks by making the discussion and treatment of mental health disorders, alcohol and drug abuse as acceptable as cancer and heart disease treatment.  I can say as an aging boomer whose life changed after learning about the enormously painful impact of post traumatic stress and the wide ranging implications, that seeing a trauma informed society emerge in my lifetime is a gift.  It gives me peace of mind to believe that we can actually eliminate the stigma of mental illness in my lifetime.

All we have to do now is make it happen in our communities, schools, churches, and with the families most affected…often those who are less fortunate than us.  Click on the trauma informed resources guide link, here

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

Healing Heart and Soul for 2017…Finding a Healthy Balance as an Aging Boomer…

Steve & Judy Sparks, La Jolla, Ca. early December 2016

Steve, Mary’s Peak, July 6, 2016 on 70th birthday…

Sarah’s Christmas Party at Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove, Ca. for our family…

Christmas Lunch at Dukes, Huntington Beach, Ca. for our family…

Aging Gracefully click here for more…

“But depression is a real threat among the old; some drift into isolation, bitterness, and a sense of meaninglessness. Still others put up their dukes, determined to go down swinging. Face-lifts and tummy tucks? Bring it on!”

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I love the article reference and quote from the link, The Art of Aging Gracefully, especially following a year like 2016, that started out in a very dark place for this senior citizen, and ended in a very sunny and happy place.

Just before the end of 2015, illness hit me like the sound of a powerful avalanche.  All of us experience this kind of reality check more than once or twice in a life time.   But this time it felt more profound and serious than at any other time in my life…my age caught up with me…  I recall feeling completely at the end of a hard fought journey but without a grasp for what was happening at the moment…  I felt like a loser approaching the end of my life.  It felt like my body was going down fast… My mind was overwhelmed with negative self talk…  I thought only of the heart aches of the past and an uncertain future. No longer was my mind living in the present.  I was angry for the first time in a long time…  I was also very depressed, a most hated and scary mental health condition from my own life experience.

I was overcome with both physical illness and mental stress…over the top community commitments with no end in sight, and little or no feeling of real accomplishment.   At the same time, my mother passed away on January 1, 2016…taking me back to a lifetime of triggers.  All of this came down at once, forcing me to step back, get well again, reassess, and regain my balance as a senior citizen. There is clearly a 3rd act in the making…

Whether right, wrong, or indifferent, I felt abused, misused, and disrespected as a dedicated and passionate community service volunteer.  I was hell bent to make a difference and solve all the problems single handedly.  Sound familiar?  I also felt like I let my family down, especially my wife and best friend, by being irresponsible with our personal goals and health.  I could have risked everything by losing sight of maintaining a healthy life style and balance, or better said, aging gracefully.

After a few good slaps in the face and following the advice of my primary care physician, including paying attention and listening to my wife and family members, the road back to a healthy balance was well in hand by the spring of 2016.  But it was my choice to believe in myself and get back to my great passion in public service while staying grounded.

Life seemed to begin again like a breath of fresh air for my 70th birthday on July 6, 2016.  After a great sleep that night, I woke up early as usual to catch the early sunrise and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean.  In that instant, I said to myself, “I’m still here!”  It was with the momentum of that moment of positive and hopeful self talk that we marched off for a hike to the top of Mary’s Peak near Corvallis, Oregon…see photo above.  We decided weeks earlier that the relatively easy but spectacular view of the 4000′ Mary’s Peak is where we were going for a birthday picnic.  It was a very good day, indeed, with my loving wife, Judy.  We talked of and celebrated our life together and plans for the future.  We thanked God for our blessings, especially good health as members of the aging boomer generation.

The summer of 2016 was full of joy and adventure doing our favorite coastal hikes, walks, a little golf, and day trips up and down the Oregon coast doing what we love the most together.  I had the good fortune and opportunity to be engaged in a new and very exciting professional assignment with Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners as a project consultant for the Stepping Up Initiative. I was also certified as a Mental Health First Aid USA Adult Trainer in September.  We capped off the summer with a cruise to Alaska at the end of August…an exceedingly spiritual adventure.  When we arrived at Glacier Bay, we were completely captivated by God’s creation of such abundant, protected and stunning beauty…

Early in October we had the opportunity to attend the USS West Virginia (BB48) Reunion in Seattle to honor Pearl Harbor & WWII veterans and family members and friends of the US Navy. I was also asked to speak about my father, Vernon H. Sparks‘, experience on that fateful day, December 7, 1941.  This was a profoundly emotional and spiritual experience for me connecting to my Dad, his shipmates, family members. (Click highlighted text to learn more.)

Late in the fall we headed out of town on a road trip to southern California to spend a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends.  It was during this time that we felt a much closer connection with our family.  For the first time in many years we were able to visit with our entire family around the holidays…the entire large extended family.  A very special time indeed! We will treasure the memories, photos above…

So we remember 2016 fondly as a year of great change and growth…some painful experiences in the beginning, but with much hope for the future as the year progressed.  On this first day of 2017 we give thanks to God for our blessings.  We look forward to a year of making a difference on behalf of the community we serve, and in our travels to explore new beginnings, adventure, and romance.

We wish our family, friends, and followers good health and happiness in 2017. We hope that by sharing our experiences that you see a hopeful and bright future in your own lives.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for my author page…

Mental Health Stigma…Children & Families in Life After Trauma…

algee-transparent

Mental Health First Aid USA… ALGEE Bear…Assess, Listen, Give, Encourage, and Encourage…learn more…

Dear Kindred Spirits:

As an author, blogger, child advocate, and mental health champion, my great passion in life during these most valueable retirement years is to help stop the stigma connected with mental health. This goal is especially critical as it relates to the painful tragedy of children growing up in toxic homes where parents suffer with post traumatic stress. Kids inhale the pain of parents and often suffer in silence while exposed to anger, depression, and anxiety over extended periods of time. Children make adjustments and are resilient, but eventually leave home carrying all the emotional baggage with them. Parents, mentors, and teachers can make a huge difference in mitigating the toxic circumstances and longer term emotional damage to children, by becoming sensitive to how youngsters are affected at very early ages. Family members often take on the same symptoms of post traumatic stress if exposed daily to a life of toxic behaviors from adults.

I write in my most recent book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, how children can be saved from the emotional damage of growing up in a toxic home. I write in my blog with a focus on Children and Families in Life After Trauma.  I also have the honor to serve on the Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC}.  In this past year, my work has been extended to a much wider audience as a contributor and radio host for www.ptsdchat.org.  With a more recent professional engagement connected to the Lincoln County Oregon Stepping Up Initiative, my heart and soul will be full of good works and positive energy in 2017.  I’ll be writing and speaking about these topics and more going forward.

I advocate for children because my childhood was consumed by the challenges of growing up with parents who suffered severe emotional damage following WWII and Korean War. My awareness of the symptoms of PTSD was very limited for most of my adult life until deciding to confront my own demons when researching and writing my first book Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. We live in in world where generations of wars have torn apart families, leaving them ignorant of the long term damage of PTSD on children who carry forward the emotional pain and symptoms that can linger for a lifetime without treatment.

It is never too late to break the cycle of pain and to begin the journey of healing. I waited until age 64, and now live with a high level of awareness, providing a peace of mind never before achieved. But treating the symptoms of PTSD and keeping the pain at a safe distance is a work in progress. For this reason, I continue to push forward making a difference for others by writing and speaking about post trauma stress, including the toxic circumstances and painful outcomes, which can be mitigated with open and honest communications. Stopping the stigma and denial of this painful and life threatening disease is the first step in healing. We now have the awareness and tools to provide Trauma Informed Care and Mental Health First Aid USA delivered at a local level to more quickly recognize mental health symptoms and identify alternative treatment strategies for those who suffer.

My only disclaimer is that my background and experience is that of a trauma survivor, researcher, and author who thrives…and not a mental health professional.  Consistent with my training as a Mental Health First Aid USA Adult Trainer, I encourage appropriate professional help and self-help resources.

With best wishes for your good health and happiness!  Happy New Year!