Tag Archives: #healing

Forgive Yourself First!

How to Forgive Yourself…click here

“Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and consistent about offering forgiveness to others, isn’t forgiving ourselves often the most difficult?”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Community Building Consultant, Mental Health Advocate…

Hello again dear friends and followers,

It has been awhile since I have written a blog post, one from my heart and soul that is… It has been an amazing year so far, mostly living a happy and healthy life with my loving wife, Judy, and Simba, our aging kitty. Most importantly, we are growing as senior citizens in a highly active community on the central coast of Oregon near Depoe Bay. We love living at the beach!  We are blessed with loving friends and neighbors who look out for each other. But as life usually works, stuff happens…

Just when I thought my own journey of healing was well in hand; you know, a manageable work in progress, I went off the rails big time in late May and early June! I can’t even know why my heart and soul picked this exact time and moment to revisit a very dark and painful time in my young adult life.  Sometimes unfinished business and a reckoning with the demons of another life can come at the most unexpected and surprising time in one’s life, especially as we age.

It was like my brain was exploding with grief about a long ago severe traumatic experience that I had kept in a hidden compartment…a state of denial.  The last time I grieved with great intensity and healing was while writing my first book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. But that was just a first step in 2011, and a very long way to go in taking an honest shot at truly forgiving myself as a challenged young man. I was woefully unprepared for adult life in the 1960’s and early 70’s, in a marriage that failed, leaving my 2 young beautiful children with a single mom, only to see Dad on vacations and short visits.  A very sad reality for too many young marriages that end in pain. I feel deep regret and profound guilt from this part of my life as a young adult.  But it is now time to forgive myself after 45 years of self punishment and denial.  The lifelong nagging and destructive emotional pain of severe guilt stops now! If you are angry with yourself, you behave in angry ways toward loved ones.

When kids grow up in a less than loving home, as I did in the 1950s and early 60s, they tough it out, but often take the emotional pain and baggage into adult life, affecting loved ones and others in too many negative ways. Read my book and learn more about the challenges of a military child growing up in a profoundly dysfunctional post WWII family culture.

“Learning who you are is a life long labor of love.” This quote, on my home page…Children and Families in Life After Truma came to me some months ago while working as a community building project consultant in Lincoln County Oregon where we live. This personal and professional experience has turned out to be one of the most profoundly humanistic learning opportunities in my lifetime…  It has been a journey of exploring humanity at worst and best. I’ll say more about this in a later post.

Allow me to share a couple of highlights from my summer visits with a wonderful therapist, a psychologist, from my own boomer generation. He is an ol’ surf dude as well…just like me. There was an instant connection of empathy and compassion…great chemistry. It is very challenging to find the right therapist. It is never to late…keep trying.

Before this last spring I can’t remember ever having a therapist who actually provided me with specific tools to help build skills and techniques that showed me how to meditate.  These disciplined self talk and deep breathing exercises proved to me how positive talk can beat back self deprecation and guilt from past emotionally painful life events…post trauma recurring painful thoughts and triggers.

Once the meditation exercises became a daily practice, I was able to effectively divert attention from negative and painful self talk back to the logical part of my brain where living in the moment and mitigating flight/fight responses happens. I learned how to stop the churning of a lifetime of severe guilt from moral injuries during childhood and young adult life…. Peace of mind is a gift at any age!

In my next post, I’ll share more of how my therapy and daily practice of meditation is helping me heal and discover how to live in the moment with a higher level of internal peace and self love. Until then, practice saying to yourself “Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving” or COAL for short. Seeking an attitude of COAL while breathing deeply during a highly stressful encounter or event is worth a try.

With empathy, compassion and love to all who seek happiness, peace of mind and good health.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, by Steve Sparks click here

 

 

 

 

Lincoln County Oregon Stepping Up Initiative is Profoundly Transformational!

Lincoln County Oregon Commissioner Bill Hall, Sheriff Curtis Landers, and Steve Sparks, Stepping Up Initiative Project Consultant

 

Lincoln County Oregon Media Release…click image for larger view…

Moving Forward and Stepping Up – By Bill Hall, Curtis Landers and Steve Sparks

 

(9.15.17 – Lincoln County, OR)

 

The three of us teamed up a year ago to launch an effort that’s beginning to transform Lincoln County in profound ways. Stepping Up is a national effort to transform the way we deal with people with mental illness and addiction issues in the justice system, but its’ impacts are even more far-reaching.

In early 2015, the American Psychiatric Association, Council of State Governments and National Association of Counties came together to launch Stepping Up.  Jails and prisons have become the default holding facilities in our country for people with mental illness and addictions issues. It’s estimated that nationally, more than two million people are behind bars primarily because of behavioral health challenges.

Why is this a problem? Just a few of the reasons:

These institutions aren’t equipped to deal with this population. They don’t get better behind bars; their condition deteriorates.

This group tends to get stuck in the system, with longer stays often for relatively minor offenses, making it more difficult to keep people in custody who truly need to be there.

It drains public resources, in both the correctional and health care systems, as these people cycle through the system again and again.

Is this a problem in Lincoln County? Yes. Our jail holds 161 people. At any given time, about 30 percent of these folks have a diagnosed mental illness, and about a third of this group are severely and persistently mentally ill. This 30% does not include those with addictions issues.

Their numbers are growing, yet our total number of jail beds are finite, which makes it harder to avoid releasing people before their sentences are completed.  Our goal is not to increase the number of jail beds, but to reduce the need for the jail beds we have.

Our county has recognized this issue for a long time. We’ve had a mental health subcommittee under our Local Public Safety Coordinating Council for more than a decade. We have a Mental Health Court, a jail counselor (something many counties larger than us don’t have), and have received a grant to establish mobile mental health crisis services. All of these are positive steps, but we need a lot more.

In October of 2016, the Lincoln County Commissioners adopted the Stepping Up resolution, which formally made us part of this national effort. As of this writing, 389 counties have adopted the resolution nationally, which represents more than a third of the total population in the United States. Sixteen of Oregon’s 36 counties are on board.

Giving people in the justice system better tools to deal with mental illness is one of our priorities. All members of the Sheriff’s Office and Community Corrections have completed Mental Health First Aid training, a one-day course designed to give everyone tools to recognize and assist in a mental health crisis. The Sheriff’s Office is also accelerating Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for patrol and corrections deputies. CIT is a week-long course designed to give officers tools to de-escalate a crisis.

At the end of August, more than three dozen people involved in criminal justice and public safety, along with a number of community partners in treatment, social services, the faith community and peers, came together for a day and a half-long Sequential Intercept Mapping Exercise (SIM). Lincoln County was among 54 counties that applied to receive this workshop at no charge this year:  this is a testament to our level of community commitment and readiness.

At the SIM workshop, participants assessed our current system at six key points where people with behavioral health issues can encounter the justice system, identified our most critical gaps, and developed action plans to address the first four issues on that list.

The four priorities that emerged: establishing stronger pre-arrest diversions; setting up pre-trial services to provide support to people released pending trial and to hold them accountable; a more formalized re-entry system; and the integration of peer services at every stage of the process.

We’ve made amazing progress in just a year’s time, yet our work has just begun. We are, however, quite confident of achieving our goals. Why? The tremendous level of buy-in among partners and stakeholders is encourages us greatly. And, it’s been amazing, and sad, to hear from people who are aware of this work and tell us how much it is needed.

We have heard too many stories of families, careers and lives shattered by mental illness and addiction. Sometimes it’s a co-worker, sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes it’s a family member. Families and communities everywhere have suffered far too long.  It’s up to us as citizens to step up and finally end the cycle of damage and begin to heal.

 

 

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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.

*****
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.