Tag Archives: #traumasurvivors

Empathy and Compassion….We need to think about what happened not what is wrong!

A Humvee doesn’t offer much protection for combat soldiers who are at risk of an IED explosion.

Commissioner Bill Hall, Lincoln County Oregon

by Commissioner Bill Hall, Lincoln County Oregon

I want to tell you about a young man whose story touches so many things that are important to me–honoring veterans, helping the homeless, treating addictions. He’s a Lincoln County native who came from the most loving, supportive family you could imagine. Did well in school. Honorably served in Afghanistan. He was riding in a Humvee like this that ran over an IED that went off. Complained of back pain. Was given opioid pain killers and sent home. Months later, when the pain persisted, the VA finally did an MRI and found he had a fractured back. Cut off his pain meds. He had a live-in companion, a child, a home, a responsible job. He turned to heroin to deal with the ongoing pain and lost companion, child, home and job. Ended up running afoul of the law and making the news. I saw many horrible comments about him here on Facebook. Ignorant, judgmental people. There’s a ray of hope now. He’s in treatment and so far, so good, but he faces a long road. We have to stop criminalizing addictions, people. We have to start honoring veterans by doing more than just spouting slogans and waving the flag. We have to become a more just and caring society. I know, I’m a dreamer. But if I stop dreaming, I’ll lose hope.

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I spent the first 6 decades of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me and everything else in my life.  When I finally started learning about post trauma stress (PTS) and trauma informed care, it was clear that empathy and compassion were possible once we changed the conversation to “what happened” not “what is wrong.”  This seemingly basic concept allowed me to begin my own journey of healing in 2011 at age 64.  Everytime I talk to a person suffering from PTSD, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health challenges, I try to find out what happened, not what is wrong.  Once we change the conversation to what happened, the talk shifts immediately to a greater mutual understanding of the roots of the emotional struggles of your friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are suffering from a past traumatic life event. In the story above, we are talking about a combat veteran who came home from war a different person because of being exposed to the horrific violence of war.  The explosion from an IED can also cause traumatic brain injury, a compounded physical injury that affects a persons ability to process stressful circumstances.  We know now that the human brain is rewired, the chemistry changes to adapt to extreme survival circumstances that combat veterans experience in extended deployments on the battlefield.  Because we know this as human beings we can have more empathy and compassion for others who suffer terribly, often 24/7 with the emotional baggage of war, the violence and carnage, losing a buddy, seeing little children dead in the streets as collateral damage is too much for a once healthy mind to process and get past once home to resume life as a typical citizen.

I hope Bill Hall’s story and my comments help others to empathize with all veterans who come home after serviing America in wars we start and often never finish. We citizens send young men and women to war, afterall.  The war comes home to the dinner table and the community where it is often extremely difficult for veterans to readjust to a typical life as a member of our society.  Be kind, be loving, listen and learn, then guide your dear friend and loved one to a path of healing.  We know how to help in the 21st Century.  There was a time decades ago when sons, daughters, fathers and mothers came home from war and we had no idea what they were experiencing emotionally, and didn’t know what to do.  There are no more excuses for ignorance, no more excuses for a lack of empathy and compassion!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion

click here for my author page…

 

 

#TALKPTSD – The PTSD Documentary BURIED ABOVE GROUND – Interviewing Ben Selkow

AboveGround

Watch! This powerful trailer…Buried Above Ground

#TALKPTSD Click to listen… Very moving interview with Ben Selkow and Kate Gillie, CEO, PTSDchat.org

Buried Above Ground Facebook

WORLD Channel (PBS) National TV Broadcast Premiere Announcement and Mental Health America (MHA) National Conference & Film Festival


After eight long years of researching, developing relationships, fundraising, filming around the country, tears and laughter, witnessing pain and courage, years of editing, launching the film into festivals and community screenings, we are absolutely thrilled to announce BURIED ABOVE GROUND’s national broadcast on PBS America ReFramed on WORLD Channel, Tuesday, June 28th at 8pm during National PTSD Awareness Month! We are so pleased to be a part of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning American Documentary family to bring our film into households around the country.

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I was deeply moved listening to the #PTSDchat Talk Radio interview with Ben Selkow last night. The debth and breath of this film struck me as one of the most pain shaking, delicate, and sensitive research projects yet on post-traumatic stress.   Taking over 6 years to direct and produce this documentary provides the viewer with a heart wrenching but hopeful journey of what we, as trauma survivors from different life experiences find a path of life-long healing.  It is a very crooked road indeed that is navigated successfully but not without setbacks and adjustments, including new traumas along the way.  Ben talks of discovering that post-trauma stress is not an individual matter because it affects the entire family and circle of loved ones in the trauma survivors’ life.  His conclusion is that we must see the larger societal and generational suffering that damages the very fabric and soul of our human experience, especially children and families.  Once we become keenly aware of ourselves and others who struggle with the life long affects of experiencing severe trauma, we will ultimately break the cycle of pain.  This hopeful message is very encouraging and shows that the good work and passion of so many will stop the stigma of mental health and help millions of families who suffer find a path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page to order books and other stuff from Amazon…

Steve2016

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

Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under. “I Worry About the Kids!”

Dakotah

Dakotah, Age 4…a foster child who experienced early child trauma…

Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… quote from Anxiety and Depression Association of America… Click highlighted link for more on this topic…

Two or more of the following symptoms can emerge in young children who experience traumatic and toxic circumstances.

  • irritable, angry, or aggressive behavior, including extreme temper tantrums
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

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Post-Trauma Stress in Children Age 6 and Under… BlogTalkRadio… #ptsdchat

I’m asked often why I worry about babies and younger children the most when thinking, talking and writing about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and the toxic circumstances that often go with a family who suffers from PTS.  These are typically families with parents who served in hard combat as warriors and come home with the nagging symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger that affects the entire family, especially kids.  I have taken the opportunity in this blog post to help answer this most important question with the goal to educate parents, teachers, mentors, and loved ones to be particularly sensitive to young children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones impacted the most.  This is the time of a child’s life when parents, teachers and loved ones who care for children can make a big difference in mitigating the potential long term emotional damage caused by PTS.

I started an exercise on a blank piece of paper keeping in mind the question, “why I worry about kids in toxic circumstances.”  I took a break after writing down about 35 “trigger” words that came to me from my own life experience.  These are words that needed to be transformed from fear to constructive healing over the years…redefining myself in a more positive context.  Then, I found the above link connected to trauma affected children age 6 and under.  These are the little ones I worry about the most…they are completely at the mercy of the grown ups in a toxic world that is often not even remembered…I have significant memory loss from my childhood, but the feelings of fear of this time remain with me. I do have vague but painful memories of kindergarten and 1st grade.  My memory then fades until around age 10.  Most all the “trigger” words can be organized and connected to the narrative in this link.  The bottom line in my journey of healing that pushes me forward with joy each day is forgiveness of self and others.

I worry the most about the babies, toddlers, preschoolers and K-1 kids who are damaged emotionally and must then face the real world for the first time with limited socialization. They are scared, very scared of themselves, others, and everything else they encounter.  Kids like this (me during my early childhood) are on alert for danger and behave defensively.  They are isolated, emotional, and often act out.  The ability to focus and concentrate is difficult at best.  There is little or no trust in adults.  While other typical  kids are laughing and playing and learning, trauma affected kids shy away and hide,  minds wondering without self regulation or a positive structure… These kids most often feel detached and out of place with peers.

The “trigger” words caused me to drift back in time and remember how it felt as a kid…So I now worry about children in this way, especially if it is clear they are troubled little souls.  I ask not what is wrong with these children, I ask what happened to them?  There is much sadness in my heart when thinking of children who must endure and survive a toxic home culture.

My goal as a trauma survivor who has done significant research and writing on the topic of PTS, is to produce a trauma informed work book to serve as a lay persons reference guide for parents, teachers, and mentors.  The process of developing a work book is at the beginning stage.   I anticipate a hardcopy publication to be completed by the end of 1st quarter 2016.  We adults must become trauma informed to be better equipped to help young children who have suffered from traumatic experiences.  Our children represent the best hope for the future.  It is during the younger years of a child when we have the best chance to mitigate the longer term emotional damage caused by exposure to traumatic circumstances.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story & My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books…

SteveSunriver

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