ON THE OTHER HAND: CAN WE CHANGE WHAT WE THINK?

When we survive trauma, we may be left with warped thinking that affects us from that point on. An example of this would be a bad wartime experience that changes our thinking. We go from optimistic to paranoid. Some of those thinking patterns include:
o All-or-nothing thinking where you see the world as being one way only
o Must/should thinking where you feel you “must” do or be this or that
o Emotional thinking when your thoughts control what you think (ex. I’m afraid, so I must be in danger)
o Self-blame where we take responsibility for things we have no control over
o Expecting the worse
o Over-generalization where we believe that because something happened once, it’ll happen again
Negative thoughts increase our stress levels and leave us feeling bad most of the time. Yet, it is possible to change what we think and reduce some of the misery that comes with negative thinking patterns.
Try asking yourself the following questions whenever you need to combat negative thinking:
o Is there another way of looking at things?
o Is there any other explanation?
o What would a friend think about things?
o Am I expecting more of myself than I do of other people?
o Am I being realistic in how much control and responsibility I have?
o What would happen if my fears came true?
o Do I have other resources for handling the problem?
o Am I overestimating the risk involved?
Don’t let negative thoughts ruin your life or determine how happy you can be. Take back your joy!

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HORSING AROUND: EQUINE ASSISTED THERAPY FOR PTSD

Last week I made a visit to a local horse-rescue farm. I was invited to tour the facility and learn about their therapy efforts, the newest program focusing on overcoming PTSD.

Horse therapy has proven to be an impressive treatment in the field. Interesting, isn’t it that sometimes by working with animals that have been abused, we are able to see more clearly that allowing trauma to follow us into our present life only taints today as well as the past.

Working with animals that have been traumatized can help someone with PTSD realize how important the healing process is to having peace in your life. It’s easy to understand why the horse is resistant to accepting new people when it’s something the veteran has experienced too.

Studies are showing that Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for Veterans and their families can be very effective. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that helps the inside of a man.” Out Side In is such a facility. Located in Grand Haven, Michigan, they are starting a horse therapy program for veterans and family members to deal with the psychological wounds of war. If you are a veteran and are interested in trying horse therapy, please check out their program at ww.out-side-in.org.

Home heating help available from the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund

I heat my home with propane gas, and just last week I had my tank filled. Horrors! My bill was over $2,000 for this one fill! I had expected propane to go up, but I didn’t expect it to jump more than 4 times what it was! I am blessed that I was able to pay the bill, thanks to my husband’s foresight, but there are some Michigan combat veterans who are struggling because of a financial emergency such as unexpectedly high heating bills. Fortunately, they can turn to the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund for help.

Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) grants are available to veterans who have been honorably discharged and have served:
• 180 days during a period of war;
• 180 days of active duty with award of Armed Forces/Navy Expeditionary Medal; or
• Less than 180 days of wartime service due to service-incurred disability.
Dependents of an eligible veteran can also apply, under certain circumstances. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate need and show they are able to meet future expenses after the grant.

Contact the MVTF agent in the county where you reside to begin your application. He or she can explain the process and tell you what supporting documents you will need for your application.

Don’t let a financial emergency snowball into a bigger problem for you and your family. A Trust Fund grant can help you weather an unexpected storm so your finances stay on course. If you know someone who may qualify for a grant, make sure they know help is available.

Learn more about the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund or locate the MVTF agent in your county. Contact the Trust Fund directly at 517-284-5299. Oh, and stay warm, eh?

IN HARM’S WAY

Recently, the Inspector General’s Office came out with a report on nursing home care listing the percentage of residents who are abused. Some of the information presented in this article includes:
• 22% of residents experienced “at least one adverse event during their stay”
• 79% were serious enough to require either prolonged nursing facility stay or hospitalization for acute level care
• 14% required “intervention to sustain the resident’s life”
• 6% contributed to or resulted in resident death
While abuse of anyone in anyway is intolerable, it seems to be particularly troubling when it involves veterans – the very men and women who put it all on the line to defend us. Unfortunately abuse of veterans is a reality in many nursing homes.
Abuse can take many forms: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and/or financial exploitation. Many of those abused have dementia or are so weak they have no defense left. Often they are afraid to say anything for fear they will be retaliated against. While you may think that would occur as physical abuse against the veteran, it is more likely to be played out through neglect. An example would be a veteran who complains about the care he or she is getting from his or her aide. Rather than doing something physically harmful in retaliation, if the aide simply delays responding to the call light, or ignores the veteran in other ways, it is devastating. Imagine being dependent upon one particular person during the course of an eight hour day, and then having that person mad at you and not providing the care you need. It can get pretty scary.
All forms of abuse are crimes and should be treated as such. Our veterans deserve to be defended as vigorously as they defended their country.

THE FACE OF FEAR

Several weeks ago, I visited a consumer to see how he was doing since being released from the hospital. He’s a Viet Nam Veteran and, due to Agent Orange, he’s coping with some involved medical issues. One of those issues is diabetes and unfortunately he’d had to have part of his foot amputated.

I asked if he’d done any thinking about emergency preparedness planning. He said no, and to my surprise, he seemed uncomfortable with the question. Undeterred, I asked if he knew what the most common disaster in Ottawa County was. He didn’t, so I told him: flooding. He nodded slowly. I talked about preparing for disaster ahead of time, and I gave him several tools he could use to begin his preparations. That’s when I saw it: fear etched in his face. He made it very clear that he did not want to discuss the topic further. He politely thanked me for coming and told me he’d look forward to our next visit.

As I drove home, I thought about what had just happened. This was a proud man who, when called on, stepped up to defend his country and his family. Now he wasn’t able to defend himself or his family or his loved ones. It was no wonder he was frightened. I’d brought something new into his home – the prospect that he might be reliant on someone else to defend and protect him.

So, how do we overcome that fear? The only way is for people with disabilities to be part of the planning process for responding to emergencies. We have to take back some of the control we lost when we became disabled. We have so much to offer!

We have well-developed survival skills or we wouldn’t be here. If people think that because they don’t have a disability they won’t need our input, they need to think about the people who ran the Boston Marathon and those who were in the Twin Towers as the bombs went off: they weren’t disabled when they left the house that morning either. Who would be better suited to help figure out ways to cope than those who have already been there? Do you know what the real fear is? It’s just the fear of knowing ourselves. And the one thing I do know for sure…I’ve never seen anyone more courage than the Veterans I work with. When he’s needed, I bet my veteran will be there…and I know we’ll be better off having him on our side!