CELEBRATING THE 4TH OF JULY?

This July 4th will mean picnics and fireworks for millions of Americans…but for many of our veterans it will mean terror, fear, and embarrassment. Many vets return from overseas with PTSD. When they hear cars backfire, firecrackers going off, or other loud noises, they panic and find themselves reacting as if they were still under fire – dropping to the ground and covering their heads. Even a door slamming can trigger flashbacks. After that, the nightmares start up along with becoming hypervigilance during the day.

Studies have shown that PTSD, depression and other mental health conditions are more common among military personnel than we tend to think. Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of service members have a mental health disorder, although some are not as severe as others, such as anxiety or mild depression.

PTSD is a hidden disability, a war wound of the mind, emotions and feelings. Veterans may be reluctant to seek out medical help for their PTSD, but the truth is, it responds well to treatment. None of us would hesitate to get a physical wound looked at, so why are we so fearful about getting a mental wound treated?

There are so many ways PTSD expresses itself with Veterans. Emotional numbness comes about when one learns to suppress emotion as a survival tactic. Even though your buddy just died, you are still expected to go back out and do what you’re told to do. While that may keep you alive in the war zone, it can be very hard on relationships when it’s time to go home.

This July 4th, if the veteran you know doesn’t want to go to the fireworks celebration with you, please understand. With treatment, the situation should improve, and maybe things will be a bit more normal next year! Happy 4th of July!

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A NATIONAL TREASURE

We are blessed in this country to have not had to fight a war on our own soil for many, many years. When I think of some countries where fighting goes on all the time, where children learn to carry weapons and kill, and the elderly die because they don’t have anyone to help them, it makes me realize how lucky we are. Our veterans have bought our peace and freedom in America. In return, they have learned survival skills that they can pass on to the rest of us should we ever need them.

Because of this, we now have the knowledge and skills for how to survive built right into our society. Our veterans know how to defend America and how to survive during crisis situations. I think when the next conflict on American soil occurs, the other side better be darn careful that they don’t underestimate us. I sleep better at night knowing this.

While many veterans return to America not wanting to talk about what happened, they often still teach their children some of what they learned. That’s a treasure of knowledge.

Our veterans should always be honored and valued for not only what they did in America’s defense, but what they can do to help the rest of us when and if the need arises. I hope it never does…but I’m glad the knowledge is there when and if we ever need it.

KEY DATES: A TIME TO REMEMBER

Years ago, when I worked for hospice, I remember the Bereavement Coordinator telling me about the effect of key dates on grief. When we lose someone or something close to us, we tend to re-experience the grief on the anniversary of the event. That can continue for many years.
The reaction may leave you mildly upset or can cause more severe problems either mentally or physically. There are studies that indicate that the reason we remember the trauma around key dates is because of how the memory is saved. The memory is connected to the date although sometimes we aren’t even aware of it. We may simply feel down and not realize why until a later time.
Some of the symptoms that surface may include:
• Re-experiencing the trauma. This is common and may involve experiencing the same negative feelings you felt when the experience first happened.
• Arousal. You may feel nervous or on edge including finding it difficult to sleep or stay focused.
• Panic attacks or isolation. You may feel afraid of leaving your home and cut yourself off from family and friends.
• Physical symptoms. You may experience headaches or stomachaches.
• Grief and sadness. This may include depression.
It may help to know that these feelings usually won’t last long, and symptoms will decrease over time. If you continue to feel bad for more than a week or two after the key date, it may help to talk to your doctor or mental health provider.

CATCH THE BEAT

Music as a form of PTSD treatment? It makes sense. Music is an excellent way to heal suffering from PTSD, depression or anxiety. While many of us understand that music can bring peaceful thoughts and help us relax, it can actually be a good tool to help Veterans process their wartime feelings and experiences.

Most people know that music can have an effect on their moods. For instance, can you remember being in your car with the radio blasting while you listened to that favorite song that the writer just seemed to know exactly where you were at the moment? Music really is powerful.

Sometimes when we talk about a painful topic while music is playing, it can help us release our feelings more easily than when we do the same thing in the absence of music. Music can help trigger memories and express feelings we can’t otherwise express. Some of the positive effects of music therapy include:

• Improved communication,
• Improved attention span,
• Improved motor skills
• Better Pain management
• Sharpened mental acuity
• Enhanced memory
• Increased socialization

Music with a strong beat stimulates the brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat. Faster beats enhance concentration and more alert thinking, and slower tempos promote a calm, meditative state. Music can cause lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.