Sometimes writing about an event or just about your life in general can help you identify your feelings and work through different ways of thinking about negative events. Writing can help you process your feelings and see alternative ways of thinking about what happened.

When I journal about events and experiences that I have encountered, I try to express some of the physical feelings I associate with the situation by adding some color to the paper. For instance, if I am talking about an experience laden with negative emotional overtones, I might surround what I’ve written with black or dark colored ink.   While it may seem simplistic, it helps me visualize my feelings in relation to the event. Somehow, expressing those feelings helps me release some of the tension associated with them.

Journaling can be one way of releasing some of the stress related to specific experiences that have a negative impact on our lives. Writing down what happened, how it made you feel, and other ways you might try coping with it can help you release the emotion surrounding the event. Doing that seems to reduce the power it has over me. I hope it works for you too.


Learning “Block”

I have a friend whose husband has PTSD, and one of his symptoms is having terrible nightmares. They got a puppy from me and asked if I would help them train it to be a service dog. They would like the dog trained to wake him during those nightmares. We are also going to train him to “block.” Block is a cue given to the dog so it moves in front of the veteran and sits or stands there to stop other people from getting too close. Block is used when the veteran is feeling crowded by too many people. The dog does not move away when another person approaches, but holds its ground. The dog is not aggressive, but it occupies the area that is personal space for the handler.

PTSD leaves many of us feeling that our personal space has expanded several feet. I do not like people standing too close to me; if they do, I am afraid I won’t have the time I need to respond if they make a threatening move. I am usually not even conscious of it. Instead, I just feel crowded and uncomfortable.

Not everyone can have a service dog trained to protect his or her personal space. If you are in the presence of a veteran with PTSD, remember, one of the symptoms is the need for extra space. Please, respect that need!


One of the ways we tend to look at things is by thinking that if we do not do something by a certain time, we’re a failure. It is called “All-or-Nothing” thinking, and most of us indulge in it at times in our lives. Although, if we do think about it closely, we realize that it is not true, we don’t tend to think about it closely. We just accept it as being the way things really are.

I recently worked with a veteran who told me he felt he was a failure because he would soon be 40 years old and he was still unmarried. He was successful in every other area of his life, but he felt he was a total failure because he had not found the right woman, married and had children. He had told himself throughout his life that this was a goal he had to meet.

I suggested he try the PTSD Coach website that the VA offers. On the site, he was able to print out a worksheet and then work through this thought pattern. Once he considered it, he realized he wasn’t a total failure because he had not found the woman of his dreams, he was holding out for a relationship that was balanced and healthy. That made him a success! He was also able to see that he had met his goals in many other areas of his life, and that turning 40 without being married didn’t mean he was a failure.

PTSD Coach is a good tool for helping you cope with PTSD. Please consider using it to examine your own thoughts and challenge those that are not healthy and are holding you back from finding peace.



Staying Healthy

Flu season is here, and if you are a veteran considering getting a flu shot, now may be a good time to get it done. The VA is teaming up with Walgreens to offer free flu shots to veterans. You will need to present your Veteran’s Identification Card to receive the vaccine.

As a reminder of how the flu can affect you, here are some of the signs:

  • Possible fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Possible vomiting and diarrhea
  • While having the flu is bad enough, it can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus infection. If you are older (over 65 years, or have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), you may be at greater risk of developing complications. Signs that your flu is getting worse rather than better include:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • This year, do your best to stay health; get your flu shot and take care of yourself…after all, you’re worth it!


Gulf War Veterans experiencing unexplained chronic medical symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, or memory problems, may be eligible for VA disability compensation. If you have had any of these symptoms for six months or more, and they appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operation and are designated to be at least 10% disabling, they are considered presumptive conditions. As such, you will not have to prove a connection between your military service and the illness in order to receive VA disability compensation.

Presumptive conditions include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — a condition of long-term, severe fatigue not caused by other conditions.
  • Fibromyalgia – severe muscle pain which may include insomnia, headache, and memory problems.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders – identified by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. These may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses, including the following symptoms: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.

As a Gulf War Veteran with any of these symptoms, you may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits including a Gulf War Registry health exam, and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to military service. Dependents and survivors may also be eligible for benefits.

Presumptive Conditions for Camp Lejeune Veterans

Camp Lejeune is the Marine Corps Base Camp in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From 1957 through 1987, people living at Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated drinking water.  The contaminants involved were industrial solvents.

The VA is now providing free health care for the following conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.

Qualifying health conditions include:

·         Esophageal cancer

·         Breast cancer

·         Kidney cancer

·         Multiple myeloma

·         Renal toxicity

·         Female infertility

·         Scleroderma

·         Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

·         Lung cancer

·         Bladder cancer

·         Leukemia

·         Myelodysplastic syndromes

·         Hepatic steatosis

·         Miscarriage

·         Neurobehavioral effects

If you believe other health conditions you are suffering from are directly related to the contaminated water you were exposed to at Camp Lejeune, contact your primary health care provider to file a claim with the VA. You will need to have served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune, during the time period of January 1, 1957 through December 31, 1987.  Family members of Veterans who also resided at Camp Lejeune during the qualifying period are also eligible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses involving the covered health conditions.


Off Balance

In the United States, there are about eight million adults who suffer with balance problems. Nearly one third of older adults have difficulty with their balance or with walking.  This can be due to inner ear infection, nerve problems in the legs or feet, Parkinson’s disease, or other conditions.

One of those other causes is diabetes.  When it is uncontrolled, diabetes can affect your balance, often from a loss of sensation due to nerve damage in the bottoms of the feet.

Migraine headaches are another reason balance may be compromised. If you’ve ever had migraines, you probably know they are often accompanied by motion sickness, vision issues, and balance problems.  Dizziness occurs when you are unable to correctly process what you’re seeing.

If you are having problems with your balance, you may be sent for a hearing test. While most of us are aware that an inner ear infection can affect balance, what isn’t as commonly known is that the nerve that sends balance signals also sends hearing signals.  Thus, if you have a problem that affects your balance, it can also affect your hearing.

Although we often don’t usually consider poor balance that big a deal, it can indicate other things going on within us, and if we fall, it can lead to serious injury or long-term difficulties.

Whatever the underlying cause of your loss of balance is, don’t brush it off and ignore it. Balance problems can indicate other things going on with your health.  Fortunately, most of them can be successfully treated.