Quynn’s relationship with her father taught her that “healing” from PTSD takes conscious effort, and it is a life-long experience. While the damaging war experiences occurred before Quynn was born, they resonated throughout her father’s life, thereby negatively affecting the whole family for decades. Ultimately, it took writing this book to help Quynn come to terms with the past, and understand her father. She hopes for the same kind of resolution for others.After so long she learned that every veteran, as well as those who love them, deserves to understand that having feelings associated with PTSD are normal, even for the strongest men/warriors.
A Note about the Word “Disorder”
“When I wrote this book in 2004, Post Traumatic Stress was commonly referred to as a “Disorder”. In 2007, as we see the increase in numbers of veterans who are speaking up about their struggles with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, we are beginning to change the language used to describe these painful feelings.
Today, more Mental Health Professionals understand that physical, mental and emotional reactions to trauma are normal, not indicating a “disorder”, and are adjusting their therapies accordingly.
I use the phrase Post Traumatic Stress, and will include “Disorder” in this story, since it is still widely understood. However, I am pleased to see this change in our language, a change in the direction of healing.”
Links to helpful sites…You are not weak, or alone.
Their mission is to cultivate pervasive personal peace for veterans by re-owning and re-homing lost pieces of self so wholeness can be restored.
Are you experiencing PTSD? Make the Connection
Need more options than medication? Alternative Help for PTSD
FACEBOOK groups are a way to connect, voice your feelings, and not be alone!
1/11/11 Healing Soul Wounds of our Nation’s Warriors:
Ten Veterans Days Since 9/11
by Quynn Elizabeth
I am the only daughter of a two tour combat veteran of the Vietnam war, although I did not know this while growing up. I remember thinking that my father sailed around the ocean while in the Navy before I was born. He never spoke of his experiences in the military, and as a girl, I never thought to ask. As an adult, I see that not asking, and not talking, does not mean that there is nothing to say.In any culture, there are two types of warriors. There are some men and women who are called to be professional soldiers, let’s call them ‘career warriors’. My book “Accepting the Ashes- A Daughter’s Look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” is written for and about “term warriors”, individuals called to duty for a time or a reason, and then they go back to civilian life as soon as they have served their country. The ultimate problem is, participating in war causes trauma for almost every person involved, and this trauma doesn’t just go away once their service has ended.
I was born 9 months after my father came home from his second tour of duty in Vietnam. My father was a good man, but as I grew up he mysteriously fell apart before the eyes of his family. I had always known him as a drinker, but until I was in my early thirties, when I had an opportunity to reconnect with him as an adult woman, I never had a clue as to why. Only after his accidental death in 2004, did I get to see into his world. By reading his letters and VA records I learned how he had tried to ignore the fact that his experiences in war decades earlier haunted him every day of his life, and how his reaction to those experiences affected everyone around him.It is important to say that each person is unique, based on their personality, circumstance and support system, and so how a person reacts after experiencing any kind of trauma is as individual as he or she is, but even if a person handles it “well”, the bottom line is that trauma does affect everyone and no warrior is the same after war.If there is one thing our culture knows, its trauma. In addition to war, trauma can be caused by childhood experiences, rape or violent assault. Whether it happens chronically or in a ‘wrong time/wrong place’ scenario, we are a people with many generational layers of untended trauma. I have come to feel that a deep root of this societal problem is…war. In war, the strategy is to do horrible things to other people so that they do what you want, or you get what you want. This is rarely the stated intent, and the specific reason for war is always slightly different, but the result is the same. Traumatic experiences are in every part of war, scarring those who are on the receiving end, as well as those who have to carry out such acts, and when warriors are released from their service, they bring their trauma home.In our culture’s recent past there have been many names for describing the change that occurs in a person (most often men) after coming home from war- some are “soldier’s heart”, “battle fatigue”, and “shell shock”. After so many who served in the Vietnam war came home with such ‘symptoms’, people began admitting in public that painful after-effects were quite common, and so they gave “it” a name, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”.
My father tried his best to hold his life together, and he did for the most part, until I was in my early teens. After my mother asked him for a divorce, he tried to move on. He created a new family and focused on climbing the economic ladder of prestige. These things could not outweigh this heavy heart, however, and his life fell apart. At its worst, he bordered on homelessness and suicide. The saddest part to me, looking back, is that my father was convinced that he must be weak to be depressed, to let down his children again and again, and to continually want to self-medicate with alcohol, so our family’s elephant in the room was never acknowledged.
Since everyone is different, there is no formula for how a war veteran will be affected, but as a culture we must finally admit that if we send someone to war, that means we tell him/her to do, and see, horrible things. They will be affected, and that is our personal and national business.
In the latest printing of my book in 2007, I included a note about the “D” in PTSD. I have come to understand that to experience emotional and mental after-effects from experiencing trauma is to be human. It is normal, and we need to treat it that way. More mental health practitioners are dropping the ‘disorder’ in PTSD. Another way to describe it, as Dr. Edward Tick describes in his book War and the Soul-, is Post Traumatic Soul Distress.
Many cultures around the planet have had ancient and specific ways to tend and cleanse warriors after returning home from battle.
For thousands of years there have been community and cultural rituals and processes that help warriors come to terms with deeds done in battle, and purify their mind, body and spirit, so they can return to civilian society. This careful reentry is important because untended war energy is not good for anyone in any culture that values living peacefully. However, it seems that in recent American culture, we have disowned this important step in tending the hearts and minds of those we send to war in our name.
There is a statement said often, which is “We are over ‘there’ so that the war doesn’t come over ‘here’.” Hearing this saddens me, because no matter the reasons or location of the war of the moment, it is always brought to the most important, and fragile place in any society, home.
Even for warriors of the “greatest generation”, who fought the last wholeheartedly justified war, if you scratched just under the surface of many WWII veteran there was sadness, fear, anger and tears, even in these tough men who knew ‘hard times’. If you ask their loved ones, who are probably your loved ones, there are many stories of stoic men, whispers of trauma and outbursts of rage.
I have learned one very important thing from living my father’s story of war. Strong men (and women) react to trauma, just like everyone else. We must admit it, talk about it, demand the resources to deal with it so that we don’t pass Post Traumatic Stress on to another generation without them even understanding what they have inherited. The pain that our veterans feel in their minds and hearts is real, and it is the business of every American. It is time that we demand the right for them to heal the pain that they sustained for us.
If one of our warriors sustained a physical wound that was left to fester, and then they were sent home to their community, what would we do? When we saw him with his obviously painful and life-threatening wound, would we ignore it and say ‘get over it!’, ‘you are making me uncomfortable!’, or ‘just wait, it will get better with time’? I doubt it. I imagine that anyone who saw someone with such a weaping, infected physical wound would insist that they immediately go to a hospital to get treated. Inner wounds of the mind and heart are just as dangerous as any physical wound. Inner wounds cause families to break apart and our veterans to implode, or even end their own life to make the pain end. It is time, as the tenth Veterans Day since 9/11/2001 comes near, for our nation to admit that our veteran’s emotional and mental wounds have been left to fester in front of us, and the only way to heal this collective pain is for all of us to decide that it is as important to our nation to heal wounded souls, as well as broken bodies.
In 2004 I wrote, “I would imagine that just about everyone has some unresolved issues with their father, veteran or not, so I feel blessed to have watched my father in his older years, learning to understand how a phase in his young life fundamentally damaged him and those around him even though he didn’t want to admit it. In his last few years, I got to know him as a man and I realized the burden he had carried alone, without really knowing that he was carrying something. While I feel resolved with my father, I feel an immense sadness about how things turned out. I wonder, what if things were different, what if the culture supported, even insisted on, my father’s healing, and all the others like him? So many what ifs…
So now he is gone, but there are many more men, and now women, like him who are in a far away land telling themselves that everything will be alright when they get home. Once home, they do the best that they can to get on with life. But what happens when the memories don’t go away? What then? What about the wives and the parents and the children who don’t know what to do with the intense feelings being displayed? How do we all deal with our loved ones when they have to come to terms with killing other human beings for our society? This is why I write to you, my father is one version of the future of your soldier, your loved one, your neighbor or client, or YOU, 30 years from now. I have some pieces of advice, some ideas that have come from my experience, and I offer them to you, to anyone, who might find them to be helpful. Your soldier is my father. I am your daughter. We are all in this together.” (from Accepting the Ashes)
It is time, fellow Americans, to acknowledge the wounds to the soul that war always causes. We are all touched by “it”, and for generations we have pretended that “it” doesn’t exist. Ten Veterans Days ago, our nation had just experienced a horrible wound to our collective soul. In response to 9/11/2001, American men and women were sent to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and America still has service men and women fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom. We are trying to “win” a war to heal our soul. Whether we win the hearts and minds of our enemies, we must be careful to tend the hearts and minds of our warriors as they return from the fight. We cannot afford the highest cost, another generation of warriors permanently crippled by festering wounds of the soul, simply because we are reluctant to admit that their pain is that wounded elephant in the living room of America. The next generation of American families depends on us to decide to see the wounds standing in front of, and within, us, and then be brave enough to help our nation’s warriors heal the pain that cannot be healed alone.