USMC Veteran Liz Thompson shared that statement in her story with The Express-Times, where she described her struggle the transition home after a 9-month deployment to Iraq in 2005. Liz eventually found her way to yoga after it was suggested to her by a friend and she has since become an instructor herself and teaches a class for Veterans at the American Legion Post 397 in Hellertown, PA.
My Insane Life as a Marine Wife: A Conversation with the Founder of an Online Support Network
What would you do if the man you loved, the man you wanted to grow old with, the man who made you laugh, who made you smile, who made you feel special…changed? By change I mean, “very empty, angry, depressed, explosive, and rather unpredictable.” The man you knew like the back of your hand…now a shell of his former self. What if…you add three young kids to this equation: 7, 5, and 3 1/2. Not old enough to emotionally understand why “Daddy is sick!” Too young to digest the daily and nightly chaos. You and you alone left to mend their emotional wounds, while trying to maintain a healthy and stable environment for them. What would you do?
Too often in the military families…the answer is GET THE HELL OUT! I’m not here to debate what is right or wrong in situations like this…as I’m not a licensed marriage counselor. My name is Chris E. and I’m a 23 year Air Force veteran. I’ve witnessed families like this and have mentored warriors in these situations. I’m also aware there are environments where safety is a concern. In those cases…yeah…run don’t walk. However, I do know first hand that leaving is sometimes the “easier” thing to do.
Military families are “STRONG” by nature, design, and necessity. I firmly believe having been retired now for four months and staying home with my wife…that her job is way more tough than mine ever was. I would suggest, Rebecca’s job is tougher times infinity!
“Roughly a year after he returned from his deployment to Afghanistan is when my husband’s PTSD started to become a major problem. He returned home in February 2011 and in February 2012, things began to go downhill very quickly. It’s been a major uphill climb from there trying to pick up the broken pieces and do our best to stay together as a couple and as a family.”
Multiple deployments, long hours…and kids…let alone three kids under 10 can take its toll on anyone. Add to this, a special needs child. Her youngest has Sensory Processing Disorder and high-functioning Autism. Rebecca truly has the “warrior ethos” instilled. Maybe because she married a Marine, or maybe because that’s just who she is. She did not run. Instead, she has hunkered down. Drawing experience from each “battle” she faced to develop new or updated TTPs. Her husband, a Marine Staff Sergeant has been through what I call the PTSD gauntlet. He’s done an intensive six-week outpatient PTSD therapy, group therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and medications. He is currently on a high dose of an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer. Often times, finding the right meds, combo of meds, and dosage can be deadly. It is no walk in the park subjecting your body to these powerful “Black Box” meds. “Finding the right dosage was difficult, I do believe the medication has really helped my husband better control some of his symptoms. The therapy has also been a major necessity in helping him work through some of his inner demons. My husband still has a long way to go, but has also come a long way from the person he was at the beginning of this.”
“My husband very rarely discusses any information about his PTSD. I do wish that he would because communication is the key to understanding. I do know and understand though that my husband never intentionally wants to cause me any emotional pain or anguish.”
Rebecca took to the internet learning all she could about PTSD. She educated herself and sharpened her “battlefield skills.” She began journaling. “In the beginning of my struggles with my husband’s PTSD, a neighbor suggested I use a journal to help me “get things out”. I used it daily to help vent about the things I was going through or to say the things I needed to say to my husband but couldn’t.” With the help of her husband’s PTSD Therapist and PTSD Psychologist (who happened to be husband and wife) Rebecca began the first PTSD Spouse Support Group for the Wounded Warrior Battalion and associated mental health at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA. Still wanting to do more…she started a Facebook page called, My Insane Life as a Marine Wife.
“I started My Insane Life as a Marine Wife because I wanted to reach out to other spouses of Veterans with PTSD. When my husband’s PTSD initially took over and wreaked havoc on our lives, I felt very alone and isolated. There was no one I could talk to who understood what I was going through. I searched for support groups for spouses of Veterans with PTSD, but there just weren’t any in my area.” She says that the page has helped her immensely by having others to talk to who actually understand what she is going through. Collectively, these spouses take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in battling this beast known as PTSD.
Rebecca is no miracle worker…and she doesn’t “go it alone!” (Neither should you) She has a strong support group of family members, fellow spouses and loyal friends who have been by her side unconditionally. She says their love and support have helped her through the darkest of hours. Now, with the help of social media, she wants to be that “loyal friend” for others. “I’m just really hoping that others will be able to take comfort in knowing that they are not alone while battling their loved one’s PTSD. I want them to have a place to go to vent, ask questions or get advice from other spouses, to get resources and information on PTSD, and provide a place for spouses where others truly understand what they are going through. ” The facebook page has only been live for a short while and Rebecca has shared some intimate details of this not so glamourous life. She plans on sharing everything she can (within reason of course) in hopes it will help another spouse.
This weekend, TEAM Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness will be running in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 27, 2013. Their participation will be to Honor and Remember 46 Marines and 2 Navy Corpsman from 3rd BN 25th Marines who made the Ultimate Sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.
Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness is a resource for emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness & fitness. They maintain an active involvement with the Marines at the Wounded Warrior Battalion East, Walter Reed Bethesda Military Medical Center, and veterans across the country. Founded by veterans for veterans, Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness is one of the few organizations dedicated to nutrition. Follow them on their active Facebook page!
From: Elijah Sacra, Veteran, USMC, Founder & Director of Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness
Honor the fallen, and empower the wounded by donating to Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness!
We are seeking your contribution for ONE REASON: To provide health and wellness solutions for Wounded, Ill and Injured service members and veterans who have sacrificed minds, bodies, and lives for our freedom and safety.
Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness has committed to use 100% of all donations received for the direct treatment and assistance of each person we work with.
We propose there is no better investment than honoring, empowering, and motivating those we serve in their own health and wellness. Please join us as we continue to advance our mission of providing FREE health and wellness services to our nation’s Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors and their Caregivers. Together we can help meet the needs of those we serve by providing unique, direct programs and services to help them achieve a life filled with health and wellness.
“After being blown up in Afghanistan by an IED, Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness provided me with Holistic Nutrition, Rehabilitative Exercise, and Mindful Yoga Therapy. These tools created a paradigm shift in my life and gave me the opportunity to reintegrate and successfully stay in the fight. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. I love being a Marine!”
-Cpl. Michael Politowicz-USMC, Combat Wounded Purple Heart Recipient
A great article by William Hunnell, USMC in the yoga publication Elephant Journal. Many of us have encountered an uneasiness among the yoga community when it comes to the idea of military service and yoga (especially in areas where military personnel are rarely seen). But in this article Hunnell explains the values and what makes the two so simpatico.
“Each branch espouses traits that are expected of a member. The Marines speak of the 14 Leadership Traits while the Army speaks of 7 Core Values. I won’t go into all of them. The one, in my opinion, that speaks volumes and can be found in both is selfless service or unselfishness.
Our comment; We’d love more information, and since the author is a board certified psychologist who served 2 tours in Iraq, perhaps he’ll be able to get some studies funded, and discover why these two modalities when combined seem to work. What’s the routine? How long? What’s the longterm outcome? We’re hopeful more research will be done!
From the Marine Corps Times
“The military spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on mental health research and care. Although advances in medications and talk therapies for often disabling and chronic psychiatric conditions are a sound investment, other less expensive and non-traditional alternatives can provide substantial dividends.”
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” -The Dalai Lama
By CJ Keller
Wisdom is the sound application of knowledge. It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply judgments and actions that serve optimal outcomes.
How can we cultivate or tap into wisdom through yoga? Wisdom often requires control of one’s emotional reactions and control of the senses, so that universal principles of reason and morality prevail to determine our actions. Our practice, whether in a physical posture, breath control or meditation, facilitates presence and grounding in the moment. This grounding enables a yogi to draw upon judgement from a more objective place, where the mind is calm and freed from emotional barriers of stress and anxiety. A quiet mind can listen to the authentic inner voice that we all posses. Ultimately, this is the voice in line with your values and this is the voice that guides your actions.
The mindful movement, breathing and relaxation techniques used in SFHW’s yoga teachings, allow us to be lifted from the fog of our senses and from our selfish and often misguided desires. As brothers and sisters bound by the honor and pride of military service, we can use our unique knowledge from training and combat, combined with a focused mind to make better, wiser choices for good in the world. Mindful yoga fosters connection, sharpens intellect, and strengthens knowledge of self and others. This wisdom is a compass for our actions, leading us to happiness and compassion for ourselves and those we serve.
“Good Bye Vietnam” is a statement from Lance Corporal Chris Lambert USMC, 1968, Vietnam War. In this wise and inspiring peace, he says good-bye to the words, images, smells, and memories of people, political movements and all things connected to the Vietnam war that kept him locked in a 40-year fight with PTSD, resentment, and regret.
“Take your shame and your pain, I’m now a proud Vietnam Veteran.”
h/t to Jerry Newberry, Vietnam paratrooper, and Assistant Adjutant General of the VFW, who shared this with his brothers.
When Marine veteran Clay Hunt killed himself in 2011, it was a wake up call for everyone to pay attention to the deeper layers. From the surface, it seemed that the voraciousness with which Clay advocated for other veterans, rode with Ride to Recovery, and went with Team Rubicon on their maiden voyage to help in Haiti –that he was in the clear. But anxiety, depression, fears, and the video loop that replayed the trauma of war would not let up. Clay killed himself in his apartment in Houston. Clay, like the “147,763 suicides in 21 states over the 13 years ” left behind friends, families and others who loved and always tried to be reassuring.
Last night, CBS news ran a story on the life and death of Clay. They interviewed his parents, mentors, and good friend –the founder of Team Rubicon, Jake Woods. Jake wasn’t just a friend –he was his battle buddy, a brotherhood for the ages. He thinks of Clay often.
As I watched the segment on Clay, I thought of so many of the veterans from WWII and forward who came through our small surgical practice. The veteran who stood out was Bobby, a USMC Vietnam vet. He didn’t kill himself, but he tried several times over on his 20+ year path with alcoholism, incarceration, and drug addictions. The toll of this hard road took a turn when he arrived at the ER needing an amputation due to long festering diabetes. That’s how we ended up with Bobby.
Bobby finally found himself, and developed an ebullient attitude in the years we took over his care. When we announced we were leaving for the Army, Bobby was the first one there to offer his good wishes. He helped our staff write resumes and post them online. Sadly, he died of a heart attack just before we closed. I think during the time we knew him, there was a mutual guidance between our staff and him. But Marines –they never stop giving even in death. I like to think Bobby watches over us.
I guess I’m writing this as a cautionary tale. There are legions who want to help veterans and are jumping into this full of determination and good will. Like anyone else, the paths of vets will be varied. Many will go on to live good lives, others will struggle like Bobby, and a few will lose the battle like Adam Razani, Peter Linnerooth, or Clay Hunt. Those who want to help should remember this: know your capabilities, work as a team, and seek help when you need it. You will never know everything, as digging beneath someone’s surface may not be your prerogative, but you must never lose hope.
Practice simple things in your helping. Listen, let others talk. Don’t railroad a conversation, as I once witnessed a nurse from the VA do (she was endemic of everything wrong with the system). Never mistake someone’s being “busy” or outwardly engaged in activities as a sign that they don’t need the occasional boost. Still, on occasion, we may lose someone with whom we tried very hard. That’s when we have to tell ourselves, “Dammit, I tried my best.” You gave to them, and never think they didn’t notice. Judge neither them or yourself. Love that person and the memory of them with all your heart and if you can –stay in the good fight.
Note: This post is dedicated to military veterans Carl Salazar, US Naval Academy graduate founder of Expedition Balance; Lt. Jeannette Shin, former USN chaplain; and Matt Murray, former USAF pilot and sherpa to many veterans. All have done incredible work.