The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order…the continuous thread of revelation. Eudora Welty
Our lives move forward on a continuum. Events happen every day. Some events are memorable and some are not. I have always found it interesting the things we have stored away and can recall and the things we can’t. Our memories are selective. Our brains store information….probably everything we ever did but most of it cannot be recalled.
I have been asked about my earliest memory. I have a memory but it is not really clear. I am standing in a crib in my mother and father’s room. That is all there is. There is no context…nothing more than that. I don’t know why I have that memory. It seems to have no significance but there it is.
Of course we remember traumatic events or days of special happiness but we don’t always remember the specifics and our memories will usually not match those of others who were there.
It is also interesting how memories can be triggered by other senses. A certain smell can cause recall. I grew up in Virginia and my family had large privet hedges around the back yard. When I smell privet it brings back memories of that place.
Music can remind us of a particular time that we heard it. We also experience the feelings associated with those memories. This can be a good thing but in the case of persons who have had a trauma it can bring it all back full force. That is what happens to those with PTSD. The memory comes with all the feelings of fear and horror.
How our brain keeps memories and which ones come to light is not fully known but more is learned each day.
Once again the things that happen here in the US fascinate and appall me. Years ago when teaching about suicide one fact that usually made people think was that the suicide rate among survivors is higher than others. It seems that the message of suicide is that if you can’t cope this is a way out.
I am wondering if the same mindset is encouraging all these random shootings. Have they seen others do this and see it as a solution? Are these people really our to kill strangers to appease some mental aberration, or is it a wish for suicide by cop to end their pain? Quite a few have been soldiers with possible PTSD but why did their anguish lead to random shooting? Were they suffering a flash back and saw those people as the enemy? The sad part it that we will never know
There are so many question and so few answers. Since so many of the killers end up dead there is no one to ask. Some want to blame weapons and there may be a link but if you really want a gun you can get one. I don’t think there is any way to remove all the weapons entirely.
I wish that we knew what to do to end this violence with pain for the families killed and the shooters family. No one wins.
So many questions…so few answers.
For those of us who suffer from anxiety I am sure that we realize that anxiety is fear. I’m not sure that we can identify the fear….or put a name to it. Maybe if we could do that we could conquer it..and that is the trick….learning how to conquer it.
All the coping skills that we learn are ways to shove the fear away and replace it with calm and resolve. When fear raises its ugly head we react with the flight or fight response. Our body is ready to go into battle. As most of us know, there is no battle looming. Only the one with ourselves.
Like those with PTSD too much adrenaline is coursing through us and our heart rate increases, alertness heightens, and we are hyper and fearful. We know it is anxiety and too often related to nothing threatening but there we are.
I wonder if we could stop and identify the specific fear it would help. Maybe just taking a good look at our worst thoughts would help us to be more realistic. Most of the time the bridge we are trying to cross is never coming.
I think I will add this to my list of coping skills to see if I can identify the threat and thereby defuse it. It really would be nice if this can be another skill to add to the arsenal.
Today I have thinking about my dogs. The two of them are such a joy. They have me get up laughing and go to bed laughing. They are so loving and caring. No one else greets me at the door so excited to see that I am home. They sense when I am happy and when I am sad.
If only we could be as kind and loving as my dogs. Most of us realize how much of an example dogs are for us. It seems they are the best of us. They have been exposed to humans for so long that now we are seeing them with the same illnesses that we have. My daughter recently adopted two bonded dachshunds…Lucy and Cash. Both dogs must have had a terrible life. They are both so stressed that they are on multiple meds for anxiety. Lucy is afraid of everything…especially men. Someone was very cruel to them.
It almost seems that we humans created such horror for those dogs that they have PTSD, were abused and hurt beyond imagining. We humans suffer too when life has hurt us so badly. We also suffer when, for no reason that we can see, anxiety, depression and other forms of anguish cause us to struggle to cope.
My daughter and her family are working hard to have those two dogs understand that they are safe and loved. Life would be better for everyone if we could all feel loved and safe.
I love my dogs. I grew up with dogs and so have had them in my home for 77 years. I don’t think that I would know how to live without them. If anyone gets to heaven it is dogs first.
For years we had Dachshunds but several years ago when we had lost one dog my son arrived at the door with at Basset a friend of his couldn’t keep. We are such suckers. If a dog comes into the house it almost never goes out. When our second dachshund crossed the rainbow bridge we adopted a second basset as companion for the first.
These two are so funny. We laugh at their antics daily. They are good dogs with some quirky habits. If we leave them at home the towels are pulled from the bathroom racks when we come back. Sometimes the towels appear in the bedroom. Never damaged…just moved. There are so many toys under the piano in a bin that it is overflowing. I put them back and very quickly, with much rummaging, specific ones are retrieved and distributed around the house.
If one dog is outside and sees something to share (bark at) he/she comes in to alert the other dog to come and join in.
I could go on but you get the idea. Dogs are a gift. They are being used in so many ways to help us humans with our problems and disabilities. Their ability to hone skills that we thought were impossible seems endless. Service dogs are used to sniff out diseases, help persons with PTSD, anxiety and depression, autism and many other things.
We need to thank God for the gift of dogs and other pets who enrich our lives.
Today we put up a Christmas tree. Like the Scrooge story I started thinking about Christmases past. Most of my memories are good but not all. There were two Christmases when my husband was in Viet Nam. There was one Christmas when I was in the hospital and not home with my children. The interesting thing is that I remember the happy years more than the sad ones. Our memories are selective. It’s funny how one person can remember an event clearly and someone else who has the same memory remembers it so differently. It has made me think about how our brains pick and choose which things to make easily accessible and which things are hidden away. We know that the memory is there somewhere. Why can’t we access it? My daughter says that our RAM memory is full. She may have a point. If only I could remember everything that I have learned.
I am grateful for the memories that I have and glad that some of the bad memories are less clear. I wonder if this is our way of living with the bad things. People who have PTSD can’t shake those bad memories and relive them over and over. That is living in a nightmare. I know that many people have bad memories that are so traumatic that they are vivid and color their days. That kind of memory produces pain that most of us can’t imagine.
I think that mental pain can be so much worse than physical. The torture that our own minds can produce is far worse than what someone else can do to us. That is why so many more suicides are committed by those in mental pain. There is no way to get away from it. Our thoughts rule out lives so we have to create ways to escape from that pain. The treatment of mental pain is so much better than it has been in the past. Now if we can just remove the stigma that accompanies it.
Christ cast out demons. I am sure that they were the same kind of demons that afflict us today. His healing is still there for us. We just need to be able to accept it.
In a previous post I mentioned reading the book Tribes. I have noticed lately that I am secure enough in myself to agree or disagree with someone. I have felt that way about the last few things that I have read.
Years ago I read a book about the PTSD that is being seen in our returning soldiers that was excellent. Being married to a military man (his first career) the book clarified for me many things that had changed in the handling of military personnel and that the changes were not good.
In the book Tribes the author suggests that if people who suffer from PTSD were integrated back into a loving community environment that it would be easier for them to recover. I am sure there is truth to this. Being accepted is critical to our well being. However, the way soldiers have been handled in Iraq and Afghanistan has created more stress than in previous wars. I think the PTSD is more severe than we have seen before.
Recovering from any traumatic event causes PTSD. If the event is sudden and ends quickly recovery is usually easier. Any of us have a big physical response to trauma. All of our fight or flight responses are activated with some major physical changes. Major amounts of Adrenalin are released, our heart rate increases, blood to areas of the body not needed is reduced and brain is super alert. This is what is supposed to happen in the short term but suppose you are in this mode over a long period of time. The body is physically stressed to the point where it is difficult to recover.
So what made this happen to our soldiers? In previous wars there was a front……an area where the fighting took place and units were rotated back from the front for rest and time to come down from the high. In the last wars there has been no front and soldiers are in danger no matter where they are. They are never free from the adrenaline rush. There is no place to rotate them to for rest. During Viet Nam soldiers served (usually) one year and knew that they would be rotated home at the end of that time. They were usually away from battle for at least two years before being sent back. (If at all) Many of the prime units used in recent times have been at war for an undetermined length of time. (usually shorter than before) They were brought home and may be sent back in a few months. Some of them 4 or 5 times or more. The time away from battle has not been long enough for any sort of recovery. This information is not hearsay. I have personal knowledge of this.
Having said all of this I know that the writer of the Tribe is correct is saying that recovery is better if there is integration into a community. Unfortunately, for most of the sufferers there is no community awaiting them. Many can’t find a job or have any major support system. Their trauma has also been so much more severe than previous cases we haven’t really learned how we can help. Work is being done but maybe too little, too late.
Wow! I really needed to say all of that! It has bothered me for a while.
Anxiety and stress and difficult for any of us to handle. How much more so if we were exposed to life threatening events over a long period and then expected to return to normal over night.
It is only in the last few years that I have realized that anxiety (and related problems) runs in families. It may manifest itself differently in each person but those descended from us may have it. Since there are two people involved in conception it is not 100% that a family member will have it. In my family I now realize that there are several of us who suffer with some form of this. More than one of us has some anxiety, OCD, depression and/or inability to sleep. The only light is that they can see at the end of the tunnel me still moving along at 76. They can feel comfortable that it is possible to manage these problems and live a good life. In the early years of my life anxiety, depression etc were not understood or talked about. Where women were concerned it was brushed off. In the south it was often called the “vapors” and you could go to a hospital to return to a calm demeanor. Some women just kept to their rooms. I am sure that most of you have read or seen Pride and Prejudice where the mother is constantly in a state of anxiety.
As the years went on I learned that certain situations caused me extreme stress with some symptoms of anxiety such as sleeplessness, increased heart rate, etc. I had one panic attack in college and the school had a psychiatrist who gave me ?Valium short term. I felt there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t face some things without anxiety. I tried so hard to change but nothing helped. I felt guilty for being the way I was and never talked about it. It was a no no subject.
Thank God things have changed. The invention of anti-depressants and other meds that can help the symptoms make this no longer a guilty secret. I know that my problem is mild compared to many and that I am not crazy. This is the information that I feel the need to pass on to anyone suffering from these disorders ,,,,especially to those I love.
You can live a full life. You don’t have to hide or be ashamed. Doctors now realize that this a brain wiring problem and much research is being done on the brain to identify where the various problems are located and what can be done to help. This also doesn’t mean that you must be born with it. Extreme trauma such as PTSD can cause the wiring glitch. There is a recent book by a lifelong anxiety sufferer called On Edge – A journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Peterson. It can be a tough read but she has done major research with scientists who are studying the problems. It may or may not be something you want to read but I found it enlightening.
The most important thing to remember is that we are not some weird creation. “God didn’t make junk.” (from marriage encounter) We have issues just like everyone else. Ours were taboo for a long while but that has changed and will continue to as more research is done. Hang in there! I lived through “the dark ages” and have a wonderful husband and family. Life is good most of the time. You can do it!
Today has been a good day. Since I have situational anxiety and the situation has resolved I am beginning to come down. Since my husband is retired military I care deeply about those soldiers who have PTSD and have some understanding of what they experience. I am fortunate that my episodes are usually short and only take a short while to get over but I can understand how unbelievable it must be to have that much adrenaline running all the time. In the current war zones there is no time away. There is no front. There is no getting away from the stress. They are hyped up 24 hours a day for as long as they are there. Our bodies do not respond well to this sort of stress. Excess adrenaline increases heart rate, blood pressure and so many other things. These soldiers frequently come home for only a few months and are on their way back to the front. How can anyone be immune to mental and physical ailments. I hope that some of the studies on the brain and anxiety can be used to come up with some help for these men and women.
It makes me and my issues seem small by comparison. Unfortunately, that knowledge doesn’t help when my buttons are pushed. I want to remember how much worse it could be but there are times it doesn’t help. I am continuing to develop more coping skills for my day to day life and hope that I may at least reduce my response to bad situations. Sometimes you just want to ask “Why me?”
Comparisons are odious is a quote from Madeleine L’Engle