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Upcoming Community Events

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone holds a variety of social events and classes every month. Here are a few of our ongoing and upcoming events.

Crochet Class
Mondays from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Classes are held weekly and materials are provided!

Learn Practical Ways to Market Your Business
Co-sponsored by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center
Wednesday, January 30
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The first in a series of small business classes presented in partnership with the Tennessee Small Business
Development Center. Keep an eye on our social media channels for information on future class!

Yoga Classes
Wednesday, January 30
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Classes take place every second Wednesday and begin January 30 th .

Dinner and Dancing
Friday, February 8
6–8:00 p.m.
Join us for a night of dinner and dancing! Learn some new moves from professional dance instructor!

Events also coming up soon but with dates yet to be determined:
 Another ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) class in partnership with the
Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
 The monthly Writing Workshop meeting with Professor Erika Arcadia from Austin Peay State
University.
 Our monthly Family Movie Night!
Please check us out on Facebook (@CohenCenterstone), Twitter (@CohenClinicTN) and Instagram
(CohenClinicCenterstone) for upcoming event information or to sign-up and register!

In The Community

Since opening our doors in April of last year, the Cohen Clinic at Centerstone has sought to create a safe community space for veterans and military families by hosting a wide range of events and activities in our onsite community room.

Hundreds of participants have helped forge that community of support and the numbers just keep growing. That said, our outreach efforts extend far out into the community as well, and you’ll find Cohen Clinic staff participating in many offsite community events where veterans and mental wellbeing are the key focus.

In no particular order, here is just a sampling of the community room events and offsite events
that the Cohen Clinic at Centerstone has taken part in over the last three or four months:

Family Movie Nights
We pop the popcorn and fire up the big screen once a month (usually the third Thursday in the month) for a family friendly movie night. So far, the community room theater has shown Coco, Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Small Foot!

Arts for Hearts
The group’s volunteers first collaborated with the Cohen Clinic at Centerstone in December for a wreath-making event held in the community room. The class was a success, inspiring Arts for Hearts to share their creative passion with us on a regular basis. Beginning in February Arts for Hearts will partner with the Clinic to offer monthly arts and craft events!

Writing Workshop
Established in December, Austin Peay English professor Ericka Arcadia facilities a writing
workshop for aspiring wordsmiths once a month in our community room. The group continues
to evolve and share their work with new and established members frequently, even outside of
regular meetings.

Crochet Class
Setup and taught by one of our local veterans, the Clinic hosts a weekly crochet class where
participants are shown how to use crocheting as a relaxation technique, and how to make cool
stuff in the process!

Vivid Art Meditation
October saw the first of our art meditation classes hosted by Janay Moreland of Vivid: Art Meditation. These tranquil art sessions are designed to invoke relaxation, promote stress management techniques, and inspire inner peace.

Escape Room Z
Just in time for Halloween, the Clinic hosted a zombie-themed escape room event! Participants had to fight off hungry zombies and escape with the pizza pies!

Tails of the Trail Walks
Trails of the Trail is a Tennessee-based nonprofit group that routinely engages the public to hike with shelter dogs from animals shelters across the state. Both the dogs and volunteers get out for some exercise and socialization. Veterans and family members have their registration fees covered by the Cohen Clinic!

ASIST Workshop
In cooperation with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, The Cohen Clinic at Centerstone hosted its first ASIST workshop in December. ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, and was offered free of charge to veterans and military family members. The interest level for this workshop was very high, and we hope to offer it again in the near future.

Yellow Ribbon Fund Sponsorship and Food Drive
Over the holiday season, the Cohen Clinic at Centerstone sponsored a Veteran Family in need
through the Yellow Ribbon Fund, and collected non-perishable food items in a food drive.

Tennessee State Veterans’ Home
In the days leading up to Christmas, Cohen Clinic staff teamed up with our friends at the VTC and volunteered at the Tennessee State Veterans’ Home, serving meals and helping out as needed!

Partner Mixer
Just days into the new year, the Cohen Clinic at Centerstone held a partners mixer. We invited colleagues and fellow health care professionals from organizations, such as the VA, to celebrate our continuing work together in support of veterans and their families.

Groups and Workshops

The Cohen Clinic hosts regular programming for veterans and their family members. For more information and to sign up, contact Outreach Manager Meghan Williams.

Monday:

Access Group (King Counts and Nancy Bandel)
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Access Group is intended to provide support, information and encouragement for clients who are
currently awaiting assignment to an individual therapist. We do psychoeducation and open discussion of
coping skills and members can share ideas as to how best to work through challenges. This group is a
safe space and any information shared with the group will stay within the group.

Tuesday:

Chronic Pain Group (Elizabeth Sherr)
11:00 am – 12:00 pm, starting September 25 th , 2018
Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain (CBT-CP) will encourage participants to adopt an active problem solving approach to managing the challenges associated with chronic pain. Techniques
such as guided imagery, mindfulness mediation/relaxation, SMART goal formulation, coping styles,
cognitive restructuring and sleep hygiene will be covered. The group will foster an understanding of
thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors and how social environments can impact chronic pain, encouraging
healthy behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Combat Veterans Group (Don McCasland)
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, starting July 10 th , 2018
This group is for Post 9/11 combat vets, facilitated by a Post 9/11 combat vet. We will focus on issues
related to transitioning from a combat/military environment to a civilian environment, with a focus on:
relationships and communications with people who “don’t get it”, changing from a structured life to a
life where “anything goes, and no one cares about standards”, guilt and shame, goal setting, feelings of
a loss of comradery, and much more.

Next Steps (Kendra Lee)
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm, starting January 22 nd , 2019
This group is a weekly information session to offer support to clients before they begin therapy. Topics
covered include: What is Evidence Based Practice? Explanation of screeners and assessments during
intake and how progress is tracked. Self-Care. Mindfulness. Coping Skills. Local Area Resources and
Outreach opportunities in this community.

Wednesday:

Post 9/11 Women Veterans Group (Elizabeth Sherr)
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm (no start date)
This group is for post 9/11 women veterans. The group will focus on interpersonal skills and coping
strategies. Weekly topics will include: communication skills, relationships, navigating life outside of the
military, goal setting, women veterans’ health, comradery and much more.

Post 9/11 Women Veterans Group (Elizabeth Sherr)
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, starting September 26 th , 2018
This group is for post 9/11 women veterans. The group will focus on interpersonal skills and coping
strategies. Weekly topics will include: communication skills, relationships, navigating life outside of the
military, goal setting, women veterans’ health, comradery and much more.

Making Marriage Work: An Education Group for Couples (King Counts and Julie Adams)
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, starting November 7 th , 2018
During the “Making Marriage Work” group, you will learn what not to do and what you need to do in
your relationship to make it work and work well.  If the goal is a truly happy marriage, this group is for
you.

Caring for Caregivers: A Caregiver Support Group (Leahanna McDonald and Brittany Wilhelm)
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
This is an open support group for the caregivers of veterans, wounded service members, and
children/family members with special needs. This group will focus on self-care, psychoeducation, the
caregiving life style and empowerment, with the goal of reducing stress and improving quality of life.

Thursday:

Girl Power: A Support Group for Adolescent Girls (Tammy Leininger and Brittany Wilhelm)
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Together we’ll focus on positive ways to manage stress and other emotions, and build healthy
interpersonal skills. Weekly topics will include: Assertive communication, Problem solving, Building
resilience and self-esteem, Naming and taming feelings, Trust and intimacy and more!

Friday:

Choices – Anger Management Classes (Don McCasland)
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, starting July 6 th , 2018
Class topics covered include:
• How to identify your “anger cues”
• Understanding the physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects of anger
• Creating and using a personalized anger control program

Donald McCasland: Clarksville Therapist and Veteran With Endless Determination

Donald McCasland, LCSW-CCTP is one of CVN’s committed therapists at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone, in Clarksville, TN. As a veteran himself, Don uses his experiences during his 21 years in the service to better assist veterans and their family members by giving them the same quality care that saved his life. He is a big advocate of self-care and sees the importance of unplugging in nature, spending time with family, and engaging in other hobbies to de-stress and live a balanced lifestyle.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, such as where you grew up and your background leading up to joining us at CVN?

I was born and raised in Morristown, New Jersey. I went to high school at Morristown High School and was a spectacularly average or slightly below average student due to different priorities, so I just kind of cruised through high school-I was more interested in other things. But then I joined the army right out of high school in 1987. I served for a little over 21 years, and during this time I deployed to desert storm, that’s how old and dusty I am!

I went to a number of different places; Korea twice, Germany, Greece, Fort Hood Texas, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and I did my last 7 years in the Army at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and that’s how I ended up here in Tennessee. I also deployed to Iraq 3 times for Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 101st Airborne Division, first for the initial ground Invasion and then for the next two rotations after that. I retired from the army in 2009.

Christmas 2016 (left to right) Joanne, Don, Ian and Angela

A little about my family life – I got married to my wife Joanne in 1996 right before we went to Germany. She had no exposure to the military at all except for me, her grandfather was a pearl harbor survivor and she had some uncles in the navy. Once we got married we went to Germany, then went on to Bosnia for 9 months right away, so she got a crash course in being a military spouse in a foreign country, not knowing anyone and not having a job. She eventually did get a job, made friends, all without me because I was gone; this is really common in military families.

I’ve been married for 22 years now, there’s been lots of ups and downs, but she’s stuck around. Sometimes I wonder how or why when I look back on everything we went through and what I put my family through, it’s really something. My wife is also a licensed social worker. A fun family fact: she is an LMSW and my daughter is an LMSW so it’s a good time around the holiday table, you know. My son is 19 and he has no aspiration of being a social worker and that’s ok with us!

What was it like returning to civilian life?

Overall, my route wasn’t quite that direct. Deploying and returning three times meant every time I came back I brought more emotional baggage that I didn’t know how to deal with. As a platoon sergeant I was supposed to be the fixer, the problem solver, so that just made me cram it down internally even more. I was dealing with a lot of PTSD, survivors guilt, thoughts of suicide, especially towards the end during my last deployment. Eventually, things came to a head and reached a crisis point. I realized that if I didn’t get some help I was going to pretty much lose anything that mattered. So, I got serious about counseling, went to see a social worker, and was going to couples counseling at the time as well. Couples and individual counseling every week was pretty intense; I got help and once things started to fall into place I realized that there’s a lot of brothers and sisters out there struggling like I was, so I felt like I had to do something about it.

After I retired in 2009, I went to school at Austin Peay State University here in Clarksville, Tennessee. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work. While I was in school I became very active with veteran’s issues on campus and off. I helped start up the student veteran’s organization on campus, and I was the first chapter president for about 3 years. I also helped found a nonprofit in Clarksville that offered free counseling to active duty veterans and family members during my first year in undergrad. I worked through, did my masters, and eventually got to where I am today.

It’s incredible that you were able to take your experience and build a career to help others suffering, what was your greatest takeaway from this process?

Counseling was so helpful for me and I’m not sure where I would be without it today. It’s all part of my ongoing journey on the warriors’ path, to consistently check in with myself and figure out what direction I’m supposed to be heading in. I’ve found a little self-disclosure is really helpful to veterans when they first come in, I’m not ashamed to say I had thoughts of suicide or survivors guilt, and PTSD. I share that with my clients and a lot of times their eyes get really wide like “you know exactly what I’m talking about!”. When I share my experience, it can help the clients not have to justify why they feel the way they do or why they react the way they do to things, there’s just that instant understanding that they can be open in here and say what they need to say.

I’m an open book as much as appropriate, I don’t have problems sharing it. I like people to know that right now it feels like you can’t dig yourself out of this hole, but It can be done. It’s not easy, and there is a certain level of “heavy lifting” that needs to be done, but I am here to help them to sort through the issues while walking with them to stay on the path to reach their goals.

Can you tell me about your time spent in the service?

Specifically with the survivors guilt and the things that exacerbated the PTSD, I was exposed to a lot, and had some close calls where I walked away and other people didn’t. Another one of the things that really affected me was during my last tour. I was assigned as the remains recovery NCO in charge for our unit, which is exactly what it sounds like. So I had to deal with recovering remains of people that I had known, some of them I had even just seen an hour or 2 prior to something bad happening, which was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back. Having to do that was way outside my scope of experience and training, I was a senior NCO and an older guy so better to have me do it then the younger soldiers was the thought process behind it.

During my mid tour leave during my last tour in Iraq, I distinctly remember one of my low points at home riding around on the mower cutting the grass that was an eighth of an inch high – that was one of the ways I isolated myself from my family. That’s what I did a lot, and one day I was just cruising along in the backyard and a thought just popped into my head that if I killed myself all of this would just stop. I didn’t have this emotional moment or epiphany or anything, it had no impact on me whatsoever, I just felt like ok, that’s an option.

Don with son Ian, backpacking at Savage Gulf State Park, TN May 2017

Looking back on it, the only thing I think that saved me oddly enough was going back to Iraq because when you’re there you push everything out except for the mission, mission accomplishment. Everything else takes a backseat. When I went back it was all about that, I had grenades and a weapon and plenty of rounds to do what I wanted to do with plenty of time to think about it, but in Iraq I was able to focus on the task at hand and push aside how I was feeling about this. That’s what I think kept me from doing it – just being in Iraq. That’s a scary thought.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love camping, backpacking, spending time in nature- that’s kinda my zen place. I’m an avid backpacker and camper, I love doing it with my son, he really enjoys it too and sometimes I’ll even go off by myself if everyone else is busy – I’ll walk a few miles, put my hammock up, make a cup of tea, take a nap, and just enjoy the time to unwind by myself. That’s my big self-care thing, I also like to go to a native American sweat lodge – there’s a place here in Tennessee outside of Knoxville that has a lot of things going on in regards to Native American spirituality which really interests me.

A sweat lodge is a not quite a tent, but more like a dome where they heat up rocks in a fire then pour water on them so steam fills the space to make you sweat – there are different ceremonies and prayers that happen while you’re in the lodge – but the idea is to create this connection between mother earth, nature and your inner spirituality. It’s a way to cleanse and make that connection with yourself and your surroundings, like a healing ceremony. The one I go to is run by a Vietnam vet, he’s been doing it for about 20 years – he had 10 or 15 years of training with a Native American spiritual healer who’s from Arizona/New Mexico area, so I really enjoy that.

Don whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon, August 2018

Fun fact about me – I’m a huge fan of the movie The Big Lebowski, I actually attend the yearly Big Lebowski festival in Louisville, Kentucky which is about 3 hours away. My wife has gone with me, I’ve gone with friends, it’s just been a really good time. They have bowling, trivia contests, people dress up as the characters in the movie, and we sit out in this park area where they have a giant projector screen set up so we can watch the movie together.

How have things been going at the Clarksville clinic since the grand opening?

Our soft opening was April 26, so right away we had a surprising amount of people come through the door. It wasn’t as surprising to me because I had done counseling in Clarksville with the VA for a couple of years prior, so I knew the demand, and the desperate need for services here. We knew it was going to be shocking, numbers wise and we knew it was going to be nothing like anything the other clinics experienced before, and its panning out to be that way.

It’s very busy, which is ok because that means people are getting the help they need, they’re willing to come forward and put their faith and trust in us. So, it’s a good thing!

Have you faced any challenges so far in your time at the clinic?

Just the typical challenges you face when trying to help veterans and their family members work through the things they’re trying to work through; we get a lot of support from the network – that’s definitely been a plus – it makes things easier in that there’s always opportunities for professional development and growth which is a big deal for me personally. There is also a big stress on self-care as well, which is also very important to me because if we’re not at our best and can’t be 100%, then that means we can’t be at our best for our clients when they need us the most. I think I appreciate this so much more because this wasn’t always my experience at previous places of employment.

Don with wife Joanne, seeing Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, October 2017

 What is your favorite sports team?

I don’t have a favorite sports team actually! I used to watch sports and I used to play sports growing up, but don’t have a specific interest in one sport or one team. I am, however, a football widower as my wife grew up in the Baltimore area – she is a huge Ravens fan! When football season starts I watch with her occasionally but sometimes things get heated in the house during games so I’ll go and give her some elbow room to enjoy the game. She’s very enthusiastic about them to say the least!

Return to the The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone home page.

 

 

Meet Centerstone’s Center for Clinical Excellence

Since being established in 2012, our mission at the Center for Clinical Excellence (CCE) is to support our Noble Purpose: delivering care that changes people’s lives. Often, this means working on projects that support our colleagues who provide direct care.

What is the Center for Clinical Excellence (CCE)?

Along with Research & Evaluation and Informatics, the Center for Clinical Excellence is a part of the Centerstone Research Institute. The goal of CCE is to identify projects that improve quality of care and patient outcomes; how do we help get people better, faster?

Centerstone’s senior leadership team works with CCE to prioritize and approve our projects. The CCE collaborates with experts across the Centerstone enterprise to develop these initiatives into clinical models, pathways and processes. After development, CCE works with staff to put what we’ve developed into practice.

What are clinical models, pathways, and processes?

  • Clinical Models: Behavioral health care can be divided into service lines, such as substance use services or community-based services for adults. Clinical models define what a given service line looks like and provide a framework for how we can deliver consistent care across Centerstone. Models are developed using the best science and research available in our industry and integrate data that can tell us whether individuals get better as a result of our care. Each clinical model includes resources to help guide implementations such as a handbook, training materials, staff supervision resources, client handouts and assessments tools.
  • Clinical Pathways: Like clinical models, clinical pathways are created using the best science available. However, instead of broader service lines, clinical pathways look at a specific group of patients with a predictable clinical course. For example, what does the research say is the best first-line treatment for individual’s diagnosed with depression? If those interventions are not effective, what change in treatment does the evidence say you should do next? Clinical pathways provide a detailed roadmap with steps for client care based on best practice. CCE strives to ensure that pathways provide a helpful structure for clinicians but also remain flexible enough to support shared decision making with our clients and help us provide patient-centered care.
  • Clinical Processes: Clinical processes include all the parts of our workflows and make up actions by which we move patients along their clinical pathway. Examples include how individuals set up new appointments, complete the intake process, how clinicians complete progress notes and how we provide appointment reminders. CCE works with leaders and colleagues to discover which processes may be improved upon to help us achieve better treatment outcomes, increased client and staff safety, improve the clinical workflow or achieve cost savings through improved workflows.

Together, through these efforts, we expect to increase the use of evidence-based practices, industry best practices and how we can use data to provide better treatment.

Do you or your loved one need help? Explore our services to learn more about the ways we can help.

 

Ashley Newton, MPS, PMP is Vice President of the Center for Clinical Excellence. Ashley leads the Center for Clinical Excellence team as it continues its work to develop research-based care models and provide training and technical assistance to Centerstone operations’ efforts to implement care models and excel in new value based care environments.

 

Happy Birthday U.S. Army

June 14 marks the 242nd birthday of the US Army — initially established in 1775 as the Continental Army. The new force was made up of 22,000 militiamen already gathered outside of Boston plus 5,000 more in New York. On June 15, 1775, Congress named Virginian George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

Since then, the Army has fought in many battles under harsh conditions to keep our country safe. One of the unique attributes its leaders and soldiers continue to possess is their ability to quickly identify the problem at hand and execute decisive direction, capturing the indefatigable spirit of the American serviceman or servicewoman.

A review of General Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge, Virginia is an excellent example of this American spirit and determination in action. Washington came to Valley Forge, a promised rest location for him and his men as winter approached following a year of battle. However, when the Army men finally arrived, they found none of the requested barracks built and no stocks of food or equipment that they so desperately needed. Limited hand tools were available for construction of better encampments, and those tools that did exist were used to build forges to make more tools — all at the expense of immediate shelter. The Army, 75 percent of whom were barefoot, remained in open camps without food or warm clothing. Only through mutual sacrifice, a firm belief in their cause and the talent of Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers was the Army able to march on nearby Philadelphia the following summer as the British army vacated the city.

Despite significant transformation in our world over the past 242 years, the main values and fortitude held by the US Army have not changed. Another example of this resourcefulness can be seen in Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s bayonet charge from Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Or in recalling Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s famous words “ We’ll start the war from right here!” when the Army incorrectly landed one mile from their target on Utah Beach during WWII. Most recently, another example of this conviction can be seen when Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith found himself and his platoon violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. This non-commissioned officer — an engineer — organized the few forces and equipment available to him to facilitate the withdrawal of his men while he manned machine guns and threw grenades to hold back the enemy at the cost of his own life.

The US Army, as an institution, has defended this country honorably for 242 years. Today, this Army is still standing the pickets of freedom around the globe.

So, if you see a veteran in the grocery store or at a family gathering today, please take a minute to thank them for their services and wish them another happy birthday.

 

Kent Crossley, Executive Director, Centerstone Military Services; his 30-year military career began as a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point followed by Infantry and Special Operations assignments, including, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Commander, 364th Civil Affairs Brigade in Iraq, Chief of Analysis, Integration and Dissemination for Army Lessons-Learned, and Joint Lessons-Learned Team Leader. Overseas deployments include Operation Joint Endeavor (Bosnia), Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Kent holds two Master level degrees; one from Portland State University and the other from the U.S. Army War College.

In September, 2015, Kent was named Executive Director of Centerstone Military Services.

 

There’s a Stranger in My House

Post-traumatic stress has become a familiar term. It’s still difficult for family and friends at home to understand what happens to a person because of combat. Often, spouses and other family members simply do not have a context for what happens to a combat survivor.

“My loved one went to war. Someone else came home.” A warrior returning from combat is changed in a number of ways. One part of the change is the psychic/emotional numbing that happens in combat. I believe anyone who returns from combat and isn’t depressed just wasn’t paying attention.

Depression is an unfortunate part of emotional numbing. As a combat survivor from Vietnam, the problem I had with depression was that I did not know that I was depressed. This is not uncommon. Depression comes in a variety of sizes. My size was boredom. Once I got out of the army, trying to live as a “civilian” was incredibly boring. The things people talked about: boring. My civilian job: necessary, but boring. A children-centered family life, which people around me seemed to have: boring. No, I did not want to go to a parent-teacher conference.

There is also a connection between depression and “adrenalin addiction” which is common among combat survivors. Sometimes, when you look at a warrior with post-traumatic stress, you have a sense that “nobody is there.” The eyes are vacant. There is no movement, except perhaps a bent leg moving up and down like a piston.

You speak the person’s name. No answer. You try again, speaking the name louder and with some concern. Then you freeze in place. Your loved one blasts to their feet, glaring at you with intense anger and is on the edge of becoming extremely violent.

That’s not normal, right? The reality is that, for a combat survivor, it is normal. This was my version of what was going on inside of me when my wife would “startle me” or unknowingly did something that triggered my PTSD. I did not consciously think through any of what happened next.

In situations like these, when I finally heard my wife saying my name, I immediately felt incredibly vulnerable. I had not been aware of my surroundings! Realizing that I was vulnerable scared me. A massive adrenalin surge (just like I felt in combat) went through me. The terror of being vulnerable instantaneously transformed into combat rage. I was ready for combat, and any bit of depression I may have had was gone.

Sometimes this sequence happened when I was alone, when I recalled a vivid memory. Except it wasn’t just something I was remembering. It was an event I was reliving.

I seemed to be especially susceptible to these events when I was driving. It wasn’t road rage directed at anyone. It was more like being threatened by some “presence” that I could not see. My foot slammed the accelerator to the floor and it stayed there until reliving the event went away. I did hear growls and roars and screams, though. Those were mine.

This brings us to a very important point about recovery from combat-induced post-traumatic stress: veterans remember. Survivors relive.

The effects of combat PTSD on a warrior’s family can range from disruptive to extreme. Help and healing are available. If the effects of a warrior’s combat experience are a concern for your family, please contact us.

Our providers are experienced working with the unique culture of the military. Several are former military. Learn more about the services offered nation-wide by Centerstone Military Services.

Ken Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran (11th Cavalry 67-68), a speaker, an advocate, and a writer. His focus is recovery from combat induced PTSD. Supporting our troops, veterans, and their families as they work their way through recovery from PTSD drives Ken to be actively engaged on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media venues. Although he served eight years as a volunteer and staff counselor at the Anchorage Vet Center, he is not a clinician. His comments and observations are based on his own experience of living with combat induced PTSD for the past 40+ years.

 

 

 

Identifying PTSD

Since 2002, over 100,000 military service members have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
 

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person is involved or witness to a life-threatening or terrifying event.  This can be anything from combat to rape to an automobile accident.  Most people who have gone through a traumatic event will have stress related reactions afterward.  This is common and to be expected.  However, not everyone who endures a traumatic event has or develops PTSD.  Roughly 30% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War veterans, 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, and 11% of veterans from the war in Afghanistan have developed PTSD.  The biggest percentage of our service members and veterans do not suffer from PTSD.
 

How do I know if I have PTSD?

The process of identifying and diagnosing PTSD can vary from person to person.  There are several common symptoms that typically arise in those facing this issue. Even if you or your loved one has been screened for PTSD in the past, it may be valuable to reassess the situation since symptoms of PTSD often develop or worsen over time.

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional numbing
  • Avoiding activities once enjoyed
  • Hopelessness about future
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding thoughts and discussions about traumatic events
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Hyper-vigilance and/or easily startled
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Heightened stress levels
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unprovoked fear or distress
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
     

Why can’t I just ‘get over it’?

If a person suffering from PTSD could simply “get over it”, they would.  PTSD is not just remembering the trauma over and over.  It is a painful and disruptive issue that plagues not only service members and veterans, but civilians as well.  It causes physical changes in the brain and body that bring a wide range of symptoms.
 

What do I do now that I think I may have PTSD?

Once you or your loved one recognizes the signs and symptoms of PTSD, the next step is choosing to seek care. This is often a difficult decision for a number of reasons. Many people resist seeking help out of fear of being thought of as weak or that others may lose confidence in them. A person dealing with PTSD may also convince themselves that treatments will be ineffective or will cause side effects. Despite these reservations, it is important for someone suffering from PTSD to get help. Without treatment, PTSD does not get better and in some cases it can worsen. Treatment is important at any stage regardless of whether you or your loved one has been suffering for months or years. It’s never too late to reach out for help.
 

Can Centerstone Military Services help me or my loved one?

Yes, we can.  Centerstone Military Services serves everyone whose lives are impacted by military service including Veterans from all Active Duty and Reserve components (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines) – regardless of discharge status. We also offer programs and services for immediate and extended family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues of those who have served. You do not have to be in a current crisis to call or email us for help.  Simply call 866.781.8010, available 24/7, or email our counseling line at MilitaryService@centerstone.org to get the process started.
 

Further Reading – because understanding is half the battle.

What is PTSD
Partners of veterans with PTSD
PTSD – The Mayo Clinic
PTSD Symptoms: How Trauma Affects the Brain

Finding Our Words of Recovery

Writing Down The Bones is the title of a book that I came across as I was struggling through the resolution of my experience from Vietnam. The book is written by a lady named Natalie Goldberg. What I found so valuable about Natalie’s approach to writing was the authenticity of her writing about anything.

This is not the kind of writing that we were indoctrinated with in school. Natalie affirmed two things for me. First, is that authentic writing is difficult. We struggle with ourselves to be rid of the domestication that made us teachable in school.

The second, is that writing about our personal experience is a cop out. This kind of writing is for story tellers, entertainers, children’s hour at the library.

Allowing ourselves to be immersed in our experiences of combat requires valor, a personal commitment to writing IT. Not writing about IT, but the courage of the frontal assault across open ground to engage our greatest fears, our worst experiences, and our overwhelming guilt for having survived.

IT is where we go in our daily thoughts and nightly terrors. As warriors, as survivors we live IT in every moment.

Writing IT as it happened, as we saw, and heard, and smelled and felt IT, this is the ever present reality some call our life.

Writing down the bones for ourselves as warriors, as combat survivors is one way that we can begin our journey Home.

So, began my encounter with IT, the beginning of my journey home.

In the fog of traumatic stress there was no way of describing what the experience of combat had done to me. My body was the only thing that came back alive. The rest of me had been killed along the way. The rest of me was the part that felt nothing.

There were no emotions other than the incessant rage I learned never let out. All the rest of me was numb, except for the guilt. The survivor guilt that continuously gnawed at me. The guilt of still being alive.

For years these were feelings for which I had no words.

My heart began writing three days after I had been at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the capitol mall. The writing was an unintended and essential movement of my heart and hand.

My choice was to let the words happen. There was nothing special about the environment. I was seated in a fast food restaurant my back against a wall and a clear line of sight to the door.

For reasons I don’t remember I had a handful of 3×5 cards that I was shuffling. Placing a card on the table words began to appear on the card. The words seemed to happen faster than I could think them. These were heart words.

Death did not come peacefully in Viet Nam.
It did not lie on satin covers,
surrounded by flowers and grieving loved ones.
Death was not attended to by skilled professionals
competent in the art of giving death a peaceful appearance.
In Viet Nam death raged, full blown and evil,
from the bowels of the earth. 

Death shrieked in ecstasy
amidst the screams of the wounded.
Death glided effortlessly through the gunfire,
pausing only briefly to assure itself that the mutilated body
that another young man held in his arms
had no pulse. 

Death viewed its handiwork with satisfaction
as the scorched, tree-like husk
of an incinerated human being
was stuffed, amid retching and curses,
into an olive drab plastic bag. 

Ever present, death clung defiantly and in jubilation
to the absurdity of Viet Nam.
Death exerted its dominance
through all of the human senses,
especially the most primal sense,
the survivor’s sense of smell.
What did Viet Nam smell like?
Diesel fuel, cordite, and death. 

Survivors did not come back to the world with maturity.
They returned very, very old.

Thirty-seven thousand words, a few at a time in different places, quiet places. Often I did not know what I had written until I re-read the words. Those words that were right for me. The words were an essential part of my journey home.

In a quiet place, at a quiet time you may find the words that will begin you journey home. I hope so.

Ken Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran (11th Cavalry 67-68), a speaker, an advocate, and a writer. His focus is recovery from combat induced PTSD. Supporting our troops, veterans, and their families as they work their way through recovery from PTSD drives Ken to be actively engaged on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media venues. Although he served eight years as a volunteer and staff counselor at the Anchorage Vet Center, he is not a clinician. His comments and observations are based on his own experience of living with combat induced PTSD for the past 40+ years.

Using Equine Therapy in Retreat Setting

“It’s just a coincidence.”

It was a phrase Suzi Landolphi, expert equine therapist and newest addition to the Boulder Crest Retreat staff, repeated constantly throughout our Saturday morning with her, a tongue-in-cheek way of stating what every woman there felt: that the horses’ movement around us was no accident.

Horses are incredibly instructive personalities for humans for several reasons, Landolphi explained to Devin, our Content Leader, and I before we began our retreat. “Dogs are wonderful, therapeutic animals that make you feel good because they want to please you. They are codependent that way! Horses are not codependent.” Because horses’ primary concern is safety, as herd animals they respond to other animals in a way that keeps them in line with the pack. That allows them not to mirror us as humans, but to let us know what energy we are giving off. “Your insides have to match your outsides for a horse to feel safe with you,” Suzi said to our group of 12 caregiver spouses.

Suzi asked us all to work on being present in the moment, and when we did, the horses began to look at us more closely. “It’s just a coincidence,” she said. When one spouse needed support, a horse walked over to her and put his nose on her shoulder. “But it’s just a coincidence,” she said. When another stood tall and asserted herself as a leader, the horse followed. “It’s just a coincidence,” we chorused with her. Other times, we would have to step into the horse’s space and change our energy to match his. When we did, the horse calmed. Just a coincidence?

The whole weekend felt like that, one moment after another. I watched each person at the retreat, our team members included, be fully present in the moment and when they were, magic followed. I saw one team member dance for the first time at a retreat, a participant fearlessly fling herself upside down into a handstand against a tree at an alarming angle, and countless other amazing moments that I’ll keep in our quiet little community. What a simple lesson, though, about how much change we can affect in ourselves just by noticing what already is.

Leave it to a couple of horses to teach us how to be fully human.

Contributed by Jenny Carr