Archive for January, 2010

28
Jan

I spent this past weekend in Santa Fe with the Vet Art Project, which put on a workshop for veterans and family members.  The workshop’s purpose was two fold.  On Saturday it facilitated telling stories through art and writing, and on Sunday it brought civilian members of the community at large to witness the veterans’ stories.

While I had known that telling our stories is critical to our individual and collective healing, until this weekend my “knowing” was only of my mind, not my heart.  Because this weekend was the first time that I was a part of witnessing veterans speaking their truths.  It is one thing to read a veteran’s story and a whole other experience to be present physically before the veteran as they speak or read their piece.

One of the veterans at the workshop served in Vietnam and spent many years writing his memories, trying to give them form and intelligibility, trying to convey the experiences that created decades of physical and emotional anguish.   About seven years ago, he stopped writing, saying he felt he had to make a choice between continuing therapy and writing, that both created too much pain.

A local radio station program accepted a chapter he submitted, and we sat together as a group to listen as the program aired the veteran’s reading his piece.  This was the first time he had shared his writing.  As he sat amongst us we heard of a jeep ride a superior officer ordered him to take on a road notorious for its mines before the mines sweep had come along to clear the road.  The story’s language, dialogue, descriptions transported all of us to that road some forty-five years ago. By the end, the veteran did not need to explain his PTSD.  That one jeep ride, let alone all the other encounters he had had with terror, would have undone our souls.

When the story was over, he looked at us, we looked at him.  He saw our faces, our eyes, our mouths, our emotions brimming over. And in that moment I believe he knew community and validation.  If only for a fleeting afternoon, he was not alone with his pain.  His words had enabled us to receive it and feel it, renewing our bonds and responsibility to one another.  He told us later this was the safest he had ever felt in a group.

I wish this for every veteran.  We are obligated to be present for every single one of them.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
17
Jan

Two weeks ago, John Fisher of Soldier’s Heart told me about a woman in Chicago named Lisa Rosenthal, who founded Vet Art Project.  The Project organizes workshops across the country that use different art forms to help veterans heal from war’s wounds. As I learned more about Lisa’s work, I became both inspired and amazed. Inspired because of what she has been able to accomplish in a mere eighteen months, amazed because her work deeply connects to and echoes my journey and goals.

Vet Art Project is based on the belief that art not only is capable of healing the traumas of war but creates a community in the process: a community of veterans and a community of veterans and civilians, even if those civilians have no experience that begins to approach those of soldiers.  Because art creates a bridge of understanding.

Though Lisa only got the first workshops off the ground in Chicago in mid 2008, Vet Arts Projects now exist in Seattle, Phoenix, Texas, Santa Fe, and DeKalb, IL.  The reason, I think, is that people across the country are not only becoming aware of the consequences of war for the returning warrior but want to help.  We have come to recognize that peace will not be possible while war still rages within the veteran, and that as a society we have amoral duty to be present for the people who sacrificed their innocence in our name.

This coming weekend I and another artist from Denver travel to Santa Fe to be a part of a Vet Art project weekend. We will create stories with words, images, and movement; share stories and perspectives, and witness the veterans’ truths.  I will be eager to share the weekend on this website.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
5
Jan

In unearthing my father’s PTSD I recognized my own.  Then, as I began exploring how that repressed trauma had shown up in my life- how and when it had surfaced, percolated, erupted, and twisted my perceptions and motivations- I began to see my relationships differently.

Like my boyfriend during my mid to late twenties with whom I broke up many times and went back to many times.  He refused to get angry, always took me back, yet was never willing to engage himself fully.  I was the identified patient, as he refused to look at his part.  After all I’ve learned from veterans and their children, I think about that boyfriend’s father, who was an alcoholic and committed suicide in the mid 1970’s.  He was a WWII veteran.  His wife left him twenty-six years after the war, telling me that she had come to fear for her life, as his rage was surfacing with increasing violence.

That boyfriend refused to think about his recurring dreams where his father’s body threatened to fall out of its hiding place.   Instead, he blamed his mother for leaving his father.

Another boyfriend had a secret life.  He tired to hide not only his cigarette smoking from me but his obsession with a past girlfriend. How he often drove by her home, parked on the other side of the street, and watched the house.  He told me he had fought in Vietnam, that he hated the smell of Oriental cooking, but only years later from a mutual friend did I learn he had been a Green Beret.

He retired at age 50 so he could travel, though the only places he traveled to were Cambodia and Vietnam.  Two years ago he died in Cambodia, suddenly, the cause of his death never made known.  The memorial service announced in his obituary never occurred.

Another friend could not trust himself to be good to any woman.  “I don’t want to hurt you,” he told me after a weekend riding horses in the Rockies.   “And so I can’t see you again.  I’m just not healthy for women.”   He was also a veteran of Vietnam.

With all these men I blamed myself for the relationship not working.  I was not desirable enough, not light hearted enough, not loveable. Now I see that it was our wounds that attracted us to one another.  On some deep nonverbal level, we recognized a fellow sufferer. But what caused the attraction also made a real connection impossible.  We were desperately expending our life force keeping the anguish below the surface, deep within, and that cut off the flow of any other emotions.

Plato’s cave- we see only our own shadows and think they are reality. PTSD is a prison.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
فروشگاه اینترنتی خرید ساعت مچی ساعت مچی مردانه ساعت مچی زنانه قهوه نسکافه