Resources: Maryville University Supports Veterans Earning College, Graduate, and Post-Graduate Degrees

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Disclaimer: Resource Posts provide information and links to the organization sharing information with guests here. I DO NOT promote, advertise, or receive any benefit/compensation for sharing the information and links.

Short Sabbatical Break; Extra Post this month

My partial sabbatical is going well so far. I’ve been concentrating on family stuff and the paid job. Aromatherapy certification requirements are on hold. Herb classes online work as a TV alternative and fun hobby to relax and learn something interesting after work. So does creating aromatherapy blends.

I continue to brainstorm new ideas for Untangled Connections and figure out where it’s headed in 2020. My plan was to write a post on Halloween since it is an Anniversary I never shared much about here in the past.

But then I got an email from an outreach coordinator at Maryville University’s Online college program about 1.5 weeks ago asking me:

  1. Am I still updating Untangled Connections?
  2. Would I add their article about Veterans, PTSD, and higher education to my Resources page if I was still updating the site?
  3. This article can help Veterans and people working with Veterans succeed in college and other higher education pursuits.
  4. Our University also offers other resources and support for veterans and active duty soldiers who want to enroll in college or graduate school

At first, I didn’t know what to say. This would be a big opportunity for me, but also triggering, in many ways. Talking with my counselor helped, and so I decided to share this resource with you. All of the links go back to Maryville University

In Support of Maryville University’s Active Work with Veterans and Active Duty Soldiers

I work with Maryville University, a nationally recognized private institution offering comprehensive and innovative education.

Our health guides aim to spread awareness on various mental conditions and break the stigma surrounding them. Seeing your page, I thought our guide would be a great addition to it. You can review it below:

https://online.maryville.edu/online-bachelors-degrees/psychology/understanding-a-veteran-with-ptsd/

This resource provides valuable information that your audience may find helpful.

Maryville University Outreach Coordinator

When this email appeared, my first thoughts were:

  • I’m not qualified to write about this
  • Wow, this is a first – a higher education institute requesting to be added here – exciting and scary
  • But I really want to share this resource here and help guests who are part of the military or military families.
  • How can I do justice to this topic and this resource?

Then I reached out to the coordinator (forgot to ask permission to include this person’s name here) and explained the reason for a delayed response (sabbatical) and my process for adding a resource. If this process was acceptable, I’d do the research and publish the post on the next Sunday (today).

Also, was there anything else the coordinator wanted to share with my guests? Answer below

Maryville’s Understanding a Veteran with PTSD guide aims to spread awareness on our heroes’ off-field worst nemesis: PTSD. The guide contains information on how we can understand their situation more and how to help them get through the situation as well.

Maryville University Outreach Coordinator

In Support of Veterans and Active Duty Soldiers

As you know, I am not a veteran and have never been part of the US Military or a government employee. I do not claim to know anything about being a soldier or what it’s like to serve the US or any country in this capacity.

My time as a soldier was for the paramilitary branch of a human trafficking organization disguised as a cult. The leaders were predominantly pedophiles who trained kids they got tired of as child soldiers instead of killing or throwing them away. It wasn’t voluntary, but it taught me how to survive.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege to know and learn from many veterans and soldiers. One of my favorite uncles was a Navy veteran who shared his love of cooking with me growing up. Many of my mentors at the paid job are veterans too. Finally, some of my TCM or acupuncture providers at the teaching clinic have been veterans.

Choices, Experiences, Trauma

One topic that often comes up in our conversations is perspective about trauma and PTSD. They can acknowledge my experiences as traumatic easily, but have difficulty applying the word “traumatic” to some of their military experiences.

One person told me it’s because soldiers choose the military life and what it entails to follow orders from command. Sometimes those orders include actions they would not otherwise commit outside of military life. Therefore, they were not really traumatized or victims of trauma.

In some ways, I can agree with that. But not in other ways. Because not all trauma survivors are victims or victimized. Many are. But not everyone.

Plus, he and other soldiers or veterans may have chosen their career paths – chosen to follow orders – but they did not choose to be traumatized by the experiences of being a soldier. They chose to follow orders, not to commit acts that would scar them in so many ways.

I believe this because I experienced it. What many people don’t realize (and I hardly ever share anywhere or with anyone) is that I chose to go back to the scary other life in college. I chose to be part of that world for many years because it felt safer and more secure than exploring the unknown other world.

It wasn’t until I got the permanent, paying job and learned how to function in the “legitimate” “normal” world with friends and peers that I decided to leave the other world behind.

So yes, like the soldiers and veterans, I chose to go back to that familiar world and be an active part of traumatic experiences that only reinforced childhood lessons for many years even though I had many opportunities to leave.

Was I a victim because I chose to go back to that world? I don’t know.

Does serving in the military make soldiers and veterans victims of trauma? I don’t know.

It’s a matter of perspective to be honest. Not just how the world views us, but also how we view ourselves

Helping Ourselves by Helping Each Other

If you or anyone you know may find this information beneficial, please share it how ever you choose.

Thanks for reading

ADMIN: A selfie gravatar…and other news

Hi All,

My original goal was to announce the new website and blog by the end of June.  Along with that, I hoped to make some useful updates to this blog too.

This blog did get a makeover.  I hope it’s more user friendly, but am still learning about different features available here.

My other website is still in progress even if the domain name and home page are partly set up.  I have some ways to go before I start posting, so it’s not being advertised yet.

In other news, I updated the gravitar with a headshot.  Now you get to see me, but without my everyday glasses :/

In the event we ever run into each other in real life, please don’t be offended if I am less than social.  As often as I try to be friendly and polite, I often look the opposite because I’m so busy coping with stuff in my head.  And, well, I have a hard time remembering faces/names/people in general unless we meet in a place that feels safe.

So, there you have it.  One more step into the wide world.  One less option for hiding.  If you want to “see” me, feel free to view my gravatar.

Thanks for reading.

Family: Reflecting on Changes & Possibilities

Air Plane Coping Strategies Part 2:

Yesterday, I couldn’t post anything.  The flight was delayed Saturday evening, and I barely made my connection Sunday morning.  Then, most of the afternoon/evening was spent with my family.

Here are some photos of what I used  to cope with the 2.5 hour delay, crowded air planes, and stress of trying to get to my connection on time.

On the positive side, the airport’s counter service and flight attendants were amazing and compassionate in helping me cope with the delays and flight changes.  On arrival, the bus driver was helpful and kind; he asked questions and let me know when to get off the bus.  And the hotel concierge got me checked in and settled without any issues.

Family

This time around there was less pressure on everyone.  Staying at the hotel gives me the space I need to take care of myself and feel safe.  Being close to public transportation means I can come and go as I please and be able to visit family for hours at a time.

We are all working hard to get to know each other as adults.  My aunts, uncle, and I are building relationships through open communication, compromise, and love for each other.  When we disagree, we talk about it and resolve the issues instead of stomping off and yelling and holding grudges.

They don’t feel forced to play host to a guest and entertain me all the time.  I don’t feel forced to be talkative and entertaining all the time.  We give each other space; do everyday things; and enjoy quiet time together.  We spend time in groups or one on one; and this time around no one feels left out or excluded by accident or on purpose.

It feels really good to be able to come home to family and enjoy our time together.

Reflection Topics

News about my parents – their health is worsening.  My aunts and uncle tell me that my dad worries about me; that he’s happy I am safe and happy too.

Reconnecting with mom’s side of the family – starting small with my cousins.  Moving on with others as time goes on.  But not sure I want to go back to the place I was raised.

Writing to my dad – My dad told his family that he heard from a cousin I was happy living in the Pacific Northwest.  He also told them he was glad that I was safe and happy more than anything else.  With my dad, there was a lot of good mixed in with the bad before puberty.  So maybe it’s time to write to him…if I can find a way to do that and make sure he’s the only one to read the letter

Conclusion

I’ve changed since walking away in 2012.  Seems like my family members have changed too.  This trip, while unexpected, really brought home that family changes, people change, and sometimes a happy ever after does come true.

So it’s time to reflect.  Time to reconsider what is possible.  And what is not possible.  I won’t ever move back here.  But maybe I will budget and create time in my calendar for a yearly visit.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Does a traumatic past = unhappy or terrible past?

Halloween is tomorrow.  From an objective perspective, I enjoy people watching and seeing the families with young children trick-or-treating.  From a personal perspective, my triggers are still too raw for my to actually enjoy the holiday.

So here is Wednesday’s post a few days early.

Background

Saturday afternoon, I was doing errands and visiting friendly people in the neighborhood.  It was the first day all week that I felt somewhat energetic and able to go out.  Not sure about you, but sometimes, in spite of using every coping strategy possible and trying to stay healthy, the flashbacks, triggers, pain, and exhaustion win.  And it comes down to choices: stay in, rest and be able to work; or go out, enjoy the nice weather, do errands, and come home feeling tired/sick/unable to work then next day?

But Saturday, started off pretty good and continued that way until obligation reared its ugly head.  Not sure if you recall, but I wrote a few posts back in August/September about toxic relationships and communication with people in my life.  My choice was to share the posts as a way of discussing the issues with them and then let those individuals make the next move since verbal conversations turned into stressful arguments or worse.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4.

Well, one of those individuals reached out indirectly; not through email, Facebook, text or anything like that.  Maybe this person expected me to come back and visit or reach out in some way?  When that didn’t happen, a mutual acquaintance “casually” asked if I was stopping by a  particular store to visit there too.

The situation

Personally, I knew that I would talk to the individual eventually because I would want closure in the future.  But I wanted to do that on my terms.  That meant walking away from a triggering situation with a potentially toxic individual for a while.  Then using that time to reflect on conversations, interactions, and changes in perspective.  I honestly did not expect her to reach out in any way.

But I also knew that if this individual did, I would be walking into a trap of some kind.  And by trap, I mean a situation where the other individual controlled the setting, manipulated our interactions, and tried to incite a reaction (negative) that shook my confidence or made me feel less than her.

The goal: to put me in my place by making me realize I had no control in the relationship.  That I conformed or got excluded from the community.

The set up was pretty obvious from the time I walked in.  Two friends were in the store with the individual; people close in age with shared interests and perspectives on life.  All three went out of their way to show me with their body language and own personal stories how little my update mattered to them and how boring my apartment decorating was.  When that didn’t incite a defensive or shamed reaction, they moved on to discuss other topics.

I listened to them and observed the store owner; that’s why I was there you see.  I wanted to confirm that this individual was not someone I wanted in my life.  Listening to the store owner talk to someone else my age, some other older customers, and answer a question I had about store credit confirmed that we would not ever be able to be friends or have a relationship in the future.  Put downs disguised as teasing.  Emotional manipulation in the form of “helpful” advice or suggestions.  Passive aggressive comments about body shape from the friends all spoken in sugary, polite tones.

But what really got me was when one of the friends talked about her “terrible childhood” and then condescended to tell me that I “was probably too young to know” what they were referring to.  The condescending part didn’t bother me.  I look 10 years younger than my age and told them so.  Then mentioned some other shows from that time period.  Not the reaction they expected, so the conversation ended with: “You’re a baby” from a person 9 years older than me.

Inspiration for this post

The female friend’s description of a “terrible childhood” struck me.  You see, the store owner befriended me when I first moved to the new state and was vulnerable – alone and getting to know the neighborhood – thanks to my social experiment.  So she knew a fair amount about my past, but not all the details.  One thing she knew about was my traumatic past and toxic family situation.

What she didn’t realize until later was the following:

  • I may be soft spoken and quiet, but I am not a pushover
  • I may not act confident all the time, but I feel and am confident in myself as an individual
  • I cultivate and live by the following concepts: radical acceptance, unconditional love, respect for all living beings, unconditional compassion, and forgiveness
  • Doesn’t always show because my triggers get in the way, but I am secure enough in myself to fight back, speak up, and assert myself when people try to take advantage of me or manipulate me or bully me or be mean in any way
  • I hardly ever start fights/arguments/etc. but I always finish them
  • I am strong, am resilient, and fight to survive – that means I fight to win and/or escape every time – and am well versed in how to fight dirty with words or fists
  • Finally, I work hard to cultivate only supportive, positive relationships while minimizing and removing toxic or negative ones.

So when she and her friends texted each other and brought up so many potentially triggering topics (personal finance, repairing/decorating the apartment, family) to try and manipulate me, I realized that I don’t need or want people like that in my life.  Listening to their conversations without reacting frustrated them more than it did me.

Observing them in action and talking about their childhoods got me thinking about my past.  It also got me thinking about the definition of an unhappy or horrible childhood.  Because honestly, I’m not sure that having a traumatic childhood is the same as having an unhappy or horrible one.  Yes, trauma causes many unhappy, horrible, unsafe, and dangerous childhood experiences.  Yes, trauma has a long-lasting negative influence on child/adolescent/adult development.

But does the experience of a traumatic past really = an unhappy childhood?

My perspective

Feel free to disagree with me on this.  After all your experience is just as true and valid as mine, and this blog/website is about accepting and valuing all perspectives and experiences of trauma.

When I started this website, about 28-30 years of my past was a blur of fragments and sensations that didn’t make much sense.  I couldn’t trust my memory of past events because of all the holes from traumatic amnesia.  And I didn’t know that my dreams and nightmares were sometimes interpretations of my childhood memories intertwined with the traumatic events.

There were times I woke up one morning and couldn’t remember what happened for the last 6 months.  Or times I was at work in the middle of a report, dissociated and/or switched, and couldn’t remember what happened for 5, 15, 20, 60 minutes at a time.  I had to go back and redo all of my work because I couldn’t remember what I started or finished.

That memory problem lessened as I started working with a trauma informed counselor.  And as the tangled trauma memories sorted themselves out, other memories surfaced.  Memories of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that brought smiles and laughter.  Memories of accomplishments and small successes that strengthened my resolve and helped me understand where my values come from.

Memories, that when separated from the trauma triggers and shame, that reminded me of how wonderful and happy the most important parts of my childhood were.  Experiences where adults modeled tolerance and acceptance and forgiveness and compassion in their daily interactions.  Experiences that showed me how to bounce back from mistakes, be an individual instead of part of the crowd, own my flaws and turn them into strengths, and always have a plan.

Most important: anything is possible as long as I believe in myself and not let fear stop me from trying, making mistakes, learning, and trying again until I succeed.

Sure, I am flawed.  My family is flawed.  Some of them are outright dangerous and toxic and unsafe.  But others are safe and trustworthy and loving and accepting of everything in their own ways.  And the safe relatives, those are the people who taught me the skills I needed to survive and then let me go when I needed to leave in order to find myself.  When I did come back, they welcomed me with open arms and unconditional love and acceptance and forgiveness for hurting them – unintentionally or not.

Conclusion

So while traumatic situations can cause unhappy and horrible experiences in any phase of life, I truly believe that individuals choose their own perspectives of childhood or any other part of their life.

I choose to acknowledge and value what my traumatic past taught me while living without regrets and focusing on the gifts that same past gave me so that I could become the woman I am now and who I will be in the future.

And I hope that sharing this story helps other guests find the little bits of positivity that comes from any experience to help them move forward in their recovery or healing journey – whatever they choose to call it.

Thanks for reading

Life Changing Moments: External Expressions of Internal Changes

Early last week, a friend emailed me with an invitation to her holiday party.  In the invitation, she mentioned that one of my paternal aunts might attend too.  This friend is retired, a member of my knitting circle, and someone who’s known me since I was five years old.  We reconnected about 2-3 years ago through a mutual friend I ran into before moving to my current residence.

It took a few months, up to a year, before I really began to trust them both and open up.  They were still connected to my family and had been (continue to be) the paternal aunt’s friend before I met them.  But they protected my privacy; accepted my differences; worked with me to help me learn better coping strategies so I could attend knitting circles and go out more; and always supported me with their actions.  Because of them and my friends in the knitting circle, I’ve become more social and more comfortable with socializing.

Back to the invitation.  She lives about 2.5 hours away from me, so I wrote back telling her that I’d try to make it.  Sundays are difficult because there are less trains and buses operating throughout the city.  On Thursday, I decided to go to the party and wrote an RSVP Friday morning.  She wrote back with her address and also confirmed that my paternal aunt would be there.  It was considerate and caring of her to warn me.

A month ago, I might not have attended the party.  3 months ago, I definitely would not have gone and might have experienced some negative flashbacks thinking about the event.  One year ago, I would be having flashbacks and panic attacks about being invited to a party with few friends and many strangers.  The travel arrangements alone would have scared me enough to make an excuse not to go.  And forget it if there was a hint of snow on the ground.

This time, though, I decided that I was going to go.  I would dress up in an outfit that felt and looked good (gave me confidence) and take my time traveling there.  Since many of my knitting friends were going, I’d also have a built-in support network and people to hang out with.  And with my phone handy, I could easily find many ways to leave if I wanted to leave.

At the party, I would be polite if she approached me and then ignore her the rest of the time.  If not, I’d ignore her.  But I wasn’t going to hide.  And I didn’t hide.  Spending time with my friends, meeting new people, chatting with them was way too much fun to miss out on.  My friend’s friends are wonderful and unique – think United Nations – and made me feel comfortable even though I was the youngest one there.

In the end, I heard my aunt come in (her voice is loud and recognizable) before she saw me and moved to be with a group of friends, my back to her.  We chatted and laughed in our corner; my friends were facing the other way and kept an eye on her for me.  But she didn’t approach.  Instead, she hid until I left.  Not very long since my ride was getting ready to leave 20-40 minutes after “auntie” arrived.

But seeing her silhouette, the back of her head did not bother me like I thought it would.  I had a moment of fear before I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.  I was warm and safe and supported among friends.  And shocked that she would hide from me.  She who always was loud-spoken and brash, displaying confidence and being pushy with criticism and set-downs ready.

Instead, I felt at peace inside.  Confident, self-assured, and comfortable enough with myself to cope with whatever happened.  I wasn’t afraid of her anymore.  And that is big.  Because I’ve spent decades being afraid of her and everyone else in my family.  Intimidated, less than, all of it around them.  And now, I feel equal to them.  Not more, not less; equal to them as a human, a woman, an individual.

I am smart, successful, independent, female, and able to cope with my past and present.  I control myself and influence my choices.  My past and the people who shaped it do not control me or my choices anymore.  I have strategies and plans to help me feel in control of stressful situations.  The planning itself is a wonderful coping technique.  Building in flexibility allows me to adapt to changes easier.  Finally, having options allows me to make choices and ground myself when I start to feel out of control.

Thinking about them still brings on flashbacks sometimes.  This time of year; certain scents and sounds; images and crowds still trigger me into feeling uncomfortable.  Until after January 1, I have to cope with encountering higher than normal amounts of rude and insulting people from the past who know or recognize me without my being able to return the favor.

So this is my life changing moment.  I went to a holiday party knowing I’d see family.  Instead of being scared and panicking, I enjoyed myself.  Instead of hiding from her and being invisible, she ran and hid from me.  Without all of the hard work from before, I’d not be here now.

We all hope that someday, the guests here will do the same at least once.