It’s all the buzz! But what is it really? I mean, I don’t have time to sit quiet for hours, nor can my mind get totally clear, so.... I’m not doing it. Sound familiar? We’d like to dispell myths about mindfulness and help you establish your practice of it- after all, 20 minutes per day (does not HAVE to be all at one time) significantly decreases depression and anxiety- so let’s get on it!
Over and over we hear about how the returning Veteran is suffering from trauma, physical disabilities, anxiety, and so on. There is an abundance of information supporting the fact that Veterans face a higher incidence of divorce, drug use, and suicide. This has prompted significant focus on access to mental health for Veterans. When we think of these issues, what comes to mind? It is easy to jump to PTSD, anxiety, and other mental illness. So, at first, it was agreed:
We Start There!
Let's back up a second, though. While these are significant issues which we absolutely need to address, it is becoming more apparent in my work and in the world of research that this may not be the place to start.
“When I was in, it was easy. I had two jobs: Do as I was told and Stay undead”
“Civilians are crazy”
“Nobody makes any sense”
“When I was told what to do, we did it… at that moment. My civilian co-workers don’t do that”
“They think I am bossy when I am just trying to get everyone together and working. When I was in, I gave orders all the time and we got it done.”
“My family is so hard to talk to because they don’t get it”
“I offend people and don’t know why”
These statements represent what I hear in counseling sessions with Veterans. This is not someone talking about flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, fear of going outside, or Depression. One, if not more, of those symptoms are usually present, but those are actually not always the issues for which these Veterans are seeking help. Whether these symptoms are managed or not, it is the struggle they described in the above statements which they need help with most. What they are describing is a struggle with
Among other things, this is the ability to resume prior social roles, connect and become part of their community, engage in leisure activities, and find meaning or purpose in civilian life.
Remember before when we said:
“We Start There!”?
We may have gotten this wrong for many of our returning Veterans. They are coming into counseling sessions expressing frustration about the basic issues civilians naturally understand since they have never been separated from this civilian society. Yes, these other mental health related issues may impact reintegration but one does not automatically have PTSD or other mental health issues just because they served. Reintegration does not only effect those who have been deployed to conflict areas. Living in the culture of the military alone makes reintegration difficult. Addressing the major mental health issues may not be possible if some basic readjustment can’t occur. Let’s listen to the experiences that these Veterans are reporting and help them start by addressing basic needs.
In a recent training with trauma expert, Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., he astutely pointed out that the Veteran doesn’t always need to learn to manage their trauma; sometimes they just need to learn how to manage dealing with people in a grocery store. If the perception “Civilians are Crazy” is accurate to a Veteran’s reality, then, in a grocery store, we have just asked him/her to spend significant time in close quarters with “crazy” on a regular basis and survive it.
So how do we better meet the needs of these men and women? How do we break down resistance to engaging in work aimed at giving them the relaxed and enjoyable life they deserve and protected for the rest of us? It may be we move from the clinical to the practical. We acknowledge and understand:
- the intensive training they completed to build protective factors meant for a war zone- so they can come home and protect home
- the highly structured, black and white world within which they lived versus the gray world which runs on unspoken rules beyond laws, and the struggles of then returning to gray world living once again
- that navigating social situations and making interpersonal connections outside the tribe are not skills which offer protection in a time of war. They can, at times, become a risk instead.
- that if they learned and did well, then they had to suppress and, potentially, forget the rest.
Let’s remove the stigma of mental illness from the counseling session and replace it with skill building and redirecting one’s strengths, which have now become barriers.
Fortunately, our community does not have a deficit of resources. The Mountain Resource Center maintains a Veteran’s Support Services Program offering a variety of services which include job searching, emergency services, and funding for counseling (not just counseling for mental illness). For further information, you can contact them at (303)838-7552.
Additionally, Park County has a very involved and informed Veterans Support Officer who can be reached at (303) 816-9498.
The More “Subtle” Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. We want to help bring awareness to this topic due to a chronic underestimation of the number of relationships impacted by Domestic Violence and to increase understanding of how to identify Domestic Violence.
This underestimation and need for education of the public is due to a number of dynamics related to this issue, including:
Secrets, Control and The “Subtle” Signs
Due to the heavily secretive nature of the relationship, others may not be aware of the violence. This secret is often maintained by fear of retaliation, shame associated with the victimization, a belief the victim is unable to survive without abuser, or fear the victim will not be believed.
When people are charged with Domestic Violence or a victim discloses, how many times do you hear:
“I couldn’t believe he/she would do such a thing”
“He/she is so kind and laid back, that's impossible”?
Looking beyond the surface, how likely is it one would get involved in a victimizing relationship if they knew the person was violent or they would live with domestic violence? How could the perpetrator avoid interference by those outside the family if they were to outwardly present as someone who was angry, controlling or abusive? Partners who have a pattern of controlling behaviors have a belief system rooted in entitlement, selfishness, superiority, possessiveness, and confusion of love with abuse (i.e. “I am jealous because I love you so much”, “I can’t stand the thought of losing you”). Outside intervention would be unacceptable and would challenge the legitimacy of their belief system. There is a lot about the perpetrator and their self-serving behavior which requires an investment in preventing any knowledge or suspicion they are perpetrating abuse.
For many victims, abusive behaviors have been normalized for them in the relationship through a slow build up of controlling behaviors. The build up is introduced in such a manner it often goes unnoticed until it is extreme. Initially, there may be abuse followed by a “honeymoon” phase where the abusive partner is apologetic, kind, promises to change, and extremely loving. Overtime, this phase slowly disappears.
The main focus of this article is to SPEAK LOUDLY about the more “subtle” behaviors that may go unnoticed and not recognized as domestic abuse.
Together we can SPILL THE SECRETS! BREAK THE CONTROL!
Not all abuse is physical, and the presence of Domestic Violence is not only determined by physical abuse. It includes all forms of control and forms of abuse. The Colorado Department of Human Services offers a wonderful training book to their Caseworkers which outlines a variety of forms of abuse which constitute Domestic Violence which are often overlooked.
Below is a shortened list of their comprehensive descriptions (for a checklist identifying the presence of Domestic Violence, see our resource page):
Psychological: unwarranted and persistent jealousy, instills fear with tone or invasion of space, isolation (interference with communication with supports, picking fights before and/or after seeing or communicating with outside supports to make doing so not worth the trouble), humiliation, destruction of property, relentless attempts to prove the victim is crazy or incompetent
Spiritual: misuse of religious text to justify abuse, forceful conversion, degradation of beliefs
Medical: withholding medical care, preventing medical care, withholding necessary medications and medically related assistive devices
Legal Harassment: Threatens CPS or legal reports to maintain compliance with control, threatens removal of custody of the children, threat or actual retaliation to prevent cooperation with the abusers legal involvement, ignoring court orders including child support and contact orders, persistent frivolous legal battles
Deprivation: prevent sleep to argue, denial of basic needs, interference with supports
Sexual: forced sexual contact or unwanted sexual acts, sex in exchange for privileges, withholding of love if sex is not provided, sexual degradation
Economical: restricts or sabotages employment, full control of finances and financial decision making, declared ownership of shared assets
Stalking/monitoring: constant surveillance of electronic devices, monitoring of daily movements (unknowingly or with required check ins and immediate response to their attempts to contact)
Exploitation of Children: put downs of the parent to the children, interference with or undermining ofparenting, threatens harm to children for the purpose of controlling the other parent, use of children to monitor or provide information regarding the other parent
If you or someone you know is impacted by Domestic Violence, safety is priority. Contacting a professional to help formulate a safety plan is imperative. This can be a counselor, victims advocate, child welfare caseworker, or Domestic Violence shelter.
Other resources are:
Family Tree DV Hotline – (303)420-6752
Mountain Peace Shelter – (303)838-8181
National DV Hotline – (800)799-7233
SafeHouse Denver Inc – (303)318-9989
If you know of a child who is being exposed to Domestic Violence, make a report to the Colorado Department of Human Services Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline:
- Alison Atkins, MS, LPCC