FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

360° Healing: Release Through Writing

DISCLAIMER: Unfortunately, we live in a world where "fine print" is necessary!  Please note, you SHOULD
before trying any new therapy.  Even natural remedies can have adverse
reactions (especially for those who are already taking a cocktail of prescription drugs).  We ARE NOT
physicians, but simply veterans and caregivers who are sharing our own experiences and insight.  

One of the most difficult realizations about PTSD is that it is not necessarily curable, but
more so manageable.  This can be an overwhelming thought to those that suffer from
chronic PTSD – a lifetime of therapy and medication does not necessarily correlate with an
ideal quality of life.   However, for a lot of veterans and their families, this is a harsh reality
– one that happens to be a reality for our family.

My dear husband (DH), who suffers with a mild TBI and severe
post-traumatic stress
, has endured four years of therapy, enough meds to make a junkie envious, and
three rounds of residential
PTSD treatment.  Needless to say, all of this treatment has
taken a toll not only on DH, but on the entire family; therefore, we have decided to
incorporate some of our own treatment methods to the mix!  We are including the holistic
approach to DH’s therapy…as a family!  We are starting with simple elements, such as
nutrition, exercise, meditation and writing.

We are starting first with the healing elements of writing…a simple piece of paper and a
writing utensil (most likely crayon if in my house) brings mounds of relief for DH, and even
for me.  DH began writing shortly after he joined the USMC; writing was his first discovery of
what is now a chronic problem of self distraction; however, writing is his one method of self
distraction that seems to provide relief during those hard moments.  You see, a difficult
element of PTSD is the innumerable amount of various and sometimes disturbing thoughts
that can accompany and sometimes consume the minds of our veterans.  These thoughts
can come at any moment, and as unwelcoming as they are, they are there.

I can always tell when DH is coping through unpleasant thoughts; not because he tells me
(because he never does), but because those unspoken thoughts manifest themselves into
a wide array of unpleasant experiences.  When he is consciously acknowledging these
thoughts, they are manifested through anger, even over the smallest things.  In addition,
they are manifested through extreme irrationality that leaves his loved ones saying
“Ummmm….Huh?” There are also the moments I can tell when DH is strategically tucking
away those unpleasant thoughts – keeping him-self busy and ultimately perfecting his art
of distraction.  However, these carefully tucked away thoughts tend to creep around in his
sub-conscious, ultimately manifesting themselves into nightmares, movie like paranoia, and
a roller coaster of emotions that can put all three of my pregnancies to shame.  So when
the paranoia begins to consume his days, and the nightmares take over his nights, I know
that in addition to a call to his therapist and a quick check of the amount left in his
prescription, I make a call to his journal.

Research suggests that there is a therapeutic element in writing.  Dr. Arthur W. Frank
writes about this in his book titled
The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics.  He
contends that writing is “Essential for people who cannot quickly achieve the degree of
health they had before they became ill”.  (I’m still not sure about the use of the word “ill”
…but it is intended for multiple purposes I suppose).  We have certainly found this to be
true in our household, especially for those ‘tucked away thoughts’.  I too am guilty of
tucking away thoughts, but it’s not because I don’t want to deal with them, it’s because with
my DH, sometimes we just cannot deal with them constructively in the moment.  Writing
down what is on my mind gives me a sense of relief; it helps me to get over certain things
that wander around in my head.   Sometimes I just write random words (many of them
contain only four letters I confess) sometimes I actually write a typical journal entry…and
sometimes I just sketch my emotions.  When it comes to DH, I give him some quiet space,
take the kids downstairs and let him know he is loved.  DH tends to begin doodling but
eventually starts to write down whatever is on his mind; and during these tucked away
moments especially, the beginning and ending of his writings are vastly different – he
seems to go through a process.  Sometimes he shares his writing, and sometimes he
doesn’t; but regardless of whether he shares it or not, there always seems to be a calmer
demeanor about him afterwards.  Calm is good.  No,
calm is great.  


In the mind of a soldier
So complex and vague
Yet so simple and clear
Loves the pure things in life
But yearns for his comrades
Those who have fallen
Fighting a ghost of the unknown
And finding hope in those around him
He comes back to another world
So chaotic
He finds joy in things that are unpleasant
Can’t deal with the strangers
The noise from nowhere
The visions in his dreams
Can’t wake up
So distant from the ones who care
But will never understand

Written by my DH in 2008.

This article was written by Jennifer H., the wife of an OIF Veteran with PTSD and TBI and a
dedicated volunteer for as part of our
Grassroots Team.  Jennifer has
spent a great deal of time researching and implementing natural, holistic therapies for
PTSD and is excited to share her knowledge with other veterans and families who are in
search of alternative ways to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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