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My husband's (Robert Mason) Vietnam memoirs, Chickenhawk and Chickenhawk: Back In The World and my book, Recovering from the War, describe how we lived with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when it didn't have a name and wasn't supposed to exist. When Bob came back from his tour as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam (1st Cav, ‘65-’66), problems developed. We lived with PTSD for 14 years during which I felt there was something wrong with me because I couldn't make him happy. He thought he was crazy. We did not associate any of it with Vietnam.

In 1986, I began writing the book I wish had been available to me when my husband came back from Vietnam with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As I researched Recovering From The War, I interviewed survivors of all types of trauma, developed a healing perspective on PTSD (all its symptoms are survival skills), read scientific papers and books on all types of trauma, and found help in 12 Step groups. Today my life contains a lot of serenity and peace, which I'd like to share.

Survivors of all kinds of trauma and their families have had similar experiences. My desire is to provide information which will keep other people from having to go through what we went through. I want everyone to know that it is normal to be affected by trauma. I am dedicated to writing about PTSD in a healing way, no matter what type of trauma is involved. Whether you lost a family member on Flight 800 or survived Hurricane Andrew, whether you have been a battered person, survived child sexual abuse, rape, fire, flood, or combat, everything I write is intended to help you recover. You did not deserve whatever you endured. You didn’t cause it even if other people blame you for it. It is normal to be affected by trauma, and you deserve to recover. I offer a wide variety of resources, because different people need different things to recover. Families are quite naturally affected by living with a trauma survivor, so I write for them too. I want to supply you with information about the normal effects of trauma up to and including PTSD. I also want to give you hope for recovery.

It is normal to be affected by trauma. Normal. Normal.

Developing PTSD is directly related to the amount of trauma that you experience as was shown in the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. PTSD is also affected by the meaning (or meaninglessness) of the events to the traumatized person. PTSD is worse when betrayal is involved. Human cruelty and neglect also increase its severity. Most people with PTSD do not know they have it, so they may use compulsive behavior to help them stay numb, everything from alcoholism to workaholism.

PTSD symptoms can occur for the first time, or reoccur, when you are triggered or re-triggered by personal stress, another trauma, or by events that remind you of the trauma. (Why the Gulf War was so hard on so many veterans.) If you thought you were over your PTSD, this doesn’t mean your previous therapy didn’t work, but that what worked then will work again. Traumatic events can’t be erased, so, in that sense, PTSD can’t be cured, but it can be helped. People with PTSD can live sane and happy lives. If they get re-triggered, they can find more help.

The symptoms of PTSD make sense as survivor skills in the context of trauma: get numb and you’ll survive. Become extremely alert and you’ll survive. Such survivor skills can, with the passage of time, become your biggest problems, but it is hard to let go of them because they kept you alive, not because you are weak or wicked or dumb.

I started the Post-Traumatic Gazette in 1995 for several reasons. I wanted to share what was working for us and for others. I follow new developments in the field of PTSD and wanted to write about them. I also wanted to write about recovering from PTSD in a way that was healing, based in personal experience, and would speak to survivors of all types of trauma and their families. The family system is directly impacted by PTSD. We are all in this together.

There is a lot of unhelpful stuff about PTSD out there. I wanted to focus on healing instead of the type of finger pointing that goes on in some of the professional literature. I also wanted to make it affordable ($12 per year for 6 issues) because I know PTSD often affects finances.

I think that not being a mental health professional gives me a great advantage. I take psychiatry with a grain of salt, because I lived through the period when PTSD officially didn’t exist (1968-1980). The American Psychiatric Association once shut its eyes to all the evidence of PTSD, to medical reports on soldier’s heart (Civil War and WWI), shell shock (WWI), combat neurosis and combat fatigue (WWII), railway spine (19th century), hysteria (19th century), concentration camp survivor syndrome, rape survivor syndrome, incest, etc., not to mention descriptions of PTSD in literature (Homer, Shakespeare), and memoirs (Pepys Diary, 17th century survivor of the Great London Fire).

The current fad for brain chemistry explanations of everything is a pet peeve of mine particularly as it relates to PTSD. Although soldiers have been saying for centuries that war changed them, the American Psychiatric Association used to say, "No it doesn’t!" In 1998, the conventional wisdom is "It changes you, and you’ll have to take these pills forever." I can’t agree. Pills may help you, but PTSD is helped by telling your story. Therapy with an effective therapist whom you feel cares about your recovery is essential. Cognitive therapy, talk therapy, DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) and TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction) are all effective without side effects. (Read more about them in the Post-Traumatic Gazette.) If you have been told that "this is as good as it gets," you are being misinformed. Even if you have been telling your story and are stuck, all it means is that there is more to the story. Perhaps you need another way to look at yourself, another way of looking at the world, a more compassionate way, before you can tell the rest.

There is no place in the world where all the new therapies for PTSD are being used on a systematic basis. No therapist, no private hospital, no VA Hospital, no inpatient treatment program, no outpatient treatment program anywhere uses all the available techniques. Most places they don’t even try to follow new developments. So they can’t say, "This is as good as it gets." Not only do you have a right to be treated with effective therapy, but also you have a right to be treated with a therapy which is effective for you. Just because a program was perfect for someone else doesn’t mean it will help you.

Trauma physically changes the structure of your brain. New studies show your brain can change and grow at any age. Being in an unfamiliar environment and learning new things helps your brain grow. So getting into a new kind of therapy and learning new tools may be just what you need. No therapist can fix you, but a therapist can teach you new skills that will over time enable you to heal. Finding someone who can help you find out how you can recover must be a priority. You deserve to recover.

A recent study showed that certain therapists’ clients get better whether they are giving them talk therapy, medications only, or placebo (sugar) pills. The therapists who were perceived as caring were the one’s whose clients did better. You’ve probably noticed this. Some people are helpful and some are not. Different ones help different people. You need to find a compatible therapist.

I’ve also started a bookstore on this site. You can order everything I have written and a number of other books using a credit card. The site is secure. Only books that are written from a healing focus are for sale here. I hope you find this site useful and informative. The first four issues of the Post-Traumatic Gazette are available to be downloaded free and also an article on PTSD and Holidays which I hope everyone who visits the site will read.

Please feel free to fill out the feedback form and send for a free sample. We will never share your name or address with anyone else.

Patience Mason, Editor

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