Harper Government can no longer deny the toxicity of the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (Lariam) mimick PTSD in the breakdown of serving forces’ and veterans’ mental health.


Dr. Remington Nevin has been working tirelessly to prove how the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (Lariam) has contributed to the mental breakdown of serving military members and veterans posted to areas where malaria is prevalent, in particular parts of Africa including Angola, Somalia, and Rwanda and the Middle/Far East such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Outbursts of violence, where a military person has suddenly turned and killed innocent people or committed suicide with no rational explanation, can be directly attributed to this terrible drug. Here is Dr. Nevin’s latest report published in PSYCHIATRIC NEWS UPDATE, a publication that has become the “voice of the American Psychiatric Association and the Psychiatric Community.” BONNIE

The Mefloquine Toxidrome: A Common
Confounder of Mental Illness Among
Returning Veterans?

Dr. Remington Nevin, public health physician and epidemiologist formerly a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and currently at the Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Remington Nevin, public health physician and epidemiologist formerly a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and currently at the Johns Hopkins University.

by Remington Nevin, MD, MPH

Clinicians evaluating returning U.S. military
veterans with certain psychiatric complaints need
to be aware of the potentially confounding role of
antimalarial neurotoxicity, said Remington Nevin,
M.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins University, at a
workshop in the Military Track at APA’s 2014 annual meeting
today, co-chaired by former psychiatry consultant to the Army
Surgeon General, Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., M.P.H., a
retired Army colonel.

Nevin’s work contributed to the FDA’s issuing an updated
boxed warning for mefloquine in late July 2013, advising that
psychiatric effects from the drug could last years after use and
that certain neurological effects could be permanent. As early
as 2012, travel medicine guidance from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention had cautioned against the use
of mefloquine in military settings, noting that the
neuropsychiatric side effects of the drug could confound the
diagnosis and management of PTSD and TBI.

Although mefloquine use has been significantly curtailed and
even banned outright by some U.S. military units since the
2013 boxed warning, the lasting effects described by the FDA
mean many military veterans may still be experiencing
symptoms from mefloquine years after their last use of the
drug.

Nevin noted that the syndrome of toxicity caused by
mefloquine shares many features in common with agoraphobia
and with many trauma- and stressor-related disorders, and
may occasionally even have been mistaken for PTSD.
Fortunately, the new DSM-5 criterion H, which excludes the
diagnosis if “attributable to the physiological effects of a
substance,” will help to ensure diagnostic specificity,
particularly in military cohorts where exposure to the drug
may frequently have overlapped with directly experienced
traumatic events in Criterion A.

Nevin noted that in addition to taking a detailed antimalarial
drug history when evaluating veterans with certain anxiety
disorders, psychiatrists may wish to adopt a multidisciplinary
approach including referring their patients to neuro-otologists,
neuro-optometrists, or ENT physicians if symptoms indicate.
Documenting neurological sequelae of the toxidrome,
including disequilibrium, nystagmus, and vertigo, thought to
be caused by subtle neurotoxic brainstem injury, can
frequently aid in establishing the diagnosis of mefloquine
toxicity even in the presence of common confounding
psychiatric etiologies.

Posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Peacekeepers, caregivers, CNN News, depression, emotional trauma, estrangement from family, federal government, Homecoming Vets, mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, social workers, suicide, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs, VRAB | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Homecoming Vets | Leave a comment

Calgary veteran appeals


Submitted on 2013/12/30 at 10:15 p12

Searching for comments on the following:

WITHOUT PREJUDICE
December 30, 2013

Minister of Veterans Affairs
Bantrel Tower
7th Floor – 700 6th Avenue Southwest
Calgary, Alberta
email:

Re: Existing corruption & dishonesty

Attn.: Hon. Mr. Julian Fantino

Having failed to receive a responsible reply from the offices of Minister (Min.) of Veterans Affairs (VA) in respect to the recommendation of the very Hon. Mr. Justice W.D. Nichol of the Canadian Justice Review Board ( refer to attached letter) over the past 2 years, it is, in my opinion, only reasonable to attribute this lack of responsible action, by the Min. of VA as nothing less than a self-consideration of being over and above the same laws that successive Canadian governments have imposed upon Canadian citizens and veterans when failing to act responsibly and/or replying honestly to claims of other veterans of the Canadian Forces (CF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) over the past 146+ years.

While the greater burden of both fact and evidence is in direct support of this veteran’s claims, the “Veterans Canada” office continues to act above and beyond the same laws that you force upon all other Canadian citizens and veterans alike. Such complete disregard for the recommendation of the highly noted and respected member of the Canadian Justice Review Board (i.e., “Minister, we ask that you personally investigate this matter and rectify the situation”; ref. attached letter) represents, in my humble opinion, as being nothing less than a complete lack of law and order with your alleged management of this country.

I urge you to address this matter forthwith (i.e., within 30 days of the date of this letter), since time is of the essence for both all veterans and myself.

Yours truly,

Brian C. Bradley
#33 – 9520 Bonaventure Dr. S.E.
Calgary, AB T2J 0E5
Phone: (403) 455 – 9353
email: bcbradl5y@inbox.com mailto:bcbradl5y@inbox.com

ccc.: very Hon. Mr. W.D. Nichol, CEO, Canadian Justice Review Board
local MP: Min. of Citizenship, Immigration & Multiculturalism; Fax: (403) 225-3504

bcc: FDA

encl. Nichol/Blaney letter, Feb./Mar. 2012 (3 pages as attached)

DRAFT/SENT Feb./Mar. 2012

The Honourable Steven Blaney
Minister of Veterans Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Veterans Affairs Canada
14th Floor
66 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P4

Dear Minister;

The Canadian Justice Review Board has received a complaint from Brian C. Bradley of Calgary Alberta.

We can find no better words to describe Mr. Bradley’s situation than quoting his honour Mr. Justice J.E. Hershfield of the Federal Court of Canada.

“[3] The battle with the [Veterans Review and Appeal Board ] VRA Board has, according to the Appellant’s testimony, been going on for more than a decade which included four judicial reviews of the Board’s refusal to recognize a disability pension entitlement. In all review cases, I am told that the Federal Court Trial Division sent the matter back to the Board for reconsideration.

[4] One certainly has the impression listening to the Appellant that he has not
been properly dealt with by the VRA Board and that his fight to establish his
disability pension rights has resulted in his losing his home and become
economically ruined.

[5] His submissions reflect a genuine plea for justice which he feels can only be
achieved by someone rectifying the treatment he has had to endure. He wants the
Federal government departments that he holds responsible for the burdens he has
suffered made accountable. He seeks compensation and includes in his plea for it,
just and fair treatment from the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) taxation.

/2..

-2-

[6] This leads me to direct myself to the taxation issues that have drawn the
CRA into the Appellant’s line of vision as one the government agencies
responsible for his financial regression, as he puts it.

[7] In 2005, the Appellant launched his fourth action for judicial review of the
VRA Board’s refusal to award him a disability pension. He retained the services of
a prominent law firm. He paid a retainer and was quoted substantial fees, namely,
fees in excess of $40,000. His only source of funds was a modest RRSP (currently
valued at some $16,000 which includes a contribution that is at issue in this
appeal).

[8] To fund the litigation he withdrew $44,000 from his RRSP. That was in
2005. However, his legal fees that year only came to $21,095. Realizing the
withdrawal was excessive, he returned $24,000 to his plan and claimed $23,000 on
his 2005 tax return as a deduction in calculating his net income for the year on the
basis that it was an innocent mistake to have taken it out. In effect, he sought to
treat the excess withdrawal as a non-event. I will note here, as well, that he claimed
the legal fees of $21,095 as a deductible expense on the advice, apparently, of his
legal advisor.

The reassessment being appealed denied both deductions.

[10] Given that the most recent Federal Court review of the VRA Board’s refusal
to award the Appellant a disability pension has resulted in the matter being referred
back once again to the Board and given his hope of finally having his entitlement
to a disability pension confirmed, one might think that the Appellant will finally be
allowed to deduct his legal fees. However, that is not the case, at least not in
respect of the 2005 taxation year. The Appellant has repeatedly acknowledged that
he never received one cent of income from the pension source in respect of which
he incurred the legal expenses at issue. The relevant provision of the Income Tax
Act (the “Act”) allows that deduction only against the source of income in respect
of which the legal expense at issue is incurred. This leaves the Appellant in the
unfortunate circumstance that his legal expense deduction cannot be taken, at least
not yet.”

Minister, it appears to the Canadian Justice Review Board that on four separate occasions the Federal Court of Canada has found a lack of fairness and due process on the part of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board in this matter; a deficiency so serious that the Court saw fit to quash each VRA Board decision. Mr. Bradley appears to have a legal opinion from his federally funded Bureau of Pensioners’ Advocate (BPA) confirming that his claim has merit. This arguably constituting reasonable grounds for him to have believed that, considering the Federal Court judgments against the VRA Board, a pension or compensation would be forthcoming (from which he could then have properly deducted his expenses for tax purposes).
/3..

-3-

As you can see from Mr. Justice Hershfield’s remarks, Mr. Bradley’s financial resources have been no match for the deep pockets of the federally funded VRA Board. This tends to foster the public impression that the government favours a system of “justice” where the party with the most money wins (regardless of law). It also creates the impression that the VRA Board has been able to engineer a scheme, and a vicious circle for Mr. Bradley, which effectively ignores the rule of law contained in the Federal Court judgements against it. Considering also that the VRA Board knows, or ought to know, the limited mandate of the Bureau of Pensioners’ Advocate precludes it acting for anyone in Federal Court, Mr. Bradley was put to expenses he could ill afford (to paraphrase Justice Hershfield). This creates a concern that the VRA Board vindictively set out to bankrupt Mr. Bradley. Our understanding of Mr. Justice Hershfield’s remarks is that this is anything but justice.

Minister, we ask that you personally investigate this matter and rectify the situation.

Sincerely,

William D. Nichol
Executive director

Diary date: February 6, 2012

cc. Mr. Brian C. Bradley, #33 – 9520 Bonaventure Dr., S.E. Calgary, AB T2J 0E5

cc. Hon. Mr. Jason Kenney, Member of Parliament for Calgary Southeast. House of Commons
325 East Block Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 & 1168 137 Ave SE Calgary, AB T2J 6T6

http://www.CanadianJusticeReviewBoard.ca

P.O. Box 4853 Station E, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5J1

Peace be with you & yours,

Brian Bradley
#33 – 9520 Bonaventure Dr., S.E.
Calgary, AB T2J 0E5
Phone: (403) 455 – 9353

homepage: https://sites.google.com/site/bcbrad3evennow/how-much-do-we-really-pay

“It’s time for us to begin a real revolution – one that begins by challenging our individual beliefs and changing our diets, and ends with the transformation of our society as a whole.” (Campbell, 2013, p. 290)
Campbell, T. Colin (2013) “Whole, Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”, Dallas: BenBella Books Inc., 328pp., ISBN 978-1-937856-25-0.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
– George Orwell

Of what value or point is there to having a system/culture which is completely void of both the intent and service of actual justice if those who enact the laws turn a ‘cold shoulder’ and/or completely ignore the intent of the laws that they have enacted?

Posted in Homecoming Vets | 3 Comments

Coming Back Home and A Veteran’s Point-of-View blogs to carry on PTSD Forum as HOMECOMING VETS website retires


PTSD ForumI was standing on the Waverley Bridge at Bowmanville, Ontario, on the Highway of Heroes as the military funeral procession passed underneath and thought, “At last Canadians are recognizing the sacrifices our military make,” and then wondered, “What about the living? What happens to the wounded warriors who return home? Where is the support for their sacrifice?”

Once I asked this question, a tragic story evolved – one that continues and leaves my heart very heavy – Canada’s veterans have been forced to fight against the very country they have faithfully served for their own survival and rights. This battle spurred my launching HOMECOMING VETS. It was an effort to collect information to help veterans help themselves in their daily struggle to regain their health and self-respect. In the years since my first blog, I have become close friends with some of the finest Canadians I have ever known.

My focus for 2013 was to help those suffering with PTSD as a result of their military services and indirectly to help their spouses and families cope with the staggering fallout they suffer along with their partners and loved ones as they struggle to cope with this sometimes devastating condition. This has led to the creation of the PTSD FORUM with psychologist Dr. Dee Rajska and Robert Simpson leading with self-help suggestions for groups of vets formed to share their PTSD symptoms and coping struggles. As I retire, I am proud to hand over what Homecoming Vets has built to both these fine people, and I encourage all my blog’s followers to join their blogs where you can carry on learning and sharing how to survive with PTSD.

The PTSD FORUM carries on with Dr. Dee Rajska on her COMING BACK HOME blog at http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/comingbackhome.

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych, Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychologist, focuses on the treatment of trauma in her clinical practice located in St. Catharines, Ontario. She originally received her Ph. D. from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Please join Dee there and carry on your discussions. Dee designed COMING BACK HOME to provide information and support for soldiers/veterans with Operational Stress Injuries and their families. The goals of Dee’s blog are to present good, solid facts about where PTSD comes from and what causes it, and how to manage symptoms; as well as to present this information in clear, easy-to-understand language that is accessible to anyone.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson

This is Rob’s last contribution to HOMECOMING VETS based on his Facebook writings. His advice and observations are down-to-earth sensible. Carry on, Rob! You are making important headway for you and your group.

A Veterans Point of View By Robert Simpson

One of PTSD’s allies is a lack of sleep. PTSD is a cunning Beast. It waits until you are in a weakened state and then it strikes hard and it knock’s you down. It seems like it knows your weaknesses and it uses them against you. So the more tired you are the worse it affects you. I’m sure that, if you think about it, you’ll realize that your worst days are after you’ve been without sleep for awhile, when you are worn down and so tired. But when you are well-rested, you find that you can handle it so much better. Sleep and rest is an important element to battling the effects of your Flashbacks and nightmares. I have found that out over the years. Now I try to have regular exercise and a good diet; it helps you to endure PTSD’s worst attacks.

 Also if you cut down or out the booze it’ll help. Drinking may help you to pass out and to get a few hours of sleep with no nightmares, but when you wake up, that old nasty PTSD is waiting. Now it’s 10 times worse as it’ll now enter your awake times, thus you have flashbacks.

Why? Well it’s because, while you were passed out, your body really didn’t rest. You would be surprised I’ll bet, to know you were most likely thrashing and tossing about as you were unconscious. Then you wake up and you are still tired. You defenses are down. This makes you at greater risk to have more episodes of PTSD.  Doctors will tell you that too much drinking will cause you increased problems. The military actually use to tell us that if we were having problems to drink more beer at the mess. Of course they didn’t know how to help us with nightmares or flashbacks, but they knew how to handle a drunk Soldier. No. This wasn’t the solution to the problem. In fact it makes the problem worse for you. 

Thankfully they are learning how to handle us now. True, there are still those in the Military who might think that you might have a yellow streak or are weak.  But truth be known, they have not learned yet. In fact, I’ll bet they too are having problems and don’t know how to handle it themselves.

Thankfully they, the Doctors, are learning how to treat us and thankfully the Military is starting to listen to the Doctors. Still it is a long road back, with many traps and detours. But I’m happy to say that you have been given a set of tools. What are they? Well here’s the truth you will need: You will need your training as a Soldier, your conviction that you are going to fight the beast and WIN! You must seek help from the Medics, your Padre , Your Sgt, or LT. Even the guy beside you, right or left. They have been there and you could be surprised to find out they might have a problem too. Use that opening under your nose – your mouth – to ask for help. That is step one to being the hero, that brave guy who goes forward no matter what he or she faces. To use the motto of the 3ed SSF OSONS! WE DARE.

 So I’ll close now with my usual saying. Let’s talk shall we?

LEST WE FORGET

You can follow along with Rob’s self-help group updates on A VETERAN’S POINT OF VIEW at https://www.facebook.com/groups/114252128645011/?fref=ts

For your contributions and support to HOMECOMING VETS, I want to thank Kenneth H. Young, Pat Stogran, Sean Bruyea, Michael Blais, Rob Simpson, Dr. Dee Rajska, my counterpart stateside – Lily Casura of Combat Trauma, Eric Rebiere (former RCMP officer), Dan Slack, Dr. Remington Nevin on the mefloquine series, Nancy MacMillan, Dr. Jim Gordon, Sylvain Chartrand, Dr. Ashley M. Croft, David Pugliese, Jeff Rose-Martland, Dennis Menuge, Dave Desjardins, Leslie Raddatz, Michele Rosenthal, Mary K. Armstrong, Dr. Peter Strong, Elton Adams, Janice Holden, Jim and Debbie Lowther, Nancy Wilson, Christine Nielsen, Murray Brewster, Harold Leduc, Mark Bonokoski, Laura Wooten, Kelly McMillan, Chaplain Kathie, and Murray Scott. All of you have embraced great caring in your advocacy and support for each other.

During the past three years, I have presented 459 posts and received 1,224 comments about those posts. I hope they have provided some useful service in your journey to regain your health and self-sufficiency. Though I am retiring HOMECOMING VETS, I am leaving this website up for it has collected a wealth of information that remains at your disposal as needed.

Thank you once again for being the special people you are and for being in my life.

Love and hugs,

Bonnie Toews

June 24, 2013

I leave you with this documentary film about what our veterans are advocating about:

Posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Peacekeepers, caregivers, federal government, Homecoming Vets, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs, VRAB | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

PTSD goes undiagnosed for 48 years. This veteran needs your support.


Former Cpl. Romeo Perreault of the Royal 22E Regiment, Unit 1. His PTSD symptoms ignored for 48 years and his family is fighting to get him help. He and his unit lived through a traumatic experience in June 18, 1962, when the Canadian Army was called in to help squelch a riot in the St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary. Then 1100 rioting prisoners set six buildings on fire.

Former Cpl. Romeo Perrault of the Royal 22E Regiment, Unit 1. His PTSD symptoms have been ignored for 48 years and his family is fighting to get him help from VAC. He and his unit lived through a traumatic experience in June 18, 1962, when the Canadian Army was called in to help squelch a riot in the St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary. Then 1100 rioting prisoners set six buildings on fire. He would like other ex-military from his unit, who shared this experience, to step forward and help right the injustice of their suffering. This video tells the horrendous story: http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675056482_prisoners-set-jail-on-fire_Montreals-St-Vincent-de-Paul-Penitentiary_guards_buildings#.UaQyTO9Jv1c.facebook
His wife, Lisa LeBlanc Perreault, is trying to raise awareness for his case to be presented in Charlottetown in the fall of 2013. You can reach her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lise.leblancperreault

Posted in Homecoming Vets | Leave a comment

PTSD Forum with Dr. Dee Rajska


PTSD ForumPTSD FORUM

Dr. Dee carries on in answer to your comments. BONNIE

 

 

 

 

 

___________________________

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych, Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychologist, focuses on the treatment of trauma in her clinical practice located in St. Catharines, Ontario. She originally received her Ph. D. from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

 

Hi again!

I’d like to start off today by sending out a big “thank you” to everyone who has contributed to the discussion. Without you, I’d just be talking to myself. And you know, taking to myself… Worse yet, laughing at my own corny jokes… that would just be bad for business. 🙂

Your comments also answer my question: what do you guys actually want to talk about?

So – today, I’d like to follow up on Randall’s comments to my last post (thanks Randall, for bringing up a great topic!) 🙂

Randall wrote, in part: “yesterday I could not dial the phone despite knowing that there was no immediate threat in doing so”.

So, what I’d like to explain is, “How is it that I can understand that there’s no real threat, but still end up acting like there’s a threat?”

Simple – well, sort of. Okay, there’s going to be a brain biology lesson involved. But I’ll keep it simple. Promise.

As we’ve discussed before, PTSD is based on the fight-or-flight reflex, which is a built-in response to threat. In PTSD, this reflex goes into overdrive and gets triggered whenever you’re reminded of a threat.

Here’s a cartoon that gives you the gist of fight-or-flight:

http://cmhc.utexas.edu/stressrecess/animations/fofmovie-start.swf

(I know – you can’t fix PTSD by imagining your triggers in polka-dot underpants… Hey, it was the best link I could find that wasn’t totally boring. And don’t you love the caveman’s cute little dress? Or am I the only one who would totally wear that?)

So – to help me explain it, think of your brain as an orange.

(Hey – it’s either the orange, or I start throwing around Latin words that are harder to pronounce than my last name…)

Orange it is  🙂

The peel of the orange is the “gray matter”. It’s got all your smarts – this is where you analyze, make decisions, set priorities, and so on. You’re conscious only of the stuff that the gray matter does: the other parts of your brain do their thing behind the scenes, as reflex.

The fruit part of the orange is the “white matter”. It’s a messenger – it sends ideas back and forth and makes your brain work quickly to translate a thought into an action.

You know how sometimes, you buy a cheap orange, and it’s got some seeds in it? Yeah, so the brain is basically a bargain-brand orange, with seeds in it.

One of these seeds is a little thing called the amygdala – it’s responsible for our reaction to threat.

(I know, I promised no Latin words – but this is the only one, I swear… And it’s totally easy to pronounce: uh-MIG-duh-luh. See? You can totally say that. Maybe even five times fast)

The amygdala sets off your fight-or-flight reaction, in response to anything that reminds it of a threat. It’s a reflex, so it doesn’t ask your permission before it goes off.

So – to bring it all back to Randall’s comment – how is it that you can realize that there’s no threat, and still react like there is one?

Simple – the realizing that there’s no threat is coming from the peel of your orange. But, at the same time, one of the seeds in your orange (your amygdala) is reminded of a threat, so it’s reacting as if you were in danger. Two different parts of your brain are doing two different things, at the same time.

So, you say, that’s all well and good, but how do you control it?

By reminding yourself that your fear is a reflex, and reflex is not a choice.

I know – I repeat that line a LOT. I really want you to start repeating it to yourself.

Here’s what you’re probably doing instead: your inside voice is probably saying: “It’s a (bleeping) phone call. What the (bleep) is (bleeping) wrong with me?”

Ya know what happens when you talk to yourself this way? You make yourself nervous. The more you make yourself nervous, the more your amygdala feels there’s a threat – so you’re feeding the fight-or-flight monster by putting yourself down.

Instead, try starving the monster, by doing something that helps you relax – use your grounding skills. Help bring the anxiety down, and it’ll be easier to get going again.

What do you think, guys? Does that answer the question? Are you impressed that I taught you how the brain works by using a bargain-brand orange?

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.

REFERENCE:

Sylvain Chartrand CD is collecting a Bank of Articles on PTSD. For more information, please see Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
 
 
Posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Peacekeepers, caregivers, depression, emotional trauma, estrangement from family, federal government, Homecoming Vets, mental illness, physical disability, post traumatic stress disorder, social workers, suicide, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

PTSD FORUM with Dr. Dee Rajska


PTSD ForumPTSD FORUM

Dr. Dee Rajska is back to continue with her contributions to this forum about PTSD. Please remember that, for the benefit of everyone, we need to keep comments or questions focused on the post itself. Thanks. BONNIE 

 

 

_____________

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych, Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychologist, focuses on the treatment of trauma in her clinical practice located in St. Catharines, Ontario. She originally received her Ph. D. from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Hi again, folks!

I know, I know… My last blog entry said I’d be back “next week” – and that was a month ago. Yikes…

Rest assured, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the dog ate my homework.

Nope – I’m going to blame my husband instead. And my sinuses. 

He brought home a bad cold; I caught it and kicked it up a notch, to a full-blown sinus infection …

 Didya miss me? 😉

Last time, I was saying that: 

PTSD = survival reflex + military training, both gone into overdrive.

You vaguely remember me droning on about some of that stuff, right? 

How we’re all hard-wired with a reflex, called fight-or-flight, that kicks in when we need to respond to potential threats? 

Still doesn’t ring a bell? 

It’s okay, go ahead and cheat to refresh your memory right here. 

The fight-or-flight reflex is an innate response to a threat; your military training adds on to this, to make you more effective at responding to threats. 

Here’s some examples of how: 

–          Being aware of your surroundings at all times, and to react immediately to sudden changes in your environment.  

–          Maintaining control of your weapon and your gear at all times, so you’re not running around looking for stuff in an emergency.  

–          Mastering emotional control – the military doesn’t exactly encourage getting in touch with your feelings… Your emotions are limited to:

  • Fear – fear is a reflex; no amount of training will eliminate fear. Training teaches you to use fear: when you feel it, you immediately scan your environment, identify the threat, and respond appropriately.
  • Anger/rage provides a jolt of energy and a focus on neutralizing the enemy;
  • Numbness drowns out all other emotions. In a combat situation, all other feelings may be a liability that leaves you or your buddies vulnerable.

Okay – we agree that these skills come in pretty handy in a combat zone?

(If not – we’re up for a really interesting discussion this week…)

 Now, here’s the problem: your skills don’t come with an “off” switch.

 So, when you get home:

 –          You may feel a need to monitor your environment at all times. This is what makes it difficult to cope with crowds, like at a concert or a shopping mall. You may also have a hard time keeping your attention on any one thing for a length of time: the way it works is you can either scan everything, or you can sustain focus on just one thing.  

–          Keeping track of where you put all your stuff is a combat skill. At home, you might overreact if someone moves your things from where you left them.

–          Emotional control may lead loved ones to comment that you’re cold, aloof, and distant. You may feel disconnected from others, misunderstood, and lonely.

–          In a combat zone, fear is a signal of danger. Back home, fear may be triggered by reminders of danger, or just by a passing thought of “what if?” going through your head. When you can’t identify a clear threat, your training doesn’t give you a protocol for how to respond – it’s like your brain thinks that there must be a threat because the fear signal says so, and if you can’t spot it, then you feel vulnerable and defenseless, unable to consider the possibility that you might actually be safe.

My point is to illustrate that you’re not “crazy”; you’re not “messed up”; you’re not weak, you’re not a failure, you’re not a loser. (Hey – of the stuff I’ve heard some of you guys call yourself, these are the less colourful terms that I can actually put in print…)

What you are is a warrior out of context.

A lot of these “symptoms” are actually your warrior skills – skills that probably saved your bacon, and that of your buddies, time and time again when you were “over there.” They just don’t come with an “off” switch.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that these skills don’t come with an “off” switch – because of your training, they actually come with a switch that kicks them into high gear.   

Military culture values personal accountability – you are accountable for doing your job to a very high standard. You expect yourself to have it together; your buddies, your superiors, and your subordinates expect the same.

In a combat zone, there’s no room for error – there’s no do-overs, no, “sorry guys, I was daydreaming, can we try that again?”. Um, *no*. If a mission is 53% accomplished, you don’t get a cute animal sticker and a chance to improve your grade on a make-up test next week.

So – you may have difficulty accepting anything less than perfection of yourself.

Now think of what happens when perfectionism collides with PTSD:

  • You’re having symptoms that you can’t control;
  • Because of these symptoms, you’re not able to perform to your usual standards;
  • And – you expect yourself to be perfect.

Folks, that combination isn’t pretty: you end up feeling ashamed and guilty, feeling like a failure, telling yourself to man up and get it together.

Basically, you’re yelling at yourself to solve a problem that you don’t know how to solve. You feel helpless and angry, like you want to throw in the towel. Except – here comes your training again – giving up isn’t exactly encouraged in the military either.

You get stuck in what seems like a no-win situation.

Which is why you’re here. 

The more you understand how your symptoms work and where they come from, the less they freak you out when they happen, and the less you blame yourself for symptoms that are based on reflex, and not a failure on your part.

Letting go of blaming yourself for things over which you have no direct control is really, really important – and I will discuss this again in the future.

Notice that I learned my lesson and said “future” rather than “next week” – because my husband is going on a business trip, and you never know, he may bring home the bubonic plague or something… You think I should tell him to skip the souvenir shop this time? 😉

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.

REFERENCE:

Sylvain Chartrand CD is collecting a Bank of Articles on PTSD. For more information, please see Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
 
 
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Series: A Veteran’s Point of View on PTSD or OSI. Part 4


Rob Simpson

Robert Simpson continues writing his series on ways those suffering with PTSD can control it on your own. BONNIE

 

Dr. H’s THEORY: How to use “date stamping” to your advantage

BY ROBERT SIMPSON

I just got back from the London Operational Stress Injury Clinic. Now I have been going there for more than seven years. I remember thinking what’s talking going to do for my flashbacks and nightmares…. in two words….  A LOT!

There is one BIG thing I have learned about recently from my Doctor who is Dr. H. He has a theory he calls, “Date Stamping.” Let me tell you about how it works and explain it to you. In fact, it is quite simple.

Dr H.’s theory is that, when our brains normally experience an event, it records it into our memories and it includes the date and time etc. So, for instance, I fell down April 2nd 1996 at 11:00am. This is the normal way our brain’s work and in time the memory fades and we tend to forget about it. With OSI or PTSD our brain has forgotten to Date Stamp this memory. So when we relive this event it is just as real as the day it happened all those years ago. So you experience the details just like when it happened no matter how many years have passed. Our brain forgot to date stamp so the memory can not fade. I know personally, the major events in my Military live are just as real now as when they happened in the 1970s. That’s the problem. Sound familiar Troops, boys and girls???

Well, this is the nature of our wounds when it comes to our OSI or PTSD. I know you are going to say fine and dandy, so how does that help me?

This is what I started doing last year after Dr. H told me his theory. To me, it makes perfect sense. When I do have a flashback or have a nightmare, I immediately say out loud, “NO WAY YOU JUST HAPPENED. You happened back ON AUG 15TH 1975 AT 11:05 AM!” That’s when the guy turned around on the pistol range and fired his weapon into my helmet. Just for an example. I have found that over time, this has helped, in that my brain is learning that this happened years ago, not just now. It no longer feels as if it just happened.

With time, it is starting to become less real and feeling like it is happening now and it is more like this happened a long time ago. The end result is that it is now not as hard on me to relive or recall this event. I have shared this with others in my group and I told them to say the date, time and what it is to say it with conviction. They have reported it is helping them to cope with the flashbacks and nightmares. You are in fact training your brain to not trigger the rushes you experience when you have the nightmare or flash back. You will never forget the event, but you can greatly lessen the stress and strain on your body. You just have to keep it up and believe in what you are saying and what is happening during the flashback or nightmare.

There is another doctor in Windsor or I should correctly say soon to be Doctor who has tried this on another patient and reports some improvement, which will be on going for that person. So soon to be Dr. C is helping others with Dr. H.’s theory. I encourage all to try it and stick with it. In a short time you will have results. Remember, we have been trained to overcome many things. Now use that training and your resolve to help yourself. It’s not easy and takes a little time, but you will see results. I would say, what’s trying it going to hurt? Nothing. And there’s a good chance you will see an improvement in your reaction to you wound.

So I’ll close now with my usual saying. Let’s talk, shall we?

LEST WE FORGET

REFERENCE:
Sylvain Chartrand CD is collecting a Bank of Articles on PTSD. For more information, please see Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

 

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Series: A Veteran’s Point of View on PTSD or OSI. Part 3


 

Rob SimpsonIn this posting, Robert Simpson explains how he began his support group and lays down the groundwork for setting up peer support that works for both veterans /military/police and their families. BONNIE

___________

HOW TO ESTABLISH YOUR SUPPORT GROUP

This week, I would like to talk about my Wallaceburg Veterans and Families Support Group, which I finally got up and running two years ago. I had tried several years before to set it up at Br 18 Legion in Wallaceburg. It failed and the reason was, to quote Veterans: “I don’t want the drunks downstairs to know I got a problem with my years of service.”

Good reason not to come.  So the search was on for a good place to meet. The branch Padre is my pastor and during a talk we were having, he offered his Church. It turned out to be perfect. So in May 2011, we had our first meeting.

Eight people attended. The first thing I had everyone do was form a circle with our chairs. (This is based on the healing circle as I am part native.) Everyone felt two things: first, there was the safety of being protected by the Church, and second, it gave us the ability to see everyone, which gave us the feeling of and knowledge of: we were not alone.

These two things are most important to Veterans or Military personnel suffering PTSD. The feeling of being alone can be overwhelming.

As we are only five miles from the Canada / USA border, I opened up our group to all Veterans no matter the country, also Police Officers as we send Police Officers on Peace Keeping missions. With family members there, we have created a complete package. The family members learn about what goes on when we’re on tours. It allows them to start to understand what it is their Loved one has experienced and is going through. This is so important as too many times the Veteran or Service member doesn’t really know how to explain what happened or is happening or why. 

From the start, we have kept things informal and more relaxed. Sometimes we are able to just tell amusing stories about our time in service. At others, we talk about the hell. Our Padre leads the discussions most of the time, steering us towards that which has caused our invisible wounds. He asks questions trying to clarify what we have been saying. He has said that he has learned so much with the meetings and our talks. Also he offers a prayer for the group – sometimes during the meeting, sometimes at the start, sometimes at the end.

We are able to open up about our tours, while family members can also bring up different things to discuss their experience in dealing with the Veteran’s problems. What works for them may help other family members see how to approach the Veteran during times of Flashbacks, etc. I know the one important thing I told my wife was to NEVER, EVER TOUCH ME during a nightmare or flashback. This can be so dangerous, as we don’t know where the dream ends and reality begins and we might lash out at our loved one. We don’t want that to happen EVER. When we return then and only then can you hold us. But we must be back first.

This is so important to know and understand: while you can see us, we are not at that moment there. We are back in our tours living in HELL. That’s the best way to describe it. You must wait until we feel safe, and that’s when we need your hug and your Love the most. I believe that that is a very important safety rule to always remember when family is dealing with a Veteran’s Nightmares or Flashbacks. 

Over the course of the two years, we have made good friends. We have created a number of events as well:  Helping drive folks home when they pick up their Christmas hampers with the Salvation Army is one way we halp. That is an important connection with our Military past as the Salvation Army has always been there for us. So it is our honour to assist them. We also have created several meals: One is at Christmas time, and the other is a BBQ in July prior to standing down for August.

While we don’t have a meeting in August, the group is still there for each other. The most important part of the Group is talking and sharing those events which haunt us. Talking lets each person know and understand they are not alone and their wound is not minimized.

We have faced our wound is serious and real. This Support Group is really a carryon of our unit training. In the Military and the Police, you are trained to work both alone and as a group, so the group reinforces that you are a part of a group and not alone. I want to close by saying: “Let’s talk, shall we?” I welcome your feedback and comments.

LEST WE FORGET

REFERENCE:
Sylvain Chartrand CD is collecting a Bank of Articles on PTSD. For more information, please see Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

 

Related articles:

Deal Site For Military Veterans Coming Soon (prweb.com)

New focus for Homecoming Vets to meet PTSD needs (homecomingvets.com)

PTSD FORUM: First Session with Dr. Dee Rajska (homecomingvets.com)

PTSD FORUM: First Session with Mary K. Armstrong (homecomingvets.com)

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BREAKING NEWS: Treating PTSD with medical marijuana could curb veteran suicides


The following article is available at the Canadian Veterans’ Advocacy website. I am reposting it here with my comments in BOLD ITALICS. BONNIE

Treating PTSD with Medical Marijuana Could Curb Veteran Suicides

by John J. Walters, Mar. 22, 2013 1:45 pm

Reposted on Homecoming Vets from Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s data pool for PTSD

Source: Lorazepam pills and bottleCredit: Christian “VisualBeo” Horvat / Wikimedia Commons

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U.S. Military - Dog Tags ... U.S. Military Sui...

When T.J. Thompson returned from serving in Iraq, the Veterans Administration put him on Lorazepam, a high-potency, short-acting drug used to fight anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and aggression. It didn’t work. Thompson’s anxiety worsened until it almost killed him. In Thompson’s own words: “I took 28 pills and blacked out one night. I also drank an 18-pack of beer in that same night. I declared that I would never take nor have that medication in my house again.”

His brush with death is, tragically, more common than you might think. U.S. military veterans are committing suicide at increasing rates—averaging 22 per day. That’s 20 percent higher than in 2007. (Pay attention Canada! If it’s happening to our American brothers and sisters at this escalating rate, it’s happening to our Canadian military and veterans as well … BONNIE)

Prescribing powerful psychotropic (mood altering) drugs like Lorazepam for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety is common practice among military doctors, but thankfully that’s starting to change in response to the many negative side-effects and an almost total lack of observable positive effects.

According to Dr. Grace Jackson, a Navy psychiatrist who resigned in 2002 in protest of the “pill pushing”: “Clinical studies… have shown these drugs to be no better than placebos—but far more dangerous in the treatment of PTSD.”

Part of the problem with treating PTSD with high-intensity (and generally highly-addictive) pills is the tendency for veterans to self-medicate, according to Alec Dixon, a U.S. Navy veteran and the Director of Client Relations for SC Laboratories. “Veterans—whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf, Korean, or Vietnam War vets—have largely self-medicated as a form of personal coping and treatment with PTSD. Often it is excessive binge consumption of alcohol alone or combined with a cocktail of other prescribed medications. Most vets and active duty military turn to alcohol from an inebriate standpoint due to the ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on cannabis within the UCMJ and, historically, within the Veterans Administration.”

Army soldier doing yogaCredit: Military Health / Flickr.com / CC “But to say that the Veterans Administration (VA) is turning a blind eye to the appalling number of military suicides, however, would be unfair. To their credit, they are open to alternate ways of solving the problem. Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMCA) and a plaintiff in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Agency, admits that the VA is trying to make progress.

The Army and Veterans Administration are trying their best to deal with these issues and have gotten pretty creative: employing meditation, yoga, and even service dogs to assist vets dealing with PTSD. But they haven’t yet discovered cannabis.

Should they? The VMCA has collected an impressive amount of studies that suggest that medical marijuana is a safer and more effective way to treat PTSD and anxiety. They submitted it to the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (MDLRA) in an attempt to convince the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel that PTSD should be a qualifying condition for patients to be prescribed medical marijuana. They have also sent in similar packets to New Mexico and Oregon.

(You can download the studies in the same format as they were submitted to the MDLRA here: Packet 1, part 1 of 3, Packet 1, part 2 of 3, Packet 1, part 3 of 3, Packet 2, Packet 3.) FILE ARE LOCATED BELOW

Thompson has already turned from Lorazepam to marijuana after his frightening experience. He says, “I can use marijuana to help with the same [anxiety] symptoms and not worry about overdosing.”

Cartoon depicting a medical marijuana patient threatened at gunpoint Credit: Latuff2 / DeviantArt.com / CC: Other vets are learning the same thing—but are forced to live in constant fear of arrest because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, even in cannabis-friendly states like Colorado. Former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher is one such example. He had to obtain an expensive prescription for Marinol, a synthetic version of marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, to manage his PTSD symptoms while on probation for three DUIs—all of which he accrued after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003. He is a poster-boy for the self-medication that is all too common among the shell-shocked vets who don’t receive effective treatment.

Admittedly, asking the DoD (U.S.) to turn a blind eye to recreational use of marijuana in states where it has been legalized seems a bit much. It is understandable for them to assert that soldiers and defense contractors must meet certain standards of readiness.

But this outrageously outdated stance on marijuana that the military takes—which ignores the rapidly-growing amount of scientific research which shows that medical marijuana is a cheaper, safer, and more effective means to treating PTSD—hurts our veterans. It kills them.

How many could we save by switching our treatment strategy away from psychotropic drugs and towards medical marijuana? It’s worth finding out. 

It’s a question we here in Canada have to ask too. BONNIE

REFERENCES: Related articles

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