Gerald Vest    
 Beware of DSM and Mental/Behavioral Health Industry3 comments
picture24 Feb 2011 @ 15:15
This link is perhaps one of the most detailed articles and reports about the serious dangers of drugs, labels and absence of reliable research and follow up.

The mental or behavioral health industry is still in the Dark Ages and continues to identify persons suffering or injured as having a DISORDER while identifying and classifying patients with a "check list" of symptoms and with no scientific truth or evidence. These are the facts about mental Disorders and why the psycho/pharma industry promotes the biological drug model of disease-for profit..


Dr. Ofer Zur is one of the great psychologists of our times as he investigates, introduces and designs courses to advance our knowledge, skills, values and ethics in mental health. I recommend that professionals interested in learning more about health and wellbeing visit his website and interact on his forums.

More About DSM & Therapy
August 06, 2009: DSM:
Diagnosing for Status & Money
Posted by: Dr Zur • 25 Comments

Is the DSM scientific, political, social control, or simply for profit?

Opening Statement By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

In principle, mental health diagnoses can be helpful to clinicians and researchers in their formulation of treatment, research, and communication with other professionals. Unfortunately, the DSM has been shaped by economic and political influences rather than by scientific and medical ones. The DSM assigns diagnoses in a biased manner, resulting in more harm than good to our patients, their families, and society at large while delivering huge profits to pharmaceutical companies. Women, children, minorities, lower income, and older people are the groups most likely to be negatively affected by the biases presented in the DSM.

DSM Recap:

The DSM has been called the billing bible of psychiatry and has become one of the most influential texts in the field of mental health.

The DSM is a powerful tool of social control: its criteria are used to judge who is normal or abnormal, sane or insane, and who should remain free or be hospitalized against their will.

Most texts and graduate and postgraduate courses present the DSM as an objective, scientific document. It is neither.

The DSM is primarily driven by the psychopharmacological industry, which reaps huge profits from each new diagnosis that can be treated with medication.

The DSM is distorted by a primarily intra-psychic-individual focus. It does not appropriately address patients who, in fact, are wrestling with social problems, such as sexism, racism, or homophobia, or existential anxieties regarding loneliness or death.

The DSM perpetuates the myth that the medical-mechanistic model can simply be applied to psychology.

DSM-based research has repeatedly been shown to be of questionable validity and is, in fact, very unreliable.

DSM is big business, not only for its publisher and the American Psychiatric Association, but even more so for the psychopharmacological industry, which profits from prescriptions written for the ever-increasing numbers of DSM disorders.

DSM pathologizes many normal and healthy behaviors

Shyness: You are mentally ill if you are very introverted or extremely shy.

Grief: God forbid if you intensely grieve the loss of a beloved one for more than six months.

Depression: You must be mentally ill if you respond to real life issues or injustices with deep sadness and intense despair.

Anxiety: You must be mentally ill if your reaction to the existential reality of mortality or loneliness involves profound or debilitating anxiety.

Lack of sexual interest: Lack of sexual interest is often not a mental disorder. Many women may have good reasons to avoid sex.

Spirited children: DSM casts a very broad net around ADHD, and often includes millions of spirited, strong-willed, and highly gifted and creative children.

Online Article: DSM: Diagnosing for Status and Money
Online Course: DSM: Diagnosing for Money and Power

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Gerald W. Vest, ACSW/LISW/LMT wrote:

As a US Army Clinical/Holistic Social Worker for the past 3 years in the premier Ft Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center, I am convinced that the stress, anxiety and depression is induced by a natural response to War Trauma and is not a disorder or disease.

While engaged 24/7, hunting down the invisible enemy, killing or be killed, along with the extensive and multiple deployments, provides a horrendous experience and unnatural, harsh and inhumane environment for the human being to endure without injury.

While our Self Preservation Instinct and Relations System need to know, every moment, "am I safe and secure," and having to respond to the question, "who am I with? Friend or Foe?" Every system is overwhelmed and this deep whole body, mind, emotion, spirit(compassion & empathy)and social (society-family & friends) system has totally been affected and injured to the core.

Furthermore, it is essential for the injured warrior, health practitioners and therapists to reach deeply into the whole being to restore health, wellbeing and their resilience.

Conventional therapy and pills may only provide temporary relief with multiple side affects. It is for this reason that all integrative and holistic health methods, with evidence based research, must be intensively provided and extensively offered.

War Trauma is not a Disorder or Illness, it is a deep injury of great proportion and should be treated with whole health methods, wide community and family support, extensive services and resources, and preferably in treatment centers like our Ft Bliss R & R Center. [link]  More >

 How Touching Makes you Healthier4 comments
picture31 Jan 2011 @ 16:24
We in the Western world are beginning to discover our neglected senses. The ability of Western humans to relate to fellow beings has lagged far behind our ability to relate to consumer goods and the unnecessary necessities which hold him in thrall--possessd by his possessions. He/she can reach out to other planets, but too often cannot reach out to fellow humans. We seem to be unaware that it is our senses that frame the body of our reality. Ashley Montagu, Touching--The Human Significance of the Skin.

Better Health: How Touching Makes You Healthier
Commented by Gerald Vest, Jan 23, 2011 at 11:46:15 in Health: Huffington Post

“Way to go!!! Everything you suggest is so great for us that we should clone you so that our society can awaken from its sickness and malaise. Everyone should empty their medicine cabnets of any drugs that are not life sustaining and supporting and "Give Touch a Chance." [link]

I have worked in a War trauma center for injured and wounded warriors for the past 3 years and was experienci­ng compassion fatigue without realizing it. Once I discovered these symptoms, I started my daily meditation­, riding my bike and most importantl­y received a deep tissue massage every Sat. on our Downtown Mall. My health and wellbeing, attitude and energy is now at its best and feel the resilience that these integrativ­e health practices produce.

Keep up the good work with these logs....Am­erica needs to awaken our consciousn­ess with touch and overcome the fear and insecurity that it provokes, especially in mental health and aging programs where they have no sense and deprive their customers of safe, skillful and nourishing touch. See our website about how we are advancing the use of integrativ­e health practices and safe, skillful, and nourishing touch with our injured warriors and their families. [link]

Note: Picture is CPT Laura Kennedy, LMSW and me celebrating another successful workshop in our Ft. Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center. Laura is a friend and colleague and one of the terrific Clinical/Holistic and Integrative social workers in the US Army.  More >

 DSM 5 - A Sham, A Scam and A Lie - An Alternative3 comments
picture24 Dec 2010 @ 20:36
In response to the DSM 5 that is about to be marketed and distributed to the mental health industry, BigPharmas, licensing boards, professional programs, and Big Insurance--all joining together to judge, label and code every person who enters their system. How much longer will our public allow themselves, their children and families to be put into their data base of Disorders and Diseases. See my previous log related to the dangers of these practices. [link]

DSM 5 - A Sham, A Scam and A Lie
Submitted to "Psychology Today" by gerald vest on December 24, 2010 - 12:08pm.

All of the DSM's are phony and only exist as a means to manage, control and dominate clients and practitioners in the mental health industry. I know this is true because when we organized our community mental health center, prior to the advent of labels, we provided successful services to our population area without this classification system. We knew that once we slapped a label and code on a client that it would be with them for life. There is no interest in confidentiality and right to privacy for patients given these DSM labels by the mental health industry.

Psychiatry and psychology is a false or pseudoscience as they only pretend that there is scientific evidence--validity and reliability clearly established for their labels. It is simply a code to submit to the insurance industry to establish and collect fees for the contractors.

More importantly, however, is the fact that once this seed or label is planted in the mind, there can be no recovery from a disease or illness that does not exist.

These labels do not fit reality. They are simply a short-cut approach or way for therapists and others to talk about or discuss their patients or clients who have clusters of symptoms. They could discuss their behaviors and look at each of their clients as a unique individual having unique finger prints and unique ways of relating and interacting with Nature. But, they pretend to have a solution while only having a diagnosis to fit a pill that can make the client feel as though they are being cared for or treated for this disorder.

I suggest, stop drugging, judging and labeling your clients and get to know them as unique individuals and human beings wishing to have basic human need requirements met and to become accepted, respected and appreciated for who they are--just like you and me.

 More >

 Joining Elder Vets & Injured and Wounded Warriors & Families2 comments
picture22 Nov 2010 @ 22:43
The Power of Touch and Its Influence on the Well-Being of the Elderly

by Director Haya Daskal

"Does physical touch affect the quality of life of the aged?"

In my practical work as a third-year social work student at a day-centre for the aged, I experienced day-to-day relationships with elderly persons and felt their longing for expressive physical touch as opposed to instrumental touch. Studies show that the use of tactile sensation, a primitive sensory sense, decreases with age and communication is replaced by other means, such as sight and hearing. In old age, when these or other senses are functionally impaired or disappear altogether, both the psychological and physical needs arise to experience the primary sense - physical touch. In our times when life expectancy is prolonged, the chances of remaining alone after one's partner has died are greater. A situation is created in which elderly persons live alone for many years without experiencing the power of touch.

Our Injured Warrior Community Project to wrap-around integrative health practices is going well. We are reaching out and opening our network to others who share their visions and opportunities and resources for our injured warriors and their families. As we move into 2011 we will have a team of interested community veterans, Elders, friends of our vets, and health practitioners to engage and welcome our injured warriors with the knowledge, skills and practices known to improve the quality of lives, health and relationships deserving our great warriors and their families.

Do interact with us if you wish to be added to our community of caring health practitioners and volunteers. We will be introducing our "StressOut"- partner meditation-massage with acupressure and mindfulness with the Elder Community of the City of Las Cruces in late December or early January. Learning to engage our warriors by introducing and administering training programs we will expand and extend our healthy touch program into every senior program in southern NM and beyond. Our cadre and volunteers will be able to introduce and give our stressout to every vet and their family in our community and in every elder program to establish a foundation of basic trust, empathy, respect and caring.

This program does not require licensing; however, we have established "guidelines for the use of safe, skillful and nourishing touch." You will love this experience of exchanging energies at high levels of awareness--uniting your skillful touch with the vitality of breath--producing the empathic and welcome home connection and relationship.

Come Join With US!!!

Picture - SFC Victor Morales-Bustamante Family - Thank you for your trust, openness and participation in our Program - I appreciate all I learned with your great family.  More >

 Integrative Health Practices Improve Quality of Lives, Health & Relationships0 comments
picture17 Nov 2010 @ 14:46
Engagement is the first step in the planned change process and marks the establishment of a helping relationship between the social worker(therapist) and client. During the engagement the worker demonstrates a genuine interest in helping the client, an ability to understand the client's feelings and situation (empathy), and the capacity to listen carefully to what is being communicated, both verbally and nonverbally. To the clients, workers are expected to communicate warmth, genuineness, authenticity, and an interest in helping (empowering) them." Alvin Sallee, LISW, Social Work & Social Welfare: An Introduction, Eddie Bowers Pub., 2004

Engaging Injured Warriors & Families Identified with War Post Traumatic Stress-Anxiety-Depression (PTSD): A Holistic and Integrative Approach to Wellness

Gerald W. Vest, LISW, LMT, US Army Social Worker & Professor Emeritus

Course/Workshop Description:

This workshop/course will offer advanced holistic practices for improving physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social development of injured warriors and their families and caregivers. Soldiers and professionals participating in this course share a common commitment to promote wellness in their work, with their families, within their organizations, and in their lives. Central to this commitment is an openness and interest in developing a healthy attitude or outlook, examining personal and group behaviors, altering negative patterns of conditioning, while developing and/or perfecting practices that support an integrated, healthy human being, strengthening family relationships, and developing a responsible lifestyle.

Additionally, this workshop will focus on transforming and transcending serious injuries sustained in war that affect the whole being, their families and our wider community. Incorporating integrative health practices, including the family relationship, with follow up are essential aspects of care.

This course has special emphasis on supporting the health of the therapists and caregivers. Compassion fatigue is a common injury sustained by caregivers who are often unaware of the dangers of being exposed to the nature and trauma of war.

A significant part of this course represents prevention of Compassion Fatigue that can become a serious injury for the caregiver since our soldiers have experienced trauma beyond belief. As soldiers share their trauma, we need to know that we only can know or respond to our own experience and the analogies and creative war movies don’t even come close to preparing us for the devastation, agony, blood, loss of ‘brothers/sisters’, and events that are a result of combat.

These images and experiences may haunt our injured warriors for life with nightmares, headaches, panic and anxiety attacks, environmental associations, and negative interactions in their social and natural environments. The consequences of not successfully disclosing these experiences may promote disillusionment, despair, and suicide ideation. It is for this reason that the therapist must be well prepared to assist with the trauma process, with disclosure of the events completely, using a variety of mindfulness, holistic skills, and integrative practices. In this workshop the 'Gestalt Approach ’ or whole puzzle is put together with awareness, insight, and learning. Caregivers must be aware of their own pain, resistance, beliefs, sensitivity, fears, associations, experiences, and understanding while being accepting, allowing, encouraging, non-judgmental, responsive, effective, and resourceful.

In this course participants will learn various self-care and holistic health practices to support the vitality, strength, coordination, balance, and flexibility of their whole being to maintain and engage our Injured Warriors and their families with “High Levels of Consciousness.”

Note: Contact our Organization Administrator to set up a Workshop for your Program. [link]  More >

 Warrior Describes his Healing & Recovery in Integrative Health Center0 comments
picture20 Oct 2010 @ 02:11
Mission Statement:

The Fort Bliss Restoration and Restoration Resilience Center restores optimal functioning and battle-readiness to neurophysiologically, psychologically, and spiritually challenged post-deployment Soldiers and their families
using integrated state-of of-the-art treatment to stimulate maximum resilience.

I am very proud and honored to share SSG Hooty's article on his experience being diagnosed with War Post Traumatic Stress and assigned to the Ft Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion and for treatment in our Ft. Bliss Restoration Center, the US Armys premier integrative health program that returns the majority of its Wounded Warriors fit for duty. However, many of our wounded soldiers, like Hooty, have other medical or physical injuries and can no longer meet the physical requirements and are Medically Boarded out of the Service.

SSG Hooty is an exceptionally bright, courageous, humorous, open and encouraging leader. I believe that this article will help other soldiers and their families seek treatment and resources for their serious injuries identified as War Post Traumatic Stress. Thank you for sharing your experiences, knowledge and wisdom with us and our readers. You are the Best, Hooty!!!


Note: Picture is Hooty and Sharon, one of our clinical social workers.


Why is there a certain negative stigma against soldiers being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Troops that are coming home from a long and tiring war in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home to the very people who they are defending and those people are judging our troops for having been effected by the war in a way they will hopefully never have to understand as deeply as our troops do. Mention PTSD at a party or in conversation with friends and watch the flags raise up above their heads. Troops and PTSD is considered a sensitive subject in some groups and in most not even mentioned at all. Americans automatically accept the worst case scenario and are quick to place the blame. “Oh, it’s the PTSD! Just leave him alone.

I was diagnosed with a chronic case of PTSD in 2008 from action that happened in 2004. I went 4 years undiagnosed and confused about what the problem was. Did I suspect it was PTSD? YES! Did I go get help? NO! Why? To be in the Army and reach out for help with mental issues is hands down, a sign of weakness. You’re looked at differently among your peers, you’re treated differently, and people feel like they have to walk on egg shells around you and in some cases this may be true. I was given the opportunity to go through a sort of exclusive treatment facility in Fort Bliss Texas. The treatment center is called the restoration and resilience center (R & R Center). It’s the only one (as of right now) of its kind anywhere in the world. The program was 6 months and not only did I learn tons of things about PTSD and how to help keep it under control, I also learned that I wasn’t the only person going through this. I met all sorts of other soldiers from an array of military occupations across the Army that were suffering the same way I was. They all had dealt with all the things I was dealing with in my life- Divorce, Anger, frustration, lack of sleep and in some situations- Flashbacks, black outs, very aggressive mood swings. All of which in some cases turned into other issues like drug abuse, alcohol abuse or marital abuse. Truth be told, we were all messed up pretty bad which doesn’t surprise me because the center was very exclusive to those who were suffering the worst from the problems they were having. All in all my experiences there were very beneficial to me. I learned all sorts of different things I could do to keep a level head when things get bad. [link]

Now flash forward and I’m out of the Army, way out of my comfort zone and all these issues were piling on top of me. I had no solid source of income, I had no place to live, I was homeless with 2 dogs and 2 kids to worry about. I had no idea what I was going to do. I flipped out. I had a very angry and violent outburst and I realized after I calmed down that I had no one to blame for it but myself.
Most of the people I talk to who have been diagnosed say the same thing. They feel like they are treated differently because of what they experience and to be honest, every one of the guys I was in the center with all lead pretty normal lives. We all complained about the nightmares and sleepless nights among other things, but we never really let it bug us. We all lived like regular people with what we have, we all talked about the fun times we have with our kids, some of us went out as a group to different places we normally can’t go to alone like bars and food shopping in the dreaded Wal-Mart. The point was we had to rely on each other because we felt out of place in our own city. Our home- America; was not the same place we left behind when we boarded the planes to go to war. We served our country valiantly. Most of us were crazy enough to go back 2, 3, even 4 times. We don’t regret what we did. We just want to feel normal.

Stop blaming everything on the war, it’s easy to point fingers at the effects of war. America has this vision that every soldier that comes back has an issue and just blame the war, they give the media fuel to blast the military for “letting this happen”. Is the Government to blame? Yes, but only to a certain extent. I hear about it all the time, soldiers get in trouble and sure thing their first line of defense their lawyer uses is “My client may have PTSD”. I see it in the news and in the papers and you see it too. People use the disorder as a crutch.

Fort Carson Colorado a man working with the mental health system up there told Associated Press that the Army told him and other specialists up there to misdiagnose soldiers with “anxiety disorder” rather than PTSD. As horrible as that is- the ONLY treatment the entire world has to battle PTSD is a little white horseshoe shaped building in Fort Bliss Texas that houses a hand full of social workers (DAMN good ones too!) and some alternative medicine personnel that help the healing process along immensely.

More needs to be done but as a nation we have really stepped up our game on the war against PTSD. The Army as a whole have opened their eyes and last I heard were building another PTSD center up in Fort Carson Colorado and plans were in the works for another on the east coast. PTSD has shadowed the military and society for centuries. It’s only now that we are doing something. As it will take time to get where we need to be with it, I have faith that as an American nation we’ll get there together because that’s what we do. All or none!
 More >

 Integrative Health - Massage for Injured Warriors, Families & Care Givers11 comments
picture16 Oct 2010 @ 18:32
Because breathing charts the life rhythms, the way we breathe signals the disposition of our energies. Agitation or excitement causes the breath to be uneven and rapid: but when we are calm and balanced, our breathing is even, slow, ahd soft. We can also change our mental and physical states by the way we breathe. Even when very upset, we can calm and balance ourselves by breathing slowly and evenly. Tarthang Tulku, Kum Nye Relaxation, Part 1, Theory-Preparation-Massage, 1978, Dharma Publishing

I have invited one of my favorite all time Body Workers to share his experience about joining this profession and about how his life has become after practicing for over 15 years. Michael Wick, LMT has a special technique and method for relieving stress, anxiety and depression through his body work. He has a private practice by appointment and a massage office; however, Mike has a table on the largest Farmer's Market in NM, Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, NM every Wednesday and Saturday mornings. All of nature is present with the beautiful music, sounds, smells and friendliness of the multcultural environment.

During the past 3 years, while working with Injured and Wounded Warriors at Ft Bliss, TX, I learned during my first 3 months in the Wm Beaumont Medical Center's Restoration & Resilience Center that I was developing and experiencing Compassion Fatique. My symptoms included feeling stress, anger, irritability--emotional feelings with many tears at the end of the day. And, while describing our work with the soldiers to others, I became aware that I am overly sensitive about the war trauma experiences expressed by our warriors daily and the depth and extensiveness of their injuries.

Following one of our Staff Training Sessions with Dr. Fortunato, Chief & Founder of our Integrative Health Center for warriors, diagnosed with PTS(d)and wishing to return to the Force fit for duty, I knew I had to either get my self care going full steam or become a care taker victim of this catastrophic injury myself. I will always be grateful for this learning and for Dr. Fortunato for creating this premier health program.

I can tell you that Massage Works for preventing and treating fatigue--stress, anxiety and depression--and for our Injured Warriors that receive all of the integrative methods for their war injuries that affect their whole being--physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially. I thank Mike for being there for me every week to help release this trauma that I store deeply in my back--nerves, muscles, skeletal systems, brain and skull. While using these mindful breathing practices introduced by Tarthang Tulku, I was/am able to maintain high levels of wellness and consciousness. My career is extended and my relations are getting better.

Mike is serving as a body worker and assisting me with coordination of volunteer integrative services with wounded warriors and staff in our Vet Center. This PTS injury requires extensive, holistic and integrative methods for transcending and transforming war trauma experiences into health and wellbeing. Conventional MH therapy does not reach deep enough into the whole being to be fully effective.

This log is designed for us to engage in a discussion of massage, compassion fatigue, and integrative health practices with a remarkable professional therapist, teacher, colleague and friend. Please visit with us in the Comment Area so we can continue to improve our knowledge, skills and values related to touch and physical interaction for improving the quality of lives, health and relationships of our community, warriors, friends and family.


My interest in the body started when I was a young boy. I was always acutely aware of the different sensations my body would experience as I ate, played, slept, wept, shivered, and sweated. I realized my being was more than physical. I experienced emotions, both positive and negative. As I matured spirituality came more into my focus as I started asking “why” to life’s conundrums. During my preteen and teen years I was very physically active in many different sporting activities and events. At 17 I blew my knee out during a football game. This ended my sports career and changed how I looked at life. I underwent five major knee operations in the ensuing five years none of which were completely successful. As passionate as I was about using my body I was hindered again and again. My inability to rely on my knee was ever present. I delved into the academic side of the medical world, researching endlessly, desperately looking for an answer to my perplexing and frustrating physical problem. All this research coupled with the sensations and frustrations within my own body led to a deep and intimate understanding of my humanness and physicality.

Many years later, as I was roaming about the U.S. looking for experiences, a friend suggested I get formal training in bodywork, specifically Rolfing. This made sense to me as my B.A. in Kinesiology as well as a short stint in Chiropractic College gave me a good foundation for this type of endeavor. During the next five years I graduated from two different bodywork schools. The Rolf Institute in Boulder, CO taught me how to approach and manipulate the deeper layers of fascia and other connective tissues. New Mexico School for Natural Therapeutics in Albuquerque, NM taught me an eclectic array of bodywork modalities. I have been practicing and honing my craft for 14 years. My treatments are an amalgamation of Rolfing philosophy and massage techniques. My approach to each treatment involves a very simple goal: locate the tight and congested areas in the body and try to help that tissue relax and let go. I encompass the body in a massage fashion allotting extra time to the tight and congested areas using Rolfing techniques. My belief is that tight tissue impairs circulation whereas loose and relaxed tissue enhances circulation. I also believe that circulation in the body is the key to attaining and maintaining health.

I look forward to discussing my life's goals and activities with you in this forum. It has been a mutual learning experience for me while doing body work with Jerry, his staff and wounded warriors.

I am very happy and contented that I discovered and pursued this scope of practice. During the past 14 years there has not been one day that this vocation has felt like a job to me. It all feels like child’s play. I am delighted to have the opportunity to assist people in their desire for better personal health.

Michael Wick, LMT "Free Spirit Massage," Deep Tissue Therapeutic.

Note: picture is Michael Wick on his daily bike ride.  More >

 Our StressOut Program for Suicide Prevention with Mindfulness958 comments
picture21 Sep 2010 @ 23:48
Our international health promotion team is a modest effort, but hopefully an expanding opportunity, to awaken individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities to an awareness that touch or physical interaction with mindfulness, respect and love are basic human need requirements for safety, survival, resiliency, and for the wellbeing of humanity and all that exists. Our 15-Minute StressOut Program is a great model of Quality Care and Best Practice Research for bringing about change and improvement for the quality of lives, health and relationship throughout our society and beyond.

This past week I was invited to present our safe,skillful and nourishing touch program for soldiers, families and health care professionals at White Sands Missile Range as part of their Suicide Prevention Awareness Program. As we know, physical interaction or touch is one of our basic human need requirements for learning, relating and for experiencing health and wellbeing. Our soldiers were very brave to partner up and give each other one of our "StressOuts" as described in our 15 minute stressout website-- [link]

I also introduced some mindful exercises, breathing, and meditations to support their daily health. There is a lot of evidence that these long and multiple tours produce an injury in the body, mind, emotions, spirit and social relations that is commonly referred to as PTSD. Unfortunately, most mental/behavioral health systems don't include integrative health practices, especially massage & meditation. These methods reduce the agitation, anger, isolation, fear and lonliness, while promoting circulation, healing, and interaction with all of the organs, nervous, muscular-skeleton, skin-protective, digestive and cardia-vascular systems. The brain and other systems are also energized and support the healing processes.

Everyone in this massage forum knows the benefits of massage and integrative health practices, but our conventional mental health and academic therapeutic programs are still mostly skeptical and fearful of touch. I introduce many research programs and guidelines for the safe and skillful use of touch on our forum as well. I recommend that all of our team members and students, visit Dr. Zur's website for the most thorough understanding of the myth of the use of touch by all professionals, health and human service programs.

Anyway, it is good that our program is being used in many military programs and we will continue to advance our safe, skillful, ethical and nourishing touch program in all human and social service programs.

Note: Picture is clinic staff and soldiers in medical clinic learning to give and receive our Stressout Program during Suicide Prevention Week.  More >

 War Post Traumatic Stress - Community Program Development0 comments
picture11 Sep 2010 @ 17:24
Meditation awareness is like completely open space. But not space as we commonly understand it, because awareness is not a place, nor does it have any particular form or shape. This space is neither outside the body nor inside the mind. It is not mental or physical, and yet, at the same time, it is a deep, integrated sense of stillness, openness, and balance--which is the experience of meditation itself. Tarthang Tulku, Tibetan Meditation - Practical teachings and step-by-step exercises on how to live in harmony, peace, and happiness.

For the past 20 years I have been working with soldiers and their families with health promotion, stress related injuries and, as coordinator of meditation & health education We have found mindfulness an integral part of our treatment and health promotion for this serious injury that affects the whole being. I had the good fortune these past 3 years serving as clinical/holistic social worker for the premier PTSD, Wm Beaumont Army Medical Center,(R & R). ([link])

I recently took leave from the R&R Center to develop and consult with community organizations to provide services for this catastrophic injury that has affected almost every warrior deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, their family and our society. We have learned that the warriors who participated in our experimental and experiential program, providing integrative and holistic methods, all improved significantly. Over 60% of our soldiers have returned to the force fit for duty. [link]

We have formed several alliances with community organizations to design and administer our model to advance the use of integrative health practices as the mental/behavioral health programs on all of our military installations are overwhelmed and not able to effectively treat this injury with conventional medicine, therapy and psychotropic meds. Furthermore, the mental health industry has misdiagnosed and labeled this injury as a disorder, disease and illness. This label and identification has prevented most service members from receiving the health, empowerment and treatment required to relieve, transform and transcend war trauma--stress, anxiety and depression--affecting every organ and social system related to the warrior.

There are numerous articles and current events that should alert our society, professionals, their organizations (accreditation bodies, professional schools) to become aware of this emergency and need to respond to this catastrophe that a decade of war has produced in our military services and wider community. [link]

I am bringing this to your attention because Mindfulness Education and Practice are essential to calming, quieting and transforming these injuries into health and wellness, especially when combined with other integrative practices that are provided intensively and extensively with warriors and their families. I have identified the methods that we successfully use in our program, but there are other approaches that can be included as well. The main approach we suggest is that since all of the systems are affected by this war injury, all approaches that interact with them can be included in the recovery process. And, all of us in our Center also believe that the empathy, physical interaction, compassion and love that we all enjoy or appreciate with our warriors and their families, is the sustaining influence for healing. [link] and [link]

We are preparing our community team organization for advancing our model that includes identifying veterans in our community, graduates & families of our R & R Program, integrative & holistic health practitioners, and others interested in serving our warriors, vets and their families. If any of you are interested in providing support or wish to develop a model War PTS Program in your community, do let us know so that we can establish a strong and viable network. Also, do let us know how you can help us--physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially and economically

If you wish to form a community outreach program in your area for Warriors and their families do let us know so that we can join together a Network of PTS Community Programs. [link]


Note: Picture is Chase, one of our graduates of the Ft. Bliss R&R Center, now deployed to Afghanistan following several tours in Iraq. We are very proud of this great Warrior who completed our integrative health program and returned to the Force fit for duty. I'm proud and honored to know you. Way to go, are the Best!!! Jerry  More >

 News Article on our Healthy Touch Program with Vets & Wounded Warriors0 comments
picture7 Aug 2010 @ 14:05
"...let me say that as human beings our basic aim is to have a happy life; we all want to experience happiness. It is natural for us to seek happiness. This is our life's purpose. The reason is quite clear: when we lose hope, the result is that we become depressed and perhaps suicidal. Therefore, our very existence is strongly rooted in hope. Although there is no guarantee of what the future will bring, it is because we have hope that we are able to continue living. Therfore, we can say that the purpose of life, our life's goal is happiness." The Dalai Lama, Dimensions of Spirituality, p.3.

Having been involved in the healing process of over 200 soldiers since 2008, I am inspired to improve the quality of lives, health, and relationships of injured warriors, veterans and their families through integrative health practices that have been proven effective. I have recently met with the California Coalition, Ft. Bayard Restoration Project, Menzies TBI Clinic, and others to assist with endeavors to facilitate the healing of soldiers and families diagnosed with PTSD/TBI. The US Army premier Ft. Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center (R & R Center)can only treat Warriors willing to return to the Force, fit-for-duty.

Our team is highly motivated and we are eager to transfer our 'hands on' knowledge and experience gained during our many years in the development of comprehensive, intensive and extensive treatment programs applying integrative and holistic health methods and approaches with all injured and wounded warriors and their families.

It has been my observation over the past 25 years, while serving as the Ft. Bliss Stress Management Trainer with the US Army Community Services and as clinical/holistic social worker in our R & R Center, that soldiers and veterans treated using primarily conventional mental health methods and psychotropic meds will unlikely be successful. PTSD is an injury that affects the soldier and his family and our wider community. Identifying this injury as a mental health 'disorder,' rather than as an injury that affects the whole being--physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially--is a big part of the problem for soldiers.

The integrative model, therefore, recognizes what affects one part of a system affects all systems, is the appropriate and healthy way to transcend these limited mental health practices and injurious labels (eg.,Brain Disorder). The conventional mental health approach has not worked and it is time to change.

Those warriors suffering and hiding out in their homes, in institutions,under bridges and in despair and pain, only show us the failure of the conventional mental health model, the failure of psychotropic drugs and, the failure of our professional health education and welfare programs for continuing to support them.

Far too many SM's "fall between the cracks" because of the poorly administered, limited mental health model that is focused primarily on sick care rather than on the whole person in interaction and in relationship with Nature and with all that is.

It is definitely time to change these limited, sick care approaches--labeling and drugging our soldiers. We have great healing and wellness methods that work wonders and give hope for this dreaded injury. These are the programs and the treatment modalities that our Wounded Warriors experience regularly: meditation, massage, acupuncture, therapy dogs, reiki therapy, movement therapies, therapeutic arts, water therapy, a cleansing of toxins, biofeedback, therapeutic outings, gestalt group therapy, holistic self-care plan, health education, evaluation, aftercare and followup. Why would we not give our service members everything they deserve to get better as well as offer their family a support system? See Belleruth's article on how meditation helps our soldiers. She is especially known for her guided meditations and they work. [link] Meditation and mindfulness also helps soldiers in war zone. [link]

As another example of an integrative approach, our 15-Minute StressOut Program is very popular with our Wounded Warriors and Vets in nursing homes and other programs as the Power of Touch, coordinated with the Vitality of Breath produces an empathic connection and positive relationship as we welcome them all home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Please let us know if you can help our Team Leaders introduce and teach this health practice with every Veteran, Wounded Warrior and their Family and others in your community. Contact: [link]


Soldiers share power of touch with veterans

Julia Yubeta

WBAMC Public Affairs

More than 15 Soldiers from the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center visited the Ambrosia Guillen Texas State Veterans Home in Northeast El Paso July 15 to share with fellow veterans the benefits of the 15-minute StressOut Program.

The program was designed by Jerry Vest, an Army veteran and a clinical social worker with William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s R and R Center. The program was first developed by Vest in 1979. After giving more than 40,000 “stressouts” over a 30-year period, he has learned that the program is safe with all populations.

Vest introduced the program to the residents of the veterans home by showing a “Welcome Home from the Wars” DVD, and an instructional video about the “stressout” program, and a video that provided guidelines for the safe use of touch.

“Both the giver and receiver of this program serve as partners to connect the vitality of breath with the power of touch,” said Vest. “This brings about mindfulness as an intrinsic awareness program for both the giver and receivers of touch and physical interaction.”

He explained that while systematically applying pressure points and introducing the “laying-on-of-hands,” we remind the givers and receivers to maintain an awareness of their breath throughout the activity.

“The chair-like massage becomes like a partner meditation – relaxing yet energetic,” he said.

Willie Brown, activities director at the veterans home, said he had been working with Vest for more than a year. “This is a fantastic program that highlights the power of touch and its healing benefits.

“Many of our veterans have forgotten about touch. The only touch they routinely receive is when they need help transferring from bed to their wheelchair,” he said.

“I watch their faces and can visibly see the release of tension. They comment on how good they feel afterwards.

“The benefits are two-fold, for both the Soldiers, as the givers, and for our elderly veterans.”

The veterans from the home were brought to the activities room in two groups to allow for maximum participation. One of the residents said she was a little hesitant and didn’t know what to expect. Her Soldier partner talked steadily to her while gently employing the techniques he had learned. She smiled and relaxed and asked when they were coming again.

After the session, a Soldier commented that this was his second visit, but wouldn’t be his last. He added that it felt good to feel someone relax using the techniques they had been taught. Another Soldier added that he felt comfortable being around other veterans and felt a sense of brotherhood. Both Soldiers said they had learned a lot about the power of touch.

“This healing touch is a gift from the wounded warriors to you, and from you to them,” said Vest to the elderly veterans. “Everyone can benefit from the power of touch.”

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 Therapy Dogs Serve our Wounded Warriors37 comments
picture14 Jul 2010 @ 14:53
I am very pleased and honored to write this letter of support and recommendation for Paws of Honor Organization. SGT Paul Jeffers, Army Medic and Founder/Owner, has been successfully adopting, working and training Service and Therapy Dogs for some time.

As Coordinator of Health Education and Clinical/Holistic Social Worker for Ft. Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center, I have taken a special interest in observing his Dogs while also bringing SGT Jeffers into our Center for presentations and for his Dogs to relate and interact with our Wounded Warriors every week for the past year.

Our R & R Center is the US Army’s premier integrative health program for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD and for those wishing and able to return to the Force following their 6 months of intensive and extensive treatment. Aftercare is also provided for an additional month and more if needed. SGT Jeffers’ contribution to our Wounded Warrior’s health and wellbeing is significant and encouraging for soldiers suffering from these injuries that affect the whole being--physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

This service member & Debbie Kandoll have helped our soldiers with their experience of isolation, agitation, hyperarousal and persistent avoidance by introducing their therapy dogs and assisting our Wounded Warriors to adopt, train and develop their dogs as friends and partners in their healing process.

We look forward every week to his participation with us in advancing the health and wellbeing of our soldiers and for bringing his well disciplined and friendly therapy dogs into our Center.

We thank SGT Jeffers and his therapy dogs for their excellent services and support. Paws of Honor is a welcome addition to the treatment services for our soldiers and others returning from War.


Thank you for visiting our site. Just to give you a better understanding of what we are about, here is my story.

My name is Paul, I am a Medic in the United States Army and have served now for 12 years. I have deployed to the Pentagon and Iraq. During my combat time I received several injuries/illnesses including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and TBI (Traumatic brain injury).

After trying everything available to treat these problems they never completely went away, so I ended up getting a dog to use as a service dog. I trained this dog with help and even though I'm not Healed, I am better now. I started using her for therapy for other soldiers and they have had an easier time dealing with their PTSD, and getting service dogs as well. Some have been able to stop their medications after getting the dog and noticed a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.

I started this organization to help other soldiers that need service dogs and don't have the means or funds to get one. with my help I can get the soldier the dog they need, train them, and with donations, help with vet bills. Currently the military does not cover the cost of Vet bills for service dogs even though the soldier needs it for medical purposes. If I get enough help and donations, this organization will build a small kennel to house 4-5 dogs that will be rescued from a pound, so in the process we will also be saving dogs that could be such a help to Americas heroes and have probably done nothing but want love.

We are also connected with militaryworkingdogadoptions they are who got me the help I needed and trained me. They save retired Military working dogs that would otherwise be put down. I will put more info up at later dates as we grow, so please feel free to come back and leave a comment and any donations would be a blessing.
You can also visit the organization we work with at [link] and[link]  More >

 Our StressOut Mission and Activities20 comments
picture31 May 2010 @ 22:18
In our webpages, I will introduce the basic need and requirements for human touch. While there is strong evidence that our society and human family are becoming an endangered species, many governments, such as the USA, pay little attention with minimal commitment, to global warming, nuclear stock piles, environment, natural and economic disasters, health & wellness, unemployment, poverty, abuse, neglect, pandemic health diseases, and little control over growing "...government-military-industrial complex" - corporate monopolies. We are now experiencing an unprecedented disaster in the Gulf with oil spilling out of the guts of our Earth with no end in sight. And, we now have a greater division and inbalance between the very rich, middle class, and impoverished. Unemployment is catastrophic for a rich nation in resources, yet bankrupt with the political leadership and a systemic failure of our social systems--economic, family. criminal justice, education, health, medical care, aging programs, etc. Quality of care is absent and lacking when these communities and resources deny and ignore the basic human need for Touch or Physical Interaction and the kindness, respect and dignity every human being desires.

While many of us are aware of these impending and current disasters, organizations such as New Civilization, are attempting to awaken humanity through mindfulness, virtual interaction on The Internet, and by forming healthy, respectful alliances to make a difference and encourage changing the direction we are heading.

Our international health promotion team is a modest effort, but hopefully an expanding opportunity, to awaken individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities to an awareness that touch or physical interaction with mindfulness, respect and love are basic human need requirements for safety, survival, resiliency, and for the wellbeing of humanity and all that exists. Our 15-Minute StressOut Program is a great model and "Best Practice" for bringing about change and improvement for the quality of lives, health and relationship throughout our society and beyond.

Obviously, there are serious considerations for being circumspect and skillful in offering nourishing touch as a conscious intervention in the workplace, schools, programs for elders, military, and in a family environment. Guidelines for the Safe Use of Touch include:

1)providing the option for participants to self-administer our program;

2)receiving permission to touch and reminding participants that contact is always in safe areas;

3)having witnesses or partners present;

4)teaching the activity to others so that they can be the givers of the stressout program;

5)encouraging participants to use the teaching DVD & Study Guide (Vest,1995)if the participant chooses not to make physical contact.


You can join with us in advancing the use of healthy, respectful and nourishing touch throughout the world by visiting and studying our website. Interact with us on our Forum , as well.

Humanity, nature and earth are in a vital relationship that is interactive, integrative and participatory with a total interdependency--What affects one of us affects all of us. This recognition calls on all of us, including our decision makers, to begin taking responsibility for what we do and how we improve our conditions, relationships, and our planet. Money, power and greed have gotten us into this quagmire. We must now dig ourselves out of this 'sink hole' of an economy, wars and a growing or expanding military-industrial complex. It is time for all of us to change and to contribute our resources, knowledge, skills and values for the improvement of our planet.

This change requires us to have empathy and compassion for one another and our planet. The quality of our lives, health and relationships depend upon each of us to find our place and niche in our society and in Nature. I believe we are created for a purpose, much like a tree, an animal, fish or bird. We need one another and everything to live and enjoy our opportunity to be alive. It is for this reason that I have chosen Touch, one of our Basic Human Need Requirements for living and for being whole and healthy. Our approach is to advance our knowledge, skills, values and practices to achieve our best possible human and social conditions while discovering our lost dignity and self respect.

Come join with us NOW!!! my website

Jerry Vest, ACSW/LISW/LMT, Organization Team Leader

Professor Emeritus, NMSU and Holistic-Integrative and Senior Social Worker

Ft Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center

Note: Sand Painted Picture of War Dancer (Sands are all natural colored rocks)is by Daman Watchman, Sheep Springs, NM.  More >

 How Injured are our Warriors with PTSD3 comments
picture24 Apr 2010 @ 20:41
Thanks Luis for sharing this article about PTSD that describes what happens to our soldiers who go on multiple tours and have to sustain their awareness 24-7 in an extreme temperature & environment with 100+ #'s of armour on their upper body. It is very rare to see a soldier who doesn't have serious injuries in their knees and backs. Most of the warriors I know are very brave and never complain, but they know that their equipment was produced by the 'lowest bidder' and not the best that it could be to support them and prevent these injuries.

PTSD and TBI are serious injuries as well that don't just affect their minds. As we know, what affects the mind affects the body and what affects the body also affects the mind and spirit. I am pleased that we are a holistic-integrative program so we have all of the interventions to support their whole being. Read this story in this NYT's article describing conditions and the hardships that soldiers face while being placed in a Warrior Transitional Battalion at Ft Carson, Co. after returning from deployment. [link]

Anyway, I have heard these traumatic stories every day for almost 2 1/2 years and I have come to see that if everyone could hear these experiences of our Marines and Soldiers, perhaps we would think more clearly or take the "Right Action" to prevent these atrocities from ever happening. I know that this comment comes from my over idealism, but for God's sake, NO MORE WAR!!! Humanity must wake up and discover compassion, love, respect, empathy, understanding, and kindness.

I have decided to give notice and complete my Work here at Ft. Bliss as we will join our family in Denver. Today I announced that I will be leaving at the end of July so that personnel can find a replacement for my position. In addition to providing individual and group therapy daily, I coordinate Health Education, Water Polo and Meditation. I also participate in therapeutic outings. It generally takes at least 3-4 months to complete the process as a licensed provider of service so I'm hopeful that our Center can fill my position in a timely manner.

Most of our soldiers have completed 2-4 tours of duty that last over 12 months while the Marines have 6 month tours and I believe that they have fewer diagnosed with PTSD, but then, perhaps we'll never know the true extent of these identified with these injuries as few warriors wish to be identified or labeled with a mental health "disorder."

Mental health systems really could improve as they use the disease model and psychotropic pills are the preferred & primary method of treatment for most soldiers treated in MH. Perhaps they don't know any better way, right now, as most therapists are trained in using the DSM to give pills for related symptoms. However, we offer health options, but the medical professions are cynical about holistic-integrative methods and most conventional practitioners are very skeptical about our integrative approaches. See our website for details and links to our health resources--how we serve our Warriors. [link]  More >

 MSG Hunt tells his story about War & PTSD/TBI4 comments
picture23 Jan 2010 @ 18:54
PTSD occurs when a person has experienced, witnessed, or has been confronted with a traumatic event, which involved actual or threatened death or serious physical injury to themselves or others. At which point they responded with intense fear, horror or helplessness. These diagnostic criteria for PTSD falls into three groups and are summarized as follows:

1)Re-experiencing the trauma (nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts).

2)Numbing and avoidance of reminders of the trauma (avoidance of situations, thoughts and feelings, etc.).

3)Persistent increased arousal (sleep difficulties, irritability, anger outbursts, startle response, etc.). Downrange to Iraq and Back by Bridget C. Cantrell, Ph.D. & Chuck Dean

More than this, however, is the fact that a physical injury affects the brain with these long, multiple tours; long days and nights while maintaining an acute awareness with all of the senses. And, emotions are 'wired' while performing military functions to prepare for action, secure the perimeter, protect your team and "look out" for potential dangers with sustained alertness without having the needed REM state sleep for recovery.

The concussions by IED's cause Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and are also a devastating blow to our soldiers' brains that have enourmous inpact on the central nervous system and impacts memory of short term activities and events. So many of our Warriors have enormous headaches and Migraines as well. So many of our Warriors also have Sleep Apnia that can be a career buster. "Big" Joe will describe his experiences and how he has dealt with his pain, suffering, transformations,ups and downs, relationships, rehab, and more. Thank you, Joe.


I am proud and honored to post this article by MSG Joe G. Hunt, SR.(Ret.) who tells his story about some significant and traumatic events that he experienced during 3 tours in Iraq and his 6 month recovery in our Ft. Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center. I had the good fortune to be "Big" Joe's primary therapist during this time and can affirm that he did everything possible and all that was offered in our treatment program and more, to recover and complete his 34 years as a great Warrior in our US Army. This service member has written his story to help brothers, sisters and others in our society understand and appreciate what soldiers often experience during the wars. We will never know the whole story of war and all of the trauma, sleepless nights, horrendous nightmares and all of the other symptoms that prevent our wounded warriors from returning home and joining their families with comfort, security, and joy. In fact, it seems to me that it is a miracle that any of these families make a successful recovery--our soldiers are no longer the same persons they were went they went to War--families no long recognize their loved ones and those they left behind often find them as strangers to re-discover.

One more reminder for all of us. Don't let our Iraq and Afghanistan Warriors return home without the recognition that they deserve. They did not start these wars or continue them--they did their duty the best they knew how. Welcome them home with the respect and dignity that they deserve and help them get the best services possible to help them heal and recover from all of these injuries, wounds and trauma. Darryl Worley, "Coming Back from the War" describes this experience vividly in his great ballad: [link]

Jerry Vest, LISW, Holistic Health Social Worker


This is my story and I give my authorization and permission for Jerry to post this on his Log. I was a patient in the worlds primere PTSD treatment center and I waive my rights to privacy and confidentiality so that others will seek treatment and help for these invisible injuries. No one should ever feel guilty and wrong for taking advantage of services that can help them return to their families, to active duty or get medically boarded.

My primary counselor from the R&R program, (Restoration & Resilience Program), Jerry Vest asked me to write about my deployments to Iraq and the effects that those three deployments have had on me and my family functioning in daily activities. First let me give you some background as to who I am. I spent 34 years of my life doing a job I have loved, being a soldier in the US Army. My rank at my retirement is MSG/ E-8. I have been an active duty soldier, Oklahoma National Guardsman, Army Reservist. During my 34 years of federal service I have worked daily in the Army and had several civilian jobs.

On December 25, 1990 I and my unit left Nurnberg, Germany to enter Operation Desert Shield. The ground war lasted 5 ½ days and no real major problems for me existed at the completion of that action. Yes, my humvee was fired upon by a Russian T-72 tank and I watched rounds drop 500 meters off our perimeter. Yet I truly believe I was okay when we arrived at Bassara highway, (highway of death) in Kuwait. The next morning I and my driver were tasked to help clear the highway so Gen Schortzcroft could land for the signing of the peace treaty. We were to put yellow flagging tape around vehicles with no bodies and red flagging around vehicles with dead bodies in them. This was absolutely the worst two and half days of my life at that time. Me and my driver vomited more times than I can remember and saw some of the most grotesque scenes imaginable. Bodies and vehicles were still smoldering, some were torn apart so bad you couldn’t tell their sex, some were charred so bad that they had broken in half. The smells, the sights, were more than I could handle. I returned back to Germany to my wife and son only to isolate from them, get very angry and blow up for nothing, and the worst was the nightmares. I had been a Medic early in my career and knew the symptoms of PTSD but missed them terribly for myself.

After returning to the states at Ft. Sill, Ok I got off of active duty and entered the Oklahoma National Guard. I had a civilian job and was not doing well at all. I and my wife had multiple problems and I thought I was crazy, (truly). The Oklahoma VA gave me all kinds of medication and life started going downhill fast. Me and my wife separated in November 1995 and divorced January 1996. I moved to Texas, (Houston) and started working in a totally different field. The Houston VA was no help with my symptoms and diagnosed me as Major depressive with bipolar symptoms and chronic Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSS). A lot more physical problems surfaced and I continued to get worst. In 1997 I started community college with the intentions of becoming a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. I graduated in 1999 with honors and started interning. All the time going to the VA and having anger outburst and the nightmares got worst.

I have to go back and tell a real part of my life now so that the understanding will become really clear to you. On March 5, 1986 I entered a Residential Treatment Facility in Nurnberg hospital for the treatment of alcoholism. Since that day until this day I have not had a drop of alcohol. This March 5th will be 24 years. I needed to tell you this for reasons that are associated with soldiers with PTSD and TBI. Drugs and alcohol are a way of coping in a society that doesn’t have a clue, especially the ones closest to you. All the time from my return from Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and The Kurd Relief until my completion from college and interning drinking and doing drugs were not an option for me. Going to AA saved my life literally. I knew I was crazy, I didn’t belong, feel comfortable, or feel loved by anyone at the same time I didn’t want anyone to know me or get close. This was my double edge sword.

Things actually started getting better in 2001. I was working as a case manager for an HIV/AIDS outreach center and was actually enjoying it. The center after 9/11 lost a lot of its funding and we moved into a church that had a food pantry for my clients. I worked extensively with the pastor and my guilt got to a point that I was baptized and became a member of the church. I met my wife now at the church and we were married September 21, 2002. This whole time I was also in the Army Reserves. Six months after my marriage I was put on orders for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I left for Ft. Hood, Texas and came home on weekends I could and left for Iraq on January 4, 2004. The nightmares, anger, isolation, hypervigilence all were becoming even worst than before.

I arrived at LSA Anaconda Balad, Iraq with mixed feelings and emotions, but as crazy as this sounds I hadn’t felt as comfortable with myself since before I went to the Gulf war. Several things happened while I was at Anaconda, first being on a convoy and having an IED go off about five vehicles in front of me and my driver. No one got hurt, but it was a baptizism under fire thing. We came off the road with a high that no drug could ever match. It was and incredible feeling, even when nothing happened we would get this high. Second being at LSA Anaconda the Stars and Stripes newspaper dubbed Anaconda, “Mortaritiville “as we got hit with rockets or mortars everyday. Three to six at a time, I was knocked to the ground more times than I can remember. I received a Combat Action Badge for being engaged by the enemy under indirect fire. I and a 2nd Lt were on our way to the base theater to eat lunch one afternoon when a 127mm rocket hit and knocked us to the ground. I was stunned and dazed but his mouth was moving and everything was in slow motion. His voice sounded like the voice in Peanuts, “ wha,wha,wha,wha “, I don’t know how long it was but I heard a pop in my head and I could hear and everything was back to normal sort of. I had an intense headache the rest of the day and evening. No blood or any outward signs of injury were present not even from my ears. The headache would come and go and every attack after that one I would get real angry and start talking to my self. Once on a convoy a RPG round flew right in front of our windshield and landed about 50 meters from us as we were driving down the road. My gunner peed her pants. Other things happened but not as bad as the ones mentioned.

I returned back to Ft. Hood on 14 Dec 2004 and was very anxious, scared to return. I didn’t know how I was going to react with life and my wife. After six months things were okay I guess. Nightmares would come and go and most I couldn’t remember. I would be walking nothing going on and all of a sudden I would see a flash of bright light. It would scare the crap out of me and I would start breathing fast and my palms would be sweaty and then would go away after some time passed. All this time I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Having an Associate of Applied Science of Mental Health Technology degree only compounded my feelings. I had enough mental health education to be very dangerous. My self diagnosis was becoming obsessive. I finally diagnosised myself as truly crazy, just nuts and should be locked in a rubber room. For one year after returning I did not work or see any doctors. In April of 2006 I received orders to go back to Iraq. In some ways I was relieved but still scared. I had angry outburst against people and senior officers before leaving and I look back now and see were somebody should have stepped in and said go get some help. But no one did and I thought life was normal in a lot of ways. Me and my wife had some issues upon my return but nothing really major. I could not argue or debate anything. It was either relaxed or un-believably angry conversation from my end. I could see the fear and hurt in her eyes yet couldn’t do anything about it which made me even angrier. I only wanted some one to understand what was happening. Prior to leaving I couldn’t sleep and emotionally I was a wreck.

We arrived once again at LSA Anaconda on August 24, 2006 and I was home once more. I can’t describe the feeling I felt once I stepped off the plane. I still had panic attacks but not near as many. The Army in all of its infamous wisdom really didn’t have a job for me when we first got to Anaconda. So I started doing things for different people just to have something to do. Finally I met a 1LT that was Commander of a National Guard truck company from Arizona. She needed a Convoy Commander very badly. So I said yes and off I was. Again coming off the road was such a high. When things would happen there would be an even greater high if that’s possible. After being their for about 6 months, one night the convoy in front of us stopped in area 49 on MSR Tampa. Area 48 & 49 were known to be ambush sights or ied’s, efp sights. Anyway, the convoy in front of us started receiving fire from the passenger side of the road behind a berm. I got out of my vehicle and walked to the humvee that had been hit hard. I started giving medical support and gave a situation report to the convoy commander. They started moving and my truck came by and I got in. It was like everything that happened was in slow motion. I could hear rounds whizzing by my head but it didn’t bother me at all. That’s the only real incident that happened during that time. We still received mortar and rocket fire at the Forward Operating Bases we would stay at. I was relieved of my duties and put at Balad hospital as a patient liaison for injured and sick soldiers. This was hell. We would take the litters off the helicopters and take them to the ER. We would identify the person and contact their unit and give them an update. Sometimes the head Nuro-Surgeon would look at me and say palliative care. Then I would take the soldier to ICU 1 in the back and unplug everything and hold his hand and wait for him to die. Once that happened I would drape an American flag over the body and take it to the morgue for processing. I would be with the body until mortuary affairs would show up to take the body to the collection point. This was hard and I got full in my heart real quick. I had no room for anything else, nothing. Then Gabby Bell came into my life and in a world of chaos and craziness she made the world right. This baby girl I helped take off the chopper one evening thinking that it was empty. But under some blankets was this brown eyed little girl. She had been hit in her abdomen with shrapnel from an ied. Both her parents were killed. She would not go to sleep one night and I heard her crying. So the nurse gave her to me and I took her down to my desk and held her while I worked. She slept so peacefully. She would give this little grin just for a moment. So cute, a blessing for all of us. I tried my hardest to adopt her and take her back home with me. But the Iraqi government wouldn’t allow it. One day this Iraqi woman shows up and says she is her grandmother and takes her away crying. Boy, I cried like crazy and got extremely angry. I didn’t go on the Iraqi floors or have anything to do with them anymore. To hell with them. My time ended and I came back to Ft. Hood, Texas on August 2, 2007. My eyes hurt from all the green that day and I was sweating from the humidity, but yet I was shivering from being so cold. Completely strange, which didn’t help my home coming at all? The Army saw I had 18 years of active federal service and sent me to Ft. Bliss, Texas for two years to retire. I and my wife had a home in NW Houston and so I went to Ft. Bliss alone.

Once at Ft. Bliss I was assigned to B Co WBAMC, thank God the hospital SGM put me at the Wounded Warrior Battalion as patient liaison NCOIC. I was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. I couldn’t sleep; large crowds scared the hell out of me. I had no interest or hobbies and everywhere I went I was always watching for something to happen. I could see flashes of bright lights and smell war everywhere. One day some soldiers from this place called the R&R center came to the battalion to tell the wounded soldiers about the R&R program. I met a lady named Sharon and she invited me to the center for a visit. A week later I show up and before I know it I’m crying my eyes out and being admitted into the R&R program. It was the best thing that could have happened for me. People actually knew I wasn’t freaking nuts or trying to get out of doing something or make a buck off the government. Group counseling was a dream comes true for me. I heard things that happened to me and heard the same crazy things that I saw, smelled and did. I know for a fact that the R&R program saved my life. My primary counselor would listen to me intently and have me talk to a chair with no one in it, (The Gestalt Therapy), if you have never done that you ought too! My secondary counselor knew of my AA background and had me write a lot. I didn’t want to but I did. Both counselors saved me from my self. I had zeal like I hadn’t had in along time. I really and honestly wanted to get well. I would force myself to go to the malls during very crowded times just to deal with it. I always took someone with me never went alone. Some days were really great others were not so great, but the gap between worst and best was shrinking. The group counseling was really good for me as it reinforced to me that I wasn’t alone or crazy. The latter being near and very dear to me as you can realize.

The R&R program was 6 months long and intensive which I believe it should be longer. I know we are trying to get soldiers back in the fight and understand that. But after I left the program I regressed a lot. I was working at McGregor Training Base Complex at the Mayor Cell as the evening shift NCOIC. There were times I would panic for absolutely no reason at all. Right after leaving the R&R program I started seeing a doctor for TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He put me on zanax 1 mg for anxiety and to help with sleep. I had x-rays and an MRI of my head and he diagnosed me with TBI post concussion syndrome axis level I. My symptoms are memory short term recall, headaches, dizziness, some tendinitis in my ears ringing, irritability, concentration, frigidity, and anxiety. I spent a lot of time with a speech therapist for memory and concentration which helped considerably. After I left the R&R program I regressed and I know it was from just starting to feel comfortable and then you leave. If the program was a year long it would provide ample opportunity to relax and deal with everything. The families are really left out in the dark cause all the treatment is for the soldier. Arguing with your spouse every night while trying to relax in the daytime is very difficult even for someone who doesn’t have PTSD, I will never be the same person as I was before but hopefully I will get close. I’m now retired and at home in NW Houston and trying very hard every day to be the best I can be. I and my wife are communicating and working through issues. She has phone numbers to call any of the therapist or even my TBI doctor whenever she feels she needs to. My memory is my biggest problem today. I can’t talk clinically anymore because I can’t remember simple words when talking and it makes me sound like a complete idiot. I hope I have given you enough background and answered a lot of questions you may have about PTSD and TBI from a soldier’s perspective. I am patiently waiting my award letter from the VA with my compensation percentage so I can start going to the doctor again. The feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and extreme guilt are fading each day. Depression seems to not be their quite as bad as it was. But the tools I have learned from the R&R program work and I still use them.

Thank you all so much.
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In these articles, I introduce the basic need for human touch. While there is strong evidence that our society and human family are becoming an endangered species, many governments, such as the USA, pay little, if any attention, to global warming, nuclear stock piles, environment, natural and economic disasters, poverty, abuse, neglect, pandemic health diseases, and growing military-industrial monopolies.

While many of us are aware of these pending and current disasters, organizations such as New Civilization, are hoping to awaken humanity through mindfulness, virtual interaction on the Internet, and forming healthy, respectful alliances to make a difference and change the direction we are heading.

Our health promotion team is a small effort, but hopefully an expanding opportunity, to awaken individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and commuities to an awareness that touch, respect and love are basic human needs for survival and wellbeing.

Obviously, there are serious considerations for being circumspect and skillful in offering touch as a conscious intervention in the workplace or in a family environment. Guidelines for the safe use of touch include:

- providing the option for participants to self-administer our program;

- receiving permission to touch and reminding participants that contact is always in safe areas;

- having witnesses or partners present;

- teaching the activity to others so that they can be the givers of the stressout program;

- encouraging participants to use the teaching video and study guide (Vest,1995)if the worker chooses not to make physical contact.

Join with us in advancing the use of healthy, respectful and loving touch throughout the world. We are One.

Previous entries
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  • 2015-07-06
  • Maintaining Continuum of Awareness for Health, Healing and Restoration #2

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