survivor syndrome

A Spoonie poem about perseverance and family

Dear mom,

I’m sorry it has to be like this. I wish you were able to get a good night’s sleep instead of dozing on a hospital chair all night, and having to go to work the next day.

I wish you were able to pursue that amazing job you wanted, but you have to stay at your current job because of the health insurance.

I wish we were able to go on vacations instead of saving up every spare penny we have to pay for medical bills.

I wish I could take away all of the tears I hear coming from your shower when I get a new diagnosis.

I wish it all went away, because I can’t stand seeing your life and your happiness being put on the back burner for someone as pathetic as me. I know I’m never going to be able to live up to be like other able bodied daughters in this world but dammit mom, I’m going to try my hardest to make you proud of me. I’m going to push myself as hard as I can because I want to see you smile the way you were always meant to, the smile you would have had if I never would have been born. I’m sorry you never got to live the life you wanted.

But I will succeed. I will survive this journey because I know you are right next to me. Thank you for always believing in me, for saying that I am just as capable of being someone as great as anyone else in this world. Thank you for never letting my health get the best of me, and telling me that there will be an end to this suffering someday, there will be a moment of peace where you can look back and say “she made it.”

And until then, I will appreciate every moment with you, the beautiful woman I strive to be. The woman who doesn’t complain about that hospital chair, the dusty career, or the showers that always seem to run cold. Because without you, I wouldn’t be forcing myself to get out of bed in the morning and appreciate the beautiful world I am lucky enough to be in today. I love you.

Your warrior

(Written by Alena @pots-support)


Uh….you were wounded by an abortion because your mother had an abortion?  “I gained a lost a brother I never knew I had”  

And she named him. 

“I learned how deeply my mothers abortion had wounded me and that many of my struggles  could be attributed to something called ‘post abortion survivors syndrome’.  Symptoms include depression and anxiety, mistrust of parents, fear of abandonment, an unhealthy need to please our parents, irrational fears, aimlessness, adictions, attractions to the paranormal, anger, a tendency to self-harm, repeat abortions, poor self image, and survivors guilt because we are alive and our sibilngs are not “ 

Yeah, you read that right.  She is using her mother’s abortion to blame for bad things that happened in her own life.  This is the biggest pile of crap I have heard in a while. 


Anti-choice people will reach to any depths.  

Post abortion survivors syndrome is bullshit. 

Survivor pt 2

I woke up towards the end of the dream. I was a part of this dream, a rarity in the dreams that I recall. It involved Z moving to a not so great part of town – specifically it was my old neighborhood the one where I had grown up and taught. I had bumped into one of my past students who, now an adult, had offered to help her move her things. He had been helping and chatting with us. I could see the progression of his face from the days that he was a sweet faced 9 year old  a decade ago. It still held warmth, it still inspired compassion. But it was also clear that he hadn’t made it out of the neighborhood, also clear that he hadn’t gone on to have a steady job a comfortable life. His hands belied the smile.

The dream meandered indoors and out, on stoops and in grass, as dreams do that dispense with the rules of physical life. And in one moment my former student was gone, and one of Z’s bags was left behind where he would have picked it up. He got distracted, I thought and looked around for him. 

I scanned the imaginary horizon and found him just off view. He was standing next to a face I recognized. Tony had lived in my moms house for 20 years, had grown to be an uncle of sorts. He had lost his job later on and my mom allowed him to stay for 2 years without paying the rent. I had actually warned him that his job site was for sale some 2 years before he got laid off. Eventually it fell on me to evict him. He would make overtures – “I’ll get the money next week” – and veiled threats to my morality – “I don’t want to go back to dealing drugs”. Tony then repaid my families years of kindness by forcing me to pay him thousands of dollars when I had sold the house and needed him out, never mind the over ten thousand he left owing.

There he stood with Tony, and in a flash they were in front of me talking despite the distance. “I’m going to stay here,” he said.“You finish.” I knew the implication: he was called back to his real job: dealing drugs. In that moment, I was back on the steps of the building, and looked down to see the bag that was not brought upstairs. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of gum. I took one piece out. Watched as my fingers unwrapped it. I placed it in my mouth and felt my jaw clamp down on the minty respite.

I awoke just then. The source of my jaw clenching? This moment. This fear. This stress.  The stress that I am failing at changing the world. Survivor’s guilt. I got out. But not them. Their world was ruled by the needs of today.

My conscious is starting to hunger again for social justice. I am out of survivor mode myself. Finances stable. Future home for my children secure. Love in abundance. But its not enough for it to be just about me.

I must return to building the New Society Company (NSC). I must return to theorizing my evolutionary approach to building a utopic society. That hope, that work, keeps me sane and my body motivated. It gives my love a direction. It allows my values to steer. It gives my brain the kind of globally impactful problem that it hungers for. But most importantly it affirms my purpose. Desitiny or not, I am filled with purpose when I do this work.

SOLDIER STORIES: In the silence I find fear.

[Survivor Syndrome]

Separated from my squad,
A tree without a forest.

No familiar sounds bring ease
But in the silence I find fear;
Indiscernible enemy
who works the battlefield of my mind.

It’s out there, it’s in here;
It shatters the glass I hold my dreams in
And tears at those loved ones
Who cannot hear my cry of pain
For these wounds do not bleed blood
And the scars hide deep beneath the surface.

Life’s journey has altered its path
But there is a map to return me to 
Those places where peace was my companion
And war was a distant island.

-by John Breska, 44th Scout Dog Platoon, 25th Division, Viet Nam 69-70
Study: High rate of emotions in vets with mild brain injury.

A survey of several hundred veterans with mild brain injury, most coming in combat and from exposure to blast, shows that 60% reported suffering a neurological condition that involves exaggerated emotional responses such as crying or laughing.

“We were little surprised by the findings for this population,” said Regina McGlinchey, director of the Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders at a VA hospital in Boston. “We didn’t expect to see that high of a prevalence.”

It is possible that many combat veterans suffer from the affliction but do not talk about it, she said.

The research was a collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and a pharmaceutical company that manufactures a drug to treat the conditions. Findings will be presented Friday at the 10th World Conference on Brain Injury in San Francisco.

Researchers conducted an e-mail survey of 4,283 veterans in the New England area last year who had tested positive for mild traumatic brain injury after being previously screened by the VA. A total of 758 answered the survey, a 19% response rate that researchers say is positive in this type of study.

Six out of 10 of those with mild TBI cases reported suffering from pseudobulbar affect or PBA, a neurological condition that often afflicts those with brain ailments such as TBI, ALS, Alzheimer’s or dementia, said Joao Siffert, head of research for the drug company, Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Avanir produces the drug Nuedexta, which is designed to reduce the frequency of PBA and has been on the market since 2011, Siffert said.

Those with PBA can display involuntary and uncontrolled episodes of crying or laughing, he said.

“This is not a psychiatric issue. It’s a neurological issue,” McGlinchey said. “The debilitating part is that those outbursts can really occur in socially inappropriate times. It’s very difficult on families and obviously on the patients themselves. … It just gives us another piece of the puzzle and helps us understand a little bit better the range of problems the TBI cohort has.”


SOLDIER STORIES: A soldier’s struggle.

Blackburn, as a Lieutenant, in Mosul, Iraq, December 2007; and with his wife Bethany in 2013.

(Photos and article by Captain Thomas Blackburn, Wyoming National Guard, 14 JUL 2014.)

My first nightmare occurred right before I came home from Iraq for my mid-tour leave. As I slept, my dream sent me out on to the streets of Mosul, Iraq, a place I was very familiar with after seven months of patrolling there.

In this inaugural terror, I was doing my job, leading my platoon on a combat patrol through a neighborhood. After passing a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi Army, I stopped my truck, and got out to talk to one of the soldiers. As I exited my vehicle, a man approached me, lifted his hand to shake mine, smiled, and blew up.

I jolted awake in my bed back on Forward Operating Base Marez, sweating, shaking, and terrified.

That was the beginning of a non-stop, multi-round boxing match with my sleep. I returned home in January 2009, and still suffer through what many other comrades share: restless sleep, anger, heightened awareness, and incredible discomfort in crowds, to name a few.

It’s called combat stress, shell shock, battle fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Whatever the names, it’s all the same in relation to its effect on a combat vet. And it’s common.

In my family alone, I have two people who suffer from the disorder. My father, who was present when I got home from Iraq, told me that he still had nightmares from his one year tour in Vietnam in 1969. That was 40 years before my deployment! Even more shocking, he told me he had a nightmare not more than three days before I got back home.

I also had a brother who participated in the initial Thunder Run to Baghdad in 2003. He suffers from several symptoms of PTSD, and we shared war stories over lunch countless times while I was stationed in Indianapolis, our hometown. Some of his strongest nightmares that grip him relate to the United Nations bombing, where his unit was one of the first on the scene after the explosion.

As for me, I spent 15 months in a city that had become labeled by media as the “Last Stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

In 2008, Baghdad was becoming safer, so many enemy elements focused on Mosul, and it was a battle. Within a month of my company’s initial combat operations, I had hit three improvised explosive devices, one directly, been mortared, ordered my platoon to fire seven main gun rounds from our tanks, and been the target of numerous rocket attacks and small arms fire. This was against an enemy force that refused to stand still and fight for more than moments at a time.

Others had much more intense deployments than me. My brother was in firefights almost every day when he was there in 2003. My experience was concentrated on reopening routes the enemy had littered with IED’s and work with Iraqi security forces to retake their city. The enemy wanted to hide and attack my platoon at their choosing. They were ghosts. Therefore, every day, I stressed and wondered, where was the next ghost strike going to be?

Luckily, I made it through the rest of the deployment. In fact, my whole platoon returned back to their families safe. However, my war was not over. Within a week of lying in my own bed, with my wife, and sheets that smelled Downy fresh, I suffered two nightmares. My honeymoon phase lasted through my first two months until after my return to work from block leave. Immediately, I became impatient, quick to anger, and completely emotionless, especially to my family members. This was the complete opposite of my personality before I left.

My wife Bethany was pregnant with our first child, but I felt little excitement or joy. I didn’t care about my son’s birth. All I wanted to do was be by myself, alone. Television shows I loved prior to my deployment no longer interested me, I quit planning or doing dates with my wife, and I grew very defensive in discussions. I had little joy for life, so Bethany worried. My family back home worried. My dad knew the road I was on and called to check up on me constantly.

However, prior to me leaving Iraq, before talking to my dad three days after my return, I had already made a commitment. Not knowing how I was going to be when I returned, I already had a premonition that I was going to have trouble adjusting and therefore sought counseling immediately.

Others in my unit waved off the idea of seeing a counselor because they thought they didn’t need it, that there would be an image of weakness, or that they could handle their personal business on their own. At in-processing at Fort Hood, when asked if I wanted counseling help, I blurted yes before the nurse finished reading her script. That week I was in front of a social worker. My appointments quickly became twice a week visits.

As a leader, I wanted to prove that seeking help was not a weakness and so I told everyone what I was doing. My platoon. My chain of command. Veterans I talked to at restaurants or at the mall. Everyone. I admitted I wasn’t myself and my family suffered. But I was seeking as much help as possible.

I have not met an active military person in my whole career who acknowledged that they were seeking help. I don’t know if they fear others knowing, but I refused to stay quiet about my troubles. What my leaders and peers thought of my mental fortitude mattered little to me; I only cared about sharing my journey. The fact that my father, who had several troubled marriages and an emotional exterior like a bulldozer, never sought his own treatment, made me realize that his past had a lot to do with who he had become as an older man. That wasn’t going to be me.

Looking back on that first year I was back from Iraq, I can honestly say two things kept me moving in a positive direction. My wife, who survived my deployment to only go through a tumultuous time during my adjustment, stood by me, willing me to help myself. She refused to let me sink into a dark hole. Then there was my son. It was imperative for me to maintain my marriage, and therefore heal myself mentally, so that he wouldn’t be raised in a divorced household. I went through that and didn’t want to do it to him.

But the healing process wasn’t quick, it’s one that can go on for years.

While I was initially going to my social worker, I grew frustrated with my work environment. I was given the opportunity and time to seek my counseling, but, I quickly felt like no one cared. In fact, during a 10-month assignment to a staff position in 2009, my supervisors knew of my struggles, but not one person asked how I was doing until the day I conducted my exit counseling.

That bothered me, not so much for me, because I didn’t need their assurances that I was doing well, but it made me worry about the soldiers out there who had problems and didn’t feel like they could address them. I made it my mission to ask every soldier I knew how they were doing, especially if they had returned from the deployment with me. If they did say things weren’t going well, I then offered myself to help them. I drove soldiers to counseling sessions, I took texts from those seeking advice, and I provided phone numbers of those who could talk a person down from a bad night.

Now, I’m five years removed from Iraq and I’ve improved. I still don’t allow my son to have balloons at home in case they pop, or remain uneasy when popcorn pops (sounds like an AK weapon). I still battle my remorseless attitude, but I feel more tuned to my family’s needs. The time it takes me to get frustrated is still quick, but Bethany and I work together to keep me calm and relaxed through talking and awareness.

Even with my time home, I still face challenges. But, I continue to seek mental healing, even this far out from my traumatic events. In total, I have seen five counselors in multiple session settings since 2009. I will continue to seek more counseling if I feel that times get tough for me in the future. Hiding behind a false bravado or afraid to come forward won’t work well in the long run. Look at my dad. He lived the majority of his life with his demons. I might do the same, but I have the knowledge and awareness going forward to overcome it.

Now, when my nightmares come, I wake up, remind myself it’s not real, and roll back over and go back to bed.