Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Glimpse in the Window....

...of my brain.  

As I have stated several times in the past, I deal on a daily basis with Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).


From the website Out of the Fog:
"Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of: 
  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hoovering behaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis conditions."
In learning how Trauma affects the brain, first we need to learn how a "normal", untraumatized brain develops.   Dr. J. Douglas Bremner writes:
Although the bulk of brain development occurs in utero, the brain continues to develop after birth. In the first 5 years of life there is an overall expansion of brain volume related to development of both gray matter and white matter structures; however, from 7 to 17 years of age there is a progressive increase in white matter (felt to be related to ongoing myelination) and decrease in gray matter (felt to be related to neuronal pruning) while overall brain size stays the same.  Gray matter areas that undergo the greatest increases throughout this latter developmental epoch include frontal cortex and parietal cortex. Basal ganglia decrease in size, while corpus callosum, hippocampus, and amygdala appear to increase in size during childhood, although there may be developmental sex-laterality effects for some of these structures. Overall brain size is 10% larger in boys than girls during childhood. (Source: Traumatic Stress:  effects on the brain)
So, we know that children's brains continue to grow and develop all the way through about age 17.  There are a LOT of changes that happen during this time, which will affect the child for the rest of their life.  During this time, for every person, there WILL be stresses, and it is important to note how the brain is supposed to respond to stress.

A good explanation is available on the Harvard Health website:

The stress response begins in the brain. When someone confronts an oncoming car or other danger, the eyes or ears (or both) send the information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the images and sounds. When it perceives danger, it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.  When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.
For our purposes, we are going to stop there, with the technical explanation of what happens in a normal stress response.  Just remember the parts of the brain mentioned...the amygdala and hypothalamus...and one that was not mentioned: the hippocampus.  These parts of the brain are important pieces of what happens with a traumatized person.

What we know already is that stress is hard on our bodies.  An accumulation of too much stress leads to health problems.  Doctors will tell people to reduce their stress in order to get healthy or to stay healthy.  A Harvard Health website says this about stress:
Stress is unpleasant, even when it is transient. A stressful situation — whether something environmental, such as a looming work deadline, or psychological, such as persistent worry about losing a job — can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes. A stressful incident can make the heart pound and breathing quicken. Muscles tense and beads of sweat appear.
This is a NORMAL, non-traumatized person's response to stress.   And the results can be disastrous. From the same website:
 Persistent epinephrine surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood pressure and raising risk of heart attacks or strokes. Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body’s energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. But they inadvertently contribute to the buildup of fat tissue and to weight gain. For example, cortisol increases appetite, so that people will want to eat more to obtain extra energy. It also increases storage of unused nutrients as fat.

So, long-term stress responses make us tired, built fatty tissue, and cause weight gain, as well as increased blood pressure, damage to blood vessels and arteries, and a raised risk of heart attack and stroke.


A traumatized person has experienced trauma of some sort, either short- or long-term assault on their safety and well-being, physical, and/or emotional.  What happens inside the brain of someone who has been traumatized?

Christy Matta, a counselor, explains:
The body’s response to acute stress is a preparation for emergency.  Adrenaline and other hormones are released.  The body shuts down processes associated with long-term care.  When under immediate threat, digestion, reproduction, cell repair and other body tasks related to long-term functioning are unimportant.
Of immediate importance is survival.  Increased blood sugar can provide extra energy for muscles. Increases in cortisol counter pain and inflammation. Blood pressure increases. Blood is diverted from our extremities to our major muscles to provide us with extra strength. Increased endorphins can help us ignore physical pain.
You can see the effects of these changes to the body in many of the symptoms of stress, such as racing heart, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, feeling hot and flushed, and sweating. (Source: How Trauma Can Effect Your Body & Mind)

Thursday, March 30, 2017


In some circles, being a "military dependant" is a very derogatory label.  There are accusations of laziness, and classlessness, and abuse, and any manner of unseemly behavior.  While there may be instances (as in any circle) where there is a hint of truth to the accusation, I have not found these stereotyping labels to fit any of the military families I know.

It even occurs to me that many civilian families (including those to whom we are related) may not understand our lives.  Allow me to educate....

From the oh-so-reliable Wiki:
"Military dependents are the spouse(s), children, and possibly other familial relationship categories of a sponsoring military member for purposes of pay as well as special benefits, privileges and rights.[1] This generic category is enumerated in great detail for U.S. military members."

Very self-explanatory, no?  Heh.  Let's try a different route....

I am a military dependant.  

My husband is in the United States Navy.  

That means he goes to work every day wearing the uniform of a United States Sailor.  No, not the funky white bell-bottoms with the "sailor collar" and "dixie cup" cover.  (Thank God.  Those uniforms make MOST people look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. And they're a bear to keep looking nice.  Hello...they're WHITE.)  Usually, he wears what is affectionately called the "blueberrys"....which incidentally are going away in the next few years.  

Dependant means that (like MOST working families), our health insurance falls under his job...his employer provides health insurance for our family as part of the incentive plan.  

Dependant means that we "get to" move every few years.  Whether we really want to, or not...well, frankly, we COULD decide we were done with moving and stay...but that would mean added expense that we cannot afford.  Oh, and we RARELY get to move where we want.  Usually, the choice goes to the "needs of the Navy"...which often falls 5 or 15 slots below our first, second, or third choices.  

Dependent means that WHEN (not IF) he is deployed, I get to be chief-cook-and-bottle-washer, mom, dad, chauffeur, pay the bills, and take care of everything (did I ever tell you about the time I bought a house in his name?...I also bought a car during that deployment).  

At one point in our experience, Dependent meant that I couldn't afford TO WORK, because daycare would cost more money than I could make...even with my college education and work experience.  

Dependent means that if I want to do any further education, work, or spend time with friends, it ALWAYS come after his work on the priority list.  Why?  Because the Navy owns him.  

Dependent means that somewhere around 1% of the US population understands our lifestyle.  

Dependent means that we get a non-blood-related family through other "dependents", who are available when deployments and trainings and detachments happen, to help with inevitable list of things that go wrong as soon as he walks out the door or gets on the plane.  

Dependent is one of those terms that has a lot of implications to a lot of people, and most of them are wrong.  While Dependents have the label because they love a family member who is in the military, they are usually the LEAST dependent people I have ever met...independence defines the lifestyle.  

To all of my VERY independent Dependa-friends....thank you for your input over the last 17 years!!  You're AMAZING, and will be one of the things I miss most when we reach the end of this journey....

Monday, February 6, 2017

February, 2017

This going to be rambling, and probably not very coherent.  Sorry.

First, this month marks 25 years that we have been promised to each other.  We were engaged in February, 1992.  We will celebrate 25 years of marriage in October.

Several things.

This man has been an instrument God used to rescue me.  And I DO mean that literally.  He has been with me through recovery from PTSD (still in that!), and saw me buried under some pretty intense depression that almost took me away.  He has soothed anxieties that I didn't know I had, and pretty much been the rock I needed when I didn't know that my foundation was faulty.

He saw through the fake front that my family projected, and took me out of the abuse and control and demeaning situation I was in.  He has encouraged me, and built me up, and continues to support and encourage me.

My parents hated him.  HATED.  They did everything they could to separate us.  And still he stuck around, and tried to be a good son-in-law.

There have been tough times...but God.
I have doubted....but God.
I was told repeatedly that it would never last...but God.

That said, God is still working on us...we will always be a work-in-progress.

Second, there is a mistaken thought in some Christian circles that parents always know who is the best spouse for their children.  This is a faulty thought-process.  Parents are NOT God.  Parents do NOT know everything.  Some parents do not even have their child's best interests in mind.  Even parents who claim to be Christians fall into that last group.

I suffered so much mental anguish for YEARS because my parents HATED my husband, and many in my advisory circle thought I should have followed what they said and not married him.  There was a blow-up 2 weeks before the wedding.  It was not pretty.  Jason told them to stop harassing me, and not to bother coming to the wedding, due to the fact that EVERY time I got on the phone with them, trying to plan what was supposed to have been the happiest day of my life, they made me cry.  They belittled me.  They disparaged me.  They tried to control me from 2 hours away.  They complained about how much money we were spending.  (They put very little money into it...the total cost of the wedding ended up being less than $2,000, and Jason and I paid for most of it.)

Two and a half weeks after the wedding (election day 1992), I had a miscarriage.  The words of "comfort" I heard?  "I told you that you didn't have to marry him."

We have come a LONG ways since then.
24 years.
6 more children.
20+ moves in 5 states.
More jobs than I can count.
More cars than I care to figure out.

Education, exposure, and encouragement have made a HUGE difference in who I am today.  I have had several counselors express amazement that I never ended up with any addictions (outside of caffeine...NOT going there!), given the abuse and control I grew up under, and which no one outside the family saw.

People question why I would "expose the dirty laundry".  "Why talk about it now", they ask, "that's in the past."

First, my story is MY STORY.  It is how I came to be who I am today.  Telling my story is how I heal, and how I show all that God has done in my life.

Second, I tell my story for others whose stories are hidden, to give them courage.  You CAN be different.  You CAN overcome those lies people tell you.  You CAN be who God made you to be.

Third, an exposed dirty story has less power.  The longer these abuses and lies are hidden, the more power they have, and my life now is about breaking those chains of control that those lies and that abuse has over me.  My education has taught me the power of exposing "family secrets", and how freeing it is for everyone involved.

I love doing life with this man.  I love the month of is the month I first had PROOF I was really loved by someone.  And he continues to show it to me every day of every year since then.  I am so glad I said "YES!" 25 years ago!!