This Vet Uses Poetry to Combat PTSD

In a previous post, we mentioned one combat veteran we’ve met who spent several years trying to overcome the emotional wounds that she suffered due to post-traumatic stress. This woman, Cleo DeLoner, has fought back against these wounds by turning them into her art, in the form of free verse. A collection of her works has been published as a book named “Triggerpieces.” Copies are available for sale on amazon.com. Here’s a sample of her work:

I Am PTSD

I have many aliases
Soldier’s Heart
Battle Fatigue
Shell Shock
Broken
I am like no enemy you have ever fought
I control you
I own you
I insert horrific memories in your head at my beck and call
I watch you from a distance
As your eyes stare at nothing
I startle you back to reality
I freeze the most graphic images in your mind
Forcing you to witness the horror over and over again
I fuel your rage
I fuel your hatred
I take you close in my arms
Away from everyone who cares about you
Because I am jealous
When I have you isolated, all to myself
My relentless assault intensifies
My voice is all that you will hear
I will convince you that you are
Worthless
Guilty
A burden
Unloved and
Unlovable
I will bring you to your knees
You will try to crawl your way out of the maze of confusion
Until you collapse face down
All the while I scream at you to end it
I will drive you to a depth of darkness so deep
No amount of light will penetrate
I will envelope you in total and utter unimaginable despair
The emptiness you feel carries a thousand echoes of the suffering that I inflict
You will make futile attempts to silence me
With your pathetic pills
Your bottles of booze
You will believe that I have retreated
But I am still with you
Waiting, watching, patiently
Your staggering drunkenness
Brings you to a state of unconsciousness
You are right where I want you
I now bring you the images in full color
I add the sounds of screams
Hovering over you
I watch as you twitch
Toss, turn
Punch the air
Cling to your blankets
And scream, “No!”
I drench you in cold sweat
Forcing you to awaken sitting straight up
As you gasp for air
You don’t like to talk about me to your loved ones
Why would you want to?
How would you describe me?
Am I just a voice in your head?
Am I the monster who has taken up residence in your mind?
Better to just stay quiet
Keep this affair between us
I have convinced you that they don’t care
That I’m the only one who cares
I’ll never leave you alone
This road that we stumble down together
Is a road I walk with many
I sabotage every relationship they have
Their loved ones retreat
Leaving them lonely
They fought me
They fought hard
In the end they all succumb to me
You will to
You have embraced me without even knowing it
I have you in the corner of darkness
Providing you with an instrument of death
I have encouraged you
Guided you
Defeated you
Now I can sit back
And watch your sad finale
I Am PTSD!

Released to ONO for republication on September 9, 2016

A Tribute to Veterans Day

The Anthem Veterans Memorial, located in Anthem Community Park in Anthem, Arizona, is a monument dedicated to honor the service and sacrifice of our country’s armed forces. This pillar of pride provides a place of honor and reflection for veterans, their family and friends, and those who desire to show their respects to those service men and women who have and continue to courageously serve our county.

Five Pillar Significance

  • The five pillars represent the unity of the five branches of the United States military serving steadfast together.
  • They are staggered in size with their appropriate military seal placements on each pillar based upon the Department of Defense prescribed precedence.

  • At precisely 11:11 a.m. each Veterans Day (Nov. 11), the sun’s rays pass through the ellipses of the five Armed Services pillars to form a perfect solar spotlight over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States.

Additionally, the brick pavers within the Circle of Honor are inscribed with the names of U.S. servicemen and women, symbolizing the ‘support’ for the Armed Forces. The pavers are red, the pillars are white, and the sky is blue to represent America’s flag. The circle represents an unbreakable border.

Source: http://www.onlineatanthem.com/anthem-veterans-memorial

Doctor Goodfield On Love and Loss

It seems to me, that real love is definitely not for those without courage. One of the things that I know to be true, is that risk taking is in direct proportion to growth. The more I am able to risk on life’s game of “pitch and toss” as Kipling said, the greater the possible winnings.

Throughout life we hear of great successes and failures experienced by sometimes extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It is my belief that victory is a decision made prior to winning. It is simply the decision to pay more than the next guy to get what you really want.

We all have choice when it comes to what we want, and what we are willing to pay for what we want. Basically it is the price tag that goes with our needs and desires. Implicit in this choice is the notion of a price tag in relation to our investment. This is as true for the refrigerator that you decide to buy, as it is for the food you put in there.

Life is a quid pro quo attached to our daily living. There are those who for conscious and unconscious reasons choose to limit their investment in life’s big game. Those who approach life in this fashion often use value judgments as a kind of tool to rationalize their involvement and investment. Or lack of commitment in daily choices.

The formula is simple and ancient. It is the pleasure-pain principle. It ultimately boils down to the relationship between what you want, and what you’re willing to pay for it. Every day in life we are given the opportunity to choose how much we are going to invest. Not just in goods and services, but in the ultimate game of love and loss.

Real love is not for those without courage. When those unique moments in life are presented to us, and emotional investment is clear in relationship to our emotional need, we are confronted with real choice.

Here is a simple statement of that formula. How much do I have? What does it cost? What do I believe? What will I receive for my investment? Am I willing to pay the price?

This simple calculation relates to most all people and things in life. It is as true at the supermarket, as it is when shopping at Tiffany’s. As our parents taught us, you get what you pay for. And so it is, that there are those who are jealous when they look at what their neighbors have, and do not have.

What you have in your driveway, and what you have in your heart, relate to that simple formula I have just mentioned. What you’re willing to spend is in direct proportion to what you are able to receive.

Can it really be that simple?

It is in fact basically true. If this is the statement of the obvious, then why is it that we dance around this fact of life? I believe that the answer to the question basically relates to our personal experience with success and failure.

If we experienced repeated failure, with regard to our emotional investments, then by definition good judgment would suggest re-evaluation of our investment strategies. This is something that we do on both a conscious and unconscious level.

How many times we said, “I’ll never do that again!” or “I must have been stupid to get involved like that!” They are all learning points as we struggle to life. The paradox here is, that prudence is not necessarily the best guarantee of a positive outcome, when it comes to emotional investment. Risk taking is indeed in direct proportion to growth.

Unfortunately, it is in direct proportion to failure as well. So how does this relate to love and loss? In General Semantics we call this a polar term or a two valued term. If there is success there must be the notion of failure.

Just as if there is happiness, there must be the notion of unhappiness. As I said, it goes back to the pleasure-pain principle and the notion of cause and effect. I remind myself of this fact when I experience the pain of loss in my life. I am reminded of choice. If I decide to feel less pain, because I can’t stand the hurt, I am making the decision to invest less in others. Maybe because of my own fear of how much it will hurt, when I am confronted with their loss or absence in my life.

And so it really is a question of courage and pay off. It may even be thought of as an existential question. It is about as fundamental decision that we have choice. When I hear a person, whom I love dearly, experience the pain of loss I must ultimately reflect on my perception of their answer to this basic formula. Is this person a big game hunter in life? Or a cautious investor trying to have control risk
and limited failure?

Somehow, for me, I feel more empathy and involvement with those great risk-takers in life like the Winston Churchill’s, the Amelia Ehrhardt’s. Those for whom the formula of guts and glory dominate their life itself.

I must confess, I would rather experience the excruciating pain of loss. I guess there is no right or wrong here. If there is, it is the failure to realize that we have choice in this extraordinary decision about investment and involvement with life itself. I made the decision a long time ago, I want to live in the here and now, with all the hot and cold, sharp and soft, bitter and sweet that God gives me to experience. I reach out for love, with the clear knowledge that pain may follow.

My days are filled with deep laughter, genuine tears and the clear awareness that I live my life, and love those around me with all that’s in me.

To this I commit myself every day.

Doctor Goodfield’s Answer to ISIS

I have to confess something. I am not the person who can embrace the wisdom of the Bible, when Matthew says in 5:38-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

As a psychotherapist for more than 40 years, one of the overriding principles I have seen proven repeatedly is this simple truism: when you accept the unacceptable you reinforce it. This principle applies to us all, from cradle-to-grave.

Over the years, I have seen many people try to explain away the insanity of another by saying things like, “They didn’t mean itor “You have to put their behavior in a context.” Some people even go as far as to suggest, “You might do the same thing, if you lived in that situation.”

There are myriad of these remarks.

People rationalize in an attempt to explain away incomprehensible and irrational acts by others. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, I must confess, that I often quoted that great philosopher Willie Nelson when he said, “He ain’t wrong, he’s just different.”

Fuzzy thinking or an even fuzzier philosophy that suggests everything is a matter of perception or perspective misses the mark when we consider certain kinds of behavior.

I cannot imagine ever finding a global perspective that would allow me to forgive or forget anyone who would physically abuse or sexually molested a child. I have no forgiveness for some, whom I read about in the newspaper, that prey upon the weakness of others for their benefit as we saw depicted in the film the Wolf of Wall Street.

There are some things that are just simply wrong and moreover unacceptable! It’s not that they are “just different,” they are wrong.

As a therapist, I’ve been in the terrible situation of having to tell a child that he was going to die soon. Or trying to console a man facing years in prison for a crime, for which I believed he was innocent.

I tried to imagine what I would have said if I had to console Anwar Kasasbeh, the wife of the twenty-six year-old F16 Pilot Ft. Lieutenant Al-Kasasbeh, who was taken hostage in December, 2014 when he crashed in ISIS territory.

Moreover, what do you say to the family of the other hostage, Japan’s Kenji Goto, who was beheaded by ISIS. ISIS has publicly beheaded countless hostages to date. But would anyone doubt these were just the most publicize, and do not reflect the systematic barbarism that occurs daily? There is a fatal disease growing in our world body.

The diagnosis is clear, the prognosis is problematic unless direct action is taken. The question then becomes, how do you stop accepting this unacceptable behavior? Like many things I’ve seen over the years, here is another example of the answer being in the question. Stop accepting unacceptable behavior!

Jihadist threats have been tangible realities since they crawled out of the millennia of biblical times. They surface in shocking headlines too gruesome to be believed by a civilized society.

I am an American, and as such, I do not want to be dragged into a battle between two parts of the Muslim faith warring against each other in a fight that’s been going on for more than a thousand years.

ISIS slickly produced presentations of barbaric acts, worthy of a Hollywood award, does not make their insanity more understandable or rational.

I simply want them to go away and stop this behavior. I would encourage them to meet with those, with whom they have a difference, sit down and discuss those differences. And come to an amicable resolution without violence or irrational action.

I am convinced that this approach to conflict resolution is reasonable, rational, and unrealistic. I have negotiated situations when there where guns on the table or knives in people’s hands. I am not afraid of these situations. In all cases I was able to draw upon some level of rationality and even goodwill, which was often buried very deep.

Unfortunately, I am convinced that no such approach exists in a possible scenario that would stop the violence or end terrorism being inflicted upon us today.

The question is then, what is the answer to this spreading cancer?

I must return to my truism learned over the years, When you accept the unacceptable you reinforce it. I believe that it is time that we take the crisis and turn it into a creative solution.

Let me make myself perfectly clear here. The ISIS organization must be stamped out completely, totally and forever! To be more specific, it is foolhardy to believe that you can negotiate, communicate or do anything other than to capitulate or fight these savages!

Locking them up in mass or using any form of incarceration will only exacerbate the situation. It makes them the targets of those who would rescue them by additional ruthless means.

It must be seen as treating the disease that infects the world body today.

The sooner we understand this and accept this terrible challenge, the fewer lives will be lost. The less those, like Anwar Kasasbeh and her family, will struggle with trying to understand how one human being can behave like that towards another.

Here is what we need to do. A formal declaration of war needs to be stated. In that declaration the civilized countries of this world must, as they did in previous wars, denounce the unacceptable behavior as not befitting civilized people. Moreover, that declaration must follow with specific, decisive and direct actions to remove this blight from the surface of this earth.

What would this plan practically mean? First, there must be a call to action based upon a common acknowledgment of human rights and freedoms. These declarations have been around for centuries. The best example of it is the Constitution of the United States. They exist in the bastions of the capitals of civilized societies.

They don’t need to be dragged out and reread. They exist in the hearts and souls of freedom loving people in every land. They exist in the faces of children as they look to us for safety and solace of a parent’s promise.

ISIS is ultimately the fault of a Western political philosophy and foreign-policy. We fooled ourselves into believing that the Middle East conflict was a “tar baby” that would not stick, and ultimately engulf the West in its age-old struggles.

It’s time to form an international group specialized in removing “carcinogenic cells” led by real leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Gérard Georges Hollande, King Abdullah II of Jordan to name a very few. Simply put, the American-led coalition needs a genuine leader. American or not, but someone who is not afraid to lead and take the direct action necessary to remove this scourge which threatens to engulf our planet.

Winston Churchill placed a red card upon documents that required immediate attention it simply said, ACTION THIS DAY. If there was ever a time in current history that required such a card and a bold person to place that card in front of the world councils, IT IS NOW!

To Mrs. Kasasbeh, I can only say what the civilized world is thinking today, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I can only hope that those in leadership positions throughout the world will use your terrible loss as a rallying cry for action. If we fail to act now, like any disease unattended, it will spread and kill even more.

PTSD’s Prohibitive Price

Meet Ms. Cleo DeLoner, a United States Army veteran who has suffered from a combat-induced post traumatic stress injury. Her wounds were incurred when she served as a military policewoman in Somalia.

After a long and varied course of treatments for her emotional wounds, she has finally recovered to a fully functional emotional state. In the course of her recovery, Cleo sublimated her wounds by expressing them as free verse poetry. These have now been published in book form as a collection entitled “TRIGGERPIECES: Thoughts That War Stirred Up in One Female Combat Veteran.” The Kindle edtion of her work can be purchased at amazon, here.

Cleo actively supports efforts to serve the needs of her fellow war fighters who have suffered emotional and TBI injuries similar to her own. For that reason, she has consented to help us mount a crowdfunding effort on behalf of Operation New Outlook (“ONO”). ONO is a non-profit corporation dedicated to finding a better means of treating what is commonly referred to as PTSD.