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PTSD: He Witnessed The Deaths Of His Entire Platoon

Watching my children tend to their  “father  wounds” reminded me of a similar process with my father.

Howard died alone in the dilapidated trailer shortly after his wife, Vi, died from alcoholism. When they found him beneath the sagging tin roof, which was draped with a filthy black tarp to keep out the rain, dozens of empty booze bottles lay scattered at his feet.

Howard  and my mom had been divorced for many years at the time of his death, but she saw to it that he had a military burial. I remain in awe of the generosity of spirit that she alone extended to Howard by arranging his funeral.

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Seven Times Seven

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I met Bo in a sleazy bar four weeks after separating from Bill. Bo was charming and funny and had beautiful blue eyes and boyish good looks. He would become both my inspiration and my abuser.

Bo entered my life filled with hopeful possibilities for me. He suggested that I obtain a real estate license, which would place me in a job situation with flexible hours. I pointed out that I couldn’t do that since I didn’t even know my times tables. He offered to teach me. True to his word, we practiced reciting the times tables every night while I attended real estate school by day. Unfortunately, this knowledge did little to help me with the closing statement part of the real estate exam, but I was good at the law portion, so I concentrated my efforts there.

Though hired by a prestigious real estate office, I had no time to feel proud of myself: it was 1972, and the bottom had dropped out of real estate in southern Florida. So while I was learning the field, running down leads and pounding signs in overgrown front lawns, I simultaneously studied for my life and health insurance license.

I was driven by every form of imaginable fear. What if I ran out of money and I was unable to support myself or my children?  What if I had no credit? What if I lost my children due to lack of money or some emotional or physical illness? The day would come when all of those fears would come to pass.

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Like a Bundle of Dirty Laundry

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ONE AFTERNOON, WHEN I was buying a pair of shoes, I flirted with a cute shoe salesman. Slight of build, with blond hair and deep dimples, he seemed funny and engaging.  After he insisted that I try on nearly every pair of shoes in the store, I finally left with a pair of shoes I could afford and a date that very evening. We both loved to jitterbug and there was a great band that night at a local nightclub.  He was to pick me up, and dancing we would go.

My date rang the doorbell promptly at eight. He was a perfect gentleman in opening the car door for me and being attentive throughout the evening. We had such fun as we danced the night away. Both a little drunk, we left one club and decided that we would drop into a similar dance club nearby. First, he wanted to stop by his apartment to pick up his sport jacket. Fortified with alcohol, and without a care in the world, I followed him up to his apartment when he insisted I see the new and unusual fish he had just purchased. I wasn’t into fish, but what the hell? I giggled a little sloppily as I stepped into his apartment.

Once inside, the fear I felt was instant and surprising—almost sobering—when I heard the locks click shut on his door. I heard three loud clicks, which immediately registered in my brain as odd since we were supposed to leave after fish-gazing and jacket-fetching.

Before I knew what was happening, I was body slammed against the wall. My head snapped back against the wall, then bounced forward into his face, which made him angry.

“You filthy slut!”

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What is child sexual abuse?

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Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet (Child Sexual Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.  http://www.NCTSN.org)

What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Touching behaviors may involve touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral-genital contact, or sexual intercourse. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography.

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Children’s fear and keeping ‘secrets’

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Ragdoll Redeemed: Reverence and Milk Bottles

Christmas w HowardHOWARD, MY ADOPTIVE father, frequently locked me in my brothers’ small bedroom with its colorful  floors. One small window became my salvation: I would imagine myself flying out of it to perch upon the fluttering leaves I could see from my assigned square on the floor. It was hard for my four-year-old arms and legs to remain still for so many hours. When he was angry, Howard would frequently grab me by one arm and yank me high up in the air. On one occasion he dislocated my arm from my shoulder before slamming me down on the orange and blue linoleum. For years I had recurring nightmares in which I was frantically running from pieces of orange and blue squares.

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The Faces We Live: What Faces/Roles develop from PTSD?

“I don’t think she ever gave a thought to what Howard might be hiding behind his coal-black eyes. No one thought about post-traumatic stress disorder in those days. A man just went to war, waded through his buddies’ blood and guts, killed the men who killed his friends, and then, without fanfare, came home and started a family. To the government and society, this was a simple sequence. No one considered the potential ramifications of witnessing the horrors of war.” Excerpt from Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA Executive Director, Harvesting Happiness says, “When PTSD transfers from the battlefield to the home, this disorder quickly becomes a family affair. So set an extra plate at dinner tonight; PTSD is joining you. One of the things I hear time and time again is that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an isolated condition. If you think that’s true, you’re not alone; I used to be one of those people. But when I began working with veterans, I discovered something profound: PTSD affects every person in the sufferer’s life, from spouses to children to extended family to friends. Secondhand trauma is real, and if it lingers untreated, can be just as scarring as having PTSD yourself. For children, the exposure to PTSD is especially toxic.

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Ragdoll Redeemed: The House with No Paint

Christmas w HowardMy  mother—God bless  her—couldn’t carry through on many things. She couldn’t hold her temper, a husband, or a job. Maybe it was failing to marry my real father that made her so determined to never fail again at landing a husband. She made a vow even before I was born, that she would find me a father and make me legitimate. My older half-brother, Ronnie, had been born with a proper heritage: two married parents. Unfortunately, he also never got to know his dad, who died in the war.

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The Faces We Live: What Faces/Roles develop from PTSD?

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“I don’t think she ever gave a thought to what Howard might be hiding behind his coal-black eyes. No one thought about post-traumatic stress disorder in those days. A man just went to war, waded through his buddies’ blood and guts, killed the men who killed his friends, and then, without fanfare, came home and started a family. To the government and society, this was a simple sequence. No one considered the potential ramifications of witnessing the horrors of war”. Excerpt from Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA Executive Director, Harvesting Happiness says, “When PTSD transfers from the battlefield to the home, this disorder quickly becomes a family affair.