Meditation -Rebuilding veterans Lives – PTSD

Rachael Brown reports “They taught us how to go to war but not how to come home.”

Army

Army

the www. abc.news.com/ AM with Chris Uhlmann.

“PTSD wave expected to hit as Australian troops return from Afghanistan.”

“Many veterans find it difficult to tolerate the images and emotions of combat that can come flooding back,  Veteran Roy Clymer said. “Meditation helps us tolerate feeling and emotion.”

Or, as one veteran put it after the meditation drew to a close, “I don’t have to react to everything. This helps me think first. People are going to do things whether I get angry or stay calm, and I’d rather stay calm. I always feel like a new person after this.”

meditation to heal

In Australia “One of the barriers  facing many young War veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq is that they don’t feel they belong in the RSL clubs or  support structures set up following the world wars and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, leaving them unsure of where to turn for help” says Scott Hannaford in an excellent article “The Silent War.”wwwfairfaxmedia.com

American Veteran Joe Craig went to Vietnam as an Army private in 1967, so young his platoon sergeant had to show him how to shave. He served 20 years in the Army, and then another 18 as a federal police officer. Now 73, Craig struggles with the demons of his war service.

“When you go to war, every day is about getting through that day,” he said. With danger all around, as a soldier or a cop, he added, “if you let your mind float, you’ll be in big trouble. We’ve all been to the edge.” In meditation, with the guidance of a skilled therapist, he said, “I can let my mind float.”

These aren’t simply feel-good sessions, meditation advocates say. Meditation helps create new muscle memory, actually rewiring the brain to enable veterans to absorb and recover from stress. This brain “rewiring” is what neuroscientists recognize as neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change neural pathways. For patients with PTSD, it means increasing their ability to hold disturbing images and memories without reacting in an emotionally negative way.

“Meditation’s big thing is to stop your mind,” says Roy Clymer, a Vietnam combat veteran and psychologist who worked with wounded Iraq and Afghan war soldiers for 13 years as director of specialized care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington. “As you develop skill at meditation, you gain the art of acknowledging an emotion when it comes, accepting it — but not doing what we usually do, which is immediately reacting to it.”

Many veterans find it difficult to tolerate the images and emotions of combat that can come flooding back, Clymer said. “Meditation helps us tolerate feeling and emotion.”

Or, as one veteran put it after the meditation drew to a close, “I don’t have to react to everything. This helps me think first. People are going to do things whether I get angry or stay calm, and I’d rather stay calm. I always feel like a new person after this.”

Meditation in particular is useful because patients can use it themselves as part of their own treatment plan. “It allows patents to take more control over how their disease is managed and this generally leads to healthier outcomes,” said Ezeji-Okoye.

Dr. Jan Kemp, associate director of the VA’s Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention and a senior mental health expert, oversaw a demonstration project on meditation at nine VA facilities involving several hundred patients with PTSD.

“Essentially we found that meditation was a positive thing, and that while it didn’t cure PTSD in any way, shape or form, surely it needed to be a supplement” to traditional therapy, she said.

Patients who participated in the meditation “did feel better,” Kemp said. “And isn’t that the most important thing?”

Joseph Hart  tells us “British soldiers experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a drastically lower rate than their American counterparts.”  www.UTNE.com

“They fight the same battles with similar weapons and training. But when it comes to aftershock, British and U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report very different experiences. Soldiers in the United States experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a rate of 30 percent. Brits: 4 percent.”

“Another explanation is the stark difference between how the two governments deploy their troops. U.K. rules prohibit soldiers from spending more than 13 months in combat during a three-year period, and average tours of duty are six months—half the length of American soldiers’”

“Even more important are programs that send U.K. soldiers for a few days of “third location decompression” on the island of Cyprus before returning them to their home communities. “One to four days of R&R on a Mediterranean island with members of the same fighting unit apparently helps veterans come home with an easier mind.” reports http://www.miller-mccune.com

Neil Greenberg, the British coauthor of a study published this year by the U.K.’s Royal Society of Medicine and reported in Miller-McCune (July-Aug., 2011). “In the U.K., our national approach towards psychological distress is ‘Crack on with it if you can.’ ” The study found that British combat vets tend to drink more and report a higher incidence of milder diagnoses, like depression.

Meditation in particular is useful because patients can use it themselves as part of their own treatment plan. “It allows patents to take more control over how their disease is managed and this generally leads to healthier outcomes,” said Ezeji-Okoye.

But that’s an uphill battle, said Robin Carnes, a senior yoga and meditation teacher who led yoga and meditation programs at Walter Reed for six years. Carnes, a co-founder of Warriors at Ease, said it’s difficult to find funding from military installations and communities for meditation groups.

There’s also the perception issue, she said, “a cultural divide between what people think meditation is — sitting on a mountaintop looking for nirvana — and something that has relevant and practical health benefits for servicemembers and families. That’s the challenge.”

Still, acceptance of meditation among veterans and the military is improving, says Karen Soltes, who led the group at the VA medical center in Washington. As it is, the meditation group she leads has never been given a permanent space, and veterans often get lost trying to find out where the group is meeting on a particular day.

“But eight or 10 years ago when I started, there was a lot more resistance. We’ve come light years,” she said.

For the veterans who participate, meditation can be a lifesaver. Al Crawley, 65, has been coming to the D.C. meditation group for years. He fought in Vietnam in 1969 and retired as a sergeant.

“The war is still penetrating all through us,” he said. “That’s what brought us here. I had to deal with it — it was killing me.”

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About lorraine

After a nasty fall from my bicycle, coming home from high school, I began suffering from migraines. After a term of Chiropractic adjustments, which helped but did not entirely stop the migraine headaches, my parents in desperation sent me to yoga classes, The only available evening class in our area was filled with pregnant women. I felt out of place as a shy teenager, but persevered. adjustment,breathing, meditation and yoga proved the only therapy that bought relief from the headaches. Feeling well I got on with life, married moved from my home town and forgot the daily yoga practices and there benefits. Coming back to Yoga and meditation helped me manage during the time of my father's Cancer. and death. Later when my Husband became ill the natural decision was to qualify as a Yoga, meditation teacher to further assist others through the difficult times of illness and recovery or death. I have now been benefiting from the science and art of Yoga, Meditation for well over twenty five years.
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