Archive for August, 2014

ptsd pic

Return with Freedom, Inc.

Our war veterans deserve the best this country has to offer. They have risked all to protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. We at Return with Freedom, Inc. are deeply grateful for their service. We have seen the need for help in re-entering their lives here at home after experiencing atrocities most of us can’t even imagine. The high rate of suicide and poverty among returning military is not acceptable. Not only should they Return with Honor, they should Return with Freedom – freedom from anxiety, nightmares, suicidal thoughts – back to fullness of life that can be enjoyed with their family and friends.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is highly prevalent in our soldiers that have been deployed. Over 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. Not to mention veterans from other wars – even soldiers from World War II who were diagnosed with “Shell Shock” still suffer in some ways today.

There is a psychotherapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) which is shown to have significant impact in treatment of PTSD. However, there is significant specialized training involved and the cost of treatment is high. For this reason, Return with Freedom, Inc. has been formed to provide sliding scale (according to your ability to pay) therapy to our returning military – both active and veterans. Our services are highly confidential as we value the privacy of all our patients.

If you or someone you know is in need of our services, please give us a call at 888.516.9992 or email us at

If you are interested in joining our team of financial supporters (without which we cannot succeed) please email us at

The scene takes place in the galley of a fishing boat. Three men, who 24 hours earlier, shared mostly contempt and arrogance toward each other, had just survived “round one” of man vs. nature. But now they were acting like old friends. I wonder if it was because they were removed from the “battle field” where it was evident that they were up against something bigger than all three of them that bagan the bond. They began an exchange, I decided to call “scar wars”. The exchanged sounded like this: “hey look at this scar. I got it from an eel… or this from a bar fight, or this from the girl who broke my heart…

vincent-scar, trauma, ramona taylor, PTSD

The men were in essence echoing an ancestral game once played by warriors returning after a raid, a challenging hunt, or fending off a wild and deadly animal. This version seemed more like a game of grown up show and tell and succeeded in breaking up an awkward silence as they sat feeling small in the dark silence of the ocean. I called these exchanges “Scar-Wars” because the exchanges are territorial at first: ” I can do better than that look at my scar it’s from…” Still the stories open a window that reveals just how alike we are in our humanness. We are all at times vulnerable, silly, clumsy, or week.

Back to the fishing boat: The atmosphere in the galley scene changes. Someone in the “scar-wars” exchange takes an interest in an obvious scar. The owner of this scar, a non hospitable character was not participating in the game. The players, fell silent the one upping game ceased as they possibly questioned if this player was going to fold without showing his hand? Or was he going to show his hand and reveal his trump card? Then out of character this unlikable sailor seemed to stir. Maybe because he knew that death could be waiting around the corner , he considered thoughtfully, then he hesitantly shared his story. The room becomes still and quiet. The men stop smiling and listen compassionately maybe even introspectively. They knew that his story might touch on some of their own untold stories, and they knew that this scar might reveal more about who this salty old dog really was.


I sat among the theater audience listening much like the characters in the story, thinking, as his story unraveled…“oh that’s who you are.” My heart softened toward this contentious character. I was saddened that his identity more than with the others was wrapped up in this one story, this one scar.

The scar was self inflicted. It was the result of an attempt to remove tatoo. The tattoo served as a reminder of two life changing battles in this man’s life. The last was a tragic battle he had with nature. After being torpedoed, he and several shipmates watched helplessly as man-eating sharks picked them off one by one. He bore no visible scars because even though he shared many days in the water among the sharks, he was never bitten. Surviving and not being bitten came at a high price and it was not something worth bragging about. On the wake of this man versus nature battle, he had successfully delivered the Hiroshima bomb. Again, he couldn’t brag about winning that battle either and again there was no visible scar. But there was a tatoo. The tatoo that would serve as a reminder of the tragic stories he was part of. It was that tatoo that he tried to remove. As if the removing the tatoo would erase the memory.

But there was still a scar.

So it is that some wounds don’t seem to leave a visible scar. But visible or invisible all scars have a story. Whether the scar is on the flesh or below the surface, like the tatoo, removing it often leaves a scar too.

I am familiar with these invisible scars. Some considered them a “badge of honor”. Some wrap their lives around them. Some use it as their personal trump card for the ” I am tougher than you ‘star wars’ game”. The scar for some serves as justification to be guarded, reckless, bitter, detached. Of ten the influence of the stories behind the scars go untold, as they effectively ward of anyone (including the bearer) from opening an old wound. The scar bearer, holding the trump card (my pain is beyond expression, beyond understanding), begins to feel isolated avoiding those who might be even slightly familiar with the pain behind the scar. Sometimes compassion is hard found while avoiding the possibility of listening and possibly entering into someone else’s story. So as the stories go untold, and the scars stay hidden and the ability to relate to others and to know oneself is often limited.

One of the steps found in recovery programs is to uncover (or take inventory of) each and every scar.   Therapists  acknowledge the benefits of processing the stories behind the scars.  Many who bear scars,  believe that because scars being from old wounds have had lost their potency, or that it would be toxic to consider opening an old wound. But I have found that there is power in the sharing of these inventories,  unveiling these stories.   Unspoken stories can are potent, and not necessarily defining. Sharing these unspoken stories in the present effectively can release and remove the emotional charge connected to the story, its secrets, and its lies. As in the game of scar wars, the players experience a sense of shared humanity, mutual respect, empathy, understanding,  appropriate silence, and acceptance. The men mourned their losses, connected in the present with tears and even laughter. They were all wounded, but for that moment,  as they shared their stories,  and struggled with the new challenge of remembering the past and revealing their flesh… they found connection.


For those in the faith: 1John 1:9 says: “if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” their is power in the telling of our stories. The promise of cleansing is not only about cleansing from what was done by us but also extends to what was done to us. There is hope. Hope for new soft flesh, beyond the scaring, and a heart that can laugh, and break, and be full.

  • (scene references to the motion picture Jaws)




I am an advocate if art as metaphor. I tend to pay more attention to the experience of creating art and the experience of sitting with a piece over time than the actual content of the piece. I also lean toward the abstract, finding the ambiguity and possibilities in a piece to be an invitation to learn more about myself or the observer.
This piece got me thinking about the process of uncovering the past and trauma work.


This piece began as a compilation from older collage. After months of staring at it, I decided it was time consider its possibilities. I was looking for something a little more peaceful with suggestions of water and land.

To do this I masked several strips to resemble trees on a shoreline or reflections in water. I decided it was easier to mask off the figures I wanted to appear in the foreground areas rather than attempt to create a background layer around vertical collage strips.

Masking is a process in which artists use tape or something similar to block of a part of a painting to protect an area from paint or bleeding. (Just as house painters do to protect trim).

After putting the tape in place I sloshed my paint over the bottom third of the collage in horizontal brush strokes. The painting looked messy but experience reminded me that once the masking was removed that would change.

Trauma and Unfinished Business

When undergoing stress or traumatic events coping can be like masking. In some cases, on a neurobiological level, the brain in a sense masks over an event as a form of protection. This neurological response can be a natural necessary mechanism that allows the individual some amount of protection for at time. It is effective in allowing someone in trouble or pain to survive and get through difficulty. As a result events may never be fully processed and can account for gaps in memory, loss of positive memories, feelings of being undone, or ill ease. Neurobiological responses to stress can become troublesome when the flight or fight responses become overactive. Troubles such as: addictions, depression, anxiety, phobias, rage, heart disease, PTSD and relationship problems are often associated with responses to stress.

The Art of the Unmasking, and Respect the Uncovering Process


Timing is important when removing the masking (in this case masking tape) from the art piece:

Stripped to early and the paint would bleed and run.

Stripped to qu ickly or to late and the piece would be damaged.

My experience with this piece, being a collage, was even more tricky. It was built with layers and layers of stripped paper and I found it was extremely difficult to distinguish the masking from the collage strips. In some areas I had completely covered the masking tape with paint, so it was not only hard to find the tape but a messy process as well. In my hurry to see results I at times began picking at collage strips exposing raw canvas. More tools were necessary, using a knife, a wet sponge, feedback from family, and repairing and retouching the raw areas, I felt good about the results.


Before uncovering the past when pain or trauma is involved the following concerns are common:

What is ready to be uncovered?

Where do I start?

Can I trust that I will find something valuable underneath?

What happens when I uncover something raw?

Will I lose who I am if I start the process?

Where does it stop will there be any of me left when the process is through?

Why uncover what is covered, what can I do about it?

Why open an old wound, it will just bleed everywhere?

How long will it take?

Why It Matters

The masking serves a purpose, for a time. Over time, painful memories, unfinished business (shame, guilt, un-forgiveness) or trauma left unprocessed become troublesome. Maintaining the protective layers, rather than processing what lies beneath can be related to:

lost sleep
fragmented relationships
avoidance of activities
detachment from others
restricted emotions
angry outbursts
difficulty concentrate
lack of enjoyment in activities

What Can I Do?

Remember masking serves a purpose, and it may still be a necessary element of coping.
Recognize that care must be taken to respect masking.
Get help, find safety, remember there is hope.
Find support, support groups, agencies, books, organizations, supportive people, professionals
National Hotlines

If you or someone you know would like to explore this area of healing, consider professional help.  Affordable effective treatment is available.  
If you would like more information or a free consultation with a therapist please fill out the form below: Your information will be used solely for this purpose.










contact:  Ramona Taylor registered Marriage and Family Therapist intern at Inland Integrated Wellness Center

Trauma is the fallout from experiencing or witnessing a frightening event, such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse; accidents; natural disasters or deaths. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from severe or multiple traumas that have never been resolved and continue to have an ongoing and devastating impact upon one’s life. Not all traumatic experiences cause PTSD, and what may cause trauma and/or PTSD for one person may have little noticable effect upon another.

A trauma victim may experience flashbacks and dreams of the event, hyper-vigilance, depression, sleeping difficulties, and problems with relationships. Alternately, the event may cause the victim to numb-out emotionally.  Fear, anxiety, anger, depression, guilt, addictions, and self harm may also be reactions to trauma.  These reactions may occur at the time of the trauma or even years later. These reactions can persist and affect a person for months, even years.   Often people do not see a connection between the traumatic event and their current relational,  professional, school, work, personal, or family problems

How Do I Know If I Have or Someone I Know Has PTSD

The experience of PTSD is different for everyone. Typical symptoms of PTSD may include feeling detached or emotionally numb, as well as, nightmares, severe anxiety, or flashbacks. Sometimes we notice the symptoms in ourselves and, sometimes, it’s the ones close to us who notice.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
• Experienced a life-threatening or traumatizing event
• Recurrent thoughts about the trauma
• Nightmares related to the trauma
• Flashbacks
• Being triggered by reminders of the trauma
• Being triggered by anything associated with the trauma
• Avoiding thoughts, feelings, places, related to the trauma
• Not remembering part of or all of the trauma
• Feeling number and/or having diminished interest in life
• Trouble sleeping
• Difficulty with concentration
• Getting startled easily
• Hypervigilance (anxiously aware of your surroundings)
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Children may act out the trauma in play
Trauma/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Trauma is nothing anyone wants to go through. Whether its a car accident, mugging, physical assault, war, rape, sexual abuse, or other forms of trauma, it all can cause post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD leaves one feeling fearful, angry, defective, and sometimes hopeless about life. After trauma we often feel vulnerable and can lose trust in humanity and the world.

contact:  Ramona Taylor registered Marriage and Family Therapist intern at Inland Integrated Wellness Center

Therapy for PTSD starts with creating a safe place for you to talk about your struggle and eventually work on the trauma. Therapists understand that the last thing that most people who have been through a trauma want to do is talk about it, so most therapists wait until you feel comfortable and ready. Unfortunately, the way to recover from trauma is to work through it and process it.  The avoidance of thinking of or talking about the trauma is what keeps the PTSD alive.

Fortunately there are effective treatments for PTSD.   Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), which are A rated treatments by the American Psychological Assocation for PTSD can all help you get  life back and stop being tormented by your trauma.

• For an appointment or free phone consultation:  Contact Ramona Taylor  @ or  call toll free at (888) 634-6999 ext 16