Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Return with Freedom
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What is EMDR therapy?


How Do Disturbing Events  Effect Thoughts, Feelings, and Memories?

The brain is constantly gathering filtering and storing information.  Some of this information is explicit (it is intentionally and consciously being processed, and accessible ) and some of the information is implicit (it is unconsciously gathered, and inaccessible) .  Most of the information it receives gets resolved and integrated as it processes through the mind.

Trauma information – shock, upset, or highly charged disturbances – is processed differently.   When life-threatening experiences, or experiences that physiologically set off stress hormones,  hit the brain, the normal processing channels are shut down and ‘trauma processing’ takes over.   The body goes into survival mode.   When this happens, the left (logical and explicit) brain shuts down and the information streaming through the senses is captured by the right (implicit, creative) brain with the worst of it (most traumatic) being stored in the lower regions of the brain.

The body/mind goes into fight, flight or freeze mode.

The problem is that after the disturbance stops the brain carries the memories of the disturbance long into the future.   Those memories are associated with disturbing images, unpleasant angry, sad, or fearful emotions, anxious body sensations and disparaging thoughts about the self.  They are stored in the amygdala and hippocampus as hardened, fractured memories .  These memories have no sense of time,  order,  or space, so that when triggered the memories are experienced as if they are happening in the present.  These memories are stuck  in the limbic brain and while they are hard to get rid of they are easily triggered and they get replayed over-and-over.   Because they are locked in the implicit memory,  there is usually little or no awareness of what is happening; that is,  the feelings seem to come from no where, they make no sense,  and they have no sense of  being from the past.  Even with awareness, there  is a disconnect between what the sufferer knows to be true and the emotions or thoughts that accompany situations that unknowingly trigger reactions to the disturbing events.

To add to the problem, these stored mal-adaptive memories may get connected to other more adaptive neuro-pathways.  So that when the traumatic memory is triggered by images,  emotions, and  body feelings, smells, or sounds,  the brain associates these triggers with the traumatic memory  and everyday activities, sleep, and relationships become hijacked by the fight, flight, or freeze mode.   Once  hijacked, the brain is no longer thinking logically.

‘Talking-about-experiences’ helps but all too often it doesn’t  do enough.  Prescription drugs such as anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications can help you cope with symptoms even though they don’t solve the underlying problem.    Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to help but  on an explicit level.

Illegal drugs and alcohol can seem to help but they merely masks symptoms, which slowly over time can become debilitating.  EMDR is the most effective at processing trauma on all levels.

How does EMDR work?

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for “Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing”    It is a well-researched and highly developed way to work with people who have experienced disturbing events in their lives that disrupt their emotions,  thoughts and memories.

With EMDR, the therapist works with the client to access the disturbances and reawaken the images, emotions, body sensations and negative feelings about the self.   Bi-lateral stimulation (eye movements or tapping) are used to allow the brain to re-process the stored emotions, negative thoughts, images and body sensations.  When that happens, the brain has a way of re-encoding the trauma information and it becomes resolved and integrated; which means,  the disturbing memories and information is no longer emotionally charged.   The facts, memories, and reactions to the trauma can be accessed while the  unpleasant feelings, body sensations, negative thoughts, anxiety, fear,  and depression that were once associated with the experience are desensitized.

    trauma7xsm amen


Many suffering from PTSD and Trauma can feel they suffer alone (attacked by an unseen enemy) that can disrupt relationships, cause mental stress, health issues anxiety and depression. PTSD often isolates, disconnects and blindsides those who suffer from it. PTSD doesn’t stop there it attacks the home front as well, sometimes causing confusion, stress, and discord.

Do you know the “enemy” (PTSD) and do you know the power and capability of your “weapons”?

I use an integrative approach to help families, couples and individuals to understand the nature of the PTSD and it’s long reaching effects. Additionally I aim to help each individual to take inventory of their strengths, and equip each with skills and resources to bring peace and positive connections in the present. Because of private donations, my colleagues at “Return with Freedom” and I are able to provide quality group therapy, along with family therapy and private psychotherapy, at low or no cost for veterans and their families. You need not be a veteran to benefit from these services, and you may qualify for reduced rates. Same day appointments are available so call to make an appointment today.

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.  
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