Sunday, March 27, 2011


Most of us don't have an anxiety attack when we we're driving and see a pop can or a dead animal by the side of the road. Most of us don't have the impulse to drive back and forth across lanes of traffic when we're going under a bridge. You might if you've served military duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and wached in horror as one of the vehicles in your convoy was exploded by and I.E.D. (Improvised Explosive Device).... or had someone try to drop a grenade on your vehicle when you were driving under a bridge. Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Back before there was a proper clinical diagnosis, this post-war phenomenon was simply known as "Battle Fatigue", or "Shell Shock". Soldiers from all nations have suffered from PTSD after confronting the mayhem of war. PTSD occurs when any person, military or not, has been confronted with a traumatic event which involved actual or threatened death or serious physical injury to themselves or others. This is a point in their lives when they responded with intense fear, horror or helplessness. The most recent primary diagnostic criteria for PTSD falls into three groups and are summarized as follows: * Re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. * Numbing and avoidance of reminders of the trauma. (Avoidance of situations, thoughts and feelings, etc.) * Persistent increased arousal (sleep difficulties, irritability, anger outbursts, startled responses, etc.) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can happen to anyone, even those not in a war zone. Examples might include, rape, a mugging, child abuse, etc. (Consider what the people of Japan are now enduring with the tsunami and the earthquake and nuclear plants).... Any "event" that leaves lasting scars on the memory. One of the men in our church group who has served three terms in Iraq (one as a civilian, still working for the army as a private contractor), recently told us of his own unique challenges since coming home and striving to return to a "normal" life. One of the symptoms he described since coming back from the war is his "hyper-alertness"... always on-guard, watch the people and his surroundings....always looking for the "attack" that could happen at any time. He shared with us that one time, his car was re-ended in an accident. It brought back a flashback of the convoy he was in while Iraq and how the enemy sought to "block in their vehicle" so that they were helpless to escape a fire-fight. Suddenly, just with the impact, as small as it was, to the rear of his vehicle, he found himself back in Iraq, getting ready to fight for his life. Below are the major symptoms of someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of them may reveal clues that you, or a loved-one, might be dealing with the results of PTSD. *Depression *Cynicism and mis-trust of government and authority *Anger *Alienation *Sleep disturbances *Poor Concentration *Tendency to react under stress with survival tactics *Psychic or emotional numbing *Negative self-image *Memory impairment *Emotional constriction *Hypersensitivity to justice *Loss of interest in work and activities *Problems with intimate relationships *Survivor guilt *Difficulty with authority figures *Hyper-alertness, Hyper-arousal *Avoidance of activities that arouse memories of trauma in war zone *Emotional distance from children, wife and others *Self-deceiving and self-punishing patterns of behavior, such as an inability to talk about war experiences, fear of losing others, and a tendency to fits of rage. *Suicidal feelings and thoughts *Flashbacks to dangers and combat *Fantasies of retaliation and destruction *High-risk employment and/or recreation Just by acknowledging some of the traits mentioned above can have healing effects for you and your loved-ones. If you or someone you know are exhibiting some of these behaviors you should consider addressing some of these problems in a timely manner. There is help available. For combat veterans I highly recommend the book, "Down Range" to Iraq and Back, written by Bridget C. Cantrell and Chuck Dean (WordSmith Publishing). We'll be looking at this issue further next week in my next Monday Morning Blog.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Green Beer and Snakes

I thought this title might stir some attention......:-)

St. Patrick's Day is approaching. Most folks think of partying....wearing green and drinking green beer. Like myself, most have never given much consideration to the story of St. Patrick.'s a bit...

Patrick was a missionary to Ireland, and the only missionary to be honored with a global holiday, known for it's distinct color of green. Legend has it that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Historically this is inaccurate and most likely is simply a reference to Christianity unseating the Druid religion of the time, the Druids being the "snakes".

He was born in the year 373 A.D. in the country that is now "Scotland", the son of a church deacon and the grandson of a priest. As a teenager, his village was raided, his small village torched and Patrick was taken captive by ship to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a master who was a druid (a pagan religion). While in Ireland Patrick gave his heart to Jesus Christ. He wrote... "The Lord opened my mind up to awareness of my unbelief in order that I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God".
Patrick eventually escaped from his Irish master and returned home to Scotland.
One night he had a dream and saw in his dream and Irishman calling out to him to come and evangelize Ireland. When Patrick was around 30 years old he returned to his country of captivity and began to preach the gospel. Multitudes turned out to listen to the message, and although he was violently opposed by the Druids, he became the most fruitful evangelist of all time, planting about 200 churches and baptizing 10,000 converts to Christianity.
Patrick's work endured, and centuries later the Irish Church was still producing hymns, prayers, sermons and songs of worship.
An unknown Irish poet wrote a prayer asking God to be His Vision, His Wisdom, and his Best Thought by day or night. In 1905, Mary Elizabeth Byrne, an Irish scholar, translated this poem into English. Later, another scholar, this one from England, crafted it further into verses with rhyme and meter. Eventually it was set to the music of a traditional Irish folk song, "Slane", named for an area where Patrick reportedly challenged the local Druids with the gospel.
Today it is one of the best known, most loved hymns ever written....

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Be naught all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou My Wisdom and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me Lord
Thou my great Father and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art

High king of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, bright heaven's sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

Friday, March 4, 2011

Denial: It's Not A River In Egypt

Charlie Sheen is all over the news. I've watched a few interviews with him. I think, to a lot of people, they're entertaining. I guess they a point. Then again, it's hard to watch a human being implode on national T.V.

When I first saw him I said to myself, "There's a textbook case of addiction and denial. He could be the poster-child for "denial" in the realm of addiction.

There's an old saying, "Denial isn't a river in Egypt".

Denial is a self-defense mechanism that addicts use to reflect any confrontation concerning their drug use or subsequent actions. If one doesn't "see" a problem, then, in their warped way of thinking, they don't have to do anything about it. Nothing has to actually change. "My life is just fine, thank you very much.... now.... butt out!"...

Addiction isn't "subjective". It's not based on how one feels. It's more "objective". It's observable. How has the life you are now living affected those around you? How does it affect your job?... Your children?... Your health?... Your circle of friends? (Assuming that not all your friends share in your addictive behaviors)..

In Mr. Sheen's case, his actions have definitely affected the lives of all the people who work on his television show, those whose jobs have been put in jeopardy by how he has chosen to act.

Another thing that I noticed was the "grandiose" way in which he speaks. He puts himself above all other people. He's "different" than us, the common folk. We couldn't "handle" having his superior brain in our bodies. He's not "terrestrial" like the rest of the human race.

One interviewer mentioned to him that some professionals in the health care field would label him "bipolar", meaning that he has wide mood swings, going from feeling ecstatic to being depressed. Often, addiction and mood disorder goes hand in hand. A person with a mood disorder will often "self medicate" to control the way they feel. Someone who is truly bipolar may use alcohol or pain pills to counter the effects of mania. Someone who is feeling depressed might turn to stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines. It's a constant battle over the emotions to try and "feel right". The disorder can definitely lead to drug abuse and addiction. As many as 60% of people with bipolar disorder have some sort of substance abuse problem that goes along with it. It's called a Dual Diagnosis. I don't know if that is what is going on with Charlie Sheen. Since he doesn't want any professional intervention, then only time will tell.

He mocked the interviewer who suggested he might be bipolar by saying, "So, if I'm bipolar shouldn't there be a time when I crash, when I'm crying, lying in the corner saying it's all my mom's fault? Shut up!"...

Just because his mood swing (if in fact, that's the case) hasn't run it's course, doesn't mean that, in the long-term, he won't find himself right there in that exact position. That takes the disorder into even more dangerous territory. Over-medicating (overdose), or suicide. Perhaps both...accidental suicide by taking too much of a substance. It has happened to quite a few famous folks. Marilyn Monroe is one who comes to mind.

Denial. That's the first hurdle to get over, and by far the hardest one. No one wants to see himself/herself as "different". (Apart from the grandiose feelings associated with mania).

The number one symptom of denial is the "denial" of it's existence. It causes everlasting blindness. It will fight viciously for it's own survival all the way to insanity, institutionalization and even death. Addiction welcomes the person who has vowed to "beat it by themselves". The last thing addiction wants is for others to join in the fight against it. I guess you could call denial a "river". It's the river that carries a person down to a watery grave.

I don't know how Charlie Sheen's story is going to play out. Only time will tell.

I was thinking about him the other night and I heard a still, small voice speaking to me. The voice said, "Why don't you pray for him?"
I thought that was good advice... So I did. I am. I hope you will too. It would be great to see him turn his life around and become a role-model for the power of God and the power of grace.

I believe it could happen.