CASUALTIES OF STRESS – “Mommies” needed

by Corinne

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The nation reeled in shock at the news recently that a soldier had killed his comrades who were undergoing treatment for mental distress.

Although there are frequent violent incidents here at home, there was something so much more traumatic that it happened in Iraq and that the killer was an American soldier.

It brought back a memory of a time when I was a volunteer on a crisis line.

A person, usually a man, would call and say, “This is my third call until I could get a woman to talk to me.  All the other people who answered were men.  I just hung up.”

I believe this man could have been caught earlier and helped if they had more women counselors and psychiatrists.  Men have such shame in admitting their fears and problems to other men.  They don’t want to appear weak to their peers.  It makes them appear, especially a tough soldier, unmanly.  Humiliated.

They need a stand in for Mother love. Someone who would say it is okay to be scared and lonely and at a breaking point.  Mothers do that on an instinctive level.  They listen more.  They judge less.

Women feel safer to men.

That is not to say there are not good men out there who care.  But I noticed, having raised four boys, that they would tell me things they would never dream of sharing with their father.

Most of our troops are still tender children.

I learned a few years ago when I was in training as a crisis line volunteer that people really don’t want advice.  Even, sometimes, when they ask for it.  They want someone to listen.

We especially find it hard when the answer is so apparent and simple that we cannot understand why we can’t give it.

The psychologist who did extensive training at the crisis line told us -

“If we thought that giving advice would help anyone, we would be the first to tell you to do it.  You must start with the premise that no one wants advice.”

The second piece of instruction she offered is to never ask a “Why?” question.

The only answer to a why question is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Most people who confide in you just need to be kept afloat.  To be heard.  To be offered a kind ear.  No one changes a life situation until they are ready.  And, when they are ready, they do it.

This applies to us too.  We can mull over a problem for a long time and then suddenly – we get it.  It is like a “click.”   Then we move so fast to solve it that it is like a volcano erupting.  When we are done, we are so done!  Gone. That person who has been tormenting us or that situation that seems so desperate is history.  And we don’t have second thoughts or even look back.

There were a few exceptions of intervention on the crisis line.  We were to take action immediately if a child was in danger.  We had a special signal to alert our supervisor in this case and we were to keep the person on the telephone long enough for the police to trace the call and to send help.  We were to try to find out where the child was in the meantime.

The other instance was a suicide call.  What was interesting is that people did not call and say directly, “I am going to commit suicide.”  Most of them alluded vaguely that life is too hard, or they have nothing to live for.  They talked around the subject.

On the crisis line, the psychologist said we were to confront the person who was calling directly and loudly with the statement, “I DON’T WANT YOU TO KILL YOURSELF!”

We are all afraid to say that dreadful word “suicide” to anyone because we feel maybe they are not saying that – perhaps we have misunderstood – maybe we are giving them an idea they don’t have.  She said, NO.  They already have the idea.  Whether we are on a crisis line or in your personal life, you have to confront it directly.

Sometimes this confrontation is shock enough to stop someone.  There is something about the statement that is sobering to say the least.  They will back off.

But, most of the calls on the crisis line were from people who were unhappy.  Most of our friends who confide in us are just unhappy too.

They trained us in what they called active listening.  To repeat back to the person what they have just said to us in our own words.  For example, “What I am hearing you say is that you are unhappy with –” And then,  just listen.

The training I got from that crisis line has been invaluable in many areas of life.  It has made me a better life coach, friend and mother.

We all usually have our own answers within us.  The psychologist is right.  They and we – may ask for advice but we don’t want it.

By letting people talk to us, by finding someone who will hear us out, we are helped and help others to find our way. Our own way.

A friend sent me his version of the famous Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

I’d like to suggest that the Armed Services put more women on the job to assist with traumatic stress disorder.  Not only overseas but when our young men and women come home.  We are natural nurturers.

We need more trained and professional “Mommies” on the job.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Genevieve May 27, 2009 at 10:52 am

Great advice Corinne –

It’s always me !!! It’s never about the other person. A brilliant woman once said to me … “He’s doing the best he can”. And, I said, “Oh no, he’s not”. And she said, “Maybe kicking the cat is the best he could do at that time”…..

I all of a sudden got it and was able to understand my father a little better. He was a suicide and maybe that was the best he could do at that time.

We must honor our differences… and not judge.

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Reed May 27, 2009 at 11:17 am

“We must honor our differences and not judge”, is a wise observation of Gemevoeve’s, the above commentator. Another way of putting it is, “Different strokes for different folks”. This jittney piece of philosophy lies at the core of cordial human and international relationships and could be the fodder of an entire essay. It underscores that we are all different and a product of our upbringing, culture and experiences as are entire societies and nations. It is not our right to change others, nor is it their right to change us, as long as we are law abiding citizens. We are who we are and it is freedom that alows us to be!

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Phil May 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

Although from Europe I am not in the situation that our sons and daughters are sent directly into war but I – of course – can follow your outline.

Listening to the people is one of the major skills successful and helpful men and women should learn first is listening! You will not only the person you’re listening to but will also achieve interesting results and insights from it as a side effect.

Great article, by the way.

Phils last blog post..3 Tips on enhancing your chart immediately

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Genevieve May 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Phil .. Further to my comment, I again watched the remarkable and so informative Ken Burns’ series. “The War”. I was born right in the middle of that war and now know that my father continued his own personal war until he took a rifle and blew his brains out some 40 years after he returned .. his private war was never over and my family’s wasn’t either. He included us in his pain and torment. None of the family speaks to each other now.

That was the time when men were supposed to be men and “suck it up” … I can only imagine the millions of other casualties to that war… like me… and my children.

I couple wars and religion and in my case, catholicism, for the root of my family’s problems. I am in constant amazement that I am a functioning human being. And stand in complete amazement that we have learned nothing yet.

Just wait until we feel the full brunt of the pain of these kids over there now — and wait until they realize that it was for good no reason except man’s insatiable desire to conquor.

Generation after generation of post traumatic stress syndrome Americans. Now including many,many women.

Just what do you think they will do? What legacy will they pass down?

War … what’s the point ?- why not sit down and talk-
Viva Obama!!!! We have only one last chance now.

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Birney Summers May 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Most combat veterans, myself included, will not open up to anyone who has not “been there.” We share our demons only with those who we know can, by their experience, understand. Those who take on the task of dealing with our demons are to be respected regardless of gender. I am both jealous and thankful that so much help is available now compared to 40 years ago.

Birney Summerss last blog post..Review: 7 Watt ZetaLux LED Light Bulb

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Sharon Beck May 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Wow…this post sure generated a lot of comment and insightful thinking. Isn’t that what we all look for in a blog?

And Corinne, your blog is the only one that I have an RSS feed from because your posts never fail to move me. I’m either entertained, given pause to think about something in a different way or just moved to tears. And anywhere in between.

I’m so glad for you and your gift. Thank you. Sharon
P.S. When I went through Dr. Jerry Jampolski’s “Attitudinal Healing” course to be able to work with people in life threatening illness situations, we learned “empathic listening”. Sounds like what you learned to do in your volunteer work.

Sharon Becks last blog post..THIS BLOG HAS MOVED!!!!!

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Genevieve May 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Birney, With Memorial day so much my mind and especially watching the Ken Burns documentary.

I have had the privilege of talking very heart-to-heart with some Nam Marines. I have learned that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine. I have counseled returning Iraq soldiers. But there is no way I could ever really understand the brotherhood. Thank god they have that.

I can however be of some assistance as a woman. I’m like a big sister or in some cases, a mother and they can cry and go bananas in front of me and they know it’s ok.

I am always so pleased to assist any of these wonderful men.
It is my honor.

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 28, 2009 at 4:42 am

Dear Genevieve -

Wow! You have really made a great contribution to the discussion here with all your comments.

It is important to share with others what you have experienced.

And I do agree that most people are doing the best they can. And definitely not always according to our standards.

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 28, 2009 at 4:54 am

Dear Birney -

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I can see that a vet would be more comfortable talking to another who has “been there.”

But saving that, it is important to talk. And to have someone listen. “Mommies”are good at that. We are not as likely to say – Pull yourself together!

I knew a young couple years ago. He was a sweet small town boy until he spent two years in Korea. He came back a violent person and they finally got a divorce. They had no label in those days for “traumatic stress” disorders. Looking back, that is definitely what he had. Thankfully, as you said, it is recognized today.

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 28, 2009 at 5:00 am

Dear Phil -

You were the smart ones and stayed out of the senseless war in Iraq. We sent our children there – and they were children!

The training given by the crisis line stands true in everyday situations too. Listening is the best favor we can do for people who confide in us.

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 28, 2009 at 5:02 am

Dear Reed -

This is the crux of everything in life and in political negotiations -

“It is not our right to change others, nor is it their right to change us, as long as we are law abiding citizens. We are who we are and it is freedom that alows us to be!”

Hopefully, we are now starting to learn this.

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 28, 2009 at 5:10 am

Dear Sharon -

I am familiar with Jerry Jampolsky’s “Attitudinal Healing.”

It is very similar to the active listening techniques we were taught.

People need attention. We all crave understanding. We welcome a friend or a stranger,like an anonymous person on a crisis line. Sometimes, I got the same person a few times a week. It may have been the only avenue he had to connect.

I appreciate your attention and faithful following of my articles. Waiting for you to start up again.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 28, 2009 at 4:38 pm

What a heartfelt article,Corinne.

You are full of wisdom and compassion. Sadly, the situation in the world today means there is a growing need for this kind of comfort. People are hurting, they need their mommy.

Jonathan – Advanced Life Skillss last blog post..67 Ways to Make Him Feel Super Respected

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Corinne
Twitter:
May 30, 2009 at 6:12 am

Dear Jonathan -

I am a big fan – so it means a lot to me to get such a great compliment from you.

“People are hurting.” So true of all of us. We all need comforting some of the time. And it does not take a great effort.

Even a sincere compliment will do it! You did it today.

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Penny June 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

A lot of these guys going off to war are just barely out of high school and still “babies,” at least to their moms. They need all the love and help they can get.

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Being the Change I Wish to See - Sherri
Twitter:
June 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Corinne,

Great article and you’re right. No matter what the crisis, we need a listener, not a problem-solver.

PTSD from war, government coups or severe natural disasters leave deep wounds that are barely covered. As soon as they are touched in any way, they are open and raw, and you are back where it all began. People with such wounds need someone to listen and not pour salt into them.

If you blog about a situation you are going through and your main problem with your situation is the trauma you suffered (like being in south Louisiana and hit by Katrina and Rita, then having a relapse when Gustav took out houses all around you), people who comment on your stories when you seem confused and not making progress, or even sense, are very critical and often outright cruel.

I told off a couple of commenters on my debt free or bust blog. Then, I turned off comments completely.

One commenter started his own blog to ridicule me since he can’t do it on my blog any more. He didn’t realize I would still get pingbacks when he linked to my blog from his. He’s pathetic. He picks on one guy in particular. I’m listed under “Other Tards” meaning, I’m sure, retards. The only purpose of this guy’s blog is to pick on other people.

People like that not only don’t listen, they tell you how you should solve your problems. If you don’t do what he tells you he finds it acceptable to harass and ridicule you about it for being “stupid” in his opinion and worthy of his wrath.

I understand why vets and others don’t want to talk about their feelings with anyone who hasn’t been there. Those who haven’t been there are too big a risk.

I understand why the IAVA’s veterans-only site, communityofveterans.org, is locked to outside users. They don’t even allow family members on it; they have a separate site for family. If you’re interested in the site for a veteran, they can sign up there, and the link to the family site is on their home page. It is veteran owned and run, and only veterans are members.

Sherri
.-= Being the Change I Wish to See – Sherri´s last blog ..Origins of Influenza A (H1N1) and Precautions =-.

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Yena February 15, 2012 at 2:43 am

He’s probably looking for a mom and not his fellow soldier. He may not yet used to being away with his mother. Pity for that soldier but it’s been also pathetic to realize that men were more vulnerable compared to women.
Yena recently posted..stress hair lossMy Profile

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Abercrombie UK September 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Ottimo sito, posso dalle altre persone esperte condividono la stessa suggestione interessi. Aspetto generale del tuo sito è grande, per non parlare del contenuto. Io credo, che avete già avuto un gruppo considerevole di lettori!

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