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Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Little Update on Things Here

Thought I would pass along a few quick impressions and thoughts going through my mind the past few days in reaction to the incidents at NIU, as well as share a bit of personal musings.

It has been a very hectic few days; many, many calls and emails of concern have come in and I'd like to thank everyone for caring, for giving of themselves, for listening. It all the more is appreciated because I have not been giving of myself, reaching out to you, in the same measure lately.

It's been a peculiar few months for me.

For those who've been longtime visitors to PTSD Combat, you've surely noticed that my posting decreased and even stopped for a good portion of January. I apologize for that.

It's been a winter with colds and flu a plenty over here. From November to mid-January I had some four separate weeks of being under the weather in one form or another and dead dog tired the rest of the time as a result.

Having finals at NIU and preparing for and being called to testify in Washington, DC, in December sent things into overdrive physically; and afterwards, I just kind of shut down and needed to turn inwardly for a time to focus on health and home a little.

The two and half years of pushing myself by juggling classes and working on veterans' issue at the same time -- as much as it is a source of renewal and sustenance and honor for me to be able to do such important and necessary work with such great people -- caught up with me a bit, and I just needed to sleep more, eat better, exercise, and spend a little more time with my family and friends. As good as those things are for us, doing all of those things cuts down on productivity.

In January I began my new semester at NIU, and this time I took a full slate of classes rather than attending as a half-time student. Posting here suffered as a result, as has my ability to respond to the many emails that I receive. If you've written and not heard a response yet from me, please accept my apologies. Have been trying my best to make headway in that area; while I have a long way to go yet, I'll continue to try to get back on top of things as best I can in the coming weeks.

Now for a few quick impressions on how things are going for me in the wake of the NIU shooting:

Fortunately, my PTSD research as it pertains to veterans has been helpful in my process of dealing with things so far. I have a great support network, and being an older student (42) I have a bit stronger of a foundation to attempt to deal with the emotions that have been cropping up inside of me (shock, fear, worry, sadness, vulnerability, and especially survivor guilt).

The shock has worn off a bit, and now I've arrived at the physical reaction phase to the event: persistent stress headache since last night, a tight knot in my chest, and a couple of crying jags so far today that come quickly and subside just as quickly. They are overwhelming when they come and during their duration (about 5 mins.) they're pretty intense. The overwhelming feeling for myself right now is the ache I have for those who were lost, injured, and inside the room and building. I was so much more fortunate.

This afternoon, I'm heading back to the campus to place flowers. [UPDATE] You can view my photos at Flickr.

I also want to get some exercise in the sunshine with my husband before another winter storm arrives tonight and tomorrow. While there, I'll stop to talk with one of the counselors they have provided on campus for us. Cannot stress enough how important that is for everyone post-traumatic event -- even me. :o)

In all, though, I'm doing fine even with all of these symptoms I'm sharing with you. I have a great husband who is here, supporting me. The greatest family and lots of friends who have been listening to me. Many professionals to tap into. I am blessed.

How does this relate to veterans and their PTSD?

The issues veterans dealing with PTSD face are very similar to what we have here now. One of my local vet friends said to me when he called to counsel me on Thursday night (thank you Dick, as always), "Well, you're one of us, now. You've just survived your first IED." While I don't think I would be that dramatic or presumptuous, I do see how my experience will enhance my understanding of the range of emotions soldiers in the area of such incidents must work through.

Nowhere do I mean to say that my experience of being in the vicinity of such a tragedy compares with what soldiers in battle face; but, there are some common themes present in all forms of traumatic reaction following all types of violent experience.

I have been taking notes on some of the related facets and will be writing an ePluribus Media piece; I will share that with you when it is complete. I've also submitted a column, expected to run in Monday's edition of the Northern Star, sharing a few tips and thoughts with NIU's student body. I've wanted to try to reach out and help in some way. Writing is the only way I best know how to do that, and so I hope that they find the piece I submitted worthy of running.

But what of our veterans with PTSD? How does this relate to their experience? There are many connections to the veterans issue tied together with the incident at NIU that I've seen cropping up.

niu_025aOne of the students, Julianna Gehant was a 32-year old female who was said to have loved children and was studying to be a teacher. She was also an Iraq veteran a 12-year Army veteran who'd served in Bosnia and Korea.

In addition, my understanding is that while kids were rushing out of Cole during the shooting, three former veterans on campus rushed in to come to the aid of students who were wounded, dragging some of them out and giving them medical attention.

I do not have that story confirmed, but it wouldn't surprise me that those would be the reactions of our fine veterans. Such things only further prove how important our nation's veterans are to our communities in such dark times.

We've had to turn to them for protection numerous times. It is only fitting that we turn to them for guidance now as well.

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