How to Kick Start Your Brain

How to Kick Start Your Brain

I struggled for years with hyper-vigilance when I got back to Canada after my tour in Somalia. In the military it is not uncommon to never place your hands in your pocket ‘cause if you do the Sergeant-Major would have you by the … how shall I say, … short and curlies (trying to keep the language down). But for several years I couldn’t even walk with my child’s hand in mine. With every step down the street I would be calculating the movement of every person and assessing the upcoming person’s physical and potential threat ability based on their movement. Coupled with lack of sleep from nightmares I would occasionally crash mentally. Although I never realized it at the time, my diet changed during that period. I started focusing on different foods.

I remember sitting down to an extra large pizza and devouring it by myself. I could pack a plate of pasta to the point of overflow and then go back for seconds. I would think nothing of eating a half gallon of ice cream or more by myself and then having a bag of chips and washing it down with 2 liters of caffeinated pop. Not to mention my consumption of coffee increased dramatically.  At the time I was 195lbs, and weightlifting not to mention daily running and training as an airborne paratrooper, so it was easy to burn off the calories.  As it turns out, not only is it unhealthy physically in the long term it is also unhealthy mentally, both in the long and short term.

Turns out the brain eats fat, not carbohydrates and sugar. In fact the brain prefers a high fat low carb diet and recent health studies are showing our low fat diets are killing us. So why did I suddenly crave starches and sugars when my brain was having difficulties focusing or while it was in overdrive hyper-vigilance. As it turns out part of the reason is I was eating the North American low fat diet of the 1990’s. When the brain is exhausted and/or starving from not enough fats (both result in the same reaction) it searches for any food that will help it to stay alert the quickest but not necessarily healthiest way.  Caffeine, Sugar and Starches (which are easily and quickly converted to sugar), become the food the stressed individual craves. Hence the nick name comfort food I suspect.

Although it gives a quick stimulus, it also creates fatigue. The short rapid highs are followed by deep depressing lows and thus the cycle of needing the next quick fix begins. With every sleepless night and tiring day comes a greater need for the sugars, starches and stimulants. Truth is it’s a very destructive path. Couple the lows with the anxiety and depression associated with mental health issues and in my opinion it is a receipt for self destruction. The best thing you can do for yourself if you are a victim of mental health in particular PTSD is not compensating for fatigue and sleeplessness with poor diet and stimulants. The very first dietary change we should make is to not consume any starches or sugars or as little as possible. And simultaneously increase our good fats exponentially.

The easiest way to increase your good fats is to supplement breakfast, lunch and supper with fish oil tablets (omega 3, 6, & 9). Add whole fats to your diet, that is fat that has never been processed or has very little processing. For example cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil/butter, butter instead of margarine, or lard instead of shorting. Choose fruits and vegetables and other foods high with natural fats and eat them raw such as, avocados, bananas and nuts. A great site I use is http://nutritiondata.self.com/ Just plug in the food, find the way you plan on eating it in the list and then read the nutritional chart complete with glycemic load, fat breakdown and nutrient per 100 grams, cup or other measurement. As a rule the more processed a food is the higher it is in starch and sugars, just check out how your favorite comfort food stacks up when you check it out on the nutritional data site. None of this will magically make your mental health disappear, but you may just find it gets you off some of your medications and has you feeling better than you have by eating your comfort food. For me it has made all the difference in the world as I enjoy clarity of thought and emotional stability.

 

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Sleepless

Sleepless

Last few months, I have been going through what I refer to as a lack of sleep cycle. Eat the wrong food, participate in the wrong activity and I’m lucky to get an hour of restless sleep. This will often go on for several days to several weeks. When this occurs, and on the rare occasion I can’t get any sleep for a prolonged period, I have been known to consume a half bottle of rum just to pass out for a couple hours. When I have done that I am usually awake again in a few hours, but at least I slept. Normally I wouldn’t even take this step unless I am so tired and have to work in the morning, and all other avenues that I would normally take have failed. I wish it was simple insomnia, take a sleeping pill and that is the end of it, but unfortunately it is a little more complicated than that. I can take a pill, (and I have) and the result is no different than a half bottle of rum when it comes to the length of time I sleep. The difference isn’t even how functional I am when I wake up, ‘cause I do wake up and usually I am still exhausted.

With the prescription drug, I am not functioning for most of the day. I still have the lack of sleep, but because the drug is still in the system, I also feel drugged and lethargic for the day but after a cup of coffee I can function. Whereas when on occasion I have drank myself to sleep, I awake with lack of sleep and the alcohol still in my system and after a cup of coffee I’m pretty much functioning for the day. I know not much real difference you may say, but I enjoyed the alcohol and I functioned for a day. Not necessarily the best choice by some people’s standard, but try going without sleep week after week with little enjoyment and I am willing to bet you’ll try it too.

And for those who are convinced it’s just not a suitable way to deal with your problems, relax, it is very rare that I over indulge in self medication, the point I am trying to make is that often veterans will chose self medication because they at least get a small amount of enjoyment out of a very torturous experience. If feeling drugged with no enjoyment or feeling drug with a small amount of enjoyment is your only choice; you’re going to choose whatever gives you that slight bit of humanity. The following are excerpts from an online conversation I had with fellow veterans on what we do to encounter a good night’s sleep. I edited it for privacy and to condense their thoughts, but I’m hoping you see the pattern I am moving toward.

 Dave                   Been noticing a lot of veterans been struggling with issues around sleep, I too periodically have this issue. Not as bad as I used to prior to Loreta Neurofeedback. But it still happens…… Especially when I get triggered. So point of post is what works for you, anything other than prescription treatments that work for you. Especially like to hear about alternative health stuff been having a lot of success since departed from conventional doctor and pill treatments. So far my number one method of dealing with insomnia when back allows is hard manual labour, if I don’t fall asleep naturally first day by second or third I am out like a light……

Stephen (Me)    I pay attention to what I eat. Had popcorn (high in starch) yesterday for the first time in months, and didn’t sleep last night. This is the second time I had popcorn and didn’t sleep. Got rid of a lot of foods from my diet, (all Starches and Sugars) but still experiment to see what aids or hinders my sleep. As for those sleepless nights, I don’t panic anymore, I just let them happen and get as much rest as I can.

Matthew             Neurofeedback calms the mind so much, also IREST meditation, being outside with nature staying away from stressors (SELFCARE). Also medical cannabis, no nightmares, night sweats and I feel so rested. I honestly don’t consider this a prescription since its natural lol

Derrick                 I do acupuncture as much as possible. A natural herbal medicine I’ve taken is Calm ES. It calms the body and mind. Something to look into as an alternative to traditional western medicine.

Mike                    Sadly what works for one may not work for another, Neural feedback, EDMR, sensory deprivation list goes on and on. I was plagued with horrific nightmares from my PTSD for more than 28 years. Existing on little more than three hours of sleep a night. Two years ago I discovered the wonders of medical marijuana. Since then I’ve been getting 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted and more importantly, undisturbed sleep. Actual rest.

Cognito              Food is a big one. Simple rule eat close to the bone and root. Processed foods are the killer. I haven’t had any form of caffeine 6 years. I’m not an angel I do like my beer (wheat free). If I can’t sleep I’ll go for a walk. Don’t have to wave at anyone everyone is sleeping lol.

Jessica               I use Young Living Essential Oils. I put some on my skin but mostly my diffuser is running every night. I change up the smells, but it always includes lavender. The smell triggers sleeps. Also, no books or electronics in the bedroom. If I lay down for 20 minutes and am not asleep, I get up, do something and try again. I forget the name for it but its healthy sleep habits or something. Oh, and electronics need to go off an hour before I go to bed.

Rob                       Believe it or not. ..Rosehip tea with some loose catnip thrown in. Add a little honey…and off to sleep!

Rob                      I have a meditation app I listen to

Keep in mind many of these people have dealt with PTSD for decades.  Here is the pattern I’ve been observing through many of these conversations, no one wants, enjoys or is searching for a pharmaceutical solution to the problem. All have tried and dismissed it not liking the side effects. All have chosen some form of self alternative medication that offers at least some enjoyment. Now I’m not advocating the bottle solution and in truth, I drink very little as I find it to can also be responsible for long waking periods, and it is very rare that I would consume a large amount. It strikes me the importance of natural remedies over prescription drugs, the importance of routines over the ease of pharmaceuticals; that it is not one opinion, but a collective belief that our routines and overall healthy living are far more important than many care to endure. And that this collective consciousness developed independently of each other over decades of unrest.

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Veteran’s Pensions verse the Prime Minister’s Pension

Veteran’s Pensions verse the Prime Minister’s Pension

By now you have seen the recent town halls on main stream media and the veterans confronting the Prime Minister on pensions. I voiced my pension opinions back on Oct 29th 2017 in an article I wrote titled Veterans Affairs so I’m not going to rehash that.  I also talked about the impact on the families in another article a week before that titled What About the Children on Oct 22nd.  What I want to address is the belief that government is somehow not responsible or unable to properly address veterans and their pension needs and its claim not to have a responsibility to meet those needs.

When I left the military after a medical release back in 1997, I did so injured and unable to work. And I know I have stated this a few times in the past but bear with me. I was jobless, in and out of lock up for mental health reasons, embroiled in a $30,000 legal action that escalated to $50,000; was fighting for my pension to be instated and then re-instated and then increased to an amount I could survive on. All of these action, reactions and difficulties stemming from the role I played in a third world hell.

My initial recovery to the point in which I was able to work, took several years. For that period of time I had no income other than my pension, which I was not receiving or not receiving in full. I still had to pay my mortgage, child support, and utilities not to mention a car loan and credit card debt which was all based on an income I was not receiving.  I would often kite (pay one credit account from another) my payments escalating my debt so I didn’t end up homeless. My family would often kick in to keep me afloat, creating financial and moral debts I have never been able to pay back. Eventually I was able to make enough to survive, but never enough to pay off what would quickly escalate to 6 digit debt on poverty based income.

For 25 years I have played this poverty financial game, though I have to admit I have gotten so good at it, most people who don’t know me think I have money. What I have is debt, and for the same period of time I have put little to nothing into retirement. If for any reason, I was to spontaneously recover fully and be able to work at whatever my heart desired thereby forfeiting my pension, I would be facing another harsh reality. I am past middle age rapidly approaching senior age, I would need to re-qualify my certifications and I have no savings in addition to bearing above average debt; with scarce time to work at a professional wage to pay off that debt and put money away for retirement.

Here is the hard core truth of veterans and their pension needs, once injured they face years of recovery, lower income, and no ability to save for their retirement. That pension is supposed to be there to provide for them because they were forcefully retired and all avenues for them to take care of their own retirements are no longer available to them. At no time in the past 25 years has any political party come to the aid of veterans over their pensions to change this fate. So now let’s compare this to our Prime Minister’s Pension and the pensions of our Members of Parliament. They work 4-5 years and get full pensions and it doubles with each re-election, yet there isn’t enough money for the veterans. In the Prime Minister words “Veterans Are Asking For More Than We Are Able To Give Right Now”, strange how our Prime Minister and our elected officials are able to give to themselves but not to Canada’s Veterans.

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Food For Thought

Food For Thought

A funny thing happened on my way to mental health recovery, I got off my meds. I have several times mentioned the need for an exit plan for prescription meds and unending therapies. At this point I believe that for as many people who suffer mental trauma there are as many solutions. I do not believe in a one solution fits all, as there are far too many variables at play. I do believe that there needs to be a base line from which to start, a compiled list of “We know this does not work, so don’t try it” and a list of “We know this will improve your health and must be done” as well as the “If you don’t try it, you’ll never know, but take the opportunity to put a safety protocol in place before you try it”. Most professionals would advocate that you do this with a trained professional; years ago I would have supported this, but not so anymore, I got off my meds by not listening to my doctor any longer.

I started two decades ago, with a push from my doctor to take a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) anti depressant, not because I was depressed, but because it was the standard approach to PTSD, my reaction to the SSRI was off the wall. I had a complete meltdown from the reaction to the SSRI’s. I never wanted to take the medication, mostly because I was never depressed and could not find sound logic to take an anti depressant for anything other than clinical depression (I have a medical background). But I was having severe flash backs in time and place, an uncontrollable rage, and a complete inability to relate to anyone on a personal level or with any person in general. I was so far removed from whom I knew I was that I couldn’t recognize myself or my thought process. I suspect it is what possession would feel like, (insert mental picture from the exorcist here) because that’s as close as I can come to expressing it. I had become a completely different person and was unable to understand why or how it happened. So I agreed to take the drug. Two months later I had no children, wife, career or future and had to have myself admitted into a mental health ward and was facing what would add up to $50,000.00 in legal fees.

Fortunately, my doctor of care was familiar with SSRI’s and their contraindication to PTSD. As I indicated in my last article ‘In From The Cold’ on 14 Jan 2018, he was also an expert on PTSD and knew what Mefloquin Toxicity (now Quinism) was about. He immediately stopped the SSRI and my rapidly accelerated symptoms, went back to my already over the top out of control symptoms. He then placed me on an anticonvulsant which I remained on for the next 12 years. For decades I thanked him, for the stability and self control. I was convinced that this was the answer to my problem. Only problem was there was no exit strategy, and at the time, I wasn’t even aware that I needed an exit strategy. Fast forward 12 years, and the drug interaction from the anticonvulsant caught up to me.

Not only did I have to stop the drug because I was suffering life threatening side effects, but all of my symptoms returned. At the time it was confirmation that I needed the drug, but that was before I spent the next few years adding one drug after another treating the symptoms and never the cause. In a two year period, I had escalated my prescription drug use to the point where I could consume my morning medications as if it was a meal in itself and I had to be saved by my wife from drug interactions and near death. Make no mistake had she not heard my feeble cry for help on one evening she would have awoken to a dead husband in bed with her the next morning. This event became the catalyst to finding an exit strategy, other than death by over prescription.

I started off with a colloidal suspension of 60 minerals, 15 vitamins, 12 amino acids and 3 essential fatty acids at a cost of $600.00 a month, (I eventually reduced that to $400.00) in 3 months, I was off my meds (in a good way), but for several years I remained borderline needing to return to medication, but never giving in or returning to it. Although it took several years through trial and error, in addition to research, I eventually began to realize that if I adjusted my diet, I could get rid of the expense of supplements, and stay off the drugs.

At this juncture in my life, I eat no processed foods, unless I do the processing. I eat virtually no starches, or sugars, I allow myself one cup of caffeine in the morning per day. I can have a single shot of alcohol, a couple times a week and I consume large quantities of fresh green leafy vegetables and healthy fats daily. When I have a starch, (usually a tablespoon or two of oat flour in the am only) it is from organic grouts I purchased locally, and have ground into flour with my own grain grinder. Even yogurt I prefer to make my own and if I could, I would by a cow and use my own milk. I know how extreme I often appear to people who look at my diet; even my own wife calls me a Food Nazi even though she wouldn’t have me eat any other way because of the consequences.  The consequences are no sleep, and a return of symptoms, and I am not alone.

Over the past year I have reconnect with many brothers and sisters from the past, all suffering with the same conditions and problems. All (independent of each other) have found solace in a complete makeover of their diets. Some, unlike me, can’t even have the one coffee or an occasional shot of alcohol, others find they can have caffeine in tea occasionally, but not coffee. I can sometimes get away with too much starch two days in a row, and other days the single tablespoon of flour mixed in with eggs as a crepe in the morning is too much and I’m awake for days or until I fast and clean out my system. At the end of the day my diet and the routine surrounding it keeps my head clear and emotions intact and I can’t help but think, “before we go on a drug, maybe we should be starting our exit strategy of diet and lifestyle changes first”, then medication if needed, but with an end date in sight. Yes a drug allows you to go back to work and to continue as if nothing is wrong. But that is the lie as something is wrong, or you wouldn’t need the drug to function. Despite all the damage to my brain for 7 going on 8 years I have been drug free, engaged with family and society in a positive and productive manor. Had I stayed on medications, I would most likely be dead.

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Dissonance

Dissonance

What drives a community to unite against a government; or in Canada’s case a political party in power? It’s not uncommon to watch military dictatorships in third world counties rise and fall. Corrupt politicians, corporate interests, private wealth and disenfranchised public are amongst the common problems escalating second and third world conflicts. The ‘Rule of Law’ in our first world nations prevent much of what we witness in the third world, but even that isn’t enough to stop the disenfranchised from rising in protest against first world political parties (particularly those that continually ignore advancing problems). As I watch the veteran’s news feeds over the past few years which are now being echoed by main stream media, I find it hard to understand what some of these “Political Leaders” are truly thinking or if they are thinking at all.

The explosion post 2006 of veteran suicides, pension denial, Mefloquin, and poor equipment issues appears to be largely ignored by government (at least in terms of solutions) despite main stream media not only reporting the problems, but siding with the veteran community. With each passing year political indifference is seconded only to empty promises of solutions. And when a solution is offered by a political party, it is partisan in nature and ineffective in addressing the core problem it is intended for. The latest example is the pension fix which on the surface appears to make it harder for those in need to qualify or have sufficient funding to live on (we won’t really know for another year). In contrast it appears that millions are to be made readily available in response to returning terrorist from conflicts that caused the injuries to our veterans in the first place. Who in their right mind would consider this to be sound doctrine? A sound person would expect that the opposite would be the solution that the political class in Canada would be reaching for. Why would anyone want to further alienate an elevated and respected class of Canadian Society (the veteran community) that has already spent decades being alienated from its own government?

Fortunately for Canadians (and Canada in general) our veteran community is the very embodiment of those who have sworn to uphold the rule of law. I would further extend this to our first responders. The problem in Canada isn’t with our veteran community getting out of hand in standing up for itself. The problem is that it hasn’t stood up for itself, and because of a lot of personal damage, they are often incapable of standing up for themselves. The few that do are often dismissed as “mentally ill” or “angry veterans”. So one has to ask, “Where are Canadians in all this”? The Canadians who will stand up and demand equality in pension for our veterans, investigation as to why a drug was approved without a drug trial, why equipment scheduled for replacement takes over 30 years to be replaced? Do they really not care? What happened to the outrage that was present when our troops came back dead and wounded?

Dissonance; Definition: a: lack of agreement the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believe; especially: inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs

Decades ago I remember musing when the first dozen dead came back from Afghanistan, that there was no outrage when we lost a loaded Hercules aircraft with 40 plus men on board back in 1989; or the loss of 4 to 10 at a time in various training accidents throughout the years, or the year a half dozen drowned in an drop zone error which resulted in two dozen troops being air dropped into the Ottawa River without floatation devices. There was barely a sound back then, barely a murmur or muffle of interest in the well being of the military or the veteran community at large. Is this what our country is returning to? Where is the outrage over unjust practices for our veterans? For as dark as my damaged brain can get, it’s not nearly as dark as the as the dissonance of the Canadian public over its veterans’ community.

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The Mefloquine Debate

The Mefloquine Debate

This article has been brewing in my mind for quite some time. Although I wanted to write it, I didn’t want to be an angry veteran while writing it (which at times can be hard to do). I have lost a lot of friends to Mefloquin toxicity, currently being coined Quinism by Dr. Remington Nevin a Vermont-based physician epidemiologist and expert consultant in the adverse effects of anti malarial drugs, who is also a veteran and victim of Quinism. I lost one friend as recently as Jan 2, 2018 just a couple of weeks ago, although not a close friend we marched together on Parliament Hill in Sept last year asking for the Somalia inquiry to be reopen in order to allow testimony on Mefloquin. Although she was not military she was a warrior and a fierce one at that. She and a few others were instrumental in taking the fight of the veterans into Canadian culture. But first let me go back to the beginning.

In late 1992 the Canadian Government sought (or was coerced depending on who you listen two) to approve for use in Somalia the anti malarial drug Mefloquin, the approval process included the need for a study on the drug, and that’s where the controversy truly begins. I was the pharmacist representative for the Airborne Regiment, which means I was responsible to order, stock and pack all medical supplies for the operation. This is where the first oddity begins, at no time did any order, record or accounting of the anti malarial drug Mefloquine ever enter into our records for procurement, distribution or administration to any individual or unit at our level. In fact it wasn’t until we returned to Canada and the Regimental Medical Officer had us place on everyone’s file a letter stating that we had been exposed to Mefloquin during the operation that Mefloquin found any notation on any of our medical documents.

Three months into the operation, we had at least one psychotic break, a murder and if I am correct 2 attempted suicides. Yet despite this and from what we have gathered so far (that we were the drug trial for approval of Mefloquin on the Canadian Market) Mefloquin was approved for use in early 1993 while we were still on operation and without supporting clinical trial evidence. The media circus that followed our ill fated mission painted us as Racist Neo Nazi Skin Heads, who had always been out of control and should have been shut down as a unit decades ago. And in fact there had been incidences in the Regiments past as there has been in all military regiments’ history, when you train men to kill, expect them to at times reflect poor morality. In Somalia, the Italians’ wiped out several hundred Somali’s at a time for trying to enter their compound. India’s army conducted summary executions on the spot for any transgressions against them, and our American Cousins had several incidences a month of illegal shootings. This is not to justify our actions, but to place into perspective, the one transgression against a Somalian that was the dismantling of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Truth is unless there is a study on the effects of Mefloquin as stated in the Somalia inquiry we will never know. This is an excerpt from the Somailia Inquiry on the use of Mefloquin from page 3 paragraph 7;

If mefloquine did in fact cause or contribute to some of the misbehaviour that is the subject of this Inquiry, CF personnel who were influenced by the drug might be partly or totally excused for their behaviour. However, for reasons described more fully in Chapter 41, we are not able to reach a final conclusion on this issue. We can offer only general observations about the decision to prescribe mefloquine for personnel deployed to Somalia: 32

Although this is a small amount of what is in the chapter, I encourage you to read it all for yourself, Chapter 41 states;

We cannot say, however, whether DND took adequate precautions to ensure that persons susceptible to severe psychiatric disorders did not receive mefloquine, since even in 1992 it was known that mefloquine should not be prescribed to such individuals.

3. More recent medical information suggests that severe adverse effects from mefloquine used as a prophylactic are not as rare as first thought, but views on this point conflict, and further investigation may be necessary.

4. Mefloquine use could have been a factor in the abnormal behaviour of some troops in Somalia. However, one cannot begin to determine whether mefloquine contributed to the behaviour of the individuals in question without answers to the following questions:

A list of questions then continues that I did not include due to space, but you should read them yourself as this list of questions conclude with;

It is evident that further investigation is warranted before any firm conclusions about the role of mefloquine can be drawn. 33

The inquiry continues to outline the lack of cooperation at senior levels as the cause of further compounded adversity in reaching a conclusion with this observation from the inquiry not from the Airborne Regiment, but from the Department of National Defense, and those calling the shots here in Canada during the operation;

However, we must also record with regret that on many occasions the testimony of witnesses was characterized by inconsistency, improbability, implausibility, evasiveness, selective recollection, half- truths, and plain lies. Indeed, on some issues we encountered what can only be described as a wall of silence. When several witnesses behave in this manner, the wall of silence is evidently a strategy of calculated deception. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that many of the witnesses who displayed these shortcomings were officers, non-commissioned officers, and senior civil servants – individuals sworn to respect and promote the values of leadership, courage, integrity, and accountability.

So with all this uncertainty in the air, here is where the loss of this magnificent warrior I mentioned at the beginning comes in. Unless we know for certain the effects of Quinism the symptoms will continually be attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or mental illness. If you read my article last week, Coming Out Of The Cold, the degree of ineffective treatment surrounding PTSD (incidentally the study I quote is a study on Civilian PTSD not military) can be further compounded, by treating Quinism as mental illness and not poisoning. My friends roll was critical in having this drug investigated because she and others like her show the exact same signs and symptoms as us military people, but unlike us they have never been in a combat zone to be traumatized. They received the same symptoms of us from taking the same medication while on vacation in some swanky resort. Yet like us she will be called a suicide from mental illness as opposed to a victim of poisoning from an untested illegally licensed drug.

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Coming In From The Cold

Coming In From The Cold

Twenty five years ago, Dec 26, 1992 to be exact I left Canada to “Enforce Famine Relief” in Somalia, life would never be “normal” again.  Twenty years ago Dec 27, 1997 to be exact I was medically released from the military with injuries that today remain unhealed. What followed my release, I initially described as gross incompetence. I often related it to a lack of knowledge and expertise on the part of the “experts” in the medical health field. PTSD was a new problem for Canada and we were ill prepared to handle it. Today Twenty five years later, not much has changed by way of medical treatment for the malady of veterans.  A presentation from a study done at McMaster University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences on PTSD was done back in 2010. Shifting through all the data and presentation’s information a few very glaring facts started becoming clear.

According to this study (which is a peer reviewed and fact based study) 50% of all PTSD studied is chronic, of that 50% effective reduction of symptoms only occurs in 11-36% of those studied, a combination of prescription medication and therapies producing the higher percentage numbers of improvement amongst those studied. Also noted is that of this 11-36%, 50% of them are non compliant with taking prescription medication and or therapies within 2-3 years due to drug interactions and side effects. That leaves roughly 15-18% finding any significant relief from medical treatment of PTSD long term. Or more simply put 82-85% of PTSD sufferers are found to not have any significant reduction of symptoms for any significant length of time through medical treatment.  Not very encouraging is it. Imagine my shock when at the end of the presentation it was suggest that the most productive solution offered was to find better measures to keep patients in therapy and on their medications longer.

Back in the summer of 1998, I sat down with the Surgeon General of Canada along with Psychiatrist Dr Robert Oxlade, my roll was as a patient advocate. I had had severe reactions to improper medication which cost me my family and career. Dr Oxlade wanted a longer in-patient program to properly evaluate PTSD without medicating the patient prior to treatment for evaluation. He rightly felt that medicating at the family practitioners level before clinical diagnosis was problematic because once medicated the initial symptoms had been altered and any diagnosis is based on a medicated and altered state of mind. He also felt that SSRI anti depressants were contra indicated for PTSD (one of these is what I reacted to). In addition to this he was responsible for introducing me to the now hot topic of Mefloquin Toxicity and how it mimics PTSD (another story). Following our presentation we were thanked and left with the clear impression that the Surgeon General at the time (who had just receive 3 million in funding for an outpatient treatment program) felt that the military then was on the right track for PTSD treatment. Fast forward almost 20 years and little has changed.

Remember that study from 2010, 2 years ago the Veterans House team did a presentation to the current Surgeon General and his staff on our concept for peer supported healing. For the record this presentation went a lot different than the first and we were well received. We left challenging each other on our assumptions and with a mutual respect for what we were trying to accomplish. The Surgeon Generals comment forced us to rewrite our entire business plan and for the better. We learnt a lot from this encounter. Likewise we were able to challenge the Surgeon General and his staff on the medical community’s failure to address the physical trauma occurring in the brain due to Cortisol release from PTSD.  Today’s treatment protocols treat only the symptoms of PTSD not the physical trauma to the brain, despite the medical community’s acknowledgment of the physical trauma to the brain.

Another admission from this meeting was the stark realization that medical practitioners see the McMaster study as problematic. Everyone at the table at the second meeting was in full knowledge of the study and although none would call the study flawed, they did refer to it as problematic.  In fact it is problematic, as it shows rather clearly that practitioners who have invested hundreds and thousands of dollars into treatment modalities are so invested in the modality itself, that they fail to recognize that it does not serve the best interest of their PTSD client and rather than admitting that and seeking a better solution, they conclude that better efforts be made to keep patients in a treatment protocol that is relatively ineffective. This is often justified by the position that any reduction in the symptoms of PTSD is improvement.

Veterans House is looking to provide insight on this very problem by researching and providing direct feed back to practitioners in real time with our partners. Not on the medical treatment, or ignoring its value either, but rather on peer supported healing. Every trauma victim must at sometime rehabilitate from their trauma or remain crippled and PTSD has as much physical basis of injury as any other trauma.  A stroke victim must re-learn how to walk, talk and communicate effectively. A hockey player with a concussion is often back on the ice scoring goals at the top of their game within 6 months to a year. Isn’t it time we taught PTSD trauma victims how to retrain and relearn the skills they possessed prior to the physical trauma injury of PTSD in a safe environment that isn’t a lock up or mental health ward that has a proven history of up to 85% inefficiency at promoting recovery?

 

 

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W.O.L.F. Academy

W.O.L.F. Academy

A couple guys I have just barely gotten to know are Dwayne MacDougal and Derek Anaquod. They are two of the force behind The W.O.L.F. Academy presently running a 5 day retreat that teaches soldiers a proven set of principles to take back control in their lives. These guys are fiercely following the leave no soldier behind principle. Much of what these men echo in conversation could easily have been my own words verbatim on peer supported healing and the need for a comprehensive approach to retraining. In their own words “We process the student’s result in these challenges and the student learns to create a new ‘Way Of Life Forever’ or W.O.L.F. They will come out of The W.O.L.F. Academy with the means to set goals and achieve them using the following principles: IDENTITY, STRUCTURE, DISCIPLINE, CHALLENGE and PACK.” It’s also very reminiscent of ex NHLer Doug Smith’s The Trauma Code and his 10 principles. I’m a big fan of Doug’s and I am proud to list him as a friend and mentor. For these two men to enter into a conversation which had already been initiated between 4 other Not For Profit’s and present themselves completely in line and in tune with the conversation and beliefs is no small feat.

They tell me their Academy instructors have gone through major hardships in their lives and have all found different methods to overcome their personal issues. They utilize their experience, knowledge, motivation, training and fundamentals to help guide others into becoming people that are focused, productive, confident and disciplined.  I know exactly what this means, it is what I myself had to do to “recover”. My entire day, as I have mentioned in previous articles, is a set of disciplines from; diet, routines and even physical disciplines. Doug calls it performance driven; we old school military guys call it drive. I still picture my old Company Sargent Major (CSM) St Jacque at times when I get out of bed in the morning (even though I no longer shave daily) standing with an expectation of morning inspection. My morning routine does not and cannot happen without my being motivated to advance my broken brain. This mental picture forces me to do the essentials so I may continue to move forward.

Even here Dwayne and Derek’s words echo my own experience, “We develop complex training exercises that challenge soldiers to grow their minds mentally and train their body physically upon completion of the Academy”. Better yet is their understanding that we (the recovering and partly recovered) need to stay involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters by bringing challenges and training to them. How else can we expect someone in crisis and trauma to focus if we are not ready to meet them where they are?  It is W.O.L.F.’s stated objective that through patience, leadership and guidance, their goal is to make every student part of the PACK for years to come and to one day see these changed soldiers take much larger roles within W.O.L.F. and in their overall lives.

From the very first time my brother Michael and I spoke about the concept of Veterans House this very idea was the core belief, as it was with Rally Point, Warrior’s Landing and Professional Insights/Muscle lines. Those that have received healing must be enabled to help others to heal. Failure to do this will cripple the healing process and limit the full extent of recovery. I believe this is the core belief of our group. And again I state openly that as astonished as I am that we (all traveling different rivers) find ourselves intertwined in such harmony, I am equally unsurprised. With such similarities of trauma, background and experiences, we all know at our core that instinctively these beliefs and activities must be nurtured and explored in order for any of our kind to recover from the trauma we have been exposed to.

https://www.facebook.com/WOLF-Academy-445538272490363/

https://twitter.com/_WOLF_Academy

https://www.instagram.com/_wolf_academy 

thewolfacademy.@hotmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel 

https://www.pinterest.com/thewolfacademyca

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Muscle Lines / Professional Insights

Muscle Lines / Professional Insights

I first met Rob Froher in Saskatchewan at the University of Regina a few years ago; I had the extreme fortune of being admitted to Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneurial Boot Camp, one branch of the Prince’s Charities.  Rob was also on the course and the two of us hit it off almost immediately.  We were both very health minded and hard core dedicated to self improvement.  Rob served 25 years in the Navy as a naval communicator during which he used military style training to maintain his own fitness and that of his subordinates. Despite the distance between us, we kept in touch and up to speed with each other’s activities.

Rob is one of those highly skilled and empathetic BCRPA certified trainers. His expertise has been accumulated over a life time of personal fitness and now he is turning his attention to helping others achieve success over their fitness challenges and their limiting beliefs. He has used fitness, nutrition and life coaching to conquer depression and anxiety and is excited about sharing his victories and insights from his past with others. Through innovation and constant learning he brings a very high level of service to his clients. Rob likes using his skills to alleviate a host of ailments including; inflammation, depression, anxiety, moodiness and deficient immune systems.  So when Rob mentioned he had found “a guy” I had to talk to I wasn’t completely surprised.

The ‘guy” was Scott Mitchell of Professional Insights, in Duncan B.C.  Scott possesses a broad background in forestry, corrections, employment and social services, and is known as a person of integrity amongst other professionals in his community. Scott specializes in connecting with the environment through intentional exercises designed to mirror nature as a part of our being. He believes that deepening the awareness of the components and essences of the natural ecosystem (as metaphor) creates conditioning for establishing a clear vision of who we are. There have been a few people who have brought to my attention the newly evolving practice of Eco Therapies, Scott is not the first. However, from my conversations with Scott over the past few months, I know him to be as passionate as a man can be at helping others to regain what they have lost through traumas.

These two men (and a few others I am just beginning to know) are the force behind what will be the 3rd of the Not for Profits (NFP) to have Joined with Veterans House to break the stagnation of status quo. Their NFP is still in its infancy and will be fully formed within the next couple of months. I want to release the name it excites me so much, but I would be getting ahead of myself as there is still much work that needs to be finished first, and since it’s not ‘my’ NFP, the honour of the launch belongs to those that build it. Who would have thought that a business course a few years ago would bring these brothers together in this manner? For the longest time I often felt I was in this alone, even when I had a team working with me. It’s that disconnect that we submit ourselves to, believing that we need to drop our heads and muscle through it alone, that can sometimes prevent us from achieving our ultimate goals.  These men continue to serve to me as a constant reminder that we are not alone; nor should we proceed alone.  We are connected and in this unity we are strengthened.

I feel it is almost an uncanny coincidence that this emerging group of like minded men and women, brothers and sisters from across Canada, would share a vision so closely linked and in tune with each other’s beliefs. The truth is when people this dedicated to making a positive impact in mental health set out to accomplish their goals; the end result can only be that they would naturally find each other and unite as one. In fact it is a mirror of nature as Scott would put it; large paradigm shifts always begin with like minded people posing questions and coming up with solutions. You can learn more about these guys in the links below, as for that NFP name…

https://www.musclelines.com/

https://www.facebook.com/musclelines

www.professionalinsights.ca

https://www.facebook.com/proinsights

 

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Warriors Landing

Warriors Landing

Long time brother in arms, friend, colleague and Mefloquin warrior John Dowe and I were reconnected earlier this year after a 25 year struggle to stay alive and relearn to thrive in what we seasoned veterans often refer to as an urban battle zone. The zone I am referring to is the struggles of veterans returning from conflict abroad. I have mentioned John and a few others in past articles. I bring him up again, not just because of the ongoing work he is doing, but because approximately 6 months back he introduced me to another type of warrior, Erin Paterson.

Erin Paterson is the founder of Warriors Landing (WL) located on 100 acre Wood Wind Farms, co-located with Harnessing Horse Power, an Equestrian program. This combination is no coincidence. Erin is an international trauma advocate, independent researcher, writer and goodwill ambassador. Historically she has worked in fields of mental health and advocacy, making her effective in supporting others overcoming traumatic shock experiences. Much of her experience has come from her own personal struggles as a warrior, and a survivor. Her mantra is that PTSD is not about what is wrong with someone rather PTSD is about what happened to someone. She is fueled by a natural interest in personal research and a profound desire to help as many others as possible to gain education and support and to have that available to them when navigating catastrophic experiences.

Warriors Landing has had its setbacks like all small start ups, but has remained determined to create a strong Canadian Team to change the landscape of mental health. The goal is to establish a home base legacy that would act as first a national blueprint and then an international blueprint. Gathering together grass roots organizations in Canada who are willing to work to support veterans in need while working with the local business people, politicians, celebrities, artist or any other willing to create something extraordinary. This has become the core principles of WL. In Erin’s words “To get all of them and anyone that will listen to say, ‘I care, and I want to do something to help’, we need to build bridges and safe places for warriors to land in order to protect health and wellness for the sake of ourselves, our loved ones and all of our generation’s future, as this impacts us all.”

Woodwind Farm is an established equestrian center in central Ontario, running ‘Eventing’ and other shows throughout the warmer months. Eventing, having originated as a military training sport has the opportunity to create a landing point for warriors and warrior horses for years to come. It is the hope it will become a lasting legacy that will be carried on for generations, just as the bond between warriors and horses has always been. This is where Harnessing Horse Power comes into play. The project goal is to establish a Canadian home based breeding program that works towards preservation of the, at risk Highland Ponies, while connecting these warrior ponies with warriors. Thereby rekindling a strong beneficial and historical bond, this is proven to help veterans heal. Another important dimension to this program is the close proximity to Horseshoe Valley Resort, as well as the Simcoe Regional Airport and many other great landmarks. It is 1 hour north of Toronto situated in Oro-Medonte between Barrie and Orillia.

Having read all of the above, you can well imagine why Veterans House is so excited to be working with Erin and Warriors Landing along with our other groups, Rally Point Retreat Nova Scotia, Professional Insights British Columbia, and W.O.L.F. Academy Alberta. For more on Warriors Landings here are a few links to look at.

facebook.com/warriorslanding/

facebook.com/harnessinghorsepower1

https://ptsdhome.com/testimonials and

https://www.facebook.com/woodwindfarm.ca

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