Thinking Out Loud

February 13, 2017

My Personal Battle With PTSD

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:17 am

Originally, I never thought of it in PTSD terms, and it’s not like I did a tour of duty in the Middle East. Instead, it started our gradually, with phone calls from the seniors’ home where my mom was living. The calls always came late at night, when the staff were wrapping up paperwork once the residents were sleeping.

  • She had another fall today.
  • They’re putting on her a new medicine.
  • We’ve noticed she’s not eating so much.
  • The doctor’s concerned about her circulation.
  • She fell again today.

I realize these health care workers have a responsibility to notify families, but the calls always came at an hour when we were winding down for the evening and wanted to relax, not deal with tension. We asked for “emergencies only” notification, but we had different definitions as to what constituted an emergency.

It got to where every time the phone would ring I would tense up, and now that she’s gone, the after-effects of this stress continue.

Telephones often bring bad news. Especially now when other forms of communication happen through email or on social media or texts. Four years ago, long before the worst of this experience was to take place, I recognized that having a calming ringtone doesn’t change the fact that it’s a phone call.


So again, while I wasn’t in Iraq or Afghanistan, I do have little bit of empathy for people who are bound by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It’s no fun living with anxiety, stress and tension and while having a strong faith and trust in God ideally brings peace amid the chaos, it doesn’t always work that way. Rather, the disconnect between the elements of faith we profess regarding God’s sovereignty and protection, and the inner turmoil we’re experiencing in the situation; that disconnect only adds to the problem.

A person dealing with PTSD is a person in desperate need of joy.



November 1, 2016


After weeks of running re-purposed content and ‘borrowed’ articles, it was good to see the blog get its groove back this weekend with five days of great pieces starting last Thursday. I hope you’ll take some time to look at what myself, Clarke and Aaron have posted lately.

If I had to define what I thought my life would look like after my mother’s death, I would probably have defined the period leading up to that day as one of intense stress followed by a great deal of relief (for her and us) when it was over. For more than two decades, my life — and thereby the life of my wife and kids as well — has been partially defined by the drama of dealing with my parents’ health issues. While we didn’t wish their death per se, I know that in my mom’s case she was ready to go, and her funeral was more a celebration of her life than a time of mourning.

However…I am finding myself in the rather strange space of trying to adjust to the new normal. I can only describe this period as a type of decompression.


This weekend we went on a retreat with some people from a local church. It was their Holy Spirit Weekend as part of Alpha, but it could have been anything; a romp through the genealogies of the Bible, or a 3-day study on Leviticus; we would have jumped at it no matter what it was.

For most people reading this — and especially other bloggers — this type of activity is normal, but for us, it was something that was relatively impossible; especially in the last 3 years.

I am an only child. That is part of the challenge. I have spent the last couple of decades acutely aware of living in the sandwich generation. Our two boys did not get the best parenting I might have delivered apart from the family circumstances.  On more than one occasion, their own aspirations for some activities or events have been directly thwarted by another scene in the continuing drama that marked our lives.

I walked around the grounds of the Bible conference and retreat center between Alpha videos thinking, this is normal for some of the people with whom I’m attending this event. It has not been normal for us.

During the prayer time, the pastor prayed for me to experience joy. I’m not sure if he knew this empirically or supernaturally, but the prayer, “I just want my joy back;” has been on my lips many times in the last few months.

But you don’t just switch some feelings off and switch other emotions on. This may take some time.


May 3, 2015

Institutionalized Seniors Lose Independence, Privacy, Dignity

Last night my mother was attacked by another resident in the seniors complex where she lives. He entered her room, sat on her bed, and then hit her about seven times, in her forehead, face and torso. She screamed and screamed for help.

seniorsIt’s not the first time this has happened.

Each time it’s been caused by a different resident.

There are three levels of care in this facility:

  • independent living
  • assisted living
  • long term care

Just over two years ago, she went from the first directly to the third, skipping the assisted living experience entirely. It was a rather abrupt transition. She went from basically renting an apartment to experiencing the regimen and routine one would expect in a hospital. From doing her own thing to doing their thing.

While I have great respect for the nurse in the independent living section of the building who made the decision, and while there were short-term circumstances that seemed at the time to warrant it, I will always second-guess that decision and our willingness to agree to it.

In the meantime, there are no locks on her door.

While many people she lives with are experiencing different levels of onset dementia, she is still totally with it. She has all her own teeth, bladder control, and reads without glasses. Moreover she sees everything that takes place on her floor; she knows the staff members who care, and which ones are just punching a clock. She is aware of the many instances of injustice that take place in that community, and is a victim of several, including being forced, for 27 months now, to sit in the dining room with her back to everything going on there, despite various requests by her and us for a seat change.

Because she is hard of hearing, she sometimes blends with the not-so-higher-functioning people on the floor. She struggles with remembering nouns and peoples’ names, but this is not a new thing. So she uses pronouns without having qualified them, or introduced a name at the beginning of a new spoken paragraph.

Sometimes, on the phone, she gets philosophical and describes the boredom of her day-to-day existence, in terms not unlike how one might describe a prison experience. Some day, as a writer, I may share her story in a broader forum.

Last night she was scared. They said she didn’t want to go back to her room, but a caring PSW agreed to be her “security guard” until she got to sleep.

The family of the man who attacked her was also notified. After we were called, I pretty much identified who the man was. He’s new to the floor, and was wandering around all day acting weird when I made two rare, twice-in-one-day visits. He will probably need a greater level of restraint, possibly on another floor of the building.

My mother has no alternatives, no other options. What do you do?


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