laughing matters

“It’s good to be here. I’m just trying to go through life without looking stupid. It’s not working out too well. ”
Brian Regan

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/98398.Brian_Regan

Laughing at oneself is a skill only a few can make into a successful career. And doing so, consistently and without throwing in “F-bombs”, sexual humor, or biting political satire in the mix is more rare. Brian Regan is one such successful “clean” comedian. After years of working in mentally-challenging careers, me, with rapidly-changing priorities, technical challenges to resolve, and demanding schedules, and my spouse performing management and ‘crisis’ counseling of staff, students, and the bureaucracy of an educational institution, we are exhausted. With family drama in one spouse’s family, or the other, or our own for more than a decade, we have relied on laughter to help one another. Laughter is really the best medicine. Next to exercise and improving our diet.

Not “Switzerland”

In a war everybody always knows all about Switzerland, in peace times it is just Switzerland but in war time it is the only country that everybody has confidence in, everybody.

Gertrude Stein; https://www.brainyquote.com

When my sons and I now debate the polarizing topics of the day, we still can see the others’ point of view though we disagree on positions, evidence, and interpretation of those differing opinions. My spouse, who deals with conflict in her job has on numerous occasions stated to us and to others that she is “Switzerland” when we all try to bring her to our side.

But there are times when the family rallies around one another. Nobody takes a position of non-intervention or turns a blind eye to family crises. Politics, gender, religion, age, birth-order, and sports are not discussed when a family member is hospitalized. Berating individuals about life choices and mental fitness are banned, delayed or withheld, in order to support the suffering member.

Perhaps we are fortunate. Or that we have a unique perspective. But I do not think so. Our family has six adults, one by marriage, and a grandchild. Our “empty nest” has been re-nested with the same suffering family member recently. Our family has been touched by illness, substance abuse, divorce, step-parenting, military service, job loss, overwork, financial issues, car accidents, and even a fire in our home. Everything from hospitalized parent (the author’s and his wife’s), online stalking, high school shootings, and even a student suicide have touched the life experience of members of this family.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the end what holds us together as family is more permanent than what makes us individual. In the world, the concept of “family” means different things to different people. But in ours, there is no room for anyone to sit on the sidelines.

hot water

An experienced mariner knows most basic principle of seamanship: keep the water outside the skin of the ship. But what if you want water, for your health and convenience, inside a ship? Before modern systems aboard ship made potable water from seawater, sailors had to carry sufficient drinking water with them. Sailors rarely bathed. In the later years of sailing ships, mariners learned that cold water bathing, and clean clothes would prevent communicable disease, and foul odors (germs). Modern systems on larger vessels supply clean water for everything from cooling equipment to supplying sailors with drinking water and for food preparation. As an added personal benefit: hot water for showers.

Living ashore since retiring from the sea service, I have not had to go without clean clothes, nor without hot water for ages. This week our home water heater failed and for two days we were braving cool showers. Calling out a plumbing company – one who installed my unit happened to be a former Navy HT – was a smart move. I would have been out of my depth (pardon the pun) there.

With an older home, lots of unforeseen costs for safety systems raised the price and the complexity of the job. My wife and I opted for a better, “greener”, and only a little more expensive longer-term solution. A tankless system instead of an old technology- and shorter lived one. With other required modifications for federal, state, and local regulations, the cost had us briefly thinking, is cold water really all that horrible? But with my restless dreams about work in recent weeks, I never want to have nightmares about flooding -while at work – soothed by cold water showers!

Mesothelioma-affected veterans

The Mesothelioma Center provides the following information for veterans and their families to get educated and find support for veterans affected by mesothelioma. Thanks to Samatha Litten of the Public Outreach Department of the Mesothelioma Center for providing this information:

Countless veterans are currently suffering from life-threatening illnesses that are a result of exposure to asbestos, a material that was commonly used in hundreds of military applications, products, and ships because of its resistance to fire. Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma even qualify for special benefits from the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs.

We recently published an educational guide about mesothelioma prognosis:

Family Support: Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, Addiction, PTSD

“Before you can break out of prison, you must realize you are locked up.”  – www.healthyplace.com

Everyone is affected by a terminal condition called “life”.   In every family, there are emotional or physical Illnesses that affect one member – the sufferer – yet also affect others – spouses or partners, parents, children, or siblings.   To a lesser degree, friends, co-workers, or neighbors may also be affected.   Disease and genetic disorders like  Lyme disease, asthma, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy or cancer are chronic conditions and are lifelong disabilities physically but emotional disorders, many linked to genetic predispositions, traumatic physical events or lifestyle choices can can radically change the family dynamics no less permanently.

In most cases, there is no preparation. no schooling or a “recommended reading list” in one’s formative years, for family members when a loved one has a mental illness like anorexia, depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders like agoraphobia.  These can also accompany or be elevated by an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or other substances.  A casual relationship may not reveal the extent of a sufferer’s condition.   But in a long-term relationship, marriage or one with frequent connection or intimacy, between spouses, or parents and children,  clues early in a person’s life may exist.  Of course, everyone experiences an illness, accident, depression or difficult circumstances that are temporary.  It takes long-term observation to note patterns that may indicate unhealthy behavior.

When a participant (an active observer, or even a co-dependent personality type) is not a professionally-trained counselor, experience, level of empathy and often spiritual foundation are the only tools available.  Behavior that later manifests in addiction,  mania and depression mood swings,  obsessive-compulsive activity, hyperactivity, sleeplessness or its opposite, and emotional disconnection may be subtle at first or have sudden onset.   With PTSD,  post-traumatic stress disorder, a life event such as death of child, a combat experience, a severe accident, sexual assault or abuse can severely damage a formerly healthy individual and ripple emotionally through a family. Triggering events may be a tone of voice, a certain time, a season, a smell, sounds or a characteristic that one person displays.   For someone in a relationship with another who experienced a traumatic event -even years in the past – “walking on eggshells” becomes normal.  Often in hindsight to a failed relationship, injury or death of the sufferer, particularly when a victim was unwilling or unable to seek help, guilt may emotionally affect those in the victim’s circle for years.   Yet PTSD is not a terminal condition, but requires compassion, professional treatment, cooperation, and ongoing engagement on the part of the sufferer and her close personal relationships.

For many, when it is a close family member, in late adolescence or early adulthood, it is a natural response to think the behavior  including addiction, is just a “phase” he or she is “going through”.   From the outside looking in,  the addict, when rational and sober, seems to be functioning individual – but it is a ruse.   Some are able to hold a job for a time.  They may frequently change jobs due to work stress or the addiction’s toll on a person’s performance.  It is a natural self-defense mechanism or social response for people not to ‘get involved’,  or to overlook indicators, but these are not compassionate responses of family and close friends.   However, an addict can also mask his or her  problems by being outgoing but shallow, and very reserved (personal details) to coworkers, family members or others in his or her circle of acquaintances.  One sort of behavior that may be due to embarrassment,  or pride is a need  to appear to be “holding it together”.   Limited engagement,  that is,  keeping visits short with family and family friends at holidays or other gatherings.

When the sufferer is an adult, who arguably is not a “danger to themselves or others”, there is little one can do more than to suggest, advise, or urge the sufferer to seek professional help.  The longer the addiction continues, the more the addict does damage to themselves physically and emotionally.   Hospitalization and treatment of the symptoms may give the addict an opportunity to be sober for a short time.

Treating the problem – the addiction – without a sustained, professional program to treat the emotions or physical underpinnings, is a temporary measure.   In the meantime,  the family and close friends have to endure their own emotional pain to partner in their loved one’s recovery.   For some,  replacing the destructive addiction with a positive one particularly through physical activity can be successful when partnered with professional counseling.  It may well be a lifelong activity. A new ‘normal’.

For those who are willing to consider a spiritual component to ongoing wellness,  study of the Bible offers examples of successful lives though suffering from illness, depression or anxieties.  The Bible offers hope in illustrations of several figures who suffered from depression.  King David is lauded as one of the most devout leaders in the Old Testament, but his Psalms are full of outpouring his anxieties, fears, troubles, and anger to God.

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God  – Psalm 42:11

Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament is another.  In 1 Kings 19:4

while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush,(A) sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life;(B) I am no better than my ancestors.”

the passage illustrates his depression.  Job also battled depression.  Examples:  Job 3: 26

26 I have no peace,(A) no quietness;
    I have no rest,(B) but only turmoil

and Job 10: 1:

“I loathe my very life;(A)
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.

While these figures went on to have great impact in the Bible and to adherents for thousands of years, there is no indication that they were freed from the emotional and physical ailments that people still endure today.

One of those who has been successful in ongoing recovery from anorexia, BeautyBeyondBones, offers her personal experience and resources that are instructive for eating disorders and other communities who are seeking support with emotional and physical disorders.

In the following article, there are some good tips for families dealing with the various demons affecting their loved ones.   But it is only a starting point.

Family Support: Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, Addiction, PTSD

Support “Blue Water” Vietnam Veterans

As a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I am motivated to act upon issues that affect my fellow veterans.    This is an action request for American citizens to send to your Senators urging them to support a measure to provide health care to eligible Vietnam veterans,  so-called “Blue Water Veterans”.  We know of the exposure to Agent Orange and others by troops on the ground, but there are those whose exposure is  from the handling, transport and storage of defoliant offshore, as well as use in the Korean DMZ and elsewhere.

Background: During the Vietnam War, veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam drank, bathed in, and cooked with water contaminated by Agent Orange. They are now arbitrarily and unjustly denied benefits for illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure. On July 25, 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Please copy and send the following letter via email,  or print and send.  Your Senator ‘s contact information is found here.

SUBJECT:  Please Take Action on Blue Water Navy Bill

Honorable Senator ______:

As your constituent, I write to request you to urge the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the full Senate to swiftly pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives nearly three months ago and would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Recent statements by the Department of Veterans Affairs dispute scientific evidence that veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that has been found to be associated with the development of rare cancers and other health conditions. However, the National Academy of Medicine (formally called the Institute of Medicine) study entitled Veterans and Agent Orange (Update 2014) found that existing evidence shows possible routes of exposure for Blue Water Navy veterans, which means existing evidence should not be used to exclude Blue Water Navy veterans. One thing is undeniable: thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans are suffering and dying from the same conditions as veterans who served in-country during the Vietnam War. Time is running out for many Blue Water Navy veterans. The Senate must not delay further while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.

The brave men and women who wear the uniform of our nation are asked to serve in the roughest and most dangerous environments on Earth. When they are injured or made ill as a result of such service, a grateful nation must provide them the care and benefits they need to cope with their disabilities. The Senate must do the right thing by passing H.R. 299 before the end of the year.

Sincerely,

<your name / mailing address>