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Join The Conversation: PTSD Solutions, Starbucks Coffee & Facebook

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Why, yes . . . yes, it does.
Why, yes . . . yes, it does.

I’m Annmarie – a busy woman juggling a career, starting up a business, being a mom, wife, daughter and friend. In 2003, I had a mental meltdown and couldn’t hide from PTSD anymore. I gathered all I knew about life coaching, psychology and PTSD and decided to fight.

What I found out was focusing entirely on my mind was making it worse, seeing my therapist once a week wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t make my regular doctor understand the physical pain I was feeling. Then, I discovered a holistic approach that incorporates an entire team of helpful professionals and support people. In three short years, I was 100% symptom free and have been for almost nine years. But you might be surprised to know . . .

Starbucks saved my life.

Join me here at PTSD Relief for a series of four articles that talk about making real change happen in healing the lives of PTS survivors – veteran and non-veteran alike.  Like what you hear? Pass it along to a friend or colleague. We’re reaching out, hoping to walk through an open door. Plus, you never know who’s reading . . .


Part Four

Expect more than others think possible.

~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

 

In this four-part series, we’ve cared more than others think wise, risked more than others think safe, dreamed more than others think practical, and now, expect more than others think possible.

You’ve discovered Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is not only a veterans’ crisis, it’s a childhood crisis, a workplace crisis, a family crisis. Our lack of knowledge is costing us BILLIONS and while people in high places try to figure it out, people YOU and I know are dying every hour.

The ‘system’ we assumed would be there to care for the most vulnerable has been downsized and budget cut into non-existence, leaving those of us who are willing and able to coordinate a workable, practical solution.

What Does Starbucks Have To Do With All Of This?

For more than a decade, I’ve held a special admiration for Howard Schultz, the man behind the philosophy that birthed what many Americans now enjoy as their ‘third place.’ We have home, work and Starbucks – a community hub and gathering place where people meet, get informed and get involved. For this reason, I believe Starbucks can be used as a ‘scale for good.’

Allow me to introduce you to the heartbeat behind your morning cup of coffee.

Let your heart speak to others' hearts.

Let your heart speak to others’ hearts.

In March, Howard Schultz spoke out raising awareness for more to be done to find solutions to the PTS epidemic. He also backed it up with $30 million dollars.

What does a coffee mogul know about the hearts and minds of the American people, you might ask?

In his call to save the American Dream (Fortune 4/3/12), Schultz revealed a heart for people. He went so far as to post an Open Letter to the American public, purchasing full-page ad space to spread his message, pleading with us to save ourselves (http://www.starbucks.com/individsible). Today, I hear his message as a call to join together in being a part of the PTS healing solution. Here’s what he had to say:

I love America, but we all know there is something wrong. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial. . . . We can’t be bystanders anymore. It’s a dangerous time . . . I’ve been the ultimate beneficiary of the American Dream and that dream is now in jeopardy. I can’t just stand by. . . .

It’s time . . . to come together with courage, creativity and generosity of spirit. . . . The freedom to dream and the opportunity to create a better life – not just for ourselves, but for each other has always defined our great nation. . .

(Starbucks has) always tried our best to honor our responsibility to the communities we serve. . . . Our veterans are not being welcomed home with the level of support they deserve. . . .

America’s history has showed that we have accomplished extraordinary things when we act collectively, with courage, creativity and generosity of spirit – especially during trying times. . .  as citizens, let’s all get more involved.

Please, don’t be a bystander. Understand that we have a shared responsibility in solving our nation’s problems. We can’t wait for Washington.

~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

Although his message at the time was in reference to putting citizenship over partisanship during the 2012 election, it just as easily could be a clarion call to support a mental health transformation to cure PTSD – a cancer eating away at the soul of America.

Why It Will Work: Using Starbucks As A Scale For Good

IMG_3653

Demonstrated by his success with Starbucks, Schultz recognizes the importance of balancing profitability with a social conscience. He’s demonstrated that in order to be of highest service, profitability is essential to future success – the perfect mindset for sustainable, transformative change. Moreover, the Starbucks framework inspires the creation of a hub that could coordinate a holistic restoration of the American people.

With Mr. Schultz’ guidance, a foundation could be formed to influence a mental health transformation inspired by the same structure that makes Starbucks great. Combined with the PTSD Self Help system, this foundation could offer:

  • Access to practical, low/no cost suggestions for survivors actively looking to heal PTS through an interactive, DIY, step-by-step process reachable 24/7 by anyone with an internet connection
  • The opportunity for individuals to make positive contributions to our communities through a nationwide network of PTSD informed professionals in the healthcare industry and healing coaches – former survivors, trained to guide, support and educate.

A Personal Message to Howard Schultz

I am so happy and grateful for the opportunity of having been a Starbucks partner. At a time when I needed a great work environment of respect, dignity, and diversity, your dream was there for me to step into.

For six years, you did more than give me a job. Your belief in the genuineness of the human spirit gave me the freedom to re-claim self confidence, independence through the wholeness of a balanced work-life schedule, and the financial support to pursue healing from PTS.

Without your Starbucks vision, PTSD Self Help wouldn’t exist. It’s likely I, too, would have become a statistic. Unknowingly, before ever earmarking a dime, you nurtured and birthed the very thing you’ve been looking for – one possible solution to the PTS crisis.

Who knew that the structure, core values and business philosophy of a tiny coffee company out of Seattle could become the template for a mental health revolution that could transform the lives of so many? Who knew that a 3a.m. opening shift at a corner coffee shop would help save the life of this author?

I welcome the opportunity to begin a conversation about how your vision for Starbucks, combined with PTSD Self Help, might provide a framework for a mental health transformation.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,

Annmarie Huppert, Partner #1195279

Become Part Of The Conversation

At the end of the day, the only number that matters is one – one life, one family, one job, one soul, one conversation, one ‘share’. Here’s what you, dear reader, can do to help:

  • Share! Can we get 1000 Shares by June 2? Reach out to Howard Schultz by sharing this article on the Starbucks Facebook page (see instructions below)! You’ll give back by letting him know his vision has already inspired an answer to the PTS crisis.
  • Change! Do your thoughts and conversations create barriers or bridges? Simply becoming informed about PTS stigma can change how we think and speak about mental health and wellness. Your awareness alone removes obstacles to people looking for help. It’s time to change. Here’s how . . .

PTSD Stigma: What Does It Sound Like?

Thanks for your support! I’ll keep you posted.

Peace,

Annmarie


Can We Get 1000 ‘Shares’?

Please join us in reaching out to Howard Schultz. We’re looking to begin a conversation about delivering practical, real-time solutions for PTS relief by reaching 1000 ‘shares’ on the Starbucks Facebook page by June 2. Won’t you take 2 seconds to ’share’? Here’s how:

  1. Copy this link (highlight; then right click): https://aehuppert.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/join-the-conversation-ptsd-solutions-starbucks-coffee-facebook/
  2. Paste link in a new post on the Starbucks FB page (right click to paste)
  3. ‘Like’ their page

Click here to ’share’ and ‘like’ NOW

Need To Catch Up?

Starbucks Coffee, The PTSD Epidemic & You

The Risk of Ignoring the PTSD Epidemic: Mortality, Money & Morals

Should the Middle Class Clean Up the Veterans Administration’s PTSD Mess?

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Should The Middle Class Clean Up The Veterans Administration’s PTSD Mess?

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Where do you stand on resolving the Post Trauma epidemic?
Where do you stand on resolving the Post Trauma epidemic?

I’m Annmarie – a busy woman juggling a career, starting up a business, being a mom, wife, daughter and friend. In 2003, I had a mental meltdown and couldn’t hide from PTSD anymore. I gathered all I knew about life coaching, psychology and PTSD and decided to fight.

What I found out was focusing entirely on my mind was making it worse, seeing my therapist once a week wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t make my regular doctor understand the physical pain I was feeling. Then, I discovered a holistic approach that incorporates an entire team of helpful professionals and support people. In three short years, I was 100% symptom free and have been for almost nine years. But you might be surprised to know . . .

Starbucks saved my life.

Join me here at PTSD Relief for a series of four articles that talk about making real change happen in healing the lives of PTS survivors – veteran and non-veteran alike.  Like what you hear? Pass it along to a friend or colleague. We’re reaching out, hoping to walk through an open door. Plus, you never know who’s reading . . .


Part 3

Dream more than others think practical.

~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

I can hear it already. While critics object about who’s responsible for addressing the Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) epidemic, scientists and physicians search for a solution. Politicians will line up to take sides and point fingers. Charlatans and snake-oil salesmen are already positioning themselves for a get-rich-quick opportunity. All the while, PTS survivors inch along, moment by moment, struggling to keep their heads above the turbulent waters of everyday life.

Occasionally, when speaking to audiences about what to do to resolve the PTS crisis, I hear objections about who’s at fault, how much money it will cost, who’s job it is to make things right, and more. Let’s take a look at the top four objections I hear most often, shall we?

It’s not just the government’s responsibility, it’s their promise to care for veterans in return for their service. I’m sick of bailing out banks and big corporations! Why should we clean up the government’s mess?

The truth is, we’re already paying for it – to the tune of $42.3 BILLION. That money is being sucked down the drain by ineffective treatment methods, misdiagnoses, compartmentalized medical training and quick-fix prescription medication.

Why not put that money to better use educating the public about PTS symptoms, preventive care and recovery options, as well as, reducing the barriers to access effective, high-quality resources?

Those people chose their profession and the hazards that came with it. It’s their problem, not mine.

When you call 911, do you expect a firetruck, a police officer or a medic to show up? Of course you do. And when our country’s freedom is threatened, we all expect the men and women of the U. S. Military to do something about it.

The expectation of having these services comes with a price tag, which you and I happily or unhappily pay with our taxes. That price tag includes the cost of providing the service, which at one time ensured the health and ability of the person delivering the service. Today, safeguarding the mental health and education of our ‘delivery people,’ has been downsized, somewhere between our ‘purchase’ and the delivery of service.

Truth be told, PTS isn’t just about military veterans. The 10 yr. old incest victim, woman raped in the park, or man crawling out of earthquake rubble didn’t chose the circumstances that brought PTS to their lives. Moreover, they certainly would rather not live with the debilitating physical, mental and emotional symptoms or be denied support because of bureaucratic judgements about their degree of trauma.

There are so many! There’s no way we’ll be able to even make a dent in solving this problem.

It’s true, the numbers are daunting. However, the numbers could work in favor of finding a solution. With so many people struggling with PTS symptoms – some unknowingly – it’s more likely we’ll be able to easily find individuals willing to participate in recovery studies, experimental programs, and wellness initiatives, which all add to the mix of information used to find recovery solutions.

Isn’t this really about people who just want an excuse for not participating in life? Come on. Everybody’s had something happen to them, and we’re all IMG_3615stressed!

Whether it’s ‘them,’ ‘those people,’ or ‘the government,’ let’s not forget there are heartbeats, children, parents, entire families behind those terms. At the end of the day, do we really believe the following (insert your own loved one’s name):

It’s not just Bill’s responsibility, it’s his promise to care for himself, so he can fulfill his service. I’m sick of bailing out banks and big corporations! Why should I clean up Bill’s mess?

Kathleen chose her profession and the hazards that came with it. It’s her problem, not mine.

There are so many, including my daughter, Audrey, and my grandson, Tyler! There’s no way we’ll be able to even make a dent in solving this problem. So why bother trying?

Isn’t this really about Jack just wanting an excuse for not participating in life? Come on. Everybody’s had something happen to them, and we’re all stressed!

No, we don’t really believe these things. If PTS hits your home, what this quickly becomes is a desperate search for an effective solution. It’s not only about how you and I think and talk about PTS, but also about how we help – giving our loved ones a hand up, not a handout.

Won’t you be part of the solution? Remember, “curses, like chickens, come home to roost.” Consider that about 6 of every 10 (or 60%) men and 5 of every 10 (50%) women experience at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime.

Granted, not everyone develops PTS, but let’s keep in mind that current statistics are at least three years out of date and only counting those individuals who recognize they’re struggling and are able to get the help they need. So, chances are likely you’re intimately acquainted with a Bill, Kathleen, Tyler, Jack or Audrey.

Real Solutions Revisited

Considering the widespread demographics, unique intricacies of each traumatic incident and sheer numbers of PTS survivors, one can imagine the cost of providing education and support might be astronomical. Or is it?

What if we tried:

  • An interactive, DIY, step-by-step process reachable 24/7 by anyone with an internet connection
  • A nationwide network of PTSD informed professionals
  • A nationwide network of healing coaches – former survivors, trained to guide, support and educate.

IMG_3529We could have a system like this up and running in a relatively short period of time with the low overhead provided by the on-line marketplace. Still, owning up to our responsibility also means implementing a solution that works.

In June (2014), my life’s work will be my gift to the world. Constructed as a guidebook, PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living, contains 20 years of PTSD study and experience helping people find healing. It’s the book I wish I would have had on my own PTS healing journey. Having been 100% PTS symptom free for eight years (after struggling with it for more than 30!), I think I have something to contribute toward finding a solution.

How about this:

Year One

  • Observation of PTSD Self Help book sales, reviews and testimonials
  • Case study of survivors and PTS Healing Coaches to test the efficacy of the method
  • Putting the on-line structure in place

Year Two

Development of educational materials and certification requirements for:

  • Healing Coaches
  • Industry Professionals
  • Survivors
  • General Public

Year Three

  • Nationwide education, certification, recruitment and training initiative
  • West-to-East national rollout of on-line survivor support services

It seems unfair that an already overburdened middle class should have to rise up out of the ashes of the Great Recession to bear the responsibility of carrying out it’s government’s broken promises. However, let’s not forget that WE have a responsibility to fulfill and a promise to keep, too.

It’s time to be more diligent in placing people who best represent our needs into positions of leadership. And, it’s way past time for those of us who’ve known the pain PTS can bring to rise up, educate and advocate, so that our children and grandchildren have a fighting chance at a life worth living.

Next week, I’ll reveal how coffee, books and Starbucks could be a major player in this vision. You won’t want to miss it!

Peace,

Annmarie


Are you a survivor?  Ready to learn more about how to advocate for others in this up-and-coming mental health revolution? Let us know in the comments below!

Remember . . . you never know who’s reading. Let Howard Schultz, and others supporting PTSD research, know where their dollars can best contribute to practical, effective tools that not only heal PTS, but transform survival into a life worth living. Share this article!

Need to catch up? Read Part One, Starbucks Coffee, The PTSD Epidemic & You, or Part Two, The Risk of Ignoring the PTSD Epidemic: Mortality, Money & Morals right here.

Resources:

http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-chi4.htm

The Risk Of Ignoring The PTSD Epidemic: Mortality, Money & Morals

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Healing Girl

Changing the way we talk and think about mental wellness is a risk worth taking. This is me, while I was trapped by agoraphobia brought on by PTSD. Just a few months later, I would face the idea of suicide, not once, but three times.

I’m Annmarie – a busy woman juggling a career, starting up a business, being a mom, wife, daughter and friend. In 2003, I had a mental meltdown and couldn’t hide from PTSD anymore. I gathered all I knew about life coaching, psychology and PTSD and decided to fight.

What I found out was focusing entirely on my mind was making it worse, seeing my therapist once a week wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t make my regular doctor understand the physical pain I was feeling. Then, I discovered a holistic approach that incorporates an entire team of helpful professionals and support people. In three short years, I was 100% symptom free and have been for almost nine years. But you might be surprised to know . . .

Starbucks saved my life.

Join me here at PTSD Relief for a series of four articles that talk about making real change happen in healing the lives of PTS survivors – veteran and non-veteran alike.  Like what you hear? Pass it along to a friend or colleague. We’re reaching out, hoping to walk through an open door. Plus, you never know who’s reading . . .


 Part Two

Risk more than others think safe.

~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

 

Do we really need another cause to support? Think about all the pink – everything from ribbons to Campbell’s Soup to car shows and marathon runs. Like cancer, Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is an epidemic eating away the soul of America. Healing it is more than a cause: it’s a responsibility. When people suffer the aftereffects of society’s addiction to violence and stigma, we have a responsibility to make it right – especially when it comes to women, children and those who protect our freedom.

Veteran suicides are estimated at 22 per day – nearly one death every hour. Clearly, something needs to be done about PTS. The truth is, no one really knows how many men, women and young adults are taking their lives, since statistical data collected by the Center for Disease Control and the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is two years or more behind.

Plus, who are they counting? What about the family members, friends and co-workers of those intimately acquainted with a PTS survivor? And what about non-veterans who struggle with PTS because of natural disasters, such as the Oso landslide, or sexual assault, child molestation, and violent crime? What we DO know is for every person who takes their life, 12 people harm themselves severely enough to require medical attention. And of course, we know the out-of-date statistics. The bottom line is there’s A LOT of people weighed down by the burden of PTS.

Watch The Uncounted, an on-line documentary by CNN about those not being recognized in the bigger picture of healing PTS. You’ll read, hear and see compelling stories from a spouse, a parent, a teenager and a sibling, each living with someone they love who also happens to be struggling under the weight of Post Traumatic Stress.

Watch The Uncounted Here

The Economic Impact of Suicide, Attempts and Post Traumatic Stress

We also know the monetary cost. Yes, someone counted. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates the following:

  • The economic cost of suicide death in the U.S. is estimated to be $34 billion annually. With the burden of suicide falling most heavily on adults of working age, the cost to the economy results almost entirely from lost wages and work productivity.
  • Non-fatal injuries due to self-harm cost an estimated $3 billion annually for medical care. Another $5 billion is spent for indirect costs, such as lost wages and productivity.
  • . . . those harming themselves made an estimated total of more than 650,000 hospital visits related to injuries sustained in one or more separate incidents of self-harm behavior.
  • . . . many suicide attempts go unreported or untreated, and surveys suggest that at least one million people in the U.S. each year engage in intentionally inflicted self-harm.

The folks over at PTSD United have gathered the most current statistics, but keep in mind, these numbers are 2-3 years old.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Sidran Institute, the societal and economic burden of PTSD is extremely heavy. Important facts, numbers, and statistics include:

  • The annual cost to society of anxiety disorders is estimated to be significantly over $42.3 billion, often due to misdiagnosis and under treatment. This includes psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical treatment costs, indirect workplace costs, mortality costs, and prescription drug costs.
  • People with PTSD have among the highest rates of healthcare service use. People with PTSD present with a range of symptoms, the cause of which may be overlooked or misdiagnosed as having resulted from past trauma.
  • PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults in a given year, though the disorder can develop at any age including childhood.
  • Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD.
  • According to VA, experts estimate that up to 20 % of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, up to 10 % of Gulf War veterans, and up to 30 % of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD
  • In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% and that’s only the reported and diagnosed cases.
  • 17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.

– See more at: http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/#sthash.Ct7l9vsH.dpuf

 

Prefer pictures? Here’s a representation of just how PTS has gotten out of hand.

PTSD Statistics

 

stats-pie70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. This equates to approximately 223.4 million people

 

stats-group

Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that equates to approximately 31.3 million people who were or are struggling with PTSD.

 

stats-statesAn estimated 8% of Americans − 24.4 million people − have PTSD at any given time. That is equal to the total population of Texas.

 

stats-womenAn estimated one out of every nine women develops PTSD, making them about twice as likely as men.

 

 

 

Real Solutions

Let’s get to the heart of the problem. Post Traumatic Stress is driving people in large numbers to move away from getting the help they need, toward the heartbreak of taking their own life. The solution is to take care of the problem – namely, eliminate the violence that causes PTS. As a result, the care of those who’ve experienced a natural disaster or other ‘organic’ circumstance resulting in PTS, becomes a number that’s manageable. However, world peace is highly unlikely.

If solving the problem at the cause isn’t possible, then repairing the damage done by the problem is the best we can hope for. Next week, I’ll introduce a low-cost, barrier-free solution to the PTSD epidemic. But I’ll be honest with you. It’s going to take compassionate, understanding, empathetic people who’ve found victory over their own struggle with PTS to come forward and partner with us.

The only way to overcome another’s fear of reaching out is to empower oneself in a way that makes you worthy of reaching out to. Therein lies the solution. Misinformed people may be the barrier to saving the life of someone you love, but an army of informed, healed survivors can just as easily be the solution. If this rings true for you, reach out in the comments below. Let me know you’re willing to take a stand in honor of someone you love. We’ll be recruiting soon.

Even a proven, cost effective, easily accessible cure for PTS isn’t enough, when the number one reason people don’t reach out for help is the way you and I think and talk about mental health. It’s called stigma. The fear of how others might treat them, what others will think, or say, is the biggest obstacle to a person healing from PTS, the biggest obstacle to keeping families from being ripped apart by suicide, the biggest obstacle to saving tax payers billions. And guess what? That’s something we can fix.

Stay tuned . . .

Peace,

Annmarie


Are you a survivor? Tried everything you can think of to heal from Post Traumatic Stress? Tell us about your frustrations and successes in the comments below.

Remember . . . you never know who’s reading. Let Howard Schultz, and others supporting PTSD research, know where their dollars can best contribute to practical, effective tools that not only heal PTS, but transform survival into a life worth living.

Need to catch up on Part One? Read Starbucks Coffee, The PTSD Epidemic & You right here.

 Resources:

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/03/us/uncounted-suicides/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/

http://journals.psychiatryonline.org/data/Journals/PSS/3555/1428.pdf

http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa040603

Starbucks Coffee, The PTSD Epidemic & You

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IMG_3615

I’m Annmarie – a busy woman juggling a career, starting up a business, being a mom, wife, daughter and friend. In 2003, I had a mental meltdown and couldn’t hide from PTSD anymore. I gathered all I knew about life coaching, psychology and PTSD and decided to fight.

What I found out was focusing entirely on my mind was making it worse, seeing my therapist once a week wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t make my regular doctor understand the physical pain I was feeling. Then, I discovered a holistic approach that incorporates an entire team of helpful professionals and support people. In three short years, I was 100% symptom free and have been for almost nine years. But you might be surprised to know . . .

Starbucks saved my life.

Join me here at PTSD Relief for a series of four articles that talk about making real change happen in healing the lives of PTS survivors – veteran and non-veteran alike.  Like what you hear? Pass it along to a friend or colleague. We’re reaching out, hoping to walk through an open door. Plus, you never know who’s reading . . .


Part One

Care more than others think wise.

~ Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO

Coffee. Always a staple in our household, while I was growing up. I’d run to the kitchen at the first pssssst! sound of the can opener piercing the top of what would later become my makeshift drum. Father would let me dip my nose close to the black grounds and linger at their intoxicating scent. At boring meetings attended by my parents, I always found my way to the coffee pot, but was disappointed when my young taste buds were betrayed with the awful, dirty-dishwater that only heavy amounts of cream and sugar could redeem.

Why didn’t it ever taste the way it smelled?

Then my mother discovered a tiny, little coffee mecca off of Pike Street in Seattle – Starbucks Coffee and Tea. One of their early #1 fans, she vowed to invest if the company ever went public. On my mother’s birthday, June 26, 1992, Starbucks Coffee Company went public at $17 per share, closing the day trading at $21.50. Sadly, she passed away just three weeks prior.

The love of coffee was sealed upon my soul by then, as a recent Facebook post said, “Starbucks is my blood type.” But something more began to grow within me as I ventured out into starting my first business as a life coach in 2000 – an intuitive knowing that I had something profound to accomplish and an ability to bring people of all kinds together to achieve great things.

Howard Schultz became the Willy Wonka of coffeedom to me. I read everything I could get my hands on about the entrepreneur. Something about his unusual way of putting people first, creating community and infusing his core values into a rapidly growing enterprise, right down to the barista on the front lines at your nearest cash register, ignited a dream for me. But the dream would have to wait . . .

until I woke up from a nightmare.

Deep in the abyss of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), I had to abandon my life coaching business and devote myself to the 24/7 job of healing. The physical symptoms of PTS are excruciating. The mental and emotional torment exhausting. I had become agoraphobic. Trapped in my friend’s condominium for six months, unable to leave without great fear, strain and effort, I fought back.

PTS had ravaged my life, taken me from my family, eliminated my friendships and devastated my confidence. I felt worthless, hopeless, helpless, a burden to the one and only friend who stayed by my side. I needed to reconnect, reengage life, feel a sense of purpose and provide for myself. One of my reoccurring symptoms was waking up at 3 a.m. every morning. That’s when I made the connection . . .

While I was healing from PTSD, I needed an empowering, motivational environment with flexible hours to accommodate my limited stamina and overactive anxiety.

While I was healing from PTSD, I needed an empowering, motivational environment with flexible hours to accommodate my limited stamina and overactive anxiety.

As a life coach and friend to many, I often met people at Starbucks. Store managers would joke that I should be on the payroll, I spent so much time there. It gave me a casual, yet public place to help people overcome life’s challenges, believe more for themselves and find their passion.

I thought, Maybe Starbucks and coffee could do that for me.

Not to mention, I would be learning from ‘The Man’ himself by way of immersion. The flexible scheduling allowed me to work at a pace I could handle as I continued my healing, striving to overcome the easy flooding of my senses. I was already up at 3 a.m. anyway, so why not?

I ended up staying with the company for about 6 years, and when I decided to try my hand at influencing politicians to support PTS survivors at our state’s capitol, gave my notice. While I was at Starbucks, I helped store managers in two districts connect with their communities, resourced them with practical ideas on how to get their partners involved in local volunteerism, and spearheaded a collaboration with Project Linus. All while dissolving a 14-year marriage and healing from PTS.

That’s how Starbucks saved my life. Will Starbucks save the life of someone YOU love?

Stay tuned . . .

Peace,

Annmarie

Partner #1195279


Are you a survivor? Tried everything you can think of to heal from Post Traumatic Stress? Tell us about your frustrations and successes in the comments below.

Remember . . . you never know who’s reading. Let Howard Schultz, and others supporting PTSD research, know where their dollars can best contribute to practical, effective tools that not only heal PTS, but transform survival into a life worth living.

Are We Forcing ‘Out Of Options’ Vets Underground? Their #1 Barrier To Getting Help

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How you and I think and speak about PTSD may be getting in the way of people finding the help they need. Photo Credit to pakorn

How you and I think and speak about PTSD may be getting in the way of people finding the help they need.
Photo Credit to pakorn

Moved by the desperation captured in Bill Briggs’ article, ‘Out Of Options’: Veterans With PTSD Hit Pot Underground, I join in the call, along with Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, to stop waiting for Washington and save the American Dream. Beginning on Throwback Thursday (April 3, 2014), I’ll be posting a series of articles with suggestions for real solutions to the PTSD epidemic, along with a challenge or two.

Today, let’s start by challenging OURSELVES. Before you or I make judgements about the use of marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, let’s consider a possibility:

What if your very next breath depended upon simply walking away from a comfort zone?

Would you be willing to face whatever fears arise?

Would you fight for a life worth living?

Given a fight for your life, a fight for whether or not you’ll live long enough to marry the love of your life, or a fight that must be won, so your children won’t grow up without a parent, my bet is YOU and I would do whatever it takes to survive.

Regardless of how the trauma happened, the method (and timing) PTSD survivors choose for their healing is their decision alone. I’m as guilty as anyone else out there for thinking and responding out of ignorance. . . and I’m a PTSD survivor. It wasn’t until I made a commitment to healing, I realized how much society had stigmatized my view. It’s been said, “Walk a mile in their shoes.” I have. Let me give you a bike.

If you’re a survivor, don’t let anyone, including professionals or family, embarrass or shame you for doing things that help you feel better (Of course, be wise in this area. Abusing drugs, alcohol, money, your body or someone close to you is never a healthy choice.).When it comes to a life or death decision about healing from PTSD, I say, “normal” is what works.

STOP. THINK B4 U SPEAK.

As more and more veterans break their silence about their struggles with PTSD, at the risk of losing their jobs, their VA benefits and respect of family, friends or colleagues, one thing is becoming glaringly obvious. We could be doing a lot more to help. I mean WE, as in YOU and ME.

I’m not talking about throwing money at or investing time in a cause or charity, although those things are worthy of supporting, provided they get resources that actually work in the hands of those who need it most. I am talking about just one small thing you can do every day – think before you speak.

Do you know the number one reason veterans and civilians alike choose addiction or worse, suicide, instead of reaching out for the help they need to overcome PTSD? The number one reason is the way YOU and I think and talk about mental health, especially PTSD. Translated, that means stigma, a weird soundingIMG_3615 word that’s easy to hide behind; a word that puts distance between YOU and ME; a word that’s usually followed by THEY or THEM. These are words that de-humanize, stripping personal responsibility away from where the application of it can do the most good. The bottom line is this, when people are de-humanized, reduced to “things,” they become as disposable as your last Starbucks coffee cup.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study in 2004 that points the finger directly at YOU and ME. In 2004, for heaven’s sake! What have we been doing for the past 10 years, while the suicide rate for veterans climbs to a staggering 22+ every day? That’s one family torn apart every 65 minutes. And guess what? Those statistics don’t take into account other PTSD suicides, like child sexual abuse, rape, or intimate family member survivors. The veterans from that study said there were very specific barriers in the way of getting the help they need. Here are the top three:

  1. I would be seen as weak.
  2. My unit leadership might treat me differently.
  3. Members of my unit might have less confidence in me.

These are men and women who are the bravest of the brave, have fought in wars many didn’t believe in, all for the sake of keeping YOU and ME safe and free – free to choose how we live our lives, free to seek our own happiness and free to enjoy the benefits of being an American Citizen. Which, by the way, you would think might include the possibility of getting the help a person needs, when they need it most, especially for those who wear a uniform with honor.

Think you’re not contributing to the PTSD epidemic?

For years, I didn’t either.

Here’s an excerpt from, PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living, coming out June (2014) – PTSD Awareness Month:

PTSD Stigma: What Does It Sound Like?

Examples of the devastating effects of PTSD ignorance and insensitivity have taken many forms in the news media recently. You see it in shock-value stories about survivor suicides and violent crimes with subtle side notes  (“It was reported that he had PTSD”). Unfortunately, these examples result in and perpetuate the stigmatization of PTSD survivors, making them people to be feared, distrusted, or shunned as unproductive members of society.

Individuals, institutions, caregivers, people close to the survivor, and even other survivors may be contributing to the social stigma of a PTSD diagnosis—and not know it. Without a doubt, PTSD healing cannot be accomplished without the help of caring, compassionate people. Although most have good intentions at heart, those same people can also unintentionally do more harm than good.

Maybe you know someone attempting to heal from PTSD (and working hard to do so, I might add). Perhaps you are that person, and feel confused by messages received from people who supposedly love you or are in a position to help. So, just to be sure we’re clear about what PTSD stigmatization sounds like in everyday language, let’s look at these actual statements made to survivors:

Discounting dismissing or minimizing through comparisons or outright statements

Which sounds like:

It happened so long ago. It’s over now.

How could this have affected you that much?

Just get over it!

Come on now, it wasn’t that bad. Why, I went through. . .

Blaming the survivoron some level, suspecting the survivor deserved it

Which sounds like:

I guess that’s what you get.

You’re doing this to yourself.

You’ve always been sensitive.

I told you, you shouldn’t have. . .

You signed up for the job and its consequences.

Judgment forming a negative opinion about the survivor for normal reactions to and ways of coping with the trauma, long-term symptoms or the healing path they choose (notice this list is longer)

Which sounds like:

You’re just doing this for (attention, money, sympathy).

Wow, you’ve got some real mental problems, don’t you?

You spend a lot of time with your friend. Are you gay?

You must not be (praying, repenting, confessing, believing) enough, or you would be healed.

Wow, I wish I had all the time in the world to get massages, go to yoga and hang out with my best friend.

Oh, you’ve always had to learn the hard way.

You just hate men/women!

You know you’re not being a (biblical wife, Proverbs 31 woman, good wife or submitting to your husband) if you withhold sex from him.

Denial of assistancewithholding necessary, expected services or support based on a personal or procedural judgment of the survivor’s need or lack of entitlement

Which sounds like:

Let’s wait and see if you get better.

Well, can you prove it happened?

There are other people who really need assistance.

I’m sorry. You just haven’t demonstrated an urgent need.

If you’re crazy, I’m outta here! I didn’t sign up for that!

You aren’t (praying, reading your Bible, casting out demons, getting to church/temple/synagogue) enough.

You can be sure you are participating in PTSD stigma if you respond in one of the above ways. Whether you’re at work or with your family, if you respond directly to a survivor or comment about PTSD to others in this manner, you’ll become an accomplice.

It might be surprising to realize that if you happen to be a PTSD survivor, and you’re allowing yourself to be treated in this manner or actually buy in to this derogatory perspective, you’re participating in PTSD stigma, too. I can only say these things because I’ve “been there, done that.” Remember, it doesn’t take a spoken word for stigmatization to occur. If you’ve thought it (about yourself or others), it’s already happened.

All stigmatization, regardless of where it comes from or why, feels cruel to a survivor. Sometimes, it is enough to push them over the edge, cause them to give up and take their own life. As you can imagine, for someone who has already suffered so much, it’s not surprising survivors have a hard time overcoming trust issues and have a tendency to isolate themselves.

If you are a PTSD survivor, for the most part, strangers who don’t know your situation may unintentionally say something cruel. However, so can people who love you most. As difficult as it is, you must break free of the isolation associated with PTSD and secure the help of other people.

It’s just plain impossible to heal from PTSD without the care and assistance of others. To be sure you’re making good choices about who you allow on your Healing Team and who you spend your time with during the healing process, please keep the above points in mind.

 

Our challenge? STOP. THINK B4 U SPEAK. Let’s do our part to bring down the barriers that are keeping our loved ones from asking for and receiving the help they so desperately need. Let’s end the judgment surrounding PTSD and give survivors a fighting chance at a life worth living.

Peace,

Annmarie

Resources

‘Out Of Options’ Veterans With PTSD Hit Pot Underground: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/out-options-veterans-ptsd-hit-pot-underground-n64026

Starbucks CEO Announces $30 Million Gift For U.S. Troops: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/starbucks-ceo-howard-schultz-announces-30-million-gift-for-us-troops/

Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care: New England Journal of Medicine (July 2004)

Why Suicide Rate Among Veterans May Be More Than 22 A Day: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/

PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living (June 2014) http://www.PTSDSelfHelp.com

About My Mother . . . and LungLeavin’ Day

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Karen Sue Gunderson

Where in the hell were your parents?!” is usually what I hear after someone learns about my traumatic past. Heck, even my Dad asked the same thing one Spring evening when I shared the dark details: “Where was I, when all this was happening?” Several years ago, I posted a piece about my dad. Now, it’s time to tell you about my mother.

But before I do that. I need to tell you about Heather and Cameron Von St. James.

Cameron sent me an email. Here’s what he said:

 I am reaching out to you today because of your blog! My name is Cameron Von St. James and I’m a husband to one of the strongest people I know. Eight years ago, after our only child was born, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. My wife’s chronic illness taught us the importance of acknowledging and overcoming our fears, something that prevent us all from living life to the fullest.

This February 2nd marks the 8th anniversary of Heather’s life saving surgery, which involved a risky procedure requiring the removal of her left lung. It is a very special day to me and is considered one of the memorable days of my life! We’ve coined this day as LungLeavin’ Day.

Wow! I don’t know many people who would find a way to laugh about loosing a LUNG . . . a lung, people! As Cameron mentioned, when faced with a life altering event or chronic condition, fear can leap upon our hearts rendering us powerless to find our way out of the fog. As I read his email, I thought about you, dear survivor. Fear is the jailer that keeps people with Post Traumatic Stress locked away believing there is something so terribly wrong with them, they’ll have to live with it forever.

I also thought about my mother.

Karen Sue Brown (Lindsay-Gunderson) died at the age of 45 from lung cancer. Like Heather, it was a rare diagnosis for a woman in 1992, who had never smoked or worked in an industrial environment. Her brief nine month fight with the disease cracked her open to fears she never knew existed . . . and never spoke about . . . to anyone.

It was only after she’d passed, perusing through her myriad books on the subject of cancer, that I was able to gather a sense of her state of mind in those last few months – and quite possibly, how she secretly dealt with everything life brought. Since she was a woman who placed more stock in facts and logic that upheld her view of perfection than the dirty, gritty reality of life, I wasn’t surprised to find those books well read. However, I was surprised to find she had only highlighted information about how much worse her cancer was likely to get, completely ignoring references to the possibility of healing.

My mother’s fear had killed her and fear was killing me, too.

Talk about up a creek without a paddle . . . this is me at age 11. The photo was taken by the man who abducted me during the 2 week ordeal.

Talk about up a creek without a paddle . . . this is me at age 11. The photo was taken by the man who abducted me during the 2 week ordeal.

I was transported in time, sitting before my mother, who’s angry and glaring because of an embarrassing phone call from my friend’s mother (You need to have a conversation with your daughter. She has something extremely important to tell you.). That’s when I finally told an adult about the least offensive act I could think of that had taken place at the hands of a predatory pedophile during my ‘abduction’ the year prior.

He took pictures of me.

Without her eyes softening, hands still on her hips, she asked only one stern question, “Did he hurt you?”

It had been more than a year since my Great Aunt’s husband had taken me to a remote location in the Canadian wilderness. Any physical wounds I’d suffered had long since healed. But I still felt terrible. It was a deep emotional pain that defied the vocabulary of an eleven-year-old girl.

No?

Mother spun on her heel and headed straight for the telephone. We never spoke of it again.

Staring at piles of highlighted cancer books, I came face-to-face with the power of the mind to manifest our reality. It’s been said that what you think about, you bring about. In the case of my mother, she was terrified, suffering silently and not just since her diagnosis. It’s my belief that fear prevented my mother from being emotionally expressive and the stress of holding a lifetime of anguish inside her, manifested in disease at her body’s weakest point – asthmatic lungs.

The added stress of fearing for her life, her family and the grandchild she had only begun to know, moved the cancer through her system swiftly. My own fears about whether or not I carried cancerous genes and could live beyond the age of forty-five had only just begun upon her death. Compounding my fear was the acknowledgment that I’d been running from a very dark and painful past. I was diagnosed that same year with PTSD. For me, the cost of fear was death – clearly far too high a price to pay.

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Happy, healthy, whole me 🙂

Last year (2013) marked a turning point. As of October, I’ve lived three months longer than my mother. I’m the healthiest I’ve been, since playing varsity softball in high school. I spend more time on preventive health care than treating illness (I rarely get sick anymore) enjoying yoga, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking and eating clean foods. Clear and healthy boundaries are now a part of my new life, meaning that I’m not a doormat anymore. Loving, vibrant, positive people surround me; the neg-heads and haters, as my son likes to call them, are gone.

The best part? I’ve been PTSD symptom free for eight years, and I’m not afraid anymore.

No more looking over my shoulder, waiting for the next PTSD trigger to steamroll me into oblivion! I’ve accomplished the measure of healing I set out to achieve and then some. With that in my back pocket, I have the confidence to do anything. You will too.

Thanks, Heather and Cameron, for LungLeavin’ Day, for thinking of PTSD survivors and for including them in your initiative to eliminate fear. Tell us more about LungLeavin’ Day:

The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage and empower others battling their own illnesses and life challenges to face their fears! On this day we celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going throug

h a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life! Each year, friends and family gather at our house around a bonfire where we write our fears on a plate and smash them into the fire to represent conquering our fears.

LLD-TalkingPlateThis year, we are asking others to participate in LungLeavin’ Day! We’ve created an interactive page that tells the full story of this special day, which can be found here or by clicking on the cartoon plate.

I’d love for you to check out the page and help spread the word about LungLeavin’ Day! It would mean so much to Heather and I.

Thanks so much for your time!

Cameron

Won’t you join me? Let’s help Heather and Cameron spread the word about facing down our fears and walking into a life we were meant to live . . . a life WORTH living!

Oh, and by the way, I don’t have ANY  fears about whether or not the Seattle Seahawks will win Superbowl XLVIII !!! GO HAWKS !!!

Peace,

Annmarie

PTSD Self Help: Turning Survival into a Life Worth Living . . . Countdown to Book Launch!!

PTSD Self Help Promo

Filled with all of the helpful information you’ve found here at PTSD Relief and more, PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living, THE BOOK, will be available everywhere Spring 2014!

So, if you missed your chance . . .

Everyone had ONE LAST WEEK in January to gather all the PTSD Self Help material they could from PTSD Relief . . .

Now it’s gone!

At least until you purchase your very own copy of PTSD Self Help: Transforming Survival into a Life Worth Living!

By the way, 10% of the proceeds from the sale of each book goes toward building an interactive, on-line version of The Center for Hope & Renewal!

Subscribe! That way, while we’re under construction getting ready for the BIG LAUNCH, you don’t miss out on great giveaways, pre-sale order opportunities and book signing tour updates 🙂

Can’t wait to hit the road and meet many of you in person!

Peace,

Annmarie

 

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