How to Cope with Stress after Trauma by E. Anna Goodwin

E. Anna Goodwin’s extraordinary How to Cope with Stress after Trauma (Bitterroot Mountain Publishing, 308 pp., $17.99, paper) was inspired by the experiences of her father and many other veterans. It is an embracing and empathetic guide for healing those suffering with trauma-induced stress.

Goodwin has compiled well-tested, curative procedures, combined with hope, for veterans with post-traumatic stress or post- traumatic stress syndrome. She explains the differences between the two in Part One of this volume.

The book begins with a self-administered stress test in which the reader evaluates how severe his or her PTSD is. Next are case studies that veterans will identify with, gathered from Goodwin’s psychotherapy career and workshops she has conducted. These accentuate her strong belief that since stress sufferers are not alone, they should not try healing alone. The therapeutic methods center on interactions with family, friends, and other veterans.

The “Twenty Steps To Help You Heal” in Part Two are clearly presented, emphasizing that some may apply to the veteran and some may not .They are organized so that the veteran can choose which healing steps are applicable, enabling an orderly healing process.

Prior to elaborating on the steps, I should note two items Goodwin quotes from along the way:

  1. “Freeze, Fight, or Flight” as options for how to deal with stress coming from trauma.
  2. The Healing Wall, a five-part poem by Patrick Overton.

Part Two presents the twenty healing steps with helpful subheadings, making an orderly pathway through the process. Some items are challenging, such as the suggestion that the veteran should organize his or her life developing self-confidence in pursuit of life as it was before the onset of trauma. Some suggestions are simpler, such as using a nightlight if you are experiencing nightmares or sleep-interrupting flashbacks.

A significant portion of Part Two centers on the veteran’s memories and how to distinguish them from the present. Keeping a journal is recommended to help figure out what is now and what was then. Recognizing items around your house such as pets, furniture, and children’s artworks or photographs taken before or after a traumatic event are very useful in healing and returning the veteran to life before trauma.

A strong point in Goodwin’s approach to healing is the use of journal writing or finding a creative outlet such as painting, photography, or poetry. All veterans and family members can benefit from sharing experiences by using diaries or artistic creations reflecting the veteran’s service experiences.

Another source of stress that the author studied is “second-hand trauma,” things such as witnessing a crime or natural or other catastrophe such as the September 11, 2001, attacks. These can be as debilitating as first-hand trauma.

Step 15 is a valuable method of healing—laughter and silliness. Movies, jokes, and playing with children can be paths to stress relief.

Part Three is aimed at family and friends of the veteran. It contains many useful tips to help others help the veteran return to an ordered, happy life with a spouse, siblings, parents, or children—or just plain peace of mind.

The author’s website is http://anaparkergoodwin.com

–Curt Nelson

God Help Me! Cause No One Else Will by Clyde Hoch

Clyde Hoch, a former U.S. Marine Sergeant and a member of Vietnam.Veterans of America, has written six books. His latest is God Help Me! Cause No One Else Will (CreateSpace, 34 pp., $5.38).

This self-help tract is dedicated to veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a perfect world, this informative work would be in the hands of every Vietnam veteran, military family member, and every professional working with returned veterans and active-duty personnel.

Hoch, who volunteered for duty in a tank battalion, arrived in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet offensive. “I was an old guy,” he writes. “I was around 21 years old. Most of the guys were 18 or 19. They would come to me for advice about everything. I didn’t know much more than they did. At times I felt like a father and priest to these guys.”

Hoch’s value as leader and counselor easily could have qualified him to be a Drill.Sergeant or an officer candidate were it not for a land mine explosion. Because of the resultant Traumatic Brain Injury and difficulties with memory Hoch opted to end his career as a Marine .

His return to life as a civilian came before there was widespread recognition of PTSD as a war-related affliction. “There was no.such thing as PTSD or TBI,” he writes. “I became very aggressive with people, especially my wife. I took much out on her and my children. I regret all, but can’t do anything about it now. My attitude was very hard for all of us. I set up an appointment with the VA to.see if anyone could help me.”

Hoch filed PTSD and Agent Orange VA claims. “The service officer filed all of these forms,” he writes. “All came back rejected.” Further appeals were dismissed by doctors and lawyers.

Finally, after more than twenty years, Hoch began to offer advice and assistance to other veterans, something reminiscent of his relationship with his fellow tankers back in 1968.

In this book he provides important contact information for those in need.

“Do Not Give Up,” Hoch advises. “When I feel myself getting angry at a situation or person, I have learned to.walk away. I will.go outside. If I am where there are lots of people I observe them. I will wonder about their lives. Everyone you see is fighting something. If all else fails and you feel all alone and feel no one cares, contact me. I will do what I can for you.”

You can contact Clyde Hoch through his website, www.clydehoch.com

—Curt Nelson

hochclyde@yahoo.com.

Peak Business Performance Under Pressure by Bill Driscoll

“Way over the top” was my first impression of Peak Business Performance Under Pressure: A Navy Ace Shows How to Make Great Decisions in the Heat of Business Battle by Bill Driscoll and Peter Joffre Nye (Allworth Press, 210 pp., $19.95). The length of the title alone overwhelmed me. And then a flood of endorsements by admirals and a rousing blessing in the Forward by Sen. John McCain further wowed me. The wealth of hoopla turns out to be justified.

Driscoll presents an inspirational blend of personal experience and advice from others in offering his formula on how to be a successful executive leader. And he does it with boundless enthusiasm.

The blend includes his experiences from a forty-year association with the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and twenty-six years of selling real estate, along with interviews with more than 200 senior executives and twenty-six Ace fighter pilots.

Along with Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Driscoll became an Ace while flying 170 Navy F-4 Phantom missions in the Vietnam War. Driscoll opens the book with an account of his final mission in which his crew destroyed three MIGs before being shot down by a surface-to-air missile. That success had created momentary complacency that nearly killed the crew. The remainder of the book presents similar lessons.

Driscoll’s “Peak Performance” goal is winning every time. His credo for cockpit or boardroom is: “The day you stop wanting to be better is the day you stop being good.”

Bill Driscoll

Success in any endeavor requires a person to “follow every element of the Peak Performance Formula, every day,” Driscoll says. Each element has its own chapter. The lessons contain steps to maximize success.

Each chapter ends with a probing question-and-answer “debrief,” much like what follows a combat mission.

Overall, the text is to the point and personalized so that the reader easily becomes involved in the discussion. At the same time, the book resembles a training manual because it is interspersed with facts and advice that parallel the topic at hand.

You don’t have to be seeking success in business to benefit from reading this book. Driscoll provides suggestions for behavior that can enhance just about anyone’s everyday life. Although highly zealous, he recognizes when enough is enough and helps the reader to do the same.

The author’s web site is www.willydriscoll.com

—Henry Zeybel

Love Our Vets by Welby O’Brien

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (Deep River Books, 216 pp., $15.99, paper) is a conversationally written self-help book designed for wives and other family members of veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Author Welby O’Brien, who has an MA in counseling and his written widely about divorce and other family subjects, is the wife of a veteran who has PTSD.

In her book, O’Brien takes a practical approach to the problem, proffering sixty-three questions about PTSD, along with her answers, as well as other words of advice, including “A Prayer a Day.” The book, she says, “is not a treatise on PTSD, nor at attempt to fix it,” nor a “marriage/relationship manual.” Instead, O’Brien has set out to “provide comfort, encouragement, and practical help for spouses, families, and all other loved ones of veterans with PTSD.”

Welby O’Brien

One example of the book’s tone and content is O’Brien’s answer to the question: “He is drawn to war movies. Should I discourage him from watching them because it seems to not be helpful at all?”

“The best thing we can do is connect with them,” O’Brien counsels. “If you can handle it, watch it with him. Personally, I cannot watch war movies…. Our job is not to fix or to change, but we are privileged to be close enough to love them and connect. If they choose to open up at any level, that is a beautiful thing for both. Any discussion does not require a mutually agreed-upon solution. What a freeing concept!”

The author’s website is www.loveourvets.org
—Marc Leepson

The Trauma Tool Kit by Susan Pease Banitt

Scores of books have been written about post-traumatic stress disorder—what it is and how to deal with it. The latest is The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out (Quest Books, 305 pp., $18.95, paper) by Susan Pease Banitt, a psychotherapist who has been seeing patients for more than three decades and who also is a certified teacher of hatha yoga.

Banitt points out in her book that when she was in her forties she “was shaken to the core with an eruption of PTSD from the bowels of my being.” The author does not dwell on the details of her own case of PTSD in the book. But she now recommends spiritual and holistic modialities such as acupuncture and naturopathic treatment for her patients with PTSD.

Those and many other treatments are part of the “trauma tool kit” that Banitt explores in her book. The author does not directly address PTSD in veterans of the Vietnam War or any other conflict. However, veterans with PTSD should be able to use the ideas, information, and practices Banitt includes in her “tool kit.”

The author’s website is www.insightouthealing.com

When the War Never Ends by Leah Wizelman

Leah Wizelman, a biologist and researcher at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, specializes in the psycho physiological aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder. In her new book, When the War Never Ends: The Voices of Military Members with PTSD and Their Families (Rowman & Littlefield, 176 pp., $32), Wizelman presents thirty-two of these voices: short, first person accounts by veterans from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany who have PTSD. The voices also include several spouses of the veterans.

Several of the veterans served in the Vietnam War. All describe in intimate (and sometimes painful) detail the effects of PTSD on their daily lives.

“Talking to a therapist seems to be helping,” says one Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran, “also being on an antidepressant called Fluoxetine. As for my family, the best support they can give me is to be there for me and to try to understand. I hope to get my life back.”

—Marc Leepson

When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home by Paula J. Caplan

Paula J. Caplan, a much-published clinical and research psychologist, has taken a special interest in emotional issues facing veterans returning home from war since the start of the war in Iraq. Her latest book, When Johnny and Jane Came Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans (MIT Press, 282 pp., $27.95), stemmed from her realization about  “common vets’ problems and dilemmas,” she says. Some of the problems, Caplan writes, “have been created by well-meaning people who do not stop to consider what helps and what hurts vets—and that there is good reason to believe the suffering can be alleviated.”

Caplan, an Associate at Harvard University’s DuBois Institute and a Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, goes on to make her case that there are other ways aside from psychotherapy and drugs to help veterans suffering emotionally from war-time trauma.

“We sent many Vietnam and Gulf War vets behind psychotherapists’ doors to deal with their anguish, and we’ve come to think it’s the best thing to do,” she writes. “Unfortunately, in our over-psychologized society, we’ve also come to think that it’s the only thing to do.

“We’ve failed to learn what the vets of previous wars have taught us—that although therapists clearly help some soldiers, there is only so much emotional damage from war they can fix.”
Instead, Caplan believes that the military should work on emotional problems “on the battlefront” and as soon as troops get home. She also believes that all Americans should “shoulder a bit of the burden of helping our soldiers and our returning civilians with their reentry into ordinary life back in the United States.”

Caplan’s website is http://whenjohnnyandjanecomemarching.weebly.com

—Marc Leepson