Where the Water Meets the Sand by Tyra Manning

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Some people who never take part in a war still have trouble finding “home” again after the war is over. Having a spouse or family member go off to military service, even temporarily, can put undue stress on the children and spouses back home. Of course, many families are permanently broken by loved ones who never return home, either physically or mentally, from their time in service.

In Where the Water Meets the Sand (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 256 pp., $15.95, paper), Tyra Manning, the widow of an Air Force pilot, shares her personal struggle dealing with the loss of her husband and any semblance of her former family life when he was killed in action in Vietnam. Her memoir will resonate with anyone who has suffered through the loss of a loved one. It also will provide support for those who feel as if they are alone in their struggle to return to normal life.

Tyra Manning, who holds a doctorate in education administration, was a newlywed, twenty-something mother of a one-year old girl when her husband deployed. Already suffering from anxiety, depression, and substance abuse related to her father’s death, Manning collapsed entirely without the emotional support of her husband. She found herself unable to hold her family together in his absence, and dropped her daughter off with relatives to check herself into the Menninger Clinic, an upscale psychiatric hospital in Topeka, Kansas.

Much of the story revolves around Manning’s experiences at Menninger as she confronted, albeit shallowly, the enduring pain she’d suffered since losing her father, a wound aggravated by the sudden absence of her husband and the stress of not knowing when, or if, he would return. In the months of treatment that followed, Manning rediscovered confidence in herself with help from doctors and patients at Menninger.

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Tyra Manning

Manning’s memoir brings attention to the often un-discussed psychological trauma that spouses and other family members of veterans endure, along with the depression and substance abuse that can lurk in the wake of a family member’s service.

Manning brings this up in a Q&A at the end of the book, saying, “Many of us discuss our own struggles and those of the ones we love in whispers, and we keep our illnesses secret, perpetuating the barrier to treatment.”
This is not a self-help book. But Where the Water Meets the Sand contributes to a growing body of Vietnam War literature that encourages discussion of mental health and substance abuse issues among those who’ve experienced—or know someone who has endured— similar struggles.

“The stigma and lack of empathy toward those who require treatment is still a gigantic hurdle,” Manning writes. That is exactly what her memoir attempts to resolve.

The author’s website is tyramanning.com

— James Schuessler

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Losing the Will to Live by Arnie Burzynski

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Rising above depression, personal tragedy, and alcoholism is central to Arnie Burzynski in his book, Losing the Will to Live: Why?!! (Xlibris, 145 pp., $29.99, hardcover; $19.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle), but it is not directly related to his Vietnam War service.

Burzynski devotes the first chapter to his father’s service in the Korean War. In the next chapter he enumerates the ever-present  tragedies he lives with daily, making  his psychological treatment in a VA Hospital in Minnesota necessary after his hardship discharge from the Navy in 1975. He married  in 1977 but the  marriage failed.

In February 2006, Burzynski writes, “I went to see the doctor and I was diagnosed as depressed.” That summer he began drinking. “I remember at work, I was asking an older man, he was 74 at the time, ‘What happens when you lose the will to live?’ There was no answer.” This stayed with Burzynski “a long time,” and perhaps led to his trying to find the answer for himself.

In 2008 Burzynski started his treatment at the VA, and he started keeping a journal. He includes transcripts of his counseling sessions in this book. Burzynski records his lapses into drinking, attributing them to events such as his father’s death or partying with friends with drinking problems.

His journal describes his impending divorce and the difficulty he has had finding and keeping meaningful work. He keeps his Alcoholics Anonymous and VA appointments but has continuous trouble with friends taking advantage of his good nature. VA psychological testing discovered that he “carried around the burden of many family conflicts, suicidal attempts, and losses for many years, trying to maintain his emotional center and keep himself together.”

Burzynski occasionally begged people to end his life out of frustration but with the help of counseling from a VA priest, his veterans disability benefits being approved, and maintaining his sobriety, he rose above a troubled life, completing his valuable self-help project.

His artwork on the cover illustrates the climb from depression’s depths to regaining his will to live.

The author’s website is www.arnieburzynski.com

—Curt Nelson