Dennis Carradin - Business Consulting, Personal and Professional Counseling
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Reflections on Violence
Boston Marathon Explosions
Recovering from Disappointment
The heart was made to be broken
Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Dennis Carradin

Psychology

Reflections on Violence

As I sit to write this blog entry,  I reflect on a simple question I was asked today regarding the Boston Marathon explosions.   "Why are there so many acts of violence on innocent people lately?"     When I was in graduate school, we were taught never to ask the "Why?" question because the default answer was always "I don't know".    The default answer to the question posed to me could be that simple, "I don't know why there is a rise in violence."  But, that answer is too simple and does not pay the respects of reflection the question warrants. 

As I await my deployment orders for Boston,  I reflect to several weeks ago when I was alerted to a shooting in the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, DE.   The father of a man who kidnapped his three young daughters in 2007 opened fire with a handgun at the New Castle County courthouse killing his former daughter-in-law and her friend and wounding two police officers.    This came only a week after a Wilmington Police Officer was shot in the face while performing a traffic stop.    These stories fall under the shadow of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the looming nuclear attack from North Korea,  and the outcry for gun control.    

 I often worry my blogs may not be politically correct or accurate to both sides of a debate.    I attempt to give my opinion in a logically thought out manner by researching the subject matter and compiling a list of pros and cons.    This topic has touched too close to home for me to remain completely unbiased.    My reflections on the topic of violence have to be from my viewpoint because of what I do and who I am.   As a trauma therapist, I am often called upon to help victims and families of violence to cope with the situation and begin the healing process.   I work closely with Law Enforcement, Fire Service, and Emergency Medical Personnel to provide comfort and aid to those affected by life's tragedies.   And, when the needs arise, I help Law Enforcement, Fire Service, and Emergency Medical Personnel find peace and healing as life's tragedies inevitably affect them as well.   I am ever vigilant of what affects me emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually during these crisis calls.   I immediately reflect back to my recent deployment to the  Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.   I posted a picture I took of a memorial in Sandy Hook, CT.   In the caption, I wrote, " I have been trained to counsel people during tragic times but the overwhelming sorrow is indescribable. I have told people throughout my time here it is normal and healthy to cry. As my heart hurts, I find myself crying with the ones I have provided comfort. I hurt for them, not as a professional but as a father, a son, and a human. God bless these tiny souls so they may find peace".   I cannot be completely unbiased to the subject of violence.   I can give facts, which are easily researched, but I have to give my opinion as well.     

Currently,the United States has substantially more mass shootings but the same percentage of psychiatrically suffering patients than any other nation.  We have more firearms in our country than in any other comparably developed nation.  An individual in the United States is about a hundred times more likely to die due to the discharge of a firearm than in any other Western nation.  Our government's response to these undisputed facts is the need for gun control or a ban on assault weapons.   Opponents of this action post feverishly about the second amendment and how no one will take their guns away from them.   Meanwhile, two homemade bombs are detonated at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon killing two and injuring dozen more.   The issue of violence in our society has little to do with whether Joe Politician and Joe American can agree on what is designated as an assault weapon.   In an instant lately, our rights as US citizens have been taken away not by our Government or legal gun owners, but by individuals who are not playing by society's rules.   

When violence strikes without warning it can leave lasting scars not only physically, but emotionally as well. Whether it is a terrorist attack or some domestic threat, watching innocent people being directly affected by violent actions pulls at everyone’s heartstrings.  Fear can be a debilitating emotion, and how you cope with that fear is as important as the safety measures you take.   After a frightening situation, overwhelming danger or a sudden loss of security, you may experience what is commonly called “post-traumatic stress.” Even a perceived or imagined threat of violence or danger can be as emotionally disturbing as a real one. When we experience an event as life threatening, it shatters our basic assumptions about ourselves and the world we live in.  We all handle traumatic events differently.   It is not unusual to feel hyper-alert or jumpy, to have difficulty going to sleep, or to feel any number of physical or emotional symptoms.   I believe the surge in the rate of violence has left us all questioning ourselves and our safety.    

The common thread in many terrorist attacks is how people respond after the incident.   According to the American Psychological Association many people who have witnessed these events “may go into a state of acute stress reaction.”   In this state of acute stress reaction, we are not able to make proper decisions or judgments.   We are not able to fully control our thoughts and our emotions.    With this said, it would stand to reason the US Society has be bombarded with debilitating violence over the past several years leaving us afraid, angry, emotional, and fatigued.   

While people never tend to forget tragic or horrendous events, easing the feelings that are associated with these traumas can be mitigated by taking specific actions in your life. The following tips have been compiled from the Kansas State Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois, American Psychological Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.      

Provide direct help in dealing with the disaster - Help an elderly or homeless person who is affected by the disaster. Volunteer by helping your fire department or police department during their times of need. Many communities have Community Emergency Responder Teams for neighborhoods. This is a good way to help in times of need. If you are removed from the situation give blood or money to charitable organizations that are helping with the relief effort.       

Talk and listen - Sharing feelings with others, especially family, friends and neighbors, helps people deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness. On the same token, listening can help others cope with these same feelings. One of the best ways to help is to lend an ear.      

Identify your feelings - Understanding your feelings can help you realize that you are feeling the effects of stress and sympathy. Knowing yourself can help you cope with the abnormal situation you might find yourself in.      

Show by words and actions that you care - Act. Don’t be afraid of doing the wrong thing, or offending someone, just try to help in any way you can. A word of support or a helping hand goes a long way to encourage other people who are also trying to cope in a difficult situation. 

Realize that you are not alone - When it comes to terrorism, realize there are numerous law enforcement and government agencies that are trying to prevent and solve the problem of international terrorism. Knowing that you are not alone in this situation is an important step in dealing with your fears.        

Get back to your daily routine as soon as possible - You might not be able to do all of the things you once did, but trying to get back to some sense of normalcy is important in the healing process. Make sure you also maintain good sleeping and eating habits.      

Realize that not everyone heals at the same pace - Don’t be judgmental if you have found your way out of the emotional pitfalls of a disaster, but your spouse, son or neighbor is still feeling the pain.        

Remember you have overcome obstacles in the past - Try to remember what you did in other difficult situations and see if those skills can be used in the current crisis.        

Limit watching the news - Watching the same event time after time will not help you in the healing process. Collecting important information is important, but watching just for the sake of shock is not healthy.       

Avoid major life decisions - When people are under stress or bereavement they cannot make logical decisions. Immediately after a traumatic event is not the time to change careers, move or change your relationships. Give it time, and then make the decision.        

Keep helping - The disruptions caused by a traumatic event may continue for a long while. Recovery may take even longer. Friends, family members and neighbors will need regular acts of kindness and understanding to maintain their morale and put their lives back together.

Recovering from Disappointment

 
Life surely has its ups and downs.   Whether you lose a friend, a promotion, a significant other, or you just fail at achieving a goal, the anguish of disappointment can be devastating.    Whether the disappointment is in us or in someone else,  the overall feelings of disappointment are akin to the grieving process.   Personally,   I believe we can work better at grieving the disappointment with others versus the disappointment with ourselves.    For me, being disappointed in myself leaves me feeling out of sorts, lost, and, dare I say, vulnerable.    It's often a reminder of how fragile life and the human experience is as it pertains to the loss of confidence.    Disappointment can kick you squarely in the teeth leaving you dazed and confused.    It is never a good feeling, but, with the right direction, you can recover from the feeling.  The feeling of disappointed is also a part of life.   Do we need disappointment?   Well, maybe.   I think we all need a modest level of disappointment to achieve a greater sense of self discovery.  I believe a feeling of disappointment in ourselves can lead us eventually to a path of greatness.  
 
Paulo Coehlo once wrote, “When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.”   
 
We all make decisions in our lives which may turn out exactly the way we planned or go up in flames.  Those decisions often lead to feelings of success or feelings of disappointment.   As Coehlo suggests, the ability to recover from a mistake may turn out, in the end, to be exactly what we need.    Have you ever been presented with a challenge knowing all the results would not be desirable?   Have you ever had to make a decision which you knew had the potential to create disappointment in others and in yourself?    Sure you have.   We all have had those moments.   We have all had those moments of shear dread of making an impactful decision which could lead to disastrous results or tremendous disappointment.  But, as Joel Olsteen said, “You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
 
Recovering from disappointment is not an easy or desired task.    It takes internal power to rise up and move ahead.    The power has to come from deep inside.  Deep inside the place you reserve for the most daunting of tasks.   It is within that place you live and thrive.    You must face the truth of being embarrassed and ashamed of yourself and know these feelings will hopefully pass.   Develop a sense of humility and be honest with yourself and others.    Even if the ultimate honesty is painful, put it out there and be exposed.  Be vulnerable.  Be human.    The worst thing that happens is you make the wrong decision and you lose what you had.  The best thing that happens is you make the right decision and gain something valuable.   Either way, it is much better to face the possible disappointment head on.   Once the decision is made and everything has been exposed, the results of the decision will happen and you deal with the consequences whether they are good or bad.    Life is measured by both the disappointments and the successes.    Take the risk of losing something to gain something.   Take the risk of disappointment to feel joy, happiness, and freedom.   Being burdened by disappointment only allows you to wallow within sorrow.   Be free to express yourself and move on.   If a person is disappointed in you, apologize and move on.   You will make mistakes in life.  Sometimes huge mistakes, but acknowledge the mistake.   Apologize for the disappointment and move on.    We are not perfect beings.   We can't be perfect.  
 
Remember, life is a journey.   During this journey, we will stumble and fall at times.   We will not only make mistakes, but we will create disappointment.  Take a moment and acknowledge the journey.     It may be helpful to listen to the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off.”   
 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

 
Feeling blue, sad, or even depressed even though the holidays are upon us? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Symptoms of winter SAD usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April.  Some patients begin to slump as early as August, while others remain well until January. Regardless of the time of onset, most patients don’t feel fully back to normal until early May. Depressions are usually mild to moderate, but they can be severe.” SAD is often found in women in their twenties and thirties, but statistics report children, men, and teens may suffer from the symptoms as well.

At first, symptoms are mild, but gradually increase in intensity. The symptoms of SAD include, but are not limited to, depression include oversleeping,daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving and weight gain, features of depression, especially decreased sexual interest, lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities, and social withdrawal.

I have had several patients over the years report increasing episodes of SAD and SAD like symptoms. Most studies report the disorder stems primarily from the shortening of days and daylight during the winter months causing a lowered production of serotonin in the brain. Other studies report the symptoms stem from the colder temperatures and lack of color of vegetation in the Northern hemispheres. In either event, SAD is a very real and often painful disorder.  SAD is often misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, and other viral infections.

There are many different treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder, including bright light therapy, medication, ionized-air administration ,cognitive-behavioral therapy and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin. Also, a minor dose of an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) such as Lexapro, Paxil, or Zoloft may prove to be beneficial.

If you are feeling the signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, do not hesitate to contact your primary care physician for viable treatment options.