Everyone has heard about the problems the VA has. Many of us have either experienced it first hand, or have a friend, family member, or co-worker that has. But my recent experience with everything that is going on in my life really re-inspired me to continue on my path of helping others heal naturally. I am using the VA for the first time since I separated from the military. I had a different and better insurance for the last 12 years (was married to a military member). As I know longer have this insurance I have had to use the VA. Which is just as nightmarish as you have heard. My most recent experience has been trying…
I take anxiety medication to deal with some PTSD symptoms. I use meditation and yoga to cope with most of the symptoms. However I have been on this medication for 12 years and every time I try to get off of it I go crazy. I am addicted to it. My body literally has no idea how to cope without this med. I will continue to try to get off this med, and the more I heal, the more I have hope that someday this will happen. But today is not the day. So I contact the VA to get an appointment to get this drug that I hate from them instead of my old insurance. I call and get an appointment that is 6 weeks after I call. Ok. I count out my meds and feel a bit of panic as this puts me close to the end of my supply. But I wait. When the appointment comes I show up, and they tell me the VA does not have this exact medication and I will have to be switched to something else. Insert Panic here. If you have ever had any doctor play with your meds to find the right one or the right dosage…its hell. Literal hell. Sleepless nights, hot flashes, emotional surges… so many side affects. Have you ever felt electric shocks through your brain… not pleasant. I say “ok” so lets get this started. The doctor then proceeds to tell me that the Mental Health clinic will contact me for an appointment. Seriously, more waiting? Five days goes by before the mental health clinic calls me to schedule an appointment to see me. Which of course is another four weeks away. So I cut my dosage of my meds so that will last till this appointment.
All of this waiting, and panic of running out of meds, and being told I have to switch my meds, and just wanting to so badly not even need meds is not even what re-inspired me.
While I was in the office waiting for the doc to come in, I found a pamphlet that broke me. “Taking Opioids Responsibly: for your safety and the safety of others”.
Really? The VA gives us these meds, makes our appointments so far out, gives us no options to get off the meds, and then tells us to be responsible? The pamphlet tells us that there are all these other options besides the medication, but the VA does not pay for these. The pamphlet says don’t get off your meds on your own, yet its so hard to get an appointment you may have no choice but to run out. The side effects it talks about are terrifying. Yet they pay for the opioids. They don’t pay for yoga, Rolfing, meditation, where is the funding for these modalities? It even talks about getting you help once you become addicted and they take it away from you…
This pamphlet, this need to overmedicate our veterans, my fellow veterans, is why I do what I do. If 12 years ago I had been prescribed iRest meditation, and learned to feel and accept these emotions, traumas, anxiety inducing things…. I would not be addicted to my medication. What has this done to m my body? Can I ever even get off them? Is my body capable of functioning without them? I believe the answer is yes, I will keep trying, and I will keep helping others try.
My ask is that if you know someone who is struggling, send them anywhere but the VA, or western medicine of prescribing drugs. Being Human is hard, but we can learn the tools to heal ourselves. Once medication is introduced we are numbed to things that we are suppose to feel. There is a reason we feel scared, pain, and sadness, there is a reason to feel all of it. If we have the support system and tools to feel these things, they will live their cycle. The sadness or whatever will be born, live, rise, fall, and eventually die off. We cannot numb ourselves to it, if we want to heal.
Please contact me if you or someone you know is considering medication, or is interested in working with me, and their doctor to come off the medication. Never stop your medication alone. I have tried; I almost lost my life because of it. But there is hope; there is a way to heal naturally.
I am here for you.
What is snowflake stress?
How one stress may seem small and like it is easy to handle, like one snowflake, but if it snows for days and feet of single snowflakes add up, will the branches in a tree bend or break under the pressure? One small stress maybe easy to deal with, but add up many small stresses and their pressure if not acknowledged or dealt with can bend or break a person. The same can be said for trauma. One small trauma can be dealt with and handled, however many small traumas over years can build up until it is something that overtakes you with anxiety, depression, or PTSD. We can talk about the build up of small Traumas in the same way as snowflake stress.
Who can be affected by snowflake stress? Everyone! We have all had those days that seem to start out with some small incident. Burning the coffee, sleeping through the alarm, stepping on a Lego and the day just seems to get worse from there. That first initial “thing” or stressor we pushed aside to get going with our day. Then the next happened and we were a little more agitated then we would have been another day so the next small thing, no parking at work for example, sends us even further over the edge. Do you see the pattern here? Each stressful event in our life that we did not acknowledge and make space for has amped up our stress and made us less capable to deal with the next “snowflake” stress. Over time, a day, a week, a lifetime of ignoring these snowflakes, how is your mind and body bending or breaking with the pressure of that next small stress?
What causes these stresses to build on each other? Not acknowledging them. Letting them build and build till that next snowflake, like spilling coffee on your shirt sends you into a crying, angry, human. This reaction if you are highly stressed is so normal. You are normal! Life sometimes becomes so busy, and demanding that we do not take the time we need too for ourselves. Some think that we cannot let go or remove stress from our life unless we go on vacation or take a break from our day-to-day life. But this thinking is exactly what allows the stress to build on itself. If we took just one minute to acknowledge, feel, welcome the stress as a part of our life. Not let it build on itself, and then we would not see vacations as a need to escape the stress of our life. They can just be for the pure joy of vacation!
What happens if you don’t cope with your stress? Does your health, relationships, life suffer? For me when I don’t cope with my small “snowflake” stress, and I just ignore it and they start pilling up, makes me so overwhelmed I can’t function. I will curl up on the couch, not even knowing where or how to begin living again. Even deciding what to eat, or reading a little of a required book is too much. Its like I stare at everything all at once, and it is all demanding my attention right now, and that if each thing does not go exactly perfect the whole world will come crashing down on me. My “snowflakes” add up and weigh me down, till I am too broken to move.
How do I cope with my “snowflake” stress, what do I try to do on a daily basis to clear out these snowflake stresses? Meditation, breath work, journaling are my three main ways that I deal with the overwhelming “snowflake” stress. I try to start out my morning on my meditation cushion. I set my timer for five, ten, fifteen minutes, whatever I feel I have time for. I repeat my mantra for that time, using my mala (yoga meditation beads) to keep my mind and body concentrating on my mantra. I use deep slow belly breaths in and out my nose with the exhale lasting longer than the inhale. I journal most nights, before sleep, to get all the thoughts and to do’s out of my brain that are overwhelming me and preventing my mind from resting. During the day if a stressor happens and I notice myself start to get overwhelmed, I repeat my mantra, I use my breath, I acknowledge that this stressful event is happening. When I meet, greet, and welcome this stressful event, I can use my tools to let this stress go so it does not serve as a stepping stool for the next snowflake.
Want to learn more about how the tools I use for these “snowflake” stresses can help you? Please contact me, my life’s passion is helping people who have suffered from trauma, Veterans especially are close to my heart, I want to help my fellow veterans deal with their life the most holistic and natural way they can.
What is Rolfing?Rolfing® is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity. Rolfing bodywork affects the body’s posture and structure by manipulating the myofascial system (connective tissue). Often considered a deep-tissue approach, Rolfing bodywork actually works with all the layers of the body to ease strain patterns in the entire system. Research has demonstrated that Rolfing creates more efficient muscle use, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Rolfing has also been shown to significantly reduce chronic stress, reduce spinal curvature in subjects with lordosis (sway back), and enhance neurological functioning.
Who uses it?
People seek Rolfing as a way to reduce pain and chronic muscle tension, generally resulting from physical and emotional traumas. Rolfing is used by many professional athletes to break up scar tissue, rehabilitate injuries, and increase range of motion to improve performance and avoid future injuries. Dancers and musicians often use the work to increase increase comfort in their bodies while performing, as well as avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Additionally, some manufacturing companies have employed Rolfing to decrease workers’ compensation costs due to repetitive stress injuries. And, based on the mind/body connection, many counselors and therapists incorporate Rolfing in the therapeutic approach. Greater physical support and flexibility ultimately influences emotions and energy levels.
Where did it come from?
Rolfing® structural integration is named after its creator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf. Dr. Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920 and furthered her knowledge of the body through her scientific work in organic chemistry at the Rockefeller Institute. Her extensive search for solutions to family health problems led her to examine many systems that studied the effect of structure on function, including yoga, osteopathy and chiropractic medicine. Dr. Rolf combined her research with her scientific knowledge to stimulate a deeper appreciation of the body’s structural order, resulting in the theory and practice of Rolfing. There are more than 1,200 Certified Rolfers in 27 different countries. The Rolf Institute’s international headquarters is located in Boulder, Colorado, with offices in Germany, Brazil, and Japan. To learn more about Dr. Rolf, visit the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation website.
How is Rolfing different from massage?
Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long-term. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. Rolfing is different from deep-tissue massage, in that practitioners are trained to create overall ease and balance throughout the entire structure, rather than focusing on areas presenting with tension. As a structure becomes more organized, chronic strain patterns are alleviated, and pain and stress decreases.
Furthermore, Rolfing can speed up injury recovery by reducing pain, stiffness and muscle tension; improving movement and circulation around joints; and attending to both the injury and any secondary pain that may develop from favoring the injury.
Structural integration is generally performed over a series of ten sessions. This approach allows the Rolfer to affect the client’s structure in a methodical manner. This includes loosening superficial fascia before working deeper areas, improving support in feet and legs before affecting higher structures, and helping clients find ways to benefit from freer movement in their daily activities.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe anxiety disorder with typical treatment being medications and/or psychotherapy. IRI and senior iRest teachers work with those experiencing trauma, their physicians and caregivers to navigate the symptoms of PTSD, and often associated conditions such as phobias, suicidal feelings, mood disorders, insomnia, fatigue, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, all of which can be debilitating. In working with traumas of the mind, as well as severe traumas in the body, iRest has helped navigate recovery and increase coping skills. iRest is integrative in that it heals the various unresolved issues, traumas, and wounds that are present in the body and mind, and restorative in that it aids the body and mind in returning to a natural state of functioning. iRest fosters freedom from stress and trauma, and helps identify and heal destructive tendencies that otherwise can impede the healing process.
In addition to traditional approaches such as psychotherapy, counseling and case work support, the military healthcare system is embracing evidence-based mind-body modalities including iRest, yoga, meditation, massage and acupuncture to address the burgeoning healthcare needs of military communities. A growing body of research indicates that mind-body approaches can help people interweave healthy lifestyle practices into their daily lives that help alleviate pain, promote better sleep, increase resiliency, reduce anxiety and teach self-care management into their daily lives at a fraction of the cost of traditional therapies.
Overall CAM (Complementary and Adjunctive Medicine) use in the military (44.5%) is higher than that in comparable civilian surveys (36.0% and 38.3%). Military personnel reported using three CAM stress-reduction therapies at 2.5–7 times the rate of civilians. Among the military, high utilization of CAM practices that reduce stress may serve as markers for practitioners assessing an individual's health and well-being. (Source: Military Report More complementary and Alternative Medicine Use than Civilians. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jan 16. PMID: 23323682) iRest offers the men and women serving in the Armed Forces and veterans in all walks of civilian life, a simple tool for healing through the variety of symptoms and issues that they are facing while actively serving or after being discharged from the service of our country.
Testimonials“I am currently the Clinical Director for an Intensive Outpatient Program that treats Wounded Warriors with the invisible wounds of traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder after multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade and more. The Warriors are able to regain their grounding and move forward in their recovery and reintegration into continued active duty service or return to the community.” John Golden, Captain US Public Health Service (USPHS) Military Treatment Facility
“I have been doing this yoga nidra now for about 3 years and I have gotten to a point now that I don’t have to take any medication for my blood pressure. And I don’t take anything for sleeping, so it has made a big improvement.” Tom Rusneck Vietnam Veteran
"Instead of feeling like there is something wrong with us, iRest makes us feel like there is something right with us." Gilbert M. Iraq War Veteran
"I truly believe that iRest helps to save my life every day. It has given me the hope and strength I needed to reconnect myself to the world again.” U.S. Marine Iraq War Veteran (3 deployments.
The origins of IRI and iRest are deeply tied to the service and support of the US Military. In 2006, the Department of Defense conducted research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) on the efficacy of Yoga Nidra (an ancient meditative practice dating back to 2500 B.C.E.). Renamed Integrative Restoration, or iRest for short, the protocol was developed and led by Richard Miller, PhD. The study was conducted with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In June of 2010, iRest was endorsed by the US Army Surgeon General and Defense Centers of Excellence as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Following the 2006 study, the Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC) at WRAMC integrated the iRest protocol into its weekly treatment program for soldiers. iRest programs were subsequently set up at VA facilities in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Illinois and Tennessee. iRest is currently supporting active duty, veterans and families of service members in over 50 veterans administration hospitals and military bases/hospitals across the United States.