May 27, 2013

Three years ago I left the corporate world to advocate for individuals living with mental illness. And my decision to “come out” as a person with a mental illness has been essential to my work. Advocating has helped me accomplish things I did not know I was capable of. (A wonderful surprise at the age of 60!) One of those things is becoming a children’s book author! I have finished two in a series of five books. My first is focused on bipolar disorder within a family. And my second is about trauma, I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me (a loving lesson about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for families).

In the book, the main character is a little boy named Hank. Hank’s dad has returned from Afghanistan and is showing signs of PTSD. Hank starts to notice and has a healthy concern about his Dad. They talk, share their fears and physical reactions and through this they come to understand that healing can happen.

We all know there are an incredible number of men and women in our military who are living with (PTSD) and more will be diagnosed. Speaking realistically it is impossible for all of them to get the proper amount of care and type of care they need. I saw a way I could make a small but important contribution toward trauma healing. Because PTSD affects every family member, I decided to write my book for families: to open up a discussion about how PTSD is affecting them.

The discussion begins about what PTSD means to their family and most importantly taking that giant step toward compassion and support and love needed for traumatic healing.

In fact, it is an example of the goal of one of NAMI’s signature programs! The NAMI Family-to-Family education program has proven the importance of a family support system. (I am honored to teach this class that is designed for caregivers of individuals living with severe mental illness.) The 12-week program teaches family members strategies for handling crises and relapses and provides up-to-date information on medications, mental illness and support groups and services within the community.

Shortly before I wrote this book, I also discovered a trauma healing technique called Somatic Experiencing (SE). While forms of talk therapy work for some, for me it only seemed to make me relive my trauma. Somatic Experiencing is a body-awareness approach to trauma. I greatly respect SE because it is compassion based and asks the question “What happened to you?” and not “What is wrong with you?”

My goal is to become a SE facilitator within the next three years and hopefully focus on our veterans. (Yet another way I am surprising myself!)

Memorial Day is one of gratitude to our past and present armed services. But that gratitude must be shown every day. We must show this gratitude by doing everything we can to support these men and women in healing and becoming whole once.

Connee Gorman is a mental health advocate, educator and author of I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me.

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