This Hobie will be our home for most of the summer, 2552 miles down the mississippi River. Testing and training in San Diego. Follow us on Face book to get regular updates on Tom, Scrubs and the rest of our team this summer.
This Hobie will be our home for most of the summer, 2552 miles down the mississippi River. Testing and training in San Diego. Follow us on Face book to get regular updates on Tom, Scrubs and the rest of our team this summer.
I am spending as much time as I can on the water these days. I really need to know how to use this boat and I have to make sure Scrubs is not just comfortable but safe. She seems to enjoy it and she actually sleeps a lot when we are out on the water. I guess after riding 4000 miles on the back of my bicycle, lying on a trampoline and gliding above the water would seem like a vacation for her.
To me, this all seems a lot less dangerous than 4000 miles on the interstate and on the side of Route 66 which I encountered on last year’s Amazingly awesome bike trip across the country. I will be careful. I’m interested in the current, the turbulence in the wakes, in the shoreline and how it changes as we go down south. I can’t wait to feel the Mississippi and how she holds us and pushes us down river. I would like to take a picture of every mile of the shoreline so I when I am done I would have 2552 pictures.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What if you were afraid yet had to rely on your own personal courage? We all have courage and the day my courage was tested is a day I will not soon forget. Courage is not endless yet there is no chart on which to measure, but all courage has its limits. I am sure if you take a moment you can remember a time when your own courage was tested and the feeling of reaching the limit and telling yourself that it was a close call. I have found myself, more times than I can count in the past years, relying on my courage. Most of the time It was an expected feeling and I actually put myself it that situation. For instance, the summer of 2008 while in Dyea, Alaska coming face to face with an Alaskan brown bear (grizzly bear) the urge to run fast and far from this magnificent creature was stifled by my desire to take his picture and to enjoy that very moment. The feeling of adrenalin pumping through my body with all its might is something I will never forget. It’s the unexpected courage that is the hardest to deal with, all the while feeling I have reached my limit of courage yet somehow pushing myself to extend the limit just a little bit further.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know, but if you keep reading, I will keep writing and try to explain a time in my not so distant past when I reached my absolute limit. It was my courage to live. I had convinced myself, and was content with my plan, to end my life. That’s when someone close to me had to get up the courage to call the police, my doctor, and the VA hospital to get me the help I needed so desperately. I hated this person for that. I realize that hate is a strong word, but it is not strong enough to describe my feelings. “I had a plan, and you screwed everything up. I hate you!” I think were my exact words. I held on to that for a very long time. This week I found myself needing to do the right thing and not taking the feel-good easy way out of a bad situation. I had to call and get help for someone who was not able to help himself. The battle in my head and the battle with my heart were powerful. I realized I was being selfish and thinking about how he was affecting me and I did not want him to hate me the way I so easily once hated. I pulled up the courage and made the call for help. This only took seconds to make up my mind, but it felt like an eternity.
After this emergency was out of my hands and in the control of a doctor, I sat and cried, once again feeling the adrenalin of courage I am so very familiar with. I just went numb, but started to feel I did the right thing. Then I realized I did not just help this person but I also recognized the hate I once felt toward the person who had helped me. This was a gift I was not able to recognize in my time of need. Today, however, I did recognize it as a true gift, so I called the person from my past and said I was sorry for putting her in a position that made her have to call the police. Just like that, the hate I have felt all these years toward this person was gone.
The courage to fight the stigma of PTSD is something I battle every day. The comfortable feel-good place of hiding in my house is just not an option I am willing to settle for. So if you need to seek help but are worried about being labeled with PTSD remember it is not a weakness to ask for help. It takes courage to tell a friend or make a phone call but you are not alone and “If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet, to have hope.”
I drove to church this morning. I did not get much sleep last night; my head was filled with thoughts of self-doubt about PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013. I don’t think I can do this again, leave the safety of my room for that long again. I just can’t do it. It is just too scary. When I arrived at church someone hit the panic button (me), made a U turn and home I went. For the last 6 hours the trip was just not going to happen. I just can’t do it.
Just the stigma of being diagnosed with PTSD is too much for me to do anything about. I am just one person. I can’t fix this or change anything so why am I putting myself in this position of embarrassing myself by crying during a presentation? Why should I leave the comfort of my house? At times, going out in public feels horrible. Last night at 3:30 in the morning I convinced myself this is not for me. I quit.
Then I received an email when I arrived home from church (Thank you Lord! Read you loud and clear.) from someone who followed me on the web last year as Scrubs and I left the comfort zone of my house to head east on a bicycle. I read this email with tears. Feeling inspired, I read a poem I wrote on my trip last summer entitled “My Pilgrimage”. I may not have made it into the sanctuary today, though I feel God was cool with me feeling like crap, but not ok with me quitting. I would like to share, with their permission, three letters from individuals I had the pleasure of receiving on last year’s trip.
First Email: Thanks for this service as well as for your service to your country. This certainly seems to be on the forefront of something we are going to have to be dealing with for a long time and from now on. Thanks for being there and doing this. And helping me to be still for a while. Peace be with you as you travel out-of-doors. ~ From someone you do not know.
Second Email: What a wonderful journey to bring awareness to PTSD. My kids’ dad was a Vietnam vet, who spent 27 years suffering before receiving his VA benefits, and then died 5 years later from the fallout of PTSD. He would have loved to see your journey, and I believe he can from heaven now. He left behind 93 handwritten pages of his memories of war that we cherish now. I so wish you could come all the way to Maine….our coastline is incredible, in both southern, and down east Maine. I am a 26 yr postal employee, who is grateful for this job that has supported my family all these years. God Bless you in your efforts to share with the world, the effects of war. You are bringing light to the darkness by sharing your gift.
I have to tell you about one line in particular that stands out from the 93 pages left behind by our PTSD vet, deceased in 2002, chronicling war and its fallout. As his plane landed with new soldiers in Vietnam, he spotted a large barn surrounded by blood. Being a small town farm boy from Maine, he was certain this must be the butcher shop where they prepare the animals to be fed to the troops. As the plane got closer, he realized this is where they brought the wounded soldiers. Those memories along with survivor’s guilt haunt a person for life. His nights brought out the memories, as he relived those stories to me. For a young bride of 20, those stories then became like ‘bedtime stories’ to me. I became educated on the horrors of war, and remember those stories vividly now 40 yrs later.
Third Email: I have a husband that has PTSD not from combat but, he was a Forensic Service Officer in Australia. I was researching on the web for a simple definition of PTSD (not that there is anything simple about PTSD) and I found your web page. I just had to write to you and tell you what an inspiration I thought you are. We have lived with PTSD for eight years now and I will not lie and say it has been easy but I must say it is people like you that give us inspiration to keep going. Thank you for helping me with my research of a definition, and I wish you all the courage and strength in your journey. Keep safe.
You are most welcome to use my letter to you, and I have to thank you for putting me in touch with some new friends, we have shared a lot of information (mostly them sharing with me) and they have been very encouraging.
I too have started an education program out here in Australia and the NSW Police Dept are piloting us shortly (we have named our group HeadsUp NSW Inc.) . My husband is an ex-police Officer and with him telling his story about his PTSD and myself telling the story from a family point of view, it makes an impact on the audience. Keep talking Tom, keep educating, as one of my psychs told me, just one voice can make a difference. If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet, to have hope.
PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013 must continue! Last year our actions encouraged a family on the other side of the world to start an awareness program. With 18 PTSD suicides in the United States every day one of our veterans takes their life every 80 minutes. This has to STOP with your help and support. Just one voice can make a difference. If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet. If you are able to support us on PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013 please do so. I will not let you down. To all of my fellow veterans, I say THANK YOU for your service and remember it not a weakness to ask for help. I have PTSD and I just rode my bicycle 4,012 miles with my service dog. That’s not weak. Please keep up the encouraging words and support and don’t forget to thank a vet for their service.
My name is Thomas Skinner. I am a US Army veteran currently raising awareness about a very real wound called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with my service dog “Scrubs”. I am reaching out to veterans and their families in an extraordinary way. My goal is not only to help veterans understand PTSD, but also to help civilians understand the stigma attached to the diagnosis of PTSD. No person is quite the same after serving in the military and many carry the invisible scars of duty for a lifetime.
Last year I rode my bicycle 4,012 miles from San Diego, California to the National Center for PTSD in Vermont. Along the way, I gave my formal presentation entitled “What Comes After Welcome Home” to churches, civic groups, businesses, museums, and colleges as well as being featured in newspaper articles, local television news, and a main feature on National Public Radio. I am thankful for my sponsors PlanetBike, and Performance bike for the amazing support and supplies on last year’s Awareness Adventure.
This summer, for “Awareness Adventure 2013”, I will be canoeing 2,552 miles down the Mississippi River from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana to again call attention to PTSD. I will give my presentation along the way in numerous towns and cities as i travel down river raising awareness about PTSD and the stigma attached. Media outlets, businesses and corporate sponsors will be an integral part of helping me spread the word and raise more awareness for understanding PTSD.
An adventure of this magnitude requires the support of many individuals and groups. My first major supporter, and now the program management, is the United Church of Christ of La Mesa, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in La Mesa, CA. All funding, support and donations are managed through them and are tax deductible.
As a business person or concerned individual, you may be in the position to show your support for this project by adding your donation of money, equipment or supplies. Corporate sponsors are also necessary for the larger items that will be required to complete my mission down the Mississippi. My committee can work with you in many ways to spread the word about your involvement. I really need your support for this incredible mission. Anything you can do to help is greatly appreciated by all of us; Thomas Skinner, the United Church of Christ of La Mesa and by the thousands of Veterans and related Civilians that will be touched by our mission.
On Wednesday I will be speaking at an event in San Diego. I will be giving demonstrations of what scrubs dose to help with PTSD. Hope to see you.
2013 Behavioral Health Panel: Psychological Trauma and Its AftermathPsychological Trauma and Its Aftermath
An estimated 70% of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives.* Whether abuse, an unexpected death, surgery, an accident, combat, or a mass disaster, the effects of trauma can last well after the event itself. Our reactions to trauma are varied and complex. Learn more about what makes an experience traumatic and therapeutic options for individuals experiencing trauma-related symptoms. *From PTSDAlliance.org
For more information, call (858) 637-3231
The Behavorial Health Committee of Jewish Family Service of San Diego provides resources and services for coping and living with mental illness and seeks to eliminate stigma by increasing community awareness. Linda Janon – Founder of the Behavorial Health Committee
Today was probably one of the hardest days in my recovery with PTSD. I have not been riding my bicycle. I have not been leaving the house. Maybe three or four times in the last month. My avoidance has gotten out of hand these days. I find it easier to come up with a reason not to go outside a lot quicker than I used to. My anxiety level goes way down when I’m at home. But at the same time I feel like I’m putting myself in a cage. Isolation seems to be my best friend, and the safest bet.
Today I received a wonderful thank you from my very dear friend about PTSD awareness on my Facebook page. I did not reply, I guess I was feeling guilty because I haven’t done anything in the last few months to raise awareness about PTSD. I hadn’t done anything to even take care of myself.
So I took what feels like the biggest step of my life – I asked a friend for help. That moment of silence after I asked felt like an eternity. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. It’s hard to tell someone you are basically stuck in your bedroom and you need their help to get out. My friend said yes. It’s going to feel good to get back on my bicycle again. Well mentally it’ll feel good, but physically it’s probably going to hurt. It’s going to hurt bad.
Since the http://www.understandingptsd.org/ptsd-awareness-adventure-2012/national-center-for-ptsd-finish-line/I really haven’t posted much on my blog. I didn’t know what to say since I was not riding anymore. Visitors from my blog started writing to me telling me about their situations and what they’re going through; their personal dealings with posttraumatic stress disorder. I had not prepared myself for that part of writing about PTSD. I was not prepared for the response. So I just quit writing.
I’ve done a couple presentations in California. I even went to a festival and made some new friends. All thanks to a new friend of mine that taught me to think about things in a different way. That worked for a while.
I have so many new friends on Facebook. They “like” my pictures. I “like” theirs. For those of you familiar with Facebook I was given big thumbs up everywhere, the thumbs were flying. Unfortunately I had convinced myself that I was making new friends and being social. I would text my friends on Facebook, people that I only met once. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good friends I just can’t get out of the house. I now realize that on my pictures I was pretty much alone. And my friends were in big groups and at parties out in public. Coming to that realization I sunk even deeper.
I absolutely hated the fact that I had to ask for help. I did not like the way it made me feel about myself. I did not like having to admit how mentally weak I was. I’ve been a soldier – I can handle it. I just rode my bicycle 4000 miles! So I became pretty angry with myself and very, very disappointed.
Christmas Eve was probably my hardest day of 2012. That’s when I decided that I needed to ask for help. I didn’t get any help or relief that night and I forced myself to try to have a good time. On Christmas day I knew exactly who it was going to be. It took me about 8 days to build up the courage to ask for help. If you are dealing with PTSD, remember it’s not a weakness to ask for help.
Commentary: La Mesa UCC’s Welcome Home Ministries fills a void
Written by Rev. Stephen Boyd
September 17, 2012
Rev. Stephen Boyd with Tom Skinner and his service dog, Scrubs
On Sept. 9, the United Church of Christ of La Mesa (Calif.) welcomed home one of its own – Thomas Skinner and his service dog, Scrubs. Tom had recently returned from a cross-country bicycle ride to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As a young man, he enlisted in the Army in 1985 and served his country well. However, through the subsequent years following his discharge, he realized that he had changed and began to experience symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as PSTD. In an effort to raise awareness of this rapidly increasing social phenomenon, Tom and Scrubs set out from La Mesa on March 10 for a cross-country bicycle ride that would take them to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in White River Junction Vt.
The UCC of La Mesa has been Tom’s family church for most of his life. Watching him grow as a child and witnessing the eventual changes of PTSD, the congregation created the Welcome Home Ministries to raise PTSD awareness and to support Tom in his more than 4,000-mile trek to the National Center for PTSD. Created in 1989 within the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Center offers research and education on the prevention, understanding and treatment of PTSD. Currently, there are seven divisions nationwide that support men and women who are working through the challenges of this medical condition.
Tom arrived at the National PTSD Center on June 27, PTSD Awareness Day, successfully completing his goal and sharing his presentation, “What Comes After Welcome Home,” with many folks along the way. The power and significance of Tom’s presentation were that he shared his personal story. Through his own experiences, Tom was able to help other veterans, church members and people, understand and recognize the signs, symptoms and effects of PSTD. In addition, as he shared in his presentation at the Welcome Home celebration, it was an educational experience for him as well. He learned of the many men and women across this nation who live with PSTD, and received a deeper appreciation for the variety of human experiences which can result from this devastating and debilitating condition.
Tom’s Welcome Home was a great celebration. The congregation was obviously supportive and filled with pride, knowing that they had been an integral part of his success. Tom gave his presentation with a great sense of accomplishment and treated those present with a demonstration, showing how Scrubs takes great care with him by managing his environment and surroundings.
While his objective to bring the message of life during PTSD was clear, he continues to be a man with a mission. At the heart of his message is a growing sensitivity to not only our returning veterans, but everyone who has lived through a life-altering experience. However, specifically with the increase in the suicide rates among our men and women in uniform, the stress of deployments and family separation, moral injury and the challenges of service members living in harm’s way, PSTD is a real and integral part of our society.
In addition to celebrating Tom, it was wonderful to celebrate a congregation who is taking the return of our veterans and their reintegration into our communities seriously. The UCC of La Mesa’s Welcome Home Ministries has taken the first step in making a commitment to the San Diego area to be a place where veterans can feel safe and begin the challenging journey of re-entry into family, faith and community life.
On a personal note, I met Tom and Scrubs a year ago at the General Synod in Tampa. Scrubs was busy serving Tom, and Tom was out there extending himself, telling his story and seeking out others who needed his brand of hope. Through our visit this past week, I can say that Tom has been clearly changed by his trip. A year of presenting his personal story, ambitiously riding his bicycle across the United States, and reaching out to many has made quite a difference in Tom’s life. He will tell you that you are not cured of PTSD – you learn to live with it and control it. It is apparent that he is doing just that. Congratulations to Tom, Scrubs and the UCC of La Mesa for a job well done.
Written by Jeff Woodard
June 19, 2012
Click on above link to read full article
This is not just a story about me riding my bicycle across the country. This is so much more. This is a story about people helping people from coast to coast. I have had countless people supporting me, encouraging me and thanking me for raising awareness about our military heroes living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as Scrubs and I cross the country on a bicycle.
I managed to make it all the way to Chicago before my knees finally drove me to seek some help at the VA hospital emergency room. I was supplied with two hinged knee braces. That seemed to give me some relief for a while. I managed to make it all the way to Cleveland, Ohio before my body just could not take it anymore. I had made up my mind that Cleveland was going to be my final destination. My knees were just too painful. Me, my bike, all of my gear and my service dog weighed 400 pounds.
Out of desperation I remembered some people that I had met in San Diego just days before my trip: Ron and Renee from New York City, and their friend Jay. I decided to drop them an email asking if they had any ideas on who could help me with a sag wagon. Just 24 hours later two heroes from NYC, Ron and Renee, had built a custom carbon fiber 8-speed bicycle geared just for the hills of Pennsylvania, using only a picture of me taken months ago to judge the size of the bicycle I would need. Sussex Bike and Sport Shop in Wantage, New Jersey donated supplies for our journey. With their truck packed and the bikes racked, Ron and Renee drove 8 hours to meet me in Ohio. In Ron’s own words, “Nobody quits in Ohio. Not on my watch. You have come too far to quit now.” Ron and Renee, along with so many others, have sent me such wonderful emails during my trip as they follow me via my blog/website.
Well, 230 miles later, here we sit in a wonderful B&B called The Inn on Maple Street in Port Allegany, Pennsylvania 2,720 miles from my home in San Diego. We’re having dinner with the B&B owners Sharen and Jay on the front porch of their 120-year old home. Ron and Renee have taken turns biking with me, and Scrubs is safe and sound riding in an air-conditioned truck as I get to ride through the Allegheny National Forest on a bicycle that weighs less than 20 pounds. My knees feel great and Ron and Renee are the best company I could have ever asked for. This is the sort of selflessness and generosity that I have could have never imagined in a million years, yet here I am in the company of heroes helping me to achieve my goal and to arrive on time with my PTSD service dog Scrubs to our final destination the National Center for PTSD located in Vermont on the 27th of this month.