Avoiding Compassion Burnout

 How PTSD Affects the Family

Awareness Adventure 2013

San Diego

I follow Love Our Vets on Facebook one of many, dealing with PTSD. I read an article today on their Page and just had to contact them. Less than an hour and Welby O’Brien gave me permission to use her article on my website.

Those of us who love someone with PTSD are especially susceptible to burn-out. Compassion fatigue. Although the month of November is dedicated to Caregiver Support, every day of the year we need to support the supporters! What can we who give and love day in and day out do to keep from dying on the vine in our noble efforts to care for the needs of someone we love?

We all have unique warning signals, sent to us graciously by our own bodies, to let us know we need to make some changes. For me it is insomnia, headache, grinding teeth, and forgetting to breathe. (That one is pretty important!) :)   When we get better at tuning in to our body’s loving messages, then we are better able to do what we NEED to do in order to be at our best. If we burn out, then we are no good to anyone!

Recently I was received a desperate call from a wife of a veteran with PTSD. She was at her breaking point. Total collapse! Burn out in every sense of the word. It took over an hour to calm her down and get her to just breathe. Then we focused on what she could do for HERSELF, one sense at a time. Warm tea, a bubble bath, bowl of soup, her favorite CD, a massage, prayer, connection with her counselor, and a walk. She had gone way too long without caring for herself and it almost did her in. She is now much more aware of her limitations and when to take time out for her. A good reminder for all of us.

The reason I asked Welby O’Brien if i could repost this blog was it struck a nerve when I read it. I first started going to the Va Hospital in San Diego mid 2010. I was married with children. I went to the VA every Friday to see my doctor. Not one time was the Caregiver program mentioned to me or my family. I am now divorced.  Would the program have helped to save my marriage? We will never know.

VA Caregiver Link

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Bicycle Travel with Tom and Scrubs

Tom Skinner and his PTSD Service dog Scrubs are at it again. Starting in November 2013 we will set out on our bicycle from California heading to Texas and then we will travel all the way up to Alaska. Tom and Scrubs will be giving presentations along the way to raise awareness about PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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No Finish Line For Winners



Have you ever had someone in your life who disappointed you? Have you ever had someone in your life that you could count on disappointing you? I am guessing your answer is yes. That person is probably not in your life anymore, or at the least the time you commit and spend together is very limited. I feel I am constantly disappointing people, and that’s very discouraging to me. I DONT WANT TO BE THAT GUY that’s allways letting you down. I am very disappointed in myself because I am happiest when I have no commitment to anyone and I know I don’t have to go anywhere and I can just stay home in peace, free of panic attacks. If I do leave the house, I prefer it be at night. I love the dark, I feel safer, but from what? I have no idea. The anxiety attacks are very real, at times just as mild as the rash on your arm or as severe as the car accident you are in, and you find yourself pinned in the wreckage waiting for someone to pull you out. Today I was supposed to be at church to help my mom with a special service we have once a year. I find myself stuck in the wreckage waiting for someone to pull me out. Once again letting someone down. Once again letting myself down. This is getting old.

I had an idea a few weeks ago to just disappear off the grid. I am so tired of being a financial burden to anyone. If it were not for my family supporting me I would have already. Recently I was with a group helping vets and the topic was veterans with PTSD but their symptoms of PTSD went, in my opinion, completely unnoticed that day, but not to me. I noticed the vets not talking to others and the ones facing the door. I could go on and on about the signs from this invisible injury. The signs to me are written in bright neon, very easy to see. Understanding PTSD is not an easy thing to do. I don’t understand PTSD but I can relate to how other are feeling. The symptoms are just crazy, at least that’s the way I sound when I hear myself describe them while doing a presentation or just having a conversation with a friend.

Remember the last homeless person with a sign asking for help? What did you think, how did you feel, what did you do? I know I avoid eye contact at all costs. If I am far enough away I stare, wondering if that will be me soon. Sometimes I give money, but most of the time I don’t have any to give. Right now I am driving by in my jeep with the ac on, But I ask myself if I will be asking him or her to help me survive when I am homeless. The thought of finally taking care of myself by myself is so important to me. The thought of being homeless is scary, but a very possible reality. I know I have huge red flags staring me in the face such as at times my inability to leave the house. My comfort zone is a very small area and feels like it’s getting smaller. I have got to do something about this and soon. I am not the same person I used to be. When I am safe in my comfort zone I am still that person. I remember the me that was in marching band, 4-H president, FFA president, helping out at church, employed and hanging out with friends. That shit just scares the hell out of me now when I even think of leaving the comfort of my house. I need to change my words to change my world.

The name of my website as you already know is understandingPTSD. I did not pick that name, a friend of mine did. I forget what I had come up with. Well, he was right. The number of people trying to understand PTSD is overwhelming. It’s been several months since my last post. In that time I have had 2,141 page views on understandingPTSD from 49 states and 24 countries. Seems like we are all trying to understand.

Mississippi River Camp

Mississippi River Camp

I called off the Mississippi River trip about 150 miles down river from my starting point. It’s my own fault I HAD THE WRONG BOAT For that particular part of the river. I think if I had had a sea kayak and less gear and no dog I would still be on the water, but that’s not the case. Scrubs’ face was puffy from all the mosquito and fly bites. She was constantly soaked. The high north bound wind as it funneled up the river, and the south bound daily thunder storm-fed current kept me bouncing and spinning and breaking things. So I called it off. That decision has kicked my ass to this day. I feel like I have let a lot of people down. Most of all I let myself down. Am I too old, did I try hard enough, did I try too hard?Understanding PTSD Mississippi River

I am not trying to treat or cure anyone’s PTSD with my blog. I am trying to help you understand it as i try to understand it myself . It started out as a journal entry while I was trying to understand PTSD. Talking to the doctors at the VA I can remember feeling normal, which is part of my problem. I loved the part in my school day while in high school when I was in a packed band room. I remember working in the mall at Woolworth’s. I allways had a group of friends around me. John, Danny, Jason, Carry, Sue, Matt, Angie, Brett, Heatherly. The list changed over the years but I have always hung out with my friends. Now those things scare the hell out of me. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. As I sit here in the frount seat of my jeep, Scrubs is asleep next to me and I am perfectly fine, but it has gotten to the point where I have anxiety attacks just thinking about going out in public. I hate in when my mom goes shopping on a Friday evening, it so crowded. My niece working in a crowded restaurant, there is not enough money to get me to do that. That’s the part I don’t understand. It always has been so easy for me to make money. I have been working since I was 15. Now I find myself having troubles even finding a volunteer job. I get no benfits from the government since they claim they have lost my military records.

Recently someone from my church, while having a meal at a restaurant, ridiculed someone for being different and not up to his standards and, after thinking about it for a while, he posted it on face book for everyone to get a good laugh. More often than not I feel like I am that guy, with a service dog. The stigma from the media doesn’t help much either.

Fortunately my 3 year old daughter could not care less if we stay home and play or read a book with grandma. I enjoy listening to the song she makes up from watching Sesame Street that only she really knows what she is saying, and she sings it ALL DAY LONG. We go for bicycle rides at the beach, and we go camping. Being out in public, my anxiety still gets the best of me. One problem is my friends don’t understand how much I rely on my service dog Scrubs. She gets so used to them petting her even though I really don’t want them to pet her they do anyway. So I have anxiety about going out in public with them. Scrubs ‘ only reward is me petting her so if she is around me and my friends are giving her attention she is not working for me. So I stay by myself. Camping, bicycling, photography. I am running out of time before my daughter will be in school, and if grandma Jo has anything to say about it she will be in music lessons, and give her a chance with community theater. Her life is about to take a huge change come Kindergarten. I am not panicking yet but the thought of it is putting a time frame on my recovery. Courtney is my pride and joy and my number one priority, my motivation.

Bicycle Travel

Route 66 Arizona, Tom and Scrubs

My bicycle trip across the county from San Diego to the national center for PTSD in Vermont in 2012, I feel, catapulted my recovery in so many ways. For instance, exposure therapy. When I first started I would cry and get quite emotionally involved. The more I did my presentation the less those stories bothered me. Not having the ability to just sit in the house, on my bicycle I really had no place to hide. I had to face people, talk to people, I had to keep going and I did it. The exercise became a drug. My first flat tire really bummed me out. My 10th flat tire was just part of my day. No big deal. That hill is not in my way it is the way. Remember boys and girls, he who peddles up the hill gets to coast down the other side. One of the great rewards of bicycle travel.

How do you train for a cross country ride? I believe it’s more mental than physical. The ride will physically train you as you go. It did for me. My first day out last year was 50 miles up the coast, I thought I was going to die. Oh, the pain I was in. One week later my longest day of the trip was138 miles and it was fun. The mental side of the trip was much more challenging and that’s my reasoning for a second trip. I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need that finish line. I need that sense of accomplishment

PTSD awareness adventure 2013 did not work out as planned that’s for sure but I am wondering if PTSD Awareness Adventure second attempt would be a success. I want to bicycle to some new destination to open a new book. I will not do as many formal presentations but instead do many more informal presentations. Talk to more civic/government groups. Talk with more organizations working with service dogs for vets. Talk to more people, and, above all, work on my anxiety. I have all the equipment I will need, and, in my opinion, some of the best equipment. Between the equipment from the first bicycle trip and the equipment I acquired for the kayak trip, Scrubs and I are set. We do need a new gopro camera. (Hint Hint). We will fully embrace bicycle travel and what it has to offer such as warmshowers.org and other great bicycle touring recources. Now the hard part is to try and convince others I can do this after the disappointing kayak trip.

I have learned from other blogs, and a lot from the school of hard knocks: the ups and downs , the dos and do nots of bicycle travel, how to find places to stay, (shower) how much food and water to Carry and the proper way to eat. Yes, what you eat and drink is definitely not the same. The transition of living out of a bicycle took about 2 weeks or so when everything I was carrying finally found a permant place on the bike. Loading, unloading, flat tire changes all became second nature. The mental and physical challanges of where I would sleep at night,

Pig Barn Home away from home

Pig Barn Home away from home

rest area, woods, side of the road, old gold mine, pig barn at the fair grounds, a really old route 66 motel.

Route 66 Motel room $22.00 a night

Route 66 Motel room $22.00 a night

someone’s backyard or guest room, hotel. Penthouse apartment in Manhattan, hot springs miles from anyone 9,000 feet up in the New Mexico mountains were some of the finest thoughts I would have during the trip. It was definitely not easy doing it every night but it was fun. So many people travel with reservations and such. My bed for the night planning started when I got up and ended when I found the place I knew nothing about and I called it home. Living in the moment became a way of life. I started thinking what I could do right then and there to solve my problem and that’s what I would work on. Is it the place I will camp In front of me, the rain above me, the flat tire below me, the divorce I am trying to get over, or the 20th dog biting at my heels that brings that burst of energy laced with adrenalin that I need? I was not safe in my house, I was solving problems on my own. I so need another dose of living in the moment, that sense of accomplishment from getting out of my tent and riding and learning patience, having to wait, working hard to see the next state welcome sign. So far, exercise seems to be the best drug for my anxiety. This bicycle trip raising awareness about PTSD is important to me on so many levels.

Thomas Skinner UnderstandingPTSD Illinois

Thomas Skinner UnderstandingPTSD Illinois

The last bicycle trip I thought was a failure when I finished. I was back home again. I remember the disappointment when I knew I wasn’t better. I had convinced myself the finish line at the national center for PTSD was going to be my cure for PTSD, but it wasn’t, or so I thought. What took me 15 months to realize and someone else I know feeling the same way after recently completing a big accomplishment was I really did get better, much better, in fact. I can do my presentation without crying, I can talk about PTSD, my stories don’t bother me as much as they once did. I realize that’s all I focused on and I got better. The symptoms I ignored stayed with me. Let me explain. I did not work at socializing. Most of the time I stayed by myself. I don’t want to make this trip about the finish line, I want to make it about living outside of my comfort zone or about making everything my comfort zone. Either way ! have work to do.

I have spent weeks working on this blog. Writing, adding and deleting. This text is when I knew I had an ending to this blog. Funny thing is, my friend was at a seminar in Texas on PTSD when we sent these texts.

Understanding PTSD TEXT

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Hobie Kayak gearing up for the Mississippi River

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.




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PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013 New Kayak

DCIM100GOPROI 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.

As I start to talk to people about this year’s PTSD Awareness Adventure, the comments and responses I’ve been getting lately all focus on the water. People talk about the currents, the river barge traffic, tugboat traffic, and speedboats. They talk about the locks and dams and portaging.

Army Vet, Thomas Skinner

PTSD Awareness Adventure 2012

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.

The ocean is pretty tough in this little craft. I get beat up or at least that was what I was feeling the first time out in the ocean past the breaker walls. I did not know if I could trust my equipment. The bow of my kayak would be swamped and then the waves continued until I stopped them with my body. The kayak took it in stride as yet another wave soaked us from head to toe. The cold water would take my breath away. I love that part. The tough part was me not knowing how the kayak would handle it; how I would handle it; how Scrubs would handle it. Now we sail around the bay during the week and like to hit the ocean on Mondays. I am thinking that ocean kayaking to Mississippi River kayaking styles should be a fairly safe transition.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD Service dog Scrubs has a nice spot to ride.

It may seem like we’re just playing in the bay every day on a brand-new Hobie Mirage having a good old time, but in actuality we are in training. Okay, so we are playing and having fun in the water, but for the bigger picture – my mission! I like pushing this thing really hard. I want to see what may break and what’s going to hold up before we ever leave San Diego. I am very impressed with my new Hobie. Tomorrow I will be building some custom platforms for scrubs so she has her dog bed with shade up and off the water.
PTSD service dog scrubs has a new spot on the boat

PTSD service dog scrubs has a new spot on the boat

I have a presentation coming up on May 19th at Holiday United Church of Christ in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The presentation I give is called “What Comes After Welcome Home”.  I tell my personal story, describe signs and symptoms of PTSD, and give a demonstration of Scrubs’ abilities and how she helps me with my PTSD.  This is the presentation that I will do with the new team as we kayak 2,552 miles down the Mississippi River this summer for PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013.  The schedule should be up in the next few days detailing our venture down the river!
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Stigma of PTSD

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.”

Copyright Thomas P Skinner

Brown Bear in Dyea Alaska, By Thomas Skinner

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PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


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.


Thomas Skinner Photo by Century Cycles

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.

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Mississippi River PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013

PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013

Tom Skinner and PTSD service dog Scrubs



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.


Tom and Scrubs arrive at the National Center for PTSD in Vermont


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.

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San Diego PTSD Service dog Presentation.

Service Dog

PTSD Service Dog “Scrubs”


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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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


  • Sonya B. Norman, Ph.D.
    Director of PTSD Consultation Program for the National Center for PTSD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego
  • Steven Thorp, Ph.D., ABPP
    Program Director of the PTSD Disorders Clinical Team at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego

Free Event

Congregation Beth Israel • 9001 Towne Centre Dr. • San Diego 92122

5:30-6:30pm • Resource Fair & Light Appetizers
6:45-8:30pm • Panel of Professionals

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

Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Time: 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Congregation Beth Israel
9001 Towne Centre Dr.
San Diego, CA 92122



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With A Little Help From My Friend

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.

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Understanding PTSD Fills a Void

Thomas Skinner in Pennsylvania

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.

copied from this link, thank you Reverend Boyd

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Understanding PTSD Awareness Adventure in Pictures

Continue reading

Posted in PTSD Awareness Adventure 2012 |

National Center for PTSD Finish Line

Tom Skinner and PTSD Service dog Scrubs arrive at the National Center for PTSD Finish Line

Tom Skinner and his service dog Scrubs bicycled 4012 miles from San Diego to The national Center for PTSD in Vermont to raise awareness about PTSD

Posted in PTSD Awareness Adventure 2012 |

Understanding PTSD My Pilgrimage Living in the Moment

 Bicycle Travel Helps PTSD with Tom Skinner and PTSD  Service dog Scrubs


Tom Skinner and Service dog Scrubs travel by bicycle on  the big dummy made by surly bike co to the National Center for PTSD in vermont to raise awareness about PTSD

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Support from my Church UCC

UCC part of veteran’s mission, and journey on faith, to make life better for others

Written by Jeff Woodard
June 19, 2012

 Support of my Church, UCC

Click on above link to read full article

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