Showing posts with label Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Show all posts

Saturday, December 3, 2022

‘Scars for the rest of my life’

‘Scars for the rest of my life’ victim suffering from PTSD after BK subway attack

PIX11 News
by: Magee Hickey
Posted: Dec 2, 2022
“I don’t think I’ll ever be fully OK. This was a traumatic experience,” the victim told PIX11 News. “I have a few signs of PTSD. So mentally and physically, there’ll be scars on my face for the rest of my life.”
PROSPECT LEFFERTS GARDENS, Brooklyn (PIX11) — A woman who suffered burns to her face after someone threw a chemical substance at her in a Brooklyn subway station spoke out about the attack Friday night, telling PIX11 News she will be scarred for the rest of her life.

“She was aggressive with her words and with her body language,” the 21-year-old victim told PIX11 News.

The victim wants to remain anonymous to protect her safety, but she shared pictures of the severe burns to her face. Police said it happened early Friday morning. The victim was heading to her job at Kings County Hospital. In a video taken by the victim, the suspect splashed an unknown chemical substance on the victim’s face.
read more here

When you consider that and understand that PTSD hits survivors, it seems an injustice when you read this headline,
Fewer Patients with PTSD Survive COVID
UCSF-VA Study Shows Psychiatric Disorders Increase Risks for Deaths, Hospitalizations

The first paragraph was fine,
Patients with COVID-19, who also had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were more likely to die or be hospitalized than those without a psychiatric disorder. And for patients with other mental illnesses, the risks were substantially higher.
Yet in the second paragraph, you discover the only patients they considered were veterans.
Researchers from UC San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Health Care System found that veterans with PTSD had an 8 percent increased risk of death if they had COVID and a 9 percent increased risk of hospitalization, compared with patients with the virus and without a psychiatric diagnosis, adjusting for age, sex, race and co-occurring medical conditions.

In other words, this university does not consider the rest of us. Maybe they should read the National Institute of Mental Health?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.

There was a time, a long time ago, when I focused on just veterans with PTSD. At first, it was because all the reports I read were always about veterans dealing with what they lived through. I survived over ten events just as a civilian, and I had no clue the term applied to me too. 

I had no clue what I was dealing with was a "rare form" of PTSD because, for me, the first time, I was only five, and then it was one event after another. The thing that gets me now is, with all that has been learned over the last 40 years or so, how is it that a college still fails to learn that survivors of the events we live through and the need to know we matter too are just as real? Our scars are carried for the rest of our lives too and with help, those scars heal but we won't search for hope if we don't know how many more of us there are.

All of this is also a disservice to veterans because if they understand we get hit by PTSD too from just one event, they will understand just how human they are too!


Monday, November 28, 2022

PTSD: Photography and filming became "like a lifeline."

If you have PTSD, no matter what caused it, it helps to know the differnt things that have helped others. What may work for someone you know, may not work for you. The only thing to take from that is, if it helped them, there is always something out there that can help you too!

Mental health therapy is for everyone. Some people need medication. Others don't. Some need different medications, so there are so many different ones.

Everyone also needs to take care of their "other parts" and yet again, there are many different things for you. Yoga, martial arts, walking, running, hiking, swimming, art, music, and yes, even photography. For me, it is writing.

I found this article from the BBC inspiring. I hope you do too.

PTSD: Photography helps police officer manage condition

BBC
By Helen Burchell
November 28, 2022
Photography and filming became "like a lifeline."

On Christmas Day 2017, a traffic police officer's life began slowly to unravel after he was injured during a pursuit. Two years later he underwent surgery and was told he could no longer do the job he loved. His mental health took a nosedive but he found solace in his long-time hobby - photography.

"As a traffic officer I saw things no-one should see," Det Sgt Colin Shead says.

"Now I see things I want everyone to see."

Here, he speaks candidly about his mental health, and shares some of the images that have helped him cope.

The 51-year-old officer has clocked up more than 30 years on the force, joining Essex Police's roads policing unit (RPU) in 2010.

"I'd always wanted to do traffic work, because I wanted to protect people from harm on the roads," he says. "When you start, there's the great thrill and excitement of flying around all over the place - then you get the serious side - and the fatalities.

"You're the first at the scene when someone's been killed - you see that first-hand and it takes its toll."
read more here

OK, confession, I found filming and photography healing too!


Monday, November 21, 2022

Twisted history lesson of Salem Witchcraft Trials and PTSD

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 21, 2022

If you have PTSD, then you know what it's like to have something terrible happen. If you're like me, you also know what it's like to wonder where God was when it did. I mean, it's really easy to wonder what He was doing when something horrible happened to you. It's not easy getting an answer from Him.

This series is a twisted history lesson since history is often twisted between what is perceived as "known" with the simple fact that what we think we know, is not all that is known by others.

I went beyond wondering why it happened, and full swing into wondering why the hell did I survive it? We all do that but not all of us end up like the people in the new series I wrote called The Ministers Of The Mystery.

Don't look for the book yet on Amazon. I'm not releasing it until the end of November, (hopefully, if I have the other two ready)

If you read the Lost Son series, I apologize. Instead of writing them the way I intended, I tried to conform to what other people thought. Big mistake. In a way, I'm really glad only a few people read them. These books are different because I went beyond what we perceive as all there is to know and fill in what could have happened.

Start with the Salem Witchcraft Trials. When I read about a minister being hung as a witch, a child went up my spine. Maybe I knew that when I was young and grew up near Salem, going there often, along with loving New England history. If I knew it back then, I forgot all of it.

His name was George Burroughs.
Burroughs graduated from Harvard University in 1670 and, in 1673, married his first wife Hannah Fisher.

In 1674, Burroughs moved to Falmouth, Maine where he served as the pastor at the Falmouth Congregational Church. He continued to serve as the pastor until the town was attacked and destroyed during a Wabanaki raid on August 11, 1676.

A lot has been said about what was behind the accusations against the townspeople of Salem. One of the factors behind it was that the accusers were suffering from PTSD tied to the attack Burroughs and others survived. This link goes to one of those claims along with a history lesson. I'm pointing that out because while Burroughs survived, he did not arrive in Salem Village until 1680 and served as their minister. He was only there for two years before he left after the villagers decided to not pay him.

Long story short, but even after he left, resentment held tempers strong and in 1692, they ordered his arrest to stand trial as an accused witch. What is even more telling about their determination to put an end to his life was the fact they had to go all the way up to Wells Maine to get him. Guess it didn't matter to them that he had been gone for ten years.

The more I researched what happened to him, the more questions popped into my mind. I started with the fact that this guy survived a lot of things, including losing three wives, on top of the slaughter of the people in Falmouth. Then, still holding onto his faith, he was sent to Salem as a spiritual leader trying to bring peace to people who seemed to enjoy fighting with one another. That was an easy assumption to make considering what they did to Burroughs was only part of it. They accused 200 others of witchcraft, hung 19, and crushed one to death. They got away with it simply by saying "they believed" something and never had to prove a single word of it.

The following is from SALEM WITCH TRIALS CHRONOLOGY
August 19- George Jacobs, Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Proctor, and John Willard are hanged. Although George Burroughs recites the Lord’s Prayer perfectly on the gallows (task witches were allegedly unable to complete without error), Cotton Mather insisted that “…the Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light.”
October 29- With public opinion turning against the trials, Governor Phips dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer
October 3- Boston minister Increase Mather, the father of Cotton Mather, addresses a meeting of ministers in Cambridge to warn against reliance on spectral evidence. Mather writes, “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned…”

It all got me thinking about what if God called him to become a minister, saved him in Falmouth, and brought him to Salem Village to prevent the witchcraft trials? What if the people with power, position, means, and ability to help him in 1680 did it instead of turning against him?

That all fit with the story of Chris Papadopoulos in Salem on September 13th, 2019. He was a reporter covering the War On Terror. There was a bomb blast that he survived but ended up suffering for it. His body was scared and he had to have help to recover, but his wife regretted he came back home. She hated him. He survived her trying to kill him. He survived 7 years of agony and decided to end it all his way because he lost all hope. The thing is, God had other ideas. 

Now, no matter what God wanted him to do with his life, he wouldn't have been able to do a damn thing if the people sent to help him refused to do it. The long list of characters in these books includes Master Ministers of the Mystery with the ability to use their gifts far above what is "normal" and were, at one time, called witches. Everyone sent to help Chris was ready, willing, and able. The only thing they had to do was convince Chris to do it!

The other thing they have in common is, they all have PTSD! No one understands what you're going through better than someone else struggling to make sense of it too, no matter what it is. While we know we're all different, those of our kind, are the only ones that know what it is like to live with the heartache of unanswerable questions, or what it is like to rejoice when we discover a fuller life than we thought we could have.

I found comfort over the last 40 years, by reading about others like me and being inspired by them. Whatever we know today, was written by authors and reporters. Chris was a reporter, turned author, created as a scribe to translate the messages from God to help heal the world.

This series is a twisted history lesson since history is often twisted between what is perceived as "known" with the simple fact that what we think we know, is not all that is known by others. It is the same when we live with the reality of surviving the cause of PTSD. What we know is not what the general public knows. To them, PTSD only hits veterans, because that is all the reporters focus on. They ignore the rest of us. What chance do we have to open our eyes if no one is talking about us?

It was so bad for me, that after 40 years of helping people heal PTSD, I had no clue I had it. I never read anything about someone like me. Getting help for myself was impossible because I couldn't explain it enough that anyone would understand. I finally found a therapist that did get what I was saying.

She's helping me heal after losing one of my best friends and it was a grief I couldn't just get over. He died at the beginning of the year. I was writing these books, feeling more connected to the dark parts of the story than I did to the hopeful parts. After a while, she got me to see that I did need to connect to the darkness so that I'd feel the hopeful parts more. She was right!

If people see our pain, and struggles and understand how much power they have to help us, this world will become a better place for all of us!


Series Description:
Whenever something terrible happens, we all wonder why God let it happen. Have you ever wondered why God allowed the Salem Witchcraft trials? What if someone had been sent to prevent them from happening? What if the one sent, didn't get the help he was supposed to have waiting for him?

It was a time when people claimed to be Christians but proved they did not follow the values faithfully. They made false accusations against over 200 people and rejoiced when 20 were put to death because Puritans decided to hate them. It wasn't a new phenomenon. The Puritans may have given up the persecution of so-called witches but their use of the power of lies was a lesson far too many learned. The people with gifts beyond nature were forced into hiding knowing a time would come when they too would be vindicated.

In modern-day Salem, The Master Ministers were preparing for when the most powerful one of all would take his place as the 13th Minister. All they had to do was convince Chris to do it.

The Scribe of Salem is book one. The Visionary of Salem is book two. 13th Minister of Salem is book three.

Coming next week!


Monday, October 10, 2022

Don Bolduc, less like the Centurion and more like a Pharisee!

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 10, 2022

In 2018 I wrote about suffering in silence
When it comes to PTSD, the tough talk about it. It takes a lot of courage to talk about something very few understand but it helps when you are talking to others that do. There comes a time in your life when you say that you donĂ­t care what other people say. You know where you were and you know what you lived thru. You finally understand that not many others can claim the same.
Four days later, I was happy to put up a post about a General that showed great courage in talking about his own battle with PTSD.
How many Medal of Honor recipients have to talk about their own battles with PTSD, before they understand there is nothing to be ashamed of? How many Generals have to talk about their battles, after a lifetime of battles in uniform, before you understand what courage looks like?

Ever wonder why they come forward and talk openly about something they never have to say a word about? Do they need publicity? Do they want to play "victim" and get people to feel sorry for them? Hell no! THEY DO IT TO SAVE THE LIVES OF THOSE THEY WOULD HAVE DIED FOR!
The title was Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc not suffering PTSD in silence

So how did that man with the courage to speak out on what too many were still believing they had something to be ashamed of become less like the Centurion to more like lying like a Pharisee?
Don Bolduc, a retired Army general, celebrates winning the New Hampshire primary in a tight race against state senator, Chuck Morse, on Tuesday evening, September 13, 2022, in Hampton, New Hampshire. He faces incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) in the general election. JOHN TULLY
From the start, Democrats and his fellow Republicans painted Bolduc as an extremist who took up radical positions in addition to his belief in a stolen election, including advocating for the investigation and possible elimination of the FBI after the raid on Mar-a-Lago and accusing Bill Gates of wanting to use Covid vaccines to implant microchips in Americans.
That was from a new Rolling Stone article written by a reporter that has covered Bolduc for far too long to not be shocked by the change he sees. Kevin Maurer tried to report the truth against what Bolduc appears to be.
In a recent TV commercial and in his official bio, Bolduc’s campaign alludes to, or flat-out claims, him leading “allied soldiers on horseback to kill terrorists.” The story of the Special Forces team that fought with the Northern Alliance on horseback in northern Afghanistan led to a statue in New York and the 2018 movie 12 Strong. But Bolduc didn’t serve with that team. The Washington Post gave a 2020 version of the ad two Pinocchios.

New Hampshire has been my home for the last three years but for most of my life, I lived in New England. This area of the country has never been about putting politics and what was easy above all else. We are made of strong stock and sturdy foundations. Sure, we get political but it was never like I've seen over the last few years. I wish this were a normal political year when I would consider voting for a Republican. As an Independent voter, I vote for one person over the political side they choose. Apparently, Bolduc has chosen power over our country and has caused great sadness in my soul.

I have watched true heroes succumb to the father of lies for pure power and wonder if it was worth surrendering their souls to do it.

"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
John 8:44

How could anyone so faithful to this country betray the foundation it was built on? The rule of law requires evidence, not simple claims of what some believe because they do not like the results. Yet Bolduc supported the wild claims made and set aside loyalty to the country and true moral values? 

The Constitution and Bill of Rights built the foundation of this country to provide the people the ability to use their voices to determine the direction this country takes. Yet this party and people like Bolduc want to take that voice away from us, and subvert our votes because they don't like how we vote if it wasn't for them? Did we ever hear someone on that side claim their own election was stolen when they were on the same ballot but won their election? No, it is only when they lose, they make wild claims with absolutely no proof it was.

We are all supposed to have equal rights to believe and worship as we choose, yet that party has decided they should create laws that only support a fraction of the country on "moral grounds" and then turn around selecting what is suddenly acceptable to them? Seriously? They don't even have the morals to defend the truth anymore!

He served with honor but turned around and lied about something he did not do?

What else is he willing to lie about? What else is he willing to sacrifice for the power he hungers for in place of doing the right thing with the power he has now? Speaking out on his own battle with PTSD was the right thing to do. Refusing to speak out on the truth when Liz Cheney and so many others dared to do, is the selfish thing and wrong thing to do.

Of all the people I once thanked God for, showing such courage to speak the truth about the suffering of so many others when PTSD is ripping them apart, Bolduc was one of the last people I thought would sacrifice it all for the sake of the power of pride.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

I hugged myself today!


Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 4, 2022

Last month I wrote about how I realized that I couldn't hug myself. I still had compassion for other people but didn't have any for myself. It showed in the book I was editing. The 13th Minister Of The Mystery is part three in The Lost Son Series. After going back into therapy to heal from grief, it started to work enough that I found the courage to submit it to publishers and agents. Huge for me! The last time I tried that was back in 2000 when I wrote For The Love Of Jack. An author, who was brilliant, talented, and a genius when it came to PTSD, even tried to help me find a publisher. No luck. I ended up self-publishing it and have been self-publishing ever since.

If you don't know what authors go through trying to find a publisher or agent, it is an arduous process, to say the least. Each one wants things done differently. Sometimes I think was easier to write three books in a year. This last one is over 115,000 words. Then you wait for rejections. It's like waiting for a broken bone to heal. As bad as that is, more publishers and agents won't even bother to respond. So far, it's been more silence than rejections, but at least the rejections end the torment.

There was one of them that I had great hopes in and, to tell the truth, I was hopeful to check my email every day until the rejection came. At least they wished me luck as I cried. Because of the therapy, I was able to finally, mercifully, hug myself when I read it. It may not seem like such a big deal to reach the point when I had compassion for myself, but it was something I couldn't do all year. I also had a huge glass of wine with dinner.

Maybe that's the best message I can give right now. I am still healing but not having the ability to have compassion for myself was in the way of my healing. When you have PTSD, that can happen to you too. After you survive, you go through a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows. I remember one second I felt lucky to have survived and in the next moment I felt like a large because it happened to me. The "why me" question worked both ways. Why did I survive and why did it happen to me at all followed did God save me or did He do it to me in the first place? When I stopped asking why it happened, the most important question of all had to be, "what do I do about it now?"

I answered that one by learning all I could until I understood what came with the trauma and what came afterward with surviving it. To know how much power I had to define the rest of my life as a survivor, I think was the most empowering thing of all. Even more, comfort came when I learned that trauma and PTSD do not just happen to people that fight wars, but end up fighting the war within themselves. One part of your head tells you that you deserve to suffer, and that comes when you think God did it to you. The other side is telling you that you survived for a reason and that comes when you think God saved you. For me, in the ten times I survived, it was a battle between the two forces topped off with expecting people to understand that surviving changes all of us, no matter to what degree we go through.

That's what I put into these books. Admittedly, I did change the ending of the 13th Minister Of The Mystery as I began to heal. The main character is male but is a lot like me fighting the same battles I did. Ok, all of the characters are either chunks of me or me I wish I could be. Once I was able to hug myself, Chris started to be able to do the same thing and accept the changes he had been through for a greater purpose than he ever dreamt of.

All of us can too! Oh, btw, that isn't the book cover since I'm still waiting to hear from some more agents and publishers, but I wanted to play around in Photoshop.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

I understood what it was like to discover I wasn't alone


Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 26, 2022

I had a therapy appointment this morning and was talking about the research on random acts of kindness. This part of the article is the one that I am dealing with the most.
“People tend to think that what they are giving is kind of little, maybe it’s relatively inconsequential,” Dr. Kumar said. “But recipients are less likely to think along those lines. They consider the gesture to be significantly more meaningful because they are also thinking about the fact that someone did something nice for them.”
It was very easy for me to help other people. It was devastating to discover that other people had a hard time wanting to help me. I am grieving the loss of one of my best friends, my rock and biggest supporter. Gunny passed away in January. The months following got harder and harder and I knew I needed help again. I lost someone that did a lot of nice things for me. 

During my appointment, I talked about how I feel grateful for people in my life but the thing is, they can't understand what I do helping people with PTSD. They can't understand the books I'm writing and most of them don't even want to read them because they aren't interested in anything tied to mental health, even works of fiction. Gunny not only understood all of it, but he also read everything I wrote. He even corrected my typos and let me bounce things off of him when I wasn't sure if I was on the right track or off the rails.

Anyway, back to the article so you can understand the rest of what I want to say better.
The Unexpected Power of Random Acts of Kindness
New York Times
By Catherine Pears
on Sept. 2, 2022

In late August, Erin Alexander, 57, sat in the parking lot of a Target store in Fairfield, Calif., and wept. Her sister-in-law had recently died, and Ms. Alexander was having a hard day.

A barista working at the Starbucks inside the Target was too. The espresso machine had broken down and she was clearly stressed. Ms. Alexander — who’d stopped crying and gone inside for some caffeine — smiled, ordered an iced green tea, and told her to hang in there. After picking up her order, she noticed a message on the cup: “Erin,” the barista had scrawled next to a heart, “your soul is golden.”

“I’m not sure I even necessarily know what ‘your soul is golden’ means,” said Ms. Alexander, who laughed and cried while recalling the incident.

But the warmth of that small and unexpected gesture, from a stranger who had no inkling of what she was going through, moved her deeply. read more here

For 40 years, I helped people because I knew what darkness was like. I knew everything surviving could do to them and why it did it. Above all else, I understood what it was like to discover I wasn't alone, to read what experts discovered long before I even heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In other words, I knew what it was like to come out of the darkness of it and into the light of healing from it.

When I helped other people, it helped me heal myself. I felt a sense of being worth something in this world.  Writing the third part of The Lost Son Series, I felt more connected to the darkness of the story than to the light in it. Words of suffering stung and words of comfort began to feel like empty words people use to make themselves feel more comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics. Part one, The Lost Son Alive Again, and part two, Stranger Angels Among Us were leading up to the part I'm working on now and were supposed to be the most empowering of all of them. It got so bad for me that I knew I needed to go back into therapy again to help me heal from losing Gunny.

So far, I am starting to feel more connected to the circumstances of hope and empowerment than to the suffering and heartache. I told my therapist that all I can do for people is help them understand what PTSD is, help them spiritually so they don't think God did it to them, and then, send them to experts in mental health trained to help them. I'd love to be able to wave a magic wand and take away all their heartaches but I can't. All I can do is help clear the way for they can begin to find what they need.

I also told my therapist a couple of weeks ago that I dreaded getting an email or phone call from someone looking for help from me because I was so drained, I had nothing left to give. Over the weekend, someone needed my help and I was able to give it. So, not only is my therapist helping me, she helped me get to a place where I could help someone else again. I'm not healed enough yet to be posting all the time online again, but I'm getting there!

Next time you have a chance to do something for someone else, no matter how small you think it is, remember my story and know that while you may think what you do isn't such a big deal, it may be the thing someone else needs at the time you do it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Lies they told you about PTSD


Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 2, 2022

Get over it! It's all in your head! You're mentally weak! No one wants to hear about it! You should be ashamed of yourself if you let it get to you! It's time to move on! Don't be such a baby! You can't have PTSD because you're not a veteran! 

How many times have you heard a boat load of crap after you survived something that could have killed you, coming out of the mouths of people when their worst problem is someone got their order wrong at McDonald's? Don't expect them to understand and don't expect the media to tell you the truth. It's gotten to the point where I'm impressed when a report actually covers #PTSD in non-veterans. That's pretty sad.

As a fellow survivor, researcher, and advocate, I've heard all the stuff for four decades and I'm sick and tired of it because it keeps getting repeated. What doesn't get repeated often enough is the truth. The only way to get the truth into the minds of those needing to hear it is to expose the lies.

Let's start with the biggest lie of all. 

You can't have PTSD because you're not a veteran! 

The truth is, the rest of us know that surviving traumatic events produces residual effects because Vietnam veterans returned from combat and forced the government to research it and add it to the disabilities they compensate for. It never goes away but because of research, we know that it does not have to retain power over the rest of our lives as survivors.

Other jobs cause PTSD because of traumatic events piling onto what the jobs caused while living as a citizen. Civilians get PTSD from every traumatic event responders respond to but the responders cannot see that fact.

What are the jobs other than combat? Law enforcement, firefighters, first responders, non-deployed members of the National Guards and Reservists, doctors, nurses, members of the clergy, and yes even reporters

The truth is, no matter what caused it, survivors of trauma can end up in the PTSD club no one wants to join, even from just one event. It isn't how many events we escape. It is the one that caused the demon of PTSD to penetrate.

Non-survivors don't get it, because the only way to enter into the world of PTSD is as a survivor. When they tell you what they think, it is based on their usual lives. Survivors live with the unusualness of seeing their sense of life as they knew it becomes a foreign land of unknowns.

They want to "fix" you by saying what they think you need to hear about what they think you need to do. They don't know common sense no longer applies because what you're living with, what hitched a ride in your life, is far from common.

When you hear there is no cure for PTSD, which is true, if you settle for that, then there is no hope of a better life. Yet, when they tell you you do have power over the rest of your life, that clues you in on the simple, basic facts, that life can become a lot better and happier than it is at your worst moments.

Common sense then becomes empowerment because you are aware of all the treatments, therapies, and support groups that came into existence did so because more people were not willing to settle for suffering as survivors instead of enjoying as such. When you realize the power within you began after your power was taken away by the event or the people that caused you harm, were defeated, you feel like a survivor. No apology is ever warranted because you lived through something others did not.

When I started writing The Lost Son Alive Again series, I was angered by what I was reading being passed off as something worth reading. I kept wondering where were the facts. Where were reports that managed to inspire empowerment? So I wrote them in the lives of the characters' real survivors inspired.

Last night while working on the third part of the series, I wrote about one of the main characters. Her name is Grace and she survived the Pulse massacre, not as an attendee, but as a police officer responding to it. She was healed enough to live a productive life as a retired officer, turned Chaplain, and leader of a group dedicated to helping others heal.

She was being haunted by her memories and something that was trapped within them and talking to a therapist, who was also her friend.


Grace was on the Zoom call with Dariana. She was wiping her eyes, “But I don’t understand. I thought when you read the records from my other therapist, I wouldn’t have to talk about all of it again.”

“That’s right but this is something she never got you to talk about. If you’re willing, we may be able to figure out what still has a hold on your mind. Are you willing?”

“Yes. I know I have to.”

“Do you want to?”

“No. I don’t want to go through this but I know it’s the only way of putting the past in the past.”

“Ok. Close your eyes or get up and walk around so that I can hear you. You don’t have to be looking at me if you get uncomfortable.”

“Ok. I’ll start and then go with what takes some pressure off. I forgot about where we left off the night of the blizzard.”

“You’re Mom heard gunshots, called the police, and told you to put your snowsuit on. What happened after that?”

“She got her coat and boots on, got the flashlight, and was looking for a key. She was frantically searching for it and found it. It must have been to our neighbor’s house. She picked me up and put me on her back because the snow was too deep. She tripped a couple of times but made it up the stairs. She knocked and called out Sarah but no one answered the door. She used the key, opened the door, and told me to sit on the floor facing the door and she didn’t want me to move. Right after that, the power came back on.”

“Did you listen to her or did you follow her?”

“I listened to her until she called me to go to her.” She started to cry, got up, and walked around.

“Where was she?”

“She was in the kitchen on the floor with Kevin.” Grace stopped walking, “Oh my God! Sarah was dead! I had to walk by her! There was blood all over the floor and I slipped.” Grace put her arms around her waist and hunched her back. 

Dariana waited, watching Grace, giving her time, and then called out her name. "Grace. What did you see?”

“My Mom was down on the floor with Kevin. She was trying to help him. She needed to call the police again but she had to stay with him. She told me to get the phone as close to her as I could and call them for her. She shouted at them and told them that if they didn’t get there soon Kevin was going to die.”

“Did they come?”

“After a while, yes. They had to park way down the next street because our street hadn’t been plowed yet. Kevin looked at one of the officers and said his Mom shot him. And then, he died.”

“What happened after that?”

“They did what they could. Two other officers came and took over. They walked me and my Mom back to our house. One of them carried me.”

“Do you remember anything else?”

“No.”

“Ok, you said you didn’t have your boots on. What was on your feet?”

“I don’t know. I had on heavy socks because it was so cold in the house. Why?”

“Grace, what did you look at when the officer was carrying you out the door?”

“Nothing.”

Dariana let her think about it. “Are you sure? You didn’t see anything in their house? Did you see Sarah?”

“Oh my God! Yes. And then I saw my bloody footprints!”

“Ok. Let’s get you back in your house. What happened after that?”

“My Mom had me up on the counter, took off my socks, and threw them away. She washed my feet and told me to forget all about what I saw that night.”

“Did your Dad come home soon after that?”

“The next day. He was yelling at my Mom. I never heard him yell at her before. She told him that he knew what she was like when they got married and as a nurse, she had to do something or wouldn’t be able to forgive herself for not trying. He understood and hugged her afterward.”

“What about Kevin’s Dad?”

“He moved out a couple of days later and never came back. My parents never talked about it after that.”

“And now you found the key. That was all still buried in your mind. When Pulse happened, I remember you said that there was so much blood, your boots were soaked and even your socks were covered with blood. That’s a lot to take without ever having therapy or being able to talk to someone about any of it. I’m amazed you were as together as you were all that time.”

“So this is why it all came back? You’re right. I never really got past any of it because of how it all started. I guess seeing Chris shot and blood on my shoes was more than I could take.”

“Yes and now you can take power away from it. Back when it happened, most people didn’t know what traumatic events like that did, especially to little children. Did your Mom change at all after that?”

“Once in a while, I’d see her looking out the window at their house and she cried a little. Mostly when it snowed. I heard her talking to my Dad and she said something about everything she saw as a nurse in the Air Force, that was the hardest one of all to get through.”

“How long did you live there after that?”

“My Dad got transferred to Florida the next year and we moved there. He said it never snowed in Florida and we could have a fresh start.”

“How did you end up in Salem and meeting Chris?”

“He was a Colonel by then and was back at Hanscom. When he retired he had a great job in Boston and we didn’t have to move anymore. That was when I met Chris and he cared so much about me that I found my best friend and my first love.”

“And the rest I know. I also know that if you got through all that, on top of when you were taking care of Pam and Rose, you are a very strong woman and have a very rare soul. It also proves that you know when to ask for help when you need it and you’ll be a lot happier now without all that weighing on your memories.”

“You know, I think you’re right. It all fits now. Thank you!” She laughed. “You know, when Chris said you were a genius at getting people to remember what they didn’t want to, he was right. You are.”

“That’s my job, plus I know a little bit about how you were feeling. I was the one that found my Dad after he committed suicide. I was older, but still, I was only sixteen. My Mom and he separated and I went to clean his apartment for him. He had been dead for two days and it always haunted me that he would choose death over talking to someone. I have to keep reminding myself that back then, no one was talking about what they were going through because they couldn’t understand it either.”

“So now you give them a safe place to talk and can read them enough to know what they’re trying to hide.”

“It’s not so much what you or they are trying to hide, it is more a matter of something that is hiding in their memories and trying to get out. Are you ok now or do you want to talk some more?”

“I’m ok and thank you.”

“You’re welcome and we should still catch up tomorrow a the same time and then you can decide if you need me more or not.”

“That’ll be good. Thank you so much! Have a good night.”


And that's how the main character healed. He was a reporter, yet veterans helped him heal. He had a wonderful childhood with loving parents, yet survivors of child abuse helped him heal. He was a survivor of domestic abuse and violence as a husband inflicted by his first wife, yet a woman that survived what her husband did to her, helped him heal. He was not gay, but a gay female ex-wrestler helped him learn how to fight to take back power over his life. He was not a police officer, but one helped him heal and opened his heart again. He walked away from God, yet an ex-priest helped him heal and find God again.

None of them knew what it was like to be Chris, but they all understood what surviving did to him as much as they knew what he needed to heal his life.

I didn't serve yet worked with veterans and their families because I understood what it did to them. One day, I had a veteran challenge me saying I didn't know what I was talking about because I wasn't a veteran.  He turned it into a contest. So, I listed everything I survived. I asked him if he survived any of them. He said he didn't. Then I asked him if he could understand what all that did to me. He said he did. That got him to open his eyes to the simple fact that survivors may not have lived through the same event, but we are all living with the results of surviving. The cool thing is, that most of us are more than willing to share the recovery so others can pass it on too!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

PTSD: children have been living in the shadows of gun violence

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 24, 2022

Before you read this, I have to ask a question. Why is it that when people have any type of illness, they have no problem seeking help to recover, but when they have a mental illness, they do? What will it take for you, or anyone else to figure that one out?
John Woodrow Cox author of Children Under Fire was interviewed by NPR after the Uvalde school massacre. The title of the article was about as powerful as it can be.

The trauma of gun violence affects all children, not just the ones who were there

Tuesday was a hard day. You know, it - I felt nauseated. I really did in those early minutes. I think for me, the weight of everything that I've written about, all the stories that I've done, the kids I've interviewed through all these years comes back. And time after time after time, you realize that the scope of this epidemic is so much broader than we think because we do only think of the children who die, the children who are maimed. But the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of children who are directly impacted by gun violence in this country. And their lives are fundamentally changed because of it.
He also talked about Columbine.
And, you know, I know survivors from Columbine who are still - in their 40s - and they're still dealing with enormous amounts of trauma and PTSD. And again, none of these people were physically harmed. So we just have not grasped how far this extends in this country.

It is highly recommended that you read the rest of this article, along with the book if you want to understand exactly what it is we need to be paying more attention to.

NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer has done a lot of interviews and that is what makes what she said all the more powerful because most people are not aware of this.
Well, you're making me realize, I mean, it's certainly devastating for adults even to read or hear about it. But when you're a child and this happens, you're at a more formative stage of life.

The other thing is, that Cox is no stranger to reporting on events that we know cause PTSD. He is a reporter with the Washington Post. Cox has received numerous awards including, "He was also part of the team of Post journalists awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for public service for coverage of the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol."

And back to the NPR interview, another thing too many people are not aware of.

PFEIFFER: John, at the Washington Post, where you work, there's a database you've created that tracks gun violence. And I believe the current tally is that since the shooting at Columbine in 1999, more than 300,000 students have experienced school shootings at school during the school day. That gives us a sense of how exponential the impact is because those 300,000 may have siblings, family, parents, and all of those people are affected.
and then there is this,
PFEIFFER: We often hear people say children are resilient; they will ultimately be OK. Is that your experience?

COX: You know, that is a phrase that I've come to despise, that children are resilient, because I think it's a way for adults to be dismissive of what children have gone through. And it's also because children have a hard time articulating their struggle. If a kid is suddenly having outbursts, they can't link that to the fact that they just survived a school shooting. They struggle to say, here's why I'm feeling what I'm feeling. "" What I like to say is that children can be resilient, but it is incumbent on the adults in their lives to make that possible - to provide therapy, to provide help, to provide support, to be patient. Because it can take children years to work through events like these.
Now you have a better idea of how children have been living in the shadows of gun violence. Thanks to reporters like John Woodrow Cox, people will begin to look where trauma lives on long after reporters walk away from the story.

I came across this story doing research for part three of The Lost Son Alive Again Series part three because Chris decided to focus on gun violence in his new book. It was the one cause of trauma he didn't spend time on because no one he knew had it caused by that. 

None of them talked about gun violence. Bill, David, and all the other veterans in his life didn't talk about it, even though all of them faced gun battles in wars. After Chris was shot, that began to haunt Grace because while she thought she had put the Pulse Nightclub shooting behind her, there was something else she didn't confront about her past.

Trauma hits survivors of every age and the thing is if we fail to help kids heal early on they carry it on their backs for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Dedicated to the ones I love

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 19, 2022

Mention PTSD to anyone and right away, the thought of veterans pops into their brain. They never think about all the others struggling to heal what they survived. 

If you are a veteran or current member of the military and have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, these books were written for you, but not the way you may think they were. I love you and want to offer a way to heal and help others you learn to heal from what you understand.

If you are a veteran or current member of law enforcement and have PTSD, these books were written for you, but not the way you may think they were. I love you and want to prevent you from ending your pain the wrong way, and heal the better way with hope.

If you are a veteran or current firefighter and have PTSD, these books were written for you, but not the way you may think they were. I love you and want to offer a way to heal and help others you learn to heal from what you understand.

The causes of PTSD in these books are for survivors trying to find hope after someone or something caused PTSD to move into their life.

Veterans are included along with a soldier so traumatized by what he saw, that he was kicked out of the Army with a personality disorder discharge instead of getting the help he needed. His suicide caused the others he served with to question their own careers while they were dealing with PTSD. There are veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Survivors of Law enforcement members are included. Firefighters, doctors, nurses, domestic violence, child abuse, LGBTQ, and clergy.


The main character is Chris Papadopoulos. He wasn't a soldier serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a reporter and spent 10 years covering the wars in both countries until a bomb blast almost killed him. He was an often under-discussed male survivor of domestic violence and attempted murder at the hands of his wife. He also survived attempted suicide on the night his life began to change again.

If you go to church and have the support you need to heal, fabulous. You probably won't need to read these books unless you want to understand how to help someone with PTSD reconnect to God. 

If you are among the majority of people I've talked to over the last 40 years, including me, and are churchless, these books are for you.

If you were pushed away from the church, you may fear what is in the Bible. The truth is, there is power within the pages. The characters in these books are not what many think Christians are. They drink, swear, and smoke. They used drugs. They walked away from God when they all needed Him the most. They were all lost until someone helped them find their way back to His love. Yes, He loves them too.

The people that came to help Chris, survived and healed, so they knew exactly what Chris was going through and the best way to help him. When they did, he turned around to help the world heal.

Personally, I survived over 10 events that I wrote about because I am living proof that miracles happen, and when you feel as if everyone abandoned you because they don't understand you, God is still there.

They are magical realism because surviving the source of PTSD, was out of the ordinary, but healing is a magical thing especially when you become a miracle in someone else's life. The power you need to heal is within your soul. Isn't it time to plug into the source?

The Lost Son Alive Again and Stranger Angels Among Us are on audio as well as Amazon for paperback, Kindle, and Google Play.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

what the churchless need to find to heal #PTSD

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 17, 2022

If you found what you're looking for spiritually in a church, my latest books are not what you're looking for. They are not what you need to find. They are for those who feel they are not "good" enough to even enter a church, or be around the people that do attend church services. They are what the churchless need to find.


Some people seem to think that COVID is the reason for the drop in church attendance, but it isn't.




As you can see, there has been a decline for a long time. For 40 years, I helped people with PTSD and it was obvious most people seeking help, were turned off or turned away from churches. Like most people in this country, they do not attend any kind of religious service. That is a huge problem when researchers have found spiritual help is vital to the healing process for survivors.

Meaning-Making and Grief Spiritual and religious beliefs can either help or hinder trauma survivors in their attempts to create a healthy understanding of traumatic events and ultimately make meaning from the events. If trauma survivors believe that their Higher Power failed them, or that the traumatic events were punishment for past sins, these beliefs could result in anger toward their Higher Power and disconnection from spiritual or religious support. If trauma survivors view their Higher Power as a source of support and comfort, they may be able to understand the traumatic experience as a challenge set before them that can be overcome. They may then explore what has been gained from the traumatic experience; have an increased connection with their Higher Power through the healing process; rely on their spiritual or religious support; and feel stronger for having lived through the traumatic event.

Crystal Park and colleagues have theorized about how meaning develops during exposure to traumatic and loss events, and how religion and spirituality can provide a framework that may aid the development of meaning. They suggest that two levels of meaning are involved in coping with trauma.

If you don't fit in a church, for whatever reason, the first thing you need to know is that the word "church" is not what you may think it means.

This is from Stranger Angels Among Us, Part 2 of The Lost Son Alive Again

Greer shrugged her shoulders and smiled, “I don’t know but when I listened to my Dad, I had all kinds of images coming into my head. There’s a lot that isn’t written down. My Dad said we can only imagine what is not known by knowing what is known.”

They all noticed her face changed and her back stiffened up. David took her hand, “What just happened? What’s going on with you?”

“I just remembered what else Stephen said. God! I wish I remembered it when Chris was being accused of wanting to take down the church!”

“What else did he say?”

“He said that God doesn’t live in houses built by human hands. That He created everything.” She turned to Chris, “I’m sorry that I didn’t remember that. He was saying what others said before him and that God didn’t want buildings and when Jesus said that Peter was the rock He wasn’t talking about a stone one but a living one. He told the people to pray to His Father directly. People use the word church without understanding what Jesus was talking about. Ekklesia means ‘the called out ones’ and was about God’s people, not a building. That is exactly what you’ve been saying.”

Chris covered his mouth while he started at Greer. David looked at him, “She’s right. I didn’t remember that either but somehow I knew you were on the right track with what you’ve been saying all along. I mean, if a fire burns down a church, people can still pray on their own. How many churches have had to close and ended up being sold, turned into a house, or office space because people stopped going to them? Safe bet people didn’t think that God died just because their church did. They’re all just places and not some kind of super-connector to God.”

Bill added, “Just like my Dad and Mandy. They prayed directly to God and didn’t need a church building to do it for them.”

“You’re all right.” He turned to Greer, “That helped and in a way, I’m glad you didn’t remember it before because that would have reinforced the things I’ve been accused of doing. Now that I know that, I’ll know what to say the next time.”

Now you know that you don't have to go into a building to reach God. The next thing that is important to know is that you don't have to be perfect either. The characters in The Lost Son Alive Again, do not go to church. Each one of them felt pushed out and pushed away from God until someone helped them find their way back to Him again. 

None of the people in these books escaped PTSD unchanged, but they discovered they can change again with help.

When people hear PTSD, they immediately think it applies to only veterans, but the truth is, it strikes survivors of all other events too. While there are some veterans in these books, there are also survivors of almost every other thing you survived. They helped one another heal because while they did not experience the same events, they understood what surviving did to them, as much as they knew what healing did for them.

There is drinking, Ok, a lot of drinking because the main character self-medicated. There is some adult language because let's face it, people swear, especially when they are angry. These people shared their struggles and torments, doubts, and fears and also shared what it was like to heal. They gave hope back to the one who was lost so he could give hope to everyone else struggling.

It is magical realism because there are supernatural aspects throughout, which Christians are supposed to believe, and all other faiths believe happened, but for some reason, think they stopped happening. The fact you survived whatever could have killed you was a miracle, so it should be easy for you to know they do still happen.

Don't be afraid to read these books because another thing they are not is, sad. Sure they start out that way but so does PTSD. There is a process to healing it and you'll see that in these pages. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Stranger Angels Among Us Healing PTSD

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 2, 2022

“If I say it, it will become real and you’ll know I’m nuts.”

Those were the words Chris told his therapist. He wasn't a veteran but had #PTSD. It hit him after reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2012 when a bomb blast nearly killed him. It struck him again when his wife decided waiting for him to commit suicide was taking too long, and she decided to kill him. For seven years, he lost everything he had evaporate, including his faith in God.

On Google Play and Audio July 4th, 2022

The Lost Son Alive Again is part one of this three-part series. It is also available as an audiobook.

The series is about the PTSD all of us survivors face. Too many dismiss what we go through because reporters cover veterans more than the rest of us. If they don't know we're real, we feel abandoned with no way of finding comforting support to discover we are not alone and our futures are not filled with hopelessness.

Chris was a reporter and domestic violence survivor with PTSD. The only friend Chris had was the bartender at a local bar. Ed was an ex-pastor with PTSD after a young veteran committed suicide instead of talking to him.

Chris's best friend Bill since childhood was a soldier with PTSD, determined to stay in the Army until a member of his unit was kicked out under personality disorder instead of being helped. David was in the same unit with PTSD, also retiring believing it was his only option. They walked back into Chris's life on the night he decided it was time for his suffering to come to an end.

David and Bill told Chris about Mandy, a mysterious woman living in Gabriel New Hampshire that healed them. She was a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence because her husband abused her and then tried to kill her.

He met Alex and Mary Michaels, brother and sister Christian book publishers who had PTSD from child abuse. They offered him a chance to write a book about healing PTSD, sending him on a journey to not just change his life, but the lives of all survivors.

Grace was a retired Orlando Police Officer with PTSD after the Pulse Nightclub massacre. She was one of  Chris's best friends too.

Drake was a gay female wrestler until during her last fight, her opponent died. She had PTSD from that along with the suicide of her first love interest. She became Mandy's protector after Mandy saved her from suicide.

Benjamin was a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and extremely wealthy because a Korean War veteran helped him heal.

Throughout these books, there are many different characters struggling to heal and when they find it, they pass it on to all those they come into contact with. 

Part two introduces more characters and covers their spiritual struggles along with how healing is always a work in progress. It is a battle no one wins alone, but with support, it is one that can be won. 

From Stranger Angels Among Us


Chris arrived at his therapist Dariana Kemp’s office. The pastor Ed told him about helping him heal and had retired but he suggested another pastor/psychologist he knew. She was a good fit for Chris and gained his trust. He called her for an emergency appointment before he left for Gabriel.

Her office was in an old mansion in the center of Salem. She was only middle-aged but had the wisdom of what Chris called an “old spirit” with short salt and pepper hair, piercing eyes, behind large rim purple glasses, and an infectious laugh. She knew more about the Bible than anyone else he had ever known. She got into working on PTSD using psychology and spirituality after losing her Vietnam veteran father to suicide.

Chris sat in the huge leather chair near the fireplace playing with his fingers as his eyes moved everywhere in the room, avoiding having to look at Dariana. He knew she could see right through him.

While he was looking at the massive wall of books, she gave him a few minutes to put his thoughts together, then gave up. “Ok Chris, it’s time to speak up. What’s going on? You said it was urgent.” She knew him well enough to have extra patience with him. For a great writer, he was lousy at concocting stories to speak and even worse at lying to cover up what he didn’t want to say. 

“I’m upset Grace isn’t coming because I don’t want to do this but she was going to make it a little easier to do. Now I have to go there alone, have my heart ripped out for Mandy, and then drive back alone.” He took a deep breath, finally looked at her, then hung his head down. “I don’t want to do it, but I know I have to.  I want you to tell me I don’t have to go there.”

“You don’t have to go there. You could just email Drake, get her thoughts about Mandy and let her approve the script or make her changes. But you already know that. Why do you need me to tell you what you already know?”

“I guess I needed reassurance.” Hating the thought of having to admit it, “My confidence is in the toilet right now. The first book was done and in book stores in six months and so was the second one. I’ve been working on this one for eight months and it still isn’t done.”

“What do you think is holding you back?”

“The others were easier, I guess because I lived in that hell and I knew what put me there. With this, with it being about kids, it’s causing more emotional pain than I expected. I had to read so many articles on child abuse, that it made me sick. That’s why I knew I had to talk to the people already in my life because they lived in that hell and found their way out.” Dariana saw he was holding something back. She waited. He slammed the arm of the chair. “You know what pisses me off the most about all this?”

“That it’s all still happening?”

“Not just that. The so-called pro-life people screaming about how they are protecting the lives of the unborn! What about protecting the lives of the born? What about protecting them when they get raped or abused by their parents? I keep thinking about that woman who was raped and decided to have the baby so she could put it up for adoption but the rapist had rights just because of the state they lived in. If he hadn’t freaked out and got shot in jail, I wonder what would have happened to the baby.”

“Sometimes it’s like laws protect criminals more than the victims.”

“Ya. All these claims about morality and not a peep out of any of them about kids being gunned down in schools by weapons designed to kill as many as possible because other people want to have fun with those same guns. These born children should matter to all of them at least as much as the unborn. Since they don’t, since they don’t show up in mass to protect children born into this world, with the soul from God within their bodies, it proves those people are only pro-birth and I think that is a true abomination.”

“God granted everyone free will to make their own choices about their bodies and what they do or do not believe. Sometimes I wonder what gives others the right to force their own beliefs onto everyone else. They scream the loudest, so everyone else is their enemy and evil in their eyes. There are denominations believing people have the right to decide for themselves. Presbyterians fully support the right for people to decide for themselves so that every child is loved because they were wanted. I still preach when another pastor goes on vacation and gets into all kinds of discussions with folks because of all the other talk that’s out there. They know what is right for them and what their moral values are, but they end up questioning themselves because others try to force theirs on them.”

“And most of the others are phony as hell.” Dariana saw how the anger just rushed out of him. Then sadness moved in. “Like Mandy’s parents. I need to know what it was like for Mandy before she became a miracle worker. That’s the only way I can be able to help kids with the new book. I think the only way I can understand what it was like living in that hell, is to go in there so God can get them out.”

“So how are the mood swings now? How many times does it still happen?”

“They aren’t as bad as they used to be."

“Good. Work on that more. You’ve been hearing the stories of others for a couple of years now. Why is Mandy’s story so hard for you?”

“I honestly don’t know. I’ve been questioning myself more than usual in the last couple of months. I mean, I had a great childhood. My parents loved me, gave me what I needed and I always knew they were proud of me.” His hands began to tremble. He stood up, and she turned to watch him walk to the window. He was looking away from her, shoved his hands into his pockets, and took a deep breath. “In a way, I’m glad they passed away before all that happened. I don’t think I could have taken seeing the pain in their eyes. They’d have no way of knowing how things would turn out like this and it would have been seven years of agony for them too.”

“I can understand that. What do you think they’d feel about all this now?”

“They’d be proud but, I’m glad they didn’t have to suffer before my life got good again.” He slowly walked back to the chair and sat down.

She waited for him to say more, watched his body language and how his eyes were moving. “I think you’re holding something back, but when you’re ready, you’ll tell me what it is. “ How’s the drinking?”

“Good. I enjoy it now instead of abusing it and starting to learn how to, as you said, experience my feelings, like you said I should, instead of trying to drown them. It isn’t easy but you taught me how to stop fighting them.”

She grinned, “Seriously? Did you forget you suck at lying?”

“Honestly, I still drink too much when things get too intense.”

“We'll work on that and maybe start praying on it instead of trying to get plastered.“

“I’ll try harder.”

“We talked a lot about the flashbacks before but I need you to go back to right before it. Where were you going to?”

“We were headed to meet Bill and his unit.”

“What was your mood like?”

“I don’t know. I was pissed off about something.”

“Can you remember what it was?”

As he covered his mouth, his eyes were moving rapidly, then froze looking at her. “I was pissed off because I tried to get her to go a different way. It was like a premonition that the road was dangerous.”

“Any idea where that came from?”

“I don’t know. The longer we were on that road, the stronger the feeling of doom came over me.” He sat quietly searching his memory. “The more upset I was getting, the more she laughed at me. I told her she was just as bossy as my wife and told her they had more than just their names in common. Oh my God! I forgot her name was Brenda too. Wow! Anyway, we had the windows up because of all the sand, but for some reason, I opened mine.”

“You said you were looking out the window. Do you remember what made you turn your head to the left?”

He winced, “If I say it, it will become real and you’ll know I’m nuts.”

“Just say it and then that memory will lose some of the power it has over you. Besides, I told you before, we’re all a little bit nuts.”

He didn’t want to say it. The words were trying to get out but he locked his lips to stop them from escaping knowing once he said it, he’d never be able to take it back. He looked at her, remembered how much he knew he could trust her, and the words escaped. “I heard my name.”

“Was it your driver’s voice?”

“No, it was a male’s voice. I heard it loud and clear but I can’t make sense out of it because we were going something like forty miles an hour and her window was still up.”

“Have your thoughts about that changed since it happened?”

“No. To tell you the truth, I forgot about most of that. Why? What do you think it means?”

“Maybe God was trying to prevent it? We hear stories of things like that happening all the time. Someone didn’t get on a plane for reasons they couldn’t explain and it ended up crashing. People decide to go a different way and then end up discovering there was a major accident or a bridge collapsed. I think God tries to prevent a lot of things but people don’t understand what He’s trying to get them to pay attention to.”

“All I know right now is, if I didn’t open the window, the glass would have shattered on top of the shrapnel hitting us. If I didn’t turn my head to the left because of the voice, if I survived it, my face would have been destroyed and I probably would have been blind. Hard to take in right now, but I know you’re probably right.

“I’m glad you told me that and let that secret out. That flashback will lose some power now, just like when you found out Brenda died and wouldn’t haunt you anymore. What about the dreams? Any closer to making sense of them?

“Nope. They’re getting stronger. Last night I saw Grace at the Salem Willows wharf. She was standing on the edge for a while then she jumped in. She didn’t come back up.” Chris looked down at the floor.”

“Is that how it ended?”

“No. I was terrified and woke up. My heart was beating hard and I forced myself to go back to sleep. Then in the dream, she came up out of the water holding the woman from the other dreams. Grace was dry but she was dripping wet with her hair all over her face. The only thing I could see was her lips. She mouthed the words, ‘help me find my way,’ and then I woke up.” “Didn’t the sleeping pills help?”

“No, I stopped taking them because they made it worse. I couldn’t wake up after it started and then it just went into loop replay with the same dream. Without them, I can wake up and when I finally fall back to sleep, they usually don’t start again.”

“So the dreams could be tied to the book. You said they were getting stronger over the last couple of months and that was when you started to struggle with it.”

“I just keep thinking what if,” he didn’t want to get the words out because he knew once he did, it would become real. “What if I’m not supposed to write this one and that’s why I’m having a hard time?”

“What if you are and you are the one fighting yourself? Think about it. What came over you to want to write it in the first place?”

“Some of the letters I got about the other books. People told me what they went through and how much the books helped them. When I started to write it, that was around the same time the dreams started but they were only coming once in a while.” “That’s starting to sound more like a vision than just a dream.”

“What do you mean?”

Dariana got up, went to the bookcase, and returned with a book in her hand, The Vision Awaits. She handed it to Chris. “The book of Revelations was filled with visions of what John saw. It’s like the feeling you have that is compelling you to go back to Gabriel. The same thing you felt when you were compelled to go there the first time and back last year. It’s a vision of something you need to know has to happen instead of you just feeling what you need to do.”

“I trust God more than ever, but I still have a hard time trusting myself. Do you think the dreams are getting stronger because the time is getting closer to it happening?”

“Maybe. That’s something that you need to be patient for. None of us can see what God can. None of us know what’s the best way, but He does. Most of the time we create a mess because we don’t like to wait for anything, and what makes it harder, is when we lose faith it will happen. We screw things up by trying to do it on our timeline. I’ve done that plenty of times myself. I think we all have. I also know that getting to people soon after the trauma happens has a lot better chance of keeping them from the extra suffering.

“I know I wish I leaned on someone and then maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have suffered for those seven years.” Chris looked down at the floor. “I mean, I know it wasn’t all my fault what happened to me, but I decided to walk away from God when I should have been running toward Him.”

“You didn’t have anyone to open your eyes and give you a reason to. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Chris was feeling a rush of guilt, “That’s just it. At first, I did. Bill tried for a while. The Chaplain in his company kept reaching out to me whenever I went to cover the wars. I remember the second time I was covering them, I forgot my Bible. I missed having that comfort. The Chaplain handed me it and I carried it on every assignment until it got blown up with me in Afghanistan. Then, after I was back home, recovering, he kept calling me and emailing me and I wouldn’t respond. I think that was God’s way of telling me He was there for me but I refused to see it. Over the years, it was like I didn’t even want to admit someone was trying to help me. Bill, eventually he gave up too.”

“Did you try to contact him?”

“Who? Bill or the Chaplain?”

“Both. I know you have Bill back in your life but what about the years in between?”

“I wasn’t ready to listen back then. I guess after that, I felt ashamed of the way I treated him and the Chaplain. After the press conference we had about the Netflix series, the Chaplain wrote me a letter and said that he never gave up on me but put me into God’s hands. He said that he always saw something special in me and when he saw me giving my speeches, he saw it come out. He said he was proud of me.”

“Did you write back to him?”

“Ya. We even spoke a few times on the phone since then. I keep wondering what would have happened if I did listen to him back then. Would the rest of this still happen?”

“That’s something only God knows. I don’t pretend to know His mind any better than you do, but from what I’ve learned about you, I don’t think you would have accomplished what you did had you not suffered the way you did.

“What do you mean?” Chris was getting angry, “That my suffering was part of His plan?

“Hell no. What I mean is, that you weren’t ready to listen but above that, you had forgotten how powerful God is and how much all of us do depend on others in this world. That is what you’ve added to what you are preaching.”

“I’m not a preacher!”

“Yes, you are. You keep saying that as if you don’t want to admit it to yourself. That is exactly what you’ve been doing. Why do you get so defensive whenever that is pointed out to you? Is that what you’re holding inside of you?”

Chris looked down at the floor. “I don’t know how to say it. I’ve never told another person. I didn't even tell Mandy the whole thing.”

Dariana leaned forward in her chair. “Whatever it is, it may be what’s missing in your healing. Just close your eyes and tell me.”

“When I was young I wanted to become a Priest. That part I was able to talk about. It was a reoccurring dream that I never talked about before.”

“You’re in a safe place right now to talk about it. Just close your eyes so you aren’t trying to read my facial expressions and remember the dream.”

Chris leaned back, closed his eyes and the memory came to life. “I was in the sanctuary wearing the vestments of a priest, and carrying an empty challis, walking down the aisle, like the Holy procession but there was no one else inside. All the pews were empty. Instead of going up another aisle, I carried the challis out the front door. When I got outside, I was wearing a flannel shirt, T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, as I wore to school. I stood on the top step, looked down at the challis and it was full. I looked up and saw hundreds of people there. I gave Communion to all of them, and then preached on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Chris opened his eyes. Dariana was looking at him. “What happened after that?”

“I just saw it all again like it was happening.”

“Close your eyes again and tell me what you told the people.”

“I preached to the crowd about the Good Samaritan and how the stranger took care of the man who had been attacked and robbed. How those who claimed to be serving God had no compassion in them.” He recited Luke 10:30-37. Chris opened his eyes. Dariana was amazed. “You said that perfectly. How much more of the Bible have you memorized?"

“That’s the only one. I think it’s because I had that dream so many times when I was young, it became a part of me.” “Have you thought about why it means so much to you?"

“I’m not sure but I always thought about the Samaritan and what happened afterward. I mean, no one knew what he did other than the man he helped and the Innkeeper. So what Jesus said must have come from God watching it. I think God was trying to get the others to stop and help the man but the Samaritan was the only one who listened to Him. I thought about how he must have done a lot of other things only God knew about and that was the way I should live my life too. Now I get upset when people praise me and ask why I do it. The other thing that bothers me is when I get accused of trying to turn people away from the church. I mean, maybe in the back of my mind, they’re right. I mean, it’s appalling to me how so many members of the clergy, no matter what denomination, show absolutely no connection to what Christ taught. They give Christians a bad name and make people think they’re all reprehensible.”

“There is another way to look at it. You brought the Communion out to people who felt they couldn’t enter the church. That tells me what you’ve been doing is exactly what you were intended to do. It also means that the vision of the woman you’ve been having is not the first time you had a vision.”

“What do you mean?”

“That dream you kept having was more like a vision but you just didn’t understand it. You put hope back into the minds of the hopeless. You bring the power of God’s love directly to the churchless children of God. They’re learning that they’re not Fatherless. Maybe in a way, you’re also proving the frauds are not serving God.”

“I hope you’re right because I’m going to need to harness whatever power I have inside of me to do it. It feels as if something is brewing out there.”

“Then pray for the words they’ll need to hear.” Dariana smiled, “The spirit inside you has given you the words people needed to hear and will keep giving them to you. Believe that and trust that. It also explains why you feel so uncomfortable with people praising you. Just deal with it and praise God more so they’ll see He is behind whatever you do for them.”

When Chris got up to leave, Dariana decided to ask him a question she had been wondering since they met. “I have to ask you something. You’re a multimillionaire but you still dress like you don’t have any money at all and live in the same apartment you had. Why do you still live like you have nothing?”

“That’s an easy question to answer. I lived my life this way all along. Even when I had money living in LA, I didn’t like living in that condo. It was too fancy. I felt out of place. I also felt uncomfortable dressing up, like it wasn’t me. Anyway, I live a comfortable life even though it sure is an odd one.” He smiled and Dariana hugged him.

“Well, at least now I understand why you won’t let me tell anyone you’ve been paying me to take care of people with no insurance or money for the last three months.”

“You’re good and too many people need your help, like me. I want them to be able to heal like you’re helping me.

When Chris left, Dariana went over to her computer, opened Chris’s file, and said a prayer, as she always did when he left. She wrote, “I prayed for Chris that God would open his heart and mind and receive the courage and strength he needs for what is to come. I prayed that he would finally open his heart enough so that he would fully feel the joy of what true love is and let it fill the empty place still left in his soul.”

Chris got into his car and sat still for a while. He thought about what Dariana said and about the vision from his youth. It made him understand why he never wanted any praise for what he did for others and why he kept as much as possible secret.