Music Therapy for PTSD from a 13-year-old singer-songwriter

I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet that has lived with PTSD since 1966 when I returned from the war, and recently I have discovered that music helps me cope and sleep better.  And not just any music but the songs written by and sang by child prodigy Grace VanderWaal. For me, no other music has worked to give me a sense of peace from the demons of PTSD.

But why does it work?

Brainwave Power Music reports, “Studies have shown that music can trigger the brain to release chemicals to distract the body and mind from the pain. Music, as well as binaural beats and isochronic tones which augment the effects, reach the brain’s auditory cortex, which causes the communication between the cortex and the sections of the brain that govern emotion, memory, and body control.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says, “Findings suggest that the music therapy was effective in reducing depression symptoms and improving health-related quality of life. Investigators are developing a multi-center study to test if their findings are generalizable to a larger and more diverse group of Veterans. Also, in coordination with local Guitars for Vets chapters, the music therapy program has been successfully taken up by several VA sites …”

A Frontiers in Psychology report: Music and trauma: the relationship between music, personality, and coping style.

“Survivors of violence have also benefited from participation in music therapy programs. In one project working with survivors of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City (American Music Therapy Association, 2011), 33 music therapists provided over 7000 programs to children, adults and families. The programs were designed to reduce stress, improve coping, and process the trauma associated with the crisis by drawing on a range of techniques including musical improvisation, songwriting, singing, sharing stories, and relaxing with music.”

However, “While the benefits of the arts therapies discussed above are multiple, there is some evidence that people do not always respond in the same way to music or other creative arts in dealing with trauma.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

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The Alleged Promise of “Healing” Drugs – legal or illegal

The New York Times published this misleading Op-Ed crap called The Promise of Ecstasy for PTSD, and said, “The F.D.A. approval is a beacon of hope for the roughly eight million Americans believed to suffer from PTSD, a group that includes victims of abuse, refugees and combat veterans.”

My response, “This is more Bullshit from the corporate kleptocracy, a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves, that wants to profit from our suffering.”

I have lived with PTSD since I returned from Vietnam in 1966. My first step to manage that PTSD was to stop drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in 1982. I haven’t been drunk or hungover since, because I know from sixteen years of experience that alcohol makes PTSD worse.

DrugPolicy.org answers important questions we should all know and consider before leaping off a cliff into a pool of mind-altering drugs. For instance, “What are the most common adulterants in what’s sold as ‘molly’ or ‘ecstasy’ (in other words, what chemicals is it commonly cut with)? …

“Due to being one of the most adulterated drug markets, the impurity of molly in different regions and at different times varies quite a bit – that is, there’s no such thing as the ‘most common adulterants’.

“Besides MDMA, ‘ecstasy’ or ‘molly’ may contain varying levels of: Psychoactive substances designed to mimic the effects of MDMA like MDA (methylene-dioxyamphetamine a.k.a. ‘sass’) or ‘bath salts’ (a general term for synthetic cathinones, a class of amphetamine-like stimulants); Stimulants like amphetamine, cocaine, caffeine or methamphetamine; or, more rarely Anesthetics such as ketamine (‘Special K’) or dextromethorphan (DXM – an ingredient found in over-the-counter cough medicines).

“All of these can significantly amplify potential harms. The most important thing for harm reduction is to know what you’re getting. According to Ecstasydata.org – an independent laboratory testing program of Erowid Center – among 250 samples they analyzed in 2014 that were sold as molly, 40 samples contained MDMA with adulterants, and nearly half (124) contained no MDMA at all!”

Every one of these mind-altering drugs, legal or illegal, causes harm to the body in one way or another.

DrugPolicy.org says, “As with all alcohol and other drug use, taking MDMA carries risks, albeit comparatively lower than most other drugs.

“For example, a 2010 study published in the prestigious Lancet journal was conducted to gauge the relative potential harms of drugs to both consumers and to society, and MDMA was found to be among the least risky.”

But what does “least risky” mean when every drug comes with a risk even if there are alleged benefits and if you clicked on that last link to DrugPolicy.org, you will discover a chart that compares those risks, and the one with the most risk is a legal drug called alcohol.

I think the only way to deal with PTSD and other mental challenges is to learn to manage it on your own, and if you can’t or won’t, you are just fucked. Legal or illegal drugs all have side effects that are often worse than the mental or physical health problem we want to fix. And all of those drugs profit someone like President and malignant narcissist and psychopath/sociopath Donald Trump.

There is another choice and that choice is called mindfulness and/or meditation. Mindful.org says, “Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Psychology Today says, “Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment. Meditating is deceptively simple. A cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, ‘Nothing happens next. This is it.’”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

What the Active Military Really Thinks of Twitter-Fingers Donald Trump

Who is spreading lies that the majority of the active, U.S. military supports Donald Trump … Trump’s Fake News Machine that includes Breitbart, Fox News, and Alex Jones?

It looks like 70-percent of officers and 52-percent of the troops that are not officers can’t stand Trump.

“Rate Your Commander-in-Chief. A new poll from the Military Times reveals troops’ attitudes towards President Donald Trump. Overall, members of the military viewed Trump more favorably than the general public. …

“Officers tended to have lower opinions of the president; just 30 percent gave him a favorable rating, compared to 48 percent of enlisted troops. The findings are similar to results from last year’s poll, just after Trump’s election.” – reported by Foreign Policy Magazine

To U.S. military veterans and active military that deplorably support Donald Trump, I want to remind you of your oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. The evidence is overwhelming … Donald Trump is clearly an enemy of the U.S. Constitution.

This next paragraph is the oath of office for the President of the United States.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

PTSD is a Never Ending Challenge and when help arrives “Don’t Let Go”

I turned twenty-one in Vietnam. There was no cake with candles, no presents, no party, no happy birthday songs, but I remember the tracers from thousands of armed Marines lighting up the night from the 1st Marine Division’s perimeter, and that display of destructive, brutal power was not a celebration of me turning twenty-one. It was from combat.

When I returned from Vietnam in 1966, I had no idea I came back with a permanent illness that later in the 1980s became known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Combat vets aren’t the only victims of this disease. Rape victims, child abuse, domestic abuse of women, someone who grew up the target of lying, cruel bullies and trolls just like U.S. President Donald Trump (Trump is not the vicitm. He is the bully. He is the troll.), victims of muggings, survivors of accidents and brutal acts of nature.

Imagine my surprise when fifty-one years later, a twelve-year-old girl sang her way into my life through YouTube and offered me a lifesaver that helped me manage my PTSD better, and she probably will never know it.

PTSD is all about how our body reacts to fear.

From 1966 to 1982, I never talked about the combat, the snipers that almost took me out, our own troops firing on a patrol I was with on our way back to base camp, the mortar rounds that rained down on our tents, the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grenades that maimed and killed others in my company, the ambushes, the recon missions, the rocket attacks that left one Marine in my unit headless, and the regiment/division sized field operations.

I was a field radio operator and in the field, through that radio, I carried on my back, I passed on orders that killed hundreds of armed Vietcong. Marine Corps training is intense. When we leave boot camp we are different from the child that arrived.  When we leave, we are trained killing machines.

When I was honorably discharged from the Marines and went to college on the GI Bill, that PTSD I didn’t know I had was behind the heavy drinking. I often say that between 1966 and 1982, I drank enough hard liquor and beer to fill a swimming pool.

My first step on the road that led me out of the darkness of PTSD managing me was an accident. I was thirty-six and my health was falling apart from all the booze, beer and bad food. Someone I worked with was a vegan and her husband, raised a vegan, helped me get off the liquor and change my lifestyle. Once the booze was out of my system and I was eating better, the vivid flashbacks of combat lost some of the intensity that woke me at night drenched in sweat and ready to fight with an unsheathed, razor-sharp USMC KA-BAR that I kept under my pillow and a loaded 45-caliber automatic pistol in an easy to reach drawer.

I came to the conclusion that the booze and bad diet made the flashbacks worse so I stayed sober and stuck to the healthy vegan diet Greg and his wife helped me transition to.

Decades later, after I retired from teaching high school English and journalism, I discovered that the VA offered counseling to help combat vets manage their PTSD. I’m in a group now and most of my friends are combat vets who also work hard to manage their PTSD.

I’m seventy-two and a thirteen old girl I’ve never met and probably never will meet has helped my PTSD demons to take a few steps further back. By definition, this young woman is a child prodigy, and I wrote about What does it take to become a child prodigy? for one of my other blogs in an attempt to understand what was happening to me because of her and her songs.

When she was twelve, she won America’s Got Talent by singing songs she wrote. She was signed by Columbia Record and Simon Crowell to a record contract. Her first album has only five songs on it. Her next album, with more of her original music, will be out November 3. I already have a copy of her first album and have preordered the longer one.

Perfectly Imperfect, her first shorter album, reached #9 in the U.S. and #11 in Canada. This child prodigy’s name is Grace VanderWaal. Something about her and the songs she writes and sings is helping me manage my PTSD better, and I’ve been trying to understand what that is, and I think I’ve figured it out after watching her first almost hour-long concert a half dozen times. It’s the themes of her songs and her nonverbal language. Studies say that nonverbal language is 70-percent of communication. Her fans call that being genuine. Some critics and a friend of mine have called her an old soul. I think it is her nonverbal language that makes her genuine to some and/or an old soul to others.

I don’t think she is an old soul. Grace is unique because of a number of factors. One was the family environment she grew up in. Her mother, father, and I think especially her older sister, are a big part of who she is.  Genetics also plays a role in Grace being a child prodigy. Child prodigies are unique as I explained in What does it take to become a child prodigy? Another factor is that some of her songs are about bullies and in interviews, Grace has mentioned that she was a target of bullies in grade school. I was also a target of bullies when I was a child, and that is probably the reason I went into the Marines to make sure no one ever messed with me again.

In “Clay”, one of her original songs, she sings,

“Your silly words
I won’t live inside your world
Because your punches and your names
All your jokes and stupid games
They don’t work
No they don’t hurt
Watch them just go right through me
Because they mean nothing to me
I’m not clay”

In another original song, Gossip Girl, Grace touches on this topic again.

Grace is thirteen now and this month she went on her first concert tour starting with the Austin City Limits Music Festival. If the full concert is still available through Red Bull TV, you can access it through the next link. I tune in to this concert every evening because her songs and her performance help me sleep better. I think that is because of the combination of her genuine joy at performing for a huge crowd of fans that love her and the themes of her songs.

Austin City Limits Music Festival
Red Bull TV told me this video is only available for a limited time. If you click the link, I hope it’s still there.  Red Bull TV said they aren’t allowed to sell a DVD of this concert, so I sent an e-mail in an attempt to reach Simon Cowell and see if his record label will offer it on DVD soon.

Grace’s next video is a song called “Escape My Mind”, and Grace performed it live in Austin for the first time.

“Escape My Mind” is another original song, and I understand what Grace means because I can’t escape my mind either, but Grace is helping me to at least escape the PTSD demons tattooed in my mind for a few hours while I’m sleeping and that is a first. I hope it keeps working. I think the joy Grace feels while she sings and receives the love of her fans is the reason for whatever is happening to me, and I hope she never loses that genuine joy for her music and life as her career grows. If she manages to keep hold of that unique genuineness, I’ll continue to be her fan, but thanks to my PTSD, I’ll probably never attend one of her concerts, because crowds are a trigger for my PTSD, and I work hard to avoid those triggers. That’s why I want to buy a DVD of Grace’s first concert.

The Grace in this concert, and all of her previous performances is still the genuine thing, and that helps me feel better about life. It’s all about escaping the demons even if it is only for a few hours at a time. Like I said in the title of this post, if help arrives, “Don’t Let Go!”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Transitions from War, from combat to active living

Mike Ergo was a Marine rifleman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines from 2001-2005 and deployed to Iraq twice. Coming home from combat was rough. His body returned, but his mind and spirit were still in Fallujah for many years. … Triathlons, trail running, and endurance challenges like GORUCK have help him to overcome the sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety that are a part of PTSD.

The Biggest Race of My Life by Mike Ergo

“Lindsey Schmidt from Ironman’s PR firm reached out a few months ago to say they heard my story. Ironman wanted to get me on a cool, new veteran podcast to talk about why I race. It would be a chance to talk about the Marines on my jersey that keep me moving towards the finish line. I agreed to do the interview.  I wrote an eBook  about the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Finally, a chance to talk to a larger audience about a great way to deal with PTSD!

1927897_52180045766_8469_nMike Ergo is on the left

The interview started out great (listen to it here). We talked about how I went into the Marine Corps, ditched the band and joined the infantry, and shipped out to Iraq. He asked me what house-to-house fighting was like in Fallujah. Chaps was there in 2007 and has walked the streets of the former Baath Party hub. And of course, we chatted about how triathlon has helped me deal with the demons of PTSD and turn it into something positive. So Chaps throws the verbal jab and I take the bait.” …

This post is continued on Mike’s Blog Transitions from War from combat to active living – Reconnecting with Mind, Body, and Spirit

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Lloyd Lofthouse, the host of The Soulful Veteran, is a former U.S. Marine (1965 – 1968), Vietnam Veteran (1966), retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

 

 

Fake President Donald Trump’s 32-Percent and His Love Affair with Putin

This is a reminder to all current and former U.S. Military officers:

Oath of Commissioned Officers

I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

What are you waiting for? Where does it say in that oath that you must obey, support, and defend #FakePresident Donald Trump of the United States?

Lloyd Lofthouse

James Kirchick writing for Brookings asks How the GOP became the Party of Putin.

In his Op-Ed, Kirchick points out that 32-percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Putin, who was a career KGB officer that still hates America.

Kirchick says, “Russia has been targeting the American right since at least 2013, the year Putin enacted a law targeting pro-gay rights organizing and delivered a state-of-the-nation address extolling Russia’s ‘traditional values’ and assailing the West’s “genderless and infertile” liberalism. That same year, a Kremlin-connected think tank released a report entitled, ‘Putin: World Conservativism’s New Leader.’”

That 32-percent represents #FakePresident Trump’s rabid fan base. These are the Americans who would stick with him even if he appeared in San Francisco, or New York, or Los Angeles, or Seattle with an AK-47 and roughed up and/or slaughtered dozens. #FakePresident Trump would just say the people he shot deserved to die…

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Heavily Armed on the 4th of July

On the evening before the 4th of July this year someone set off some M80s or Cherry bombs, and it sounded like my house was the target. After slipping from window to window and carefully looking out, I left the house and checked the perimeter of my property looking for any signs of damage. While I was out staying in the shadows, there was no one in sight. The street was empty, and I didn’t find any damage or evidence of the explosives I’d heard that rattled my windows.

I went back inside, locked up, and later that night, when I left my home office after 8:00 pm, I took my loaded shogun with me to the family room where I watched a DVD.

All the noisy, flashy fireworks are a perfect cover for criminals and crazies to act, and that’s why on July 4th, I’m ready to fight. I slipped a large canister of pepper spray in my shirt pocket, hid a loaded pistol under a pillow and carried the shotgun to the family room with me to continue watching that DVD I started the night before.

With the 4th of July explosions popping off lighting the sky, every 10 minutes, I put the DVD on hold and slipped from room to room to peak out windows and make sure nothing suspicious was going on outside.  Even though there were plenty of explosions and flashy fireworks in the distance, I never saw anyone outside of the house, on the street, or across the street, but I stayed alert and ready anyway. To most combat vets with PTSD, when you relax and think everything is okay, that’s when the shit will hit the fan so you never relax.

Each window and door in my house has four locks. The last two locks can only be activated inside the house. No key will unlock them from outside. In fact, the workers that installed the new windows soon after I bought the house told me that one of my self-made locks was called a Deadman, because the simple, homemade device made it difficult for firemen to get in the house to save me.

I still remember my reply. “The threat of dying in a house fire doesn’t cause me to lose sleep. But the thought of some punk breaking into my house and me not being ready because I didn’t hear them does. If I know it is easy for someone to get inside my house without hearing them, I will be awake all night listening to every sound. I wanted to make sure that anyone breaking into my house had to make a lot of noise to do it and alert me. If a fire breaks out and kills me, too bad.”  I think that way because of the odds of a fire vs. a break-in.

According to FEMA, in 2010 there were 362,100 residential fires in the United States while there are about 131 million housing units.  That means the odds of my house catching fire are about a quarter of one percent.  But according to A Secure Life.com, “Data from the FBI 2012 crime report shows that we can expect one in every thirty-six homes in the United States to be burglarized this year (every year).”  Those odds are more than 3-percent or 12x the risk of a house fire.

I’m a combat vet. I live with the fight or flight response of PTSD, and I have no intention to run away. That leaves me with one choice, to fight. If someone breaks in my house while I’m home, one of us is going to die and I plan on it not being me.

It wasn’t always this way. I was married for forty years and to protect my wife and family from the flashbacks, caused by the combat memories that followed me home from the war, I kept my firearms locked away and lost a lot of sleep. Now that I’m on my own, the weapons are out when I’m home, and I sleep better knowing the house is sealed – something I had no control over when I was married. What is a vet to do when the wife can’t sleep unless she leaves the bedroom window open, and she sometimes wakes up and leaves the house on hot nights to get some cool air, but forgets to lock the front door when she returns?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.