Humans; Heartbreak, Heartache, and Heart Felt Feelings

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Originally published, Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 13:24:53 PM

Currently, I am writing for an educational organization.  In penning my pain for what occurs in our schools today, it occurred to me the same impersonal approach, awareness, or lack thereof, is evident in offices, neighborhoods, and in our broader community. People pretend to or believe they ” know” their fellow workers, their family members, and their friends.  Yet, more often than not, I observe that this is not necessarily true.  I, we, she, or he only comprehends what is visible on the surface.

Few choose to ask of, address, or answer the deeper concerns that life delivers daily; I offer this narrative and request your reflections. We all have our own tale to tell. I invite you to share yours.  Please trust that I care; your secrets are safe with me.  I suspect that others will honor you as I choose to do.  I believe we all relate to sorrow.

Today the distress I wish to discuss is heartbreak, heartache, and heart felt feelings. In my own life, I am witnessing that many close to me are battling life-threatening illnesses. Their terminal diagnoses affect me deeply. They weigh heavy on those closer to the ” patient” than I. I cannot begin to imagine the pain long-suffering persons feel. Yet, through the quiet trials and tribulations of a teen, who supposedly studied under my tutelage, I learned. What we hide hurts us most.

I feel such sorrow for friends, family, or even the individual that is hurting, struggling to survive. Each time I hear of a person waiting to pass, I wonder.  What are they thinking, feeling; how will their own being be altered, and what of their loved ones.

As I listen to many in my life speak of loss, I am aware that even those that lose a loved one to divorce, physical separation, or a break-up are also feeling great pain.  There is so much that occurs daily in the lives of each of us.  Yet, we rarely discuss our deepest anguish.  Students are often satiated; their personal pressures can be overwhelming.  Anxiety has an effect on the work of pupils; yet, rarely do Educators address such concerns.  I wish to share a personal story, one that illustrates how loss can take a toll on our students.

I recall a time when I was teaching high school students.  A young girl, quite bright was struggling to connect in most of her classes. Many of Marsha’s Instructors pondered, ” What were they to do with her?”

Each Educator in Marsha’s life approached her; they wanted to help. Teachers truly believed that Marsha could achieve if she just put her mind to it.  She was ” not working to her potential.”  Her mentors felt certain if they affirmed their belief in her that would be enough. All else would change. Thus, Instructor after Instructor spoke of this with the young scholar.  They discussed her grades, her attention to detail, and her chatty nature.  When I arrived at the school, I observed that in respect to Marsha, Teachers focused on what they could see; what they had observed for the last two years.

What they could not envision and did not experience was what occurred in the two years prior. Marsha witnessed a suicide.  Her father killed himself in front of her. She shared that after the incident, she and her mother were told by law officers that they had to clean the mess, the splattered blood, brains, and guts that covered the walls of her once tranquil home. Wow. How traumatic!

This young woman shared the tale calmly; it was ” just” part of a conversation. She showed no emotion as she described the details.  After all, she had two years to become numb.

Had I not ” been there” sitting with students and discussing daily distresses as they do while they work I would not have learned of this alarming event. In my own teaching, I do not place myself at a distant ” Teacher’s” desk in the front or the back of the room.  I casually chat with students while they work.  I purposely did not and do not present an imposing influence, in part because that is not my nature.

As a tablemate, I learned what many Teachers had not.  Thus, I ask; are we as Instructors attending to success.  Are achievements all we strive for or is it the appearance of these?  Does the want for verifiable standards neglect a students needs?  Does instruction in its current form fill a young mind or are only forms bubbles, and blanks filled in.?   How often might we miss knowing our students?  Granted, there are truths that Teachers accept.

I too acknowledge that with overcrowded classes and curriculums that must be completed, time and true care for the whole of our students can be left behind.  Much escapes our attention when people, pupils are not the mandated priority.  In effect, even if we say students are our main concern, if Educators, parents, Principals, and the broader population act on another agenda, genuine empathy and education do not survive.

Perchance, this truth extends far beyond a classroom.  Indeed, I observe and experience that it does.  As humans we wish to connect; yet, barely and rarely do we really act on our deepest desire..

In cyberspace we chat.  On street corners we converse, albeit often superficially.  At a party, even with our pals, we discuss with tact.  Much is pretense.  More is merely as we are taught or told is polite.  I wonder what might we do to create what we crave, an authentic association.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, and observations.  I, we as Educators, as parents, as persons in a society that stresses ” accountability” in our schools can learn from you!

For those of you that are reading this saga and are not mentors in the conventional sense, please trust that you too are a Teacher.  We all are. Simultaneously, we tutor and we learn.  We are all students and guides; we each facilitate expansion.  I invite you to advance my own.  I thank you for offering opportunities for our greater growth.

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Government ignores veteran and soldier suicides

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Friday, December 28, 2007

While prosecuting its war on the Iraqi people I had been in Iraq for about two months when my brigade suffered its first fatality. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody wanted to believe that it had happened. The deployment was supposed to be quick and easy; we were supposed to be greeted with flowers and return home within a few months. ??As the sounds from the memorial service echoed in our barracks, there was silence-only the recorded sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Nobody wanted to talk about the realization that we may never return home. Nobody wanted to talk about the situation we had gotten into; the number of Iraqi people who were dying because of the invasion. Most of all, nobody wanted to talk about the soldier who had died.

The bullet that killed him came from his own rifle, but nobody wanted to talk about that either. Everyone wanted to believe the official story, that it was an accidental discharge. To consider anything else meant accepting that surviving the war was more than just surviving combat. Making it home alive does not necessarily mean making it home safe.

According to the Pentagon, at least 152 soldiers have committed suicide while serving overseas in the phony “war on terror.” It can be safely assumed that this number is much higher, as the military brass would rather explain a suicide as a “tragic accident” rather than a result of combat stress. ??In fact, the Army maintains to this day that it has not yet found a link between combat stress and suicide. The Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, has asserted: “We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.” ??This position ignores the truth about serving an imperialist army in an imperialist war. ??It was exposed by a recent CBS News study on suicide levels among veterans. The study showed that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of civilians. The suicide rate among people in the United States as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000 people. The level among veterans is at least 18.7 per 100,000 people.

Veterans of the imperialist “war on terror” experience a higher rate of suicide with at least 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

The Veterans Administration does not keep a record of veteran suicides. It actively avoids these terrible statistics. Countless cases have come to light about soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being denied treatment, being diagnosed as having a “pre-existing” condition and being accused of lying to escape military service. ??The military brass has stooped so low as to blame suicides on “Dear John” letters, poor upbringing by parents, and “underdeveloped life coping skills.” ??False excuses like these allow the Pentagon to absolve itself of all responsibility. The military is able to circumvent paying disability benefits. It also permits the warmongers to distort the situation in Iraq to serve their own interests. The Pentagon only cares about advancing its military goals. It cares nothing about the soldiers it uses to spread imperialism.

It cares nothing about the Iraqi people, over a million of whom have been killed in this criminal war and occupation.

A criminal war

I have experienced first hand the bureaucracy of the VA system. I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.

Private Jonathan Schulze also received the run around from the VA. An Iraq war veteran suffering PTSD, he tried to check himself in to a VA psychiatric unit in Minnesota. With the aid of his parents, he explained to his counselor that he was suicidal and insisted on being admitted. Instead, he was placed on a long waiting list. The following day, his parents called the VA and pleaded for their son’s admission. They received no cooperation. Four days later, haunted by memories of war, Jonathan Schulze went into his basement, tied an extension cord around his neck, and hanged himself.

Private Jason Scheuerman could not wait until he returned home from Iraq to seek treatment for PTSD. He informed his fellow soldiers and commanding officers that he was suicidal. He was experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms of PTSD, including hallucinations. When he finally received a mental health evaluation, the psychiatrist concluded that he did not meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. The psychiatrist also informed his leaders that he was “claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command.” ??Not only was Scheuerman denied treatment and forced to remain on combat duty, but he also was punished by his superiors for seeking mental help and threatened with jail time. Shortly thereafter, there was a letter posted on Scheuerman’s barracks closet. Inside the closet, his lifeless body was discovered. “Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons, maybe finally I can get some peace,” he wrote.

The U.S. government will not adequately care for the soldiers it sends to do its biding. It will use them as cannon fodder, then leave them to die alone in a basement or in a dark closet. ??With the recent data displaying a suicide epidemic, the VA has vowed to improve its psychiatric treatment. This is nothing but empty promises. Soldiers will continue to kill and be killed in an unjust war on the Iraqi people. If they return, many will be plagued by trauma. ??But soldiers have the power to break this cycle. If soldiers want to fight a just battle, one that will serve their interests and not the interests of the ruling class, they can join the fight against the system that profits from human suffering. ??Not one more Iraqi should have to die. Not one more Iraqi family should have to leave their homes to flee the imperialist occupation of their country.

Not one more U.S. soldier should fight and die in Iraq. And not one more will have to if they refuse to fight in this criminal war.  

Is Suicide a Human Right?

copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

Do we have the right to end our lives as we choose?  Can we as rational beings take the ending of life in our own hands in our own time and place?  May we be assisted in this ending of life by others and if so what are the responsibilities entailed by that helper person?  How do we as a society decide these issues?  Can we as a society today resolve the question or must this remain a personal decision?  What place does the law have in this discourse and in the solutions?

Events in the news like the case of Terri Schiavo and the recent release of Dr Jack Kevorkian from prison bring these questions into the public eye from time to time.  Medical advances are being made on a near daily basis which allow longer times of life support in the case of failing or failed bodies.  What ever are we going to do with these situations?

My mother died several years ago following a brief but very painful illness.  By the end of her life she no longer recognized her children and needed to be reminded of their names at every meeting.  My father on the other hand died following a years long very painful losing of life.  For the last several years he was bedridden.  Finally some combination of organ failure took him out of his misery.  In each death my family was left on their own to deal with their own feelings and to sort out responses in accordance with local laws and the medical profession.

There are so many considerations in this situation.  Legal, moral, religious, personal.  How does a family go about making decisions?  How about an individual? In my family the entire group of survivors was gathered to make end of life decisions for Mother.  We were not able to gather for my father as he died too quickly.  For Mother we as a group chose to allow her pain relief without drastic intervention.  We as a family chose to take no steps to prolong her dying.  In the instance of Mother we could have been criticized for our making decisions at a time when she was not clearly able to make the same choices for herself.  At the time Mother had a living will in place stating her decision to forego any measures of life support that were in place merely to prolong life without reasonable hope of recovery.  No such recovery was in her future at the time due to widespread cancer so we as a family group (all her children, grandchildren, and daughter-in-laws) felt comfortable with the decision.

As to society as a whole where do we go from here?  If we pass laws that allow assisted suicide who should be the assistant?  Physicians are bound by ethical considerations that effectively prevent their causing a patient any degree of harm.  Do those same considerations apply in the case of terminal illness that may be accompanied by intractable pain?  Should ethics be a block when a patient has a terminal disease and wishes to shorten the time to death even when pain is not an issue?  How do we ensure a person asking for help is competent to make the decision?  If a person is mentally ill or severely depressed that person should be treated I think we?d all agree.  If after treatment they still wish to end their life should that be allowed or assisted?

If we as a society pass any law allowing assisted suicide how far will that be extended?  Will people find ways to ‘help’ ailing relatives end their lives when the only burden is on the living and not on the dying?  How do we prevent such from taking place?  Animals are euthanised at the owners? convenience at regular intervals.  Why not humans if the relatives decide the time has come?

Congress is now led by a Democratic contingent.  They as a group must face issues of all sorts that are important to the future of our country.  Issues like right to death are part and parcel of the problems needing attention.  Should Congress mandate the solutions?  Should the decisions be left to the individual family and their physician?  Should the final ruling be one of a court?  Perhaps a special court established for the specific purpose of these decisions?  If an individual wishes to end their own life, whom should they consult?  Will there be specialized people who know the easiest and best ways for a person to end a life?  Should there be centers for a person to find aid?

The answers to issues like this one will not come easily.  And perhaps the best answers are no answers at all.  Only by bringing such discussions into open forums do we have any chance to resolve the dilemma presented so often by advances in medicine today.  With today’s technology we can maintain life in a human body far beyond any function without support.  The question becomes how do we manage the technology for the benefit of humanity.  And how do we insure each individual their rights to a life of their choosing?

A sampling of links related to the conversation.  There are many, many more to be found.

  • Washington vs Glucksberg, Supreme Court Decision
  • Public Agenda on the Right to Die
  • Euthanasia.com
  • An essay by Dr. Sam Vaknin.
  • An essay by Dr. Kenneth Cauthen.
  • Daily Distress. Heartbreak, Heartache, and Heart Felt Feelings ©

    HrtAch

    Currently I am writing for an educational organization.  In penning my pain for what occurs in our schools today, it occurred to me the same impersonal approach, awareness, or lack thereof, is evident in offices, neighborhoods, and in our broader community. People pretend to or believe they “know” their fellow workers, their family members, and their friends.  Yet, more often than not, I observe that this is not necessarily true.  I, we, she, or he only comprehends what is visible on the surface.

    Few choose to ask of, address, or answer the deeper concerns that life delivers daily; I offer this narrative and request your reflections. We all have our own tale to tell. I invite you to share yours.  Please trust that I care; your secrets are safe with me.  I suspect that others will honor you as I choose to do.  I believe we all relate to sorrow.

    Today the distress I wish to discuss is heartbreak, heartache, and heart felt feelings. In my own life, I am witnessing that many close to me are battling life-threatening illnesses. Their terminal diagnoses effect me deeply. They weigh heavy on those closer to the “patient” than I. I cannot begin to imagine the pain long-suffering persons feel. Yet, through the quiet trials and tribulations of a teen, who supposedly studied under my tutelage, I learned. What we hide hurts us most.

    I feel such sorrow for their friends, family, or even the individual that is hurting, struggling to survive. Each time I hear of a person waiting to pass, I wonder.  What are they thinking, feeling; how will their own being be altered, and what of their loved ones.

    As I listen to many in my life speak of loss, I am aware that even those that lose a loved one to divorce, physical separation, or a break-up are also feeling great pain.  There is so much that occurs daily in the lives of each of us.  Yet, we rarely discuss our deepest anguish.  Students are often satiated; their personal pressures can be overwhelming.  Anxiety has an effect on the work of pupils; yet, few educators address such concerns.  I wish to share a personal story, one that illustrates how loss can take a toll on our students.

    I recall a time when I was teaching high school students.  A young girl, quite bright was struggling to connect in most of her classes. Many of Marsha’s instructors pondered, “What were they to do with her?”

    Each educator in Marsha’s life approached her; they wanted to help. Teachers truly believed that Marsha could achieve if she just put her mind to it.  She was “not working to her potential.”  Her mentors felt certain if they affirmed their belief in her that would be enough. All else would change. Thus, instructor after instructor spoke of with this young scholar.  They discussed her grades, her attention to detail, and her chatty nature.  When I arrived at the school, I observed that in respect to Marsha, teachers focused on what they could see; they had for the last two years.

    What they could not envision and did not experience was what occurred in the two years prior. Marsha witnessed a suicide.  Her father killed himself in front of her. She shared that after the incident, she and her mother were told by law officers that they had to clean the mess, the splattering blood, brains, and guts that covered the walls of her once tranquil home. Wow. How traumatic!

    This young woman shared the tale calmly; it was “just” part of a conversation. She showed no emotion as she described the details.  After all, she had two years to become numb.

    Had I not “been there” sitting with students and discussing daily distresses as they do while they work I would not have learned of this alarming event. In my own teaching, I do not place myself at a distant “teacher’s” desk in the front or the back of the room.  I casually chat with students while they work.  I purposely did not and do present an imposing influence, in part because that is not my nature.

    As a tablemate, I learned what many teachers had not.  Thus, I ask, are we as instructors attending to success, achievements, and to verifiable standards?  How often might we miss knowing our students?  I too acknowledge that with overcrowded classes and curriculums that must be completed time and care can capture our attention.

    I wonder what might we do.  Please share your thoughts, experiences, and observations.  I, we as educators, as parents, as persons in a society that stresses “accountability” in our schools can learn from you!

    For those of you that are reading this saga and are not mentors in the conventional sense, please trust that you too are a teacher.  We all are. Simultaneously, we tutor and we learn.  We are all students and guides; we each facilitate expansion.  I invite you to advance my own.  I thank you for offering opportunities for our greater growth.