Author Interview with Charlene Rubush
What does your website do for veterans?
My website/blog provides up-to-date information on combat-related Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Secondary PTSD, and how it affects veterans and their families, and the many ways that are available today, to deal with it.
My motivation for the site is to connect vets and their families with vital resources that they might not know about. I will keep them informed of the many new, evolving therapies for PTSD, and urge them to take advantage of what’s out there. My mission, if you will, is to provide recognition, validation, and support for them and their loved ones. They may leave comments, and I will provide feedback on their thoughts and questions. I do not want the veterans of today and their families, especially their spouses, to feel the loneliness and isolation that so many of us personally affected by Vietnam, have felt.
How did you become involved in veteran issues?
I became involved in veterans issues because of my former marriage to a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran of two tours (1966-68). We lived with his untreated PTSD for nineteen years. We had no help or support. I struggled trying to understand, support him, and accept his many problems, including drug and alcohol abuse, among others.
In 1987, he decided to see the film Platoon. He went into a dissociative state. I would speak to him and get no response. He was in another world. He put on his dog tags again, and sat in front of the tv for three days, watching Apocalypse Now. (What a perfect example of delayed, untreated PTSD and its power).
I called the VA Hospital and explained our situation. I was told there was nothing they could do “until he hurt himself or someone else.” They did tell me I was eligible for counseling at the Veterans Outreach Center, which I had never heard of. I urged my then husband to go, but he refused. He began staying away from home most of the time. I went for counseling at the Vet Center for months.
One day my husband appeared with a letter in hand, demanding a divorce. I agreed, and continued with counseling. But as soon as our divorce was final, I was informed I was no longer eligible for counseling from the VA. And this was at the most vulnerable time of my life, when my husband was displaying bizarre and threatening behavior toward me.
What was one of your most trying or challenging experiences while working with veterans?
One of my greatest fears when I first started writing about my experiences with my Vietnam vet was that veterans would feel I was contributing to the “crazy Nam Vet” stereotype, and disrespecting them. Much to my surprise and delight, the veterans I have met through my writing, and their families, have treated me like gold. They cheer me on, and tell me I must continue to tell my story. They have helped me heal some of my deepest wounds.
Is there an experience of which you are proudest?
The experience I am most proud of happened when I attended a writers conference years ago. The theme of the conference was “The Legacy of Vietnam.”
I was in a workshop headed by Pauline Laurent, who became a widow due to the Vietnam War, when she was 7 months pregnant. Our challenge in the workshop was to write about “something we could not write about.”
I dug down, and unearthed a brutal memory of an abusive incident that I had buried deep in my subconscious. With the help of my classmates and teacher, I was finally able to unlock and share that excruciating experience. They told me that I absolutely had to get up on the stage that night, and share my memory at the open mic. They offered to physically hold me up while I spoke.
Somehow, I gathered the courage. After my sharing, I came down off the stage to the open arms of several weeping Vietnam veterans. They individually hugged me and thanked me for sharing my pain. One whispered in my ear, “You have helped me to see myself.”
How can a vet contact and benefit from what you do?
Veterans and their families may contact me through my website. Evelyn Rainey (Veterans writer) has by my personal email, phone, and snail mail. Please contact her through email on this site and she will forward you the information.
What advice would you give to someone transitioning out of the military?
My advice to those transitioning out of the military would be this:
• Pat yourself on the back. I know this is hard. But you have survived for a reason.
• Give yourself some down time, but not too much.
• Reconnect with your family and friends. Get to know each other again.
• Get as much education on PTSD as you can. Make your spouse, friend or family member your advocate. For there will be days when you can’t advocate for yourself.
• Be cautious with medications. Ask for feedback from your family on how your behavior is affected by meds.
• Do not be ashamed to reach out for help and support. It is a sign of courage, not weakness!
• You must find a support group of some sort, and stay with it. Many veterans are starting with support from the VA, then dropping out. You must follow through. If the VA isn’t helping, look for other sources. Twelve step programs can help with life problems. They are free, and readily available most everywhere. There are people who are concerned for you and your family members, and want to help you adjust. Recovery doesn’t come quick or easy, but it’s worth the fight.
Here you are, speaking to thousands of veterans. What would you like to tell them?
I want to personally thank every veteran, every family member who have given so much, and continue to sacrifice parts of their lives, for having given their service to our country. Know that you have done important work, and many people care about you, and admire you. Never quit looking for the wonder and beauty in this life. Life is precious, and recovery is worth whatever time and effort you are willing to put into it.
Please visit me at the Win Over PTSD website (see below) as I continue to learn and share with you. Together we can Win Over PTSD!
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