Friday, April 29, 2016

Another New Postion...

Greetings Friends and Readers....

So, it is now official.. I have taken on the roll of Houston NORML's Veteran Outreach Director.  I am very happy and excited to be able to take another step towards uniting Texas Veterans. Here is my post of plan and list of goals that I posted to the Houston NORML Veterans group:

Hello all... I wanted to say howdy as your new Veterans Outreach Director. And thank Christopher Sum for all his hard work and dedication. He put on one heck of a Veteran's conference last year that was incredible!!! I hope to continue his excellence.
Towards that.. these is my plan and the goals I have developed for Houston NORML veterans...
My plan as Veteran Outreach Director is to create a strong and united group of cannabis activist veterans in the Houston and local outlaying areas. Finding leaders in those outlaying areas to assist in carrying out the following goals is also a part of the plan.
My goal is to create a strong and active core of veteran cannabis activists that would be trained to:
1. Speak about Operation Trapped to local veteran groups and appropriate organizations
(https://www.texasnorml.org/operation-trapped)
2. Work Operation Trapped displays at Houston NORML events to collect signatures and bottles.
3. Help veterans prepare their bios and practice preparing for lobbying and testifying.
3. Train teams of veterans to go speak to their local representatives as veterans about how cannabis affects their lives.
4. Work on a plan to bring as many Houston veterans as desire to go to Austin and talk to members of the Veterans Committee,
and their own legislators, about how cannabis helps them.
5. Work on a plan to help as many veterans as possible to go to Austin in 2017 to testify before any relevant hearings.
6. Come up with other ideas to help further the cause in any way that we can.- Please let me know any ideas YOU veterans have out there! We are a team!
Wish list:
I would love for Houston to have a Houston NORML Veterans banner for parades and events for us and our supporters to identify us and to march behind.
I would like for us to have Houston NORML Veterans bracelets, pins (bigger pins!) and T-shirts etc.
I would love to see us develop some Operation Trapped gear as well to support the cause.
All veterans need each other in this fight. Not all of us can do this, but some of us can. Those veterans that can't go to Austin, can write and call their legislators and committee members and still help us all out. We veterans have been told that we are the ones that can help enlighten our legislators. It is also very therapeutic to participate in the process of bringing justice to veterans and our fellow citizens here in Texas. We understand Esprit de Corps!
Here is the link to Operation Trapped:
I look forward to Houston Veterans becoming a force for Austin to recognize and be accountable too. Time for this to end! Please join me in marching us forward!!!!

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I included a link to here.. so if you came from that, welcome!
On another note, myself and fellow MST survivor L head to Austin to walk with Team Hope tomorrow. It will be in memory of Vincent. Only lightening will keep me from it. Then a meeting after with his family.
It already brings me to tears to think of him... and I know he will be with us tomorrow.

Well, I'll update ya'll as things go along...
Over and out,
Myst

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hope... Starts with an R






Welcome friends and readers,


There are innumerable thoughts swirling around in my head today.  I have put off this post until I could wrap my brain around recent events.

First.. I like to start and end with goodness when I can. The headline... will only make sense to a tiny number of people who may come here. But, it makes more then enormous sense to me.

A few days ago, the same fellow veteran Arthur, that I had gone to Myra Crownover's office last year had gotten an appt so see the staff member at the Veteran's office after our upcoming PACT meeting. I asked if I could come along, and he welcomed me.  I worked on getting my folder ready to give him. I had another copy of War Without End, and a paper by the Baker Institute. Arthur had also gotten a copy of the book "Cannabis saved my life' and he would have all the patients present write in it before he presented it to the the Senators office.

My dear friend Dan

Sunday I drove up to Austin to be at the PACT meeting in the morning. It was a difficult and emotional time for me. I did have a new roommate, K, who I had a wonderful time with. We talked for hours and really enjoyed each others company. We walked to a nearby restaurant and I had tortilla soup, which was wonderful. We stayed at my fave BnB. It is only a few minutes from the capitol, and it doesn't take long to get there. I was very anticipatory about the meetings that day.

Arthur and a visitor

Shortly after we arrived at the meeting room, the Vet Committee staffer arrived to talk with Arthur and I. He gave us some quality time, about an hour, and he said he had several questions for us when we came to the appointment in a few hours.  I was glad to be able to thank him again for his words after the committee hearing. 

Myself, the visitor and Jax

As for our first meeting without it's founder Vincent.  It..... was...eyeopening. It was heart wrenching in more ways the one. Above all, it was wonderful to see patients that had come from all over Texas to unite in this cause. There is much I will not say here now. Perhaps in time, perhaps never. 


Vincent, we miss your wisdom and compassionate heart.

After the meeting, Arthur and I headed over to the meeting.  I do not have words to fully express the gratitude for the time that R dedicated to talking to Arthur and I. He had good, solid questions. He gave us advice on how to move forward. And above all.. he said we were getting closer.. and that providing the Senator with scientific research would help a lot. At the end, he also said to keep doing Operation Trapped. He said the Lt. Gov decides what hearings like this are held.  So I think that writing and asking him for a hearing into this would  be helpful. There was so much I got to say, and have HEARD.... for what felt like a long time. Not since my meetings with Reps Joe Moody and David Simpson have I felt this much better, and reassured.  Patience.. yes.. I have that.. there are patients though, veterans, who do not have the time to be patient.   

But I will continue to fight and gather information. One thing we veterans are good at.. it's accomplishing a mission.  Make it harder? Damn f'ing right, we'll fight even harder. We have the dead, children and veterans to fight for. We have Moms, Dads, grandparents, siblings, friends.. fellow humans we don't even know that we must fight for.  I pray.. I pray.. the time will come when Texas will allow us veterans to finally, finally rest. To lay down our arms of battle and just be. Not have to keep doing as we have.  This last battle.. for all of our country men.. and for the world. Not just Texas, which is all of the above.  

We have all tried so many things, as a fellow vet just told me, she has tried things she should never have tried. Things that endangered herself and her child at one point.  Medical cannabis is generally the last thing that gets tried, not the first.  This has led to the death of many who would not try it for they will not break the law.  But I did not come here to die this way.. by my own hand, after the horrors those asshats put me through.  So I will live.. carefully.. and hypothetically...missing the feeling of safety I once had. To come here.. and now.. to risk my freedom, for my life and more so for the lives of others. 

Our time will come. One day I can come here and declare that the war on patients and people has finally ended. 

Over and Out,
Myst

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Testimony before the Texas Veterans Committee.






Greetings Friends and Readers,

It has taken me a while to be able to digest what happened at the committee meeting, and then to be able to write about it. 

I did decide to testify, and I am very glad that I did. There were four of us testifying and a few extra special folks who came to support us.  We got there at 8am, and they were listening to 'invited guests first.  The first two folks took about an hour.  There were updates on many veteran programs, and we heard the Chair of the committee speak over and over again about how these folks need to be taking better care of veterans.  But not one veteran was invited to speak.  

It was finally around 4pm that we got to testify.  Up first, was Arthur...
Here is his testimony.

I was... abhorred at how the Chair treated him after he states what it is that his representivie won't meet or talk to him about.  And she says this isn't the time. Well, yes Maa'm, for us who have watched friends die, it sure as shit is!!! 

Next up was Kate,
 Here is her testimony.

And then Jeremiah, 
Here is his testimony.

And I got to go last.  After the way I felt they treated my fellow veterans, I spontaneously decided that when my timer went off, I was going to keep going. I was going to say my piece, screw the two minutes. We veterans deserved better then  that!  I knew there was no one coming after myself, and while I would never take their time... I did want to do justice for so many.  I didn't mean to be rude.. but we are very passionate.

Here is my testimony.

After Art says what his issue is, the Chair does not ask another question.  We have fired our first shot across the their bow.  If this was not the time and place to speak of veterans mental health issues, when was???
This was one of the hardest things to do, but it was absolutely the right thing to do!

 We will not give up, we will not stop... we will bring home all Texas medical refugees.







I would be remiss if I did not mention the kindness of the Chair's Veteran Committee staff member. He stopped me after the testimony to tell me he was going to be looking into it. His kind words and support means more then I can say.   I hope this will be an opening of dialog between veterans and our State office.
Over and out,
Myst

Monday, March 7, 2016

Testimony Coming Up.. Whirling Thoughts...

Greetings Friends and Readers,

I had a rough night last night. Thoughts swirling around.. memories I don't want raising their ugly heads. One of the most circular thoughts was this:

This coming Thur, two veterans will represent all the Texas veterans who wish to be able to use medical cannabis as their medicine by testifying before the Texas Veterans Committee. I have very mixed feelings about this. I know and respect both veterans who are testifying. But neither of them have had the experiences I have had in a couple of different ways. First.. neither is a survivor of military sexual trauma like I and thousands of others are. Our PTSD, and the help that medical cannabis can give us is unique to each patient, but also to us as a group, being in control of our medicine, after having had our control taken from us during military sexual trauma, choosing our best medicine gives us back an extremely important choice. I have asked them to mention MST, and so far, one of them has assured me that she will.  But she cannot speak from the excruciating pain of the actual experience. 

For a refresher on MST..... or if you haven't seen this, please watch it:





 The second part, that is just as vital to me, is my experience as a veteran from a medical cannabis state, that WAS able to talk to their VA doctor about medical cannabis, and far more importantly, have them talk to ME about my medicine and be supportive of it. The experience of an open, frank, honest conversation about the best medicine for my PTSD is very healing. That they also recognized how therapeutic growing my own medicine was to me, and that was also a very healing experience.  Being able to speak about being a veteran in a medical state, where all is open and above board and is one that I think our Texas legislators need to hear first hand from someone who has lived it, and can answer questions about it. 

The difference between being a veteran in a medical state, and all the support that comes with it, as opposed to being a criminal a non-medical state for the exact same medicine is truly ludicrous. I don't need the extra paranoia that being in a non medical state brings.  I can't move anywhere else, this is where my PTSD treatment is. I don't WANT to go anywhere else, this is my HOME now!!!!  My medicine should not depend on my zip code. The VA clearly sees how healing medical cannabis is for vets, and gives us all the support they can in medical states. The mental difference for anyone with PTSD, or any illness is incredibly important.   

I also have some strong feelings about veterans families.  Operation Trapped is a fantastic rally that I am 10000% behind.  But... during working the OT table last weekend, many veterans signed it happily.  But the unhappy ones, were the family, widows, friends of veterans who also wanted to sign something in support of their veteran family member or friend.  I had to tell them they couldn't, and the looks on their faces was heart rending to me. I understand that we want pure veteran numbers in signing the letter to the Gov asking him to meet with veterans. But... the numbers in support of veterans is HUGE. Every person who read the veteran's letter wanted to sign in support of them. The numbers are enormous in support of veterans using it. The letter itself says we know that our fellow citizens support us, why not have a way to show it when they want to? 

 We have been told that that support from legislators will most likely make us the ones they can 'evolve'  on medical cannabis for PTSD, chronic pain and such. Our families have to deal with us, with our fucked-upped-ness. I know that K has become very watchful and protective of me, for like myself, he never knows when the oddest thing will trigger me into a anxiety attack, sometimes of epic proportions. Sometimes I feel guilty because some of his care-free life is forever gone. He will always have to be on guard with me to be sure I don't lose it. Being able to self medicate with an effective medication, and the excellent therapy from Crystal at the Harris County Vet Center have helped me more then I have words to speak. The fact that what I am doing could get me into deep trouble makes me incredibly jumpy. I know some of my dearest friends are spouses of my veteran friends, and I watch them struggle as K does with their veteran's PTSD or chronic pain.  I want them to have a voice.  I feel a mission to help them, but I am afraid of rocking the boat some within the activist community.  

I also want to ring the bell more to the legislators about Vet Centers and the lack of knowledge about them by most of the veterans I meed.  I would like to see the Texas legislature act to publicize them more, although it's really the VA's job to do so. But they don't seem to be doing it. 

On Wed, I drive to Austin so I'll be there early for Thru's testimony. I'll fill ya'll in as to how it goes later.

Over and out,
Myst




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Operation Trapped


Greetings Friends and Readers....
It has been a while and much has gone on! First, the above graphic for Operation Trapped.  It is a movement here in Texas, led by Texas NORML's (Retired) Major Bass. The first past is this letter to Gov Abbot, which Texas veterans are signing in droves...


Honorable Gov. Greg Abbott,
 I’m writing today to request an in‐person meeting with you and a group of Texas veterans who advocate for a more inclusive medical marijuana program and currently use cannabis to treat post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and chronic pain related to injuries suffered while serving our country. Our veterans choose to use cannabis as an alternative medication to narcotic pain medications and psychotropic drugs. The medications prescribed by our Veterans Administration (VA) doctors for chronic pain are addictive and dangerous, and the psychotropic drugs prescribed for PTSD have terrible side effects. Many veterans in Texas and around the country testify that cannabis is more effective and safer than the current pharmaceutical drugs used to treat our injuries. 

Thousands of Texas veterans who have served in every war dating back to the Korean War choose cannabis as medication. We are taxpayers, voters, homeowners, and law‐abiding citizens who believe that we have earned the right to make informed decisions about our health. Establishing an inclusive medical marijuana program, strictly regulated by the state, will allow veterans to stop purchasing our medication from questionable sources and to use cannabis safely under the supervision of our doctors. Veterans Health Administration Directive 2011‐004 dated January 31, 2011, directs VA doctors in the twenty‐three states with medical marijuana programs to treat veterans legally certified to use medical marijuana as any other patient with a non‐VA prescription. This directive recognizes that medical marijuana is a valid medication and that state laws allowing it should be respected.
 We know that the citizens of Texas support our right to choose a safe, effective medication for the injuries we sustained while faithfully serving our country. Please work with us to schedule a time to meet in Austin, preferably on Veterans Day 2016.


Respectfully, Major David E. Bass, 
U.S. Army (Retired) 254‐319‐3673 


Operation Trapped is a veteran ­driven campaign to support and rally Texas Veterans who wish to use cannabis legally to treat their service ­related injuries. Veteran signatures indicate support for Major David Bass’ (U.S. Army ­ Retired) request for a meeting with Governor Abbott to discuss medical marijuana access in Texas.


Any Texas veteran can sign the letter 

Information about Operation Trapped and gathering at least 1,000 pill bottles to give to Gov Abbot next veterans day is 


========================================================================

Also, I got my PACT cards, and they look like this:

 I worked a Operation Trapped information and sign up desk here:



It was a wonderful experience!

Now, all this relates directly to my PTSD and my MST. I have had some very heart wrenching conversations with different veterans about this. I have come out of both the canna  closet, and the MST closet. Because my PTSD is different from most military experiences from PTSD, I can give a unique voice to those of us that have survived military sexual trauma, and even more to be able to speak and testify about it. 

I have made and am making more excellent contacts all the time. This therapy IS working for me. If I have to tell my story, and I get choked up... that person realizes it.. and where they may not have been listening much before, they seem to listen much more. I am using my past negative to turn into a positive for our whole state, hopefully the nation!  Voting is upon us, and next year the lobbying starts all over again.  Working all this through gives me a peace of mind I've not had for years. As well as being able to meet and talk with other veterans and MST survivors!  I know I am DOING something!

Over and Out for now,
Myst


Monday, November 30, 2015

Veterans Day March



Greetings Friends and Readers!

Just a quick updated note.  I got to march in Austin on Veteran's Day with Texas NORML Veterans, and, I got to hold the banner! I was soo excited! It was an amazing, amazing experience. I met so many other of the brethren that I hadn't before, including several lady veterans which was amazingly awesome!!! 

We launched Operation Trapped.. there will be more info soon!




















We hope to collect over 1000 bottles to give to Gov Abbot next Veteran's Day!


Over and out for now,
Myst


Saturday, November 7, 2015

A New Position

PACT logo

PACT lobbying team at the Texas State Capitol

So, in my continuation of my therapy and progress in surviving and thriving with MST, I have this week accepted a volunteer position as the new Veteran's Liaison and Outreach Coordinator for PACT! I am thrilled to be a taking a leadership role in this great organization!  I joined the group at the beginning of the year and lobbied with several of them during this past session. Above is a pic of some of us from PACT that showed up to lobby legislators and many of the same came later to testify for 3785, the Medical Cannabis act, that was never allowed a vote. Little Alexis had a terrible seizure in Feb, and her parents moved her to Colorado, where now she is well over 200 days with NO seizures.  It was very sad that she could not come back to Texas to testify at the hearings herself, although her father, a quite remarkable man himself, and also a disabled veteran did.  Vincent and many of the folks in the above pic did testify, and you can see it yourself in some of my previous entries here.  


Vincent, I will always keep you in mind as I work for the betterment of 
all patients and their right to choose whole plant for themselves!

 
I have turned down offers from other organizations to do this, but when Tracy at PACT asked, I knew this was the group I had been waiting for to work for and with uniting more veterans in this campaign for justice.  PACT is all about patients. The Founder and Peerless Leader, Vincent Lopez,  passed away in Oct and we will miss his physical presence, but I have no doubt he will be everywhere we are as we continue his work. It is truly an honor to be able to help out in this great alliance.  We didn't get the whole plant through this year, but in 2017, I am sure we will, if it's not done by then.  But, I can still see patients and families needing to be united to be sure we get the bills written in the best interests of patients!

I read this great article (below) and it both triggered me and helped me understand why my PTSD is so severe.  Mine went on for years, and it wasn't just in one place. My supervisors were good at sending me to isolated places so they could do as they pleased with me.  On my second base, when it was the two of them.... well.. that was even worse.  I never fucking got a break from them asshats. I continue to work on getting better, but I know it will only get so good.  My fight to legalize medical cannabis is a vital link to my getting better.  I am working to  right a wrong, as I cannot work to right my own wrongs.  Getting justice and peace for patients is sooo important to me.  I have lost dear friends to cancer and opiate over dose.  I almost lost my sanity, and some of it's not coming back round the bend.


One of the things I realized that was different between MST survivors and Combat warriors, is that we both live with terrible trauma. But... their's isn't personal.  Ours is.  When your supervisor is raping and abusing you... that's as fuckin' personal as it gets.  In war, in combat, they are just trying to kill everyone.. it's not personal. You can be any soldier getting shot at.  But with rape.... it's not just anyone. They picked you, and they enjoy hurting and destroying you.  Well, since the best revenge is living well, I'll go medicate and blow a puff to those that tried to destroy me.  They did not. I'd rather be illegally healed then dead.   And now, as PACT's new and first Veteran's Outreach Coordinator, I plan on helping as many more as I can!   Now I have to learn Powerpoint and start connecting even more.  

Best to all out there,
Over and out,
Myst
-------------------

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Complex PTSD
Many traumatic events (e.g., car accidents, natural disasters, etc.) are of time-limited duration. However, in some cases people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.
Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggests that a new diagnosis, Complex PTSD, is needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma (1). Another name sometimes used to describe the cluster of symptoms referred to as Complex PTSD is Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS)(2). A work group has also proposed a diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) for children and adolescents who experience chronic traumatic events (3).
Because results from the DSM-IV Field Trials indicated that 92% of individuals with Complex PTSD/DESNOS also met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, Complex PTSD was not added as a separate diagnosis classification (4). However, cases that involve prolonged, repeated trauma may indicate a need for special treatment considerations.

What types of trauma are associated with Complex PTSD?

During long-term traumas, the victim is generally held in a state of captivity, physically or emotionally, according to Dr. Herman (1). In these situations the victim is under the control of the perpetrator and unable to get away from the danger.
Examples of such traumatic situations include:
  • Concentration camps
  • Prisoner of War camps
  • Prostitution brothels
  • Long-term domestic violence
  • Long-term child physical abuse
  • Long-term child sexual abuse
  • Organized child exploitation rings

What additional symptoms are seen in Complex PTSD?

An individual who experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of chronic victimization and total control by another may also experience the following difficulties:
  • Emotional Regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.
  • Consciousness. Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one's mental processes or body (dissociation).
  • Self-Perception. May include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator. Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.
  • Relations with Others. Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • One's System of Meanings. May include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

What other difficulties are faced by those who experienced chronic trauma?

Because people who experience chronic trauma often have additional symptoms not included in the PTSD diagnosis, clinicians may misdiagnose PTSD or only diagnose a personality disorder consistent with some symptoms, such as Borderline, Dependent, or Masochistic Personality Disorder.
Care should be taken during assessment to understand whether symptoms are characteristic of PTSD or if the survivor has co-occurring PTSD and personality disorder. Clinicians should assess for PTSD specifically, keeping in mind that chronic trauma survivors may experience any of the following difficulties:
  • Survivors may avoid thinking and talking about trauma-related topics because the feelings associated with the trauma are often overwhelming.
  • Survivors may use alcohol or other substances as a way to avoid and numb feelings and thoughts related to the trauma.
  • Survivors may engage in self-mutilation and other forms of self-harm.
  • Survivors who have been abused repeatedly are sometimes mistaken as having a "weak character" or are unjustly blamed for the symptoms they experience as a result of victimization.

Treatment for Complex PTSD

Standard evidence-based treatments for PTSD are effective for treating PTSD that occurs following chronic trauma. At the same time, treating Complex PTSD often involves addressing interpersonal difficulties and the specific symptoms mentioned above. Dr. Herman contends that recovery from Complex PTSD requires restoration of control and power for the traumatized person. Survivors can become empowered by healing relationships which create safety, allow for remembrance and mourning, and promote reconnection with everyday life (1).

References

  1. Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Ford, J. D. (1999). Disorders of extreme stress following war-zone military trauma: Associated features of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or comorbid but distinct syndromes? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 3-12.
  3. van der Kolk, B. (2005). Developmental trauma disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 401-408.
  4. Roth, S., Newman, E., Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk, B., & Mandel, F. S. (1997). Complex PTSD in victims exposed to sexual and physical abuse: Results from the DSM-IV field trial for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 539-555.