Category: Mental Health


stressimmuneWe have one great defensive team to protect ourselves in this world full of germs, viruses and bacteria our immune system. We are born with it and while not perfect, it keeps us alive in most cases if we ‘catch’ something and it has a great memory for prior foreign invaders.

Our immune system is what keeps us from having to live a sterile environment and it’s in our best interest to keep our immune system strong so that when some invaders comes a knockin’ we have a fighting chance to live. I would hazard to guess that most people don’t even THINK about their immune system and what would happen if it went bye-bye or was seriously compromised. Day in and day out we go about our lives full of stress and surrounded by germs. So, in this day and age when we typically don’t eat right, sit around a lot and stress out about everything and ding our immune systems with literally hundreds of different chemicals everyday what can we do to support our immune system? Fight STRESS!!!

Stress…stress can kill you and that isn’t a joke…according to Paige Bierma, M.A
“Some kinds of stress — very short-term, that last only a matter of minutes — actually redistribute cells in the bloodstream in a way that could be helpful,” says Suzanne Segerstrom, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky who has conducted studies on stress and the immune system. “But once stress starts to last a matter of days, there are changes in the immune system that aren’t so helpful. And the longer that stress lasts, the more potentially harmful those changes are.”
The fight-or-flight response (short-term stress) goes something like this: When a villager in Africa sees a lion charging at him, for example, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal gland to create hormones called cortisol and adrenaline, which have many different effects on the body, from increasing heart rate and breathing to dilating blood vessels so that blood can flow quickly to the muscles in the legs. Besides helping him run away, this type of acute stress also boosts the immune response for three to five days (presumably to help him heal after the lion takes a swipe at him).
When humans experience stress, our bodies react the same way that animals’ bodies do. Once the lion is gone, a zebra or gazelle’s stress level will return to normal, but humans have more trouble getting back to our routines after a stressful event, whether it’s a car accident or a divorce. We’ll think about it, dream about it, and worry about it for a long time, and that sets us up for long-term problems, says Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford University stress expert and author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
Over time, continually activating the stress response may interfere with the immune system. How this affects your disease risk, Sapolsky suggests, depends partly on your risk factors and your lifestyle, including your degree of social support.

Infectious disease and stress:
A number of vaccine studies have also found that the immune system of highly stressed individuals have sluggish responses to challenges. In one study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, a pneumonia vaccine was administered to 52 older adults, including 11 people caring for spouses with dementia. After just six months, the levels of antibodies produced against pneumonia in the caregivers had dropped off, while the non-caregivers’ levels remained stable. A similar study in which 32 caregivers were given the flu shot also found that caregivers received less protection from the vaccine than did a control group of non-caregivers.
If you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to get sick — at least it seems that way. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine actually found that higher psychological stress levels resulted in a higher likelihood of catching the common cold. The researchers accounted for many variables — including the season; alcohol use; quality of diet, exercise, and sleep; and levels of antibodies before exposure to the virus — and concluded that higher stress was to blame for lowered immunity and higher infection rates.
In the meantime, there is enough evidence to convince us that we should find healthy ways to keep our stress levels down, which is advice we got from our grandmothers: Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.
“Stress is inevitable,” Spiegel says. “The trick is to learn to manage it, to find some aspect of our stress and do something about it. Don’t think in terms of ‘all or nothing’ but in terms of ‘more or less.’ ”

An immune system that is continually ‘working, working, working’ never gets a chance to recover so when challenged by an invader it cannot mount an adequate defense.
Learn to manage your stress!

Stressful events are a fact of life and they can be even little ones like too much noise or activity going on around you. You can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations. Learn to UNWIND in a healthy way.

Stress management strategies include:
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
Practicing relaxation techniques or learning to meditate
Fostering healthy friendships
Having a sense of humor
Seeking professional counseling when needed
Learn to say no! Set yourself realistic expectations and learn how to say “no” when your workload or social and family commitments get too much.
Learn to switch off. Leaving the office for the day? Then it’s time to switch off your work brain as well as your mobile phone. Unless you need to be on call for work, there’s rarely anything that can’t be solved the next day with renewed perspective.
Breathe! When we’re stressed, we tend to shallow breathe. Try to take deeper breaths into your diaphragm.

But hey! There is good news on the stress/immune system relation using herbs called adaptogens and these can be included into your healthy diet as herbal supplements. According to Frank M. Painter, D.C.:
The body expends a great amount of energy keeping itself in a heightened state of readiness. When weakened by prolonged stress–be it caused by lack of sleep, poor diet, chemical toxins in the environment or mental assaults–the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis can be compromised, and illness can result. Adaptogenic herbs have traditionally helped prevent the imbalances that can result from stress and have therefore prevented or minimized disease. At the core of an adaptogen’s scope of actions is the ability to help the body cope more effectively with stress. Specifically, adaptogens recharge the adrenal glands, which are the body’s nominal mechanism for responding to stress and emotional changes. The adrenals, which cover the upper surface of each kidney, synthesize and store dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These compounds are responsible for the changes that occur during the fight-or-flight reaction.

Well known adaptogenic herbs are:

Ginseng
Suma
Ashwaganda
Astragalus
Schisandra
Jiaogulan

And while mushrooms are not technically herbs Reishi, shiitake, maitake mushrooms have been shown to have adaptogen properties also.

Homeopathy can also play a role in reducing stress levels when needed and be apart of an overall stress reduction program:
According to Claire Zarb LCPH, it’s advisable to start with a 30c potency and take every hour or so when the feelings of stress are at their peak.

Argentum Nitricum
Ideal for treating anxiety, caused by the anticipation of a big event, such as an exam, party or public speaking event. Dizziness and diarrhea may also be experienced, especially in the morning. People who need this remedy are often enthusiastic and suggestible, with a tendency towards being quite impulsive. They often crave sweets which usually make their symptoms worse.
Gelsemium
When a dull, heavy, but restless, weariness dominates you, think of Gelsemium. A dose before an exam or interview can keep your mind from drawing a blank. Heavy fatigue with muscular weakness means it’s great for flu, restless colds, diarrhea and dull, pressing headaches. This can be a very steadying remedy, especially to quiet, often low-spirited people who dread public speaking.
Nux Vomica
This remedy’s reputation is based on its ability to treat modern day complaints of indigestion, intoxication, and stress. Nux Vomica acts to neutralize both the effect of stress on the mind, and excess intake of food, alcohol and drugs on the digestive system. Nux Vomica offers comfort when travel, hangovers, busy schedules, overwork, or late night meals cause digestive and mental distress. Ideal if you’re a ‘workaholic’ who is easily irritable and tired.
Lycopodium
Ideal for nerves and indecision and especially good if you worry a lot and battle with self-confidence (too much and too little!). Digestively, it applies to acidity, gas, bloating, colic and constipation. There may be a fear of change, irritability, obstinacy, stage fright and exam nerves.

And don’t forget the Food!
According to Michael Ozner, MD, the top 10 stress fighting foods are:
1. Spinach contains magnesium, which helps improve your body’s response to stress and may prevent migraine headaches.
2. Asparagus is a good source of folic acid, which produces serotonin and helps stabilize mood.
3. Beef helps stabilize mood by supplying zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
4. Dairy products such as milk and cottage cheese provide protein and calcium.
5. Nuts and seeds are good stress-fighting snacks. In addition to containing vitamin B12, magnesium, and zinc, almonds also provide vitamin E, which, like vitamin C, fights stress-related free radicals that cause heart disease. Walnuts and pistachios are known to lower blood pressure. Sunflower seeds include folate, which helps produce dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical.
6. Fruits such as oranges and blueberries contain vitamin C, which fights cancer-causing free radicals. Blueberries also counteract the effect of hormones such as cortisol, and bananas provide potassium, which lowers blood pressure.
7. Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, can boost serotonin levels and limit the production of anxiety hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
8. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat and potassium, which lower blood pressure.
9. Milk, including skim milk, is high in antioxidants and vitamins B2 and B12 and also provides protein and calcium, which can reduce muscle spasms and tension and soothe PMS.
10. Crispy rice cereal or corn flakes aren’t necessarily low in sugar; however, they offer B vitamins and folic acid, which reduce stress. Have a bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk for a stress-fighting breakfast.
Four foods to avoid:
1. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate, can cause anxiety and raise stress hormone levels.
2. Sugar causes spikes in blood glucose levels and increases insulin. This affects your adrenal glands, which regulate stress hormones and help the thyroid regulate body weight.
3. Trans fatty acids such as hydrogenated vegetable oil are found in many baked goods and can hinder the immune system and increase the risk of heart disease.
4. Alcohol puts more sugar in the body, and excessive consumption can damage the adrenal glands.
While stress is just one factor in keeping the immune system healthy you can see that there are ways of helping the body to defend itself against stress and boost our body’s resiliency against stress. So get moving, eat ‘right’ and get your SLEEP and don’t forget to add homeopathy and herbs into your life to LIVE! Your immune system will love you!

Stay safe, be prepared!
survivingshtfmom

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ptsd triggersKind of tongue in cheek title, but with all do seriousness, I made it that way in an effort to make you think. PTSD symptoms do not happen in a vacuum. They might fade, disappear for a time but they never truly go ‘away’ forever. Think of it this way, the brain is like computer with a CD Rom that is always recording what is going on. When a traumatic event happens that too gets burned onto the CD. A trigger is like a command prompt or a file connected to the original event which then gets replayed. Or more simply put, a trigger is like pushing the on button unintentionally.
The best way I can describe how a trigger works in the real world is lets say as a child, said child (now adult) was abused. One very bad beating occurred because they wouldn’t eat green beans or even the broccoli or it could be the beating occurred just after eating it. In this child’s mind, the beating becomes associated with the broccoli. In adulthood, the abused child may avoid eating anything green or even something that looks like the broccoli. This is called avoidance. However, one time, the adult attends a dinner meeting in which the menu is preplanned and guess what is on the plate that is put in front of him? Broccoli. The adult then abruptly becomes very upset and seeks away out of the meeting (avoidance) in order to protect themselves when just seconds before they were laughing and enjoying themselves. Broccoli is the trigger that makes the adult remember the pain of the beating, the feelings of helplessness of not being able to stop the beating or get away.
Lets say a combat veteran or first responder hits a deer driving home and the deer is mangled, and when checking on the car/deer they smell the blood and see the mangled deer. The smell of blood alone could be a trigger into anxiety, anger or some other PTSD symptom. Seeing the mangled body of the deer could trigger memories of seeing someone who was seriously injured or killed which in turn releases all the original trauma memories and symptoms of PTSD occur.

In other instances, such as in finding a loved one or close friend who committed suicide may find PTSD symptoms triggered when they are home alone or find a picture of them accidentally. An domestic violence survivor may ‘freak out’ (PTSD) if she gets into an argument (trigger) with a new partner. A runner who just ran his best time may experience a racing heart if he doesn’t cool down properly, which in turn ‘triggers’ PTSD symptoms. Like I said, its not about the broccoli. Triggers are internal and external ‘cues’ that takes someone back to the original trauma and cause symptoms of PTSD in that moment…out of the blue so to speak.

PTSD triggers may be all around you or your loved one. And typically they fall into two categories. Internal Triggers and External Triggers. Internal triggers are things that you feel or experience inside your body. Internal triggers include thoughts or memories, emotions, and bodily sensations (for example, your heart racing). External triggers are situations, people, or places that you might encounter throughout your day (or things that happen outside your body). Listed below are some common internal and external triggers.
• Internal Triggers
o Anger
o Anxiety
o Sadness
o Memories
o Feeling lonely
o Feeling abandoned
o Frustration
o Feeling out of control
o Feeling vulnerable
o Racing heart beat
o Pain
o Muscle tension
• External Triggers
o An argument
o Seeing a news article that reminds you of your traumatic event
o Watching a movie or television show that reminds you of your traumatic event
o Seeing a car accident
o Certain smells
o The end of a relationship
o An anniversary
o Holidays
o A specific place
o Seeing someone who reminds you of a person connected to your traumatic event

So we see, its not about what is happening RIGHT NOW its about what happened during the traumatic event. But in daily life we can only employ avoidance strategies so long and many times we cannot avoid what may trigger symptoms of PTSD to reoccur. So the question becomes, if we can’t avoid triggers entirely then how do we live without being reactive and in a constant state of PTSD?
Identification of Triggers
An important note on increasing your awareness of triggers: while it is important to do so, be aware that doing so may cause you distress and to be uncomfortable. Some people might actually become triggered by trying to identify their triggers. Before taking steps to identify your triggers please be sure to let someone know what you are doing and have support available to you just incase you are triggered. Never try to push yourself too far. A little at time is all it takes.

The first step to avoid being side swiped by a trigger is to try and identify what your triggers are. When you are in a good place, think about when your PTSD symptoms usually come up. To identify your triggers ask yourself these types of questions: What types of situations are you in? What is happening around you? What kind of emotions are you feeling? What thoughts are you experiencing? What does your body feel like? Get a notebook and write down as many internal and external triggers as you can. Sometimes it can be hard for those with PTSD to identify their own triggers, so you may even want to ask your family and friends about what they believe or see your triggers are.
How to Cope with Your Triggers
Of course the best way of coping with triggers is to avoid them altogether. However, this is almost impossible to do. Why? Well, you cannot really avoid your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Much of these are out of our control. In regard to external triggers, we can take some steps to manage our environment (for example, not going to certain places that we know will trigger us), but we cannot control everything that happens to us. For example, you might inadvertently come into contact with a news story or conversation that reminds you of your traumatic event.
Because we often cannot avoid triggers, it is important to learn ways of coping with triggers. After we figure out what the triggers are we are then free to ‘make a plan’ to effectively handle the symptoms of PTSD. Some effective and healthy coping strategies for lessening the impact of triggers include:
• Mindfulness- being in the moment
• Relaxation techniques
• Self-soothing techniques
• Grounding yourself
• Expressive writing (journaling)
• Social support
• Deep breathing
The more strategies you have the better off you will be in managing your triggers and the less likely you will turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as drugs, alcohol and isolating. Simply being more aware of what can trigger you can be of great help to you because you will have gained more awareness and thus, be more able to cope better. Awareness of your triggers allows you to begin to feel more in control and gives rise to better understanding of your emotional reactions which in turn validates them (understanding why) and allows predictability all of which can definitely impact your mood and well-being. More on coping strategies to come.

Stay safe and be prepared!
Survivingshtfmom

http://ptsd.about.com/od/selfhelp/a/CopingTriggers.htm

ptsd1

It is very natural and normal to have stress reactions after a traumatic or very upsetting event. Your behavior and emotions will change immediately afterwards and most people get better or find a ‘new normal’ after a few weeks. This is called acute PTSD. However, not everyone ‘gets over it’. As I discussed in the previous article PTSD, What is It? some people will have prolonged stress reactions to events and circumstances, most especially those that are more indicative of producing chronic PTSD. It is a real identifiable brain disorder (see picture).

ptsd2

Trauma causes REAL changes in the brain which can produce profound behavioral, emotional and physical symptoms. Please keep in mind as you read, the key to recognizing symptoms of PTSD is this: if it wasn’t there before a traumatic event happened and then appears, then there is a problem. If it was there before the traumatic event, then it most likely is not related to PTSD.

PTSD is generally diagnosed through presentation of 4 major types of symptoms that last longer than 3 months, cause you significant distress and disrupt your life and/or work.

Intrusion of the event into your life afterwards.
Recurrent recollections of the event. Memories coming back without warning with or without a ‘trigger’ (which I will discuss later)
Nightmares
Flashbacks/Reliving
These can make someone feel as though they are reliving the event in that MOMENT and can cause mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Some individuals with PTSD may experience and feel the same fears and horror as when the event took place.

Hyper Arousal/Feeling Keyed Up
Constantly on guard
Jittery/Jumpy
On Alert
Can’t relax
Can’t sleep

Numbing or Negative Changes in Beliefs and Feelings
Distancing self from people/Can’t trust other people
Unable to feel emotions
Forgetting about parts (suppression) or all of the traumatic experience
Not able to talk about the event
World becomes extremely dangerous
Depression/Anger/Irritability/Impending sense of doom

Avoidance:
Fear based and avoidance behavior typically involve all three of the above symptoms in order to avoid having to deal with the original trauma or prevent the above symptoms from occurring. Avoidance behavior is also another way of dealing with ‘triggers’. Often, people with PTSD will avoid people, places and things that remind them of the original trauma. Some people will get ‘super busy’ as way to avoid dealing with trauma.
Avoiding crowds
Avoiding driving
Avoiding all sorts of media (movie, news, video games)
Avoiding activities that are or could be associated with the trauma (ie an avid hunter may stop hunting to avoid particular triggers).

So this is the clinical take on what constitutes PTSD. But what can it really look like in someone’s life? It will vary from person to person obviously as everyone has different backgrounds, religious beliefs, personalities and different experiences in life. So lets look, in layman’s terms, what someone with PTSD may experience.

Panic Attacks or other anxiety problems including hypersensitivity to his/her surroundings….this is experience of INTENSE fear which most often is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness and racing heart. At the very least, discomfort may occur. This is almost directly related to hyper vigilance and may be ‘triggered’ by something totally unrelated to what is happening in that very moment.

Feelings of mistrust (could be specific or not)

Problems in daily living: not being able to function ‘normally’ at work, home and within relationships. This can include a decline in personal hygiene (or obsessiveness with it). Stopping doing daily household chores, organizational problems, etc. Emotional distancing of themselves towards other people, places and things in order to cope with feeling ‘unsafe’. This can come across as being cold, aloof, uncaring, demanding or otherwise socially unacceptable behaviors.

Substance Abuse: using drugs or alcohol to cope with emotional pain

Depression/Mood Swings: persistent sadness, anxiety, emptiness, loss of interest, guilt, shame, hopelessness about the future. Going from being happy to angry and back again for no real apparent reason. Isolating themselves. May become aggressive and angry for ‘no good reason’.

Memory problems are almost always present. Usually this shows up at first as ‘absent mindedness’ such as constantly misplacing things or loosing things. It can progress into forgetting names, appointments and other day to day things. Later on, someone with PTSD may even begin to forget past events that were important to them, or forget what they were saying in the middle of a sentence and may even say something and then repeat themselves a few minutes later.

Risk Taking Behavior such as driving too fast, multiple sex partners, starting fights and other behaviors that typically would be considered ‘risky’ with the potential to do harm to themselves or others.

Isolating from the world…many people with PTSD will in an effort to keep themselves safe begin to withdraw from people to the point that they may turn into ‘recluses’ who only go out when food or medicine is needed.

Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviors: check and rechecking that a door is locked, driving around and around in a parking lot, running to the doctor every time they sneeze. The point in obsessive/compulsive behavior to keep themselves ‘safe’ to prevent further trauma.

Super sensitivity to outside stimulation: this is directly related ‘triggers’. When the original traumatic event occurs, the brain basically ‘burns’ into the deepest part of the memories and cortex exactly what happened, how it happened and circumstances in which it occurred.

Checklist of PTSD symptoms:

Physical Symptoms:
Headaches
Stomach problems
Changes in breathing patterns (shortness of breath/not breathing normally)
Lack of energy OR Hyper Activity
Sleep problems
Emotional pain never felt before
Anxiety problems
Hypersensitivity
Hyper vigilance

Psychological Problems:
Mood swings
Memory problems
Addiction/Self Medication
Loss of personal hygiene/housekeeping
Risk taking behavior
Isolation
Depression (“what’s the point?”)
Paranoid thoughts
Reliving the event(s) with accompanying emotions

Sleep Problems:
Insomnia (not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep)
Having nightmares
Waking up covered in sweat
Kicking during sleep
Constantly waking up and falling back asleep
Waking up and being easily startled and/or being confused about where you are
Irregular sleep cycles

It is my hope that you have found this information helpful in describing what PTSD ‘looks’ like symptomatically. Too often many seek help and a diagnosis of PTSD is not given because the full spectrum of what PTSD looks like isn’t known by many doctors and mental health professionals. Do not be afraid to print this off and take it with you if you choose to seek help (which I hope you will) so that you maybe appropriately helped and treated. PTSD is multi-faceted and can be difficult to diagnosis unless you and those around you know the facts about what it is and what it looks like. But it is treatable and can be overcome. There is hope.

In part 3 of this series on PTSD I will discuss ‘triggers’ which plays an important role in PTSD.

Survivingshtfmom

PTSDPTSD…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What is it? Technically it is an Anxiety Disorder. It is a complex response to extreme stress that is deemed life threatening by an individual that does not go away on its own over time. Some would have you believe that it is a psychiatric condition. But in reality, it is an adaptive response to keep someone (themselves or others or both) from harm and it may get worse overtime. This adaptive response stems from exposure to real or perceived life threatening situations that can be a one time event, series of events or on going events. Note that it doesn’t just have to be ‘events’ but also circumstances in which people can ‘see’ themselves in the same situation as the person who is actually going through the traumatic event or circumstances such as witnessing a murder or a grizzly car accident . This is an empathic response. There are those who witnessed the World Trade Center Towers come down who were not even there and displayed PTSD symptoms later on. People who know people who have been killed or seriously harmed or even just threatened have been known to develop PTSD. Almost ANY traumatic event can trigger high anxiety and what is traumatic to one person may not be to another. Each person is different and reacts differently to trauma/high stress situations and circumstances. PTSD can happen to anyone, children and adults alike. It cuts across all social, economic and racial lines.

The most common events that can trigger PTSD and put people at the highest risk of developing PTSD are those who have experienced combat exposure, domestic violence/abuse, rape/sexual assault, childhood neglect/abuse, physical attacks, being threatened with a weapon. However, car accidents, muggings, robbery, natural disasters, war/terrorism, prison stays, and accidents can also cause PTSD.

Other risk factors for developing PTSD include:
Living through dangerous and traumatic events
A history of mental health issues/problems (depression, anxiety)
Drug/alcohol abuse
Family history of anxiety conditions
Sleep disorders
Getting hurt
Seeing other get hurt or killed
Feelings of horror, helplessness or extreme fear.
Having little or no social support after the event(s)
Dealing with more stress after the event(s) such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, etc.
Frontal Head Injuries
Those who are diagnosed with a life threatening illness or who have had major medical procedures.
Being a first responder
Being a combat veteran
Learning of an unexpected death of a loved one or close friend

Facts:

One month after 9/11 approximately 7.5% of New York City’s population reported symptoms of PTSD. 6 months later it had fallen to .6%.

Approximately 5.6 million to 7.7 million people in this country have symptoms of PTSD during the course of a given year. (about 3.6 to 5% of the population)

It is estimated that 6-30% or more of trauma survivors develop PTSD with children and young people at the highest risk.

Women (10.4%) are twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD.

It is estimated that at least 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Approximately 30% of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD

An additional 20-25% of our Veterans have had partial PTSD.

More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans have experienced “clinically serious stress reactions”.

Estimates of PTSD from the Gulf War in Veterans are about 10%

Estimates of PTSD from the war in Afghanistan in Veterans are between 6 and 11%

Current estimates of PTSD in military personnel who served in Iraq range from 12-20%

When in danger, it is absolutely normal to feel afraid. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or prepare to avoid it. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. Hormones and other chemicals flood the body. With PTSD, something changes within the brain and researchers are not quite sure exactly what it is that changes. Current research is looking at genetics, Stathin (a protein), GRP (gastrin-releasing peptide) and a version of 5-HTTLPR gene which controls the release and levels of serotonin. These three chemicals play major roles in the fear response and fear memory making. Scientists are also looking further into the role of the amygdale which is active in fear acquisition and plays a role in overcoming fear. They are also looking into the PFC (prefrontal cortex) which stores extinction memories (how you over come a fear) and is responsible for dampening the original fear response. It is believed that individual differences with the brain can predispose someone for developing PTSD, but no one knows for sure what ‘causes’ PTSD. Personally, I believe that it is a mix of biological, societal and individual coping mechanisms. Risk factors are just that…risk factors, not a sure bet.

PTSD is not some off the wall cop out, it is not as those in the medical and therapy world would have you believe a ‘mental illness’. It is not a disease and it doesn’t make you ‘crazy’ nor does it make those who have it incompetent in anyway and it is most certainly not a death sentence when properly dealt with. Those who suffer with PTSD are survivors of horrific and life threatening situations, circumstances and events. PTSD is a natural survival response that can be triggered within all of us given the right set of circumstances. All human beings have with them the will to survive. PTSD is merely a reflection of that will to survive that unfortunately becomes prolonged or ingrained into a person for an extended period of time. It is a serious issue because it can become debilitating and problematic to the individual experiencing the prolonged fight or flight response. It can be misunderstood and disruptive in their relationships with friends, family, co-workers and bosses. What was once a protective mechanism becomes a problem when it will not shut off. It simply human to experience fear and to try and avoid or fight a threatening problem or circumstance and those with PTSD should be looked upon as survivors who need help in returning to a state of balance within themselves.

Survivingshtfmom

Links:
http://www.ptsd.ne.gov/what-is-ptsd.html
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

depressionI am going to lead with both feet here…I am a survivor of suicide. By that I mean, someone very close to me, in fact several people I had the pleasure of knowing for only too short of a time, have committed suicide. On the surface, they seemed like normal, everyday people who had no ‘good’ reason to kill themselves and appeared to be very strong, capable people. You would never in a million years, have thought that they would commit suicide. But they did. I write this article during September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, in their honor and hope that someone reading this article may be able to step in and help prevent someone from committing suicide and maybe, just maybe, give someone hope in the face of the yawning blackness.

For immediate assistance for you or someone else there is a national hotline number:
1-800-273 TALK (8255)
Vet2Vet Talk Line 1-855-838-7481

If you don’t wish to talk to someone unknown, then please call a friend or family member to talk.

Suicide is not an act of cowardice nor an act of selfishness. It is not directed at any individual or person in the life of the person who is contemplating or has committed suicide. It is not personal. It is an act of desperation borne out of hopelessness that someone feels is insurmountable. The best way I have seen and heard it put is that someone contemplating suicide is in a deep, tarry pit of blackness with no light.

It is a fact that 90% of people who, at the time they commit or attempt to commit suicide have a diagnosable and TREATABLE mental health issues.

Risk factors include:

Biggest risk factor is clinical depression
Undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues
Family history of suicide
Knowing someone (close) who has committed suicide
Family history of child neglect/abuse
History of abuse (domestic, sexual assaults)
History of brain injury
History of traumatic experiences
Previous suicide attempt(s)
History of alcohol and substance abuse
Feelings of hopelessness
Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
Physical illness
Easy access to lethal methods
Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
Suicidal ideation

Risk factors do not indicate that someone will commit suicide, just that their chances of committing suicide increase.

Prevention and intervention become key.

There are twice as many suicides in the US than homicides. For everyone person who completes suicide, approximately another 12 attempt suicide. WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that approximately 1 million people around the world commit suicide yearly. Many who attempt suicide never receive any help.

Know the warning signs. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize the warning signs and how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care and are there to listen to them without judgment, and getting a doctor or psychologist involved, if they are willing.

In my own time of answering a hotline the biggest help I was able to give someone was just listening to them. Not providing answers unless directly asked nor arguing with them about how they felt. Learning how to listen without taking charge or downplaying someone’s feelings is essential in helping.
The below has been taken directly from and more information can be found at : Help Guide

Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, and seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.

Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help.

A more subtle but equally dangerous warning sign of suicide is hopelessness. Studies have found that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who feel hopeless may talk about “unbearable” feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.

Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as going from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show big changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Talking about suicide

Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”

Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future
Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).

Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behavior
Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”

Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Suicide prevention tip #1: Speak up if you’re worried

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.

Talking to a person about suicide

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
• I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
• Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
• I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
• When did you begin feeling like this?
• Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
• How can I best support you right now?
• Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
• You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
• You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
• I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
• When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.

When talking to a suicidal person
Do:
• Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
• Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
• Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
• Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
• If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

But don’t:

• Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
• Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
• Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
• Do NOT Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
• Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

Adapted from: Metanoia.org

Suicide prevention tip #2: Respond quickly in a crisis

If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
• Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
• Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
• Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
• Do you intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call 1-800-273-TALK(8255), dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.

Level of Suicide Risk

Low — Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Moderate — Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t very lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
High — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Severe — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.


Suicide prevention tip #3: Offer help and support

If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can’t get better for a suicidal person. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

Helping a suicidal person:
• Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment.
• Follow-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.
• Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.
• Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
• Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
• Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.
• Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.

I will also add this: do NOT be afraid to advocate for them with the mental health system. In many states it can take a lot to make sure someone with a mental health issue gets the care that they need. But you can do it and so can they!

As a final note: PTSD is becoming increasing a high risk factor in terms of suicide. The very nature of PTSD and the way it is conceived makes it difficult for those suffering with PTSD to reach out and get the help they need. And many people suffering from PTSD are our returning Veterans. It is believed that approximately every 65 minutes one of our returning Veterans commits suicide. If you are a veteran, a family member or a friend of Veteran, please let them know you are there for them and will help them.

Phone numbers and resources:

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
When you dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You will hear hold music while your call is being routed. You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and will tell you about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

In an EMERGENCY call 911

Veterans Crisis Line
this is for veterans, guardsmen, friends and family members of those who have served our country
1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
Or send a text message to 838255

Vet2Vet Talk Line 1-855-838-7481
The Vet2Vet Talk Line (1-855-838-7481) provides 24/7 confidential peer support, information and referrals for all of America’s Veterans and their families. Every call is answered by a Veteran who understands the rewards and challenges of military service and is trained to provide compassionate and caring peer support along with access to a wide array of services across the nation.

Need help finding a qualified therapist in your area?
The link above will take you directly to a ‘find a therapist’ page. The therapists listed here all specialize in anxiety/depressive disorders.

No one willingly wants to die…it is not human nature…human nature is about survival and sometimes we need help. Don’t be alone or afraid anymore.

God Bless and Keep You
survivingshtfmom

swatLife just tends to bump along at its own little pace…we get into our own habits, routines and ways of being and then THUNK! WHACK! BOOM! Our habits, routines and ways of being and/or thinking about and in the world get rocked to the core…something totally out of the ordinary and unexpected happens and you are left with zero ways of coping with the situation…such is the case when you or someone you once loved/do love has done something so ‘bad’ (and I use that term relatively and loosely) that the ‘government’ makes the decision to go full shock and awe and break bad on you, the innocent person who has just been bumping along.

This coming January, 2014 will mark a month that changed my life and way of looking at the world. I always believed that cooperating and doing the right thing would keep me and mine out of harms way. I believed until that point that we were still free to say and do things without becoming subject to police action, that the First Amendment was REAL. With that said, I do understand that you can’t run around making specific threats, or yelling fire in a movie theater or bomb on airplane. I get the fact that you can’t make death threats either…okay, I get the idea and purpose behind that…but merely stating one’s opinions and feelings? Geez? Really? Two years ago I believed that my opinion could be mine and I could, within reason, express my thoughts, opinions and feelings openly. But that all changed in January of 2012.

 

One cold morning in January of 2012 I was visited by an investigator with the State Police…I fully cooperated with them, after all, I had done nothing wrong…why not cooperate? If you got nothing to hide then you got nothing to fear right? They weren’t after me (per se) but my ex whom I have spoken of previously…they wanted to talk to him and they wouldn’t say why…well, okay, no biggie, as a bailbonds man (my ex) I could see how they might want to speak with him and while I knew there were issues going on between my ex and a magistrate about the way he did business (and to be honest, I never knew him to do anything illegal at least business wise) I didn’t really think anything about that ‘visit’. I told them what they wanted to know (ie his cell phone number and where he was staying) and even got my ex on the phone so they could talk. End of subject right?

Dead wrong….a few mornings later I was up and getting my children ready to go to school, doing my usual routine, not yet dressed, cup of coffee in hand going to the side door of my home to smoke my morning cigarette before getting dressed.

At 8:15 in the morning with coffee in hand I see out of my kitchen window in the corner that looks out in the back yard a couple of guys with assault rifles in hand, red dots coming through the window, dressed all in black with face masks on rounding the corner of the house to the back deck area. I register this slightly as I keep going to the door and then get the shock of my life…several red dots on my chest and shouted commands…door busts open and there I stand with my mouth open being drug out of my house roughly, to see a slew of law enforcement of all types all over my yard, driveway, etc…right down to the fricken’ dog catcher. No joke…my hands are zip tied behind my back and all I can do is freak out…what the hell had I done? Then the worst…as I am trying to gain my bearings while freaking out I see a bunch of armed SWAT go in my house fully armed…my kids, then ages 1, 6 and 8 are at the table eating breakfast. It goes on and on, but suffice to say that it was a very unpleasant experience and no one gives ANY information and if you think getting robbed by someone is violating…try having the FBI, State Police, local law enforcement and ATF in your house at 8:30 in the morning with your pajamas on knowing full well you have done nothing wrong and being asked a billion questions and being told nothing. Have all your personal items gone through, frisked in front of your kids, a bomb sniffing dog that wants to eat your dogs in your house. Have 2 3 month old puppies yanked out from under the bed and put into the back of the doggie catchers truck. Have people you KNOW drive by your house and wonder what is going on…try standing there talking straight to some guy who claims authority with no bra on and everything on your cell phone, computers, laptops, tablets and ipod down loaded for review. You need to ask me why I developed PTSD? Have strangers ask you about your sex life, your tattoos, your reading material, why you have camping propane and where the timers are…REALLY? YEP! And this is the short story…and by the way, you are also in charge of making sure your kids are safe and sound at the sametime cause honestly, at this point they don’t care.

Just writing that still makes me mad, angry and scared that maybe, just maybe this will get me in hot water again. But the truth is the truth…It got resolved, but not before the damage was done. I also forgot to mention that they didn’t bother to give the search warrants (which were EXTREMELY VAGUE) until right before they left, as an after thought I think.

Did I do something wrong? Nope…I just happend to be ‘collateral’ damage in their quest to get my ex out of the bailbonds business where we lived. He didn’t even live there, but because he had previously I was suspect. Come to find out he had posted rants and raves on Facebook and some really demeaning things about women. That was it. Things were blown out of proportion because ‘they’ take everything seriously. Welcome to the New Age of Homeland Security. In all fairness, after the initial rush and invasion, when they felt safe, it wasn’t too bad, a lot of questions, a lot of watching my things gone through by strangers…not like I had anything of question in my house or on my computers. And I will say that I got good and pissed after I figured out WHY they were there and what was going on (though no one ever said it outright). And I wasn’t just pissed at my ex, but at them too for the complete overkill…but that is what they do…act first and assess later.

A couple of months later they pulled the same crap at another guy’s house, for the same reasons, but that guy was smart and prepared…everything was caught on video tape. Good for him. But I see more and more of this happening around the country, even to 11 year olds who are making statements on Facebook…really? Big Brother is watching and ready to pounce like a big cat.

Long and short, I do believe we will see more and more of my experience happen as more laws and executive orders are put into place in the name of ‘public safety’ and in the interest of ‘national security’. While I understand the need for safety and security I do question the reasoning, laws and tactics that this ever growing ‘need’ for ‘safety and security’ are beginning to dictate. I question the militarization of our police force through various means. I question what it is that ‘they’ are so afraid of that they feel the need to send in 40 people to a house where there is no threat and children present when contact was already made and cooperation was given. That single event changed my LIFE forever and not necessarily in good ways and it set in motion a string of other life changing events that have left scars that will never be healed. But after this passage of two years since this occurred I have found a strength of will that I did not know fully know I had. I survived and am ready for what may come in the future since I will not be quiet nor compliant in the future if attacked unjustly in the future. Hell, I even joke that ‘next time they better come in the middle of the night with helicopters’ because their last invasion has made me aware and wiser. And there is some truth to that statement. Not that I go around doing things to provoke the beast, I live a law abiding life (okay, I don’t always wear my seatbelt and do speed on the highway) and try not to make provocative statements. But I am aware that my political views and my lifestyle have probably got me on the ‘potential terrorist’ list. Sigh…and? I can’t go around being afraid of living and living authentically and according to my beliefs just because someone in authority might have an issue with my opinions and lifestyle (which at this point in time is not illegal).

 

So my point here to you and your take away?

 

  1. Law Enforcement when set in motion is a machine that will not stop and does not care. It is like a pitbull in a fight…it will use any and all means to subdue you. Be ready for that in the coming years. Know that they can and will do whatever it takes to make themselves ‘safe’. YOU are nothing and in fact, simply by breathing a potential threat and/or enemy.

 

And before anyone gets their dander up about that statement, understand that I UNDERSTAND what law enforcement is facing today in this world. I know law enforcement officers, hell, I have a background in criminal justice! There are a lot of good men and women in law enforcement who are there for the right reasons…but they have a job to do and they WILL DO IT regardless.

 

  1. Be careful of what you say online…even jokingly…because ‘they’ take nothing as a joke. Texting, emails, all of it…if you have learned nothing just look at Eric Snowden and other examples over the past couple of years about the extent of big brother watching you. This isn’t to say that you can’t express yourself, just do so with full knowledge that anything you can and do say will be held against you in the future. Running your mouth publicly WILL get you in trouble…save the emotional crap for private.
  2. Know those around you, and know them well, especially be watchful of your partners and children. If you see a problem or even THINK there is a problem, please, take care of it before something happens or things get out of hand and ‘officials’ become involved. You are responsible for your own life and while you can’t stop people from doing things you can take measures to protect you and yours and others.

 

Now that may sound a bit like the ‘see something, say something’ campaign DHS       has got going, but its not meant to be that way. I am specifically speaking to you being willing to seek help for your family members if you are seeing things that could point to a problem. I know, easier said than done…but you gotta at least try. And if you can’t then YOU take measures for your own safety.

 

  1. Be polite, be cooperative as much as possible, but be firm and don’t allow yourself to be twisted into a pretzel. This takes a mind set and strength of character to stick to the facts. But that’s what you want to do. Don’t be a jerk if you ever find yourself face to face with tyranny. Resist but do so in a polite way okay? No sense in making matters worse.
  2. Know your rights and make sure they are being observed and if need be, don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be rude, just speak up.
  3. Be aware that our law enforcement is being trained and funded with money and ‘help’ from DHS and thus has become a defacto extension of  them. It is what it is people, just sayin’. And again, don’t get your panties in a twist if you are one of the good guys okay? I am just making a statement of fact, no matter how nasty it may seem.
  4. Be aware that there is a whole generation of law enforcement that has combat and/or military experience. That does not mean that they (law enforcement or the military) is bad, it just means that the days of the ‘officer friendly’ is on its way out. The mindset being brought to you via law enforcement is everyone not on your side, ie my buddy, is a potential threat/enemy and is thus treated so.
  5. Run through some potential senarios in which you may find yourself on the wrong end of the stick, be it a traffic stop or home invasion as in my case. It won’t be ‘real’ but it could help you get through it with minimum problems (just like a fire drill).
  6. Be cooperative, but don’t roll over. That is important!!! The more you roll over and bend over backwards to be ‘nice’ in the hopes that they will just leave you alone the more liberties will be taken with your civil and lawful rights.
  7. Know the laws in your area/state and at the federal level so that you don’t unknowingly trip some wire unintentionally. Also, pay attention to other little things. I have a concealed carry permit. In my state, that concealed carry is tied to my drivers record (meaning if an officer runs my tags he sees that I have a CC license). If I am stopped for some reason, the officer will be on guard. Best to head off a potential ‘problem’ and let them know up front if you do or don’t have a firearm on you, even though by law you don’t have to. It just makes life easier and them less likely to see you as a threat.

 

Lastly and probably most importantly, develop a solid relationship with yourself and your higher power. Because in the end, that is really all you got between yourself and them and they can’t take that away from you. It will give you a sense of peace if and when you find yourself with that red dot on your chest and maybe, just maybe, if your open to it, you just might be given the knowledge of how to handle your particular situation in the moment.

These are just my thoughts on my experience. There are books, videos and other material out there that deal with what to or not do in given situations that go in depth and maybe helpful to you too so if you are interested in going there, go there on how to protect yourself further….

 

Stay safe and good luck…