Episode 401 Ruth Clare The Hidden Impacts of PTSD Transcript

This transcript is from episode 401 with guest Ruth Clare.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today, my guest is Ruth Clare. Ruth is the author of the memoir Enemy. Which explores her life as the child of a Vietnam veteran, and the impacts of PTSD not only on veterans, but also on their families. Ruth’s journey includes personal struggles and insights that shine a light on the generational consequences of war.

She’s also a TEDx speaker. Who shares valuable tools for recovery from complex [00:01:00] PTSD. And today we’ll dive deep into her story and the lessons she’s learned along the way and all the way from Australia. I want to welcome you to the show, Ruth. I’m really glad to have you here.

Ruth Clare: It’s very exciting to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so in the intro, I mentioned that you. are the child of a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD. Can you tell us about what it was like for you growing up with a parent who had PTSD in that type of environment?

Ruth Clare: Yeah. So I was born in 1974. My dad was a Vietnam veteran and he fought in the Vietnam War in 1968 to 1969. And PTSD wasn’t even, um, named as a psychological condition until 1980. And the way that, um, they treated Vietnam veterans in [00:02:00] Australia at that time was pretty much. He’s two hours of debriefing and off you go, don’t mention the war.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure.

Ruth Clare: So, um, my dad had, had been ejected from his, his experience in the military back into civilian life. He’d been one of the, um, 16, 000 conscripted. Australians, um, who fought in that Vietnam war. Um, and so growing up, I didn’t have any context. My dad didn’t seek any help for PTSD, even after it was, um, something that became more well known in the psychological community. one talked about the war. My dad didn’t really. interact with other veterans. I didn’t have an identity of myself as the child of a veteran. I just knew that my dad, really angry, really quickly. And I could never predict what it was that was gonna set off his anger. So I. [00:03:00] Might leave a bike in the yard or run through the house or, um, speak too loudly or take him by surprise in some way.

And he might just turn around and start beating the crap out of me. And so I spent my entire childhood just. Watching him and trying to figure out what I was doing was impacting his mood so that I could either adapt to what I was doing or stop what I was doing or get out of his way. Um, so it was pretty stressful and confusing because As a child, you think that everything is about you.

Um, and I thought his behavior was a reflection of the fact that he just, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, he just didn’t love me. And that I didn’t know how to figure out how to change that.

Scott DeLuzio: Is [00:04:00] basically the description of kind of a classic PTSD symptoms that you see in people where they are just It’s sometimes unpredictable, um, you don’t know what’s gonna set somebody off, if, is it a loud noise, is it you sneaking up behind them, whether it’s intentional because you’re playing as a child, you know, you, you play those little tricks on your parents and you, you sneak up behind them and try to scare them or something, and, uh, as somebody who is, is dealt with PTSD, uh, myself, I, as you were saying that, I was like, oh my gosh, I know exactly how your dad was feeling in some of those, those instances.

Um, and I guess the reason why we want to have you on this show and talk about this, um, and you and, and people like you is that, you know, I want to shed light on the fact that it’s not just the soldier who [00:05:00] suffers when it comes to PTSD. It does have other impacts on other people, which, you know, back then, uh, you know, even though, yes, PTSD was, uh, identified as a mental health condition in the 80s, um, It’s It wasn’t commonplace for people to want to seek that type of thing out, um, that type of treatment, I should say.

Um, it was kind of taboo almost. Like if you, if you went to go talk to a psychologist, it was like, oh my gosh, this, this person is crazy. Stay away from that person, right? And that was kind of the stigma around it. Um, Going back to what I was just saying, you know, we now are recognizing that it has an impact beyond the soldier, uh, to the families.

If there isn’t a reason to go get a treatment for the PTSD, the other, you know, mental health conditions that you might have, do it for your family. [00:06:00] Do it for the people that you love. Do it because you don’t want to be that unpredictable person around your kids, around your wife, or spouse, or anybody. You want to be the type of person who they want to be around and know that they feel safe and loved and everything, despite the fact that as a soldier, you may, or as a veteran, you may want the best for them, but you may not be able to provide it, well, get that help so that you can.

And that’s, that’s why I, as you were talking, I was like, this is perfect because this is exactly the reason why I wanted to have you on the show, uh, to talk about this type of thing. Um, now your book, uh, Enemy, um, tell us about what led you to write that book and the process of, uh, exploring your father’s PTSD through the writing.

Ruth Clare: Well, it’s interesting what you said about child sneaking up on you. You know, you’re having that experience because my son [00:07:00] loves you. He’s, he’s now, um, 13, but he loves hiding somewhere and jumping out and I’m like, mate, that does not fly. Stop doing that. It just, I, it sets off my startle response in a way that.

It can often be angry, you know, it’s like, do not come out of the shadows and surprise me. It is not good for me. And trying to get him to understand that I’m never going to respond to that well, that’s, that’s my nervous system is, you know, I’m still a work in progress. And, um, one of the main reasons that I ended up, you know, I, I’d, once I, once I had my Um, I started to become more curious about what it was that had interfered out my relationship with my dad.

He died when he was, um, 52 [00:08:00] from a melanoma cancer they say was related to his exposure to Agent Orange. So never really had a chance to properly repair our relationship. And I really mourned that loss because that relationship continues on inside you, regardless of whether or not the person is alive anymore.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right.

Ruth Clare: And it was when My son was two and he went through a phase of hitting and I would just be doing whatever I was doing, not necessarily paying attention to what he was doing over there, but if he over or got frustrated or something happened, he would turn around to me and slap me across the face. As if it was like out of nowhere, it was my fault and the way that it works, you know, especially with childhood trauma and complex PTSD from those really early childhood [00:09:00] experiences is that I, I, I’m sure you must’ve read the book, Body Keeps the Score.

Scott DeLuzio: I haven’t read it, but I know

Ruth Clare: Yeah. You know, you know, so that’s like this seminal work about how your body has this memory. And this is where all trauma lives in our body, which is why I think, you know, body based therapies are absolutely essential and cognitive behavioral therapy has some massive gaps in actually the treatment of trauma. So it was like that action that he took was so overwhelming to my system. It’s like, I was not in control of my body and it felt like my rage was overwhelming. Bigger than myself and I felt, you know, like inside of myself, I was shrinking down into being a child and my son, who was tiny, felt like my father.

And it was this really intense experience and I came so close to hitting him in return. And it was the first time that I had [00:10:00] genuine You know, because there was always, you know, with a parent child relationship, there’s always a part of you that’s child and they’re the parent and they should have known better and everyone wants their parents to be perfect.

I think we all have this idealized idea. And I certainly entered parenthood thinking, I’ve done the therapy. I’m going to be great at this. And then you go, Oh, no, so hard. So many mistakes. I’m so sorry. And, you know, It was the first time that I went, Oh my God, I might repeat this pattern. And I have had done so much work and I have read so many books and I couldn’t, I couldn’t believe that it was still happening.

I could not believe that I was feeling this strongly and despite all of my best intentions, that I might repeat that pattern. And it terrified me. And so I felt like I had to understand more about my dad, to understand more about what this experience was in my body, what PTSD was as its own thing. And so Enemy was my way of attempting to do that.[00:11:00]

Scott DeLuzio: That’s, that’s pretty amazing. You know, how, uh, how you, you described kind of like the, the reaction that you had after that interaction with your child, how it kind of just sets you back almost, and it was like, that’s, that’s not where you want to be, you know, as a parent, you want to, you want to be the one who’s in control and charge and kind of calm, cool, collected and every once in a while.

Something comes up, right? And it, and it makes you the opposite of that. Um, and, you know, but in the writing process itself, um, did you, did you find it therapeutic to kind of go through this process and, um, you know, identify some of these, these areas that you were, um, you’re writing about or, or was it, um, was it strictly kind of [00:12:00] for you like research based and, and trying to figure that out or was there a therapy component to it as well?

Ruth Clare: So I’ve been a professional writer since 2004, writing mostly copy, doing some journalism. And so I’ve read a lot about like writing as a process and, and, um, of the things that I’ve read and I feel like this is true is that if you want people to feel something As a reader, then you’ve got to be feeling it as a writer.

You’ve got to be reliving it and bringing it to life in some way. So I’ve had people, you know, you, if you look at any of the reviews. There’s a lot of people that sort of mention, Oh, I had to, sudden tears would spring into my eyes. I was reading the book on public transport and it was a bit embarrassing because I would suddenly feel myself going, Oh my God, I’m crying. And I did quite a lot of crying, but I’m quite a crier anyway. Now that I’ve had the therapy, [00:13:00] Oh, there’s a lot of crying that happens. I’m much more comfortable with crying. So there was, there was an aspect of, obviously you’re going back over painful old terrain, but another thing that. I use to inform the way I approach the book is that memoir with, when you’re, when you’re trying to tease out a larger theme. is that your story is just a, an example of the kind of story you’re talking about. So I tried to have an objective perspective on, it’s not like I’ve had the worstest life and this is a doo doo doo doo doo. It’s, this is a thing that has happened. This is how it felt to me. And then I had this whole, so I had my child experience, which I kept, I really wanted to include what my child self.

made sense of those moments as I was growing up, because I think I wanted to, to give the [00:14:00] reader an understanding of, you’re developmentally limited when you’re a child, you can’t hold in your mind, I’m three, you beat the crap out of me. I think it’s all my fault. You know, even if you came in and had all of the info, Oh, I’m sorry, I have PTSD and dah, dah, dah.

It’s like you, 30 year old can’t understand that. So I wanted to be true to what my reflections of, of my And then I had another thread as an adult where I did do research and then I interviewed other veterans and then I looked at psychological studies and I looked at, you know, The literature on the family experience of growing up with somebody with PTSD.

And, you know, some of the statistics were that children of Vietnam veterans have a suicide rate three times higher than the general population. And that feels like a significant.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm hmm.

Ruth Clare: And, you know, there was a psychological study that was, and just looking at the prevalence of domestic violence rates in young children.

Military families, and [00:15:00] those factors I think are significant and worthy of mention as well.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, all of that I, I think is, is certainly worthy of, of mentioning in, uh, this type of narrative and I, I like your approach to this as well, where, uh, your story is just The example but it it’s being backed by other research, psychological studies, and other interviews with with veterans, and, and other folks who are kind of involved in in this type of thing who have experienced this in some way.

You know, giving, giving that as an example, uh, your, you know, your story as an example gives people a more personal point of view as opposed to just reading, you know, a psychological study with a lot of [00:16:00] technical. jargon and, and things along those lines in it, um, that might be a little more dry of a read, uh, if, you know what I mean, as opposed to something with a more personal approach to it.

So, so I like, that’s how, uh, You have taken that approach with, with your story. Um, now you talked about some of the challenges that you had growing up in this household, um, you know, affected by the trauma from war. Uh, can you talk about some of the maybe coping strategies that you developed in front or, or found to be effective in your own, uh, in your own situation, your own recovery, uh, from this and, uh, how you, how you managed to kind of keep moving on.

Ruth Clare: So remember I read my first self help book when I was 18 and it was a book called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, I don’t know if [00:17:00] anyone has ever, and what, what she talked about in that book, the, the, the threat, that threat, I guess, that was the most, um, significant to me was this idea of the metaphysical creation of disease. And that’s something that has actually been now backed by science. It was more woo woo at that time, you know, her covers got like a big rainbow love heart and it’s like, Oh, um, but she was talking about this idea that it’s similar to your body keeps the score is that if you don’t deal with your trauma, then. way that I feel it, it’s like, you know, it just sits inside you agitating. And so that, understanding that and kind of going, I, I could feel my trauma inside me. I could feel it, you know, it’s like an, it’s own beast in there.

Scott DeLuzio: Unfortunately, I do understand what you’re saying.

Ruth Clare: And so I started just to [00:18:00] get curious and I read book after book after book, and I tried lots and lots of different things.

And I think that’s one thing that I think every person on a recovery journey, I hate when there’s a, um, I find that a lot of experts come in and say, my one method is the way. And there seems to be a. Um, in some realms of psychology and that world of the expert speaking to the, the person who they’re helping, it’s, they want to be more certain than they actually are because not everything works for every person.

And I think everyone’s personal journey is really individual. And some things that are going to be awesome for me might not work for somebody, but there is always going to be something that will work if you keep persisting. It’s just going to. You know, be a lot of trial and error.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm

Ruth Clare: [00:19:00] So I think the things that have been really helpful for me as concepts were understanding about control, because I think control is one of those major issues that is not spoken enough about with PTSD or complex PTSD is we hate feeling out of control.

And so we become overly controlling of our worlds and environments because that feeling of chaos is, just makes us feel unsafe. And so understanding about what I could control and what I couldn’t control was a really helpful concept and understanding that much as I would like to be able to control everyone.

And the things that happen to me and how everything works out, that’s not what I can, what I can control is how I respond to the situation, how much work I do to keep [00:20:00] myself calm. There’s a limited number of things that I can control. And if I waste all of my energy out there trying to control stuff that isn’t mine to control, then that’s a lot of energy I don’t have to direct toward what I can control. And so that was a really. Helpful learning.

Scott DeLuzio: That is helpful, uh, because I’m in the very much the same boat where I, for, you know, the longest time just trying to control things that were out of my control and, uh, or, or things that were maybe not as significant as I was making them out to be. Um, other, other people probably might understand that as well.

Um, you mentioned earlier, you know, you left your bike out on the yard when you were a child, not really a major issue, even if worst case scenario, the bike got stolen, you know, [00:21:00] it’s, it’s a bike. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not like you got kidnapped and you were taken away to God knows where, you know, it was, it, it was a bike.

And yes, it would be. upsetting if it was stolen, but not the end of the world either. Um, and there are things that you, you kind of have to look at them on a relative scale. How big of an issue is it? Um, you know, if you’re reacting to everything as if somebody is about to get run over by a truck, well then, When someone actually is about to get run over by a truck and you’re reacting the same way as if they left their bike out in the yard, they’re, they’re going to kind of be numb to your response to how you’re, you’re acting, right?

Ruth Clare: the, the size of the problem and the size of the reaction.

Scott DeLuzio: And they need to be

Ruth Clare: if everything’s 10, [00:22:00] then that’s something that you need to work on. Hmm. Hmm.

Scott DeLuzio: if you’re jumping straight to 10 or 11, uh, and you’re, you’re, you’re going to those extremes when the problem or the situation is, is a one or a two or something and you’re, you’re, you’re automatically going to that worst case scenario, uh, reaction. Um, people will maybe eventually start getting numb or immune to that reaction where they’re just not going to have the, it’s not going to have the same effect as if, um, you were to use that 10 response sparingly for just 10 situations, you know, Hey, you’re about to get hit by a truck.


Ruth Clare: That’s a good one. Use

Scott DeLuzio: a good one. Use the 10 because you want someone to pay attention. You want to yell on top of your lungs. You wouldn’t be [00:23:00] loud. Make sure there’s no ambiguity there. They heard you. They know exactly what’s going on. You left your bike out on the yard. That’s, I don’t know, one or two that that’s a low level type thing.

But if you’re, you’re yelling like, Hey, you left your bike out in the yard. Ah, you know, and you’re yelling, that’s. Not going to be received the way you’re anticipating it to be. Cause to you as a kid, you were probably like, was it really that big a deal? Like what, what did I do wrong? Like I, yeah, sure.

Maybe I shouldn’t have left it there, but he could have just said, Hey. Put it away, , you know, like,

Ruth Clare: also get a grip. Uh,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, sure. . Yeah. You know, it’s a bike. Um, so you were talking about some of the, the tools and the strategies, um, uh, some and you, you mentioned some like the science backed, uh, tools that, uh, kind of aided in, in this, uh, recovery.

Can you [00:24:00] talk about some of the things that, that might be beneficial to some of the listeners?

Ruth Clare: so I did a science degree after I. Um, finished school and I’ve always really enjoyed science, never really used the science degree apart from just, I really like researching stuff. And one of the things that has been absolutely foundationally mind blowing to me is my understanding of the role of our brains and nervous systems related to our trauma response.

Have you had people on here speaking about nervous system stuff before? No. No.

Scott DeLuzio: We have, yes, uh, yeah, and I, off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you which episode, but there have been some. I’m gonna put it in the notes, I’ll go take a look, and they will be in the show notes, uh, you know, which episodes, so.

Ruth Clare: the, the, the way that the nervous system works and, and the way that our brain works, I’ll just, I’ll just give an overview just in [00:25:00] case people don’t go back, um, is, you know, if you, have you heard of the hand brain model, which by, there’s a scientist called Dan Siegel and he’s come up with this thing called the hand brain model.

Scott DeLuzio: I haven’t, but, uh, go ahead.

Ruth Clare: So, so imagine this is your brain. Um, and for the people who aren’t watching, it’s I’m holding my hand up like a stop sign and, and my, my wrist and, and my arm below, imagine that is my spinal cord. Um, my palm of my hand is the limbic system, which is your emotional processing system. Thumb out here.

That’s the amygdala. And the amygdala is like the smoke detector of the brain that’s constantly working to detect threats. And then that, that interacts with the limbic system down here. This is sort of your, your lower brain function. And then wrapped over the top is your higher brain thinking, reasoning logic.

So the amygdala is out here, threat [00:26:00] detecting. You know, the whole time. And as soon as it detects a threat, does this thing that he’s described as flipping your lid. So it flips off your thinking brain, right? And what it does is then go, all right, now we’re operating down here. I’m going to send, the smoke detector has gone off and I’m pressing the button on the fight flight freeze response.

So it then interacts with the nervous system down here. Um, and. Your autonomic nervous system is operating 24 hours a day to ensure your survival. It’s the thing that keeps your heart beating and your blood pumping and, and once the fight flight freeze response is activated in your system, it directs blood away from unnecessary things like digesting.

And moves it into your limbs so that you’ve got energy in those limbs to run away and makes your heart beat faster so that you’re already at a run so that you can run faster. It makes your breathing shallow so you’ve got more [00:27:00] oxygen. And that’s great when you’re in the middle of a threat. But what happens when you have experienced trauma is that this thumb sitting out here, your, your threat detector becomes hypervigilant.

Like it sees threat everywhere. It’s so used to scanning for threat that it sees everything in your environment as a threat and, and constantly flips off your thinking brain and activates your fight, flight, freeze response. And people describe anxiety, but what anxiety Is, is that fight, flight, freeze response in your body that, you know, heart beating too fast, shallow breathing, all of the effects that people, you know, use to describe emotions.

None of those effects happen without that nervous system response. So of the biggest learnings for me, and one of the ways that I actually developed some self compassion around the fact that I was being triggered was to understand [00:28:00] what just happened then was. Before I started going into my stories of, you’re a fool, you’ll never get over this.

How much therapy do you have to do? Why did you act like that? Other people will be calm, but you know, all of the stories that you tell yourself about how rubbish you are as a person. Before I get into that, it’s like, Oh, I, my, my system detected a threat then. So I’m going to calm the system down first before I get into the story.

And so that process of, of calming the system down is for a start. Because what we do. other thing that happens in your nervous system is, it can’t tell the difference between a thought, a memory, And real life. So if you get stuck in this loop of thinking about a past event, it’s like to your brain and nervous system, it’s like, Oh my God, this thing just happened again.

Oh my God, this thing just happened. Oh my God, it just happened again. It just [00:29:00] happened again. It happened again. So you get, you, you, it’s like, you just keep pressing the button on that fight, flight, freeze response over and over and over and over again. And the way that you counteract that is by coming back to the present moment.

And, you know, there’s a lot of stuff out there. I’m, I’m creating a whole course on how to support your nervous system, but there’s a lot of stuff you can find if you just look up the polyvagal theory or if you look up, um, nervous system reset, whatever, there’s lots of different processes you can use. And I, I’ve heard one of your previous guests talk about, you know, having a cold shower.

That’s one of the things you can do. You’re basically shocking yourself out of this lost in your thoughts over and over and over again, coming back into your body. So I. Use exercise, like exercise for me is like an essential. I do not know how people who have trauma do not exercise because it is the one thing that helps to get some of it out and calm some of that down.

And then, you know, breathing techniques. There’s [00:30:00] a, there’s a, um, technique called the box breath, which you may have heard of before, but you know, it is actually, I don’t know, did, did you ever get trained about that when you were in military service? Cause I’ve heard that is something that, that, I know,

Scott DeLuzio: They may, they may do it now, uh, I, I gotta Probably, what, 13 ish years ago? Um, so, back then, maybe they did it? I just don’t know. They didn’t do it with me. Um, I was on my way out. So if it was something that was starting around then they probably didn’t figure why bother. Um, but that may be something that they do now.

I, I really don’t know. Um, I have heard about it and, uh, you know, I have used it in the past myself, um, but was not through military training. It was, it was really just my own research and, and other, uh, You know, tips from other people that, that kind of led me in that direction.

Ruth Clare: So that box breath is [00:31:00] just a really simple, breathe in for four, then hold for four, breathe out for four, then hold for four, breathe in for four, hold for four. for four, hold for four. And one of the reasons that that is so effective from a nervous system perspective is because when you are calm, you naturally have a pause at the end of your breath.

It’s that, it’s that hold for four at the end, which is when you are in a really panicked state, that’s really hard to do. You feel like you’re, Oh my God, I’m underwater. I can’t, cause you’re so in this, you’re breathing all up here. You’re not breathing from your diaphragm. And so that hold for four is. In the same way that your amygdala is scanning your external environment, looking for danger, it’s also scanning your internal environment, looking for, oh my God.

And so if you give feedback to your internal system, [00:32:00] which is, I’m going to actively control my breathing and pretend that I am calm, and that is a pretend calm breath, then That actually helps your amygdala go, Oh, well, we wouldn’t be doing this if we were running away from a tiger. So maybe it’s not so bad.

And then, you know, the other thing that I find really helpful is, is to take the world in through your five senses. What can I see? What can I hear? What can I smell? What can I taste? What can I touch in this moment? And every time, you know, your, your brain’s going to go, Oh my God, but that thing and that guy, that, you know, let’s, let’s go with the bike, that bike, but they’re stupid.

They don’t respect me, those kids, blah, blah, blah, whatever, whatever, you know, going on in there. And then you just go, what can I see? What can I smell right now? I am safe right now. It’s all good. You know, reminding yourself that you are safe in this moment and nothing bad is happening now and stop feeding your system, all of this stuff that keeps it.[00:33:00]

Activated because it’s so much harder to be emotionally regulated if you keep overthinking and churning and churning and churning. So doing whatever you can, you know, have a cold shower, eat some ice, crunch ice cubes, long, low outbreath humming. It’s like really calming for your nervous system. It’s also a thing you wouldn’t do if you were being chased.

So it’s sort of like, Hey, little baby, it’s all right, calm on down. You know, you’re just trying to do things to remind yourself that in this and do that before don’t get stuck in the thinking part. The thinking part is just the very, very tail end of this process. And I think when, when you have got PTSD or.

Trauma responses and your nervous system is, you know, you have to do nervous system first.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And it’s really hard sometimes when you’re in that moment to think about using a tool like that, like the, the breathing or, [00:34:00] uh, taking your five senses or, or any of that. It’s hard to do it, but with practice. So if it’s, if this is something that you, you do on a regular basis, even if you’re not in that fight, flight, freeze mode, if you could just do that on a regular basis,

are a little bit more conditioned. You’re, you’re flexing that muscle a little bit more often. And then when it comes time, when you are in that fight, fight, freeze, uh, mode, then it’ll be a little bit more natural to do the breathing, taking those senses, uh, all that type of stuff. It’ll, it’ll be just that much easier to do it because You do it when you don’t need it.

You know, just like you go to the gym. You don’t, you don’t need to be able to lift, you know, however many pounds over your head and do all these different, you know, exercise, you don’t need to be able to do that at that moment. [00:35:00] There may come a time where you need that strength or you may need to run fast or you may need to do that type of stuff.

So. You do it beforehand so that you’re ready when you need it. So you’re not out of shape and weak and, and all of that type of stuff. So,

Ruth Clare: And from a neuroscience perspective, that, that habit formation is about actually rewiring your brain. So instead of being, your only loop is to go around and around and around and think about the thing and go around and around. When you’ve done the practices, when you are calm, you have, it’s like, you know, a neuropsychologist that I’ve spoken to, she describes it as like, you’ve got, um, you’ve got your super highways and, and they’re really quick.

You, you know, you’ve, they’re the ones that you’ve done all the time. And over there’s, those are the habits that are really entrenched and ingrained. And a lot of times they’re not the great habits. And then you’ve got this road that’s under construction and it’s hard to work because you’re going, Oh, I have to.

Think about [00:36:00] applying the habit, do, do, do, do, do. But the more you do that, the more that becomes like, Oh, we’ve got away some of those brambles, now we’ve got a slightly clear path. We can step forward upon this new thing. And it does take some effort. But then it becomes a more habitual process and then it becomes an easier process.

And that’s actually, you actually, it’s hard because you’re rewiring your brain. It’s an active process.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah. And, and I think that’s a key word that you just said there, or key phrase, I suppose, cause it’s a couple of words, but it’s an active process, um, where you’re, you’re actively engaged in this process. And, uh, that I think is, you know, Important for people to remember, uh, that you, you have to be active in this.

You have to put the effort in. It’s not just going to be like, Oh, I listened to this podcast and I heard this great idea and all of a sudden, click, it works, you know? And you, you have to do, I mean, I

Ruth Clare: do wish that would, [00:37:00] I do wish. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Scott DeLuzio: because I would, I would blast this, I would promote this podcast all over the place.

I’d blast it all over the world and just let everybody hear it. And all of a sudden. Boom, PTSD goes away, you know, magically. That would be wonderful. But, um Yeah, we’re not there. We’re not there. I’m, I’m not that good. Unfortunately, you’re, you’re good, but not that good either. Um, you know, so, you know, it is a, a active process.

You do actively have to be involved, just like you can’t have somebody else go to the gym for you and expect you to get stronger or faster or whatever, more flexible, whatever the case may be. Um, you can’t expect that to happen if you don’t put the work in yourself. Um, And again, going back to something I said earlier, you know, a lot of this we as veterans, myself included, we are the type of people who are the fixers.[00:38:00]

Oh, I can fix that. You know, I can handle this situation. I’m, I’m. Big, I’m tough, I’m strong, I can handle these things, but sure, maybe you can, but when you look at a situation like PTSD and you’re going through it and you’re not getting the help that you need, uh, it does have an impact on other people in your lives.

It may have an impact on your family relationships, your work, uh, relationships, your, your neighbors, your friends, other, other people in your life, uh, They, they are going to be affected by this if it doesn’t go, uh, and, and get better, but it is an active thing. Like you said, you’re not going to just will it away or listen to a podcast and have it magically disappear, uh, or, you know, any number of other things.

Like you actually have to do some work to, to get it done. Um, So, so yeah, uh, this was, [00:39:00] this was good advice, I think, uh, that you had in that, that breathing, um, kind of getting that, uh, that regulated and, and back under control. I found in my own Personal experience that is as silly as it may sound for people who have never done anything with their, their breath work or, or any of that type of stuff.

It really works. I, I can’t explain

Ruth Clare: it’s really boring. It’s really, really boring to, honestly, honestly, the number of times I still have to go breathe. It’s so boring, but

Scott DeLuzio: but it works. So who cares? It’s boring, but it works. You know, it, you know, you’re not jumping out of an airplane or you’re not, you know,

Ruth Clare: Not high octane.

Scott DeLuzio: no, it’s definitely not high acting. It is, it is low speed. Like it is. It’s, but the nice thing about it is you could be sitting in any environment. You could [00:40:00] be in your car, in traffic, in, in rush hour traffic, or you could be sitting at your desk at work, or you could be at dinner with friends or family, or you, you could be at, You can be doing this and nobody’s going to know what you’re doing, um, unless you’re really exaggerating the breathing and it’s like,

Ruth Clare: yeah, yeah, yeah, but the, but the, so there’s three things that I do. One that I, I, you know, I do a lot of speaking events and the three things I always try and tell people about, uh, the five senses, because you can do that secretly and these things take very little time as well. They’re invisible and they take very little time.

So it’s the five senses, the, the box breath. And the other one is the air. So noticing the, where your bottom is interacting with your chair, noticing where you’re [00:41:00] interacting with your sock and where your sock is interacting with your shoe and the solidness of the ground beneath you. that is part of the process of, again, you know, it’s, When you have been caught up, you know, PTSD is a racing brain thing.

There is a lot of racing brain action going on and, and learning ways to come back into your body, to keep separating, going, Oh, I noticed my thoughts. I do not get caught by my thoughts. I come back to my body. Anything that. Can help you in that process and that process can be invisible and happening all of the time because people inevitably say things that annoy me and I have to, you know, control my impulse to say inappropriate things in return, you know, and you can do this thing of feeling you’re feeding your shoes.

Distract your brain by doing these other processes so that you don’t, you know, you have at least enough of that, that brain hasn’t flipped quite enough [00:42:00] that you’ve got a little bit of your thinking brain online, because that’s the other thing. If you have flipped your lid, your thinking brain is not online.

You need to have these habits in place so that it is instinctive and automatic and can happen. While you get this back online, so then you go, Oh, I’m glad I didn’t send that email or say that thing or have that response or do that out loud that I walked out of the room or whatever, you know, you thank yourself later,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, because sometimes when that lid does get flipped, uh, there’s no unflipping it in, in certain cases, like you can’t unsay something. You can’t unsend that email. You can’t, uh, you know, take some of those things back. So when,

Ruth Clare: can say, sorry. And it’s a thing that, you know, I, my, my dad, um, never, uh, you know, I, in a very flipped lid state confronted my dad about some of the experiences, you know, more like, do you remember when you beat the crap out of me when I you know, like a really. [00:43:00] You know, very conduct, you know, professional conversation that I had with him.

It was like, you know, I was 18. He got on the phone to me and whatever. I just started, do you remember this? Do you remember that? Right. And, The, the, the way that my family generally works is things get brought up, people ignore them and then we pretend they didn’t happen, you know, so it was like, okay, so I had this thing that I thought, okay, well, this could be the beginning of a conversation.

And then that got completely ignored and I’m like, okay, I can say whatever I want because apparently no one’s, everyone’s just going to pretend I didn’t say it. And then. Um. When it was my dad’s 50th birthday, I’d moved away. I was living in Melbourne and I got this phone call at 4 AM that had a habit of calling when he was drunk and you know, slurring on the phone and he, I was really annoyed cause I was trying to, you know, pretend I was cool.

I’d just moved to Melbourne and you know, he was trying to really [00:44:00] put all that past behind me. I’m going, Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening here. And he said. I know you weren’t lying. And I was like, I don’t even know, you know, he was drunk and he’s in the middle of a conversation and he said, I’m going, okay, I don’t know what you’re talking about and lying about what I know you’re not lying when I said, I gave you a touch up, your sister told me that I did.

So they’d obviously been drinking together that night. And I was like, A, why is it that when my sister says it? That it’s not a lie. And when I said it, it might’ve been. And then I, you know, I, I explored this in Enmiya. I was like, so did he seriously? Was he lying or denying or did he not remember? Was it disassociation?

It was so confusing. And one of the, the, um, other children of a Vietnam veteran who read my book, she was an only child. And [00:45:00] she said her family was similar in that her dad said that he didn’t remember those experiences. And, um, She said that, you know, in, in her letter to me, she said for the first time in my, her life, she felt like she had a witness to what had happened in her own home because her experience was so similar to mine. And I, I’m, I’m sure that if I hadn’t had my siblings, I would have felt like I was going crazy to have something so really obvious denied. Both of my siblings had, we had very, you know, similar perspectives on everything. So I at least had that validation. And. I think, you know, if my dad had have said, sorry, it would have made a really big difference to me.

I was ready to forgive, but it was really hard when it was, you know, It felt like it was okay. So we just pretend and I just sit there the whole time [00:46:00] going, are we going to ever, are we going to ever talk about it? Nope. Okay. Well, we can only have a relationship that is at this level if we’re not going to talk about that thing.


Scott DeLuzio: and it’s unfortunate that that’s how people are sometimes, um, and, you know, I, I, I wish it was different, um, I wish, I wish we all could just figure it out and snap our fingers and have this go away, or at least, like you said, Apologize for the behavior, um, however, with the apology, any apology, um, there, I always tell this to my kids as well, um, with an apology, just saying sorry by itself, with no change in behavior, it’s an empty apology.

It’s an empty apology. Um, you know, so you did that [00:47:00] thing, whatever that thing was that was, that was wrong and you go to apologize for it, but then you turn right around and you keep doing that same thing over and over again, that sorry really didn’t mean anything. You know, because you’re still doing it.

It’s like, I’m just saying it now just to get you to shut up and move on with this. And it’s almost the same as just brushing it under the rug. Like you were talking about, like, just, just kind of ignoring it. Just, just trying to get through that one moment and just saying, Oh, I’m sorry. You know, and then continuing to do the same thing.

Um, so again, it’s an active process.

Ruth Clare: Actions. Actions speak louder than words.

Scott DeLuzio: they do. And, and you, you have to be actively involved in the, um, in the process of getting through this. And, and you can’t just sorry your

Ruth Clare: know, repair can be, you know, one of the most profound, you know, things You know, we all make mistakes, you know, my God, there’s no parent alive that hasn’t made a [00:48:00] mistake. Um, but repair matters. Repair counts.

Scott DeLuzio: absolutely. Um, and that’s I think the goal here for, for everyone. So, you know, I’m not, I didn’t bring you on the show to make, Make the folks who are out there dealing with, uh, their own PTSD, make them feel bad that they’re bringing their, their trauma onto their family and, and all that. I’m, I’m talking about how do we fix this?

How do we, how do we take those first steps and, and get the, um, Get the help that we need. And, and you said this earlier, um, a lot of times there’s experts out there and they, they say, Oh, this way is the best. You got to do this way. And that’s the only way and blah, blah, blah. Uh, I know the Department of Veterans Affairs here, uh, they have their list of prescribed, uh, therapies and

Ruth Clare: Same, same here.

Scott DeLuzio: things, you know, that they, they [00:49:00] go through.

Um, but sometimes people go through all those and they don’t work. For them. They’re, they get through and they’re like, okay, now what? Because I still feel the same as I did, you know, however long ago when I started this whole process. And it’s, it’s really not helping. There are other things out there, there, there are other ways of, of dealing with this.

So, um, for the, the folks who are listening to this, who are going through it, um, try all of the things that are available to you. Try, try this stuff that, uh, veterans Affairs has to

Ruth Clare: And try some of the woo woo stuff. Like some of the woo woo stuff is, you know, go in there as cynical as you like, I, I always just consider the proof is in the pudding. I will try anything. You want to wave a fish over me and tell me that it’s, you know, wafting away some negative energy. I’ll give it a crack and then I will just trust my own experience.

But if you’re open to things and go, Oh, whatever, they don’t know just because, [00:50:00] and this, this is the thing with, you know, even though I, I do like science backed things and you know, they try and make psychology and mental health as if it’s like X plus Y equals Z, we all know. They don’t know. And they’ve only, they only measure what they have measured.

As a scientist, it is, you know, I went, I, when I did my degree in science, they hadn’t met. The DNA was all just junk DNA. It was junk, junk DNA. That’s junk. It’s like, so far as you know now, and just because they haven’t measured why some energy work works doesn’t mean that it doesn’t, it just means they haven’t measured it.

You know, the people who get the most scientific studies are generally like cognitive behavioral therapists who want, they’re the types of people who do the studies. It doesn’t mean that the other things aren’t. As valid. It just means they haven’t had as much research applied to them. It’s just a

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Right. And, and, yeah, when, when you talk about the data, they’re, they’re looking at numbers, they’re looking at statistics, they’re looking at all that type of stuff. But I [00:51:00] mean, meditation or the breath work or the,

Ruth Clare: hundred percent.

Scott DeLuzio: all these things, yoga or I don’t know,

Ruth Clare: All of the stuff that brings painting, like, you know, for me, the, one of the biggest ways that I have dealt with my trauma is through my creativity. I was an actor before I was a writer. I, I’ve done a lot of work where it’s like, you know, you give form to your pain. Like this is in a therapeutic process rather than a, you know, necessarily showing the public And then, you know, I would do this thing, like there’s this, this thing called emotion focus therapy, where.

All you do is, you know, basically go inside and try and feel where it is in your body. And, you know, actually tuning into where it is in your body, cause you’re so used to avoiding it, you’re going, I don’t know anything about that stuff. You go into your body and, And where it is inside your body, then the therapist says, [00:52:00] you know, and does it have a shape?

Does it have a color? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And sometimes that’s all you do. And then you don’t keep thinking about it all the time and going over and over it. You just have this shape and that becomes a symbol. And then you let that symbol sort of live. Like often you will give form to it. So I had a therapist where you would, you would draw that out.

And then you would just sort of like, it felt like, okay, I’ve got this nugget of something. And then you’d sniff around it. Just look at it on the wall, whatever it was that at that time, but not think about what it all meant. Just kind of sniff around that symbol. And it feels like it lives outside of you.

You have a separation instead of feeling so immersed in all the yuck. So that process is valid as well. And that doesn’t, that would not meet VA approval

Scott DeLuzio: I’m sure it wouldn’t. I’m sure not. Yeah. Um, there’s, there’s so many things out there though. And I think the, the key, uh, to all of this is keep trying, keep trying different things. Um, don’t, don’t just stop [00:53:00] because you’ve exhausted the VA’s resources and the things that they have to offer. Look outside the VA.

Check, check out, you know, some of these woo woo

Ruth Clare: there’s so much free stuff too. If you don’t have any money, cause that’s the other thing, go onto YouTube. YouTube is goldmine. And, you know, obviously. You want to have support if you’re in a really crisis state that, you know, you need to be getting on those phone lines, do not be doing all of this stuff by yourself and connecting with community.

You know, from a, from a nervous system perspective, one of the most healing things you can do is to remind yourself you’re not alone in your experience. It’s one of the reasons that I wrote Enemy is to go, you are not alone in this. And there are just being around other people who are more regulated than you.

It’s, it’s, it’s. Proven that, that, you know, a more regulated person can help you to calm yourself down. It’s like, we need each other. We need to be able to, you know, be around others who are doing better than us. And then we can be the person who can be doing better than [00:54:00] them on a different day. And to, you know, it’s not all your bad.

They’re good, you know, it’s sometimes you’re better than they are. So, you know, it’s like we all do it for each other.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Um, this conversation, I honestly, I’ve had a great time in this conversation. This has been a really, uh, enjoyable, uh, conversation, uh, not only, um, because, um, you know, it’s been, uh, personally fulfilling, but I think the listeners, uh, will take something away from this as well. Um, I, I want to mention your book again.

Um, the book again is called Enemy, and I want to make sure that. The listeners know where they can go to find, uh, the book and, and get, uh, you know, maybe more information, uh, about, uh, you and type stuff that you do, um, you know, so before we wrap this up, could you provide, uh, the listeners with that information?

Ruth Clare: Sure. So [00:55:00] Enemy should be available, like on all of the booksellers, um, should be available. Definitely Amazon. It’s also available as an audio book and that’s just been released worldwide. So hopefully is, you know, All properly taking place. But it’s really weird when you’re not in the country that you feel like, I don’t know.

I don’t know what you guys are seeing. You might be able to see it, you might not. I don’t know if you can buy it. I took over, it was originally published by Penguin and then I’ve taken back the rights and self published it and I’m not sure I’m doing it properly. So I may have, I may

Scott DeLuzio: Well, I am, I am looking right now, uh, at the Amazon page for, uh, yearbook here in the U. S. Uh, and I can see it’s available on Kindle, audiobook, and paperback, uh, editions. So all of those are available here. So you definitely can get a copy of it here in the U. S. And, uh, I will have the link [00:56:00] to those versions of the book in the, uh, in the show notes so that, uh, the listeners here and, uh, hopefully Amazon’s smart enough to figure out if you’re not here in the U.

S. that they’ll redirect you to the country, uh, website of your, your particular location so that you can get the book too.

Ruth Clare: think, I think Bezos is pretty good at

Scott DeLuzio: I mean, they’re pretty good.

Ruth Clare: matter where we are in the world. I believe it’s one of his skills.

Scott DeLuzio: I, yeah, he’s, he’s kind of dialed that in, I think just a bit. So he’s, he’s done pretty good with that, but I’ll have links to, to that in the, the show notes, uh, like I said, as well as, um, your, your social media and website and things like that.

So, so folks can find out, uh, kind of follow you and find out more about what you got going on. Um, before we wrap this episode up though, um, I like to end with a little bit of humor. I kind of think of it as, you know, in a restaurant you have [00:57:00] dessert at the end of a meal and leaves you with a good taste in the mouth, right?

So, um, I like to end the episode with a little bit of humor, especially because sometimes some of the topics we talk about are a little heavy, a little dark, and I like to at least leave people with a smile on their face, even if it’s just to laugh at me because the joke was corny and they don’t like it.

So, whatever, you can laugh at me too. I do.

Ruth Clare: a dad, yeah. The

Scott DeLuzio: here we go. So a man checked into a hotel. Uh, there was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife, but he accidentally typed the wrong email address, and without realizing it, he sent the email to a widow who had just gotten back from her husband’s funeral, and the widow decided to check her inbox, expecting to see condolence, uh, messages from relatives and friends, things like that.

Uh, and after reading the first message, she fainted. [00:58:00] And her son rushed to the room, found his mother on the floor and, and saw the computer screen, the email on the computer screen, which read to my loving wife. I know you are surprised to hear from me. They have computers here and we are allowed to send emails to loved ones.

I just checked in. How are you and the kids? The place is really nice, but a bit warmer than I expected. And I’m, and I’m very lonely here. I have made the necessary arrangements for your arrival tomorrow. Expecting you, darling. I can’t wait to see you. I,

Ruth Clare: warmer than expected really added the twist.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, I added that in because I was like, this is good as it is, but warmer than expected. That, that, that, uh, send a little twist to people.

Ruth Clare: slightly menacing now. Yes. Yeah, and, and yeah, no, I’m, I’m, I’m totally [00:59:00] erasing that. I’m going to tell that one.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s good. Yeah. Please steal it. If it, if it helps put smiles on other people’s faces, I definitely want people to steal that and use it. I stole it too. I’m not really not that funny. I took it from somebody else. And unfortunately I didn’t write down who stole it. who the joke came from, so I can’t quote the author, but it’s out there.

I’m sure if you really care to find it you could find it. But anyways, Ruth, thank you again for coming on, sharing your story, sharing your insights. I’m sure we could have gone on for hours talking about this and sharing the different aspects that that Uh, you know, the PTSD, of your own, uh, trauma, uh, dealing with all of this, we could, we could go on for, for hours, but I think that the key takeaway here, uh, key takeaways here for the listeners is, is be actively involved.

It, it’s an active sport here. We’re not just passively watching TV and, or watching a podcast, or listening to the podcast and [01:00:00] expecting that. This is just going to magically get better. You have to be active in it and

think about, think about the family. Think about the family members that. If you do nothing and you continue down the path that you’re going down, um, you know, how are they, how are they going to be impacted? And is that really something that you want? You know, and, and I, I think, uh, you know, all of us, uh, all of us in the veteran community, um, we kind of look at each other or look at ourselves as the protectors.

We’re the ones who protect other people. And, uh, Let’s do that. Let’s bring that back home and, and protect them by taking care of ourselves. And I think that’s, that’s the takeaway I, I have anyways, I don’t know if you have anything else to add.

Ruth Clare: No, I love that framing. And, and that’s even, you know, for me as I’m not a veteran, but [01:01:00] I feel like, you know, I had my own childhood war and for me, constantly wanting to be a better parent is the thing that motivates me the most. And I think. You know, sometimes you do feel like you’re a worthless piece of rubbish that isn’t worth doing it for, for yourself.

And sometimes having the framing of going, but I love those people and I want to do it for them, can give you more motivation, um, than just trying to do it for yourself for your own blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes having the other framing of, I want to do it for them, can be the, it can be the impetus you need to make better changes and make different choices and, and start making some active behavioral changes.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Well, thank you again, Ruth, for coming on and sharing this and the wonderful insights. And I’m really glad that we got to have this conversation.[01:02:00]

Ruth Clare: Me too. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been really fun. Thank you.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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