About Me

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I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also https://jeffreydenning.wordpress.com.

October 20, 2012

The PTSD Brain -- "Check out the Size of that Amygdala"

Years ago (in 2002 or 2003 to be more precise), I read a study about Neuropeptide Y (a.k.a. NPY) and tests done in soldiers going through SERE School at Fort Bragg. According to researchers, veteran Special Forces operators (Green Berets) were less upset or stressed during SERE school than the younger SOF soldiers (e.g. Rangers). The study showed that the SF operators had much higher NPY than the younger troops.

I had read about that study and referenced it (although not specifically for the NPY-link) when I published an article with the Texas Tactical Police Officer Association (TTPOA) Command Magazine in the Winter issue of 2003. I titled it “Deadly Confrontations: Harnessing Psychological and Physiological Stressors in Order to Win the Fight."

Back then, and even to some degree now, I held a theory that those operators with high NPY had PTS(d). When an operator isn't operating or when he's having difficulty adjusting that's just normalcy exhibiting itself. Right?

If the mental health community constantly uses the axiom or the adage that anyone with PTSD is experiencing "a normal reaction to an abnormal circumstance", then why has PTS(d) been labeled as a "disease"? By doing so, there's a gross social stigma, troops refusing to get help or being seen as "crazy" if they open up and admit what should otherwise be "normal" problems from post-combat conflict.

Of course, there is no easy answer, but there must be better solutions. A society full of warriors would understand, but would the media or the warrior's society ever embrace the realities of the change on so many warriors (and subsequently their families) whose lives have changed since coming home?

I definitely don't have all the answers, and I might be wrong on many of my unconventional theories, but the fact remains, this is a pretty fascinating video and worth watching for anyone interested in how the brain works: This is your brain; this is your brain with PTSD.

Jeffrey Denning

Now, the YouTube description of the embedded video follows. Length 1:28 min.

Professor John Krystal introduced Tilde Cafe to specific regions of the brain that play a role in stress and resiliency, such as the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the winner of all names for the afternoon, the "bed nucleus stria terminalis"! Each of these, and other regions of the brain, are finely tuned to recognize and respond to unpleasant stimuli. But there are instances where this fine tuning can be disrupted, or is not function optimally, leading to anxiety and stress that becomes difficult to cope with. With Professor Krystal's extensive experience working with veterans in his capacity as Director of the Clinical Neuroscience Division at the VA National Center for PTSD, we had a front row perspective on the status of research being carried out to help PTSD patients. Of the many novel approaches, a fascinating one related to Neuropeptide Y, one of the neurotransmitters we heard about in the September café. Neuropeptide Y has the ability to confer resiliency and thus the ability to cope with stress, and there is active research to determine how this can be harnessed in coping with PTSD and perhaps even pre-empting it.

To read amazing interviews with warriors, check out Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights and Inspiration, the book on Amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK

October 19, 2012

PTSD not a mental illness?

Recently I've had conversations with an incredible Veteran and Marine, Richard Brewer, who started http://www.jarheadpinhead.org and http://jarheadpinhead.blogspot.com .  He hopes to change the face of PTSD. On his website, it reads: "People telling you it's ok to seek help, to admit you have 'PTSD', but being labeled as 'crazy' or being mentally ill, just doesn't seem right?"

After pausing to consider this excellent observation several days ago, I had it in subconscious thought ever since. Last night I took an opportunity to re-read a great book. Dr. Viktor Frankl survived the Nazi death camp to go on to live a life of helping others with mental health issues. He was one of the most renowned and experienced practitioners of his time.  In his explanation of the therapy he invented, called Logo therapy, he wrote:

“A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease.” -- Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 2006, Beacon Press, Boston, p 102, original emphasis.

To read amazing interviews with warriors, check out Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights and Inspiration, the book on Amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK

October 18, 2012

Ernest Hemingway on War

Ernest Hemingway was a wounded WWI Veteran. War served as the backdrop for many of his literary masterpieces. In a writing debate on hunting in Esquire magazine where he served as a leading colmunist, Hemingway finally left animals to poignantly note the following:

"There is no hunting like the hunting of man. And those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter. You will meet them doing various things with resolve, but their interest rarely holds because after the other thing ordinary life is as flat as the taste of wine when the taste buds have been burned off your tongue.”

-- Ernest Hemingway, "On the Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter," Esquire, April 1936.

In Men at War, Hemingway wrote: "When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it." (Source: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/spring/hemingway.html)

To read amazing interviews with warriors, check out Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights and Inspiration, the book on Amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK