On Friday, July 2, 2001, our dear, much-loved founder Karen clicked on "Create a Group Now" at MSN Groups and began to build the haven of hope and sharing that we all hold so dear to our hearts today. She named it Living With PTSD - Vietnam Wives -- part of the name a tribute to Aphrodite Matsakis, author of Vietnam Wives, whose words still guide us. Karen posted her first Welcome on July 3, 2001:
From: Karen (Original Message) Sent 7/3/2001 9:19 AM
I am so new to communities, so I hope you will be patient with me!
I want this to be a place where people can receive support and share info with others who understand and will not judge. A place you can feel safe to express your own hurt, anger, frustration, etc. from trying to love someone with this difficult disorder. We are just humans too and the PTSD can often render our loved ones emotionally unavailable to us. I hope you will join, feel comfortable to post and give this new site a chance.
I am working on links to info sites. Who said, "Knowledge is power"? Personally, I found knowing as much as I could about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be very helpful. To me, it is knowing my enemy. You see....I love my husband, but really hate this disorder. There are several links I found useful and I am working on others. I hope you will check them out and let me know if you have suggestions for others.
Welcome and I hope you will put up your feet and stay awhile!
By the end of July, the group had grown to nine members. There was Lady Blue (our first Australian!), Pam, Nance, Red, Chris, Alia, Na'ia (who lives far out in the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii), Tammi, Lorri and, of course, Karen. So quickly had Karen's child become an international traveler!
Chats were added on July 21st, and Karen would go into the Chatroom at the scheduled hour, waiting patiently for members who needed an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. While the membership was still small but building, she sometimes spent an hour alone in there just to make certain that any members who did show up would not find an empty room. For the next year, Karen hosted all chats herself -- four times a week!
The membership continued to grow and by the end of the year, there were nearly 50 members. Among those who joined during those months were (to name only a few) Beth, Ina, MyEagleDustoff (Marilyn), Nursemom, Jilly (another Aussie), Helen and Lyddie -- many still active members.
By the summer of 2002, our group had grown so much that more managers were needed. Helen and Lyddie were honored with management positions, and Karen was at last relieved of full responsibility for Chat hostessing, not to mention all those Welcome letters she was busy writing! By December 2003, Helen had gone on temporary hiatus but we managed to capture two more victims, uh, assistants when both Mouse and Lildog honored us with acceptance of our plea to join management. By early 2003, it became obvious that we could use at least one more excellent brain to run this group, and Joie was the perfect choice for the job. Fortunately for us all, she gave her unwavering YES! By the summer of 2004, we had two managers on temporary sanity leave, so we roped in one more dazzling addition -- Dazzie.
We lost our sweet little Mouse, our outspoken brightest bulb, wive of a Korean War vet, to cancer in 2005. Still miss you, Mouse, and your sound, motherly no-holds-barred advice.
Dazzie chose to re-enter the ranks of regular member in 2006, and we scrambled once again for assistance. Nakiea and Vickia joined the management team, Vickia able to give us a few months, and Nakiea still hanging in with us, having become our principal and most reliable representative.
Over the years, our group members have spun off to start their own support groups for women. Aftermath of War, Women of War Veterans Overcoming PTSD, Support for PTSD Helping Families Recover and Veteran Wives Down Under are all groups started by former members of Living With PTSD-Vietnam Wives.
We have members from literally around the world -- Australia, England, America and Canada.
Our membership includes women whose vets fought in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, the Dominican Republic, Bosnia, Grenada, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
As of January, 2009, we had 823 members at our MSN Group site, many of whom have been with us for nearly our entire eight years on the web. Some members are quite active, others come and go--stopping by simply to check in and say hello on occasion, and many others who slip in silently to read and gain strength from just knowing we are here. We were also honored in 2004 to add to our member list Patience Mason, the author of another vital book for vet wives, Recovering From The War.
We have placed links to our group at dozens of related sites in hopes of attracting the thousands of other women out there who are struggling alone with their vets. Patience has graciously added a link to us on her website -- ours is one of the few she has authorized to be listed. We are consistently listed in the top six sites at Worldwide Veterans Topsites! (Did you vote today? LOL)
We have even gotten our name and web address into the print media on several occasions over the years. One more way to locate those women in need of a friend!
Sadly, MSN closed its Groups in February of 2009, but our future looks bright here at Yuku. Change is always difficult, but as Nakiea reminds us, before long this too will be the comfortable, safe haven we are desire and need so very much. On the bright side, we can search messages now, and we have SPELL CHECK!!
Nakiea recently shared her feelings on the importance of our support group in her life, and with her permission, we are including it here because she expresses our members' feelings so perfectly.
"Having combat PTSD in my home has wreaked havoc on my comfort zones. I have had to learn to adapt to situations which make absolutely no sense to me at all. Some things I have adapted to better than others. I will admit there are some I may never full adapt to. I don't like change. I like the layout of the site…I got used to it. Now there is going to be a change. We have no choice, so if you are like me, please let's all bear with each other while we get accustomed to the change. You help me and I will help you, but let's all not get lost in the change. We need each other."
"Without all the help I have received on this site, I wouldn't be here, able to complain about how I don't like changes. I was down and out (way down and on my way out) when I found this site. It has given me back my life. I know we hear many say that, but I really mean it-- just as other who say it do. I felt so old, weary, and tired seeing no way out. This group showed me I had to be there for me. I had never heard that concept before. I had only heard you have to be there for him."
We can all be very proud of this living, breathing community that Karen brought to us back in the summer of 2001. We truly are Living with PTSD, and as we support one another and share ways to cope with this life, the most important thing we learn is how to find and take care of our "Self" again. As they tell you on the airplane, "Put your own oxygen mask on first, and then help others."
PTSD may be forever, but with the love and support we share here, it is wonderful to be able to say:
I am not alone!
Thank you, Karen, from the depths of our hearts and souls.