Bibliotherapy: The Eagle on My Arm

Title: The Eagle on My Arm: How the Wilderness and Birds of Prey Saved a Vietnam Veteran’s Life
Author: Dava Guerin, and Terry Bivens 
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir 
Length: 200 Pages 
Publish Date: 2020
Tags/Triggers: Mental Health, Military Service, Suicidal Ideation, Physical Injury, Sexual Assault, Depression, Animal Death, Death 

For months I have anticipated the release of “The Eagle on My Arm”. I was excited to write a post about this book and bibliotherapy benefits of it. What makes this book so difficult for me to write about is how close to home it hits for me. Actually, it is home for me.

“The Eagle on My Arm” is the memoir of my mentor, Patrick Bradley. Patrick is a Vietnam Veteran with severe PTSD. When he first returned from war however PTSD was not well understood and he was just labeled as aggressive and troubled. Fortunately one of the practitioners at Walter Reed was an advocate for those soldiers who were “damaged goods” and pushed for Patrick to be given an opportunity to reintegrate into the civilian world.

Going directly into the public again was not possible, so instead he spent years in the wilderness studying bald eagles. This time in the wild helped him become grounded and develop coping skills. The impact nature had on his journey to healing wouldn’t be fully appreciated however until years later when his son, Skylar, returned from war with his own demons. Patrick did the only thing he knew of to help his son and got him working with birds. It didn’t take long for Patrick to realize just how powerful reconnecting with nature can be.

This book follows his story and includes part of mine. We hope that through sharing our stories and battles it will help reduce the stigma related to mental health and encourage others to seek treatment as well. It also serves as a preface to our next chapter, where we will be opening an ecotherapy center making services increasingly accessible to those with depression, anxiety, trauma-related disorders and other mental illnesses and disabilities because we believe no one should have to face their demons alone.

Bibliotherapy- The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose

Title: The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose 

Author: Chris Wilson 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir 

Length: 414 Pages 

Publish Date: 2019 

Tags/Triggers: abuse, addiction, alcohol, bullying, cancer, child abuse, death, domestic violence, drugs, emotional abuse, incarceration, murder, physical abuse, rape, self-harm, terminal illness, violence 

Growing up in Chris Wilson witnessed things no child should ever see. His mother was brutalized and descended into addiction. The neighborhood around him became a war zone and he saw people he loved gunned down. After a while he felt like he choices were fight or die. Then one night he did just that and ended up with a life sentence for murder.  

He was very fortunate to be placed at the prison in Patuxent where the youth inmates were housed separate from the adults. Patuxent also had unique opportunities for offenders to participate in educational programs and counseling. Access to this program allowed Chris is being to heal and formulate his master plan. This master plan answered his burning question, “What’s your endgame?” Even behind bars with a life sentence all people wonder why they are here, on this planet. 

Chris’s plan began as a bucket list filled with experiences such as “grow a big-ass beard” and attending a bull fight. As he continued to heal and learn his plan evolved and became much more purposeful. Even before he could see light at the end of the tunnel he found light in his life through purpose. He worked incredibly hard without the promise of external pay off just “positive delusions”. His hard work eventually did lead to the opportunity of reward and turned his delusions to reality.  

With the support of caring people around him he managed to get his sentence reduced. He was one of the few to reap rehabilatative benefits from his time in prison. When he earned his release he continued to work hard and give back. He has devoted his life outside to helping keep others out. He has developed systems and supports to improve the culture of the neighborhoods that traditionally acting as pathways to prison.  

The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose was an amazing read that was hard to set down. It is a stark reminder of the deep deficits that plague our country. There are huge inequalities that must be addressed and Chris Wilson is working to do just that. His actions should not end with him but should rather act to inspire and influence others to make positive changes.   

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases of the items linked in my post.

Bibliotherapy- Rebuilding Sergeant Peck: How I Put Body and Soul Back Together After Afghanistan

Title: Rebuilding Sergeant Peck; How I Put Body and Soul Back Together After Afghanistan 

Author: John Peck, Dava Guerin, and Terry Bivens 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir 

Length: 216 Pages 

Publish Date: 2019 

Tags/Triggers: Mental Health, Military Service, Suicidal Ideation, Physical Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury 

Born in 1985 to a single mom, John Peck was destined for military service. Throughout his childhood he remained resilient despite repeated physical and emotional abuse, family financial struggles and homelessness. However, he continued to persevere and achieve his dreams. In 2005, Peck joined the Marines. Little did he know just how much it would change his life, in ways he could never have imagined.  

Not long after enlisting, Lance Corporal Peck was sent on his first deployment to Iraq. There he spent his time patrolling the area in order to network with the locals and complete searches to gather intelligence on terrorist cells. During one of these patrols his vehicle rolled over a pressure plate triggering an improvised explosive device (IED).This incident resulted in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that promptly ended his deployment and nearly ended his military career. 

The TBI that Lance Corporal Peck received caused much more than just momentary confusion. He spent years undergoing evaluations and rehabilitation to learn how to live with the resulting memory and motor damage. With lots of hard work and support, he was able to prove that he was still capable of being a fully functioning Marine with minimal accommodations. In 2009, he reenlisted with the hope of once again being deployed and a year later was sent to Afghanistan.  

On May 24th John stepped squarely on the missed device and instantly lost both legs and his right arm. While his left arm was still attached, it was severely injured which would eventually result in it too being surgically removed. 

John spent months being stabilized. Every conscious moment, he begged the medical staff to let him die. Between the pain and reality of his new disability he could not imagine there was any purpose in his life. It wasn’t until he witnessed others overcoming similar injuries and living fulfilling lives that he began to see a future for himself as well.  

He began to build his network of support, and the more people he connected with the more meaning he saw in his life. When he realized that leaving his darkness behind was helping others do the same, he became even more motivated to regain his independence. As he began to be an active participant in his treatment, he earned a new rank: Sergeant. In this leadership role, he reflected on all the trauma he had overcome thus far and was determined to dig within himself and awaken that same perseverance and resilience he’d had as a child. John began to advocate for himself and take his new challenges head on, leading to his to becoming the first successful recipient of a double arm transplant. 

Rebuilding Sergeant Peck; How I put Body and Soul Back Together After Afghanistan reminds us that despite the complexities that come with managing disabilities everyone is capable of living a fulfilling and purposeful life. It is a great read for anyone facing challenges in their lives be they physical, such as the loss of a limb, or mental, such as depression and anxiety. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for an inspirational page turner. “Rebuilding Sergeant Peck; How I put Body and Soul Back Together After Afghanistan” challenged me to look for opportunities for growth within problems I experience and to recognize that life is more than the events that make it up. It is okay to feel despair in the face of suffering, yet remember that it is only a part of your story. Life doesn’t always happen the way we expect, and living with that uncertainty is something we all have face.  

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases of the items linked in my post.

Bibliotherapy

The Oxford Dictionary defines bibliotherapy as “the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders.” While at the surface it may just sound like a fancy word for reading self-help books, it is much more! Bibliotherapy the practice, has been around longer then the word itself. In ancient Greece libraries were known as places to heal the soul. Ancient Greeks embraced the power of catharsis. Today many people unknowingly practice bibliotherapy and several mental health professionals utilize it with their clients.  

Reading can be therapeutic in a number of ways. Not only can we learn skills and strategies to overcome obstacles when we read, we can also safely explore emotions, feel validated and connected, and more. Not every book provides the same experience for every reader, the more we identify with the characters or scenarios the more beneficial it tends to be.  

Reading can absolutely be a form of self-care and I will be sharing with you things that I have read and found to have potential therapeutic benefit. While bibliotherapy is something you can explore independently there is the chance that certain books could trigger difficult feelings. In all my reviews I will list things that I have identified as possible triggers. If while reading if you become overwhelmed please do not hesitate to reach out to a professional to help you through processing your feelings.  

Bibliotherapy Book Reviews

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