Family, Culture Shock and PTSD in Minnesota, 2019

October 29, 2019

Visiting Minnesota, the State where I was born and lived most of my life, is charged with emotion this year. First, I am missing my home in Chiavari.

I find peace walking in Centro Storico day or night. I feel serenity while at the sea.

It seems to calm my nerves, help me center myself and appreciate the beauty and joy in the world.

The waves of the winter storms calm any rage in me—the waves express it for me. 

And the Sunsets, i tramonti, capture all my senses, surrounding my soul with something I cannot find in a landlocked area, like Minnesota.

This year, I have been working through some personal losses, some tragedies, both old and new. Also, I have lost over ½ dozen friends and family members in this year alone. One of them was the husband of my best friend, Mars. I lost her 6 years ago to cancer. This year her husband, Gene, went on to join her. He had been holding onto something Mars had wanted me to keep. She and I shared a strong love for the beauty of Middle Eastern creations. I picked up my inheritance from them both right after arriving in Minnesota.

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My heart was filled with the loss of my friend, the tragedy of her husband’s death, and the memories of what she and I shared over the years.

My siblings and I have had some difficult times over the last two years. My father is now 95 and his dementia is worsening. Things are happening and we are not in agreement of how to handle some situations. And I left to pursue my dream of living in Italy.  These things have caused a rift between some of us. This struggle has triggered something I have not felt so drastically in years. 

When you hear about PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, you usually think of our Veterans and what they have seen and suffered. They are not the only sufferers. I am also one. I had thought I had worked through it all. I was wrong.


PTSD is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.


There are currently about 8 million people (18 years old and older) in the United States living with PTSD….

Top Three Symptoms of PTSD

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.


It hit me like a hurricane by the time I arrived in the state. Why am I sharing this you ask? I am opening up about what can happen so that others like me do not need to hide in the shadows or experience it as I have in the past, as though I was utterly alone, helpless, and so anxious I could not see a way out. 


I am also sharing it for those of you who have never experienced it. I want you to know what we experience, to understand that we can’t just shake it off or get over it. We don’t just let it go. For me, it is like reliving the moments of horror as though I am right there, in THOSE terrifying hours, at that age, and powerless. Your friends with PTSD will be going through that too.


If a loved one presents with many of these symptoms, know it is not just a bad attitude or behavior:

  • irritable or aggressive behavior
  • reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
  • persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” "The world is completely dangerous").
  • persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame


Since I have experienced this in the past, I reached out to my old therapist to help me. She is my lifeline and held my hand through it all, never judging, always leading me back to myself with her support, her questioning, even her honesty when I was not facing what was happening. I thank God for you, Carol V. 


My sister, Patrice and her partner, Diana are who I live with while in the States. They have done all they can do to allow me to work through this PTSD event. They have helped me in unexpected ways.


My sis took me on a motorcycle ride.

How can you do anything but live in the present moment while riding?




Love you, sis. That was a perfect night. 


Patrice and Diana’s dogs are my ambassadors for Life, my emotional service dogs.



Callie is determined to sit on me all day long.

So is Zoey—here they are both on my lap.


Here it’s little Zoey and big Mason. He thinks he is a lapdog. Each evening when the others go to bed, he fights with Rudy to sleep on my lap.

Rudy and Zoey together on the lounger with me.


This is such a new experience for me. I do not own an animal. But I have been adopted by these loving creatures.  And they have been instrumental in my healing process. Thank you, puppies.


Usually when I return to MN, I meet with my cousins on my mother’s side. These are cousins and girls from the Italian neighborhood that I wish I had spent more time with as a child. I have only good memories of them, and I enjoy making more. This year we tried a different Italian Restaurant, Mucci’s in St. Paul.

The food was a bit more authentic than other Italian restaurants I have tried in MN.

My Cacio e Pepe was served on rigatoni and had a bit of a lemony flavor. It did taste good, however.

A cousin had Gnocchi with Lobster and enjoyed it.


Some of us drank this Soave from Italy. It is difficult to find in MN. It was very tasty. 

This was another healing time. We all lived in the moment, laughing, telling stories about the old neighborhood and just being together in Joy. 



Culture shock is something I experience nearly every time I return to the States.

Television ads drive me pazza. Why do they advertise vaping products when cigarette ads are illegal? So many ads interrupt your television time that it annoys me. It seems so weird. 

All the NEWS, the crazy news, on all channels and several 24-hour channels. I just do not see that much at home in Italy.

Big people—In Italy, I feel like the most overweight person in Chiavari. I work on it all the time but I am no Skinny Mini. Here, I see so many other people who are large that it is shocking.

Attire—people are so casual in MN. Sweats are common. People walk outside in their slippers. Italians would have heart failure if they witness these habits. They are too into fare una bella figura, always looking good and acting as if all is serene. 


The homes in the suburbs wheew nothing is really OLD, the food is lacking flavor and I am eating too much meat. I could go on and on. It all feels wrong somehow even though I lived 60 years in Minnesota. 


Still, I enjoy my family here when we are together, especially my sis. Seeing cousins is very comforting. We know each other’s quirks and love each other anyway. 


And when things are not perfect, when I struggle to be in the moment, I remind myself of this way:


More on Italy coming soon. But, for now, a dopo.






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