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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is what they call it. It can happen in war, in a car accident, in a national disaster, during a domestic dispute, being mugged, being carjacked, being the observer of a killing or beating or police detention. PTSD can happen as you sit by the side of your child or family member and see them pass away. PTSD can happen if in a childhood….you take the life of a mouse, small animal, bird, gofer, squirrel, a family pet which include goldfish, coyote or larger animal while out hunting with your father or uncle. PTSD can happen if you watch your father and mother engage in sexual activity. PTSD can occur if you walk in on your wife, husband, girl or boyfriend engaged in some aberrant behavior in front of their computer.
The point is: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome/Disorder has been with us since the beginning of time. In the Civil War novel “Red Badge of Courage”, the story of exploding shells and bodies in war, created the story of a identified coward. In World War I – soldiers came back “Shell Shocked”. The nightmares, the mental pictures of bodies blown to bits and the screams of those that surrounded them – created people that came back from war and didn’t relate, wanted to wander around in their own bodies and not look or see – anyone else. Family members, wives, brothers and sisters, former bosses of these people could not relate either.
In World War II, the “Shell Shocked Syndrome” rose by a magnitude of ten. Many soldiers were given Bad Conduct Discharges because of these so-called mental aberrations without a name – just cowardly behavior they said. During the Korean War – the Prisoners of War suffered from malnutrition and something they called “Give up Itis”. The cold and the conditions were so bad that soldiers would just stop eating, spoil their pants and curl up in a ball – and within a week – died. Many soldiers went over to the other side. There are still a few American Soldiers still living in North Korea that became men without a country.
When Vietnam came along, the pure numbers of Trauma Events escalated to a fever pitch. Being exposed to Monsanto’s Agent Orange……brain trauma and the like created several cases of what they called: Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The Armed Services didn’t treat this……they just identified it and put a name on it, with the purpose of doing some long term studies on the subject. The first Iraq War – Desert Storm, with Bush “the Elder” found a variety of troops coming home and with both odd cancers and odd behaviors. Some blamed the Depleted Uranium Cannon Shells that were fired. Or even exposure to those shells that were just being stored or handled. When they couldn’t account for soldiers with these ailments that never were exposed directly – so came what they called finally: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome/Disorder.
The effects of Explosive Devices or EID’s which created direct brain and body trauma became quickly apparent in the 2nd War with Iraq and Afghanistan. The supporting documentation came from the bombings of our African Embassys, the USS Cole and others. While these things tend to target wartime and soldiers, in the meantime National Football League Players that had retired started exhibiting many of the same symptoms and behaviors as the exposed soldiers in war zones. People that had experienced serious car accidents, bar room fights, those that had experienced fires, floods, hurricanes and life threatening twisters all seemed to develop or could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.
What should be considered in all this are that Mental Health Professionals are being the ones that have taken the lead in trying to cure or mitigate the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Soldiers that have seen a woman gang raped and disemboweled afterwards, or a young child chopped in half by a machete - as they are now or have in Somalia and other African nations are supremely Traumatized. This was a physical act – that created a mental nightmare – that a normal person may not be able to get out of their minds…ever! Certain Mental Health Professionals want people to think that by “repeating the trauma, people will learn to live with it!” They call it Virtual Assessment. They created a Computer rendition of the bad experience and then force the PTSD person into watching it – over and over and over again! These Mental Health Professionals are dead wrong in how to cure PTSD using this technology. Seeing your own mother raped and killed over and over again……will probably not teach you to learn acceptance. It may indeed encourage rage – however! The other therapy that the Mental Health Professionals are offering – Drugs! They want to calm you down, they want you to feel less mental pain, they want to sell Drugs!
Those who have experienced PTSD…….in varying degrees…..that already drink or drug abuse too much already - Do not need more Drugs to supplant them. They probably need a modicum of understanding. When a young child has done something wrong and the parents ask them what they did – normally, the child cannot speak. They become tongue tied….they used to say. They are so welled up with emotion that they can’t get it out. “What did you do?” is the general accusatory attitude and screaming tone employed. Rooting out those mental pictures or physical deformities cannot be done with Drugs. These are momentary fixes which require a regimen of long term disassociation from reality to be effective. Certainly not what you might suggest for yourself, friends or family….as a viable fix.
Are their cures, fixes and therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Syndrome? We have yet to know that answer. We do know that Understanding, Listening, Kindness, Caring and an Honest Concern are good places to start. They call it “the Relate Factor”. If someone has been in the Fog of War, been in battle – they need to associate with those that have also experienced those things. No one seems to suggest that as with Alcohol……about 20% of those that attend Alcoholics Anonymous are able through exposure……to finally become cured enough to function well in society. 40% more fall in and out of the program…..and become what they call Functional Alcoholics. The other 40% may not have family, friends, co-workers or bosses that support their efforts and thus - those people fail.
We don’t know the final answers to PTSD. Those answers may come in a few days or many years in the future. We do know, that these folks need our help. The terrible tragedy in Newton, Connecticut today has created thousands of PTSD victims, by just watching the news – much less those that were there and experienced the events first hand. Those of us that watched the 2nd plane fly into the Twin Towers on 911 have all experienced a form of PTSD. Many still have nightmares that were there in NYC that day. We must understand their pain and try to relate! We do not require everyone with PTSD to have a lobotomy to be cured! We need to study each event and to deal with each event separately. Each as an individual . There is no “one size fits all” for PTSD. There needs to be a greater UNDERSTANDING however, to begin the process.
*Special Thanks to Charlie Rose for his program on PTSD tonight on PBS. It was a real “Eye Opener” as Charlie might say!