I'm starting a blog to talk about the multiple realities of PTSD: The biological basis of PTSD, the brain and body based keys to human survival which we all have, the historical reality of PTSD in literature, the separate reality of trauma (war, abuse, natural disaster), the reality of having PTSD, the reality of living with someone who has it, the reality of denial by survivors and society, the physical reality (depleted cortisol, changes in amygdala and hippocampus, stress related diseases, early death), the reality of how hard it is to get help, especially good help.
I'm inspired partly by a story on NPR yesterday about soldiers saying the Army is not treating PTSD, (see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6576505). This story includes many of the elements which make life hard for people with PTSD. Denial by those in charge (they're faking it) when the likelihood is that those in charge are either REMF's (rear echelon bad word bad word) or so numbed out themselves in order to cope with the trauma of war (usually enabled by alcohol or workaholism or some other addiction) that they think they are fine and it didn't affect them. One sergeant actually said that in the story. I see that as evidence of PTSD, like the mother of a molested child saying, "I don't know why she's making such a fuss. I was molested for years and it didn't affect me." Except to destroy your natural human capacity to care. I think people get this numb because they do care and caring is too painful and utterly unsupported in this society. Been there, done that, being one of the numbing rituals we hear a lot.
Poor treatment. We've all heard the Army, Marines, and VA claim that they are treating and preventing PTSD this time. I always laugh when I hear that. First of all, most guys have to be in extremis to ask for help. Second of all, being in a group with a psychologist is not debriefing, one of the things that does help (see www.icisf.org/ for more information). Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is peer-to-peer, not shrink to clients... The military is not doing that. Third of all, you can't change human nature. We all do our best to survive in war and other traumatic situations. Then we all do our best not to feel the pain. The same things that help us survive: hyperalertness, so we can pay attention to threats and move fast; numbing, rapidly adapting to the situations in order to remain in control and do whatever it takes to survive and keep others alive; and re-experiencing, our brain's better-safe-than-sorry warning system, all can become our biggest problems if the trauma is not addressed. So trying to pretend that 17 soldiers and a shrink is debriefing, and that a suicidal, not-doing-his-job drunken or drug-using combat vet is simply a slacker who should be thrown out of the military will leave us with the same problems we had after the Civil War, First World War, Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, The Gulf War, Panama, Beruit, etc.
For interesting reads on the effects of war on family life try Even Dogs Go Home to Die by Linda St John, It's All Over But the Shouting by Rick Bragg, or Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter by Barbara Robinette Ross, none of whom had ever heard of PTSD when they were growing up.
I gotta stop here. As you can see, I have a lot to say.