Archive for July, 2010

12
Jul

The Obama Administration is changing a fundamental governmental position on what constitutes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in so doing, signals a huge sea change in how the government sees its responsibility towards the women and men it sends to war.

Until now, the Department of Veteran Affairs required that to claim PTSD, veterans had to document specific events that might have caused it.  Such documentation has been, at the best, a huge bureaucratic process, and at the worse, made it all but impossible for those whose PTSD resulted from non-combat situations (such as witnessing atrocity) to find help from the VA for their suffering.

The new rule—which applies retroactively for veterans of all wars—allows compensation if a veteran can show that he or she served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the events the vet says caused the trauma.  No longer is coming under fire or witnessing a comrade’s death the only acceptable circumstances.  The new rule also allows compensation for having had good reason to fear traumatic events even if the vet did not ultimately experience such events.

Disability benefits include free physical and mental health care and a monthly stipend.

This change represents not only recognition that PTSD is a fundamental consequence of participating in war—in itself a monumental admission for a government to make.  It speaks that the government sees itself responsible to the people it sends off to war, responsible with deep commitment for the duration of that serviceperson’s life. Human beings with souls that war is all too able to wound,, service men and women will no longer be dispensable.  Government must be responsible for the healing of war’s wounds—without excuses, without short cuts, without budgetary concerns.

While we may or may not believe in the reasons President Obama continues to commit our country to war, he is revolutionizing our relationship to the people we send off in our names.  He is creating a true moral obligation to them, and that deserves our amens.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
7
Jul

The other night my husband and I were watching a movie a friend recommended, and by the end, it wasn’t a movie I was seeing but my own history, as if I were looking through a window into my family’s past and seeing my parents from a time I was too young to remember.

When my friend called to ask if I had seen Shutter Island, which is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, I answered no, the preview indicated it was a scary movie about a man imprisoned in a Gothic-like insane asylum, not exactly inviting subject matter.  Yes, she said, it’s that but much more.  You need to see it.

The beginning confirmed the impression the preview created: a U.S. marshal visits a mental institution on an island to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous inmate, dangerous because she had killed her children.

Once inside the walls, the marshal begins having flashbacks—of the skeletal survivors and countless corpses he encountered when his WWII battalion liberated Dachau.  Hmm, this is interesting, I thought, and sank back into the couch, curious how this aspect of the marshal’s character would prove significant.  Then, halfway through the movie, the marshal’s wife appears and fades, the marshal’s memory giving her substance.  I sensed I should not trust his memory (as is true of the substance of my memories of my mother).  Something about the wife drew my back away from the couch and pulled in my stomach muscles.  I was suddenly not so sure I wanted to see the rest of the movie.

The clues begin coming faster and thicker: a young girl keeps reappearing, often soaking wet; sometimes she appears with a woman; the two of them lie among Dachau’s dead, but their eyes open, their flesh taking on color; the woman appears dripping wet; the girl says “you should have saved me.”

And I know before I know that the marshal’s wife has killed their children, that I’m watching my own family’s story, because when my brother was an adult our father told him that our mother tried to kill him when he was eleven.  Because my own mother was crazy and ended up, for a while, anyway, in an institution.  I’m seeing the story of my own family, but how can this be?  What I see is separate from me—from my memory.  What I see is the product of someone else’s imagination, and that fact both sickens and frees me.

Sickens because through the window of the movie I see that the mother’s illness and the father’s paralysis were much worse than I could ever allow myself to acknowledge.  Together, they were lethal.

Sickens because the window of the movie gives them a reality I never could allow myself to grant them.

Frees because now the illness and paralysis don’t belong to only me anymore.  Lehane’s imagination not only shows me that my theory about the causes of my family’s demise was correct, but that the devastation didn’t result from some flaws unique to my mother, my father, my brothers, and me.

Shutter Island symbolizes war’s devastation

But its truth is also literal.

The mother’s manic-depression, suicidal urges, filicide are as much the consequences of her husband’s war service as is his paralysis to intervene and save his children and wife.  A family is a system: what infects one disturbs and alters the others.  Shutter Island helped me see that my mother might easily have killed my brothers and me.  That she didn’t kill us wasn’t due to my father having had some better instincts or better character than the marshal.  My father had better luck in arriving home when he did, in time to save my brother from being suffocated by our mother.  Yet even then, when my father moved out, taking that brother with him, he left my other brother and me behind, still telling himself, perhaps, that there had been some reason why his wife targeted the child she did.  That my other brother and I were safe.

So I had luck as well that my instincts kept me on her good side until she was arrested for shoplifting and was given the choice of jail or committing herself to an institution.

Shutter Island answered the questions my travels across the country interviewing veteran liberators did not.  When I didn’t find a veteran who lost his wife as my father had lost his, whose children had lost their mother as I had lost mine, I thought my father must have had particularly bad luck in not only witnessing Nordhausen, but in marrying a woman with mental illness.

Now I understand that his luck could have been much worse.

To my knowledge, my father did not execute any German soldiers or cause their deaths outside the rules of engagement, but that the marshal did execute German guards at Dachau resulted from the trauma of entering Dachau and witnessing the endpoint of  Nazi ideology.  I believe that the trauma of any liberator, of any combat soldier has equally potent consequences.  Trauma incapacitates the serviceperson from anticipating, preventing, and then addressing the fallout from their trauma once they return to civilian life.  And then they all become overwhelmed by guilt.

All these years I thought anguish and unresolved grief created my father’s silence about my mother.  I never thought about guilt.  How huge his must have been.

The tragedy of Shutter Island isn’t that the marshal chooses to stay in his delusional fantasy rather than accept the reality of what has happened to his children and wife.  The tragedy is that he feels guilty for what happened, as if he could have, on his own, created a different outcome.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی گن لاغری شکم بند لاغری آگهی استخدام آگهی رایگان تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ بوی بد دهان