Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PTSD - where does it hurt?

People speak of PTSD as if it were all the same.

"He fought in Iraq and now he has PTSD." End of story, as if those 4 little letters explain it all. Oh, yes, PTSD. Now we know what he's going through.

I don't believe it. Are all physical wounds the same? Of course not. You wouldn't say, "He had a fracture" and expect his suffering to be explained. There's a big difference between a fractured pinky and a fractured pelvis. You wouldn't say, "She has a flesh wound," and leave it at that. A laceration in the leg is worlds apart from a face half blown off.

Body parts matter when it comes to understanding wounds and healing. In the same way, I think mind parts matter when it comes to wounds of the psyche. I'm not talking necessarily about sections of the brain as an organ, although there is clearly correlation between the two, but about regions of the mind. What part was hurt? What coping pathway was railroaded? What belief system was shattered? What concept of self was blasted to smithereens?

It matters.

When the body suffers a wound, it helps to know what weapon delivered the damage. What about the mind? What was the weapon, the injuring event, the final blow? We need to know. It helps assess and predict the damage. It makes a difference.

Finally, what about healing? If it is a wound of the body, do we suture? Splint and cast? Perform surgery, even, perhaps, amputate? Do we provide medicine, pills, creams, crutches? Not all treatments are equal, because not all wounds are equal. It's ludricous to think otherwise.

So too wounds of the soul. What kind of healing is right for this crushed confidence? This lacerated faith? This broken, tender self? We can't treat them all the same, with the same drug cocktail, the same kind of therapy, even the same questions. It could be as bad as trying to sew a bone. Ineffective at best, at worst, deadly.

PTSD. The wounds are as individual as the wounded.

P.S. See this blog entry and the associated blog for an eloquent view of PTSD from the inside.


Roman General said...

Peg, you have summed up the questions that have riddled the horizon of the wound that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One can see the distant scene and tell a delineation has split the skyline, a horizontal demarcation subdividing the plane.

No two sunsets have the same qualities or appearance. Upon walking toward this vista we find it forever escaping us, we can reach out in desperation and try to grasp it to find our fingers full of emptiness.

Tis much the same when we who have PTSD know nothing of its name and wrestle within repudiation, ever wrenching whilst the slipknot of insanity strengthens its grasp.

Peg Spencer said...

Roman General - thank you for your eloquent comment. Writing from within that changing and challenging landscape, you speak to those who struggle to navigate their own changed world. I know they are grateful for your guidance.

Roman General said...

Is it ok for me to cross post this article on my blog?

Peg Spencer said...

Yes, of course, Roman General. I'd be honored.

Gabriel Gadfly said...

I think a lot of mental and emotional disorders fall into the same category. People don't really understand them, so they don't really know how to categorize them. Most people know what PTSD stands for, but I doubt the lay person knows the symptoms.

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