Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wounds our souls. PTSD is a soul wound. Untreated, the PTSD afflicted person will eventually kill themselves. You probably are already aware that twice as many Vietnam veterans have been killed by suicide than the number of U.S. troops killed in combat during Vietnam. We seem to be on track for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well. Last month solider suicides exceeded the killed in combat for the first time.
I am sometimes asked, Just what is our soul? I will dodge that and say that whatever it is, you have one, and the soul can be harmed. Conversely, the soul can be nourished. Often, I like to think in terms of identity. PTSD harms my identity. When I am overwhelmed with PTSD symptoms, I find that I have a PTSD-Identity going on. I will discuss PTSD-Identity in a future post.
Medical/Psychiatric science can do much to help us moderate and control our PTSD. But all of that medication does not heal my soul, it does not help me recover or discover my identity. That said, I am not anti-medicine, I simply recognize its limitations. For a deeper hurt, a hurt that affects my soul, my being, who I am, medicine is not wholly adequate.
People acquire PTSD and their souls become wounded as a result of experiencing trauma. They are overwhelmed by it. It assaults their being. For some people it takes an immense amount of trauma and for others not a lot. But we are all susceptible.
PTSD can happen from military service (both combat and non-combat experiences), rape (unknown aggressor or known acquaintance date rape), accidents, and severe illness. I can get PTSD from having terror inflicted upon me or even if I inflict it on someone else. I can acquire PTSD from watching someone else suffer trauma.
In order to make a recovery from PTSD, one needs to have their soul nourished and healed. Spiritual resources are the means of that nourishment. The more ritualized the spiritual resource, and the ritual needs to be accepted and integrated, the more effective it will be.
I come from a Roman Catholic background and the Roman Catholic Church certainly (and fortunately for me) has a lot of ritual. The rituals of other spiritual traditions are also useful and effective in helping cope with PTSD. While I have my personal preferences, one does not have to be a Catholic, or any particular type of Christian, to benefit from spiritual resources. For example, Mahayana Buddhism has a lot to offer in regards to dealing with PTSD. Yoga, both secular and religious yoga, can help PTSD sufferers.
So, while I still take my PTSD medications, I also compete the healing journey, rather I continue the healing journey, by nourishing my soul through my spiritual resources.
If you are afflicted with PTSD: Know that there is Hope. It is indeed a rough journey. You come through it tempered and ultimately better able to help others in their rough journey.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z