The New York Times printed my amended comments on how we treat veterans in response to Brian Turner’s “Bedlam and Back” in today’s issue under the heading “How to Heal Trauma.” I appreciate that. As a veteran with PTSD, it is nice to be heard by a major news organization. The previous PTSD Spirituality Blog post was an endorsement of Turner’s “Bedlam and Back” essay, his poetry, and the value of poetry to healing the PTSD wounded soul. My comments included how to listen to someone who has been traumatized. When I am asked to speak publically, it is surprising how many people have no idea how to listen to someone who is in spiritual agony.
I have included the full non-amended comments below. The NYT was kind enough to print them in the general list of comments on the day the Turner essay originally ran. These comments include some reading recommendations for those interested in helping to heal souls wounded by PTSD.
Fortunately we treat vets better as a society than we used to. Yet we continue to fail them.
Too many civilians expect me to talk about body count or pronounce on strategy or just make them feel good for not serving. But I am grateful that it has been a while since I was called a baby killer.
These days I work with trauma survivors who have PTSD. If they are military veterans, Blackwater cast-offs, rape victuims, or clergy abuse survivors, they all have the same PTSD which wounds their souls.
The PTSD Spirituality website offers some reflection on the soul damage our vets experience while serving their country.
Good references for people incluide:
1. Ed Tick, War and the Soul.
2. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam
3. Ashley Hart, An Operator’s Manual to Combat PTSD
4. Penny Coleman, Flashback
Too often civilians want vets to be their scapegoat. They don’t like what we have done in their name, even though they like driving cars and using oil.
Rituals help us heal from our PTSD trauma, regardless of how we got it. Native American rituals (See Ed Tick) and traditional rituals (my own research as a disabled veteran now theologioan) help nourish and heal the soul.
Best advice to help someone with PTSD: If they talk to you about their experiences, just shut up and listen without judgement. Don’t interupt and tell them about your own sorrows or you know someone like that. It may the one time they are able to talk about it and heal. Don’t shut it off. Second piece of advice: sustained prayer.
Thank you for a wonderful essay and thank you for caring about vets.
Semper Pax, Dr. Zemler