Dr Z: PTSD Turns Normal Upside Down

Why desire to go back to war?  Why volunteer for another tour?  Why avoid your family? 

The PTSD-Identity often turns the concept of normal upside down.  People who avoided alcohol start drinking heavily.  People who avoided porn and were faithful to their spouses become porn addicted and step outside of their marriage for sex and affirmation.  These behaviors are frequently the result of the PTSD-Identity.

The PTSD soul wound turns all of our notions of normal and decent on its head.  Having been traumatized, the individual begins to exhibit behaviors which are abnormal in a peaceful, civilized life.  But these are activities which feel normal to the traumatized soul.

In today’s Poltico, Jonathan Martin writes on “Veterans Battle Claim Backlog.”  While the article is about the immense backlog of claims the Veterans Administration faces, it also spoke a bit about PTSD.

Martin writes about Aimee Sherrod:

But in Jordan, where Sherrod was one of only two women in her unit, she was ostracized by her fellow soldiers. She returned to the United States feeling misanthropic, lost a marriage and began to drink alcohol. It was 2003, and Sherrod hadn’t yet heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. “So I did what every sensible person does, which was volunteer to go to Iraq so I could be normal,” Sherrod said. “Because when you’re deployed and you’re neurotic, it’s completely normal. But when you’re at home and you’re neurotic, it’s not quite normal.”

Her PTSD turned it all upside down: abnormal became normal and she wanted, needed, to go into the abnormal situation of Iraq in order to feel normal.  She began to do things that kept her PTSD at bay.  Ironically, by doing those things, her PTSD became worse.  It’s not her fault.  She served her country and got traumatized, sometimes by her fellow Americans.

[Martin’s article also reminds us about how poorly women are treated in the military.  I know some people claim women cannot expect to be treated as equals in the military.  I disagree with that.  American values of respect and equality can be applied within the American military.  The commanders just have to want to.] 

Misanthropy, Trust, and PTSD

Martin reports that Sherrod became “misanthropic.”  This Greek word means “to hate people,” or “hate humanity.” Misanthropy is a normal feature of PTSD.  Having been traumatized one has lost the ability to trust others and can even begin to hate them. 

 The PTSD experience includes feeling like you have been betrayed and used by those in responsibility.  You come back to the States and people say a bumper sticker is the same as supporting the troops. You get told to get over it.  The VA won’t process your claim and does not seem to care you can’t eat this week.  When the VA consistently loses your paperwork and fails to pay your earned benefits…is it any wonder the PTSD person loses the ability to trust.

 When you watch a prominent politician state on TV that his four sons campaigning for his election is the equivalent to soldiers  in combat, then you may start to feel hate.

 You endure “drive-by caring” where people say they will help you, but when you ask, they deny you and make you feel small for asking. They say they will help when there is a crowd and they can be seen to care.  They deny you later in private.  Is it any wonder a PTSD person loses the ability to trust.

 These experiences make one’s PTSD worse, it is no surprise that someone treated this way would want to go back to a war zone when America continues to lie to them.

 The PTSD soul wound often compels us to do the opposite of what is best and safest.  When we engage in reckless behavior to try and feel alive again, volunteer for missions we should not volunteer for, start to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol, start to hang around with people who value us only for our willingness to have sex, then most likely the PTSD-Identity is at work.

There is Hope for PTSD

It is not hopeless.  The PTSD soul wound does not have to destroy your life.  Gaining an understanding of it is important.  Try to resist the lure of self-medication or going back for an unnecessary tour.  PTSD is defeated by healthy relationships.  Sometimes we have to start those relationships from scratch, but it is worth it.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. Elsa Cook says:

    Dr Z,
    I am so relieved to have stumbled onto this website. There are practitioners who claim to treat this disorder but know so very little about it. Your website has validated that what I’m experiencing is real. My PTSD has come from my husband shooting himself in the head in front of me, then a very serious car accident a year later where I broke my neck. I would recommend your website to anyone who suffers from PTSD as it is highly compassionate and informative. Knowing my triggers and having heightened awareness about the disorder has helped me in managing my condition. Thank you for your work in this area.

    • Hello, I am grateful that you find the website useful and as a means of solace. You mention feeling validated that what you are experiencing is real. Indeed, it is very real. One of the major challenges for a person who has been afflicted with the soul wound of PTSD is not having their situation accepted with compassion by others. While it is normal for a person with PTSD to be in some degree of denial about it, it is unfortunately, even worse how society is in denial about our PTSD. They are in denial because if they acknowledged it then they would be expected to show some compassion and maybe even some help.

      Part of our healing comes from the simple, non-judgmental, acknowledgement by others that we suffer. I don’t expect others to “cure” my PTSD, but it would be nice if they were honest enough to admit we have been damaged on multiple levels and that we suffer an agony that “keeps on giving.” Part of our healing lies in the validation of acknowledging we are wounded, regardless of how we received our wounds. Discovering our triggers and knowing when we are most susceptible are important steps in our healing journey out of PTSD isolation. I pray your journey is one of healing. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Cheryz Creative Conceptz says:

    I’m an honorably retired Police Woman, who suffers from severe PTSD. What I find to be socially unacceptable is; when researching PTSD, it always refers to Federal Military Veterans, which is great, but we, proud women and men of Para-military organizations, police, firefighters, and Ems Professionals who have also placed our lives on the line protecting our country are tossed away after service. We’re left to deal with the after effects of being shot, losing friends, family, our souls, seeing the worst of society, behind the horrific scenes we’ve had to secure, the lives we’ve lost and had to save.
    There are no resources that cater specifically to our needs and issues, financially covered by the government, as VA does! The specialist I was referred to in California doesn’t accept my insurance. So, I would have to pay $150, weekly for visits out of pocket. So, I’m managing on a Michigan cost of living retirement Pension, living in California! So, with the severity of my PTSD, my needs would mandate weekly visits initially, which I can’t afford! My once disability pension from Michigan has just been converted to a regular pension! Hey… I’m still DISABLED!!!! They are now able to take taxes out; it would seem this should be illegal! I’m not fixed, as a matter of fact I’m worse off, and now also receive less money!
    The psychological, spiritual, physical, and financial impact of PTSD and its detrimental cause to society is horrendous for Para-Military Persons, and has fallen in-between the cracks. I’m a 55 year old woman, who would still like to be a productive person. Due to my PTSD, I’ve not been emotionally able to maintain employment, because my condition is always triggered. I’ve turned into an alcoholic, become homeless, lost my home through foreclosure, and my adult children have disowned me.
    Regardless of my proactive approach with people and management of potential employing companies, providing information of my medication and triggers with PTSD, the end result remains the same. Neither research nor education is sought regarding this disorder, and I’m viewed as a trouble maker when my PTSD is triggered albeit the provided information! From a financial perspective, my income has definitely been impacted. My divorce from a physician after a 20 year marriage, due to my PTSD being triggered, afforded him judgment by default only having to pay spousal support for a brief period. I also lost half of his pension. My attempts to supplement my income through productive employment, to compensate have gone down the tubes as well.

    So, I can’t work in a traditional corporate work environment, and am trying to find funding to pay for my education/retraining as a disabled person to return to college. I want to hone and tweak my writing skills in Creative and Media Writing, obtaining my degree in this field. I want to share some of my stories and experiences with PTSD, and get PAID FOR IT! Since I have to live with this disorder, it should pay for its half of the rent!
    I currently live with my sponsor, her husband, a pastor, their three teenage children, a dog, cat and gecko. I’ve lived with this family in their five bedroom inland empire home for the past five months. I’ve informed the pastor and my sponsor of my PTSD. What I find amazing is as much studying and pastoral counseling and help that’s rendered on a daily basis from this home, little if anything regarding PTSD is know, nor sought. The sound of a slamming door triggers my PTSD, and I’ve politely made both the pastor and wife aware of this on several occasions. Every day, I’m challenged as throughout the day, I hear the deadening thud, of a slamming front and garage door.
    So much pastoral sensitivity and consideration is shown towards homelessness, dyslexia, ADD, and there’s not a day that passes in which the deadening thud, reminding me of a gun being fired is heard, my heart begins to palpitate. My palms become moistened from anxiety, my mind races with dark thoughts, and fear enters my heart. I go into protective survival mode, from a similar day when the sounds of gunfire filled the air, and I fought and prayed to make it home one more night… This is what the slamming door does everyday it’s heard in the home where I currently live.

    My roommates are nice, but neither understands nor has made the attempt to educate themselves, on triggers and their impact, treating this affliction with a poo poo attitude as most of society does… I move into a new apartment complex in January of 2011, and I look forward to not hearing slamming doors in my home, for a change. Thank You for reading my comments, allowing my PTSD to have a voice today via this Blog, which has helped to defuse my PTSD today from the sounds slamming doors.

    • You certainly have had a hard road. You are right that most people do not see PTSD as real and when they do they usually only see it as something military people get. I think one of the ironic “benefits” of our current wars is that we are learning more about PTSD than we ever knew before. The science of replacing loss limbs, brain injuries, and PTSD soul wounds is now finally getting some attention.

      I am glad you were able to take some time on this website and poke around. I am aslo glad you were able to express some of your frustrations and immense challenges you have had from your PTSD. If I may, please continue to write in a journal or notebook about your frustrations, history and how hard it is to have PTSD in this country. You are, of course, welcome to comment more here at PTSD Spirituality.

      I also know that teh sound of slamming doors, barking dogs, and clapping of hand can serve as some of my own triggers. At times, for me, just being able to write that out can helpmake it less harmful to me.

      For what it is worth to you, I know that some of our readers will be praying for you now that they have seen your comment. I know that I will.

      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  3. Thank you for writing this. I don’t understand a lot of what runs through my head and hearing someone talk about it like you do really makes things make sense. Thank you.

    Aimee Sherrod

    • I am honored at your kindness.
      I went 23 years with nightmares and all the rest that goes with PTSD. Three years ago the nightmares ceased and most of my anger dropped away after that. I still have to watch out for my triggers, but life is certainly more hopeful now than ever before. I pray that you may be blessed with relief as well. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Leave a Reply