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