There are three big lies out there about PTSD. The lies help create despair and they make negative, destructive behaviors appear reasonable to those who suffer from PTSD. These lies are used to deny compassion to people who need it. They are also used as a way to deny appropriate financial compensation and medical opportunities for PTSD healing. These three big lies also reinforce the alienation that all PTSD sufferers are subjected to. By reinforcing the isolation most PTSD sufferers already experience, the PTSD is made worse. These lies help make sure the PTSD Circle remains Unbroken.
Big Lie #1: There is No Such Thing As PTSD
While not as popular an assertion as it used to be, there are still those who claim that there is no such thing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In my experience this is done for one of three reasons:
a. Excuse to Avoid Compassion:
Most people who call themselves Christians like to think of themselves as compassionate, reasonable, and understanding. Yet, if we acknowledge the reality of PTSD then we would have to become compassionate or acknowledge that we, ourselves, suffer from compassion deficit disorder. If we admited that, then we have acknowledged we are selfish and don’t really care about others. It is far easier to deny that a problem exists than it is to own up to the fact we are often selfish and really don’t give a damn about others. If I deny that someone else needs my help then I can perpetuate my illusion of being a caring Christian.
b. Excuse to Avoid Disability Compensation:
In this case we have a civilian company or the US Government that does not want to provide compensation for severe PTSD. When the soldier or employee goes off and commits suicide the employers are quietly happy they will not have to pay any long-term compensation. These lives could have been saved if managers and leaders were more concerned about human lives than the financial bottom line. If a person with PTSD is allowed to heal, then they would grow into an even more loyal and productive employee.
During the Bush-Cheney Administration we know that some Veterans Administration doctors were told not to diagnose PTSD because the VA did not want to pay compensation. Recruits (and their parents) are told the military will compensate for wounds and injuries. We know from the Walter Reed Army Hospital scandals, the VA’s refusal to diagnose PTSD based on the facts, and other instances, that this is simply not the case.
(Click this link for more on the scandal of VA doctors refusing to diagnose PTSD to save money. One wonders about the VA and military doctors who falsified evidence to deny a PTSD diagnosis. So much for their oath to help patients anhd do no harm).
Two years ago we inaugurated a new Commander-in Chief who appointed a new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Since then we have seen more emphasis on diagnosing and treating PTSD than ever before. Anecdotally, veterans tell me the situation still needs to improve and that some active duty soldiers are still being forced into hazardous duty even though they have PTSD and/r traumatic brain injury. So it seems we have some improvement, but not enough. If it were your kid with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury and the army wanted to deploy him again, would you care? If you do care about your own kid, then do you care when it is someone else’s child and not your own?
c. Excuse to Avoid Creative Leadership:
In this scenario, a local commander (company, battery, battalion commander) cannot think of a way to successfully complete a mission with fewer troops. By denying that a soldier has PTSD, or that it even exists, they force him or her to go on the mission, and thus endanger everyone because the person should not be utilized in hazardous duties while suffering PTSD or taking medications for a brain injury. In the military this is not always in the form of a combat mission. Heavy equipment operators and truck drivers have been frequently required to work beyond safety limits.
This unnecessary reckless endangerment of troops occurs because not a single leader could figure out how to simultaneouslycomplete the non-combat mission and keep their troops safe.
One would imagine that officer training programs, whether at a service academy like West Point, or ROTC, or OCS, could be structured to turn out leaders better trained to protect their own troops and think outside the box, i.e., be more creative. Civilian leaders, that is managers, don’t seem to grasp this either.
While it may require dynamic, positive leadership and managerial skills, a person with PTSD could be allowed time off for care or a temporary change to their schedules to allow them the opportunity to heal. If a human being with PTSD is forced to serve beyond their limits then they have been endangered by their superiors, whether military or civilian. Additionally, those leaders have endangered everyone in the organization.
It is more cost effective to allow an employee or service member to heal and then return to duty than it is to push them until they get hurt, cause mission failure, or commit suicide.
The cost of hiring and training their replacement will exceed the cost of allowing them to heal and return to duty. Even those people who serve the gods of money and productivity would get a better return on investment if they cared for their employees, instead of forcing them into further harm. Why don’t they do it? (It’s ironic that those who worship money and productivity often call themselves devout Christians. Yet they exhibit no compassion or forgiveness to others (See John 8:1-11)).
Why not be compassionate? Because compassion is not macho, it requires real human contact, and job performance ratings don’t evaluate it. Modern Ammerican business does not reward managers who are compassionate and care for the ‘divine good” of Genesis 1 in others.
The first “Big Lie” about PTSD is that it does not exist. There are several reasons why people still deny it. PTSD is usually denied because it requires compassion and love to heal it. And, PTSD is usually denied because those who are too budget-focused think they need to save dollars and not lives. A pity that they our too short-sighted to appreciate that saving lives is not only the right thing to do, but also saves money. And, some folks feel macho if they can order others around and show indifference to other’s suffering.
But, it is not always someone else who denies that PTSD is real. Sometimes we deny it ourselves.
Sometimes the first person who has to acknowledge the existence of PTSD is the person who suffers from it.
We need to know PTSD is out there, that our souls have been damaged. While we wait for society to come around and live up to its rhetoric, we can still take the first steps ourselves. We can be compassionate with ourselves. Admit to the problem is one of the first steps to healing from PTSD. We don’t need a phony machismo to show we are tough. If you are wounded by PTSD, then you need care.
Even when no one else will help us, we can begin to help ourselves.
How? We must refuse to be isolated. We must refuse to engage in drug, alcohol, adultery, and porn addictions. Those things all make PTSD worse.
There are postive activities we can choose to engage in that will help us heal from PTSD. See How Artwork Help Heals PTSD and How to Understand and Heal From PTSD for two essays on healing the sould wounds of PTSD.
We must rediscover Hope. It is legitimate to hope we will get better. It is one of the first things we can do that will positively affect us. By hoping we will heal from PTSD, we will start taking the practical steps to heal. Start writing, if only to yourself. Talk to someone you can trust. Talk to God.
In spite of the despair that PTSD breeds in our souls, life has value. Your life has value. When God created us, He said it is Good. So are you. Fundamentally you are Good, you have value. Yet, unfortunately, our culture is peppered with those who suffer from Compassion Deficit Disorder. If they admit that PTSD existed, then they would have to acknowledge that all life has value and do something to help alleviate suffering. Don’t let denial of PTSD by others go on to discourage you.
PTSD is real. To deny the soul wound of PTSD is to engage in an ignorant lie at best and extreme selfishness at worst. Regardless of the lack of support in our society for PTSD sufferers, we as individuals do not have to give up hope. Stay alive today, tomorrow will take care of itself.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z