Memorial Day: We’ll get our share of drive-by caring and plastic patriotism. In some areas we will have to endure fireworks. And, we will have to deal with the specter of those afflicted with Compassion Deficit Disorder (CDD) … nothing quite like being blamed for having PTSD, sensitivity to triggers, and living in a fear-state, just because we “couldn’t hack it” or because we are “cowards.” The news media, practicing a predictable “calendar journalism,” will show a brief uptick of interest in those with military service.
What I just wrote there is usually polarizing. Some readers will nod their heads and even be able to associate specific people they know to the drive-by caring, CDD-afflicted plastic patriots.
Other readers, usually those who have neither served nor ever been sexually abused, will consider the writing to be too hysterical, hyperbolic, and unpatriotic, etc., etc.
What Should We Think About on Memorial Day?
The news media can help us better understand some of the significance of Memorial Day and its resonance upon the nation. For example,
Valerie Strauss writes about why “Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day,” in the May 29th, 2016, online Washington Post.
Roger Boas, a veteran, cogently observes, “Our military spends a fortune on war but little when our forces come home,” in the May 27th, 2016, online Washington Post. You get bonus points if you already knew about “Battle Rattle.”
We called it “battle rattle” in my war — and I came home in 1945 to San Francisco with a bad case of it. My parents didn’t quite know what to make of me. I couldn’t make sound decisions, and my relationships suffered. No one knew what to say, so they said nothing. It took many years to feel even a semblance of “normal.” ~Roger Boas
And, Chris Woodyard, writes in the May 29th, 2016, online USA Today, about how “Car shoppers could get lucky with deals this Memorial Day.”
Woodyard is not at fault here, he merely reports on the car industry’s endeavors to sell more cars whilst celebrating all those dead American soldiers we (might) remember on Memorial Day (granted, Woodyard does not make the connection as blunt as I have chosen to do).
Hey! I could “get lucky” with a new car deal and honor dead troops all in the same transaction … God Bless America! Woohoo!
And, if I can’t get out and buy that new car today because my PTSD triggers are heightened due to the lovely ambience of Milwaukee’s Memorial Day celebrations, then I can “take heart” because …
For those who miss the Memorial Day sales, take heart. The summer could bring more discounts, experts say. ~Chris Woodyard
Lucky me … meh.
Lucky Trauma and Denied Trauma
As a veteran, I am one of the “lucky ones” because the presumed source of my PTSD is more likely to be accepted by society and not immediately considered too shameful to acknowledge. For society, my soul wound is not one which causes immediate embarrassment or shame as compared to some of the ways people have had their souls wounded. The primary source of my trauma, that is, military service, does not violate the nation’s cherished view of itself.
If your soul wound is from military trauma, the nation (er … most of it) gives lip service to endorses the necessity of your trauma, the honor of your trauma.
If your soul wound is due to CSA or a sex molesting high school wrestling coach, well, er, not so much … no endorsement here … keep moving.
True, I’ve been called a “Baby Killer” because of my military service, but these days I don’t hear that term much. I am more likely to be thanked for my service than cursed for having been a soldier (although there have been a couple of times where it was made clear to me that certain universities/colleges did not want theology taught by a disabled soldier).
Our society will not willfully embrace those who struggle with the aftermath of incest and Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), or sexual molestation by athletic coaches, teachers, or clergy. To acknowledge this sort of activity tears at the self-perceived identity of the country as just and fair.
So, instead of embracing people like CSA or clergy abuse survivors, the nation engages in prolonged rectal defilades to keep from seeing and being compelled to acknowledge the crimes and the on-going suffering.
This denial is another form of Compassion Deficit Disorder because to acknowledge the horror of CSA, or the rape cultures infesting some of our nation’s sports programs (Hello, Baylor University! How you doing today?), implies we would try to stop the horrors and try to aid those who survived these assaults.
I’ve not yet finished it, but Jessica Stern’s, “Denial: A Memoir of Terror,” is a powerful revelation to what it can be like to have a community deny the sexual terror inflicted on children (And, if you purchase it through the PTSD Spirituality website, then I’ll get something like thirty-five cents and keep inflicting writing essays like this one).
There is no national holiday, or even the most anemic of drive-by caring styled affirmations and support, for those who have survived the physically and spiritually wounding sorts of traumas not endorsed by popular notions of patriotism.
So … What’s To Do?
Memorial Day and its attendant weekend is frequently a challenge for those of us with PTSD and for those of us who care about someone with PTSD. It can serve as a trigger for horrible memories. It can serve as a trigger as certain members of society disregard your humanity and vulnerability.
Avoid Radiation and Tar Pits
If someone presses you to go to a fireworks display, a picnic, start drinking, or start answering their probing questions about your experiences, then you have the right to:
- Say “No” to pesky blood-sucking questions,
- Divert the conversation to a non-triggering topic,
- Not say anything at all,
- Just walk away.
There is no shortage of blood suckers who want to feed on your traumatic experiences or question you about your current relationships or medications. They may frame their questions as if they care, but in most cases they don’t.
You know who really cares.
Others have no constitutional right to try and inflict a verbal autopsy on you.
You don’t have to retreat to drugs, booze, porn, or thrill-seeking to cope.
Regardless of what form your trauma had taken, or how hard (or easy) things may be for you at the moment, know that national holidays are harder for people with PTSD. It doesn’t matter what the holiday is for, they just seem to make life harder for us. They disrupt our patterns, patterns which have kept us out of trouble, and often attract vampires.
Around national holidays the drive-by caring crowd usually gets more pesky and persistent. People may claim a right to dig into your traumatic past and current healing journey. As I said, they don’t have the right to dig into your soul.
Just because someone is a brother-in-law, or sister-in-law, etc., or had a traumatized relative or friend, does not give them the right to forage through your soul like a pervert rummaging around your grandmother’s underwear drawer.
Embrace Life, Hope, and Creativity
PTSD and plastic patriots hate life. They don’t want us to have hope and will try to crush any of our attempts at creativity?
Why do they do this? Well, yes, the obvious answer is they are major league dickweeds. The more subtle response … and what could not be more subtle compared to that previous sentence? … is that they are afraid of life and love themselves. If you can heal, have hope, then they are left without excuse.
Hope, Love, Creativity are like antibiotics against PTSD
Hope, Creativity, and Love each promote the value and meaning of your life.
When we are at our most triggered the notions of Hope, Love, Creativity are anathema to us. PTSD wants us dead. To obtain its goal it keeps us away from that which helps restore our lives.
Do something creative. Make music, draw, sculpt, take a walk outside, a bike ride. Even if it is just you alone in the bathroom, SMILE.
On the one hand, don’t let the plastic patriots and vampires activate your PTSD. Avoid the soul killers of booze, porn, drugs, and other risky behaviors.
On the other hand, do some activity which promotes life.
Figure out who you can talk to about the real things that matter in life. Who can you trust with even just a small part of your story? If there is no one, then write it down in a journal and think of writing it down as if to someone who really cares, won’t interrupt, and who knows you are created in the Image and Likeness of God.
Even if you are fortunate enough to have someone you can communicate with, still try to do some writing. Similar to prayer, writing can be like dialysis for the soul.
As Always: You Have Value!
Semper Pax, Dr. Z