Recently, those of us with PTSD were further stigmatized by being labeled as weak by a major party presidential candidate. He stated that military personnel who are not strong enough have gotten PTSD. This is a false statement, probably based on ignorance and not malice.
If you have PTSD, you are not weak. You have plenty of strength, plenty of character. It is not a case of not being strong enough. We have been wounded both physically and spiritually. Trauma wounds our brains and it wounds our souls.
If one is shot with a bullet and it punctures a lung, do we say that they were not strong enough to withstand a bullet? Do we say they were too weak to withstand a bullet?
If one is run over by a car, do we say they were not strong enough to fend off that car?
If a Tyrannosaurus Rex bites … well, you get the idea.
Trauma is not always physical. The experience of trauma can be like an invisible bullet. Like physical bullets being sprayed around in a combat zone, some hit people and some don’t.
If a child is repeatedly raped by a relative they get to experience the equivalence of physical and invisible bullets. The physical effects of those bullets may, but not always, dissipate. The spiritual and psychological effects of those bullets stay with one for a lifetime. The wounds stay with us in the form of PTSD because of the twin hammer blows of being sexually molested and being sexually molested by a person they thought they could trust. This PTSD creates a soul wound.
In the military, some of the toughest people serve in the Special Forces. You can think of outfits like the Navy Seals, Army Special Forces, or Marine Recon. Physically and in terms of rigorous training, these are some of the toughest people out there, as we usually understand the word tough. Yet, they often become afflicted with PTSD, even when not physically wounded. Their PTSD is not a matter of being too weak or not being strong enough … and neither is yours.
Military people (Yes! We are People!) who are not Special Forces, even those who have not been in combat, can be afflicted with PTSD. Why? Because trauma is more than only combat. Trauma includes combat, but trauma is not limited only to combat.
Indeed, civilians also get PTSD. It is not limited to only the military.
Related to this are the Three Big Lies About PTSD:
You Are Strong
If you have PTSD and you are still alive, then you are plenty strong. Even those sisters and brothers who have been killed by their PTSD exhibited great strength as long as they could, until circumstances and society’s ignorance, denial, and neglect isolated them into a hopeless despair.
Each Day You Strive, You Are Strong
Each day you strive to choose Life. That makes you strong.
Each day you strive to reject PTSD’s desire to destroy your healthiest relationships. That makes you strong.
Each day you strive to avoid isolation. That makes you strong.
Each day you strive to avoid the temptation of self-harm. That makes you strong.
Our wounded lives, combined with physical, psychological, and spiritual pain, are never easy. Many people with more money and wider support systems conclude that we have somehow chosen our PTSD or that somehow we just don’t measure up, that we are not strong enough.
The fact that we are wounded does not mean we are somehow unworthy or of little or no value. We are not to be pitied, although we could use a smart dose of compassion and some legal protections (And, those without compassion could use a right smart dose of salts).
We, like Jesus of Nazareth, are created in the Image and Likeness of God (Genesis 1:26)
Like Jesus, we are wounded. And, even though we go through life bearing our scars, our limps, our stutters, our tremors, our headaches, and our anxieties, we still seek to embrace Light and Life. That makes us strong, like Jesus. That makes YOU strong.
Neither ignorance nor malice can deny these two realities:
- God values you.
- Despite your PTSD wounds you are strong.
You have value. You are wounded and you are strong.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z
[This has been a fascinating year in politics. With some effort, I have opted to not use this website as a means to puff up my preferred politicians or tear down my non-preferred politicians. This essay was catalyzed by one of the current candidate’s recent comments about military people who suffer from PTSD. My response would be the same if the other major party candidate said it, but perhaps with even greater surprise and disappointment.
I hope readers see that the larger point is how ignorance reinforces the fallacy that PTSD sufferers are somehow deficient, that they are too weak, or they would not get PTSD. You and I know it can attack anyone. Again, you are not weak, you are strong.]