January 30, 2009

PTSD-Where Does It Hurt?

I followed a comment to another blog and found this article by Peg at PegSpot. She is a Family Physician who has decided to branch out and take up creative writing. I heard her voice in this piece and felt it from within, I wanted to share this with you.

People speak of PTSD as if it were all the same.

"He fought in Iraq and now he has PTSD." End of story, as if those 4 little letters explain it all. Oh, yes, PTSD. Now we know what he's going through.

I don't believe it. Are all physical wounds the same? Of course not. You wouldn't say, "He had a fracture" and expect his suffering to be explained. There's a big difference between a fractured pinky and a fractured pelvis.

And what about a flesh wound? Well, there's flesh and then there's flesh. A suturable laceration in the leg, muscle-deep but no deeper, is worlds apart from a face half blown off, but both are "flesh wounds." The wounded person's experience is vastly different in these two scenarios.

Body parts matter when it comes to understanding wounds and healing. In the same way, I think mind parts matter when it comes to wounds of the psyche. I'm not talking necessarily about sections of the brain as an organ, although there is clearly correlation between the two, but about regions of the mind. What part was hurt? What coping pathway was railroaded? What belief system was shattered? What concept of self was blasted to smithereens? It matters.

When the body suffers a wound, it helps to know what weapon delivered the damage. What about the mind? What was the weapon, the injuring event, the final blow? We need to know. It helps assess and predict the damage. It makes a difference.

Finally, what about healing? If it is a wound of the body, do we suture? Splint and cast? Perform surgery, even, perhaps, amputate? Do we provide medicine, pills, creams, crutches? Not all treatments are equal, because not all wounds are equal. It's ludicrous to think otherwise.

So too wounds of the soul. What kind of healing is right for this crushed confidence? This lacerated faith? This broken, tender self? We can't treat them all the same, with the same drug cocktail, the same kind of therapy, even the same questions. It could be as bad as trying to sew a bone. Ineffective at best, at worst, deadly.

PTSD. The wounds are as individual as the wounded. We need to remember that.

My reply,
Peg, you have summed up the questions that riddles the horizon of the wound that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One can see the distant scene and tell a delineation has split the skyline, a horizontal demarcation subdividing the plane.

No two sunsets have the same qualities or appearance. Upon walking toward this vista we find it forever escaping us, we can reach out in desperation and try to grasp it to find our fingers full of emptiness.

Tis much the same when we who have PTSD know nothing of its name and wrestle within repudiation, ever wrenching whilst the slipknot of insanity strengthens its grasp.


  1. All of this is so true -- and I would add that there is one thing that is the same in all healing, despite the type of trauma or the symptom cocktail.

    That is, the participation of the PTSD experiencer. We and our traumatic memories all respond to different therapies, our paths are all individual, but we have in common the nature of the mind; how it processes memory, how it perceives, and how the effects of reperceiving enhance our strength and the progression of our healing.

    In doing the work we all do to understand and promote coping, living with and healing PTSD, we should always remember to remind ourselves and other PTSD experiencers that the strength of their own commitment to healing is the foundation for conquering the past.

  2. Well said Michele, thank you for being a part of the ongoing commentary here at PASP.

  3. Excellent point, Michelle. As with all healing, it comes from within.


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