|PTSD and Caring About Us... Each Other|
|Sunday, 26 December 2010 13:12|
Gradations of Pain and Consequences:
As both a specialist in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a proactive survivor of multiple traumas and a self-manager of the monster that is PTSD, I am mindful of the increasingly generous use of the term. A term coined in western countries and commonly researched and studied in North America, even anguish over an unfortunate childhood incident can "miss-earn" a patient a diagnosis of PTSD.
Over 45% of soldiers returning from Iraq (Yes, the Iraq war is still ongoing) and Afghanistan report with PTSD. Many others are floundering, with and apart from relatives, lost and tormented by this horrific condition. The insanity that was Viet Nam produced an epidemic of traumatized young men and women who did or did not manage to re-connect to society and lead normal lives. What we tend to forget, however, is that these vets, then and now, come from countries pillaged by multiple armies and usually by multiple, overlapping countries and enemies – and the wars have been going on for decades.
Over 60% of the Afghanistan population, including Taliban and non-Taliban soldiers, suffers from severe, unremitting trauma. Adults and children in a country that has been pounded for over forty years have lived with violent death, disappearing fathers and brothers, and a hyped anticipation of the next bloody horror. In addition to the epidemic shared by the population as a whole, each family in each village is likely to have at least one male relative who is “unmanageable”. The violent outbursts, periods of disorientation, flashbacks that are often as frightening to others as they are to the individual experiencing them, force families to take extreme measures. Extreme victims - brothers, fathers, cousins and uncles – are commonly tied to a tree or a large rock far from the family home, fed little and hydrated rarely in an attempt to spook out the demons that have taken over their minds. The thinking among most families is that this peculiar genre of “craziness” is worse than being dead.
Physicians in Afghanistan are travelling to India and other counties to get “quick lessons” in PTSD. The vast majority of their patients – those whose families will spend the family’s earnings to get them to a medical facility for a medical condition - need treatment for PTSD. However, most families cannot and do not think of seeking medical help, for either organic illnesses or for the confusing and frightening symptoms of PTSD. As a result, the families who are not bombed or preoccupied with caring for one or two maimed loved ones, are the so-called lucky ones. They live, awaiting the next attack and managing an unimaginable madness.
While western governments ensure that we hear of the myriad programs on paper to prop up the villages and police forces of the countries we decimate, little if anything is ever said about the huge toll that war takes on entire populations. Think about what 9/11 did, psychologically, to North Americans. Even the failed underwear bomber locked hundreds of thousands of travellers in place last year amid the Christian holiday season. Yet, it is difficult, amid our now certifiably insane lives, for us to imagine the human cost of decades of one enemy after another, one war after another, and generations growing up in terror. We call it PTSD. They call it life as they know it.