I can hear the machines going round and round again in Washington. The President and Congress will look into itâ¦Their Generals and Admirals will repeat the promises of doing something about itâ¦and I canât help but be reminded that in my lifetime Iâve heard this so many times from the same kinds of people. Or, sadly, that I wasn’t surprised at all by the news today…
And what has happened? Most of anything good that has happened was the result of servicemen and women taking care of themselves. Why? Itâs an administration problem. One administration is slapped in the face, like when Nixon was hit by the numbers of combat veterans coming back from Vietnam. A plan is put into place. Then, another administration is voted in and the priority of the last falls to the wayside.
In the film business, I like to call it the studio head amnesia affliction: you sell a script to a studio through one executive, then he or she loses their job, and the next one doesnât want to have anything to do with any previous execâs project because they want to shine under their projects they come up with themselves.
In the government, as weâve seen, this amnesia affliction is occurring at a rapid rate. This administration doesnât want anything do with what had come before it. And guess whoâs going to sufferâ¦you bet, not the disconnected in D.C.
As you know Iâm not just into complaining. Just complaining is whatâs been going on: Congress has a hearing on post-traumatic stressâ¦a few researchers and writers come out and give their opinions (most of them, I might add, who end up on these panels talk about the subject from a 3rd person point of viewâit’ll be nice when the majority of PTSR authorities called to such panels have actually walked in the mocassinâs of those whoâre dealing with the effects of PTSR, donât you think?).
Congressmen and women nod their heads. Perhaps a few get a little overheated in their speech for the cameras and constituents back home. Promises are madeâ¦.then, you donât hear anythingâuntil an event comes back to the bite the public in the buttâ¦or as I was told my first day as journalist way back in 1983: âIf it doesnât bleed, it doesnât lead!â
And blood there was at Camp Liberty in Iraq today. Five dead. Where were they shot? At the campâs âCombat Stress Control Center”?! Iâd say someone really dropped the ball on thisâ¦but when it comes to post-traumatic stress itâs hardly ever one person.
There was the one who should have checked the soldier’s weapon. There was the counselor who should had read the warning signs: yes, there are always warning signsâand, no, someone smiling and chipper is not a sign that all is good!
But, attention to details takes a lot of work and if you’re a psych and working an overload of patients, the good work doesn’t always get done…much less undivided attention to the tiny signals a person gives off…and that’s if you were trained in recognizing those tell-tale, minute facial expressions and other signals.
There were the soldierâs buddies who were so lost in their own preoccupations they didnât pay attention to the easier to recognize signs. There were the higher-ups in command who have yet to really help turn public attention around so that everyone realizes the post-traumatic stress response it’s understood that it’s a regular part of combatâif we can all realize that a common cold is nothing more than the result of a stress weakened body open to contagion by a carrier, maybe one day everyone can understand what PTSR really is and remove the emotionally loaded interpretation it now has.
And, yes, even the press has yet to get on the ball on PTSR. Or, as I read in this article by Helen Kennedy of the Daily News, âshell-shock”âshell-shock? Did she have some kind of time transport to 1917 and the trenches of France?
Yes, itâs infuriating when good work is being done and part of that good work is to understand the importance of how stigma and public reaction to post-traumatic stress can be so affecting, and yet even the very people who are supposed to be informing the public are getting and disseminating information from the dark agesâ¦Ever wonder why aside from WWI, post-traumatic stress wasnât really a public concern until Vietnam?
Itâs for two reasons: one is that when WWII veterans returned, they returned to a hero’s welcome. That in itself does profound work in helping a combat veteran deal with his or her PTSR. The other is that PTSR didn’t have the social stigma it has had since Vietnam…when a Vietnam Vet was always characterized on TV or in films as going off his rocker.
The subconscious mind works in really mysterious ways, but not that mysterious when you really take the time to look. Ever wonder why first love can be so exciting, or love loss is so impacting? Or how about why the most impacting experiences in life more often are the ones that are those interpreted as the most traumatic?
Yup, you heard me right: interpreted as the most traumatic. There is a lot to be said when you realize that, like old hypnotists and self-help gurus like to say: The world is what you make itâ¦
If you make it to be a weakening and unsuccessful and injured world, everything in your subconscious will focus on that and remember to only bring to your conscious mind all that you see: half-full/half-empty glasses here. If you look at the post-traumatic stress response as a normal part of having been in a dangerous, or interpreted as dangerous, experience and nothing more: not crippling, or weird, then the emotional and subconscious effects of the memories of those events in war will not only not be a source of shame and fear, but will actually reinforce your confidence and be part of a stable of powerful experiences in your background to aid you in whatever you seek to do in the world after war.
My hope is now that the present Obama Administration is aware of it, at the cost of five men, theyâll take it to heart and really do something other than have just another congressional hearing, fading into a few adjustments made to the whole mental health programs in the military.
It never ceases to amaze me that with all the might and power and heavily degreed people in the government and military who compiled all the effective tactics and strategies from other ancient cultures, that make our military the most effective fighting force in the world, they have yet to collect the other half of all those teachings from all those cultures that were matched to help warriors come home, cleanse and be reintroduced as important components of a healthy society.
â¦ever wonder why it was never just The Iliad, a great book on military strategy. That for a full learning as a warrior you have to read The Iliad, and then The Odysseyâ¦?