10.30.2009

cbc on ptsd

The CBC website is running quite a good story about post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the ongoing worldwide read of the Diary of Samuel Pepys, we recently reached the historic Great Fire of London, which raged from September 2 to 5, 1666. Our man Sam was personally not directly affected by the fire - his house was not burned, although you can see from this map that he had reason to be afraid.

But regardless of his personal good fortune, Pepys spent days and nights walking the streets, witnessing the fear and destruction. He is thought to be one of several people who urged the Lord Mayor of London to order that houses be pulled down to stop the fire from continuing to spread. He also spent many panicked hours removing his possessions - especially his books - by boat and wagon to safer ground.

In the nights following the fire, and for weeks to come, Sam's sleep was troubled by visions of burning buildings and of houses being pulled down. Many readers immediately recognized his descriptions as post-traumatic stress.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about that CBC story is that the comments are full of support and encouragement, and survivors sharing stories of hope. My own experience with post-traumatic stress is part of what draws me to the war resisters. I don't pretend to know what they've been through, but on another level, all trauma is related. And there is always hope.

9 comments:

James said...

I'm a big fan of Spike Milligan, who created (with Harry Seacombe and Peter Sellers) the BBC radio comedy The Goon Show, which paved the way for Monty Python a decade later.

Milligan was part of the Allied invasion of Italy in WWII, and was caught in the explosion of a German mortar. He suffered from PTSD -- called shell-shock at the time, though that's not quite the same thing -- for the rest of his life. He used to say, "My active service in the war ended when I was blown up. I've often thought that the biggest mistake of my life was coming back down again." Fallout from his PTSD included lifelong depression, the failure of his marriages, and several nervous breakdowns.

The first few volumes of Milligan's war memoirs are well worth reading, though the later releases falter significantly. I recommend the first three: Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, Rommel? Gunner Who?, and Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall (the last of which covers the invasion of Italy).

Milligan was demoted from Bombadier to Gunner after his release from hospital, but even so he had it better than shell-shocked soldiers in WWI, many of whom were shot for cowardice.

The were 306 British soldiers so executed (many, though not all, of whom were shell-shocked) were posthumously pardoned not quite three years ago.

L-girl said...

Matt Bin's book L.M.F. is also about "shell shock". The title stands for "lacking moral fibre," yet another military name for PTSD. Matt posts here as M@.

Pat Barker's book Regeneration, the first of the Regeneration Trilogy, deals with military PTSD, too, also bogus "cures".

Both are excellent reads.

I blogged about LMF here and here.

L-girl said...

I should note that one supposed cure was torture. Literally, torture.

M. Yass said...

Blogger James said...

Milligan was demoted from Bombadier to Gunner after his release from hospital, but even so he had it better than shell-shocked soldiers in WWI, many of whom were shot for cowardice.


And I'm sure you will be shocked beyond words to hear that, yes, Matilda, in The Greatest Nation On The Face Of The Earth, shell-shocked soldiers can still be executed for cowardice.

Don't believe me? Look up Article 99 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 899. It deals with "misbehaviour before the enemy and says:

Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—

[...]

(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;

[...]

shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.


Then again, we're talking about a country that just now lifted a ban on people with AIDS entering the country. Now if we can just convince those bastions of civilization Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan to follow suit.

L-girl said...

Everyone here believes you. It's well known to people who support war resisters that desertion is still a capital crime in the US. But thanks for the UCMJ quote, that is always handy.

M. Yass said...

L-girl said...

Everyone here believes you. It's well known to people who support war resisters that desertion is still a capital crime in the US. But thanks for the UCMJ quote, that is always handy.


I know you and the regular readers know. The trolls (and CIC folk) who read your blog may not, however, and that's why I wanted to post the quote directly from the UCMJ.

L-girl said...

Good idea!! I never thought about the CIC reading comments. But sure, why not. They're certainly not busy admitting immigrants and refugees.

impudent strumpet said...

I should note that one supposed cure was torture. Literally, torture.

I'm so glad to hear that nothing I come up with will ever be the stupidest idea in the world.

L-girl said...

I'm so glad to hear that nothing I come up with will ever be the stupidest idea in the world.

Not even close.

There's a harrowing scene in this book where a doctor is trying to shock a patient out of a nervous tic.

It doesn't work.