“Though only 10 percent of American forces see combat, the U.S. military now has the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in its history. Sebastian Junger investigates.” Vanity Fair 2015
This Information is to honor Remembrance Day and Veterans Day 11/11/15
PTSD is a crisis of connection and disruption, not an illness that you carry with you.
About 18 months ago, I decided that I could no longer send my clients to someone else when I found they had been traumatized. I felt responsible to be able to take care of them myself. AND, I knew that this is a whole new world of woundedness and of treatment modalities. I started researching, reading the newest experts in the field and enrolled in the certificate program at the University of Texas in Arlington for Treatment of Trauma and Abuse. My clients have suffered from war trauma, from rape and from childhood trauma. The symptoms often appear as raging and addiction and harm their relationships at home, with friends and at work.
Even in my profession, there continues to be ignorance and misconception to the point of abusive attitudes about how trauma affects people. My studies have overwhelmed me with knowledge and methods. And, I understand that one treatment approach will be extremely effective with one person and offer very little benefit for another. I am currently in the role of a curator. I’m learning and sifting and working to synthesize it for people.
EXPERTS: Junger and Naparstek
So, for now, here are two articles which ring so very true for me and inform my opinions. May the knowledge offered by Sebastian Junger and Belleruth Naparstek benefit you and your loved ones.
Because PTSD is a natural response to danger, it’s almost unavoidable in the short term and mostly self-correcting in the long term. Only about 20 percent of people exposed to trauma react with long-term (chronic) PTSD. Rape is one of the most psychologically devastating things that can happen to a person, for example—far more traumatizing than most military deployments—and, according to a 1992 study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, 94 percent of rape survivors exhibit signs of extreme trauma immediately afterward. And yet, nine months later 47 percent of rape survivors have recovered enough to resume living normal lives.
Combat is generally less traumatic than rape but harder to recover from. The reason, strangely, is that the trauma of combat is interwoven with other, positive experiences that become difficult to separate from the harm.
This article by Sebastian Junger is superb. Understanding about trauma and knowing how to help those who have been traumatized is more complex than even those of us in psychology could have predicted.
This is a new field. And, to quote one of my heroes, Belleruth Naparstek in The Huffington Post, July 2010:
For example, when therapists did their best for the victims of the 9/ll disaster, Naparstek writes:
Not only were most not helped, but many were further agitated, distressed or angered by these incursions…Asking numb, severely traumatized people to share their feelings or describe the horrific events that triggered their distress is what therapists typically do. Yet with this population, it yields either a blank, thousand yard stare or catalyzes a re-experiencing reaction or flashback.
It turns out that people headed for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress can’t just “talk about it”- the trauma isn’t even stored in the parts of the brain where language can access it. Instead it’s been cached as frozen, primitive, pre-language experience – sensation, perception, emotion, images and motor reactivity – in the survival-based structures of the brain. In fact, if survivors can talk about traumatic events with appropriate feeling and clear, sequential memory, it’s a good bet they’re not going to acquire PTSD anyway. For whatever reasons of luck, personal history, inborn wiring and/or rote, behavioral training, they escape the diagnosis altogether.
…let me point to the consistent threads running through these (effective) approaches:
1. They first and foremost find ways to re-regulate the nervous system. (This is in the form of using calming or self-soothing skills administered by a professional or by the traumatized person.)
2. They destigmatize and normalize the experience by explaining PTS as the somatic and neurophysiologic condition it is. (Education about how we can’t access trauma through just the Cerebral Cortex human or talking brain; we use the parts of the brain which connect to the unconscious and to the body.)
3. They offer simple, self-administer-able tools that empower the end-user and confer a sense of mastery and control. (We companion trauma victims in learning to use techniques so they can, if they wish, have the ability to independently heal themselves.)
4. The interventions are cast as training in skill sets, not the healing of pathology. (We are healing wounds delivered by tragedy and trauma not wounds from mental illness.)
Skill sets such as I shared on my blog post:
I dedicate this page to my Dad, Edwin Dyck, who served five years in Britain for the Royal Canadian Airforce WWII. He came home to his sweetheart, my mother, Calla Lily Carlile, a different man.