Monday, January 31, 2011

Who's Talking About Post Traumatic Stress?

When my wife - Annelie - was on the staff of a teaching hospital in Frankfurt a Main (this was before we were married) it was not hard to find someone talking about post traumatic stress. It had no name, really, and just about everyone had some. If she had to call to make on a men's ward there often would be a knot of them sitting and talking. She would just stand there and listen. When someone noticed her, the story teller would often sign off with, "Well, it was just him or me."
If you were a news paper reporter and wanted to get a personal angle on the post traumatic with all the troops coming home - some with no feelings of "home" - it actually might not be that easy. So many stories have the lid screwed down tightly on them. We were having coffee with a friend when the talk turned in that direction. We have known this friend and her husband - a long time and very well. I had known he carried the BAR in his squad in Europe and had been a "retread" in Korea, but had heard only insignificant stories. Our friend shared that she would be waked up at night by her still-asleep husband picking glass fragments off her. He shared a lot of stories with her, but never that one.
A reporter might go down to the Vets' Center, but he might have as much luck at the Abused Women' Shelter. Somebody in the peace officer business might share a tale that a counselor would just as soon forget as he would. I was talking with a former colleague who had been a counselor in a homeless nonprofit for a long time and he stroked his chin and came up with an estimate of a third to a half suffering from intrusive remembrances too hard to shake off. Every time I see some guy shuffling long the street with a plastic bag in each hand I wonder if I am seeing a case history dictated in one of our wars, wars, wars.
But. When I think of those two places hitting the Twin Towers I also wonder if some of those of our national leaders in a decision making capacity did not also keep seeing and seeing that.
When I wonder where the average person might go to talk to someone about the post traumatic, my thought is that he or she  might stand in front of the glass window of a store front. You might catch a glimpse of yourself, as well as the passing parade behind you.

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