Monday, March 28, 2011

Where is the Spiritual in PTSD?

“Is a puzzle,” as the King of Siam said to Anna in the musical.

The traumatic event that ushers in what will become PTSD, as it is now called, is characterized by the person being overwhelmed by the sensations of a threat to his or her life. By way of the obvious, the person survives. SO?

The question is, now that I didn’t die, what now? Since the brain has been biologically impacted, the denial versus the anxiety is one given. On another level, now that I am alive, what, indeed? Do I just exist and try to avoid triggering remembrance as best I can…

We all know some of the options. More folks enter a bar rather than a monastery. We have found ways to cope with the anxiety with the pharma and the over-exposure that numbs the response.  Perhaps the reality is that emotions override the ability even to ask the more profound questions. In addition to “Where to fill the prescription?” or something guilt ridden like, “Why did he die and I live,” we need to go on to the next level. “What does it mean for me to live?” The sense of the spiritual – that mystical sense that is our human inheritance between the genetic and the cultural – seems as vast in potential as any contemporary event, no matter how horrific. 

Life is a gift not to be held in contempt of court.

I have thought a lot recently about a man I once knew. He was one of the thirteen still alive of the original members of the Marine Raider Battalion in WWII. We were talking late one night; I liked him. He was the only guy from Mississippi who was pro-integration – and that was years ago, too. He explained that he got hit one night on patrol and had to be given a direct transfusion right there beside the trail. He said the only man with his blood type was also from Mississippi, only he was black. “I haven’t felt the same about them since.” He also said that by the killing closed down he could only think that a man was doomed to die: that’s depression for you.

I don’t know what happened to him in the intervening years. I just know he was the resident church camp manager. Something must have happened like what the Apostle Paul came to know; both of them knew not only how to walk the walk, but talk the talk. And a lot of teenagers were grateful for that.

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