Saturday, May 21, 2011

When thinking of PTSD childhood, abortion is often left aside

A May 11 article in the New York Times have been marinating on my desk: not resting in a “to do it” pile, but staring at me. I have been busily reading out loud to Annelie the proof of our up-coming book.

“Post-Traumatic: Childhood,” by a Boston psychiatrist makes the claim that for every soldier from our two current conflicts returning with PTSD from the war there are “about” 10 children in the United States already suffering from it. These would include, among many things, child abuse. Strangely, I thought, homelessness was not included.

This may seem a large number of children, but probably not an abnormal amount considering the effects of war. As one causal element, every bombing rate produces some or many. I do know a German woman who asserts that as a child she had no bad experiences in WWII; no, I may know one other, a man.
One aspect of childhood abuse that is rather strangely unexplored is the effect of the unavailability of abortion (or pressure not to use it). Effects can be severe. Scarcely a week goes by without a news article in our paper about a child starved by a mother or a severe beating or even death of some child by a close relative, usually a father. We just don’t know about the unintended consequences of some decisions not to abort.

As to lack of resources for treatment, the article did not raise the issue of what is the most reasonable resource for a child who has been traumatized: the mother or other close relative. 

Annelie and I discussed this at length and our book is dedicated to her mother and grandmother “who bent over me when the bombs began to fall.” She was willing for me to share this with you; hopefully others will also feel free and the research literature will expand.

Triggers for PTSD, of course, come in all shapes and sizes; the one thing they all have in common is the unexpectedness. One with great impact came when we added on a concrete patio to the house. After they finished, the workmen threw straw on it. Annelie came down from upstairs and – straight into a frozen moment in 1945. A bomb fell on the house next door, one filled with retired deaconesses. They were then laid out on straw on the concrete drive in a long line of dark blue dresses.

Annelie’s re-experiencing did not last long. As we discussed it – we do with these things, both her’s and mine – the moment was filled out with Annelie’s hand being held by her mother’s. A mother who also expressed rage that the bodies were brought over where a child might accidentally see them. Three things: Annelie was with a caring adult, expressed in physical contact; anger was expressed on behalf of the child and in her hearing; and denial had never been a factor. It was a syndrome moment, not one to be characterized as a “disorder.” This it can be.

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