Friday, October 7, 2011

An article on Post-Traumatic Stress I have been asked to write

                                                                                                      AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon
                                                                                         The Apostle Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress
                                                                                                             From Woundedness to Wellness

All this week I have delayed a blob because our publisher has been working on marketing matters. In the meantime I have been asked to write an article by a professional source, so I have been working on that. This is not the final draft of course, for Annelie has her thinking cap on and red pencil in hand. (Are any of you married to a perfectionist?) (For which both author and reader may give thanks, O Lord!) Since far more hits come here and there from around the world, I feel free to share this with you.
The troops are coming home, so many with PTSD, so many suicides, so many divorces, so much alcoholism and drug abuse. As we know from Vietnam, so much homelessness to come. Today at lunch there were four servicemen in their desert fatigues; I could not but wonder what they were bringing home, or taking with them and loading on.

What is only beginning to be recognized is that more women than men  suffer from the haunting of violence. A recent New York Times article added: so many children. Having death glare into a person ’s eyes, it takes another thirty days before we can estimate whether it will be a post-traumatic event. Until then it is “only” definable as Acute Anxiety.  If the intensity and immediacy recycles, it has become encoded on the very brain.

We can count off the recent calamities that produce the flashbacks, the Katrinas, the 9/lls, the tornado wiping out a midwest town. What is far greater than these are the stark black and white headlines we all see  daily in the news - the wrecks, the shootings, the abuse. Five% to ten% of our population are current estimates .  From a world perspective, is there a greater mental health issue?

What we are seeing is as old as Cain and Able. In reality, it is Cain and Able, a description of our humanity, victim and victimizer. I write a blog, The Apostle Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress, and this week we had multiple hits from the U.S., of course, but also as many from France, Russia, Sweden, and the Ukraine. On this week, and any week, I may see single hits from places like Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Estonia, Moldova, Macedonia…about thirty five countries now. So many wars, so many earthquakes, so many walls of sea water rushing in, carrying away all before it. We are so very vulnerable, we earthlings . You do not have to chose to be human, may not, but In recovery it can begin with a sense of our humanity.

My wife, Annelie, and I know this well. We have sat on both sides of the counseling office – although I didn’t know it at the time. Annelie did. She was born on the night of the first air raid on Wiesbaden in WWII. Years later, she was in a city bus trapped in a traffic jam. It all flooded back, that night when everyone in the basement frantically crawled through a small upper window. She turned the bus experience first into a realization as to causation of her sudden panic and then broadened that insight. She’s  been in the catacombs in Rome twice now. Added to her armament is the ability to create a beautiful, emotionally filled phantasy if she has to do something like a medical scan.

My experience was different, in a civilian setting  as most PTS events are - a syndrome more than a disorder.  I was in the process of writing a third book on the obsessive compulsive disorder, starting the day with a Bible reading, in Acts that day. Suddenly I realized that Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus was having a flashback. It set me off on a hunt for symptoms, and I found them: at least that  thirty day delay after an  intense experience of  death (or deaths, in his case it turned out later), the physiologically effect, being overwhelmed by emotions,  consequently rage, alienation, and withdrawal. PTSD left tracks, only gradually diminishing as we can see in his letters written as a free man.

What I did not expect, as I pursued this research, was that one night I would be staring into the mouth of a rattlesnake. I had not seen him in the original experience as a Boy Scout, only heard him buzz near my face as I crawled out of a tunnel  I was exploring. I had frozen – which saved my life – but I had been in denial for years - as are so many - of that emotional experience. I had to work with that flashback for a while, as you can imagine, but I came to accept it – and the snake, too. I was invading his home, he meant me no harm, rather was warning me, and glad to escape from me. He, too, was God’s creature, and I accepted that, as well. The snake is still a tiny figurehead somewhere up above my left eye, but I am doing well now, thank you. I have been down into the catacombs once, too.

Out of all these experiences, and our own ministries in the Church and in private practice as mental health counselors, we have come to co-author a book, The Apostle Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress, From Woundedness to Wholeness. It is the biographical study of one of the classic heroes of our Western World. We feel  we bring both a male/female perspective to the study, as well as personal ones, that is much needed. Hopefully the book will be frequently used in discussion groups.

Persons experiencing PTSD need a broader view of their suffering. It is a time to recognize our individual and collective humanity. The persons suffering from PTSD is frozen in time as the flashback is experienced in all its immediacy; they are frozen in a flash point of time by the grip of that particular Anxiety Disorder. It is a time we need a role model - such as Paul - and a pathway into a refreshingly personal identity, a new way of understanding our lives, a re-tooling of meaning and motivation.

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