By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Yesterday I discovered a touching and effective video bringing light to the many struggles and hauntings those afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle with daily. It is not often the personal toils of these challenges are presented to the public in a manner other than academic or disaffected medical analyses but I found this video to be very engaging and while certainly difficult at times for most to watch, due to some very graphic imagery inherent with combat, I believe these depictions of violence and hardship are necessary to provide you with a sense of how gripping this injury can be on those so encumbered.
While the video presents PTSD as experienced through the thoughts and trepidation of an Iraq war veteran, it can in most ways be insightful to the same traumas causal to other manifests of the injury.
SSG Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, the video’s author, is due much credit for a presentation into the manner and effect of a PTSD injury. I invite you to share in his experiences…
Since the film is rather short, I will forgo a narrative and leave the experience to the viewer. But a few elements I wish to emphasize I should expand upon.
I again emphasize the video contains graphic visuals but I must say that it is necessary to be shocked to understand what this soldier suffers. Such flashbacks can be nearly debilitating to some and for many it represents both a haunting and the mind replaying the trauma over, and over while attempting to rationalize that the horror experienced was not as terrible as it might have actually have been. Replaying these past traumas presents a bad situation, where the memory is troubling but in your mind is necessary in a strange sense to attempt to defeat the agony of the event. Each time the mind returns to the thought it is unable to resolve the conflict so as to bring some form of closure that it so greatly needs. And, as a result, it becomes tormenting in a seemingly never-ending struggle.
We then share with our soldier the self-isolation and feelings of removal from his former service and the camaraderie of both his fellow soldiers and the belonging and purpose formerly he was provided. Instead in the present sense his world is quiet and alone. He faces a want to be with others, even those outside his former service, but making a first approach to the “others” comes with a similar dichotomy as shown with the haunting flashbacks. Still in this sense he finds that his routine has changed yet almost automatically he returns to what he believed defined him and have him his sense of self-worth and sense of honor and now, alone, he is an outsider–having lost his support system. When the PTSD grips the isolation becomes almost a feedback loop.
As mentioned before, relating to this story for the PTSD afflicted requires merely substituting the trauma triggers of the soldier to whatever demons another person experienced which led to the PTSD injury: substitute a fallen brother with a car crash; substitute combat for being abused as a child; or substitute an combat operation with an abusive husband. While one traumatic event can certainly be more damaging than another, while the injury cause differs the injury can be the same. An arm broken by a fall or by blunt-force is a broken arm just the same.
But watching the film is not rewarded not just with being given a realistic presentation of PTSD injuries, unlike what one finds in movies where it is almost insulting in that it usually seems they were written by individuals who either are unaware of what it truly means to be injured and thus through lack of diligence it is rather insulting to these patients, but the additional benefit is that with an open mind you will learn to respect and have more empathy to what patients have gone through and what our service members have sacrificed for all of us.
For those who might have PTSD, find someone to help or at least understand. Know that it does usually lessen with time and help.
By Darren Smith
SSG Kyle Hausmann-Stokes
US Army, Infantry, OIF 07-08
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