You are on page 1of 6

Taylor Wells Professor Betsy Woods English 112 13 February 2013 Post-traumatic Stress Disorder What exactly

is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and how are people diagnosed with this syndrome? One can experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from any type of trauma such as a car accident, abuse, or even a natural disaster. However, many would correlate this disorder with war. People who suffer from this tend to have similar side effects such as substance abuse, avoidance, and anger (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”). Les in the book, The Human Stain, is similar to other real life victims of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD for short, is very common yet there are different levels of severity. Some people who are diagnosed with PTSD are able to overcome this with out needing to see a psychiatrist or get any type of help. On the other hand though, some people deal with this problem for months or even years. Even though PTSD can have lasting effects, symptoms “usually appear within 6 months of the traumatic event” (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Anger, guilt, depression, and anxiety after a traumatic experience are all symptoms of PTSD (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”). Reoccurring nightmares, avoidance, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, paranoid behavior, and mental breakdowns are examples of what a person suffering from PTSD might experience (Capehart and Bass). Not everyone is diagnosed with PTSD after a traumatic experience, but it is normal for someone to experience some symptoms for a little while;

that is the brains way of accepting and understanding a horrific experience. “The hippocampus is a part of the brain that processes memories. High levels of stress hormones, like adrenaline, can stop it from working properly” (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). All in all, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can happen to anyone and can vary among person to person. Someone can overcome PTSD when thinking about the painful experience doesn’t occur at random times and no longer causes stress (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”). A traumatic experience, painful to many, was the devastating attack on September 11th. In an interview on USC Social Work website, one man, whose name is disclosed, said that he watched this event on the television then made the courageous decision to enlist in the United States Army. Blind to what his future holds, he was suddenly sent to Iraq where his life unfolded in a way he was not expecting. The traumatic event leading to this soldier having PTSD happened in Mosul one night when he was eating dinner. An Iraqi counterpart of his “entered the facility strapped with explosives and detonated himself in the middle of the room” (Haliburton-Rudy). The soldier described the event as something unlike anything he had seen before. He said there were body parts all over and “the smell of charred human flesh was overwhelming” (Haliburton-Rudy). As if that isn’t bad enough, someone then handed him a bag and told him to pick up the body parts. It wasn’t until this soldier lashed out on his brother and punched a police officer that he went to a doctor who diagnosed him with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Before being diagnosed, he said, “I would drink until I was drunk so I could talk to people without breaking down” (Haliburton-Rudy). He used the method of avoidance and substance abuse in order to cope with this painful experience. Once he started getting help he stopped drinking for a while

although still claims to shut out his family from time to time and have nightmares. Lastly, when the interviewer asked the soldier about his plans for recovery he said that he wants to improve his family as a whole and be able to walk in large crowds without freaking out. At the end of the interview, the interviewer shared how tough it was for him to listen to this story however it is evident that the most beneficial thing you can do for someone experiencing PTSD is to be an ear to listen, allowing them to feel safe to talk about anything (Haliburton-Rudy). While reading the interview with the soldier, the memoir, Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq by Jess Goodell came to mind. The author, Jess Goodell, wrote this book about her experiences in Iraq when she was a part of the Mortuary Affairs unit. Her job while she was a part of the mortuary affairs unit was “to gather the body parts at the scene, sift through the possessions and prepare the often mangled body for shipment back to the United States” (23). Throughout the book Goodell describes in detail the gruesome tasks she had to perform and frequently describes the smell of rotten bodies that is unlike anything she has ever smelled before. Specifically, her day-to-day job was to examine the bodies of dead soldier and make a diagram, shading black any part of the body that was missing. Goodell stated, “after the first body, the processing went smoother”(37). When Goodell finished her time in Iraq she went back home and lived with her boyfriend who was previously a Marine. He became very abusive and meanwhile she would drink herself to sleep every night ultimately shutting out every feeling she had building up inside her. Similar to the soldier who was interviewed by Haliburton-Rudy, Jess was avoiding all of her emotions and abusing the use of alcohol. Jess and her boyfriend were both suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder however for a while, Jess was in such a low place herself

that she didn’t have the courage to leave him. When she finally ran away she tried to turn her life around with the help of her mother. She tried to start college classes however she wasn’t able to focus so she finally went to a therapist for help. Admitting to herself, “I messed up my own life” (154) combined with many sessions of therapy was the start to turning her life around. After getting some help, Jess realized she wanted to help other people dealing with PTSD as well (Goodell and Hearn). The anonymous soldier and Jess Goodell are both two strong examples of people who have suffered from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. While reading their stories it is clear that Les Farley, from the book, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, is a character that is suffering from PTSD as well due to similar behavior which includes anger, being haunted by the idea of death, and emotional avoidance. Anger is a common personality trait in a person experiencing PTSD similar to the soldier and also Les, the Vietnam Veteran. Les would stalk his ex wife. The anger he had towards her for killing their children lead him to become very violent with other men she chose to be with after him. This anger leads Les to lash out, similar to the soldier in the interview with Haliburton-Rudy. Additionally, all three soldiers are haunted by their memories of death. Roth speaks about Les: “He can smell death when he needs to. He can taste death. He knows what death is” (68). This is very similar to both the soldier and Jess because both specifically talk about the distinct smell of death. Lastly, each individual fails to address the emotional baggage from his or her war experiences. Out of control, Les began drinking so much he became “numb to the death of [his] own kids” and had “no emotions” (73). As real life victims of PTSD, Jess and the soldier both turned to alcohol in order to avoid the pain they were feeling which is a common coping mechanism. Les avoids facing his troubles to the point where he considers himself

dead because he has been through a lot; meanwhile more keeps building inside him. He is very distraught and depressed which makes him feel as if he can’t overcome this struggle. All three individuals were very unhappy and angry about their lives that they looked to alcohol in order to avoid all the stress building up. Once they realized it wasn’t working, they all tried to get help. Unlike the soldier and Jess, Les tried to get help, yet for him there was “no way to prevent the past from building back up, building up and calling him to action and demanding from him an enormous response—instead of it all being behind him, it was in front of him” (74). It is unknown still, what the future has in store for the character Les Farley (Roth).

Works Cited Capehart, Bruce, and Dale Bass. "Review: Managing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder In Combat Veterans With Comorbid Traumatic Brain Injury." Journal Of Rehabilitation Research & Development 49.6 (2012): 789-812. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. Goodell, Jess, and John E. Hearn. Shade It Black: Death and after in Iraq. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2011. Print. Haliburton-Rudy, Dawn. "A Soldier's Story." USC Social Work Virtual Academic Center. University of Southern California School of Social Work, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder." Royal College of Psychiatrists. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Roth, Philip. The Human Stain. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Print.