THE MONSTER |
July 25, 2008
“No, No, NO!" The words were wrung from my mouth as I read the caption on the front page of Sunday’s editorial section. “NO!” I sadly shook my head and collapsed onto the chair.
It was an article was about Joseph Dwyer. An Army medic doing his job helping a wounded Iraqi child, he had caught the attention of an embedded journalist, whose photo of a mundane but heroic moment was flashed around the world and shown in innumerable places. It was the beginning of OIF in 2003, and for Joseph Dwyer it was also the start of his own personal war with PTSD. He ended that battle recently when he died of a substance abuse overdose. He was 31 years old.
In one of the comments left under my previous post, which also dealt with PTSD, someone stated, “Your posts shine an intense light onto a growing monster lurking in the basement of this war.” It’s so tragically, horrifically true. Almost every single patient I care for has some form of PTSD. And these are the lucky ones. Since they are hospitalized and mostly bed-bound when I start my impromptu “PTSD education brief”, I have a captive audience. But there are thousands coming back from this war without resources, without education and without the knowledge and skills to defend themselves against the monster known as PTSD. A monster it is, and it grows bigger and more deadly with each passing day.
The way to defeat it is to understand it. To realize it’s okay that you have it. You were placed in situations where you saw things and experienced things you would not have if you were not in the arena of war.
The way to defeat it is with education. Education about what it is, what the signs and symptoms are and where to go for treatment, because make no mistake; PTSD is a disease. It is a lifelong disease that goes in and out of remission. It can be extremely well controlled with the right treatment, but is devastatingly deadly if not.
When people learn I work with the wounded, they all want to know what they can do and how they can help. It is time to also think about the ones who come back home physically intact, but are nonetheless wounded and disabled from the battlefield. It is time to realize there are thousands now back on American soil who are still fighting OIF/OEF in their minds, and we need to help them. How many more Joseph Dwyer’s will we allow to die before we do something about it?
If PTSD were a contagious disease would we let it ravage our countrymen without a public outcry? How long would we let it kill thousands of men and women before the media began warning and educating people about its signs and symptoms, and spreading the word about where to go for treatment? If PTSD were a contagious disease how long would we wait before pouring money into research and treatment?
How long will we be content to let the monster known as PTSD take our American Heroes?
Here are some helpful links:
And I recommend these books by Bridget Cantrell and Chuck Dean: