So many of us who live with PTSD daily find that the world can seem to be a cold and uncaring place. I find that when I’m in social settings, I’m hesitant to broach the subject of the numerous traumatic events that have affected my life. It’s just not a subject that most people are comfortable with.
Aphrodite Matsakis, author of Vietnam Wives- Facing the Challenges of Life with Veterans Suffering Post-Traumatic Stress, makes an assertion that seems as timely today, as it was in 1988, when the first edition was published.
“His problems and yours are compounded by the fact that we live in a culture with an inadequate understanding of human suffering. Our cultural ideal is often that of emotional coolness.”
Recently I decided to broach the subject of war trauma while I was among friends sitting at a luncheon table. I knew my one lady friend has a husband who is a Nam vet and has a 100% PTSD disability rating. She rarely talks about his PTSD. But she finally opened up a bit and said her husband also doesn’t like to talk about his war experiences. On occasion, he’ll relate something humorous that had happened during his tour of duty.
She said the only way she knew about some of the terrible things he had gone through, was by reading the clinical notes written by his psychiatrist. I found it interesting in that this differed a lot from my own time living with my ex-husband. He fairly often would share many of the horrendous events he had gone through in Nam.
I believe that because of those things I’d learned, I felt bonded to him in a way I might have otherwise not experienced. Something else occurred that day at the table that surprised me. Another lady, Jane, who I’ve known for some time, shared that her husband had been a veteran of the Korean War. She said he only began to talk about his war in the final days of his life.
If I hadn’t broached the subject of war trauma, I doubt that I would have ever known that Jane’s husband had been in a war. It troubles me that something so significant could go unnoticed and unacknowledged. Plus I’ve heard it said that “Troubles shared are troubles lessened.”
I find it a sad state of affairs that living with PTSD (something that is so life-altering for so many millions of us) still seems to be almost an impolite topic of general conversation. I believe that our American culture of “emotional coolness” may be responsible for the increasingly violent incidents that have become an everyday occurrence. As I now find myself in my autumn years, I wonder if things will ever change in my lifetime.
Certainly, this is one of the reasons I continue to write about my traumatic experiences, as well as those of others. It’s one way of coping with an inner world that exists, but is so often kept “too close to the vest.” Something to think about….