In this post, I return to the malady that plagues me, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). I’ve blogged about it a number of times in the past and probably will in the future. PTSI never goes away.
I suffer from PTSI as a consequence of my time providing intelligence support to army and Marine units in combat during the Vietnam war and my survival of the fall of Saigon. It’s a condition common among those who have seen combat. A reader recently asked me again why I refer to the ailment as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The word “injury” connotes to me the idea of an externally inflicted wound; “disorder” suggests an internal malfunction. To me there is no question that what I and many others suffer from is an extrinsically delivered wound to the psyche, so severe that the injury is indelible.
The form of the affliction I’ve observed and am subject to is that which combatants face. But PTSI can result from any experience so brutal that the soul is permanently damaged. Rape victims, people who have survived or witnessed violent destruction, and those who lived through bloody catastrophes all show signs of an enduring wound to the soul. Its symptoms are panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, irrational rages, and depression.
It’s worth pointing out that reacting with horror to grisly events is healthy. Only a deformed soul could be unmoved or fail to respond to experiences as ghastly as combat.
The wound is permanent. It’s incurable. The victim’s only recourse is to master the ability to cope. I’ve learned to mediate my emotions so that I can face the memories head on without breaking down. Among other things, I write about what I lived through. Last of the Annamese was created in part to vent my recollections about the fall of Saigon. And The Trion Syndrome is a fictionalized version of my struggle with PTSD.
Learning to live with the unbearable takes time and work, but it can be done.