Grief, Interrupted: PTSD In The Time Of Tsunami And War

The turn of the year confronts us with unfolding traumas on massive scales – one each of the natural disaster (the tsunami tidal-waves in Asia and India) and man-made disaster (the ongoing Iraq war) varieties, and any number of smaller (or simply less well reported) disasters. I use the word 'traumatic' carefully here. These events are traumatic in many senses, but perhaps most especially in the psychological sense as they generally fall "outside the range of human experience" in that they involve situations that most people do not typically experience in the course of a civilian life, evoke sustained terror and involve the acute threat of death or actual death of others. These are overpowering events capable quite literally of blowing someone's mind. With so much trauma floating around, it seems like a good time to discuss the traumatic stress disorders and what they tell us about how human beings relate to overloading, overwhelming events.

Change, Grief and Loss

To understand what traumatic reactions are about, you have to start with how people are set up to respond to change. Change has been called the one constant, and is an inevitable part of life. People spend most of their lives trying to manage change – to slow it's pace or make it come faster than the universe wants to dole it out. Some change is good for people – it allows for progress and growth - but whether for the positive or the negative, change stresses and tests us.

People must adapt psychologically when faced with change. This can be an easy or difficult task depending on whether change happens slowly or fast, in small increments or all at once, and whether the change is personally meaningful or not. The sharper and faster things change, the less change is expected, and the more personally meaningful are the things that have changed, the greater the stress that is experienced. Getting a flat tire is not too terribly stressful a change to endure, but the death of a parent is a very large and very stressful loss.

Significant and stressful life changes often cause people to grieve. Or, another way of saying this is that grief is a process through which psychological adaptation to significant life change occurs. Various models outlining the stages people pass through while grieving have been proposed. The famous Dr. Kubler-Ross (of “On Death and Dying” fame) proposed, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and then finally Acceptance as a predictable progression. A model more dear to my own experience, proposed by psychiatrist Mardi Horowitz suggested that Outcry followed by a back-and-forth motion through Denial and Intrusion (of painful memories), and then a process of Working Through occurred prior to Completion of grief.

Traumatic Stress and the Shattering of the “Just” World.

When we are grieving, what we are doing (to put it coldly and clinically) is updating an out-of-date mental picture or model of the world so that it can once again closely match with our experience of reality. For example, we grieve when someone close to us dies. In the process of that grief, we come to terms with the fact that our loved one is dead.

The notion that we have a 'model of the world' that must be updated when significant change occurs is key to understanding trauma. Though change can occur in an instant, it is not possible for us to grieve in an instant. This is because we are not fundamentally in touch with the 'real' world where objects collide purely according to the laws of physics. Rather, we live in a sort of model-world of our own construction inhabited by feelings and attachments. The formation of this model is a lifelong project starting shortly after conception. It occurs slowly and incrementally and in the background so that we never notice that it is there. The model of the world in our heads becomes the unquestioned foundation on which we make sense out of new situations and people. Though this model of the world allows us to predict with good accuracy what will happen next, it is not the same thing as the world itself. When our model ceases to conform to reality (because the world itself has changed) we generally attempt to ignore the changes (denial), and when that doesn't work out, we freak (e.g., emotional outburst).

Long ago a psychologist by the name of Lerner coined the term “Just Word Hypothesis” to describe a feature of this model-world in our heads, which is that it generally gets constructed in such a way that the world appears to us to be stable, orderly, law-abiding and just (as in justice), with a reason and rhyme present behind each thing that occurs. The thing is though that the actual world is not always stable, orderly, law-abiding and just. Sometimes it is unstable, chaotic and downright criminal.

It's not really that the world is disorderly – rather it is statistical in nature. Most of the time life is relatively orderly, and then every now and then things happen that are rare, and not easy to anticipate (a massive “500” year flood, an earthquake, a tsunami, a meteor slamming into earth, the overthrow of the government, etc.). Such unpredictable events conflict strongly with our just world hypotheses, and tend to make us feel crazy uncomfortable on the inside. We adapt as well as we can, but sometimes events we experience are so powerful as to make adaptation very difficult indeed.

Traumatic events are precisely those events that shatter people's world models; their just world hypotheses. People exposed to events with the potential to induce trauma (such as untimely violent death or maiming, torture, combat, rape, etc.) lose the foundation upon which beliefs and understandings vital to their well-being (such as their ability to conceive of the world as a place which is good, plentiful, abundant, nurturing) rest. Without this foundation, the world becomes a fundamentally more chaotic, capricious and terrifying place, and the task of grieving becomes exponentially more difficult.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Trauma reactions have been occurring since human beings have been on this planet, but until recently they did not get much respect. There have been profound natural disasters throughout history, but they are by and large infrequent when measured in human time scales. The common ways that people have had their model-worlds shattered is through combat and war experience, or assault. Not surprisingly, the modern western concept of Post-Traumatic stress disorder is one that has evolved out of military medicine experiences, in the United States through the Veterans Affairs medical centers, and mostly in the 40 years since the Vietnam war.

Today, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is recognized as a psychiatric disorder that can occur in the aftermath of trauma (combat derived or otherwise). Inside DSM it is categorized as an anxiety disorder (in the same family as panic disorder, generalized anxiety, phobia, etc.) but in its own subgrouping which it shares with its sibling, Acute Stress Disorder.

Both stress disorders occur in the wake of exposure to a truly traumatic stressor, and both disorders share the same profile of symptoms characterized by: 1) Intrusive thoughts and feelings concerning the trauma, 2) Avoidance of trauma reminders, and 3) heightened startle response and arousal (hyper-vigilance). The big difference between Acute and Post disorder types has to do with time: the 'acute' diagnosis is used for the first six months post trauma exposure, and the 'post' diagnosis is used thereafter. In practice, it all ends up PTSD.

PTSD is basically an overloaded dysfunctional grief process; one so severely overloaded that the normal grief process gets interrupted and hung up. It is a sort of delay of normal 'emotional digestion'.

In a normal grief process initial outcry and anger gives way to cycles of denial, disbelief and numbing, and intrusion (of painful loss-related memories), all of which ultimately work their way through to a new adjustment. Though painful, neither the denial nor the intrusion is overwhelming for too long. In contrast, PTSD involves re-experiencing of trauma related memories which never cease to be overwhelming and paralyzing. The traumatized person is unable to cope with the intrusive traumatic memories and is pushed towards extreme ways of avoiding them; drugs to dull the pain, prolonged avoidance of intimacy, etc. Working through does not occur because working through requires the ability to tolerate what has been lost, and in PTSD that ability to tolerate is precisely what is not possible.

For someone who has not endured a trauma, it is fundamentally hard to grasp why it is so difficult for PTSD sufferers to 'get over' their experience. PTSD sufferers do look like everyone else, so why the difficulty. The issue of why goes beyond the simple trauma memory, deep into physiology. The experience of trauma is fundamentally overwhelming. In a best case scenario, it is accompanied by the highest intensity output of outrage/fear/anxiety/overwhelm you can imagine – actually probably more than you can imagine if you haven't been traumatized. This outpouring of emotion is capable of altering the base arousal level of the body so that after the trauma experience, traumatized people are far jumpier and more anxious then they were originally. This is often a permanent alteration so far as I know; it doesn't much go back to 'normal', or if it does, it happens glacially.

There is another reason why traumatized people don't 'get better' easily and that is that they get into an avoidance loop. They rightly fear their trauma memories, do not wish to re-experience them, and run from them (or take steps to avoid them) whenever feasible. This sort of avoidance can be bad enough when people are in full command of their memories. It is worse when they are not - as in the case of trauma-related dissociation.

In severe trauma cases, a phenomena called dissociation can occur. Dissociation is a sort of coping mechanism that helps some people to manage shocking or stressful events by altering the way that memory about those events gets processed. Dissociated memories are cut off from other memories and cannot be easily retrieved via normal recall. Dissociation is related to hypnosis. It is responsible for some cases of amnesia, and (when it is severe and has occurred in childhood) for 'multiple personality' cases. You'd think that someone who dissociated during a trauma would be better off than someone who didn't, but it isn't the case. Dissociated traumatic memories are still capable of intruding into consciousness (via dreams and other back doors), but they are harder to find and face down than normal trauma memories and therefore harder to treat. When dissociation is present at the time of trauma, the danger of a difficult-to-resolve avoidance loop occurring is heightened.

Between repetitive and intrusive re-experiencing of trauma memories, avoidance loops dissociation and hyper-arousal, traumatized people can have a very difficult time living their lives post-trauma. Typically, they are frazzled all the time. Some of them have anger or emotion regulation problems. Some of them seek solace inside a bottle of alcohol, or in a heroin needle. Some of them end up killing themselves. A fair number of them have difficulty continuing to work normally and to maintain or develop intimate relationships. If the trauma occurs when someone is young and still forming, they may become developmentally or socially 'stuck' in some fashion, making it more difficult for them to thrive as adults.

Trauma can occur in a variety of forms, but these days there are two obvious sources of traumatization: the Iraq war, and the recent Indian Ocean tsunamis. Both of these events have shattered lives and families, killing randomly and indiscriminately. In the case of the war, soldiers have been placed into conditions of unrelenting stress and dangerousness wherein they have to kill or be killed. It is often not possible to tell with any certainty who is a threat and who is an innocent civilian. Inevitably, mistakes get made and innocents get killed. Soldiers get killed too, often in horrific, unimaginable, and completely unpredictable ways. It is not possible to predict whether today will be your last day on earth while operating in a combat zone. Without question, some reasonable minority percentage of the soldiers returning from the war will return with PTSD, or will develop war-related PTSD at some later time.

In the case of the recent tidal waves, the scale of the carnage is unimaginable. Entire villages have been erased, and well over 100,000 people are dead, many never to be recovered even to be buried. There was little or no warning before this disaster struck. In the affected countries, the trauma will be not merely personal, but rather has the potential to infect the entire culture for a generation or more.

Helping Traumatized People

PTSD is a story of interrupted grief. Traumatized people are stuck people, forever needing to avoid what no one could legitimately face without going 'mad'. You can't really avoid fears and expect that they'll go away, however. In general, the safest way out is usually through. This is to say, the way to overcome a feared memory is to carefully, and in a graduated and safe way, learn to tolerate it, in so doing, learning how to discriminate what is memory and what is present-day reality; that while the past may have been dangerous, the present is not. This much is true with regard to regular fear-disorders (phobias), and it is more or less true also for PTSD.

There is effective therapy for PTSD, but it is by no means a miracle cure. By this I mean to say that I know of no therapy capable of erasing the impact of trauma on a traumatized person. Memory is a one-way, input only process. Things go into memory and they don't go out (until Alzheimer's sets in, anyway). What can occur is this: Psychotherapy can help a traumatized person to break down dissociations, and to learn to react less severely to their trauma memories. Adjunctive medication therapy can help traumatized patients to experience less anxiety and to better manage their arousal. Relaxation therapies can similarly help patients to manage their stress.

Recovery from trauma works best when trauma exposure is recent, when the traumatized person accepts help from others, and when the traumatized person did not dissociate (space out) at the point of trauma.

One of the better psychotherapy approaches for helping traumatized people involves helping them break the cycle of avoidance and come to grips with what they have experienced through careful and systematic exposure to trauma memories. This is a very delicate process that really is best left to professionals and then only undertaken with a trusted therapist. The task is a balancing act. If the therapist doesn't push the patient at all, he or she ends up colluding with the patient's natural tendency to avoid trauma memories. If he or she pushes too hard, or doesn't provide an escape for a patient who becomes overwhelmed while thinking of the trauma, re-traumatization can occur. The therapist must also contain and support the pain of the patient by maintaining an authentic presence (“being real”) with the patient while the patient is discussing the trauma.

This sort of therapy is too delicate of a process to try at home and this is especially true if dissociation occurred at the time of trauma. You will not be doing anyone a favor by bringing up trauma subjects around PTSD patients without the explicit consent of that person to talk about those traumatic events. Even sincere efforts could easily backfire and result in negative outcomes (the patient might avoid working with a real therapist in the future, making it harder for them to get the help they need). This being said, it can be helpful for a traumatized person to be able to talk about what they have experienced if they can do it on their terms. If someone who has been traumatized wants to talk about it with you, and you are strong and caring and respectful enough to listen, that is a whole other thing.

Take-Home Message:

Trauma seems to be a simple fact of life in these troubled times. If you are confronted with traumatized people you should keep in mind the following facts: PTSD is a real psychiatric disorder that could happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness or moral failure. It occurs when the amount of trauma someone is exposed to is more than they can handle. It manifests as severe and crippling anxiety, emotional regulation problems, arousal, and avoidance. It is perpetuated by dissociation and avoidance behavior. It can be effectively treated but this treatment should be attempted by trained professionals only, as the techniques involved are delicate and take practice to get right. Effective therapy may involve medicine, psychotherapy, and relaxation oriented approaches. It is not a good idea to force a traumatized person to talk about what they have experienced. However, it is a good idea to recommend that they get professional help and perhaps even to assist them in accessing that help. The sooner someone is treated the better their outcome will tend to be.

  • Anonymous-1

    This excellent article clarifies for me my experiences as a police officer. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and I believe most police worldwide have the symptoms as I truly believe we are not equiped to cope with the sheer level of daily trauma that a police officer is exposed to. I have left the police now and am trying to recover... not sure if I ever will

  • anonymous

    having suffered so much in life & more than that this thing that u are a failure & cannot carry off ur emotions ....i decided i have to take stock of the situation & now i realize there are so many people silently suffering....i need to waken up now

  • Anonymous-2

    Thank you for the delicate and sensitive advice for approaching therapy. Only the most knowledgeable should have this access to such pain, unfortunately our society offers little help for those caught in a 'tsunami' of abuse. There is hope, but it never by coldly expecting someone to handle the process, it requires humans with compassion...something even non-professionals can afford those they come in contact with.

  • Lidia Collazo

    I give you my regard and want to introduce myself, my name is Lidia Collazo I am a full time student with the intention of someday earning my degree on the field of Criminal Justice I too was diagnose with PSTD due to many losses and strugles in my life but I have recovered in a sence that now widow, growing older and learning, have made me stronger and I think back of all the suffering, maybe because I wanted to change people, places and things and I learn that the only person I could change is myself if I really want to, its like certain deseases that have no cure but could be control today I live one day at a time I still remember drastic things but I have learn to let go, it is not easy but I believe in myself, hoping that someday others could believe in me, I was in meds for 12 years today I am my own therapy and enjoy studing the Law enforsment field but I want to work at home maybe investigating criminal cases not be out there where the risk of losing my life could be an issue, you are out of the police field or will you continue to serve as a law enforsement officer? good luck to you and I hope you feel better sincerely Lidia Collazo. please disregard for my long comman.

  • Sophia

    A very interesting and informative document. The context in the areas affected by the tsunami (I live in Krabi, Southern Thailand) is that there simply aren't enough trained medical professionals to help everyone who needs help. In many places support groups for survivors have helped enormously. What sorts of guidelines are there for people who have set up support groups for survivors when access to medical professionals is not always possible? We are trying to help people affected by the tsunami now and really need this kind of information.

  • Anonymous-3

    Each day is unpredictable. Some days are good. Life is worth living. Unfortunately the bad days take over. Denial in a bottle is not the answer, since others around you are affected and are made to feel worthless and unwanted. Your statements such as 'you don't understand' 'I'm sorry' become empty as your continue to repeat your destructive behaviour. As in the process of destroying yourself you destroy others.

  • nina

    My husband came back a year ago from his 2nd stint in Iraq. Our marriage has been struggling. He "flipped" when he got there and for the past 2 years has been emotionally unavailable and/or hostile. He wavers between wanting our family to work and wanting to just be alone. I realized he has PTSD and did manage to get some treatment for him. But this week I realized suddenly that I am a widow. My husband died and is never coming back. And I'm beginning to grieve, not for my marriage and family. But for the man I loved and married who it seems has died. I see his face every day and I sleep next to his body, but he is dead and Im just now seeing that.

  • Anonymous-4

    I suffer from PSTD. It was a result of extreme stress in a short time span of about 2 years. My Dad was diagnosed with ALS disease, my marriage was falling apart, my son has severe ADHD and possible Aspergers syndrome and I became severely depressed. what brought on the PSTD was a friend who changed "all the rules" she and I had and I distrust her. I still have the flashbacks....and am experiencing them now bec I have tried to make contact with her childrem (I was close to them). As for help, there is a book called the PSTD helped me a lot.

  • ste

    I live constantly with trauma since childhood sexual abuse. I suffer from dissociative fugue and ptsd etc etc, and have had no professional help in the uk, despite crying for it so many times. Society stinks for just letting us get on with it, or get over it as people say. I would ask anybody to just spend an hour in my mind and say, just get over it.

  • Lucy

    Thankyou for your piece on PTSD, I needed to do some research on the subject and found your pages most informative.

  • Gwydyon

    I have been "MAD" now for the last 19years,since the end of a career as a law enforcement officer.Variously diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, personality disorders and depression it was with some tears that I read this article.I feel now that I may move forward with a clearer understanding that I am not alone.

  • kim

    I am a child abuse survivor (somewhat but not giving up just yet). I was diagnosed w/PTSD nearly 30 years after the start of the abuse. I went through every type of abuse possible as a child and teen. Unfortunately the abuse still lives on. It takes the form of avoidance, self doubt, unstable emotions and a variety of other intrusive and unwanted thoughts & emotions. I feel for the survivors & hope we all make our way though. This message though goes to those who do love us and for those closest to us...first of all THANK YOU FOR NOT GIVING UP!!! Dealing with this disorder is not at all easy and please don't think that some of us aren't well aware of what you must be feeling. Secondly, if you choose to stay and help us..please go through therapy youselves..just because what we unload on you is not normal and you need support to deal with it. Good luck to all of you survivors and relatives!

  • Mike UK

    Thanks for writing this, it's clear and concise- it helps. A little over a year ago a daft old lady put her hefty 4X4 (SUV) through our front room windows. We and the kids were there at the time. I got hit in the head by glass (thought it was a brick) and then the car stuffed the windows in, not 3 feet from me and our daughter. That was not the best Good Friday. We stayed in the house while it's front was rebuilt (and took up a shotgun mentality about the work ) but as soon as the work was done and the front opened up again we couldn't stay anymore and moved quick-smart. I don't work in the armed or protetive services and have never seen a natural disaster but there is never a day where this thing doesn't escape from its box and have me in terror all over again. Thanks (?!) to the insurance companies the court cases and some form of CBT are just about to start - I just hope one day the intrusions will go away for all that suffer from them. All the best Mike

  • Anonymous-5

    Agree that this article is helpful in understanding what's going on - and has been going on with me. Just beginning the process of reframing an experience from 30+ years ago. May have had dissociation along with it, too. My experience confirms that all you've written is true.

  • Ben

    I do not know if you continue to check this page, but thank you much for posting this information. I would like to share my beliefs and would like to be corrected or guided where I am off-base or wrong by yourself or other readers. I have always felt that PTSD--a conditional name which has been applied to me--is a result of certain coping skills learned throughout life. In other words, I believe that for some there may be a pre-existing set of functions which make us prone to PTSD. These "skills" allow one to temporarily ignore the stress, deal with the situation at hand, and keep pushing ahead. This skill makes people highly effective during the time in which these coping mechanisms are required. But like all defense mechanisms, are a weakness and a handicap when that time has passed. I learned this particular set of skills in growing up with moderate abuse, and then honed them during my military service. The intense stress reaction is one, that like any coping skill, allowed me to continue to function at high or acceptable level while others were reeling from shock or grief. I believe the problem arose for me when I could not later go back and revisit the emotional turmoil and grieve properly, or feel the shock of seeing/working with people whose bodies were destroyed by accident, injury, or by hostile action. I believe that this lead to the collection of unidentifiable, forgotten, anxiety producing dilemas stored up in one big human container of stress-producing anxiety. Sure...When it is time for an emergency or a funeral, I am the rock you want in your corner. But the rest of the time, I'm exercising these skils to my chagrin while not helping myself or anyone around me. It seems to me that it is further compounded by the rush of stress. I never felt so alive, on-it, or with-it as I did in dangerous environments or during dangerous times. I was alive and exercising my skills while others seized up and could not function. I missed nothing, and was hyper aware of my surroundings. This made it desireable to cary this "feeling" back "home" with me. Having sat through group therapy sessions at the VA hospital, in which gathering of WWII vets and Viet Nam vets I felt like I had experienced almost nothing, I can easily identify with the survivors of abuse or those who have experienced one-time traumatic episodes who doubt themselves after developing PTSD. Like me, who has experienced a lot (but not so much when compared to others), they must doubt themselves. And the anxiety and depression which result is tough. My daily task now-a-days is to remember to be open and accessible. To remember to let myself relax. To take the time to contemplate and try, try, try to grieve appropriately. To allow myself to show weakness and stress. To remind myself that such stress and weakness is human. And I must balance that with my desire to remain strong for those I love. I must discard the drama of my addiction to hyper-vigilance, and just let it be what it is. And I must soberly dive right into that dificult pool that is humanity and not wall myself off like some sort of hermit. I was troubled to read the post from the woman who felt like a widow, even though her veteran husband was right by her side and living with her. I do not blame her. It is probably tough for him to open up and be close to someone in any real way when he has this problem. That post was written a long time ago--in relationship terms. I hope it worked out for the best for both of you. I know that he wanted it to. Love doesn't get turned off by PTSD, even though it isn't in the forefont where it belongs. Perhaps, for him as it was/is for me, he is grieving over things happening today that require no grieving and creating things that he can be troubled about--in a desparate attempt to redirect all of that anxiety and stress that he was not able to deal with the first time around. I don't know. A cure? I think there is one. It is tough. It is as tough as learning not to breathe and then learning a whole new way to take in O2. But I think it can be done. I hope that it is a matter of exercising and developing those "weaker" "defenseless" stress coping skills that the average person uses every day. I hope so. I'm trying very hard. I dwelt among those who are in suspense, And a beautiful and blessed Lady called to me In such wise, I besought her to command me. Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star And she began to say, gentle and low, With voice angelical, in her own language...

  • Lacey

    I had a sittuation over a year ago. I am a student in nursing school. I found my psychology teacher talking about memory loss and so on. I have never heard of anyone with my problem before. My daughter, grandmother, and mother were in a car accident last august.. 2 days after that before the funeral of my grandmother i woke up in the middle of the night with the loss of speach. I absolutely could not even get out my name. I went downstairs without waking anyone up and tried to write a note to my roomate to tell her i need to go to the hospital. i somehow drove to her work with no glasses or phone.. the note that i wrote to her was mixed up backwards and upside down.... i could not write my phone number for the hospital or give them my name or my boyfriend or fathers number. luckily my roomate knew me well.. and my fathers phone number was recorded in the emergancy contact. They did MRI and CAT scan and thought i had a stroke but got the tests back and it showed nothing... they told me not to go to the funeral although i did. I could not dress myself or pick out clothing or take care of my injured daughter. I was just wondering if there was a name for this. I am actually in 2 classes where I need a research paper for.... I wanted to do soemthing about this but everywhere I look I get nothing or no one that has heard about this. My psych teacher was shocked he had been a therapist for 30 years and only heard of one case like this. I dont really like to talk about it and not many people know, but I need to know for myself. If anyone has any information on this please email me at thank you!!!

  • Anonymous-6

    You have framed this article in such a way that touches me and helps me to better understand my PTSD. Thanks.


    The so called experts onP.T.S.D. are very expert at desscribing the symptons of P.T.S.D. but seem to be very limited in providing a cure.I have lived with P.T.S.D. for 45 years now. I would not describe my self as a person with a mental illness. O.K. part of me switched off due to truamatic events in my life. May be Im being hard but I tend to steer clear of so called professionals who seem totally incapable of coming up with results. Its funny how these experts are on very good salarys but are totally incapable of coming up with results. I dont have much use for the professionals.Im on the welfare so I cant afford to pay for their time.Even if they come up with a cure its not gonna be much use if I havent got access to it. There is one thing I do value and its my experience of P.T.S.D. I am a real expert real experience and I only speak to others on P.T.S.D. when I am paid for my time. Its a pity that I have to charge for my time and knowledge but I have to live in the real world I got bills to pay just like everyone else even if I dont feel it.

  • Jesse

    I was glad for this article. My wife doesn't understand my PTSD (for that matter, neither do I). At lesat now I have something to show when asked why I do what I do. Thanks.

  • Anonymous-7

    not very good one

  • Anonymous-8

    i suffer from that and theres no info on it and i think it should be studyed on it there has to be more people out that has it

  • Cat

    I have sucessfully and unsuccessfully avoided the holidays for years, since a year of trauma after trauma, 1989, ended in a complete breakdown in 1996 including the end of my career.

    What i have realized since reading this article, which i just happened upon, is that the holiday stress is related to my PTSD. i was researching grief because i finally realized this year that the overwhelming feelings i began having in force beginning sometime in the fall are feelings of grief. i figured out this year it was related to the loss of my only sisters, one when i was 4, she 5 one when i was 35, she 42. Along with childhood incest, and every other imaginable horror living in a war-zone like environment of abuse.

    i now realize, after reading this, that the year of repeated traumas in 1989 (realization of the incest/violence of growing up, affair, separation, divorce, locating our half brother, death of my older sister and half brother's adoptive mother on same day) was stacked on top of the original traumas of childhood abuse which had not been recognized or gotten help with yet. i was able to get (as much i could tolerate) help with, i suppose, the most needed areas at the time, the new-discovered incest and the then-current divorce. All other current and past traumas were shelved, quite without my conscious knowing. I have felt guilt and confusion about why i haven't been able to get on track since 1989 and, after reading what i just wrote, i realize it would be a monumental task for anyone, much less someone LIKE ME with PTSD.

    thank you so very much for sharing this information at a critical time. i hope to take this knowledge and follow whereever it may lead. i know i now have a direction in which to go.

    i have signed up just recently to visit a psyc. who has many years experience with EMDR which will hopefully cut to the chase, identify the memories and feelings surrounding those memories and change the method of reacting to those memories. i have had something similar done by a holistic doctor and the results were unbelieveable for me. deepest sorrow memory changes to, simply, just a memory. i still have feelings about the memory but not electrically charged, can't function feelings. i hope this works even better.

    i wish you and everyone involved in this site, especially those sharing thoughts, love and light.

  • Anonymous-9

    I have gone through many tring ordeals and have wanted to die just so the hurt will go away, i have tried killing myself, but i dont even think any body would care, No one in my family understands me, and they all try to avoid me, evenmy mom, they think im lieing about the way i feel, but im not i have been praying for death most of my life, because of the almost drowning, molestation, rape, kidnapping, and physical and emotional abuse i have lived through, i also have bipolar disorder, and i cant be around people i dont know without having panic attacks im only 23 but i feel like ive been here forever and i just want it to end

  • tammy

    My husband was in South west Asia, and Iraq during the first war. He has struggled since his return home but would never admit was was going on, the awful anger problems with us and the screaming outburst for no reason. We have been married 14 years and have a teenage son, both of us and my husband though untill recently did not acknowledge he has some problems have lived with for years. It was pretty bad inthe beging thoug we are self employed and own a small furniture and antique store my husband has never been able to work "for someone" he cannot be around people for long periods of time if there are alot of people around he will just dissapear thn return later and if you say nething its like "what i jst didnt have anything to say or something like tht! it is hard to deal with all the problems he has and has had the night terrors the screaming out in the middle of the night the comment like he cant sleep with his whole body on the bed cause his feet need to be close tho the ground incase he needs to run out fast! His awful forgetfulness his memory span for recent activities is maybe 30 min but he can remember awful things from the war. He had bad things happen there he lost alot of his friends when there ship flooded and he tells the story of how he helped bag his friends up in body bags and about fires aboard the ship, how he was givin more vacationations then his body could take and how sick he got from the smoke and the oil fires. Its so sad I could go on forever and ever with some of the stories he tells and I cant imagine the ones he has kept to his self the days he sits and just stares away for hours. Than 2 years ago his 21 year old niece was hit by a mourter bomb in iraq and was killed she was the first woman killed in the line of duty in inteligence. That brought back so many memories and anger. It has gotten so much worse from that day! Please if anyone has any advice on wht I can do to help him I would listen to anything. Im so worried!


  • Anonymous-10

    Thanku for this article. I have family, (which hurts they think I am a drama queen) as well as friends that have no idea what it is like to suffer from PTSD, ADD, Major Depressive Disorder. I found my mother murdered some years ago in her home she had been there for a few days was blugeoned to death, i was by myself. He took a hammer and used the claw end as well as the other, more than 20 blows to her head, i was by myself when i discovered her body, went through the trial the handyman now sits on death row(will have to go through that one day soon) Then about two years ago lost my son to a tragedy which we really have no idea the truth, was told suicide then the autopsy came back as accidental skull fx. A year to the day we lost my children's daddy very same day a year later my son died and on the same floor my son died,Then 3 months later my daddy died, my mother's brother (my uncle) commited suicide. I was very close to him. No one in my family understands me, Nor do my friends, My family thinks i am crazy always negative, i am trying to go forward and have done a good job, i got to the point in my Nursing career i just could not work anymore could not handle the pressure. i was critizised for this.I changed jobs frequently the last years of my career. My step mom told me i needed to be in a mental institution, and told me that everyone knows i am mentally ill. That was a fine thing to tell me. I have four children left two whom have been in addiction one is getting help and the other is not currently, She has a son whom is in the Pgm custody now.I was very close to my grandson and the pgm will not allow me to see him although i watch my 20 month old grandaughter and have six other grankids and never ever had a criminal record nor hospitalized for any addictions.He and his mother lived with me seven months. My daughter says she wants help but keeps making excuses everytime. It is killing me i am codependant, enabler etc, scared to loose anyone else, although i do function pretty well i do suffer from fear of abandonment,have trouble with relationships, and my friends always say why don't you call me, I worry about you, I isolate alot and My counselor says i also have soical anxiety. I want to be ok, i try to volunteer which i do at times and i also am active in my church but truly the past five years my own family disregards me as a negative person, when i can tell you i would give you the shirt off my back and help anyone in need. ( people pleaser) i cannot afford counseling I do have insurance with my medicare and a sumplementary Ins.. But counselor wise i pay one hundred a visit cheap i assume. My father told me he would pay for it but now he is gone, he was wealthy but my step mom is not interested in helping in this area, so much more to say but this article and the responses i relate to, i tell everyone i try not to let any of this define me of who i am. I want to be ok. i want to be happy and live again and i am trying to do just that but i also need my family to understand it is real... Thanks and i pray for all of those whom had traumatic events that we all can learn to live and begin to heal. Blessings.