“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.”
— Michael Connelly, The Black Echo
Part 1 of this Series: An Introduction to PTSD
I first became interested in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as research for a novel. My protagonist is a former Marine who served during the Iraq War. She worked in Al-Anbar Province in western Iraq, where she collected and processed the dead. Witnessing first hand what IEDs, sniper bullets and mortar fire does to human bodies left her with a raft of psychological scars including nightmares, flashbacks, and a constant state of alertness.
And—in her unique version of the disorder—ghosts.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one out of every 13 adults in the U.S. will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. That’s eight million adults in any given year. The annual cost of PTSD (mortality expenses, drugs, medical treatment, and indirect costs at work and elsewhere) is estimated at over $42.3 billion dollars.
What was most shocking to me after I started my research was the discovery that I, too, suffer from PTSD. Over a period of several years, I endured several traumatic events that rewired my biology, making me a hyper-vigilant insomniac subject to sudden anxiety. And while having a character in a novel deal with trauma makes for good entertainment, it’s a lot less fun to handle personally.
In this series of posts, I’ll look at what PTSD is, what triggers it, who is most likely to suffer from this disorder and how to manage it both as individuals and as a society. I’ll also provide suggestions for additional reading for those who want to explore further.
Along the way, I’ll examine my own struggle with PTSD and share what is helping me on this challenging journey.
Stay tuned for the first in the series: PTSD—When Good Biology Goes Bad