Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stress reactions


Over my time in the Army I've come to counsel quite a number of Soldiers who have experienced significant physical and emotional traumata. Calling their stress reactions to these events a 'disorder' (PTSD) seems pretty stupid to me, since there's nothing disordered about the reaction.

What's disordered is the situation which sets up the reaction!

Sheesh.

What continues to sadden me is how often, when speaking with these individuals, I'm told that they do not trust the military concerning their situation. If it's not the health care providers themselves, then it's others in their chains of command, or even just in their team, squad, platoon, or company whom they're convinced will  misunderstand, fear, or shame them.

So they do everything they can to avoid speaking with those people about what's really going on.

Not so long ago, one courageous young man told me that the health care provider he went to speak with about the return of his almost-debilitating anxiety all but accused him of malingering, after the Soldier had reported his experience. It seems as if the provider was annoyed that the Soldier had gone to several ARMY and other .MIL websites looking for information, which the provider interpreted as nefarious on the part of the Service Member, and an attempt to manipulate the situation.

Honestly. This stuff annoys ME in excelsis.

These young people have served honorably and well, and deserve to be taken care of! I'm gratified that they'll come talk to me, but I'm not qualified to deliver the care they need. Nor do I attempt to.

They deserve better!

(I'm truly grateful they have felt free to come speak with me, at least, though I'm not sure of the long-term benefits thereof.)

The lack of what I'd consider basic human caring can extend beyond perceived stress reactions, too. I was once in a unit in which one of the Soldiers was rather seriously injured -- through no fault of his own -- in a workplace accident (due to poor design and a failure on the part of the civilians running the place to remedy the defects, even though many people had been injured prior to his accident).

He wound up on crutches for a couple of weeks as the medical personnel decided whether to send him elsewhere for surgery. He lived quite some distance from the Dining Facility, over rather rough terrain, made treacherous by the necessity of the crutches, and yet personnel in his unit almost never offered to bring him food, or help him in other ways.

My attempt to speak with NCOs in his platoon, including his Platoon Sergeant, about the matter elicited this response: "Hey, he never should have gotten injured in the first place."

What's up with *that*?

So much for "I will never leave a fallen comrade," I guess.

Perhaps I just joined the Army at too advanced an age to understand 'how things are done around here'.

Or maybe *I'm* just having a stress reaction....

Blessings and peace to one and all,


Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

MaryShields said...

A great many people I've known who hang out with those 12 steppers, have suffered PTSD. The 12 Steps help them, which of course were borrowed from the same source as you were trained in - Christianity. Don't doubt that you are able to help your Soldiers, you have the experience and the training in sharing of your self as an encouragement to others in finding/surrendering to their Higher Power. Yes, the attitudes you describe are cold and cruel. And, that's how it is. But, you know there is a Way! That's why you joined the Army, remember? Step 1...

 
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