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wmtc: what i’m reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an outstanding book — meticulously researched, but written in a compelling, accessible style, and with great humanity and compassion.

Author David J. Morris unearths the social and cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the US. He surveys the potential treatments. He explores the role of social justice in our understanding of PTSD.

But above all, Morris confronts the meaning of trauma, in society and in his own life. Morris was a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq. After narrowly escaping death, he returned home questioning everything he thought he knew — and eventually having to face the reality of his own trauma. Morris’ dual role as both researcher and subject give this book a unique power as history, social science, and personal essay.

People have known for centuries, for millennia, that traumatic events produce after-effects, but different cultures in different eras have explained those effects in different ways. The modern history of trauma is linked to the carnage of 20th Century war. And our current understanding of PTSD owes everything to the Vietnam War, and the experience of returning veterans who publicly opposed the war.

In this way, the history of PTSD encompasses a history of 1960s and 1970s peace activism, especially of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that began a sea-change in the culture of the United States. As a student of peace, I found this part fascinating.

Taking this even further, Morris links PTSD and social justice. Powerless and marginalized people are more likely to be traumatized by one or more of the four principal causes of PTSD: war, genocide, torture, rape. Taking a social and cultural perspective forces us to confront a world that causes these traumas. In this view, PTSD is not so much an illness as a moral condition brought on by the worst of human society.

The United States Veterans Administration (VA) sees it quite differently. To the VA, PTSD is strictly a medical condition. And this matters greatly, because research about PTSD is almost entirely funded and controlled by the VA. Explaining trauma as purely medical or biological doesn’t address the causes at all. In fact, it does the opposite — it normalizes PTSD as a natural consequence of unavoidable circumstances.

As for treatment, Morris surveys what’s out there and finds most of it useless. VA hospitals and insurance companies prefer therapies that can be “manualized” — made uniform, with a certain number of treatments and little or no emotional engagement from the therapist. Statistically, these types of therapies appear to be useful — until one learns that the numbers don’t include all the patients who drop out! Talk about cooking the books: everyone for whom the treatment isn’t working or, in many cases, is actually worsening their symptoms, is simply ignored.

Morris himself feels that therapeutic talks with an empathetic person with some training goes further than neuroscience can. “What they [the VA] seem to want instead,” Morris writes, “is mass-produced, scalable, scripted therapies that make for compelling PowerPoint slides.”

Readers of this blog may know that I have PTSD. Much of The Evil Hours brought a shock of recognition — the feeling that someone else is expressing your own thoughts, saying exactly what you’ve been thinking all along. Morris perfectly articulates how trauma plays out in one’s life, the depths of change it brings about.

Morris writes: “We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness.”

In the immediate aftermath of my own trauma, while trying to write about my experience, this is exactly the image I fixated on. We are, all of us, dancing on the edge of a great precipice, usually unaware of how terrifyingly close we are to that edge. Then something happens, and we understand it, not in some theoretical way, but immediately and profoundly, perhaps in a way humans are not equipped to understand. We talk about “the fragility of life” but we don’t know what that is — until we do. Then we spend a lifetime trying to live with the knowledge.

“One of the paradoxes of trauma,” writes Morris, “is that it happens in a moment, but it can consume a lifetime. The choice of how much time it is permitted to consume is usually in the hands of the survivor.”

The Evil Hours may be very useful for people who are figuring out how to stop PTSD from consuming any more of their lives. It is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in the effects of trauma on the human mind. . . . → Read More: wmtc: what i’m reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

wmtc: u.s. iraq war resisters: the struggle continues

Still war resisters. Still in Canada. Still fighting to stay.So far, the change in government hasn’t helped the Iraq War resisters who remain here, nor the ones who were forced out of Canada who would like to return. The Trudeau government could do thi… . . . → Read More: wmtc: u.s. iraq war resisters: the struggle continues

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Worst Fear

Every caregiver has a worst fear – a nightmare scenario that unfolds like an unwanted, sinister guest in the imagination.  It might be triggered by the sound of an unusual thud upstairs, a front door slamming, or the smell of burning toast.  … . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Worst Fear

Montreal Simon: Rick Mercer and the Refugee Lifeline

As you know, I believe the challenge of settling thousands of Syrian refugees in this country is a gift not a burden.A chance to show that after the darkness of the Harper years, we still remember what it means to be a Canadian.So although the Con medi… . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Rick Mercer and the Refugee Lifeline

Montreal Simon: Remembrance Day 2015: Remembering the Dead and the Living

It's Remembrance Day 2015, and this year it will be for me like no other I have ever known. A day of sadness and celebration.A day to mourn all those who sacrificed their lives for this country.And a day to give thanks that this other tragedy, this other gaping wound of war, is finally . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Remembrance Day 2015: Remembering the Dead and the Living

Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper and the Bloody Harvest of War

As I'm sure you remember, during the early years of the war in Afghanistan there was no greater chicken hawk than Stephen Harper.Until he realized it wasn't winning him enough votes, and he decided to cut and run.But while he has been able to run away from a lot of things, like the . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper and the Bloody Harvest of War

wmtc: dogs, apartments, and anxiety: in which diego returns to school

As I mentioned (almost a month ago now), our pack of four is moving to a new den. We’re going to stop renting houses, as we have done for the past ten years, and move back to apartment life. Although I’ve adjusted to the idea, I’m no happier about it. I’m heartsick that we’ll no . . . → Read More: wmtc: dogs, apartments, and anxiety: in which diego returns to school

Montreal Simon: Harper’s Army and the Final Betrayal of Cpl. Stuart Langridge

I've written several posts about the tragic story of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, who killed himself seven years ago after serving his country honourably in Bosnia and Afghanistan.I told you how the military didn't accept that he was suffering from PTSD, they didn't treat his illness, they treated him like a cheater, until he finally . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Harper’s Army and the Final Betrayal of Cpl. Stuart Langridge

Montreal Simon: The Con Clowns Go After the Veterans Again

Oh no. Not Erin O'Toole. Not Stephen Harper's shiny tool. Again.Why it seems like it was just yesterday that he was making an absolute fool of himself, claiming that marijuana doesn't help veterans with PTSD, and that it's dangerous.Despite considerable evidence to the contrary.Now he's going after veterans with PTSD again, claiming they're making . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Con Clowns Go After the Veterans Again

Montreal Simon: The Return of Sgt. Doiron and the Betrayal of Cpl. Langridge

They brought Sgt. Andrew Doiron back to Canada today, and I was glad to see that thousands of Canadians turned out to welcome him home down the Highway of Heroes.Once I thought that reception was too militaristic, and too American. But now I think it's right that we should value every life, and honour . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Return of Sgt. Doiron and the Betrayal of Cpl. Langridge

wmtc: u.s. war resister corey glass speaks out from europe

Corey Glass, war resister from Canada by way of Indiana, speaks out from his travels in Europe in the current issue of NOW. I’m not going to bother to tell you that the Iraq War was wrong or quote the UN handbook on refugees, Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg principles or trials.

Nor am I going to . . . → Read More: wmtc: u.s. war resister corey glass speaks out from europe

Politics, Re-Spun: On Ghomeshi

Years ago, in the house of a queer friend from Atlantic Canada, I joked about Jian Ghomeshi and how he rudely and aggressively hit on her once. She laughed, I laughed, we laughed. She was queer – I thought he was queer. It was comedic gold. I didn’t think anything about it, and I sort . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: On Ghomeshi

wmtc: kevin vickers, nathan cirillo, and canada’s response to recent acts of violence

I’ve been thinking a lot about Kevin Vickers. By now the world knows Vickers’ name: he is the sergeant-at-arms of the Parliament of Canada, and his quick thinking and courage undoubtedly saved lives. Vickers shot killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had already killed one person and appeared intent on killing others.

Vickers is a hero. But . . . → Read More: wmtc: kevin vickers, nathan cirillo, and canada’s response to recent acts of violence

Cowichan Conversations: Violence is NEVER EVER a choice that a man should make. Ever!

 

A longtime outspoken advocate for survivors of domestic violence, renowned actor Patrick Stewart gave this touching impromptu speech about his own experience with domestic violence in response to a fan’s question about what non-acting work he’s most proud of. Stewart, who grew up in a home where his mother suffered frequent abuse from . . . → Read More: Cowichan Conversations: Violence is NEVER EVER a choice that a man should make. Ever!

wmtc: "just because it’s broken, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful": ashlea brockway and brokenart mosaics

The Brockway family, 2013

I want to tell you about an exciting venture: an opportunity to help make art more accessible for all, to help a low-income woman start her own business, and to help the family of an Iraq War resister, all at the same time. I hope you’ll read about BrokenArt Mosaics . . . → Read More: wmtc: "just because it’s broken, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful": ashlea brockway and brokenart mosaics

wmtc: paris day three encore, in which I admit ptsd is forever

So it turns out it’s not just my snoring that’s keeping Connie up at night. It’s noises “that sound like you’re upset,” says my mother. Allan recently told me that I cry or startle or semi-scream in my sleep on a regular basis. The incidents I think of as rare are not, in fact, rare. . . . → Read More: wmtc: paris day three encore, in which I admit ptsd is forever

Politics, Re-Spun: How the Conservative Government Dishonours the Military

So Canada is leaving its occupation of Afghanistan.

I never liked the mission. I never liked the context. I never liked the propaganda. I never liked the transformation of some kind of Canada into this occupying Canada.

162 killed and 2,179 wounded? But here’s the very very hard question. Who is the government NOT counting? . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: How the Conservative Government Dishonours the Military

Politics, Re-Spun: We Support The Veterans Transition Program

Submitted by Robin and Stewart on Mon, 10/07/2013 – 12:59

1999 saw the rise of the Veteran Transition Network (VTN) through the sponsorship of BC/Yukon Legion Branches and the University of British Columbia.

Its mission is to help Canadian Veterans across the nation re-integrate into society, local communities, and with family. To date Veteran Transition . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: We Support The Veterans Transition Program

Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD Update!

Updates from Kate and Robin and Stewart are below, as they approach the end of their campaigns! Kate’s Long Way Home has passed 1,000 kilometres on her way to Ottawa.

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Politics, Re-Spun: Robin & Stewart – Our Veterans

Robin & Stewart – Our Veterans Submitted by Robin and Stewart on Mon, 09/23/2013 – 14:40

“Canadian soldiers bravely put themselves in harm’s way, prepared to sacrifice for their country. By some estimates one in five will return with the invisible wounds of PTSD” (War in The Mind).

The complexities of war and mental . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Robin & Stewart – Our Veterans

Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD Service Dogs: Not Widely Known, But Critical

Lots of stores, places, etc. have “no pets” signs up. That’s fine, but there are usually exceptions for service dogs. Preventing a visually-impaired person from entering a restaurant except without their service dog would be mean and generally intolerable.

A long time ago, however, it was quite common to deem these . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD Service Dogs: Not Widely Known, But Critical

Politics, Re-Spun: Medric Cousineau: Walking for PTSD Support

Along with Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home and Robin & Stewart’s Marathon for Veterans we have another action in support of PTSD and Veterans, this time including service dogs!

Medric Cousineau walked 1000 km to Ottawa to raise $350,000 for 50 service dogs for 50 veterans.

The spirit of support for . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Medric Cousineau: Walking for PTSD Support

Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD: Transitions Are Weighty

Kate MacEachern and The Long Way Home

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Post by The Long Way Home.

There is a kind of trauma when people leave chapters in . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD: Transitions Are Weighty

Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD: No Room for Denial

What if NO ONE knows your name?

Belonging? It’s pretty important. We don’t always have to go where EVERYone knows our name, but we do need to have people. People who know, understand and affirm us.

People with mental health issues, however, are often made to feel not so normal, which is a . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: PTSD: No Room for Denial

Politics, Re-Spun: Kate, Robin and Stewart’s Challenge To Us All About PTSD

I will be doing regular updates on two events to increase awareness about PTSD, particularly as the Canadian Forces spends too little on treatment of its members and PTSD. Regardless of all the ways we could improve our military or the Canadian government’s often imperialistic foreign policy, the real human beings who signed up are . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Kate, Robin and Stewart’s Challenge To Us All About PTSD