Military blogger and journalist Tom Ricks has been flagging a book that I want to move quickly to the top of my reading list. The Long Walk is a memoir of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Demolition) operative in Iraq an apparently has a lot to say about PTSD and the aftermath of war.
This excerpt, posted elsewhere by Ricks, stuck with me:
The problem is that if I just painted the broad strokes I’d just look like a bastard. And that’s what everyone with PTSD looks like. They’re just whiny, or surly, or can’t get their stuff together, or a bastard. And it’s easy to dismiss someone and not help them when they’re just a bastard. But if you take a minute to sit down and start going through things with them, then you realize that in reality they HAVE bastard. It’s a disease. You really can get it. The only thing worse than bastard is the rash everyone around you breaks out in. It’s called stigma, and it’s an SOB.
If you have to be a bastard, at least try to be witty about it.
Peeling off those layers of stigma is no easy job, though. That’s why most guys don’t even talk about it to the shrinks. A lab coat and words like ‘confidentiality’ are to trust what a good OER is to merit. Just because you’ve got one doesn’t mean you actually have the other. Our best therapists are not people with PhD’s. They’re the ones who’ve done the same “study abroad” program we have. I can talk about those things with other people who need to talk. I can tell those guys how I feel today without pulling any punches or getting all choked up the way I would punching it into a keyboard, because when I say it to them I know I’m telling them how they’re likely going to feel in a few years.
Definitely a must-read for chaplains and others who work with returning soldiers, methinks.