Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first used in late 1970s in the USA to describe the broken state in which soldiers came home from the Vietnam War. These people had seen horrible things that no living human should have to see. They endured countless situations where every moment could be their last and never knew if they were truly safe. Some of them may have even had to take lives they didn’t want to, men who didn’t know how they got there or what they were supposed to be doing and why. Those soldiers fought day and night to stay alive.
When thinking about war veterans, many people picture in their heads a stubborn, proud old man standing and saluting his country’s flag. This man will push back the haunting memories playing on rerun in his mind, and he will pretend he doesn’t hear the dying cries in the middle of the night anymore.
Does this battle sound familiar even though you’ve not been to war?
It’s always been hard to say you’ve got PTSD, but today it’s treated like a death sentence. If you didn’t get your PTSD from serving in a war, people look at you in a funny way. Many of us these days never had to go off to war, so what could be so stressful about our pretty little lives – the sceptics may ask. We post glamorous versions of ourselves online with our expensive gadgets, smiling with friends. We are fighting a different kind of battle, but we’re withering away.
The new face of PTSD isn’t seen on recruitment posters for armed forces. It’s seen in the actions of people who have been dealing with abusive relationships. It’s the people who can’t stand to be touched. It’s in the haunted eyes of a person as they walk down the street. It’s in the odd behaviours of strangers we can’t understand. The abrupt way we speak to each other, the constant comparing of who we are with what we should be. It’s in the way we bury our truths beneath the surface. We are a generation in pain.
We don’t dodge grenades; instead we tiptoe around hurtful words and actions. We don’t hear the screams of the dead in our dreams, but we listen out for the sound of our doorknobs turning in the middle of the night, fearing the person on the other side. We don’t wear our bullet-proof helmets, but we hide behind our computer screens and cell phones afraid we might not be able to hold ourselves together face-to-face. We don’t fear leaving our camps because the enemy is out there, we’re afraid to come home because they might be sleeping on the other side of the bed.
Don’t you see? Our nightmares play out in the bright lights behind closed doors. We are a generation that goes to war every single day. And the greatest traumas these days are often caused by the people you trust the most, the ones who are supposed to protect you. We have learned that life isn’t always safe. We are thrown into our traumatic battlefields by parents, siblings, friends, strangers, spouses, teachers, policemen and doctors. Who does that leave us to depend on? Who can we turn to when the ones we trust are who put us here to begin with? That is what makes our trauma so hard to surrender. Something has to change; we are breaking apart before our own reflections. How long will this pain haunt us because we can’t talk about it with, well, anyone?
“Trust us,” they said, “We’ll take care of you,” they said. But they didn’t. This is the new face of PTSD.