Stu and I have been focused in the last two weeks at gaining a greater understanding of PTSD: how it affects our Veterans, what programs and supports exist, what is missing, and why.
No small feat. And no short blog could even scratch the surface of these issues, but we are throwing our hats in the ring. We are running in shirts emblazoned with “Raising Awareness for PTSD” – and we are starting with our own awareness. We sadly have an unfair advantage in our starting point, Stu much more so than me. He has seen and experienced things first hand that I am thankful I have not, and I will not and cannot speak to his story. I just know that as I engage in researching PTSD, as I read the stories and the articles, I see my partner through different eyes.
As I undertake this greater awareness of PTSD in an academic, theoretical and practical manner, I realize my awareness of it in a personal way. I am reminded of my army brat, base-life in the 80s and 90s – of elementary and high school friends whose parents went away on deployment and came back changed – and the anguish and confusion felt.
Only now do I have a context for my recollection of whispers in the playground at CFB Kingston, when we’d gossip about René’s dad who had come back but wasn’t allowed to live with them anymore, or Michelle’s Dad who “just wasn’t the same” after Rwanda. We used terms like “mental” and “pitiful”. It was 1993. I was 13. I had no idea. I can’t speak to the tools, resources, programs or support systems available to René’s and Michelle’s families or the THOUSANDS like them. But I can speak to the attitude in the schoolyard. It was one I still, unfortunately, butt heads with in the Legions and over beers with “the old boys”. There is still a horrible, misinformed, misguided and dangerous impression out there that the condition of PTSD only afflicts men and women of weak character. I cannot state emphatically enough that this is not true. I know this from what I have learned; academically, theoretically, practically and personally. Any awareness of PTSD has to start from this point.
There are men and women of strong, courageous, proud and noble character out there, doing amazing things to raise awareness of PTSD, and openly discussing their own experiences with the disease. I am so grateful for the work they do and the opportunity to learn from them. By way of an introduction to these amazing people, I would highly suggest the TVO film “War in the Mind” – which “documents the struggles and battles these heroes face against this disabling and destructive disorder, which remains largely under-acknowledged by the Canadian military. Interwoven throughout is a critical analysis of the historical and scientific aspects of PTSD and examination of possible treatments for it”.
These struggles need to be acknowledged and discussed. And those charged with supporting our Veterans need to be continually challenged to do their job. For Stewart and I, this is goes further than the shirts on our backs.
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