Tuesday, October 4, 2016

IOI's Perspective on Trauma and the Election

Friends, I have really been struggling with something: politics.  As a blogger in a helping field, I feel conflicted.  On one hand, I try very hard to make Insight, Outside In safe for as many people as possible.  Taking a political stance is one of the fastest ways I know to alienate a significant group of people.  On the other hand, any time mental health comes up in news or major media, I want to address it.  Bringing mental health issues to light is crucial to reducing stigma.  While I'm sure my bias shows to just about anyone who reads here with any regularity, I have tried very hard to keep my political opinions to myself.  But something was said by a major candidate for the office of President of the United States, and I feel a strong need to address it. This is the first time since IOI's inception this has happened, and I feel I am being baptized by fire! Here's the quote:

"When people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it, And they see horror stories — they see events that you couldn’t see in a movie. Nobody would believe it. And we need mental health help, and medical. And it’s one of the things that I think is least-addressed, and it's one of the things that I hear the most about, when I go around and am talking to veterans."

I am printing the quote in its entirety, and not just the troublesome part.  While I agree that mental health is completely under-addressed, the first part is extremely problematic.  The implication is that a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not strong.  
The very first point I need to make is to anyone reading this who has PTSD or any other trauma-related diagnosis, or anyone having symptoms, but doesn't have the actual diagnosis: YOU ARE AWESOME. If you are reading this, it means you survived.  You deserve to have survived.  You're a creative, resourceful, talented, strong, determined human being.  I am eternally grateful for you, and proud of you.  Someone else not seeing your infinite value doesn't mean it isn't there.  I promise it is.  
Now for anyone who has never experienced symptoms of a trauma-related diagnosis: I am so happy for you and excited for you! I hope you never have to go through anything that evokes those symptoms.  I am grateful for the life you live which is not inhibited by recovering from trauma.  It's really hard work.  I truly would not wish it on anyone.  
I see participation in society as a responsibility.  We all have a part.  To my friends in group number one, we need you.  Group two, listen up.  You're going to have to do your part for group number one.  Someday, you are going to need help from someone in group number one.  What's really cool is that all the work they're doing to deal with those symptoms is going to change them. 
I know that the part of the quote that was reported was taken out of context, but here’s the problem: Once we start to have a trauma reaction, our brains couldn’t care less about the context.  Remember, our 5 senses take in information, and send it at lightning speed through the processor, which then decides on a reaction and produces it.  I just published an article last week about the effects of shame.  It’s not hard to read the quote as a statement that if someone can’t handle “it,” they aren’t strong.  This has the potential to trigger symptoms for someone with PTSD from war and combat.  It’s important to be careful with our words.  As I’ve said before, relationships are of the utmost importance.  As I write this, there are 5 weeks until the election.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have extremely strong feelings about this election.  So the challenge I am putting out there to each of us, including myself, is for each of us to do our part.  Take care of one another, and take care of yourself.  This election will be over in 5 weeks and one day, and whomever is elected will not serve in office forever.  Whatever the outcomes will be, we will still live in relationships with one another.  
Be well.

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