Dear Barb – Remembering PTSD

Dear Barb:

I guess I have more of a comment than a question. As Remembrance Day is approaching I think about my grandfather, who was a soldier in the war. He passed away a few years ago, as did my grandmother. My mother often told stories about how difficult it was for her family after her father returned from the war. She said when he came home he was a changed man and this impacted the whole family. My grandfather suffered from PTSD but I don’t believe they knew what it was back then, or even how to treat it. My mother said her and her brother had to stay quiet most of the time, as loud noises would bother their father. Grandpa preferred to spend a lot of time alone in a darkened bedroom. My grandmother struggled to maintain some happiness in the home. Mom remembers birthday parties when she would have some friends over and her dad would seem to be okay and sharing in the festivities and then suddenly his whole demeanor changed. He would put his head in his hands and seem disconnected from his surroundings. My grandma would try to take him out of the room while the children were busy with games. Sometimes he would go quietly and other times he would fly into a rage. My mom’s little friends would become scared and want to go home. Birthdays and special occasions were very difficult in the family and eventually they stopped celebrating. I can still see the effects of this trauma in my mother when birthdays and Christmas comes around, as she begins to get anxious and fears that something will go wrong. Even though my mom understands what caused my grandpa to be that way, she still has some resentment and wishes someone could have helped her dad. When my mom hears about soldiers being deployed to Iraq or wherever, I can see the concern in her face, as she knows how traumatic it is for that person and their families to experience the ravages of war. My only question for you would be, probably one that you cannot answer and that is, “when will people learn that war is not the answer?” Susan.

Dear Susan:

Remembrance Day is a day for all of us to remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty. Thank you for writing in Susan and you are right I cannot answer your very important question, what I can do is provide a bit of information about PTSD and some of the progress that has been made with this debilitating condition. Initially, when your grandfather was a soldier, PSTD was labelled as war neurosis and it was thought to happen to weak and cowardly men. We have come a long way from that thinking. Post traumatic stress disorder is a result of experiencing a major trauma or life threatening event. Serving during war times, a soldier not only experiences other soldiers and friends being physically injured or killed, often they are seriously injured themselves. Their situation is out of their control and there is nothing they could do about it. Also, research has shown that head injuries and concussions, which soldiers often experience as a result of explosions, may lead to PSTD. Most likely your grandfather received no treatment for his condition because at that time men were just expected to be a man and cope. Today there is treatment for PSTD, both with medication and counselling. It may take a few months to tweak the medication to be able to receive the best outcome. Also support groups allow men and women to share their feelings and experiences and realize they are not alone and that they can get through this. Often it is important to begin with one on one counselling before going into a group.

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Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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