Trauma

Posted on April 24, 2010

6


My 6 year old told me, “An army man with medals came to talk to us at assembly today.”

“About Anzac Day?”

“Yes.”

“Your great grandfather was in Gallipoli.”

“I told Gus that. What did he do there?”

“My grandpa, grandpa’s dad, was an ambulance man in Gallipoli. He looked after the dead people, the injured, the wounded, the lame.”

“Did he die?”

“No, but I think he was very scared.”

“Why did they kill each other?”

Silence.

“Good question.”

Sitting up in bed, I told them, “It was so bad I can’t describe it to you. They landed in the wrong place. It was open, they had no shelter, the Turks were on higher ground so of course they were massacred as they came ashore.”

“Where did they sleep?”

“They would’ve had tents and stretcher beds, they’re easy to set up and dismantle.”

“Were there rats?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did they eat?”

“Yes, lots of bully beef – cans of corned beef and hard biscuits. That’s how we have Anzac biscuits, the women at home in Australia cooked Anzac biscuits for the men at war. They used to send parcels to the troops.”

War

My grandfather Percival Jones was in the 1st Field Australian Army Ambulance Corps in Gallipoli in World War 1.

http://mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au/list-name.aspx?name=Jones Jones, Percival Frank is on page 33 click on his name and you get to:

http://mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au/Details.aspx?barcode_no=1820915&TB_iframe=true&height=500&width=600&scrolling=no

click on WWI file B2455, JONES P F and you get to Primary description of  item 1820915 http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/ItemDetail.asp?M=0&B=1820915 National Archives of Australia.

click View Digital Copy and there are 16 pages of copies of original documents about his involvement.

The  oath he signed when he enlisted: “I, Percival Frank Jones swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign King in the Australian Imperial Force from 19th Sept 1914 until the end of the War, and a further period of four months thereafter unless sooner lawfully discharged, dismissed or removed therefrom; and that I will resist His Majesty’s enemies and cause His Majesty’s peace to be kept and maintained; and that I will in all matters appertaining to my service, faithfully discharge my duty according to the law. SO HELP ME, GOD.

P. F. Jones“

Little did he know that the day he signed up for war is the day he signed himself and his descendants up for symptoms of trauma.

He was 21 years & 2 months old and his medical examination considered him fit for active service.

He served in Gallipoli, then went to England, then France. He was discharged on 23/2/1919, 5 years later.

On his discharge papers, he received 3 medals: the 1914/15 STAR, British War Medal and a Victory Medal. He received his Anzac medal in 1967.

I looked for his medals in a room full of boxes of stamps and coins which my father’s collected over the years. I found a big leather wallet and inside was a piece cut out from his army uniform, the stripes.

My mother puts the medals out every Anzac Day. She puts them on top of the TV and watches the marches.

My father used to ask him questions about the war when he was studying history at high school.

“Those old soldiers didn’t talk about their traumas of war. You had to ask them and ferret something out. I said, ‘I want you to tell me something about it.’ He said there was constant gunfire, 11 seconds between canons and guns going off.”

“His health was affected, he suffered enteric fever, something to do with bowels, he had terrible sweats and always had trouble with indigestion and couldn’t eat some foods. He was invalided to England where he convalesced and travelled around Britain. Then he went to fight in Ypres in France. The doctor told him to move to a dry warm climate when he came home.”

“The term “enteric fever” is a collective term that refers to typhoid and paratyphoid.

Enteric fever: A gastrointestinal condition mainly in the developing world. It is caused by a bacterial infection, usually as a form of food.

Typhoid fever, also known as Salmonella typhi, is a common worldwide illness, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person.”

“It affected their constitution, the awful conditions. Shell-shock was a result of the pressure they were under, they went bananas sometimes. He was a bit withdrawn and his nerves weren’t very good. You had to show consideration or he’d be upset about things. He’d rest in bed on a Sunday, he needed sleep. He had indigestion, dyspepsia. Custard and barley water was made for him, he was fairly delicate. Most of the troops that survived didn’t talk about the war. They got together and colluded or were told not to talk about the conditions.”

Percival went to reunions. He was understanding and sympathetic with people, he was straightforward and honest. My father was able to go to high school because Percival paid for that which was expensive. Two of his sisters and his brother didn’t want to go.

The Great Depression originated in the United States, starting with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929.

Returned soldiers were guaranteed work in the Depression when there was little work, so Percival had a Commonwealth Post Office job. They moved to Conargo out in western NSW near Hay, bought a post office where Percival was the postmaster and stayed there for 30 years.

I’ve always liked Eric Bogle’s song ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,’ about a man who fought at Gallipoli and how it changed his life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPFjToKuZQM

http://celtic-lyrics.com/forum/index.php?autocom=tclc&code=lyrics&id=36

On Anzac Day for years, particularly since studying psychotherapy, I’ve wanted to speak in the media about the effects of war down the generations.

My friend and I looked at the http://mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au website. We found our grandfathers and looked at their documents. Her grandfather signed up in 1916 and lasted a year in France. He got frostbite which went gangrenous and he had all his toes cut off. He came home, had a family and died when her mother was nine.

My father, a history teacher, said, “‘Trench Feet’ was common, from the mud, their feet were wet all the time. English generals refused to put off battles even though Australians were very reluctant in the rain.”

Things got bottled up in her family and alcohol abuse was rampant. She has a large photo of him in her hall in his uniform in a big oval frame, a family heirloom. He looks like her mother, who has already passed away, of cancer. So handsome, so sensitive. He signed up at 14, he lied and said he was 18.

Our grandfathers received 3 of the same medals: 1914/15 STAR, British War Medal and a Victory Medal.

As we stood outside her house in the evening light, her neighbour came to chat. He’s worked in the army for the past twenty years, for the United Nations in New York. He’s protected former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and singer Nana Mouskouri, and seen war zones throughout the world.

I used to catalogue Foreign Correspondent stories for ABC TV archives, so I knew about the war zones he’s worked in.

My friend was telling him that her 23 year old son wants to join the commandoes, he watches American war movies.

“He wants a gun,” she said.

“Why do they want guns?” I asked.

He pointed to his crotch. He said, “A dick’s this big,” he said, and stretched out his hands. “A gun’s that big.”

Her 23 year old son arrived on his motorbike in his leather jacket.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not diagnosed in those days. It was called shell-shock. Many returned servicemen suffer symptoms of PTSD. In the 1970s it was referred to as “war neurosis,” a condition for which compensation was sought for their service in war. They were regarded as alcoholics who were out to rort the system. A psychiatrist drew attention to the diagnosis of compensation neurosis and tried to point out that their experience in the war had caused significant suffering. This was not accepted in the mid 1970s, it’s only in the 1980s that PTSD became a recognised condition and an acceptable diagnosis.

Psychological trauma occurs following exposure to traumatic events including war, accidents (causing injury and near-death experiences), abuse (psychological, physical, including domestic violence and sexual abuse) and death or loss of a loved one. There is a recognised constellation of symptoms after such exposures. To the inexperienced professional, these may masquerade as the symptoms of psychiatric disorders like Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder and Dissociative Disorder.

Recent research is revealing to us that General Anxiety Disorder is the most common presentation of people who have been sexually abused in childhood – Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).

Identifying the pathway to suicide in child sexual abuse victims – Ross S Kalucy

http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/192_04_150210/kal11105_fm.html

Often these symptoms are considered to be diagnoses. Anxiety is a symptom not a diagnosis. With irrational thinking, some people get triggered to and run on high arousal (agitation), hypervigilance (watchfulness for the return of the traumatic exposure) and are numb. They are often misdiagnosed as bipolar. Other symptoms of trauma are fears as in phobias such as Agoraphobia.

There is a dvd about panic attacks: ‘Fight or Flight’ with Professor Ron Rapee, Professor of Psychology at Macquarie University, http://bit.ly/zjWpW .

Dissociation is an extension of numbing. When people are overwhelmed by terror and helplessness, it’s like their nervous systems have been disconnected from the present. They lose the capacity to integrate the memory of overwhelming life events. Traumatic memories are preserved in an abnormal state, set apart from ordinary consciousness.

There is a spectrum of symptoms of psychological trauma- complex PTSD. This needs to be identified as a disorder. Work is being done to include this in revised classification systems.

Consequences of emotional trauma:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Substance abuse- alcohol, smoking, drugs. People don’t feel good about themselves so turn to substances to influence the way they feel.
  4. Eating disorders- anorexia, underweight and bulimia. Food addiction- obesity.
  5. Gender Identity Disorder
  6. Psychosis
  7. Suicide

Compound trauma- eg. war and The Depression

It’s hardly ever one episode. Often the first exposure to things which trigger emotional trauma occur very early in life, before the age of 5.

If mothers can’t handle their child wanting to express their independence and will, they try to control them by forcing them (including smacking). The natural process of the child asserting itself is thwarted by parents who traumatise them by hitting them or screaming at them in an attempt to force them to do what the parent insists. Children should be encouraged to assert themselves and express themselves confidently. This is the basis of Emotional Intelligence. Some parents are unable to deal with a crying child.

Anxiety is not feeling safe, they felt scared when mum yelled or screamed at them, didn’t attend to them. Recognise that and people feel safer and calmer.

Domestic Violence

Despite living in a peaceful place years later, inside many homes the war still rages.

People who experience childhood trauma often suffer from depression. Sometimes they spit the dummy and explode when things aren’t going their way- tantrums are 2 or 3 year old behaviour so they weren’t socialized and they have low self esteem from an authoritarian parenting style: “you should… you never… you always…. You make me…”

“The blaming response can evoke fear…. So if I evoke your fear, you might obey me… In no case, though, can you love me or trust me.” (Satir 1988:111)

Growing up with anger and abuse is scary. People feel unsafe. They often become inconspicuous, the good girl or boy, they withdraw and become avoidant in the face of abusers. Interacting and standing up for oneself is futile.

When people get abused later in life, they can get triggered. If they they don’t feel safe they can freeze, go silent and withdraw, these are traumatic responses learned as a child.

“Numb,” they can feel tired, unable to engage with anyone because their head’s somewhere else emotionally. The symptom complex is: stunned, aroused, panic, numb out, withdraw, isolate and try not to do it again. (Johnson 2005).

Emotionally it would have been like being at war, the severity of the symptoms depends on the degree of support to validate the child’s feelings. A child feels unsafe when his parents argue; it has the same reaction as war. (Johnson 2005)

An abuser is trying to disempower someone, to elevate themselves above someone. People need to change their response to abusers, to reduce their traumatic responses. They need to deal with the abuse. When they’re triggered they need to speak out, not shut up and take the abuse. They need to stand up for themselves and stop them, by being assertive.

People need to learn how to protect themselves from others’ projections, to separate themselves and not wear others’ issues.

One day I was teaching war poetry in a boys high school. One boy’s whole family had always been in the army and he will be too. I talked about PTSD and how domestic violence has the same symptoms as war, it’s a war-zone in the house. He said, “That’s my father.” He changed from being the most disruptive boy in the class, to the most engaged, standing up the front reading out the poems.

When Men Batter Women, by Neil Jacobson & John Gottman http://amzn.to/9CdJpq

Sexual Abuse

I’ve worked in a women’s rehab where there is a significant rate of sexual abuse. Horrendous stories. I listened to women tell the most incredibly traumatic stories about their lives, about their sexual abuse as children. The perpetrators need to be stopped. The damage is enormous. People can be so  cruel to children it is beyond words. Sometimes all I wanted to do was get a video camera and place it in front of these women. Forget the TV news, listen to these stories, listen to these terrible stories hidden behind closed doors. Listen and do something to protect innocent children.

Sexual abuse is very common.

https://francesjones.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/child-sexual-abuse-csa

I asked these women to show me what shame looked like, to embody it. They hunched their shoulders over and hung their heads, their faces hidden. Those of us who can show our face need to speak out on their behalf. Their voices need to be heard.

I taught young women how to draw their family tree/genogram. Often there was grief beneath their drug-taking, they took anything to numb the pain of their loss.

“89% of women in prisons have been sexually abused” @DebKilroy Sisters Inside. On @ABCConvos.

I taught in a  juvenile detention centre where boys had exacted their own refenge on the perpetrators of their sexual abuse. Some of the stories…

Grief and Loss

“The untimely death of the young, particularly a child, seems to be the most devastating and incomprehensible loss that a family can experience.” (McGoldrick 1995:132)

As a journalist at Imparja TV in Alice Springs, I saw the trauma of Aboriginal people, including The Stolen Generation. Their children were taken off them, stolen, because basically the Bible says that white is good and black is evil.

There are reasons why substance abuse is rife, with alcoholism and petrol sniffing.

‘Trauma trails, recreating song lines: the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia’ by Judy Atkinson http://bit.ly/cqp6V9

I spent 2 years in Hanoi, Vietnam teaching English. I’ve seen the complexities of Vietnam. There is a culture of war there, so many of the movies on TV are about war. There are anthems celebrating their victory over the French and the Americans. Every city in the world has war museums.

In Australia there is a term, T.P.I, Totally and Permanently Incapacitated. One man qualified for a T.P.I. pension because in Vietnam he’d used the big Owen machine gun, a big heavy thing, he had to cover when they came under attack while the rest of the platoon got out of the helicopter. They spent 9 days in the jungle each time and often cut down on tucker to carry more ammunition.

On the other hand, when I lived in Hanoi I met a lovely man who was a Vietnamese Communist soldier during the “American War” as they call it. He worked in the jungle using equipment to detect whether Agent Orange was present in the water.

http://bit.ly/bTaRh8 The Kim Phuc Foundation

The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph … By Denise Chong http://bit.ly/a6bo97

Refugees

I have many Vietnamese friends who were refugees, they have tales to tell. I have an ‘Aussie’ friend, a Vietnam Veteran who finds it hard to walk in the bush because of his fears of stepping on a landmine. I’ve read and practiced meditation with @ThichNhatHanh.

Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism In A Time of War, by Sister Chan Khong is a great book. http://www.parallax.org/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=BOOKLTL

Many people have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. Have you ever been traumatized?

Trauma and Recovery

The best book I’ve read for survivors is Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, http://amzn.to/8MUtr5 available @Gleebooks

It explains the three Stages of Recovery:

The survivor needs to speak out the betrayal, the filth, the shame and the guilt, to get it out and put it back where it belongs, in the socio-political domain which allowed it in the first place. There are three stages of recovery. In each stage, the client needs to be heard for recovery to begin.

1st Stage

Survivors must choose between expressing their own point of view and remaining in connection with others. Many women may have difficulty even naming their experience. The first task of consciousness-raising is simply calling rape by its true name. (Herman 2001:67)

2nd Stage

It is speaking the unspeakable. It is like vomiting until there’s no need to vomit any more. It is like drawing poison out slowly.

“It is even more difficult to find a language that conveys fully and persuasively what one has seen. Those who attempt to describe the atrocities that they have witnessed also risk their own credibility. To speak publicly about one’s knowledge of atrocities is to invite the stigma that attaches to victims.” (Herman 2001:2)

3rd stage

“Most survivors seek the resolution of their traumatic experience within the confines of their personal lives. But a significant minority, as a result of the trauma, feel called upon to engage in a wider world. These survivors recognize a political or religious dimension in their misfortune and discover that they can transform the meaning of their personal tragedy by making it the basis for social action. While there is no way to compensate for an atrocity, there is a way to transcend it, by making it a gift to others. The trauma is redeemed only when it becomes the source of a survivor mission. (Herman 2001:207)

“Public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action. Survivors undertake to speak about the unspeakable in public in the belief that this will help others. (Herman 2001:208)

Pursuing justice is holding the perpetrator accountable not only for her wellbeing but for the health of the larger society. Making a public complaint or accusation, the survivor defies the perpetrator’s attempt to silence and isolate her, and she opens the possibility of finding new allies. Her actions may benefit others as well as herself.” (Herman 2001:209-10)

It’s in connection and sharing with others that the effects of trauma are overcome. Many people self-medicate and drown their sorrows at the pub, rather than debriefing in a therapeutic relationship.

@stilgherrian has written about Anzac Day:

http://stilgherrian.com/politics/anzac-day-2009-sacrifice

http://stilgherrian.com/politics/anzac_day_rememberings

That’s why the psychological health of our leaders – our political leaders, our school principals, anyone who has power to make decisions for others, is so important.

Our descendants suffer the consequences of poor decisions for years to come. They will pay the price.

I think we need to have special days to remember other forms of trauma, not only war. Why don’t we have marches through the streets of Sydney for organisations and charities who support others through their grief and to recover?

People need to be heard and grief needs to be voiced, or it comes out in other ways:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Substance abuse- alcohol, smoking, drugs, addiction to sex. People don’t feel good about themselves so turn to substances to influence the way they feel.
  4. Eating disorders- anorexia, underweight and bulimia. Food addiction- obesity.
  5. Gender Identity Disorder
  6. Psychosis
  7. Suicide

Many people suffer the death or loss of loved ones. Lest We Forget.

Many children, female and male are being sexually abused. Lest We Forget.

Many women and men suffer domestic violence. Lest We Forget.

Many parents traumatise their children. Lest We Forget.

The Ode

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

May Peace Be With You.


Herman, J. L. (2001) Trauma and Recovery. Pandora, London. http://bit.ly/bK8AiL

Johnson, S. (2005) Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors Volume 13

http://bit.ly/bXHeFn

McGoldrick, Monica. (1995) You Can Go Home Again. W.W. Norton & Co. New York.

Satir V. (1988) The New Peoplemaking. Science and Behaviour Books, CA.

http://www.lifeanddandelions.com/2011/03/today-my-cranky-pants-unnerved-me.html

Family relationships in childhood & common psychiatric disorders in later life [British Journal of Psychiatry] http://bit.ly/bE7Dye

In ‘Anzac Dreams and Realities’ on The Spirit of Things on ABC radio, Rachael Kohn speaks with Ashley Ekin, the Head of the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/stories/2010/2877638.htm

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2010/04/sot_20100425.mp3

http://twitter.com/albertjackavc is very clever. Tom Reynolds, http://twitter.com/thomasrdotorg has created a “faction” tweetstream of Albert Jacka VC’s experiences at Gallipoli.

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Posted in: Trauma