Good Books Can Be the Pathway to Understanding, Acceptance, and Coping with PTSD
There are many valuable books on post traumatic stress disorder that enlighten and assist in helping understand and cope with this disorder resulting from trauma that is way outside the bounds of ordinary human experience. Getting a handle on this mental and physical malady often requires understanding the symptoms of PTSD and seeking the aid of trained mental health professionals who know how to treat it. The process of recovery and healing also requires a proactive approach on learning all you can. Once acceptance is attained, it’s time to work on it before it works on you. One should take heed of the old credo; that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and reading the appropriate books helps you do that.
Someone with PTSD should be their number one advocate in attaining treatment and in that soul-searching process, but the loved ones of those suffering from the disorder also need to understand what the person is going through. And if you’re reading this for that reason then let me first applaud you for the exemplary commitment you are displaying in that effort. PTSD creates an upheaval and a torrent of life-disrupting emotions and behaviors, but we must always remember that in most cases the person with it experienced things that we can’t imagine.
A Good List Covering a Broad Spectrum
PTSD can result from all sorts of trauma; plane crashes, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, catastrophic events, natural disasters, and of course; war. Since I have experience in combat and its aftermath, I will be referring below primarily about the good books I’ve come across that deal with coping with that particular brand of PTSD. However, since people with PTSD are all primarily in the same boat regardless of the circumstances that got them there, I’d like to first direct you to an excellent list of helpful books on post traumatic stress disorder that deal with a broad range of types of trauma. You’ll find a list of the Top Ten Books on PTSD here on the site of our trusted affiliate at amazon.com. It’s a solid and acclaimed collection including workbooks, guides to healing, comprehensive checklists of treatment plans and options, and collections of firsthand essays and stories by people who learned to effectively cope with PTSD.
Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
One Doctor’s Results and Insights from Years of Working with PTSD Patients
I recommend Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming by Jonathan Shay, M.D, PH.D., a psychiatrist with a long history of helping vets at the Boston V.A. reintegrate and deal with severe PTSD. This book (and he’s written other books on post traumatic stress disorder too) provides valuable insights using PTSD as a model to explain the behavior of Odysseus and his men as they return from the wars in Homer’s Iliad. In Shay’s interpretation, we clearly see the trust issues, violence, emotional outbursts, anger, and fool-hardy thrill seeking in the face of death behavior that were just as evident in those ancient characters as they are in vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan today. Even in ancient times when wars were thought to be fought for the glory and conquest, Homer was able to see through to the permanent scars that war creates in the psyches of the combatants.
One Doctor’s… (Continued)
Jonathan Shay points out a popular misconception that the beautiful Sirens had the power to lure the combat veteran’s from Ithaca purely by using their sensual powers of seduction. In fact, the main appeal to those hardened warriors was that the Sirens knew every last, graphic detail of their battles and offered to tell those stories even if the consequence of staying on the island and listening meant they’d never return to their beloved homeland. The irresistible appeal laid in the fact that they wanted to know that what they went through was real. More than just listening to tales about their glory and victories, they desired to have the other side recounted; the atrocities, the horror, the injustice, and the grief they felt over lost brethren. It’s akin to modern cases where flashbacks and all those PTSD-related nightmares become hard to distinguish from present realities.
This ploy of the Sirens filled some psychological yearning on the part of the men that was far more compelling than anything else. I know firsthand that when you return from war it is difficult to discern what is real. Did all that really happen over there and how can this illusory place you left and now returned to be real if what you just experienced in war was also real? How is it possible that the two worlds, so categorically opposed to each other, exist in the same place and time?
The ancient mythical warriors also become disillusioned as Odysseus’s sprawling ego and desire for fame got good men killed as a result. They were left wondering what the point of it all was. The war was all fought because one man, Menelaus, was jilted in love. Untold slaughter and sacrifice were unleashed on a grand scale over one bruised ego which created the opportunity for other unchecked egos to set about conquering the world as it was known then.
Although Homer’s Iliad is a mythically based saga rooted in otherwise historical events and characters, it provides everlasting insights into the nature of war. The warriors in the ranks are always far removed from the politics, they are often the pawns of the megalomaniacs throughout history. There is a feeling of helplessness inherent in PTSD as the result of having had your entire being under the control of another entity or government that one can’t always trust. This lack of trust permeates their lives when they return. It is a feeling compounded by the fact that one can also be killed at any moment by unseen forces and situations that are impossible to control. We can look to the ancient example of Odysseus failing to trust that Penelope was faithful in his long absence. So we can then see how this then plays a part in all the modern day relationship issues resulting from PTSD.
The second article in this two-part series shifts the focus to books on post traumatic stress disorder written by combat veterans which strongly convey the fact that sufferers are not alone in what they are experiencing. Furthermore, they shed light on how to deal with it, and in some cases they teach valuable lessons about the unfortunate consequences of not dealing with PTSD.
There is a kind of fraternity of experience forged in the fires of war, and reading the fictional accounts of combatants of previous wars can provide a sense of camaraderie that people with PTSD need to find again.
First Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
Second image courtesy of the author
Mental Health Bookstore: https://www.mhsanctuary.com/ptsd/books/ptsdbooks.htm
Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming by Jonathan Shay, M.D, PH.D.
Top Ten Books on PTSD @ https://www.amazon.com/Top-10-PTSD-books/lm/V2D4HC79V3V1