“PTSD, don’t leave Nam without it.” Though the picture above is of a patch, I saw the saying above on a t-shirt yesterday. I ached when I saw it. PTSD has been present in every war ever fought. Sometimes it has been called combat fatigue. Sometimes it has been called shell shock.
In 1000 BC an Egyptian combat veteran named Hori wrote about the feelings he experienced before going into battle:”You determine to go forward… Shuddering seizes you, the hair on your head stands on end, your soul lies in your hand.”
Throughout history, there have been records of what is now called PTSD.
Herodotus wrote of the Spartan commander Leonidas, who at the battle of Thermopylae Pass in 480 BC dismissed his men from joining the combat because he clearly recognized they were psychologically spent from previous battles.“They had no heart for the fight and were unwilling to take their share of the danger.”
In 1003 A.D. the Anglo Saxon Chronicle recounts a battle between the English and the Danes in which the English commander Alfred reportedly became so violently ill that he began to vomit and was not able to lead his men.
The 1800’s saw names used such as; Hysteria, Soldiers Heart, Soldiers Irritable Heart, Irritable Heart, DaCosta’s Syndrome, Railway Spine, Traumatic Neuroses & Fright Neuroses.The 1900’s saw names such as; Disorderly Action of the Heart, Neurocirculatory Asthenia, Shell Shock, War Neurosis, War Hysteria, Stress Response Syndrome, Combat Stress Reaction, Concentration Camp Syndrome, War Sailor Syndrome, Rape Trauma Syndrome, Battered Woman Syndrome, Vietnam Veterans Syndrome, Abused Child Syndrome and inevitably in 1980, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Yes, I know some of the history behind PTSD. And, yet, in spite of all my medical knowledge, I ached when I saw that t-shirt. Behind that t-shirt was a person who was mistreated upon his return to the USA. Behind that t-shirt was the knowledge that the vast majority of his country did not support him. Behind that t-shirt is a pain that refuses to cease and refuses to be cured. Yes, I ached for the man I saw.
I am glad for the support our troops now receive. PTSD rates are lower now than they were for Viet Nam. I am glad that the pain of today’s soldiers is recognized. But, I still ache for them. I see them in the hallways of the VA Medical Center in which I work. I see their faces; sometimes I hear their aches. It is at those time that I can see why Saint Paul wrote:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
PTSD has taught me that God did not simply mean in the Ten Commandments that thou shalt not murder. No, he really meant that thou shalt not kill. After all the linguistic analysis is done, after all the theological interpretation has been published, PTSD is the evidence that the correct interpretation is, “Thou shalt not kill.”
No, this does not necessarily mean that there should be no police force or no army. Nor does it require us to be pacifist. But, PTSD does point to the idea that within us there is a God-given desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He has placed the same desire within us, that none should perish. Thus, when we do kill someone, there are psychological repercussions. They are there because of the way in which God has made us.
PTSD is a clear result of the sin of Adam and Eve. It is the result of being created in God’s image. It is evidence that we were not meant to kill our fellow human being, even if the “war” is justified. We have little choice but to have police forces and armies. But, oh, how PTSD shows that this so goes against God’s original desire for us.
Let us pray for those who are suffering from PTSD. They are but reflecting that God’s desire is that none should die. May God have mercy on them and on those of us who are not sensitive enough to God to understand their pain.