This Is Your Brain On War: “There was this police officer in Florida,” he says. “She was shot 10 times, and in the middle of this gunfight she says to herself, ‘I’m getting married in six months and you’re not going to stop me.’ And she killed the two bastards who shot her. She was back on the job a year later. So, yes, these are irrational thoughts, but at the same time, they’re motivating thoughts.”
"Why did I stay? I stayed because I was isolated; I was financially dependent on him; I was sleep deprived; I was told and I believed I was worthless; I was worn down from constantly being on guard for the next attack. I stayed because I was more afraid to leave."
"Where are we going, judge?" Serna asked. "We're going to turn ourselves in," Olivera said. "He said he was going to stay with me," Serna said. "I couldn't process a judge being my cellmate. "They take me to the cell, and I'm sitting on my bunk. And, then, in walks the judge.
I love my cane, but I rarely hold onto it without rage..."My first cane was black like tourmaline, a crystal used as an aid against jealousy, negative thoughts, destructive forces, and internal conflicts; I’d adorned it with Hello Kitty stickers."
"...parrots, among the oldest victims of human acquisitiveness and vainglory, have become some of the most empathic readers of our troubled minds. Their deep need to connect is drawing the most severely wounded and isolated PTSD sufferers out of themselves. In an extraordinary example of symbiosis, two entirely different outcasts of human aggression — war and entrapment — are somehow helping each other to find their way again." What Does A Parrot Know About PTSD? [NYT] [more inside]
What do ruined people do? Weird shit. This seems to be the consensus of psychoanalysts as far back as Freud and Jung; the traumatized self creates, out of necessity, a system of self-care that is keen to avoid repeat trauma. This makes change difficult; it makes people who’ve had part of their psyches destroyed by unmanageable emotions push people and emotions away, create obstacles, generate unnecessary drama. [more inside]
Depression is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 30 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. But despite half a century of research, ubiquitous advertising, and blockbuster sales, antidepressant drugs just don’t work very well. The science magazine Nautilus explores the use of ketamine to treat depression and prevent PTSD. [more inside]
Cracked contributor Alice Jane Axness was recently encouraged by friends to check out the new Marvel series Jessica Jones (previously) on Netflix. And the reason wasn't because it's another stunning addition to the Marvel Universe, but because of it's brutally accurate depiction of sexual abusers and their victims (SLCracked).
"It took me eighteen weeks to heal. I never did manage to breastfeed properly, either gross incompetence on my part or possibly my body deciding: what the fuck, man. My hair went grey. I didn’t try to ask for support, at least until I started showing PTSD symptoms and developed Postpartum Psychosis. The experience had taught us that I was essentially disposable, and I didn’t trust the hospital enough to return. I sought help from other services instead. I heard voices, ringing in empty rooms. I heard constant crying while the baby was asleep." [more inside]
Action Man: Battlefield Casualties is a disturbing spoof toy commercial in a campaign by Veterans for Peace UK to raise the military recruitment age from 16 to 18. Warning: autoplaying video with graphic violence.
The Other Wounds - "Most Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ injuries didn’t occur during combat. But their ailments have become an enduring consequence of the conflicts." [more inside]
New U.S. government research indicates that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women and at rates nearly equal to that of male veterans -- a finding that surprised researchers because women are generally are far less likely than men to commit suicide. The findings raise questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the United States' armed forces. [more inside]
"Moral injury is not unique to veterans. But as psychologists and advocates come to understand it better, they are discovering that the problem is widespread in that community, and can be deeply damaging to veterans who suffer from it." (SL Vox with YouTube)
Fucking Inappropriate. No matter what I do, it always ends this way. The money gets spent. The whiskey runs out. The hangover always comes, and the show is always over. TW for graphic discussion of combat, PTSD, pretty much everything war-related. [more inside]
Tim Ferriss interviews Jim Fadiman Involved with psychedelic research since the 1960s, Fadiman discusses the immediate and long-term effects of psychedelics when used for spiritual purposes (high dose), therapeutic purposes (moderate dose), and problem-solving purposes (low dose). Fascinating stories about solving really hard science problems, healing PTSD, depression, and trauma.
Repairing Bad Memories
[Daniela Schiller] explained how recent research, including her own, has shown that memories are not unchanging physical traces in the brain. Instead, they are malleable constructs that may be rebuilt every time they are recalled. The research suggests, she said, that doctors (and psychotherapists) might be able to use this knowledge to help patients block the fearful emotions they experience when recalling a traumatic event, converting chronic sources of debilitating anxiety into benign trips down memory lane. And then Schiller went back to what she had been doing, which was providing a slamming, rhythmic beat on drums and backup vocals for the Amygdaloids(previously), a rock band composed of New York City neuroscientists.[more inside]
Friedman's editorial in "The Cut" about what it means to be a badass woman If we can call any woman a badass, we can surely call Mac McClelland one. An international journalist who has traveled to and extensively reported on crisis situations, McClelland has recently published the book Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. Friedman explores what we mean when we call her a "badass." [more inside]
Pre-therapy, this is the only thing I was ever taught, implicitly and explicitly, about sadness: It is bad.Journalist and author Mac McClelland explores the relationship between recovering from PTSD and learning how to live in the presence of sadness: How I Learned To Be OK With Feeling Sad. [more inside]
You do not want it. If you've got it, you should definitely try to get rid of it, fast as possible. Whatever you do, don't subject other people to it, because they do not like that.
Sadness can be legitimately problematic, absolutely. If your sadness comes from seemingly no place or even an obvious place but keeps you from participating in life or enjoying anything and refuses to abate no matter how long you go on letting it express itself, you of course can't keep living like that. But culturally, we aren't allowed to be sad even for a little while. Even when it's perfectly sensible. Even when, sometimes, we need it.
The day Chris Kyle died - an account of the fateful gun range encounter between the subject of the film "American Sniper" and fellow veteran Eddie Ray Routh. Routh has received a life sentence for killing Kyle and freind Chad Littlefield, with a jury finding his claims of PTSD to be "an excuse".
"I was 23 and needed a summer job; he was 21 and needed full-time support. He’s one of an estimated half million people diagnosed with autism who are soon becoming adults — and who society is entirely unprepared for." (Note: graphic description of sexual abuse; SL Buzzfeed)
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1: a pivotal time for Europe and a key transition point for medical science. The Lancet marks this centenary with a three part series ‘Legacy of the war 1914-1918’. The three papers examine the impact of World War 1 on infectious disease, military psychiatry, and amputation related pain.
In 2008, Outside the Wire, a theater company, began productions of Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes to audiences of soldiers and marines returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And whither must I go? What end, what purpose Could urge thee to it? I am nothing, lost And dead already. Wherefore- tell me, wherefore?- Am I not still the same detested burthen, Loathsome and lame? Again must Philoctetes Disturb your holy rites? If I am with you How can you make libations? That was once Your vile pretence for inhumanity. Oh! may you perish for the deed! The gods Will grant it sure, if justice be their care And that it is I know. You had not left Your native soil to seek a wretch like me Had not some impulse from the powers above, Spite of yourselves, ordained it. O my country! And you, O gods! who look upon this deed, Punish, in pity to me, punish all The guilty band! Could I behold them perish, My wounds were nothing; that would heal them all.[more inside]
"Sexual assault is alarmingly common in the U.S. military, and more than half of the victims are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. These are the stories you never hear—because the culprits almost always go free, the survivors rarely speak, and no one in the military or Congress has done enough to stop it." A tough read from GQ. Could be triggering.
Over the past 20 years, medical researchers have found new ways to quantify the effects of the relentless violence on America’s inner cities, [and are] only now beginning to trace the effects of untreated PTSD on neighborhoods that are already struggling with unemployment, poverty and the devastating impact of the war on drugs. [...] Despite the growing evidence of PTSD in civilians, little is being done to address the problem. Hospital trauma centers often provide adequate care for physical wounds, but do almost nothing to help patients cope with the mental and emotional aftermath of trauma.
(1)I still remember the first time I smelled brain. It was my grandfather, cracking open the skulls of squirrels he’d killed. They’d scamper down the sides of pecans and live oaks among the Louisiana timbers where I grew up, enter his sights—then, oblivion. (2) At 21, he started sweeping the floors in a morgue in New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish. When he assisted with his first autopsy, his stomach proved as unflinching as his curiosity. In the late 1980s, he became one of the country’s youngest medicolegal death investigators, logging 7,000 autopsies and 3,000 next-of-kin notifications around New Orleans, then Atlanta. (3) Morgan relates gruesome tales of true crime scene experiences while weaving in parallels from his own (often dark) adolescence in Louisiana. After so many years of performing autopsies and doing one of the most horrific and traumatic—and generally unrecognized—jobs, Morgan was diagnosed with severe PTSD and forced into retirement from fieldwork. (Warning: Very disturbing photos in the first and third links. Very detailed talk of murder, suicide, and prostitution)
Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital are reporting that xenon gas has the potential to become a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other memory-related disorders.
Over the past few decades, urban policy has focused on breaking up clusters of poverty, planning cities so that poor residents could live in areas that also had middle-class people. Does this new research mean projects like MTO are actually a bad thing? “When we first showed these results, somebody said, ‘Well, don’t send them to new neighborhoods,’” says Kessler. “Well wait a second, you’re now dealing the girls some pretty bad outcomes. But if you do send them, the boys are getting bad outcomes. What if you have one boy and one girl?”
Veterans Administration hospitals performed lobotomies on more than 2,000 mentally ill soldiers during and after World War II. Today, the Wall Street Journal published the first part of a story extensively documenting the lives of the men who underwent this procedure, and those who performed it.
From the Dallas Morning News, an 8-part profile of Lauren Kavanaugh, who was kept in a closet for six years before being rescued at age 8 weighing 26 lbs, and of the remarkable people and recovery that has followed. [Warning: this story and the accompanying photos and videos are immensely hard to read, watch and listen to, and this piece is a trigger for every possible kind of abuse.]
PTSD and Gene Kelly's lost wartime star turn: For the last six decades or so, a copy [of "Combat Fatigue Irritability"] has been filed away, along with thousands of other films, at the National Library of Medicine. The only people it has been lost to are the public and Gene Kelly’s devoted and still numerous fans. But now the National Library of Medicine is featuring Combat Fatigue Irritability in Medical Movies on the Web, and the film will be given a well-deserved, though very belated, New York premiere, on October 5, 2013, at the New York Academy of Medicine. [more inside]
"As I thought about that spot, as I considered the mounting reports of suicides, homeless vets, collapsing families, I began to get the uneasy feeling that PTSD is a lot like autism: A thing identified, but poorly understood. I read about the supposed symptoms, the heightened alertness, the re-experiencing of specific trauma, the going numb. It was all true. Up to a point." -- Writer and veteran Myke Cole writes about post traumatic stress disorder and how it's portrayed in the media.
"Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit." [more inside]
How A War Hero Became A Serial Bank Robber. "Army medic Nicholas Walker returned home from Iraq after 250 combat missions, traumatized and broken. His friends and family couldn’t help him. Therapy couldn’t help him. Heroin couldn’t help him. Pulling bank heists helped him." [Via]
In the Crosshairs: Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic. [Previously, Via]
A New Theory of PTSD and Veterans: Moral Injury
But as clergy and good clinicians have listened to more stories like these, they have heard a new narrative, one that signals changes to the brain along with what in less spiritually challenged times might be called a shadow on the soul. It is the tale of disintegrating vets, but also of seemingly squared-away former soldiers and spit-shined generals shuttling between two worlds: ours, where thou shalt not kill is chiseled into everyday life, and another, where thou better kill, be killed, or suffer the shame of not trying. There is no more hellish commute.[more inside]
Rhiannon Lucy Coslett, one of the women behind The Vagenda, writes on the phenomenon of the trigger warning.
The first thing we learned about war re-enactment is that it's fucking terrifying having guns fired at you, even ones loaded with blanks. The second thing we learned is a common re-enactor's dilemma called "The G.I. Effect", which is basically that people playing Americans don't like to die. So sometimes they just don't.It's Like Vietnam All Over Again, pt 1. Part 2
Ecstasy found to help veterans with PTSD "In a paper posted online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Michael and Ann Mithoefer, the husband-and-wife team offering the treatment — which combines psychotherapy with a dose of MDMA — write that they found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe post-traumatic stress in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today. Many said they have received other kinds of therapy since then, but not with MDMA... And news that the Mithoefers are beginning to test the drug in veterans is out, in the military press and on veterans’ blogs. 'We’ve had more than 250 vets call us,' Dr. Mithoefer said. 'There’s a long waiting list, we wish we could enroll them all.'"
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan. An extensive new study (PDF) by human rights lawyers from Stanford and NYU examines the impact of drone strikes on civilians in Pakistan, including the strategic effectiveness of the policy as well as the psychological impact on those living in constant fear that they might come under attack. [Via]
"Video games have for so long been like, 'Look, war is when you go in and kill people who deserve to die, because they are destroying the things that you love—and have fun.' It was such a strange disconnect for us going into this project that we had allowed war to become such a spectacle-based entertainment, and we wanted to make a game in our medium that spoke to the truth of war just like every other medium had done." Warning (,although all the linked articles state as much, all links include spoilers for the videogame Spec Ops: The line) [more inside]
How To Deal With An “Unruly Passenger” On A Cross Country Flight An independent film producer on a flight from New York to L.A. shares his conversation with a man who was so unstable that the plane had to land early in Denver.
"A post-World War II documentary, banned by the military in 1946 but lately released online, is one of the earliest depictions of psychotherapy." Let There Be Light, a film by John Huston. [more inside]
'While they never met, they had some things in common. Both were Army captains, engaged in important work for the nation, their costly educations paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Ian Morrison, 26, returned to Fort Hood, Texas, last December after nine months flying 70 combat missions over Iraq. Dr. Michael McCaddon, 37, was an ob-gyn resident at Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center. The pilot and the doctor shared one other thing: they found themselves in a darkening, soul-sucking funnel that has trapped some 2,500 military personnel since 9/11. Like them, each died, at his own hand, on March 21, nearly 4,000 miles apart.' [more inside]
"Hell Broke Luce" -- a surreal anti-war video from Tom Waits for his powerful song based on the harrowing story of Lance Corporal Jeff Lucey, a 23-year old Iraq war Marine veteran who committed suicide in 2004. From Waits' 22d album Bad As Me (2011, AntiRecords) [more inside]
People need to realise that their wars are not fought by the guy on the news that lost a leg and loves his flag — he was the FNG [f--king new guy] that got blown up because he was incompetent, who left the fight before it turned him into one of us. A private military contractor and former infantryman talks about the military PR complex. [more inside]
The forgetting pill: Can it erase painful memories forever? What about politically inconvenient memories? Will the act of remembering will become a choice?
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