Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

   One night in the Philippines while watching television with her children they heard a burst of gun fire.  Carmen ducked and told her kids to do the same.  

   "Mom, it sounds too far!" The eldest boy said.. 

   The mother could have sworn the shots came from just outside her window.  She couldn’t understand how she and her son would hear the same thing differently when they were inches from each other.  She filed it away in her mind as one of those weird things Filipinos don’t go to the doctor for.

   Forty years later they moved to America.  Carmen saw Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who just survived an assassination attempt lead the Democratic Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Carmen was moved to tears.  She was not a voter in America.  This got her started to ask herself what was wrong with her.  Why was she so moved by the issues espoused by the Democrats and the shooting victims brave stance in appearing while half way through her recovery.

   Then she saw the movie Lone Survivor, a war movie set in Afghanistan.  The audience applauded with Carmen at the end of the movie but she was probably the only one in tears.  On the way out she questioned herself again.  Why would a war movie touch her so deeply as if she was a veteran?  She never was in the military.  In fact she marched against the Vietnam War and sang anti-war songs in sit ins during her college days.  Could that be it?  

   She was 17 when the dancing stopped and life began.  From there she lived through 20 years of Martial Law in the Philippines when the daily papers reported military abuse, torture, unsolved murder and disappearance.  She had witnessed a teenage boy beaten with a stick by Metrocom forces right in front of her window in Pasay City.  She heard a college professor was incarcerated for ten years for leading a student organization.  It was said that he was tortured so badly he couldn’t recognize his wife and children.  

   Whenever Carmen looks back at those 20 years she feels nothing like she was never there at all until the next news item, YouTube video or a song awakens her dormant PTSD.

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