I'm very moved by this piece for several reasons and will try to be brief and to the point. I am interested in this topic because I am a veteran, too Not a veteran of any foreign war, nor veteran of any national military branch; I am a veteran of the 'war at home,' and that war has left me with the diagnosis and effects of PTSD - just as devastating and debilitating as many of our military veterans. I do not wish to draw attention away from the plight discussed in this article - it is too real and too painful and too destructive to dismiss. I also do not want to disparage any further research, treatment progress, discoveries that have come from the veterans' diagnoses and ground-breaking work that has flourished amidst such pain because it is through the identification of the symptoms of PTSD by veterans that those of us were finally able to be recognized as suffering similarly
The 'war at home' I speak of is domestic violence - multi-generational, repetitive, unrelenting - and it is something that carries the primary injury past the first offense and collateralizes the damage to the very apt description of 'moral injury' as so eloquently stated by Dr. Shay, I know my own experience has been the identified result of two generations before me of domestic violence brought into both my parents homes and then brought into my home as a child The third generation of domestic violence came into my adult home with my three children in the guise of two men - one their father, and the second their stepfather - as well as the continued abuse from my parents and their grandparents.
When I read the descriptions of the 'mothering' that is often required of the soldiers in combat, I was reminded of how my brother and I 'mothered' each other through the years of abuse; how my children 'mothered' me and themselves during our years of abuse and how the last thing we know how to do even now is 'mother' ourselves. I watch the subtleties of these atrocities continue to visit myself and the lives of my children. I know we are the 'walking wounded' who are making it look pretty good on the outside and not doing very well at all on the inside. We can talk about it, but would prefer not to; our friends and family give us space and time, but also wonder when we'll 'get over it.' Hell, even we wonder when we'll 'get over it.' too.
I am seeing a wonderful therapist and we are making more progress than I have been able to do before and still, I am stunned to hear her describe the work that is still ahead of us to 'put me back together again,' I am still not completely aware of the damage that has been done. I'm so used to being damaged that I don't know there is damage visible to a trained eye. I want to be whole and integrated; I want to live a full, vibrant life; and I want that for my children and for their children
Dr. Shay diagnoses effective treatment as being done with peers. I wholeheartedly endorse that form of treatment. I was in a support group for battered women and children over 10 years ago. Sadly, the abuse had barely begun with the last perpetrator - I had not even identified it as abuse at the time. I was attending the group to become an advocate of support for other women and their children. Sadly also, the group as so many like it, were disbanded due to budget cutting by the hospital that supported the advocate who founded the group.
I am grateful that the veterans have the funding and available support for them and know how difficult it is for many of them to access the help they desperately need and want. Because of the shame and blame that is part and parcel of this diagnosis, those who want and need help rarely reach out for it. The same is true of us veterans of the war at home; perhaps, even more so. We are told by so many people -- family, friends, police, court personnel, lawmakers, even the law breakers - that we are making too much of this, that it's 'over' and we should just 'move on' with our lives. We are told to 'honor our fathers and mothers,' 'honor our husbands til death do us part;' we are crippled further by the short-sighted and short-handed judicial system; we are hobbled by a society that still frowns on a woman who leaves her husband, regardless of how legitimate her reasons may be, we are forced to advocate for ourselves when our self has been battered and bruised and humiliated into a place where we never believed love would send us and where we barely know how we survived much less how we will do it.
I tell people who want to fully understand what I would consider fair and equitable treatment of us veterans of the 'war at home' that justice will be when the perpetrators of domestic violence are treated as rightly by society and the justice system as if they were any other criminal who would invade our homes and our lives and cause us harm. A stranger is held to a higher standard of justice than our fathers, husbands, parents; somehow, because it is a 'domestic' issue, it counts for less than if it were not. The same can be said for military veterans - we other veterans get the fallout from their treatment and I am glad for it - I just wish neither of us had to go through what we have gone through and continue to go through because of the 'moral injury' that has taken place.
My last point is this - at best, moral injuries are difficult to treat. How do we know when we are 'well?' How does one know when the moral injury has been 'healed?' we are a society that attends to things we can measure, quantify, judge complete. This 'moral injury' premise will take a long and large leap of faith to be embraced - my hope is that it will be sooner rather than later. Keep me posted, please, I am interested. Rhonda @ firstname.lastname@example.org
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