This morning I listened to a radio interview of an author who’s written three or four novels around characters who suffer with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from having experienced such traumas as deadly floods, school shootings and childhood abuse.
Being man who has dealt with PTSD most of my life, I expected the interview to be enlightening and helpful. Instead the author’s words led me toward a familiar feeling of depressed isolation, when once again, my specific situation was ignored completely. I briefly wanted to abandon the writing of my own novel, which helps readers live inside the mind of a boy during the onset of PTSD, because the author left me abruptly ashamed again of being who I am because of my lifetime struggle with PTSD. Once again I didn’t fit the social mold of who is allowed to get help and who must quietly suffer in silence. Do I truly have the right to process my feelings? (I’ll grant this author the immunity of anonymity for anything he said that may have led me to grief, because his work has done a lot of good for a lot of women over many years).
His characters are men and women who’ve seen inhumane suffering, contracted traumatic brain damage from it, and then gone on to interact with each other in unhealthy ways. Very realistic. The problem is that his male sufferers contracted PTSD from exciting, violent crashes, and his women from being sexually or mentally abused as girls. In his interview, he referred to only one male character that’d been sexually assaulted as a boy. Guess who that character grew up to be; none other than the pedophile who gave PTSD to the main character when she was a girl.
Is this a fair message to send to the unknown number of men in our world today who have seen no warfare, weren’t beaten to a bloody pulp by an alcoholic stepfather and have never watched six people burn in a fiery plane crash, but who still find themselves in the grip of lifelong traumatic responses? Is a victim of childhood mob-bullying only able to suffer PTSD if she was a girl, but not if he was a boy? By glancing over the top few websites that come up in a casual search, the men who’ve survived are given little excuse for their uncontrolled bouts with depression, self-destructive actions or for quietly drinking themselves to sleep each night. Women are emotionally traumatized and qualify for help, but men are weak and need to man up. Since help is not available to them, they suffer in shame.
Google searches on PTSD in general bring a lot of hits for women molested as girls and men who were soldiers. A quick Google search of “Men molested as boys” yields a nice selection of information about the negative emotional effects on them, but the highest hitting sites that caught my own eye make no mention whatsoever of PTSD. A quick Google search of “Men with PTSD” brings up a fair number of military-centric sites. I opened an article from a recovery facility in which they posted reasons why men don’t get PTSD like women do. They said it was because men have less hormones than women, and because men don’t have emotions like women. Personally, I wonder how many men just don’t know they have it—or worse—they’re afraid of being targeted or written into a book as a pedophile. And if the recovery site was correct, that less men are prone to PTSD from mental, emotional and sexual abuse, then who’s speaking for those few who do?
By the glaring lack of information, it seems that unless there was gunfire, there’s nothing that can be medically wrong with men. They can call themselves depressed, overly-emotional, addictive-personality, wired-too-tight, day-dreamers, unable to trust others, or to handle daily stress. But what do they call their dissociative trances, illogical fears, flashbacks or nightmares? Again, these are the men with no bruises or stories of hearing the screams from within their sinking ship. Women’s voices are more quickly heard by media and writers who don’t need to see scars. But then—according the research, women have emotions.