PTSD featured in new play

Sometimes those who serve in America’s armed forces find themselves fighting the enemy on two fronts — one wearing the same uniform as they do.

For victims of military sexual assault, it’s often a case of “don’t ask don’t tell, and pretend it never happened.” They can end up waging an intensely private war that takes more mental strength to endure than combat duty.

Playwright Jamie Pachino’s Other Than Honorable breaks this silence by shedding light on the harsh and jarring realities of power and abuse in the military, and not just against women. The intense, thought-provoking and wholly riveting drama about a victim who attempts to take back her own life is a must-see during its world premiere run at Geva Theatre Center’s Wilson Stage through May 21.

The above excerpt about the new play “Other Than Honorable” is from the Democrat and Chronicle.

I went to see this play last night.  I thought the acting and set were superb, and the story timely and important.  My only critism is that the main character Grace faces so much trauma (past abuse, PTSD, husband hurt while on third tour of duty in Afghanistan, dealing with addiction, dealing with unexpected pregnancy, etc.) that each of her experiences doesn’t get the full attention and analysis it deserves.

We see PTSD discussed vaguely in the news almost weekly, so it surprised me to learn the American Psychiatric Association only began using the term in 1980.

I think most are aware that PTSD brings back traumatic events (sometimes in the form of detailed flashbacks) and creates a sense of panic and loss of control.

But, it is not just an emotional reaction – the brain has actually changed its chemistry.  The stress hormones are high and remain active, which can actually dull the person’s response to true danger signals.  It can make it far more difficult for the brain to process new information, and therefore people have a tough time with learning from fresh mistakes.  In addition, since the person is in a way “stuck” in the past, the imagination dulls and the future is cloudy and seems uninteresting.  No wonder, then, that aggressive behavior, depression, and suicide rates rise.

In the news, PTSD is associated with military men and women returning home from duty.  But, it can happen to anyone who has experienced trauma.

How can one recover?  First, PTSD is not curable like a long bout with a virus or bacterial infection is.  The trauma will always be a consequential moment of that person’s life story and thus be a significant part of their self.  But, cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful to help those suffering so they can arm themselves with coping techniques.  Many find yoga or meditation to be an effective way to return to the present moment as it calms the nervous system.  Self expression in the form of art, music, or writing often is therapeutic.  Medications can also be enormously beneficial, but obviously the doctor and patient need to be on the lookout for any negative side effects.

Having a supportive group of family, friends, and medical personnel are also key to a person with PTSD to be able to feel joy once again and to be able to create new, positive memories in his or her life.

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