The Stigma of Severe Head Trauma

A soldier gets shot through the head.  Another one gets blown up by an IED.  They both suffer brain trauma.

Do you mock the soldier for his limp, or his inability to speak?  Do you tell him: “Just get over it?”  Do you tell him he should hide it or feel ashamed?

I don’t think so.

The same holds true for mental health survivors.  They suffered injuries in their lives which lead to this “disease”.  (Is a bullet wound to the head a ‘disease’?  I don’t think so.)  They may have been abused as children.  They may have been ‘shot in the head’ by abuse.  They, like ‘me’, may have actually suffered ‘brain trauma’ while they were growing up, trying to survive.  Getting thrown up against a wall, deprived of oxygen – yeah, that’s bound to have an effect on you.  So is being tortured, and caged in a camp where you cannot escape – just like a POW.

Would you fault a POW his issues?  When it came to his nightmares, would you just say “Get over it,” and hand him some drugs?  Or would you take his hand and try to guide him out of the darkness which encloses his mind?  Would you try to help him, or condemn him because he ‘lost his mind’ while being tortured, starved, and possibly even raped by his own captors?  Would you tell him to shut up?

Children are POW’s in a way, trapped in their childhood – especially when an abusive one.  I automatically assume “C-PTS*” when I see or hear of an childhood abuse survivor.  There was no chance of ‘escape’.  Who can escape their childhood?  Who thinks of escaping?  As a child there is no escape.  You are trapped in the environment you were born in and you know no other.  For YOU, there is no ‘escape’ nor even the concept of escape.  If you had asked me to ‘escape’ as a child, I would have asked: escape to what?  And why?  I know my brother and I discussed running away when I was seven.   That’s when we learned.  You cannot escape ‘them’.  You cannot escape at all.  Ever.  Not until you’ve grown up.  I suspect a lot of ‘you’ abused children and some spouses alike – know that feeling.  That there is no hope and no escape.  When you are a child you feel it even more, not knowing: there is life beyond this – this torture, the beatings, the sex, the drugs . . . it IS your life and there is nothing ‘wrong’ with it.  It’s just the way life goes.

Studies have proven that abuse changes people inside, deep within their brain, the ‘wiring’ so to speak.  Double – triple! – that effect as a child, maybe even more.

How about that soldier who got shot in the head not once, but a dozen times or more – a bullet through the head definitely changes ‘the wiring’, wouldn’t you think?

Abuse does that and more.  At least the soldier who got shot knows it (provided he wakes up – a hint to those of you who have been abused and still refuse to face it).  The people around them know – it’s obvious, look at the bandages around his brain!

But when it comes to little children all grown up – those scars move inside.  They always were inside – not just the external wounds from being thrown around, but the effects the abuse had on the brain.  The ‘rewiring’ of the amygdala and other parts of the brain.  It is a very real and physcial effect which in recent years has become better documented as technologies improve (eg. MRI brain activity imaging).

I was recently told (by a group leader no less) – accusing me of “being proud of your mental illness”.  I wish I had stuck around to reply; educate the man, for he is a minor military ‘leader’, albeit a poor one, considering this attitude – no wonder our soldiers suffer from such a high suicide rate!  They are told to ‘hide’ it by the society around them – and ours.

And I was upset, naturally (so much so we have not written much) while I considered his charge.  Was I ‘proud’ to be ‘mentally disabled’?, I asked myself.  And it occurred to me: No.  No more so than a soldier is of being shot through the head.  Hell, even as a soldier I would asked: “Did you have your helmet on?” and if not then might have had a wry time accepting you did suffer from stupidity before . . . but as a child?  They don’t issue helmets for abuse.  Not even to the little ones.

“Did you stick your head up?” I ask my inner child – and no, it was always stuck down.  He hid, tried to cover things as best he could.  He tried to “be good” while being bad some of the time.  He never ‘asked’ to get hit in the head.  He never ‘asked’ for years of abuse at a time.  He never asked for solitary confinement, six weeks at a time.

They tortured him, this inner child of mine.  Would you fault a soldier for his pain?  His inner agony and sadness at the time he lost spent in that dark camp of torture and pain?  Would you tell him to “just get over it” and that he should shut up, hide his pain?

No, if anything, I AM proud of one thing: I made it.  I’m the soldier who can walk – albeit with this limp of mine.  I suffered brain damage – just of another kind.  I was ‘shot’ by the bullet of abuse – again and again and again.  I served my military father, and I was a military kid.  I know these kinds of things.  I have a wife, several good educations, and a list of careers to boot.  I own my own house.

Out of 25 ‘survivors’ – friends of mine who ‘went through it’ – only 2 made it.  Only 2 can claim the results I claim.  The rest are all either mucked up, insane, locked up, or dead.  The other is my brother – and trust me: he’s no charmer as well.  With his own issues, he lives in denial of our former ‘lifestyle’ – blocking it all out.  (shrugging . . . maybe THAT’s what you are ‘supposed’ to do: block the early beginnings out).

So am I proud?  Yeah.  I got ‘shot through the head’ more than any soldier – and lived to survive.  I get along, albeit with a bit of a ‘mental limp’ – and you are going to fault me for it?

Take a hike, buddy – into a dark place.  I’m going to be proud of my ‘successes’ in life, albeit they may not add up to YOUR standards.  You didn’t start out being wounded in the head.  I did.

But I made it.

You don’t fault a soldier for his injuries; you help him get back up.  And when he’s shot from behind, you don’t tell him he should be ashamed, and good luck –

and then boot him out the group.

(we left, actually – but the leader of the group’s attitude was so hostile – so demeaning – I said “F-it” and got out – but now that I did I wish I hadn’t gone so knee-jerk on him . . . and gently explained.  Too late now; you know how Facebook works.  The message disappeared.)

* “(C-PTSD) . . . psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma in the context of either captivity or entrapment (i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim) . . . (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-PTSD)
**As I was writing this part, I heard my inner child pondering, considering, envisioning a grownup come to ‘save him’ and what he might have said (in our adult’s voice, using our adult words – words he did not understand, but felt way deep down inside):  “Why should I want to escape? When this is the only life I’ve known?  You say you’ve come to offer something better – but I must leave my home?  All I have ever known?  Strangers have betrayed me; family beats me, friends have sex with me – I know it’s ‘wrong’.  But it’s the only life I’ve known.  I cannot believe you when you promise me ‘nothing will go wrong’.”  ~ these are the words my inner child tells ME.  It’s the truth of a tale, an abused child’s tale, and a part of a child’s mind when they are very young.  They have no comprehension of exactly what, just what . . . is wrong.  They may even have been led to believe it is ‘right’ – having sex when you are young . . . ours did.  He felt it was a perfectly normal thing to do – and brought some (albeit a little) comfort in our life.
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About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004T3IVKK ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Boy-J-W/dp/1461022681). JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
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10 Responses to The Stigma of Severe Head Trauma

  1. Noel says:

    Great post! As a mental health counselor who work with severe mentally ill people, I can totally appreciate your writing. It is a great reminder of the fact that people who have mental illness, suffer from an illness just like a person may suffer from cancer, diabetes, or lupus. It is simply not the person’s fault, and we should continue to look at it that way. We must empty ourselves from pre-conceived ideas and help these individuals in any way we possibly can.

    Like

  2. aynetal3 says:

    You always raise great questions … this time on the “stigma” It’s possible that sometimes we do forget and fault ourselves for a “‘mental limp'” – maybe that is part of the limp’s development? I’m proud we’ve both along others made it as well. And, proud of those who didn’t make it, but gave their all in effort of succeeding. God Bless them all.

    Our best always,
    Anns

    http://newsdidmpd.blogspot.com
    http://annsmultipleworldofpersonality.blogspot.com

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      How many times have you felt the need to ‘hide it’ – the DID thing – from your friends, family, acquaintances . . . not saying ‘pushing it’, just if and when that sort of subject comes up (if ever). People will say “Oh, my blood sugar is off” – but can you say “pardon while I switch right here to someone more to your liking? Or some part of me more able to DO this?”

      Or the hiding of ‘we’ in a conversation – we’ve become SO aware how we’ve hidden it through the years: ‘we’ – sometimes by not using any person pronoun at ALL; just a sentence: “Off to the store!” or “Taking care of it!”. Even more common the use of ‘we’ when talking to someone when ‘I’ just mean ‘me’ but it could be seen as talking about ‘us’, me and the other person; eg. when a dentist says: “How are we feeling today?” A common mannerism . . . but one which ‘we’ have been hiding behind so well.

      Mental illness – or in our case, a diagnosis (not so terrible, eh?) – is viewed as a weakness. You aren’t supposed to be ruled by emotions. You should be able to control yourself. Well, we do for the most part – lots of DID folks ‘get along’ just fine. Some don’t. But rather than seeing us as “sick” I think it should be as just ‘different’ – a different style of thinking, and one that can be (IMO, of course) in some ways superior to the singleton. After all, they have a one track mind. “We” can typically run on 8 when we get going; 12 sometimes. Really a handy thing, but can give headaches – plus lack of sleep (nothing like minds racing while we’re trying to lay down). But it gets a lot of things done, is pretty durable (especially in some terrible situations where it seems singletons sometimes freak out – unless they’ve been trained to dampen their emotions). That sort of stuff. Not a

        terrible

      thing; just different. Oh well.

      Ya’ll take care. Have fun. Be different. 🙂

      Like

  3. aynetal3 says:

    Yup yup … on the have-hid-it list. I’ve also said, “Please, can someone else be here?” We’ve dealt with pronoun issues especially at work and school. We’re now working through our diction … dissociative identity diagnosis (DID), dissociative identity difference (DID), dissociative identity durability (DID), AHA! Or, just did identity dissociation (DID)!! Maybe we can start a whole new mindset? Always thinking that the difference in daring (DID) to be interesting and fun over here 🙂

    Always our best,
    Anns

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      The term ‘singleton’ has always seemed kind of degrading to ‘me’. It sounds / refers too much to the word “simpleton” – which in a way we believe some are.

      “Monominds” was a term we came up based on our biology Latin. Mono=One, Mind. Onemind. Monomind. Sorta sounds cool, even. I’d rather say “I’m a monomind” than a “singleton”. Just purrs along . . .

      If that makes sense, then Polyminds we are. I have trouble digesting that term “dissociation”. That to ‘me’ means a different state. Like “disassociation” – from one’s emotions, everything. Kinda like blanking out, rebooting – when the computer is down and a blank screen is right there. We’ve done it on purpose. Works kinda handy. Came in even handier last year during our ‘religious’ experience. Damn near comatose there. But GOOD.

      I would like society to see that not all people with DID are all mucked up. (politer word). That we can be super-useful, and some are super-smart. That ability to run on separate ‘tracks’ – or be thinking about something (while not realizing it) or chewing over a problem while you’re trying to sleep (lol’ing) – that “OCD” phenomena, the ability to be flexible; too see things (quite naturally!) from various sides, angles, and combinations (including the bad kinds of things).

      We’re human . . . but perhaps we’re just an evolution of ‘human’; one that responds to a certain type of environment. Think of it as gene expression of a creative child gifted with intelligence (not a fault). There’s been more learned about ‘genes expressing themselves’ in the last few years. We tend to think of it as an adaptation to a constantly shifting environment; albeit with the intent of ‘fitting in’. Of course our natural inclination to ‘imitate’ others (and build selves upon them/that and ‘us’) led to a good deal of things. Quite a useful trait.

      Terms and labels . . . :/ I think I’ll stick with monomind, LOL’ing. Just seems a more ‘polite’ term (the psychologist in me speaking). Can’t have ‘them’ thinking we’re superior, lol (and evil smile, cackle, laughing, twisting of hands . . . bwahahaha! . . . the evil DID Zombies are going to take over the world . . . sounds like the plot of a B grade movie, LOL!!!)

      Like

  4. Michael says:

    I totally reject the illness model. It is an injury. Severe mental illness should be seen as severe injury. Sure it might be a illness. Do what you can to learn it is not. The jumping to there is no cause is the way of the incompetent and cowards.

    I some times wish the world would get real dangerous. Then most other people would become instantly mentally ill.

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      A lot of those so-called sane SOB’s would die; a lot would panic – riots, wide scale crap. You know the humans. A lot of them deny they are crazy. But they are crazier than me, and a lot of them are a lot more stupid and/or ignorant and they don’t like learning. Nor do they like learning they are stupid or ignorant.

      But you can never convince a stupid person of their ignorance.

      “Real Dangerous” sucks, but ‘we’ are prepared as we are going to be. No stockpiling. Just aware. And armed to the teeth and independent enough to ‘make it’ should society disintegrate. Not sure I would try, tho’. Not anymore. I’m like “take this damn planet and burn it.” I just don’t care anymore. Was about ‘them’ last year. Said F-it, it’s about ME. And screw them. They gotta learn their lessons on their own, obviously.

      People can be so stupid. And personally I think a high function DID can whip a monomind hands down at just about anything mental. Just run circles around them, day and night.

      Too many monominds are frail. One hit and they all go to pieces. We’re already there and used to it. Even learning to ‘use’ the thing to our advantage. Always have, of course. Just more of a conscious effort to ‘use’ … consciously our ‘selves’ to meet certain situations.

      It’s a trick for sure. Bound to come in handy sometime.

      As the Marine said when asked what he felt when he shot someone:
      “I feel the recoil of my weapon,” as he took aim on the very next one.

      Like

      • Michael says:

        As the Marine said when asked what he felt when he shot someone:
        “I feel the recoil of my weapon,” as he took aim on the very next one.

        You mean psychopath don’t you?

        I am getting more OK that monominds are defensiveness. Does not seem to bother them so why should it bother me.

        I am starting to use it to my advantage also. It still causes me pause. I always based my pay on as long as I am making more than everyone else around me doing the same task I was OK. Why stop there. I do not feel I deserve it I can just get away with it.

        Like

      • jeffssong says:

        That is the kind of thinking which leads to the kind of thinking that “we don’t need a military” because everyone is ‘nice like us’. In which case we’d be speaking German or Russian by now.

        Yes, you HAVE to learn to dissociate your emotions when you are killing over and over again. That does not mean there is not an effect, witness the PTSD & rise of suicide in the military. Asking our soldiers to go on wars where they can see no benefit to the U.S. is wrong; they DO think and begin to wonder. I know I did.

        Since you obviously are VERY ignorant of the real backbone of the military, whereas I spent 28 years of my life in and around them, be aware every soldier takes a vow NOT to obey an unlawful order. You are not allowed to go wild, especially in today’s outfits. Civilians, on the other hand, are very undisciplined in their lifestyles, don’t “follow the rules”, scorn the laws, back stab each other, and function only on greedy laziness. The civilian world is MUCH more psychotic and it is that basic lack of self-discipline which leads so many to be such fuckups – PERIOD. They beg and expect someone else to wipe their asses, whereas in the military you are made to wipe you own, and get used to it.

        Does it take a “psychopath” to be a soldier? Sometimes. Would you be that guy frozen – or worse, running away – while your buddy got killed? I have a friend like that. No good in the field. He almost got shot a couple times for cowardice. Not by law – by us guys who were depending upon him to watch or backs.

        Or perhaps you are like the contractors who overcharge on everything, use sub-standard materials, not caring that you just cost somebody their life.

        If that’s not “psychotic”, it oughta be.

        Sometimes I feel the military should just put their guns down and say “Fine. YOU jerkoffs and jackasses handle it.” Let the enemy come to our shores. Then perhaps you might “get it” – that the military is more than just some ‘morons in uniforms’. It is the politicians who lead them who need the bullet in the head sometimes; not the warriors who just live – and die sometimes – doing their jobs.

        Like

      • Michael says:

        That is the kind of thinking which leads to the kind of thinking that “we don’t need a military” because everyone is ‘nice like us’. In which case we’d be speaking German or Russian by now.

        I am going with the military does not do my thinking for me so therefore the military mind does not do my thinking for me and does not know where it leads.

        Since you obviously are VERY ignorant of the real backbone of the military. I find it interesting that somehow the military types are as confident in their ability to think for civilians.

        I am fortunate and unfortunate to know what it is like to have to kill. So I do not have to put up with any bullshit. I flat out am not impressed with navy seal training. Do not think their adult body could survive what I did.

        “He almost got shot a couple times for cowardice. Not by law – by us guys who were depending upon him to watch or backs” “Civilians, on the other hand, are very undisciplined in their lifestyles, don’t “follow the rules”, scorn the laws, back stab each other.” Look up cognitive dissidence.

        I like how you honor those on the street who can not live in a house. “No one left behind” my ass

        It would be cool if all military put down their guns. Then there would be no enemy.

        You are confusing psychotic with psychopath.

        New book out by a seal. He will be a millionaire. Oh and about that endangering lives thing by releasing into. $$ beats honor it seems.

        Note: I understand the need for a military. I just do not buy the fantasy those in it are special because they are in it. Does not match the actions of the people I meet.

        Combat is dangerous. The military is not.

        Like

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