PTSD Through a Child's Eyes
It's been all over the news for a week now. Veterans of war no longer have to prove a specific event led to their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In his announcement of the change in Veterans Administration policy, President Barack Obama said, "I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war."
The news was welcomed by the military and their families - maybe especially by their families.
Until I received a communication from Debbie Yohn, RN, a Maryland nurse, I never thought about how PTSD affects anyone but the soldier, sailor or Marine. But imagine what it's like for a child to experience PTSD. Daddy or Mommy goes off to war and comes back a different person. How does a child handle that?
Yohn and her 10-year-old son Issaac have attempted to answer those questions in Never Lose Your Hope, a self-published book they've co-authored under the names Nonna and Isaac. As the book begins, the then 6-year-old youngest child in the family tells of crying when he has to say goodbye to his daddy (whom he calls "my soldier" since a military parent can be a mother or a father) as he leaves for Iraq. He tells of his loneliness when his father is gone and of his joy in being able to welcome him back home after deployment.
But soon that joy disappears when Daddy begins to get short-tempered and withdrawn and Isaac doesn't understand what is happening. Over a 2-year period, Isaac sees a big change in his father and the impact it has on his family.
Finally, help arrives in the form of a wordy "lady" whom Isaac is amazed to learn "went to school 6 years" to learn how to "mostly sit around and talk." But that talk brings about an improvement in his family dynamic and teaches Isaac "the brain is big and has lots of wires in it she called tracks; kind of like a railroad but invisible." The psychologist teaches his family "with PTSD, the tracks skip so it can't think right."
The psychologist points out the entire family is suffering from secondary PTSD which Isaac initially interprets as: "I thought it was because I was in the second grade, but I was wrong."
The book outlines strategies for children "when my soldier is acting bad," such as getting away from conflict by going to your room, going outside and swinging or jumping on the trampoline or going to a neighbor's house. If things get violent, the child is advised to call 911.
Finally, the book lists what can cause trauma in a child, what the symptoms of trauma are and what can be done for the child exposed to a parent with PTSD.
Complete with good editing and poignant illustrations, Don't Lose Your Hope can be a great resource for families dealing with PTSD. I'll keep you posted on its publication. Yohn informs me money from the sale of the book will go into a fund to help provide counseling to families of soldiers experiencing PTSD.