My home DSL is still out, so I wasn't able to post this yesterday. Apologies, Goldfish. And apologies, also, because this is somewhat meandering.
One of my tags on this blog is PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. I have PTSD as a result of Z.'s birth and subsequent hospitalization (a misdiagnosis--she's fine. I'm not.) What's important for the topic of the day (or of yesterday), is that this experience has underlined for me the ways in which our health-care system is skewed heavily towards responding to crises and there is little to no support for people emerging from crisis, often with significant damage to their psyches as well as bodies. If there is psychological damage it is even more difficult to get what you need because it is hard to acknowledge that it won't get better by itself. Or through, you know, your steely determination, which you may be surprised to find is in shreds, just part of the damage. And yet the myth of "getting over it" persists.
This is being played out right now as veterans return from Iraq. Do you know what at least the past century and a half of soldiers' "total war" experience has shown? PTSD (or shell-shock, or combat fatigue) is not really a disorder, in the sense that we usually understand a disorder. It's not something that happens if something is wrong with your emotional system--expose any person to enough trauma, and he or she will respond in this way. It's a normal response to being hurt: in other words, it's more like an injury than an illness. The only question is how quickly individuals reach their limit, and length of exposure to trauma is a factor. Everyone has a limit, and experiencing war or sexual assault are what most reliably push you past it.
The New York Times magazine had an article a few weeks back about female soldiers experiencing the double whammy of sexual assault by fellow soldiers and combat exposure. These women are being injured twice over by the patriarchal war machine (quite literally), and then they're left nearly alone to get over it. I would much prefer not to have a patriarchal war machine, but that is a topic for Blogging Against Patriarchal War Machines Day. As long as such a machine is operating, it seems obvious that if our soldiers are being wrecked by their experience, we need to take care of them and we're not. In part this is the shameful inadequacy of the VA system to respond to 1) psychological damage of any kind and 2) the needs of female soldiers. And inadequacy #1 seems linked very much to the focus on the heroic rescue, which means a focus on physical injury and a blindness to emotional ones (including those that accompany physical injury).
In this war, resources are being poured into speedy response to traumatic physical injuries that would normally be fatal, also without adequately supporting these vets in their lives after injury. Saving a life is heroic. It's even manly. But the slogging years of recovery and adaptation and plain old survival--which are much more domestic somehow, much more feminine--those need to be supported, too.