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War, what do we know of it? Nothing, we know nothing except that it ravages. War ravages resources, land, and people; it scars the body, soul, and consciousness.

‘Soldier’s heart’, ‘shell shock’, or ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ has become a widely known mental health issue in today’s day and age. But, contrary to popular belief, this risk of exposure to trauma has been part of the human condition since the dawn of time. Combat-induced stress was found occurring in individuals almost two thousand years ago, and one of the first mentions originates in a story of the battle of Marathon by Herodotus in fifth-century Ancient Greece. Even Hippocrates of Kos who is considered one of the greatest figures in the history of medicine documented PTSD, which took the form of vivid flashbacks to combative times. Yet, it is quite disheartening that this agonizing mental illness only became recognized in the 1980s. So many have suffered before that; in the two great world wars, uncountable soldiers were inflicted with PTSD. Some even had nightmares of being back in the dank deadly trenches with heavy gunfire whenever they heard fireworks or loud bangs; others had vivid day-visions of their martyred brethren’s lifeless bodies entangled in the lethal barbed wires.

Unfortunately, when these soldiers mentioned their symptoms, they were largely ignored by their loved ones and the medical world. They were called crazy and deemed unfit for civilized society. Imagine it; leaving the sweet embrace of your country, spilling your blood and tears in a foreign land, then watching your comrades die almost unmentionable deaths. After all that, when you return home and suffer, no one cares. No one sees your pain & grief. This is how those soldiers felt. Yet, many medical intellectuals at the time had argued that Shell Shock, as it was known back then, was not a mental issue at all. Some of them believed it to be self-induced psychosis. Their ignorance and arrogance proved to be detrimental to all those who were forced to suffer in silence.

It is also a misconception that PTSD is experienced by only those who have faced combat intimately. People often fail to understand that trauma and war do not discriminate between soldiers and civilians. They affect both all the same. The civilians lose their homes, lands, families, and lives. The soldiers leave their loved ones behind and risk their precious lives defending their country. However, that is not all; we fail to see that even those around the ones enduring PTSD also suffer. They watch their beloved friend and or family member go through the detrimental after-effects of war; they watch as the veteran’s soul is slowly engulfed in pain. Their body and consciousness, diminished gradually by dark memories.

What we know and imagine about war from the comfort of our couch is almost always wrong, not because what we see on the television or newspaper is a lie. But because what we see is only the tip of the iceberg. What war is truly like can only be understood and felt by those who have had to come face to face with its ugly visage.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, better late than never. Almost forty years after the second world war, the (APA) American Psychiatric Association categorized PTSD as a diagnosable issue. They began to treat it as it should’ve been treated from the start; as an illness. One that should have cures and, if possible, be avoided through means of therapy and medication

 

“This Land, My Land, Our Land. When the blood in your veins returns to the sea, and the Earth in your bones returns to the ground. Perhaps then, you will remember that this land does not belong to you. It is You who belong to the land.”

– Anon.