PTSD Abroad

If you haven’t read my first post about PTSD, you can check it out HERE.

PTSD is more common than people think. Our brains can’t process trauma very well and we have to find ways of working through the trauma we experience, there are ways, but conventional psychology and medication aren’t necessarily the best roots, but I will cover that later.

I didn’t really recognize that I lived a different life, until I was around 9, and I certainly didn’t comprehend just how different my Father’s job was. All I knew, was my Father put my whole grade 2 class to sleep from a lengthy speech about what he did. My Father lived and breathed his unconventional career choice.

My Father’s natural ebs and flows with anger, frustration and sleeplessness seemed completely normal to me. He was never violent in anyway, he did yell, mostly to pick up our dirty glasses off of the coffee table, but his frustration, his need to completely control his morning routine from viewing the news with a cup of coffee, to where his brush, nail clippers etc were, and the order he did everything in, could not be interrupted. If anything was out of place, he would sometimes burst out yelling, not realizing he was even yelling.

This was all PTSD. He controlled the mundane, full well knowing everything else could go up in flames at work in a country he was responsible for.

As I got older, and recognized that not only did I live with someone who suffered from PTSD, but of course I suffered from it too. I mean, you can’t really live through drug raids, coup attempts, being shot at or the ups and downs of culture shock without facing PTSD yourself. I am a typical product of Diplomatic Life.

Life abroad was always a different beast. My Father was in his element, he slept, he ate well (mostly because we had a cook), he had stresses, but he never showed any signs of PTSD, it was always at bay, waiting for that one moment to envelope our house again. All “real” diplomats, live for their next posting, they yearn for the challenge, the comradery, the ups and downs and the flames that come with a difficult posting.

Unfortunately, for spouses and kids, abroad, PTSD can be paralyzing. From mini traumas of being stuck on a side of the road with a broken down car at nightfall, with no cellphone, to getting shot at. Children and Spouses don’t have a tribe, they don’t have an office to go to with like minded people who share their battle wounds over a scotch. Those of us who suffered in silence, would spend nights, praying the sun would come up sooner, anxious to do simple tasks like homework, or getting out of bed.

The funny thing is, upon returning home, the opposite can be true. Kids (although reverse culture shock is a trauma in itself) can feel safer, sleep better, and have a better network, usually because upon returning “home” there is extended family, maybe a second home like a cottage, and familiarity with language. It can greatly depend. For me, my PTSD reared its ugly head when I went to boarding school. But that is for another story.

There are very few professionals that are PTSD experts, and there were none when I was growing up. What I had was considered normal, just a little bit of anxiety, nothing serious enough to talk to anyone about. My parents, especially my Father, were not great believers in going outside your family to seek help about something they didn’t feel was an actual trauma, it was merely life. In many ways, my Father’s own PTSD filtered his view on what we needed as kids, and even my Mother.

Lets just put it out there, you don’t get counselling as a diplomat or as a Diplomatic kid or spouse, there is always a fear you will say something you aren’t supposed to. Not that there were any state secrets ever shared, it was more opinions, or thinking that various people were asses, Chavez was an ass, but that isn’t exactly a secret now is it. At least, that is what I grew up with, you just bucked up and lived with it. Pretend there isn’t anything wrong.

As an adult, it has taken research and a lot of thought to work my way through PTSD.

Dip Kid

 

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