True Life: I have PTSD

The episode True Life: I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder follows the post-deployment stories of 3 individuals suffering from the insidious and long-term psychological repercussions of their tours in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The MTV reality show is generally based around an interview-narrative format, and therefore serves as an excellent illustration of the various types anthropologically recognized mechanisms for perceiving one’s condition. The illness narratives of these individuals were all noticeably different, but remarkably similar in others. All three types of illness narrative (Restitution, Chaos, and Quest) were employed by these individuals’ as coping mechanisms, but restitution was somewhat less emphasized. Rather, after the Chaos stage of their condition was complete (or at least more controlled), the episode’s PTSD sufferers mostly adopted a Quest narrative in order to make sense of their civilian lives. It can be said that all three individuals handled their condition rather healthfully in his way.

Complicating their quest for normalcy is the social stigma that these individuals suffered under, though not explicitly mentioned in the episode, these individuals nonetheless were labeled in a distinct way that only contributed to their sense of social isolation. The military that discharged them seems to have been the most stigmatizing of all, regarding them as un-useful and robbing them of a core sense of their identity: their place in the US Army (/Marines). The professional help these individuals found was largely unhelpful. V.A. clinics for example merely wrote prescriptions and sent them out the door.

Each of these PTSD-stricken individuals dealt with their condition in their own way. The “sick roles” they occupied consisted largely of recognizing the importance of speaking openly about their condition (this may be rather obvious as they ARE being featured on a major television program). One vet in particular, Adam, took it upon himself as his sick role to disseminate information about his condition in the hopes of helping his comrades. This out of all roles one can assume is probably the most productive and the most admirable.

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