“A merry merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.” — John Lennon
Hollywood has a way of glamourizing and minimizing conditions at the same time. My personal favorite growing up was whenever someone would hit their head and suddenly forget everything. Of course, that was called “amnesia” and thus everyone grew up worrying about sudden amnesia. Of course, the truth is never that convenient.
In point of fact, amnesia is a psychological disorder where someone forgets a significant event in their life. It is rare that someone forgets everything and when it does happen we don’t call it amnesia. That is called a dissociative fugue. The dissociative part of that label is the key ingredient. So, it doesn’t come when someone hits their head. It comes when something so traumatic occurs that the psyche has to forget in lieu of dealing with it. As you might suspect, the condition is usually temporary.
The latest craze is PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is exactly like it sounds. Someone suffers through a traumatic event and later show common symptoms with others that have suffered through a traumatic event. Again, there is a common thread in the phrasing here and that common thread is later. The symptoms are delayed.
In psychology we do see an immediate response to stress and that response is known as acute stress disorder. That is more rare than PTSD. If you are reading this blog for the first time I’d love to welcome you in and invite you to sign up for free. If you are a veteran of this blog you can predict where this line of thinking is going.
Some people have diagnosed the country as collectively going through PTSD, but that would mean that the event causing the stress occurred some time ago. The DSM-V describes that event as happening weeks before the first signs of the stress. The body goes into survival mode during the event and immediately after to protect itself. You could imagine how dangerous it would be for soldiers to suffer from acute stress. They wouldn’t be able to function.
Those suffering from a stress disorder need our support. They need our understanding. They need a calming influence in their lives to be there when things around them seem chaotic. Those that live with PTSD or live with someone that has PTSD know this all too well. It gets better with time and therapy, but it never quite goes away.
Since we are in the middle of a stress event we can’t know what the long-term effects will be. Most of us have never gone through PTSD and some might avoid it this time around too. Those that have a love for their country and are plugged into the political process are more likely to suffer. In some cases that might be entire families, an entire circle of friends, or any entire office of coworkers.
As we might suspect, those suffering more from the effects of the events around them will also likely suffer more from the cruelty and criminal disregard surrounding it. Being that tomorrow is Christmas, I won’t belabor the particulars of who did what and who didn’t what they were supposed to do. We all know the story. If you don’t know the story or have a differing opinion about who is to blame it doesn’t really much matter. We can all agree there is suffering and move on.
The key to getting through this is to be a little more understanding and a little more patient than what we normally would be. Some people lash out when they are suffering from a stress disorder. Some people withdraw when they are suffering from a stress disorder. When it’s most of us suffering we have to be there for each other.
So, a merry Christmas, happy holidays, and Happy Hanukah to everyone on this Christmas Eve. May the next year be much better than the last and maybe someday we will resume something resembling a normal life. Together we will get through these tough times and maybe come out a little tougher and a little wiser than before.