The torment of PTSD

Just finished reading Romeo Dallaire’s Waiting For First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD and I can recommend it as a good and interesting read.  It’s such a desperately human book leading us through the despair and anger that Romeo feels as he carries the baggage of war in the form of crippling PTSD through decades of his highly publicized life.  It is as much a politically charged plea for government to care better for returning vets as an exercise in social finger pointing. ‘PTSD has a terminal side to it that demands more urgency’, says Dallaire.

Death became a desired option. I hoped I would hit a mine or run into an ambush and just end it all. I think some part of me wanted to join the legions of the dead, whom I had failed.

— Waiting for First Light

Here is a retired Senator and General writing about his secret life – the one spent so often in total despair and inner torment. He seems to have lost so much of what we would think of as a normal life. His PTSD was left untreated – unrecognized - for too long.  Dallaire says it’s permanent now.  He still takes medication, has nightmares, goes to therapy, and has episodes of terror. I met him a few years ago when he was our keynote speaker at the annual BC Leadership Prayer Breakfast hosted by City in Focus. Although he spoke of his illness at the event, it is only now that I realize the severity and intensity of the illness. It was disguised in a business suit and an intelligent mind.

The military doesn’t like injuries that it can’t see. And because you couldn’t see it, because it affected the way guys acted with their colleagues, PTSD was—in a term I’ve used often—an unacceptable injury, not dishonourable but not honourable either. It has taken us two decades to get the regiments to recognize that these guys are injured, they’re not slackers, and if you don’t take care of them, this injury can be terminal.
— Waiting For First Light

Spirituality leads us to peer closely at the unseen. Our faith encourages us to notice what is happening underneath the skin.  Surely God wants us to be a people equipped and ready to help those around us.


So often the unknown in others terrifies us. Yesterday as I waited for a bus an older woman ‘came unstuck’ emotionally. The dozen or people acted as if nothing was happening.  I was sitting next to her and began to engage – quite cautiously I might add.  She immediately softened and calmed down.  Just needed to be heard by someone – anyone.

Who is around us and suffering from depression, PTSD, loneliness, mental anguish?

If you do suspect a friend or loved one is experiencing a crisis, then reaching out in a sensitive way is the first step to providing help. Staying calm and doing more listening than talking might be a beginning. Demonstrate that you can be trusted and that you are able to offer support without passing judgement.