Is PTSD Contagious? – Brent Adkins

We are the company we keep. We pick up the habits of those with whom we spend extended periods of time. This assimilation ranges from diction to mannerisms. Sometimes, it yields positive results, like a procrastinator who becomes prompt and completes work ahead of time after spending much time with a go-getter. It will also occur with bad traits, like innocent child who is now constantly on edge, lashing out with little provocation after living with her PTSD affected parent.

Going to war is stressful enough for soldiers, having to be constantly aware of their surroundings, fearing that every moment could be their last, existing in a state of hypersensitivity for months to years at a time. Imagine the pains they experience, seeing their friends lose their lives firsthand, taking another human being’s life, surviving explosions and subsequently receiving concussions. Not only do their brains have to process these horrendous images, they now have to recuperate from the head trauma they have suffered, which can be fatal if severe enough. Then, abrubtly, they come home and have to readjust to civilian life. How anyone can is a miracle, how anyone deals with not being able to is a nightmare. PTSD is a living nightmare.

Between the hypervigilance, hyperawareness, and hypersensitivity, a PTSD affected vet appears hyperirrational. These vets live in constant terror and torment, fearful that a man on the other side of the planet could kill them at any moment. PTSD is like the flu, spend enough time around the infected, you are bound to show symptoms yourself, secondhand PTSD.  They slowly lose the ability to function normally, without much hope that it will ever get better. Their happy homes dissolve into haunted houses.

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5 Responses to Is PTSD Contagious? – Brent Adkins

  1. davidbdale says:

    Genius opening, Brent. I’m busy with other stuff now, but I am standing to applaud.

    One little change will make me stand on my chair and do that fingers-in-the-mouth whistle thing: substitute “we” for “you” every single time. Every. Single. Time. Not “You are the company you keep,” but “We are the company we keep.” Readers are simple saps: we fall for writers when they identify with us. We’re all in this together. “You” means we’re judging our readers. “We” means all of us share a human experience. Would you rather be judged or embraced?

    This change I’m insisting on will require special skill and sensitivity in your P2, where I will not permit you to talk to all your readers as if they are soldiers returning from war. Find that rhetoric that lets you talk about a group—traumatized veterans—without referring to them as “you.” Good luck.

    In P3, I guess a house can be haunted, but can it be horrified? Maybe a “household” can be horrified, but that’s because a household, unlike a house, is people.

  2. adkins70 says:

    Draft 2 (I think I want to delve deeper into the effects on the family with a fourth and final paragraph, but I’m not sure of how to tackle that yet. I will update accordingly.)

    We are the company we keep. We pick up the habits of those whom we spend extended periods of time with. This assimilation ranges from diction to mannerisms. Sometimes, it yields positive results, like a procrastinator who becomes prompt and completes work ahead of time after spending much time with a go-getter. It will also occur with bad traits, like innocent child who now is constantly on edge, lashing out with little provocation after living with her PTSD affected parent.

    Going to war is stressful enough for soldiers, having to be constantly aware of their surroundings, fearing that every moment could be their last, existing in a state of hypersensitivity for months to years at a time. Imagine the pains they experience, seeing their friends lose their lives firsthand, taking another human being’s life, surviving explosions and subsequently receiving concussions. Not only do their brains have to process these horrendous images, they now have to recuperate from the head trauma they have suffered, which can be fatal if severe enough. Then, abrubtly, they come home and have to readjust to civilian life. How anyone can is a miracle, how anyone deals with not being able to is a nightmare. PTSD is a living nightmare.

    Between the hypervigilance, hyperawareness, and hypersensitivity, a PTSD affected vet appears hyperirrational. These vets live in constant terror and torment, fearful that a man on the other side of the planet could kill them at any moment. PTSD is like the flu, spend enough time around the infected, you are bound to show symptoms yourself. When constantly exposed to this behavior, their families suffer from secondhand PTSD. They succumb to similar symptoms, slowly losing the ability to function normally, without much hope that it will ever get better. Their happy homes dissolve into haunted houses.

    • davidbdale says:

      Those are fast and very effective revisions, Brent. I hope they feel right to you and that you haven’t adopted them only to suit my preferences. To me, this reads much better. “Imagine the pains they experience” is a perfectly compelling way to bring us into the place where we can sympathize. We don’t need to imagine ourselves in combat; imagining soldiers in combat is quite enough. Good work.

  3. adkins70 says:

    I’d be lying if I said that your preferences, or advice, did not affect my revisions. However, I did fully understand why you mentioned each area of improvement. With the “you” to “we”, it’s actually quite comical, I used to use “we” in most of my essays where appropriate, using “you” only when “we” did not fit, but last semester I was told to never use “we” and only use “you” so I guess that rule stuck and I simply forgot about it. I am glad that you mentioned it though because I much prefer the more encompassing “we”. The changing of the “you” of P2 to the soldier’s point of view was a nice way to lighten the load of imagery I sent to the reader, so I understand its revisionary purpose. I was trying to put the reader in their boots, but I grasp why that can be excessive in conveying the idea. Finally, with the last sentence, I simply personified the house when I should have been showing that it was not the house that lost its twinkle, but rather the people inside.

  4. davidbdale says:

    This is, of course, just fine as it is, Brent, but I wonder how you’d revise it now after a semester of feedback. I hope you’d find fresh problems to fix (that, in fact, you always will). It’s been a pleasure to help you tune your already expressive voice.

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