Shell Shock to PTSD

metnal health war injury, from Shell shock to PTSD

Today, we honour all the men and women who have served their country in battle, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice. While I always take the time to honour them all, I want to pay homage to those who weren’t only physically injured and or killed trying rid the world of human suffering at the hands of those who seek to destroy life.

but I also want to pause for a moment to think about those who have mental war injuries that are, not only painful beyond comprehension, but for some, last a lifetime. For these brave women and men, their battles are never over, their war within is never won. And, depending on the period, the mental injury has been called everthing from shell shock to ptsd.


Nowadays, this mental heath war injury is known as Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is well understood compared to when the symptoms of this mental health condition were first observed by medical professionals during the first world war ; (The Canadian Encyclopedia) when thousands of soldiers were stricken with depression, insomnia and nightmares. By 1917 these symptoms would be given a name; Shell Shock. For a full list of symptoms go here


Charles Myers, a British medical officer was the first to use this term for the symptoms he was witnessing on and off the battlefield. These clusters of symptoms were also known as war neurosis, ( I


Despite the fact that doctors of the day had ruled Shell shock out as some sort of physical medical ailment and came to believe that it was psychiatric in nature, stigma still prevailed. As a result, the men who exhibited the signs of this condition were considered to be cowards, even being charged in a fake trial, found guilty of deserting the military and shot by their colleges. After the war, many more were committed to mental institutions and subjected to ETC, electroshock therapy, whilst many more were placed in solitary confinement as a treatment option.

By today’s standards, this approach to treatment is considered Berberich. I would go so far as to say that it is these very sorts of atrocities people go to war to try and prevent. That being said, we have come along way since the days of WWI, so far in fact, sigma seems like a minor itch today in comparison, there’s no doubt that things are so much better now.

But we must always remember that the internal torment of PTSD can not be minimized. Understand that our brave men and women who are wounded in this way live in a form of psychological solitary confinement and many are only receiving minimal treatment. Yet, many more veterans live life on the streets, a tragedy that’s made worse by government cutbacks to veteran’s support systems.

However, you brave warriors are not forgotten and I think about the sacrifices you have made and the suffering you continue to endure often. Thankfully, PTSD is more accepted today than it ever has been and with that comes more empathy and support. Despite cutbacks, there are programs out there to try and help heal your injuries or at least make them more tolerable. There are support groups springing up full of people who understand your pain.

Again, thank you so much for your service, I am free because of you and I am grateful. Let me leave you with this short poem by Siegfried Sassoon, a world war one soldier and poet who suffered from the horrors of shell shock, this poem was inspired by his injury.

“Lest We Forget”


No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.


–Siegfried Sassoon, Craiglockhart. October 1917.
Source: BBC Home, Inside Out Extra: Wednesday, March 3, 2004,

At Odds With The Self

PTSD I am at war! A fight for my life and all that I love and hold sacred. This conflict is not so much raging against the exterior world around me although I have to say that it provides my enemy with enough ammunition to keep us in the throws of combat for many years to come.

As painful as a prospect of this campaign continuing on for the foreseeable future is, it’s almost more so thinking about how long I have danced with my arch-nemesis. Combining the two thoughts together sometimes makes me wonder how I will take on the next battle and the one after that.
Who is this enemy you ask?  It’s the battle with the self, two factions within my head, vying for supremacy.

The back and forth confrontations of my authentic voice and the voice of mental illness.

How I will win this fight is not entirely certain but what I do know is that I don’t intend to lose. Therefore I will fight on for as long as the anxiety, depression and PTSD want to rage on. Sure I’m outnumbered and it’s true that they sometimes attack alone, in the darkness, at family gatherings or in the local supermarket for that matter. A solo assault I rarely see coming and seldom do I understand its triggers.

Listen to the stories of others at –

When one of them isn’t trying to ambush me, all three form an alliance of pain in an all-out effort to end the war and take their object, my mental well being. These are the toughest, most taunting battles and take so much out of me that I find I have little choice but to avoid the world beyond my doorstep. I guess even the hardest of soldiers need to go on leave, my war is no exception. With this rest, I live to fight another day.

Although this battle is at times, exceptionally difficult, I fancy myself a long-time veteran of this mental tug of war and have spent years learning my disorders battle tactics. Luckily for me, they don’t deviate much from this plan and I am able to deploy my weapons to fight back. Good diet, exercise, deep breathing, and therapy.

My own tactics have given me the upper hand because I am able to discern my authentic voice from that of anxiety, depression and PTSD. I shall never surrender, my loving support system is my mental H bomb and it always keeps me in the fight.

My fellow road to wellness warriors, keep fighting the good fight. Although exhausting, it is absolutely worth every battle scar it leaves behind.

You may also enjoy: Mental Illness and Cleaning out the Garage, What do they have in common? 

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Am I healed because I am Happy?

Am I healed because I am happy?  Well, let’s examine this question. The principal behavioural pattern for the majority of my life was and still is: get the help I need, get to a happy place, think I no longer need help, and then get overtaken by the irrational voice that speaks so loudly. At times, I get fooled into thinking that I’m still in charge. This is, of course, the voice of mental illness, the one who makes it its mission to ensure that I remain in a state of fear and anxiousness. Then all the tools that I have accumulated from the professionals seem to get misplaced from time to time. And without them, the ills that are held at bay by those same tools, end up having free rein over my headspace, wreaking havoc in every facet of my life.

The reason for losing these tools are many but is mostly due to an accumulation of life’s not so enjoyable happenings tragedies, etc. Some are lost because of my memory while others are rendered ineffective by the mounting everyday troubles life likes to heap upon me. Yet others fade into the background during the better times because they are seldom used. Whatever the reasons, I have slipped into a state of debilitation on more than one occasion.
To say that being overtaken by my mental disorders is defeating is a colossal understatement. It, to the very pit of my core, makes me want to concede to my mental enemies and stay home or worse. Then I look at my loved ones and I get my second wind. Like a superhero in the movies who is all but beaten, and is suddenly inspired to fight on, I get up, brush the dust off my knees and pursue solutions with the ferocity of a lion going after its prey. I had decided some time back that I will not be defeated.

I have worked on trying to figure out where my defences are the weakest, how my mental disposition shifts to the side of illness. The common denominator for my slips into the darkness, as far as I can tell, seems to correlate with backing off from professional supports when I feel better and letting their therapeutic strategies fade – very similar to those who stop taking their medications when they start to feel better. Because, even in the happiest days of my life, the dreaded negative voice looms, so I must continue to seek help to keep the tools that I have been given by mental health professionals sharp and ready to defend my happy. I must always be ready to do battle.

What can act as a deterrent to getting help is the speed at which both the system itself and the therapeutic process can take. I have at times been my own worst enemy by justifying my absence from the system by saying “I am better. I would only be taking up a spot that is needed by someone worse off than I am.” Finally, I think I’ve learned my lesson. This lesson has come to me now, later in life, because I have taken the time to face my demons and have gotten to know myself a lot better. In doing so, I now know that the anxiety and depression, the symptoms of PTSD are ever waiting to cloak me in their symptoms and minimize my happiness, thus making it necessary to seek help continuously, even in the good times.

It’s clear that I have had many battles with my illnesses and as a result, I have won some of them and have lived happily for periods. What’s equally clear is that I should never give up my supports and I definitely shouldn’t fool myself into thinking that I am completely healed because I have definitely lost some of those battles too and still do.  Learning that I need to seek out help even in the good times, is something I must not forget, lose, or let fade into the background. I will keep my weapons at the ready and continue to rely on professional support and remain vigilant in times of mental peace.

If you are seeing a similar scenario playing out with you and have yet to identify its cause, perhaps seeking the help of a mental health professional is what you need to get you back on the road to happiness. You can get back on track and you can live with more good times than bad if you actively seek out solutions. I am rooting for you!

You may also like: After A Good Run: The ups and downs of mental illness

Since you’re here, check out my friend’s blog at Abbeys Chronicles

You may also enjoy: The Mental Carbon Monoxide And PTSD

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