Monday, April 6, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder By Proxy

In one of the Neighbours storylines, Nate, an Afghan war vet is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He's tried working with professional counselors, but none of them worked for him. They didn't provide what he needed to open up. Then he started talking to his friend Susan. Despite her lack of professional psychiatric credentials, she was what he needed. She made him feel comfortable opening up, and he shared some traumatic stories with her. As a result of the sharing, Nate became more relaxed, and his nightmares were reduced.  Susan provided Nate with that he needed. She was a bit of  help to him.

BUT there was a problem. Nate passed on a portion of his post-traumatic stress disorder to Susan. The stories of his experience scared her. She began having nightmares and....Well, I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe flashbacks? Not flashbacks of her own experiences, but of Nate's.

Susan's husband Karl didn't like Susan helping Nate. He felt Nate needed a professional. And he liked it even less when Susan confessed she was stressed enough that she was seeking a professional counselor for herself.

As I've said in the past, I really don't like the idea that we should leave it to professionals when it comes to the emotional problems of our friends and family.  If a professional is needed, that's fine. But I think it should be done along with the help of family and friends rather than instead of.

Susan might not be a schooled expert on post-traumatic stress disorder, but she did something right. She listened in a way that Nate needed to be listened to, and she responded the right way. Or at least the right way for Nate.

As for passing on stress....

I think it's a bit ridiculous. I don't mean Susan's reaction. I can totally picture it happening. Why not? Stories in books and movies can stress us out. Give us nightmares. It makes sense that someone would become stressed from hearing true war stories from a friend.  But to say they shouldn't be there to listen to the friend?

To me, Susan was doing the absolute right thing. She knew she was doing good by Nate, but having difficulty herself, so she sought her own psychological treatment. To me, that's brilliant. She'll listen to Nate and then in turn someone will listen to her.

But no. So far, Karl has won the battle. He confronted Nate and asked for it to be stopped. Nate fired Susan. Now he's going to once again seek out a professional. And maybe that will work, and all will be well. But it might not.

I can't help but feel that Neighbours is trying to push some lesson down our throat. Is it what I imagine? Don't burden your friends with your traumatic past. It's not fair to them.  You'll scare them.

But if Neighbours is saying only a professional therapist is emotionally strong enough to endure Nate's stories, what the hell are they doing to their viewers?  They've burdened me and every other Neighbours viewer with Nate's horrible war stories. I'd say if we can manage hearing the stories, so can Susan.

Okay, and maybe she's having a rougher time with it. People have different levels of tolerance. But it doesn't mean the stories are going to destroy Susan. Maybe she'll be stressed for awhile. Maybe she'll need a little therapy.  But I don't think that means it's wrong for her to hear Nate's stories. She doesn't need to be sheltered.