The author of Many Faces of PTSD, Susan Stocker, was kind enough to send me a free copy of her book. I have to admit that I was a little ambivalent about reviewing it, simply because I’ve never really had an official PTSD diagnosis, or any specific PTSD therapy. Being a child abuse survivor, I’ve always assumed there was some PTSD symptoms mixed in with my healing somewhere, but was never quite sure how they fit in. Reading this helped define that for me.
The book is, in essence, 12 case studies, conglomerations of years worth of Susan’s therapy clients. Each individual is presented in a typical case fashion, starting with their story, their symptoms, their treatment steps, and finally what was learned by the therapist from that treatment.
As I started the first case study, Brenda, I did have my one moment of disagreement with the author. Brenda was a victim of domestic violence, and Susan chose that time to write the following:
The domestic violence abuser will usually, but not always, be a man. The abused will usually be a woman. Men tend to act out, and women tend to internalize. Please understand that these are generalizations, and stereotypes. (All we need to do is look at same sex relationships to see the exceptions.) However, generalizations and stereotypes don’t make themselves up. They evolve from repeated examples.
I had to put the book down after reading that. I’m going to assume this statement is based on the clients the author has seen in her practice, that it’s woman or homosexual men who have come to her for PTSD symptoms created by domestic abuse, and therefore she has not familiarized herself with the growing number of studies that show that it is, indeed, fairly common for women to be the aggressors when it comes to domestic violence. Male victims are, however, much less likely to seek out professional help, thus perpetuating the stereotype that is, nonetheless, completely false. (By the way, if stereotypes do not make themselves up, I wonder how the author would feel about other racial and sexual stereotypes?)
That being said, I did pick the book back up again and discover that, despite my early disagreement on this point, there was indeed quite a lot of valid information in the case studies. I began to see many of the same symptoms show up in case after case, and recognize that these same symptoms have existed for me, and many other abuse survivors that I’ve come in contact with. Things like shooting ourselves in the foot repeatedly, hyper-alertness, anxiety, distrust, etc. are very common to me. Even some of the specific examples she cites are things I can easily relate to, such as the need to scan every detail of a room and who is in it before I can feel comfortable, and the idea that those of us who grew up in trauma as opposed to developing our mental “houses” with a good foundation are quite susceptible to being traumatized again and again. I even identified a little bit with a mention about PTSD survivors and what can seem like psychic abilities. Due to our constant, and sometimes subconscious, alertness, we become aware of things that indicate what is about to happen without fully realizing that we are doing it. We’ve grown up looking for any sort of warning about what was coming, and it’s something we don’t ever really stop doing. That does explain why, even now, nothing upsets me more than something I didn’t see coming. It throws me for a loop.
I also found myself agreeing with the author in many of her findings about how the world views, incorrectly, PTSD sufferers as weak, or somehow at fault, yet having the resiliency to survive what we have, and continue on, is actually a sign of strength. So, despite my disagreement with domestic violence generalizations, I do think this is a good book to pick up if you are questioning whether you might be suffering from PTSD, or want to better understand what someone you know with PTSD is going through. Each case’s story and symptoms will help you identify with them as a person, and the explanations will help you better understand what is going on inside of yourself, or your loved one.
If nothing else, as I’ve always said about blogging on this topic, the book will help those of us who have been or are dealing with PTSD symptoms feel just a little less alone. That is a good thing to me.
So, now that I’ve finished the book, should we figure out a way to give away this copy to one of you folks?