Saturday, September 3, 2016

Survivors’ Malaise by Deborah Camp

A documentary I watched about the Civil War mentioned that soldiers arrived home physically and mentally scarred. That made me wonder how those soldiers were treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Only in the past 20 years has PTSD been fully acknowledged and various treatments have been used with measured success.
From what I gathered, doctors acknowledged that some of the soldiers couldn’t handle the rigors of war. They referred to the condition as “soldier fever,” “survivor malaise.” or “home fever.” Of course, we now know it went much deeper than “homesickness.” But that’s how it was initially treated, which means that, for the most part, it was ignored.
Symptoms of PTSD are noted in survivors of historic wars and private battles. Think of the women who became mentally unbalanced when left alone on the prairie to fend for themselves and children while their men went hunting or fur trading. Armed with a rifle and an ax, they were scared out of their wits as they waited to be preyed on by everything from bears to immoral men and Indian raids. Those women were walking nervous breakdowns, living on the knife’s edge.
PTSD was a big problem after the Civil War, evidenced by the erection of large mental institutions. Obviously, no one knew what to do with the men and women who had not recovered and were dangers to themselves and others. So, they were warehoused. When in doubt, put them behind walls.
Today PTSD sufferers have psychiatrists, psychologists, and pharmacies to help them with their nightmares, psychotic episodes, visions, nervousness, and other fallout from war and extreme trauma. The Civil War survivors weren’t so fortunate. They had to find their own way through the hellholes while their families and friends looked on helplessly.
In my novel, Solitary Horseman, I delve into the subject. The hero, Callum Latimer, served gallantly in the Civil War for the South, but he feels like he’s been hallowed out and he finds little to appreciate in his life after the war. My heroine’s brother, Hollis, returned from the war a broken man. A gentle soul, Hollis did his duty as a soldier, but the price he paid was steep. He is tortured with horrific memories and bone-rattling nightmares. Some people should never be thrown into battle and Hollis was one of them.
Controversial subjects interest me and I include them in almost all of my romances. One of my books, My Wild Rose, received the first Janet Dailey Award for a book that best addressed a social issue. That novel featured Carrie Nation as one of the characters. Carrie opened the first home in the U.S. for battered wives and children of alcoholics.
As we have been told, what is not learned from history is bound to be repeated. So, I am compelled to shed light on problems so that we can see how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Purchase Solitary Horseman here:
You can get a complete list of Deborah’s novels on her website.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Thanks for including my post here on this lovely and informative blog!