A Journey From Mythology to Reality: The Impacts of PTSD on Identity

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A pilot walks away from her Blackhawk. (Ariel Bravy/Shutterstock)

This week we're exploring the individual and collective experience of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD in America as we enter the long aftermath of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 1 in 5 of the more than 2 million combat veterans from those wars has some symptoms of PTSD. While it's a complicated and mysterious phenomenon, it's also tantalizing: The Jason Bourne movies were all about a soldier who is deliberately given symptoms of PTSD to make him an effective killing machine, but he can't fight the flashbacks of who he really is.

But PTSD is not about movie plots and mind control—it is about identity. For screenwriter Matt Cook, his identity changed after the 9/11 attacks, after serving in the war in Iraq and then going back to the battlefield as a civilian.

He recently wrote about his experiences in Afghanistan for Texas Monthy magazine which showcases a journey from movie mythology to his own grim reality.


Matt Cook

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]

taosword from NC

PTSD is, in part, about the negative consequences of mind control, and identity. One thing I learned going through boot camp is that the militarys intent was to change my identity through mind control, resilience building, and stoicism building so that I could kill and see death without freaking out or disobeying orders to kill, or disobey orders that would get me killed. Finding myself doing this really went against everything I thought identified who I was and what I believed in. My true identity kept trying to break through this brainwashing while I was deployed in combat. I realized this years later in therapy when I started to become aware that I had been, through fear, intimidation, mind control, peer pressure and group psychology, been given another identity. Some of these movies referred to are just an exaggeration of the reality I have lived. But it doesnt seem politically correct for most in this country to admit this reality. Even many of the psychology professionals in the military, the VA, and the private sector don't seem to get this and work it in their therapies.

Aug. 07 2013 10:50 PM
C. Tomlinson from Oregon

your programs on PTSD are always informational, but when will you cover the stories of the millions other NON-vet who also suffer from PTSD? please give us recognition and humanity by acknowledging we are out there and an integral part of society. We also need help and understanding.

Aug. 06 2013 06:28 PM
Stephanie Lillegard from Stevenson, WA

Caught the tail end of this while in the car this morning, and had to listen to the whole thing online when I got home. I've never heard anyone but my own daughter talk about the experience this way, and I'm very grateful to you for doing this piece.

Aug. 06 2013 05:04 PM
Lynn Beldner from Oakland, CA

I am not a veteran but I do have PTSD. I am always grateful when someone has the courage to speak about this difficult disability.

I am a member of club that I don't want to belong to.

The VA website on PTSD has helped me everyday. Check it out....

My thoughts are with all of you!

My best,

Lynn Beldner

Aug. 06 2013 04:22 PM
Shelly Burgoyne

I am really enjoying your series on Veterans and PTSD, but as a former Army Officer and female combat veteran, I am wondering: do you plan on covering a female Veteran suffering, or one who has suffered from PTSD? Our combat tested are no longer only men.

Aug. 06 2013 04:04 PM
Kay Merkel Boruff from Dallas

Hire a vet & volunteer at your local VA Hospital--that's how the public can help returning veterans. I lived in Viet-Nam 68-70 & was married to an Air America pilot killed flying in Laos 18 Feb 70. I returned stateside a widow with PTSD. To help, I did biofeedback & started writing. After retiring from teaching 43 years, I now volunteer at the VA Hospital in Dallas & teach creative writing & computers. It's like coming home. Thanks, John, for focusing on PTSD.

Aug. 06 2013 01:17 PM
Douglas Howell from St Clair Shores, MI

As a Vietnam veteran who continues to suffer from PTSD, I can only say that your introduction to the topic and the interviews you have had so far, have been nothing short of wonderful. It is the invisible disease that so many of us suffer from. Revisiting Vietnam was immensely therapeutic for me. My story is viewable on utube: Douglas Howell Love and War.

thank you for taking on this difficult problem,
Semper fi,
Doug Howell

Aug. 06 2013 10:01 AM

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