PTSD, whistleblowing and chemical injury: There are some human experiences that others can’t really understand

whistleblower1 Boring Old Man, a very good blog penned by a retired psychiatrist, has been doing a fine job covering the Risperdal trial in Texas which has just reached a $158 million settlement Johnson & Johnson, the makers. 

Yesterday and in other posts too he’s made some comments about whistleblowers and then extended his thoughts to others who have been victimized or pained in other ways too. I found all his insights very helpful, true and validating. I think many of my readers might appreciate what he says too.

From this post yesterday:

I got some comments on the blog and even more privately from people who’ve been medically wronged, seen things that shouldn’t have happened, had kids who were inappropriately medicated and hurt by the medications – people who haven’t found a way to get their stories told. We often hear accusations of people “playing the victim role” in derogatory ways. Sure that happens, but real victims pay the price of living in constant fear that what they say will be misinterpreted – as a trick for personal gain. It’s a double whammy for them – being the genuine object of injustice and terrified of being discounted as a trickster. They often suffer in silence as their best compromise. The reason I said that the answer to, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” is “No!” is that people with this kind of story who aren’t listened to are sentenced to keeping the things that happened to them always in their minds on the front burner, but not talking out loud. The alternative is to allow them to go unconscious, and they live their lives in pieces – the most important parts of their “story” missing from their “history.” Either option is painful…

I can say, as a storyteller, of both my plight and that of a great many others, that even if we get to tell our stories, we are still subject to the disbelief and recurring injury of others who make us wrong.

1 Boring Old Man has more to say on the topic from this earlier post:

There are some human experiences that others can’t really understand. I learned a bit about that half a life ago when I developed a painful back problem that never got better, even with surgery. I learned to not talk about it, because even well-meaning responses were alienating. People would recount their own back stories [but they got better]. It helped me out to understand that they had nothing in their own catalog of experiences that fit mine. They couldn’t under-stand. Then treating people with PTSD, I learned that the afflicted regularly feel misunderstood, particularly if someone says, “I understand,” or tries to relate it to their own experience. Trauma is associated with a fragmentation of cognitive and emotional function accompanied by unique features, and that’s true even of soldiers with similar military circumstances.

Many of us with protracted withdrawal syndrome have something very akin to PTSD in that the autonomic nervous system is damaged. Our symptoms, in fact can exceed that of what gets labeled PTSD quite often and then there is a large collection of physically debilitating symptoms in addition.  We are suffering from systemic chemical injury and it can take years to heal. It’s a horrifying and alienating experience…yet I can’t seem to shut-the-fuck-up about it because, well, I know that it’s happening to other people and I want it to STOP. Believe me I often wish I could just disappear and stop sticking my neck out.

I think it’s helpful to understand that there are actually many human experiences that result in people feeling grossly alienated. I now make no assumptions about being able to understand someone else’s experience now that I’ve had such a radically alienating experience. I hope that my being conscious of the vast array of potential human experiences can allow me greater compassion with others as I come out of my own hell, knowing that others may have experienced something quite different still.

Thanks Mickey (1Boring Old Man) for your critical and cutting work.

If you’ve not visited the blog 1 Boring Old Man, now is the time to start.

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