Ask twenty people what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is and eighteen or nineteen of them will answer: “It’s when a soldier flips-out because he or she has seen too much or done too much, or just can’t take what’s inside their head anymore.”
With one exception, this isn’t a bad definition. The exception is the exclusionary word, soldier. You don’t have to be in the military to get it. You don’t have to be a big hairy guy. You don’t even have to be a grown-up. Young mommies, successful executives, pretty teenage cheerleaders, captains of high school football teams…in short, it can happen to anyone. It is, in many ways, an invisible disease, though the symptoms are already there…here. You only have to connect the dots, and that is what this article is about.
Lives of Quiet Desperation: A Handful of Eye-Opening Stats:
Last year, more people died from suicide than by car accidents.
Between 1999 and 2010 there has been a 30% rise in the rate of suicide. For men in their 50s+ the rate increase is 50%.
In the Army, last year the death toll from battle in was 176……….from suicide it was 185.
Coining a New Term: Civilian Stress Disorder (CSD)
Civilian Stress Disorder is an equal opportunity, color-blind, non-age discriminatory disorder. It quietly can happen to your teenage son or daughter, while they’re sitting in their room, earphones on, screen monitor turned to a shoot-em up, bang-bang video game, and they’re texting, or Facebooking, or possibly even talking to someone. It’s a very, very complicated world that they’ve inherited and it’s a pressure cooker. If the wrong words appear on that cell-phone screen, your kid can suddenly feel like he or she has no justification for living. It’s not that these kids did anything bad or that they are weak in some way, it’s about the fact that kids and teenagers haven’t grown the armor-plated thick skins that it now takes to be a grown-up. (Some grown-ups never grew that kind of armor either.)
Fact: Barely a week ago, my son sat down with me over lunch to discuss the fact that his son, my grandson, had had a death threat on the school bus. Know what grade my grandson is in????????? Kindergarten. We’re at the tipping point right now and some of us, you…me…and a big chunk of the planet has to say, “Enough! I’m not gonna take this crap anymore.”
Our Daughters: When a teen or pre-teen girl flips open her iPhone and looks at the fashion models, they see Photoshopped girls who either actually weigh 85 pounds or look that way. Or, the models appear to have perfect 38D breasts. Every blemish is erased, anything that’s imperfect, and our daughters see ALL these perfect girls and their self-images plummet. They need to know, deep down in their guts that they are being victimized.
You’re not gonna believe this…or maybe you will. Care to guess what group has the biggest increase in Civilian Stress Disorder? The boomers. The boomers were going to change the world…for the better. We were going to be GREAT! Each one of us was going to have a book written about us or at least some very important asterisk next to our name in the history books. Now, we boomers are grey haired, if we’re lucky, getting creaky and cranky and highly disillusioned. The suicide rate for boomers is off-the-scale.
Worse than that, the up-and-coming generations are falling into the identical trap. Ask almost anyone under 30 if they’re destined for greatness and they’ll smirk. Because, world-wide they can open their iPad or cell phone, lap top and see hundreds of examples of kids, children, adults suddenly getting the “rich and famous contract” becoming instant billionaires that they’re certain it’s just a matter of time. They are heading for a HUGE let down.
Shopping at Wegmans lately, I see young women in jogging suits, bone-skinny, wheeling a loaded-down shopping cart with two little squirming babies and maybe one balanced on their hip…cell-phone pressed to ear, and crossing off items on a list. Look in their eyes and it’s not like they’re even there. They are in another world entirely and they are MAXED-OUT.
From the outside, it would appear that we have it all. Our cars today do…everything, avoid collisions, park themselves, talk to us, heat or cool our fannies, even spray soothing scents into the cockpit. Only trouble is: the stress created paying for that amazing machine.
Pamela and I had a backwards epiphany the other day. We’re fixing up our house, sprucing things up, doing a little outside maintenance. Well….we were on the iPad, researching not just what grass seed to buy…but the very best ultimate grass seed. The five-star Consumer Reports winner for….house paint…a new toaster… microwave. What’s the optimum mulch to buy? Please excuse my French but…who the fuck cares???
When I was a little kid in grammar school there were a small handful of poems that actually stuck in my mind. My favorite was Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I managed to memorize it without ever trying. But…the other one that stuck was a poem called Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Simon and Garfunkle sang about it, too. Here it is: Richard Cory
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to step back and try to remember what’s really important in this world. It’s people and it’s the Golden Rule…treating people the way you’d like to be treated. The rest is just stuff and, quiet frankly, the rest is just a whole lot of bullshit.
Henry: This one is nicely wrapped together, unfortunately built around the story of Cam’s son! Unbelievable. Makes you want to home school him. But the build up is great and speaks to these silent pressures, killers, etc., that definitely affect some people quite significantly. Like Richard Corey, who would have thought…
Maybe that’s half the definition of life: “Who would have thought?” Thanks for your comments.
Interesting piece, as usual. The opening pic by the good Edvard M says it all. Looks like me in my current (overload) state, but only another 4 weeks to go…I think.
Hi praise from you, my friend. 4 weeks till what? MI-6 catches up to you? You perfect the Sterling Engine? You discover a good British restaurant? You know I hate ambiguity.
Keep ’em coming! Love your thoughts and how succinctly you put them to paper (email).
As you know, there are a variety of tipping points. We may already be past the global warming turn-around. Our technology is tipping us into exciting times, but in a Zen like paradox, we seem focused on destroying ourselves and our humanity.
Is it possible that there’s a good tipping point…where whole masses of people decide it’s time to return to some form of common sense…fairness…logic?
I’m not one to wax nostalgic for “the old days” but I know, way down deep, that I was happier, had more fun, and had more friends in a much simpler world not that long ago. What was the cost of all the technology? All the greed? Climbing over each other to get ahead?
Give me the smell of some fresh hay, the smell of a fresh-caught trout, and just a plain old radio playing…whatever is on, without a cell phone to end the magic?
I like the way you think and the way you analyze problems ,and the ability of writing them in your articles. Specially your referring to the “GOLDEN RULE”
. In a word ” this article was GREAT”
As always, good to hear from you! The beautiful thing about the Golden Rule, is it cuts across all the boundaries and pigeon-holes we human beings create. No matter who you are or what you label yourself, treat people the way you’d like to be treated. The Golden Rule was appropriately named.
Very good article. We have a glut of technology that we could never have imagined when we were growing up.
There are devices for everything and yet people are more miserable than ever before. Face-booking, tweeting, texting and sexing are no substitutes for real communication. Social skills are rapidly disappearing. Now,it’s all about money, status, and who has the biggest pile of stuff. Empathy is evaporating and our kids are content to perfect their shooting skills on video games. This won’t bode well in the long run. A country run without empathy is a scary scenario. Glad I grew up in the 60’s.
You brought up the term, empathy. Three days ago they posted an article comparing that very factor, which has been tested since the early 60s. Bottom line: From the 60s to 2014 there’s been a 40% drop in empathy in the high school and college students. The only priority right now? $$$$$$$$$