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Hello Everyone - Writing a Book With a PTSD Character and Would Like Some Input

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by mvd182, Nov 25, 2007.

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  1. mvd182

    mvd182 New Member

    I am unsure of how to go about all of this and am hesitant because I do not want to step on any toes. I am looking for some help in regards to a book i have written, my first, in which the main character has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wrote the book going along with what information I have scrounged from the internet and various newspaper articles. Needless to say many of these sources have proved somewhat, lets say, impersonal. I know that I do not really belong here; it seems to me like I could come across as looking to someone else's suffering to benefit myself and my book. I hope that is not how I come across, I sincerely hope so. I suppose that, if allowed, I would like to describe what I feel, at this point, is an accurate portrayal of what my character goes through in regards to his PTSD. If anyone should feel like criticizing or correcting, and hopefully eventually confirming my direction with this I would be profoundly thankful.

    Keep in mind that I am an outsider here, I have never known anyone who has had PTSD and I intend to change that both through this Forum and seeking out the help of those in my area.

    My book took form from a short story that I had written in college, my professor called it interesting but antic! He also said that it was not completely satisfying, I agreed. I was happy with that because his full analysis gave me some direction to go with; I abhor criticism that leads nowhere.

    So a few years pass and the story lay about with various other unfinished projects, a bad habit of mine, until my longtime girlfriend and I parted ways, it was amicable, but painful none the less. I decided that it was time to do something which I knew i would be proud of later on, regardless of whether it was well received or not. That's the spirit, I thought; go get 'em tiger! Also I needed something to do with my time!

    So I have spent the last year cloistered in my apartment writing and smoking entirely too many cigarettes, but always writing. I only tell you this because I have dedicated a lot of time to this damn book and i want to get it right.

    Jack, my character, suffers from PTSD, which he acquired in the service of the military. He has hallucinations, (Is this accurate?) which I specify stem from a lack of sleep and an overactive imagination. The lack of sleep, of course, is a direct manifestation of his disability. For future reference, if I say anything that is offensive, such as the word disability, I hope to stand corrected!

    In my desperation to make this character likeable (Read: Familiar) to those who may someday read this book I have sidestepped, in my ignorance, the aspect of a possible change in behavior such as anger and seemingly incomprehensible rage. I instead decided to allow him the option to be morose and unresponsive as if in a waking coma. Do not be angry with me yet, Jack does a lot of good in this book and I feel that I have been diligent in making him seem real and therefore flawed. He is a wonderful father when it comes down to it and though it is sometimes hard to see how, he eventually comes to the right decisions in the end.

    Through the course of the book we see how Jack can not fall asleep for fear of the nightmares which haunt him. Though lessened while awake, he still suffers from them. Much of this book is about how he attempts to cope with them. One unfortunate side effect is that he scratches himself involuntarily to deal with his anxiety as he sees no other way to handle it. Here's to hoping that I get an overwhelming response implying that I am terribly wrong in my thinking. Sensing that I may not be, I only hope to gain some personal insight into this affliction which may help me to write a better book and therefore shed some light on PTSD for those people, like myself, who have had little or no contact with it. Even if the only people who read it are those near and dear to me who I am able to force the book upon, I want it to be genuine!

    The stark realities aside, I think that this book is light enough and humorous enough that it is not depressing; it tells the tale of a man with a problem that he is determined to overcome. And yet he is nearly incapable of doing so in even his most lucid of moments. A catch 22, as it were. I hesitate to go on as I have probably lost everyone's interest about seven paragraphs ago, so I think that I will let it go at that and hope that I hear from those of you who are willing.

    I thank you and wish you all the best of luck, do not hesitate to say hello. I must also stress that I need help and approval from those who would know that I would be full of crap if I had not sought out help and confirmation on PTSD. You!
    have a wonderful day and make what good luck you can because it is not always there to be found.

    P.s. This book is also about a number of other things as well, Pharmaceuticals being one of the other topics. It also has a lot to do with the expectations we have of our heroes and the ideal, and therefore unobtainable, perception that we have of them. Jack is a man, who despite all odds against him; he is missing a leg and has a disease that no one seems to understand and few even acknowledge, who, through his determination makes what he can of his life and the challenges thrown at him. Thank you and Bon Voyage!
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  3. Kathy

    Kathy I'm a VIP

    Welcome to the forum, lovely to have you. I am a carer rather than a sufferer, however I will make one brief comment.

    PTSD sufferers may have hallucinations if their PTSD is severe, however many do not like the term. Flashbacks are much more common, and a more accurate word to use to describe re-experiencing the trauma. I wouldn't say it was an overactive imagination either. What they re-experience is very real to them, not imagined. Perhaps you should read some of the information sections to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of PTSD? We have a wealth of information here.

    Good luck with your project!
  4. mvd182

    mvd182 New Member

    I am so happy that you have decided to help!

    Thank you! I have already learned something. I will take note of those suggestions, wonderful!
  5. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt! Premium Member

    Hi MV, welcome to the forum.

    I read, it all! lol

    Okay as for the scratching, that is not an anxiety symptom. That is something a drug addict would do. I suggest checking out the Polls section. There is lot's of info in there that will tell you what is common and what isn't.

    Also don't forgot our classic symptom of hypervigilance. We check doors and windows. Check every vehicle going by. Jump at the phone ringing, door knocking. Come out of our skin when someone comes behind us.. etc... Also the exaggerated startle response (my personal favorite) which makes us look the the most paranoid freaks in the universe.

    Also don't forget the self isolation many of us put ourselves though. We have a hard time just making small talk (well most of us anyways lol.) A lack of direct eye contact is also common, expect when in a rage.

    Umm can't think of much else off the top of my head. You better share the title when it get's published! I'm an avid reader and love reading any novel that puts our disorder into the thick of things!

  6. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder


    We always encourage those seeking to research PTSD, and will help steer you in the right direction surrounding PTSD itself.
    I believe this is why a professor would state what they did surrounding substance to the book. My understanding of writing truly profound material is to become the character. Not sure how much truth there is in that, though most great authors do this, hence why they are great. I believe your book, without even reading it, would be full of holes due to the fact you have not been around a person with PTSD for a long period yourself. To see is to believe, and only one person would not be suitable IMHO, you would need to be around many from various aspects. PTSD is not created equal.

    Good move to get out and see for yourself, though simply spending a few hours with a sufferer would do nothing, as PTSD is not always present.

    Again, that is great dedication though you have no practicable experience in which to base your books substance. It is like a reporter attempting to discuss war without being in a war zone themselves for a given time. A reporters work often changes dramatically once they experience something for themselves. You obviously do not want to experience PTSD as its incurable, however; you need to get out and get in with people who have PTSD so you can observe and learn. Just my opinion though, you are the writer.

    This immediately creates a difference in factors to his symptoms, likely which you may not know. How one gets PTSD typically contributes more or less to certain symptoms. A soldier will often have higher anger components due to the training in which they have endured within the military in order to fight in war.

    Some with PTSD are quite like this, though if military, he would still have high anger, regardless if you want to dismiss it, a soldier would have this and flashbacks. Soldiers are typically more destructive than say a sufferer who has been raped or MVA. The reason is because of their training and lifestyle within the military compared to civilian life.

    I believe because not only are you talking about PTSD here, your talking about PTSD within a soldier. That means you need to know what goes on in the military that contributes to a soldiers PTSD. Again, a solider will typically be more destructive, violent and will more often abuse alcohol and drugs with PTSD compared to what a civilian will. The reason is due to the training and lifestyle of the military. You must understand this in order to get a true reflection of how a veteran with PTSD would act, how symptoms would be reflected, etc.
  7. mvd182

    mvd182 New Member

    becvan and Anthony, thank you for your input! anthony, i totally agree with what you just said, thank you for speaking of something that is out of my realm and deeply personal to you, i can not thank you enough. so obviously i am just starting my homework on this, i will let you know if you're interested when and if i learn anything else that i am not sure about. thanks and now i gotta get off of this computer, my eyes are squares! good night and good luck!
  8. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Your welcome.... yer, I think you only just scratched the surface of something here, though yes, I would be interested to know how you go with this.
  9. rob4444

    rob4444 Active Member

    love your description of symptoms,becvan...couldnt have put it better!
  10. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

    :hello:Hello mvd, inspired by your post.

    Hello mvd,

    What a damn' brilliant trip this is for me this morning. (lol). All kidding aside. I love it!

    The topic, the developing ideas, the thought and your revealed efforts and work that you're putting into this book. I mean even coming here and introducing yourself. I read every word of what you wrote above.

    The reason I joke, and comment a brilliant trip for me this morning, is bc some VERY close similarities between your character Jack and let's say my step-dad from the past (for 20+ yrs.)

    (laughing my butt off right now)

    His name was Jack. He most likely and almost definately suffered from PTSD and yes, it was from his service in the military. From what I know of that was he flew or piloted planes and believed himself responsible for the dropping of bombs and killing of lives in, I believe it was WWII. Among other symptoms, he returned with a complicated symptom of claustophobia, that He suffered with.

    Yes, he had both hallucinations and flashbacks, and now I get it as to why while we slept, he was generally awake all night lurking about the house when he couldn't sleep.

    Reading your post has brought to my mind new rememberance and awarenesses, that I had once overlooked as his condition was complicated with a comorbid diagnosis of bipolar /manic depression. New memory: perhaps a symptom for your character Jack. Back yrs. ago I was warned not to go near anywhere's near him while he slept bc he was liable to wake suddenly and start fighting and attacking, before knowing what the hell was going on.

    He was too often delusional off his med's. And, yet this is how he preferred it, bc the alternative for him was accept the VA's shipments of med's and feel and become that of existing in a "waking coma."

    Mustn't forget the forever hyperviglance and sometimes exaggerated response of paranoia and impending threat that sometimes overcomes some extreme PTSD sufferers.

    Oh' and as for includ. the aspect of a change in behavior such as Anger and incomprehensible rage(s). Great and almost necessary idea for the character of traumatized, left ill and untreated (or mistreated) PTSD sufferer and soldier.

    You could really do well with your book, given much more of your research (factual), work (time), creativity (inspiration) and feedback (shared experience).

    Sh't, if you want your guy (character) to suffer and scratch involuntarily, have him do so. This could be for a number of related reasons. Ask any dermatologist if too much stress can cause itchy/scratchy skin or skin rashes, and even without drug addiction and they'll tell you yes, and there is even a name for it. Also, bc many soldiers (now with PTSD or developing PTSD) do return and are in desperate need of real and effective proper diagnosis and medical care (mind & body), and simply don't receive either then perhaps this nice guy Jack could also become a drug addicted Jack, from either alcohol abuse, too frequent recreational drug use, or improper diagnosis and/or treatment for his PTSD. I mean this is one of many openings for deliberating further material on pharmacueticals and presenting it. I mean, many a good man I presume gets highly encouraged and turned into a drug addict and at the hands of "helping", univolved psychiatric professionals. So there again, you could have the guy scratching involutarily from his new found and added drug addiction. (Thank you Doc., now wtf do I do), I can just imagine the vet PTSD sufferer sarcastically thinking now.

    As for portraying him as a good father and likeable guy who holds the determination to overcome his PTSD or perhaps PTSD and comorbid/secondary manifesations and/or conditions, why not.

    The severe, internal, wrongfully internalized guilt and suicidal ideational thoughts that the PTSD sufferer battles with within themselves, and sometimes explodes in frustration and anger with, often does not reflect the true heart or personality of the man/woman.

    Some people (which naturally would incl. PTSD sufferers), have hearts of gold so to speak, or charismatic personalties and additional charm. If that is portrayed in his character, showing him motivated to good will then you'll many of openings for speaking of his good fatherly love, husb. too if you're so inclined, and yet an ongoing and continuing battle, silently within himself and his mind, body and will.

    Sh't you could have even have this sufferer and vet, by exceptional trait and character, expressing/acting-out, or more severely taking out his anger and rage upon himself and apart from others. Rather than the sometimes more often than not, reality of him/her lashing out at, exploiting and abusing innocent family loved one and friends. .........

    .........I mean up of course to the point in which he (first treats and manages any comorbid or second. cond. you may or may not choose to give him), addresses and resolves his trauma and learns to live in far more peace and manageability of his life then ever before.


    mvd182, I like your "go get 'em tiger!" attitude. And, much appreciate the unintended motivation that your post left me with, as it expanded my thoughts and got me thinking and remembering certain things again, but in a different light.

    Hope you keep up all your efforts in your book and perhaps consider a nicotine patch, as will I "consider one"....as sufferer or not. Cigg' nicotine addiction .............

    We know that right!

    Anyhow, take care and please excuse my enormous post. My excuse is, I once and for a long time dreamnt of writing a book while exposing and revealing many a good and bad characters, agonizing and facinating symptomology of exposure to severe nuero., mental, psyche' and spiritual drama and disorder, and then while in its piece expressing some of my own heart of trauma. So if anything at all here stimulates your thought or helps, great. If not, great! But, in it all take care and lift yourself when discouraged in your ambition.

    Please let us know when your book is published, as I'd much enjoy the read.

    Now if I have to proofread any of this for error, it's never going to get posted, so here goes risk and room for error. Why not?

    Take Care, mvd..........

  11. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

    :rofl:.....(lol)...If you think they were squares the other night, just try reading what I posted. One read could mean squares and the end of the day for any one of us. Just funning, or perhaps so. (lol)

  12. mvd182

    mvd182 New Member

    Wonderful, Hope! thank you! I appreciate your response, I am almost overwhelmed by the positive reaction that my post garnered! As far as writing a book is concerned, the only thing standing between it and you is yourself and a whole crap load of free time and in my case cartons and cartons of cigarettes! So...do it! I really have had a blast writing this thing i would recommend it to anyone. Hell, my mom is writing a book! its funny how many people are, i am a testament to the fact that everyone and his mother is writing a book! Anywho... so Anthony, and everyone else, I have a little thing that i would like to try and clear up. I found this on, lets see...on the Tilted Forum project (Don't really know, it came up on a random search) and it has to do with scratching. In my case, or Jack's rather, he does it mostly while asleep and it is more like raking his skin rather than the itching made popular by Dave Chappelle's character "Tyrone Biggums" so here goes and please tell me if this next section is accurate...
    "My friend has been going through a lot lately, and she was raped. She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One night she realized that she hadn't had her period since the rape, and thought she was pregnant, but this turned out to be because of the drug they put her on.

    She's already seeing a therapist, but I've also been trying to help her through this. The problem is, after the incident with her period, she started scratching herself really bad at night. She filed her nails down and bandaged her hands, but sometimes the bandages come off. She can only see the therapist once a week, and it's getting worse. Yesterday her neighbor woke her from her nap by banging on her door and the front of her shirt was covered in blood because she scratched herself so hard. The therapist said that it's probably because she's subconsciously punishing herself for something.

    Her dad abused her when she was young, he beat her pretty badly, and so she has a tendency to blame herself for everything - including the rape.

    That's pretty much a nutshell, but I'm hoping someone with some experience can please give me some advice, because this is killing me too.

    Thanks so much for taking your time to read this."

    You know, for a few brief moments there i forgot what that part said. (Sigh) tough to read. well, that should do it for now. thanks, everyone...
  13. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    I won't confirm or deny the scratching aspect, as it would be rare. People respond in different ways. Yes, drugs can stop a females period. Every person responds differently. Could someone begin scratching themselves? Maybe... those with anxiety of this level take up cutting themselves, so anything is possible. They also cut to make the pain from trauma to away, or more to make themselves feel numb due to the trauma and anxiety at a given point.

    I wouldn't say your off topic, though I wouldn't say it fits the mould of PTSD attributes either. Either way though, still a good aspect. It is a book after all, not real life.
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