Book Review: Former Marine Provides a History of PTSD in "The Evil Hours"
David J. Morris is a former Marine who served in the 1990s and did not see combat. After the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, however, Morris was embedded there (and in Afghanistan) as a journalist, witnessing the horrors of war on a daily basis.
On October 10, 2007 in the Saydia neighborhood of Baghdad, the Humvee that Morris was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb. Morris narrowly escaped death during the attack, but was quickly transported into what he describes as “the traumatic universe,” which he says “corrodes everything that came before, eating at moments and people from your previous life until you can’t remember why any of them mattered.”
In his incredible new book The Evil Hours (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Morris powerfully describes not only what he learned from his time in war-torn Iraq and his subsequent struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but also the complicated history of PTSD, which has obviously existed as long as war has existed but was not recognized as an official mental disorder until, almost unbelievably, 1980.
Most famously during World War I, but as recently as the Vietnam War, American soldiers suffering from post-traumatic symptoms were often considered cowards, and in some cases given shock treatment or even executed. As the New York Times wrote earlier this year, during the Vietnam War VA doctors erroneously (and dangerously) confused PTSD with schizophrenia, and in the 1970s one VA psychiatrist labeled PTSD—which is now the fourth-most-common psychiatric disorder in America—an “insult to brave men.” Thankfully times have changed.
Morris deftly tells the history of PTSD in The Evil Hours, touching on the post-traumatic mental struggles of survivors of not only war but also sexual assault and natural disaster. As anyone who has worked with men and women who served in combat knows, it takes immense bravery to serve our country, and it also takes intense bravery to fight not only Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but also—unfortunately—the VA system, which often seems to intentionally confuse and frustrate veterans who are simply trying to get the disability benefits and healthcare they deserve and so deeply need.
In The Evil Hours, Morris cites a report commissioned by none other than General Dwight D. Eisenhower at the end of World War II, titled Combat Exhaustion, which stated “Psychiatric casualties are as inevitable as gunshot and shrapnel wounds in warfare.” Morris added that “Most of these casualties didn’t improve once [soldiers] got back home. Americans were surpassingly proud of their veterans but took almost no interest in their inner problems”; thus, many of our World War II heroes came back with serious service-connected mental disabilities, for which immediate professional care was needed, but were essentially taken “from the killing fields of the war and dropp[ed] into civilian life equipped with little more than a bus ticket home.”
As Morris comments in his book, post-war trauma has been discussed in writings at least as far back as The Iliad— yet it wasn’t until 35 years after World War II that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was recognized as an official mental disorder. Today, Morris writes, “the Veterans Administration, the second-largest department within the U.S. government, remains a global clearinghouse for PTSD research and has an annual mental health budget that hovers around seven billion dollars.”
The Evil Hours finds Morris poignantly detailing the ups and downs of the diverse PTSD treatment he has received through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs—and also through therapeutic activities such as surfing. Effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms is available and, as a veteran, it’s something to which you are absolutely entitled. If you are having trouble navigating the VA disability claims process and need help, do not give up—call the offices of Attorney Sean Kendall today at 877-629-1712.
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