Shell Shock: Break Down in WWI. Now they are free.

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An increasingly large number of men seemed to have simply lost the will to fight.

Well, before facing this topic I have been meditating and taking time for breathing, alone, in the woods. This is one of the most sensitive subject I am still willing to write about. For the side story, I am one of those who experienced panic attacks and tremors, neurosthenia, physical and mental break down, which led to occupational burn out, as a consequence of « Paris Terror », in january and november 2015. Still dealing with the aftermath. But I am confident, and I will sort it out or bust.

By the way, I lived a « fake alert », while terrorists were around the parisian region ; trauma is like you face your death, and I was still on duty when november’s attacks stroke. The hall of the hotel, where I was serving, was full of thousands of guests and some of them had lost a friend in concert hall « Bataclan ». Too much to handle for a little creature of the Universe, like me.

Our duty, my team leader told me, was to take care of the guests and their needs were priority. My hands were shacking and couldn’t make a sense of what was happening, so that I called my mother to say « It’s alright, Mum, I am okay ». In those morning hours I felt like I was experiencing a hospital battle camp. A lady firefighter told me about the girl who lost her friend, and a few minutes beside that, a guest, a spanish lady, breaks down to tears because her vacation was fucked up. How can you not go insane?

« Life is simple » a doctor of Occupational Medicine told me once, while signing for a sick leave between two temporary missions in the administration. « Something has broken ». He was refering to me and my Management. In fact, although my Manager in duty was pushing me to get back to my service at front desk, in order to boost my reaction, in a positive way, a part of me was struggling to avoid to go back, as Self preservation.

Back to 1918.

One century ago, in his office, Sigmund Freud meets the soldiers back from the war front, and he detects war neurosis or shell shock due to no-stop artillery bombing in the trenches. Men loose control of their senses, from speech to blindness, they can’t explain what they are experiencing, or want to see that hell anymore. They also develop paraplegia. Personally, I was in shock by seeing old pictures, in black and white, with soldiers hands on the ground. The Italian cinema shows a scene in the movie « The Great War » by Monicelli which shows comedien Alberto Sordi getting scared from seeing a « lost hand » in the trench. « What is that ? » he says. Italians showed to the world how to treat delicate stuff with humour, but still great poetry and humanity. Think about Roberto Benigni and « Life is beautiful » which won the Oscar touching such a topic with great bravery though respect. Humour in this case is meant to put a distance between our mind and horrific reality, as a shield or a filter of what would make you getting mad.

But WWI wasn’t just an Italian affair, of course, and we can see Germans against French on the western front in the movie « All quiet on the western front » from original book « Im Western nichts Neues » by Erich Maria Remarque, 1930. And eastern front, between Russia and Poland, when Austria – Hungary invades this territory. Personally, I have been in Mount Sabotino trenches, and mountains on the Carso, in Northern Italy where Ernest Hemingway has served and was wounded by a german artillery shell. 

In his own words, “There was one of those big noises you sometimes hear at the front. I died then. I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you’d pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner. It flew all around and then came back and went in again and I wasn’t dead any more.”

Hemingway’s wounding along the Piave River in Italy and his subsequent recovery at a hospital in Milan, including the relationship with his nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, all inspired his great novel A Farewell To Arm. His story “Soldier’s Home” conveys his feelings of frustration and shame upon returning home to a town and to parents who still had a romantic notion of war and who didn’t understand the psychological impact the war had had on their son.

 

 

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Shame and guilt.

In 1914, the contemporary scientists and medicine men are involved in the War, and ethically challenged. The therapy has the target to get soldiers back to combat and not to rehabilitate them. Psychoterapy is at the starting blocks and Freud, with his collaborators, mark a milestone in the human psyche’s understanding. Mental health starts to be recognised as apart from physical health.

First, what leads to modern PTSD, it’s recognising that an external event, like a shock, can damage the man’s mind, though brave, courageous and rational human being. Finally, sensitive officers can break down, after sending their men one by one to die under enemy fire to gain an uncovered lookout point. The risk to be seen as weak or wimpy was limited to a manlike system which still perdured in the military discipline. Big boys don’t cry, right ?

Second, not only there’s an enemy out there, but according to the german Psychologist, the real enemy is inside. There are the Peace Self and the Warrior Self, and second is one to watch out, the one who wants you to sacrifice and takes pleasure from it. Soldiers finally realize that they are going to loose their lives and it doesn’t make any sense any more. Their Peace Self wants to live and go home to their families. Many officers are just « boys ».

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Shot at dawn.

During WWI, shell shock is also a way to escape from the frontline battles. Sometimes, at the cost of your own life. The officers in charge of their command are often so greedy and vanish to execute their soldiers who couldn’t or wouldn’t face the bombing anymore. The sentence states cowardice. The case of Harry Farr and Jimmy Smith, to mention just a couple of these young heroes, speaks out loud. After Somme, Gallipoli and other bloody battles, they just couldn’t take it anymore. In case, shell shock victims were supposed to be commuted by the martial court. Not in that instance. They were put a blindfold to cover their eyes, cognac from the evening before, and a round of paper on their heart to mark the target. « What a way to get leave. » Wait, Private Farr, refused the blindfold, actually. And I spare other details in deep respect of those who left, and also the ones who « gained the leave » for shooting to their camerades. Pardon was given in 2006 by British Governement, to those who deserted and were executed at dawn. Will the others ever forgive them selves ?

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Inner Self.

Isn’t that a sort of « karma » ? Well, I mean, shell shock today is haunting our minds as cultural heritage and stigma makes it hard for anyone to take a sick leave, at work, just to have a rest, saying no to team leaders or managers when the task is simply too tough and we are running out of time and co-staff. The Peace Self says it clearly that we can’t take it no more, but the War Self forces us to sacrifice for the good cause. We fear to loose our job and the boss confidence, while in the meantime nobody is taking care of your healthy conditions at workplace. Sometimes we live again that nightmare of those who left their heart in a foreign trench. « Who is the real enemy ? » Listen to the inner voice, the Wise Men say, and you will get it.

With courtesy of Ryan Williams from CURE UP.ORG

Article published on 27th june 2018

 

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Part of me died Feat. Roger Waters.

The part that is envious, cold hearted and devious
Greedy, mischievous, global, colonial
Bloodthirsty, blind, mindless and cheap
Focused on borders and slaughter and sheep
Burning of books, bulldozing of homes
Given to targeted killing with drones
Lethal injections, arrest without trial

Repression of War Experience. A poem by Siegfried Sasson.

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Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame—
No, no, not that,—it’s bad to think of war,
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.
Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you’re as right as rain …
                                                       Why won’t it rain? …
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.
Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,—
Not people killed in battle,—they’re in France,—
But horrible shapes in shrouds–old men who died
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.
                         *          *          *
You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You’d never think there was a bloody war on! …
O yes, you would … why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft … they never cease—
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop—I’m going crazy;
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.

 

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Shell Shock? Not sure. But I would hug all of them, right now.

Shell Shock and Cowardice in WWI: The Story of Harry Farr.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "harry farr"The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has a pdf of a gripping article on Private Harry Farr, a 25 year-old British soldier shot for cowardice during World War I, despite having being treated for shell-shock.

As with all other WWI soldiers executed for cowardice, Farr was pardoned earlier this year by the British Government.

The article is written by Professor Simon Wessley of King’s College London, who puts the Farr’s court martial and execution in context of the history of World War I, and in the context of what was known about trauma-related psychiatry at the time.

There is little dispute about the sequence of events on 17 September 1916 that led to the execution of Private Farr. Harry Farr was a member of 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, which was taking part in the battle of the Somme. That day his battalion was moving from their rear positions up to the front line itself. At 9.00 am that morning Farr asked for permission to fall out, saying he was not well. He was sent to see the medical officer, who either found nothing wrong with him, or refused to see him because he had no physical injury‚Äîthe Court Martial papers are unclear on this point. Later that night Farr was found still at the rear, and was again ordered to go the trenches. He refused, telling Regimental Sergeant Major Haking, that he ‘could not stand it’. Then Hanking replied ‘You are a fucking coward and you will go to the trenches. I give fuck all for my life and I give fuck all for yours and I’ll get you fucking well shot’. At 11.00 pm that night a final attempt was made to get Private Farr up to the front line, and he was escorted forward. A fracas broke out between Farr and his escorts, and this time they let him run away. The following morning he was arrested and charged with contravening section 4 (7) of the Army Act ‚Äî showing cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The article discusses why Farr was executed, when over 96% of soldiers convicted of cowardice escaped this punishment, and how the concept of psychological disorder was understood in 1916, particularly by a British Army in a precarious military position.

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Wife Gertrude and their daughter Gertie in 1918, two year’s after Farr’s death (Janet Booth and James White).

 

For more information on shell-shock, and a paper by pioneering WWI military psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers on the condition, there’s a good overview available here.

pdf of article ‘The life and death of Private Harry Farr’.
Link to shell-shock info from FirstWorldWar.com

With Courtesy of Vaughanbell

All quiet on the Western Front.

Special effects are far from more recent ones, but once you finish this movie, you feel like you lost a friend. Or more. Shell shock is quickly seen on a scene on the front. Face to face combat takes the stage. And dead bodies.

This book was one of my first on the WWI, as teenager. It still haunts me, over 40.

Minute 2:16:00 “But I know now, I should never come back. Out there all the things that I do, there is no other meaning of life, cos it has no meaning. My companion at the front are the only truth I know. They are my books, my family, my life. I depend on them, and don’t depend on anything else. Mother, it’s a terrible thing to say, but I feel I am going back to my real home”.

Heart-felt Compassion for Soldiers in WWI: Farina or Brewster Armor Body.

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Ernest Hemingway volounteer in WWI, Northern Italy.

The article I am preparing on coping with PTSD in WWI will be quite emotional. These are body armors built by Ferruccio Farina also known as Brewster Body Armor shields.

 

They were employed in trenches, actually, from one trench to the other,  in order to cut the barbed wire inbetween.

The fact is that in Italy when they used them for the very first time, soldiers, they didn’t really tested them. And there is this story about a volounteering troop who went out from the trenches, and Austrian were just waiting for them to come out, with submachine guns.

They were also adopted by American troops in unhappily welt-famous Verdun, on the French western front.

The atrocity of this war, apart from the mass of dead people, was the dishumanity from talking with your enemy in one moment, exchanging chocolate and cigarettes, and shooting to each other a few hours later.

Today I was having my lunch next horses, in the pony farm near where I work, horses were riding and you would say they were enjoying it and having fun, despite they are not wild and free. I thought to all those soldiers, who couldn’t change their mind, and simply go back to their homes, and If I can put into words, I wish that if there is any karmic reincarnation, that those souls fallen in WWI, could pass by a spirit life as riding horses. Wouldn’t that be great divine justice?

xx

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PTSD in WWI so-called “shell shock”: Coward. Sensitive beware.

“COWARD” is a 28 minute film set during World War 1 that brings to light some of the brutal treatment soldiers received for suffering what would now be known as shell-shock. It follows two cousins, Andrew and James, from their home in Northern Ireland who join the British Army to fight for their Country and make their families proud. Through their eyes we see the reality of life on the front lines.

PTSD and Gene Kelly’s Lost Wartime Star Turn.

Since a young Italian girl, the impact of the aftermath of WWI and WWII, into music and cinema took my attention. It goes without saying, that also justifies why I am running this website in english, British and American cultures still have a huge influence on the Italian mood.

Something that was so evident, for example, was the massive musicals after WWII. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Fred Astaire were the leading Hollywood stars of a joyful, but yet moving and educational movie making. They were made to convey a message of hope and spirit up lifting after misery, loss and grief.

Today wars are dispatched all over the world, and governements name them “Peace Missions to bring democracy“. Words are important, they give a meaning to thoughts. Modern wars are lasting fifteen years? Ok, I will keep my thought silent for respect to deployed, right? But my reflection goes to music then. Which impact do these ‘missions’ have on our social and civil environement, today? None.

Movies …very good for action which guys are keen on, and then videogames. Outburst of violence which lead fragile minds to no sense. True story, I was driving through a Normandy highway, visiting Omaha, and Sainte-Mère-Eglise, when my ex boyfriend (for a reason) told me excited as a cow “Look at that, I have already been there!!!” “What you mean?” “Yes, I fell out an helicopter with my riflegun and shot all those fu*kers around on these plains.” He was serious, and seriously damaged on his cells brain. This is it. Parisian region, and especially suburbs, are made of young vulnerable minds lost in a combat videogame. What’s the purpose? None.

Before there was PTSD there was shell shock and combat fatigue and Gene Kelly’s Combat Fatigue Irritability.

Circulating Now from NLM

by Michael Sappol

Gene Kelly, in a flotation divice stands in front of a bank of gauges looking up.Before there was PTSD there was shell shock and combat fatigue and Gene Kelly’s Combat Fatigue Irritability.

Combat Fatigue Irritability was made during World War II as a “naval training film” (although, unlike most military training films, there is very little training going on in this film). First screened in 1945, it was probably only shown to two select groups: men who were being treated in military facilities for what was then called “combat fatigue” (a category that eventually gave rise to our term, “post-traumatic stress disorder“); and to health professionals who treated such men. It was a “restricted” film, only for military viewing. After the war it was forgotten. It has never received any attention from film historians, and very little from fans (a few of whom did know of it but never got to see it). It is missing from the Gene Kelly…

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Charlie, who?

IamNotCharlieFirst Paris attack came in january 2015. The whole week, unhappily, I’ve been watching videos on the web. Every day we got striking news about actions of terrorists around the parisian area. They said that they were stealing cars and hiding in the woods, so I was in alert. Police forces were hunting them, streets to airports were blocked, everybody was on his nerves. Since our company is american, it was on the target of terrorism, after 2001, and still is, so we felt like something could strike soon or later.

And as low of attraction demonstrates, when you FEEL something, it happens … this point is worth to be stressed enough, concentrate on positive, means sending good vibes into the universe ….and cosmo will send you back ! Viceversa, live in fears, and your vibes won’t have the same effect. You see what I mean? This time I was quite nervous because these two men were around, and there had been already a shooting in Paris, a police woman was killed the day before, following a car accident where one of the terrorists (the one from casher supermarket) was involved. He was wearing bulletproof vest and had a kalashnikov rifle. Another policeman was shot in Paris, a few days before, he was lying down the ground begging the killer to spare his life. He had no pity. And shot his head blood cold to finish with him. On You Tube you could find this video supporting the theory that, the fact I just told you, was a fake. It was meant to put people in chaos. And nobody knew exactly what was really trustworthy. Except people who knew that man, like a guy I was dating on line, yes, his father was a jobmate of that poor guy.

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That week “Je suis Charlie” went on a massive world movement, and suddenly turned all pictures on Facebook, into french colors. Mine, too. But I was angry, angry with Italians who hadn’t any idea of what was going on here, and with my peers, nobody showed up to say « hello ». Only a few posting on Facebook to show off at which point « everybody was french ». But no calls on my phone.

Until saturday morning, 10th of january. The day I had a date with Death for a chess game. Things hurried up at about 10h30 am, when the hall was full of kids with their families. First, I saw a security man walking speed in front of the reception, and directed to the floors. Second, two others, right after. Our screens on pc were on news all the time. The two killers, at the printing house, were shot the evening before, in Dammarie-les-Lys. Two persons held hostage were still alive. The man in the casher supermarket, who killed other persons, caught and dead, too, by the GIGN commando. What else could happen ?

Suddenly, someone shouted at the bottom of the hall, « SORTEZ ! ». « Go out ! » Damn, I swear, in first seconds I had no time to realize what was going to happen, I was just scared to death, and only knew that I had to go out from there. No matter what. My Brazzaville’s jobmate said something, and I replied « « Dear, pray, that we can tell this story, some day». We were all expecting something terrible to happen. Our energy vibration was tuned on those videos on You Tube, so in a certain way, we were waiting on a bomb strike or kalashnikov rifles fire.

Two seconds, and your life suddenly stops. Someone pushed « stand by » button. One, you hear « sortez », two, what the f*** …and in between, it stands your life until today. « What did you do until now ? » « How did you spend your life ? » »Did you explore your potential ? » »Did you do what really counted for you ? » »Did you try harder ? »

Questioning your life in two seconds, and third, last question, …where’s EXIT ?

Before I had time for longer self reflection, I hold the first little girl’s hand, and slowly, hurry up to the door and to the parking area. The man who was entering was a policeman, and I won’t ever forget that eyes look. Thank you french cops. Never enough. As soon as I stepped out of the building, my full body nerves coulndn’t stop shimmering, and seeked for other colleagues. Crowd was in panic, one close jobmate was crying, evenutally calling her sons, while I realized my phone was left inside, and I couldn’t reach my mother…. That was better, I supposed, cos what would I tell her ? « I love you Mum » like in 9/11 ? That was the feeling.

As team, we were used to test evacuations on a regular basis, more for fire prevention. But this one was supposed to be not a fake, and it was the worst and worse organised I ever experienced. Not only we weren’t informed on what was happening, but we were held in the parking area, at zero degrees, me in short sleeves, without the possibility to leave. The gate were kept closed. I mean, … Thousands of people in a parking as hostage ? Yes, police call it « freezing ». They keep control on the situation by avoiding people to go away, just in case, there is anybody involved in terrorism. Someone was jumping the gate, but eventually also the closer train station was blocked. So, I spent one hour and a half with this couple of spanish army, with their two little girls, and I admit, we were quite sure that something important was going on. A german jobmate, tried to calm down guests, and dancing salsa in the handicap parking space. No much results. So, it came naturally to me to leave my team apart, and stay with the little girls. The younger showed me pictures of her cartoons heros. We tchit tchat for a while until we were told to move. We did. And after this endless snake line we could go back to our work. Danger was over. Was it ?

So, we all were asked to go back to our job locations. That is very bad for provoking anxious state, and strange enough, we didn’t get any psychological support. First, after I entered the building, I went to toilet, of course, and stood a little, thinking to what I just experienced. Was it real ?

Nop, it was a fake. 

Yes, a fake alert. What the f*** ! That meant that I won my match against Death, yes, I was given some more time, and from now on…. from now on, what? 

In respect of the victims, and highly sensitive people, just like me, I won’t put any videos on Paris Attacks. Anyway, I might suggest you this one: “Three days of terror” on You Tube.

Be grateful.

Since 2015, all in my life went wrong, and so, I had to decide what was really worth going on and what was time to let go. Ego suffered the most. Now, three years later my beautiful trauma, the moment has come to move forward. Taking the responsability of my entire life. If you agree, that we create our own reality, and if you are someone who attracts toxic relationships, or fake alerts, even natural disasters, you shall ask questions about WHO YOU ARE, and WHY YOU.

It takes 10 years now, that I live in this Country – Parisian suburbs, France – where many people are renowned to complain about anything, from weather, to strikes and canteen food. If they are black skinned, they say that there are too asiatic, in town, and they are ready to move into another city. On the opposite, asiatics are quite happy-go-lucky. They inspire me always looking on the bright side of life.

That means that when you open your window, after one month of cloudy and rainy weather, you shall be thankful for Mother Earth. Or saying “hello” when you meet a lady, out of a station, who is begging for money, even though you won’t give her any coins. That is the positive attitude which I have been developing in last ten years. I can’t remember when exactly it happened, but this shapeshift is still transforming my mind and behaviour.

So, welcome to my PTSD world. I hope you will enjoy your visit, take notes, and get well.