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Author Topic: English Civil Wars Veteran describing Trauma  (Read 538 times)
Srpz2116
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« on: 02 March 2021, 07:07:58 PM »

I found a pamphlet written by a Civil War veteran which is really interesting, though sad. He's describing symptoms of trauma throughout as a result of having served in the wars.

This part stuck out:

"In Meadowes, where our sports were wont to be,
(and, where we playing wantonly have laine)
Men sprawling in their blood, we now do see;
Grim postures of the dying and the slaine.
And where sweet musique hath refreshed the eare,
Sad groans, of ghosts departing, now we heare.
In evíry Field, in evíry Lane, and Street,
In evíry House (almost in evíry Place)
With Cries, and Teare, and Loud-Complaints we meet,
And, each one thinks his own, the saddest case."

 The publication was essentially him getting his experiences off his chest (more than likely trying to come to terms with it all) and the passage above is from a more extended bit about how much the world turned upside down and everything - and everyone - was forced to change because of it.

He also writes:

"What Ghosts are they that haunt
The Chambers of my breast!
And, when I sleep, or comfort want,
Will give my heart no rest?
Me thinks the sound of grones
Are ever in mine ear:
Deep-graves, Deaths-heads, and Charnell-bones
Before me still appeare.
And, when asleep I fall,
In hope to find some ease,
My dreames, to me, are worst of all,
And fright me more than these"
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Scorpio_Rocks
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« Reply #1 on: 03 March 2021, 02:47:37 AM »

 Cry  Cry  Cry
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paulr
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« Reply #2 on: 03 March 2021, 03:07:06 AM »

Very poignant

Do you know who wrote it, I may display it next time we do an ECW display game
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« Reply #3 on: 03 March 2021, 03:32:56 AM »

Everyone's favourite ECW piccie.
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Srpz2116
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« Reply #4 on: 03 March 2021, 09:01:27 AM »

Very poignant

Do you know who wrote it, I may display it next time we do an ECW display game
Parliamentarian Major George Wither.

He served in the Bishops War in 1639 as a cavalry Captain. When the Civil War began he raised his own cavalry troop, but it wasn't long before his house was plundered and he was captured by Royalists.

Later in the war he served at Gloucester in 1643 and Naseby in 1645.

Post war, he was an avid political and religious pamphleteer, but was often in trouble because of it. With the Restoration, he was imprisoned for three years and died in 1667.
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ianrs54
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« Reply #5 on: 03 March 2021, 09:40:36 AM »

Seems war has had the same effects froim year dot.
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Srpz2116
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« Reply #6 on: 03 March 2021, 09:50:46 AM »

Seems war has had the same effects froim year dot.
Indeed. I've read that the earliest known record of trauma resulting from war is from Bronze Age Assyria.

 It find it interesting to read about these things, but because there has been such a lack of understanding regarding it, you really have to trawl through personal accounts in order to find centuries old attempts by sufferers to put their symptoms into words, and sometimes have to know what it is you're looking for.

It's frustrating, though, that lots of articles and videos which dicuss trauma are so narrow or have very little understanding of it. Lots see it as something which only soldiers get (which is completely untrue and I could rant for an hour about it!) or frame it as "Did Mediaeval Knights get PTSD from battle?" etc, almost as though the author believes people 500 years ago were somehow unable to be affected by traumatic events, but for some reason people today are. Not sure how they reached that conclusion!
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Techno II
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« Reply #7 on: 03 March 2021, 10:11:39 AM »

Very poignant

It is.

Phil.

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mmcv
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« Reply #8 on: 03 March 2021, 10:51:57 AM »

Indeed. I've read that the earliest known record of trauma resulting from war is from Bronze Age Assyria.

 It find it interesting to read about these things, but because there has been such a lack of understanding regarding it, you really have to trawl through personal accounts in order to find centuries old attempts by sufferers to put their symptoms into words, and sometimes have to know what it is you're looking for.

It's frustrating, though, that lots of articles and videos which dicuss trauma are so narrow or have very little understanding of it. Lots see it as something which only soldiers get (which is completely untrue and I could rant for an hour about it!) or frame it as "Did Mediaeval Knights get PTSD from battle?" etc, almost as though the author believes people 500 years ago were somehow unable to be affected by traumatic events, but for some reason people today are. Not sure how they reached that conclusion!

Certainly, it's an interesting topic of study. I've read a few things over the years of people discussing it. I think the gist of it was not whether or not it was more or less common in ancient times. Given we know anyone experiencing a trauma can get PTSD it's certainly likely that it's existed for all of human history, but the question probably arises as to was it less common in the past? Were traumatic events more or less common? Living conditions were obviously harsher at times, so events that would be considerably traumatic to us may be a common way of life for some people at some times, and therefore they may be less likely to be affected the way someone dealing with a trauma outside their normal frame of reference would be. The other thing to consider is within the context of warfare, historically a typical soldier might have only fought a small handful of standup battles in his lifetime, and those were usually short affairs, mostly lasting a few hours to a day and likely that he wasn't in the thick of the combat for that entire period. Contrast that with the battles in more recent times that can last days or even months of sustained stress and danger. Even being back at your camp you can't ever really feel safe as there's always the risk of artillery, aircraft, or disguised civilians. I suppose that factors in with everyday life as well. Are people in modern life in a more consistently stressed and anxious state in general and given the reasonable comfort and safety of our modern life, when we do experience trauma does it have a bigger impact on us? Does having real life or death stressors to deal with in every day life make people more resilient. I suppose there's likely anthropological aspects to that too. I read about some Amazonian tribes for instance, so used to death and illness that they barely give it a second thought if a loved one dies, and have quite a casual attitude to killing someone they thought wouldn't be able to look after themselves. Horrific to us, but an everyday reality to them.
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Srpz2116
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« Reply #9 on: 03 March 2021, 12:12:59 PM »

Certainly, it's an interesting topic of study. I've read a few things over the years of people discussing it. I think the gist of it was not whether or not it was more or less common in ancient times. Given we know anyone experiencing a trauma can get PTSD it's certainly likely that it's existed for all of human history, but the question probably arises as to was it less common in the past? Were traumatic events more or less common? Living conditions were obviously harsher at times, so events that would be considerably traumatic to us may be a common way of life for some people at some times, and therefore they may be less likely to be affected the way someone dealing with a trauma outside their normal frame of reference would be. The other thing to consider is within the context of warfare, historically a typical soldier might have only fought a small handful of standup battles in his lifetime, and those were usually short affairs, mostly lasting a few hours to a day and likely that he wasn't in the thick of the combat for that entire period. Contrast that with the battles in more recent times that can last days or even months of sustained stress and danger. Even being back at your camp you can't ever really feel safe as there's always the risk of artillery, aircraft, or disguised civilians. I suppose that factors in with everyday life as well. Are people in modern life in a more consistently stressed and anxious state in general and given the reasonable comfort and safety of our modern life, when we do experience trauma does it have a bigger impact on us? Does having real life or death stressors to deal with in every day life make people more resilient. I suppose there's likely anthropological aspects to that too. I read about some Amazonian tribes for instance, so used to death and illness that they barely give it a second thought if a loved one dies, and have quite a casual attitude to killing someone they thought wouldn't be able to look after themselves. Horrific to us, but an everyday reality to them.

Yeah it's an interesting question, especially as it leads to another question: were these people seemingly less affected because life was harsh, meaning that they were less likely to be traumatised; or, were these people seemingly less affected because life was harsh, and so they were already traumatised? And, is the answer any different today?

Also apologies - this will probably end up very long! I have lots to say but I'll try to keep it as brief as I can.

I would argue for the assertion that it appears people were less affected by many traumatising events simply because they were already traumatised, based on how trauma can manifest itself without becoming full-on PTSD/C-PTSD. It is very common for people to gain self-defence mechanisms after a traumatic event without developing a disorder. For example, I know of someone who, whenever anyone shows affection to pets, will say "it's just a cat/dog/etc." and start looking at this person as stupid and needing to grow up a bit. Turns out that when that person was a child, their pet cat died and they were very upset. Their father didn't know how to deal with them so, instead of trying to teach emotional regulation and providing a support network (which is among the top things you should do to prevent and combat trauma) he said "stop crying, it's just a cat". This person had a trauma regarding becoming too attached to pets, without a doubt, but I don't think that alone gave them PTSD.

Also, we have to wonder whether or not people back in the day had generational trauma: PTSD/C-PTSD can be passed genetically. Children of traumatised parents will not be born (as far as I know) with the disorder, but they will be more predisposed to develop it (much like children of parents with Schizophrenia are more likely to develop it themselves later in life, especially if something triggers it like drug use or, indeed, trauma). So, it's undoubtable that a large proportion of people centuries ago had trauma behaviours (as above) and generational trauma, especially with the amount or wars and plagues leaving such a mark on many people's lives.

Also, generational trauma can be taught rather than inherited. If a father goes to war and gets PTSD from the Battle of Agincourt, say, then comes home with toxic coping mechanisms such as stifling his emotions, his children can internalise these behaviours and act them out without themselves actually having PTSD/C-PTSD, not least because their father would likely instil not showing emotions as a value for them to follow - he has to justify his own reasons for doing it, after all, lest he be forced to confront that what he is doing is neither noble, healthy, or normal. As this is now part of the kids' behaviours, it is likely that they will teach it to their children and so on. A personal example of this is the fact that from a very young age I have had mild claustrophobia, but never had a traumatic experience of being trapped somewhere. My mother is the same. My grandmother, however, has never got over becoming trapped in an Anderson shelter during WWII and essentially taught us both to have anxieties surrounding things like elevators. We were not outright told to be scared of them, but kids are sponges and picked up that "elevators scare mum/granny therefore elevators are something to be scared of".

Then (just to add to the mix) is the subject of collective (or cultural) trauma. This is trauma which was experienced by so large a proportion of the population it simply implants itself into the culture. A good example of this is many British people using the term "going over the top" to describe having to do a very unpleasant task we don't want to do, or many Italians historically using the phrase "Hannibal is at the gates" to mean something bad happening. If a society has a lot of collective trauma, it can build up a national "character" that its people should adhere to such as a "stiff upper-lip" approach to life, which can lead to a seemingly detached experience to otherwise traumatic events. One's mind has been brought up as though it had trauma even if it doesn't, in this sense.

And then (this really is going on, isn't it) we have to wonder whether someone with trauma is more or less likely to be affected by a traumatic event compared to a non-traumatised person. I believe the traumatised person will have less of a reaction simply because the body has adapted to the concept of ever-present danger and is well-versed in hyperarousal (which is also what leads me to think there was a general prevalence of trauma in various forms in the past which gave more of a detached or "numbed" effect when presented with, say death of a loved one).

As an example of this: the first time someone I used to know saw a dead body when he joined the police, it affected him to the point that he actually developed trauma from it and could barely bring himself to talk about it even years later. I, meanwhile, had absolutely the opposite reaction when I first saw a dead body (not in the police, in a park on my way to Sixth Form). My experience was that the event was (morbidly) interesting and I was not at all phased by the situation, and I know it is because I have C-PTSD so my brain was so used to such normally high-stress situations that it simply took this one in stride. This is backed-up by the fact that the other man actually had a support network in his colleagues and had been taught coping mechanisms, so should have been less affected in the aftermath. But it was the person who was already somewhat numbed to high-stress situations as a result of trauma that was less phased.

It has also been found that traumatised people have less of a startle response than non-traumatised people - for the same reasons as above. This could explain the ability of certain veteran troops to stand in full view of enemy shot and shell as we often read about in military history and possibly accounts for the testimonies that they didn't even flinch when cannonballs and the like hit very close by.

So NOW we can come to the question of: were people more or less traumatised in the past than in the present? Obviously, we have no way of knowing. Personally, looking solely at the UK (places such as Syria, Libya, South Africa etc. are a completely different matter altogether) I wouldn't be surprised if we had similar levels of generational, cultural, and learnt trauma as well as similar levels of PTSD and C-PTSD.

I think you raise a really good point when you say:
Are people in modern life in a more consistently stressed and anxious state in general

In our modern world, people are constantly talking about the pressures of school and work: burnouts and dropouts etc. The number of university students who deal with the stress of their studies by drinking is quite worrying, as are the levels of things such as depression which we keep recording in the population more generally.

Considering that many people in the UK have to work several jobs to get by, or become influenced into self-body shaming by media outlets etc., or that there's been a year-long lockdown with hundreds of thousands lost, and because we as a nation have many years of generational, cultural, and learnt traumas even present in the lives of people who have not developed PTSD/C-PTSD, I would be very surprised if we were any more or less susceptible to traumatisation etc than our ancestors. I've even read of children developing eating disorders, which speaks for itself as to the constant stress we are daily placed under.

So, in short, I would guess that the levels of trauma are not too dissimilar in the past nor is the susceptibility to develop non-disorder trauma, PTSD, or C-PTSD of modern people much different, nor is the pervasiveness of trauma in our culture and that which is passed on generationally much different either.

In case you hadn't noticed, this was me keeping it brief!  Grin
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mmcv
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« Reply #10 on: 03 March 2021, 02:32:31 PM »

A fascinating analysis! It is something of great interest. You raise a little of it in your discussion on mental health in general and young people dealing with stress. There is a worrying trend towards the younger generation coming up into adulthood now appearing to be more anxious and stressed than previous ones. I don't know if that's a greater awareness causing a greater perception of it, but it does seem that stress and anxiety is affecting people at a much greater extent at a much younger age. There's nine years between my brother and I and anecdotally, our experiences through school/uni have been pretty different, even over a short time, not just for ourselves (which can easily be explained by differences in personality) but through broader experiences from others we've known. I do worry about the long term effects that may have as those patterns, once embedded, are very hard to shift. I know a few people with anxiety (across the generations) and it's not something anyone wants to be living with, so seeing it becoming a generational rather than individual trend is concerning.

The epigenetic nature of it (as you alluded to) being passed down genetically to become predisposed to it could also lead to a dangerous cycle. We're seeing this with obesity, where genetic predispositions can be passed down from parents to children as epigenetic switches. This is a fairly obvious and visible one, but the idea that might also happen with "invisible" conditions around mental health means we could see it increasing generationally, between genetic and environmental factors. On the flip side, if it is something that strongly correlates to epigenetic triggers, then there is the possibility that scientific and medical progress may find ways to alleviate those symptoms through physical intervention more effectively.

It is interesting though that the experience of trauma numbing those to future trauma acts as a defence mechanism for humans to survive in traumatic and difficult situations. Unpleasant as it is, goes to show how resilient and adaptable human nature can be, for good or ill.
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Srpz2116
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« Reply #11 on: 03 March 2021, 07:38:59 PM »

A fascinating analysis! It is something of great interest. You raise a little of it in your discussion on mental health in general and young people dealing with stress. There is a worrying trend towards the younger generation coming up into adulthood now appearing to be more anxious and stressed than previous ones. I don't know if that's a greater awareness causing a greater perception of it, but it does seem that stress and anxiety is affecting people at a much greater extent at a much younger age. There's nine years between my brother and I and anecdotally, our experiences through school/uni have been pretty different, even over a short time, not just for ourselves (which can easily be explained by differences in personality) but through broader experiences from others we've known. I do worry about the long term effects that may have as those patterns, once embedded, are very hard to shift. I know a few people with anxiety (across the generations) and it's not something anyone wants to be living with, so seeing it becoming a generational rather than individual trend is concerning.

The epigenetic nature of it (as you alluded to) being passed down genetically to become predisposed to it could also lead to a dangerous cycle. We're seeing this with obesity, where genetic predispositions can be passed down from parents to children as epigenetic switches. This is a fairly obvious and visible one, but the idea that might also happen with "invisible" conditions around mental health means we could see it increasing generationally, between genetic and environmental factors. On the flip side, if it is something that strongly correlates to epigenetic triggers, then there is the possibility that scientific and medical progress may find ways to alleviate those symptoms through physical intervention more effectively.

It is interesting though that the experience of trauma numbing those to future trauma acts as a defence mechanism for humans to survive in traumatic and difficult situations. Unpleasant as it is, goes to show how resilient and adaptable human nature can be, for good or ill.

Yeah definitely!

I'd argue that you're right: it often appears more prevalent now because we're looking for it. PTSD as a concept recognised by the wider medical community has only been around for about 40 years. These days, most people have a general idea about trauma, depression, anxiety etc and so pick up on it more often. However, previously women with such conditions would be dismissed as "hysterical" and men as "weak" so it would go unnoticed.

 It's the same with many other things too: Dyslexia was written off as "stupid" and OCD as "clean freak". Of course, we're still not fully away from that now but there has been a few inches of progress.

But, as we're looking for it, and as there's a growing societal acceptance of being more open about mental health and neurodivergence, we find it. And those statistics can get skewed or misunderstood to show that something that's here now wasn't before which is where problems arise. It's often used to say things like "Autism is caused by vaccines because there were not Autistic people prior to mass vaccination." Of course there actually were, and many figures from history such as Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Alan Turing are often considered to be Autistic. It's also used to say things like "gay people are a fad because there were no gay people when I was younger." My great grandmother was convinced that gay people originated in the 1980s!

It's just one of those things where a lack of knowledge (because it was not talked about or not understood so there was little acceptance or research) leads to a backlash or, in the case of trauma, a small outcry that things have never been so bad.

The real question regarding the generational and cultural prevalence of trauma is, as you say,: will we be able to prevent it from growing?

My opinion is "yes", but it would take a huge shift in our society as a whole. If we want to stop children getting depressed and the like, for example, we would need to completely reshape the education system to be more malleable to the individuality of children, which would require more money; we'd also have to change our societal views on the importance of talking about emotions and teaching children better emotional regulation which, in turn, requires teaching it to adults as well etc etc and we'd need to do this in almost all sectors of our society, I believe, before medical/theraputical intervention can begin having a major effect.

As to your last point, I would argue that it's certainly an impressive method the brain can use to peotect itself, but only as a stopgap measure: one can usually remain numb while in a stressful environment, but the toll often (but by no means universally) begins to be taken once it's left. That's why the British army began to get a surge of depression cases after Germany surrendered in WWII: the stress was alleviated, but the mind has adapted itself to the old environment and, without the unhealthy stimulation, begins to have to come to terms which is what it needs to do.

This can look, though, as if the person isn't coping (which they might not actually be) and it may appear that they are getting worse even (which, to make matters more complicated, they might be!)

The key is catching the person as soon as the trauma is over, providing a dependable and caring support network, followed by ensuring their life is as calm and stress-free as possible. Then you can begin exploring the events which led them to be traumatised at their own pace and, slowly over time, help them recover sufficiently to have most symptoms play no effect on their life.
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mmcv
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« Reply #12 on: 03 March 2021, 08:48:10 PM »

Yes absolutely, I was by no means suggesting the numbness was a good thing of itself, more an interesting point of the defence mechanisms built into human development and how they cope with a sometimes dangerous and traumatic world.

Certainly all these things existed in the past and were often as you say dismissed as other things. I'm generally of the opinion that cultures change, but human nature, not so much. If you had a time machine to bring a baby from ancient mesopotamia to the modern day and raised them as such, I doubt they would be distinguishable from any other person.

I agree entirely that social acceptance and understanding is the way forward. I do think as a society we will get there. There's a lot of hay made about such things "going mad" and certainly some people can swing them too far, but that comes from a good place and in time I think (and hope) as a society we'll find an equilibrium that can recognise those situations and deliver the timely support we need to. As you well point out, we see how far these things have come in just our lifetimes and the social acceptance of things that previously would have been widely condemned, so I do hope we see such changes occur in time to help the current and upcoming generations before too many fall through the cracks.
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Srpz2116
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« Reply #13 on: 03 March 2021, 09:09:19 PM »

Yes absolutely, I was by no means suggesting the numbness was a good thing of itself, more an interesting point of the defence mechanisms built into human development and how they cope with a sometimes dangerous and traumatic world.

Certainly all these things existed in the past and were often as you say dismissed as other things. I'm generally of the opinion that cultures change, but human nature, not so much. If you had a time machine to bring a baby from ancient mesopotamia to the modern day and raised them as such, I doubt they would be distinguishable from any other person.

I agree entirely that social acceptance and understanding is the way forward. I do think as a society we will get there. There's a lot of hay made about such things "going mad" and certainly some people can swing them too far, but that comes from a good place and in time I think (and hope) as a society we'll find an equilibrium that can recognise those situations and deliver the timely support we need to. As you well point out, we see how far these things have come in just our lifetimes and the social acceptance of things that previously would have been widely condemned, so I do hope we see such changes occur in time to help the current and upcoming generations before too many fall through the cracks.

Oh I didn't think you were suggesting that! Sorry about that: my tone came across differently than how I wanted it!

 I agree with you, I think we'll get there one day, too
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mmcv
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« Reply #14 on: 03 March 2021, 09:16:13 PM »

Oh I didn't think you were suggesting that! Sorry about that: my tone came across differently than how I wanted it!

 I agree with you, I think we'll get there one day, too

No not at all, I was just making sure I hadn't got my own tone wrong on it  Grin

But yes I'm reasonably optimistic acceptance of such things will improve into the future, just concerned the social and medical environment may take a while to catch up to what is required to support such matters.
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