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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - a short story about coping with a harsh reality

Updated on July 26, 2013
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What are the symptoms and treatment for PTSD? Often sufferers bear them quietly without letting their loved ones know about it until they manifest themselves. Here is a short story about how PTSD can affect a person over a long period of time.

Part One

Kyuusoku!” The gruff instruction to go faster from the gruff, stubbled Japanese soldier in his trademark flop hat resounded angrily in the ears of the Chinese men they had rounded up in an overnight operation. He added to the harsh command with a quick prod of the butt of his bayonet on the back of the prisoner in front of him. The young Chinese Man could do nothing but groan in pain and force his legs to carry him forward.

The young Chinese, Lee Kok Shung, gritted his teeth and hung his head. He was prepared for whatever befell him; he only hoped that his death would be a release from what was becoming hell on Earth. After being goaded by Japanese soldiers the whole night and seeing his family become victims of their atrocities, he was actually looking forward to this ending. At least, he would not have to think about the perennial suffering any longer.

Dragging their feet along Changi Beach was literally walking along the road to damnation.

Many collapsed and were callously left by the roadside, being a fly less for the Japanese militia to swat. Kok Shung loved dearly to be in that position; perhaps he could pretend to be dying so that he would be left alone and be able to make his escape later. A plan began to form in his mind as he stared at the painful welts on his shin. The painful cuts on his back, courtesy of the bayonets the soldier dearly loved, were a source of motivation for him to formulate a devious but painful plan to flee.

Tomaru! TOMARU!” The command to stop came like an abrupt, harsh bolt of lightning. The line of weary men and their Japanese tormentors ground to a halt. The Commanding Officer in front was seen stopping to meet a subordinate who stopped him along the way. As the younger, junior officer made a deep bow, the commanding officer became irate as he noticed that the young Japanese soldier had forgotten to take off his cap while making a bow. “Baka! You moron, haven’t you been trained to greet your senior officers?” In his anger, he grabbed the young soldier by the arms and swung him around wildly. With the strength that could surpass Hercules’ he threw the man up in the air and pierced him with his bayonet. The soldier fell limp at the side of the dirt road.

Kok Shung was used to the horror. He closed his eyes, drew a deep breath, and prepared for the command to move on. The scene concretized his determination to run away from the ever enfolding nightmare.

As they approached Changi Beach, the whole group was made to stand in line in one of the clearings. Unceremoniously, they were each thrown a “changkul” or garden tool meant for digging. “Make a trench!” spat one of the officers nearby, shoving Kok Shung hard. “I don’t need to tell you how!” The plan of escape in Kok Shung’s mind became even clearer.

The long line of Chinese men took almost three hours to make a deep trench, the effort completely exhausting, leaving more to collapse by the side. Kok Shung’s eyes became more alert. The Commanding officer prodded the Prisoners of War to line up in front of the trench, with a soldier behind each of them. After what seemed like an eternity, the commanding officer finally growled with a sneer, “Utsu!” One by one, Kok Shung’s Chinese companions fell into the trench, embracing their burial ground.

Kok Shung had timed his fall perfectly, falling into the trench just before the bullet hit him. He was alive, but barely. He dug his way out with conviction and crawled his way to the dirt road nearby.


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Part Two

Kok Shung, come out for dinner,” came his mother’s shrill voice. Kok Shung ignored the cry, lost in thought. Memories of what had just happened were still fresh and, it seemed, were refusing to vanish. The looks of horror on the faces of his dead comrades were nightmares that haunted him every night. He ignored his mother and stared outside the window of his room.

She came in, patting him gently on the shoulder. “Don’t you want to eat? It’s not much, but it was so difficult to get food from the black market. Don’t waste it.” She left the room quietly, leaving Kok Shung to his reverie.

He finally managed to bring himself to eat, all the time thinking about the trauma that had just befallen him. Eating quietly, he tried to ignore the conversation that was going on at the table. “Kok Shung,” his father’s voice was droning like a tired wheel.”I want to get you away from this place as fast as possible. I’ve arranged for you to be married. You can take your wife and both sneak out of this tortured country by boat. I want to see you married before anything happens to me.”

Kok Shung nodded his consent. WIth a look of disinterest and exhaustion, he left the room.

A Veteran's Story of PTSD

Part Three

Kok Shung and his wife, Mei Yee, a quiet girl from a nearby kampung, were married quietly in a secret ceremony that the Japanese would not know of. The two were quickly ushered off to a a quiet stretch of beach along the East Coast of Singapore where a sampan (tugboat) was waiting.

Under the cover of darkness, the two bade goodbye to Kok Shung’s parents and boarded the Sampan, which would carry them all the way to a remote island in Indonesia. Kok Shung stared at the petite, gentle woman before him. In other circumstances, he would have greatly appreciated this beautiful new wife; with images of death still in his mind, all he could do was hope that he would be able to give her a good life.

Part Four

Kok Shung and Mei Yee remained in Indonesia for a good ten years before finally making their way back to Singapore’s shores. The horrors of war had never really left Kok Shung’s mind; it would never leave the mind of anyone with first hand experience. The couple, who had a son named Kok Kiang in the interim, never discussed Kok Shung’s experiences with atrocity.

Never verbalized, the visions of trauma continued to fester and haunt the now experienced businessman. His pride never allowed him to discuss them with his wife or his son, and they became a sorrowful part of his life to be put in the closet of his mind.

To his family, Kok Shung was a responsible, loving but quiet father. The quiet man’s demeanor drastically changed, though, when Kok Kiang brought home a toy gun one day.

Seeing it in the boy’s hands, Kok Shung abruptly snatched it from him, pointed it at the boy and snarled. “Throw this away. Right now.” Meekly, the little child complied and the gun was never spoken of again.

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Part Five

The nightmares that Kok Shung was experiencing were known only to himself. Reticent by nature, he successfully managed to mask the torture recurring in his nightmares the whole time his young son was growing up. The incident with the gun was long forgotten, with new situations and endeavors in the life of the family to keep them busy. Kok Kiang grew into a fine, well-spoken, intelligent man who took over his father’s business.

Then came the news of the Gulf War. The fact that it was taking place in a country far away did not stop people from catching the news on television. Kok Shung was no different; relishing the latest news, he would comment on it at the dinner table, providing nuggets of entertainment for his elderly housewife mother.

Kok Shung, though, became extraordinarily quiet. He retired immediately to his room as soon as the news came on, leaving the family to believe that he was being his usual, quiet self. Papa’s usual reserved behavior, thought Kok Kiang. Oh well, Best leave him alone.

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Part Six

The screams coming from the kitchen woke Kok Kiang up with a start. He ran to it to discover something that he’d hardly expected - or wanted - to see.

His father was pointing the toy gun he had discarded many years ago at the head of his mother, who was whimpering like a cornered puppy. It occurred to Kok Kiang that his mother was not crying out because she was afraid of being hurt; rather, she was afraid of what her husband had become. He grabbed his father’s shoulders with as much gentleness as he could muster in the situation and bade him to go to his room.

He then ran to turn on the computer at his desk and keyed the question “What are some signs of trauma?” in the search box. The search returned interesting results - he discovered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The symptoms of avoidance, irritability and sudden explosiveness looked hauntingly similar to the ones his father was experiencing.

Without his father’s knowledge, he made an appointment with a doctor at the Institute of Mental Health.


Part Seven

The next day, he ushered his father to his Nissan Sunny, telling him that he was about to take him somewhere interesting. He drove the car into the underground car park of the hospital, not wanting to alert his father as to the real intent of the journey just yet.

Something finally dawned on the old man when he saw nurses in white uniform. “Son, is something wrong with you?” He faced Kok Kiang with a quizzical look. Kok Kiang played it to a hilt. “Yes, Pa, and I need your company.”


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Part Eight

In the doctor’s office, all was finally revealed. Kok Kiang, in detail, spoke to the doctor about the symptoms his father was displaying - the quietness that, over the years, became avoidance, irritability and manifested themselves in a re-enactment of the trauma that had happened before.

“Sounds like your father could be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why didn’t you consult us before?” The doctor gave Kok Kiang a searching look.

Kok Kiang was embarrassed. “Pa’s usually rather quiet. He never talks about his experiences during the Japanese Occupation, even though they must have been traumatic for him. We never ask either.”

The doctor chortled, startling Kok Shung who was a little miffed at his seeming insensitivity. “And there lies the problem. Because patients sometimes refuse to talk about what happened to them, the nightmares and trauma can fester and continue to be his demons.”

Kok Kiang was irritated. “Alright. So what can we do to help Pa, then? Is there medication for it? What IS it?”

“The name speaks for itself,” the doctor gestured to some pamphlets on the table on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “Your father’s reaction seems eerily similar to some of these symptoms.PTSD happens when a person's traumatic experiences, say of war, rape, or witnessing a murder can trigger symptoms of withdrawal or even manifest themselves in a reenactment of the traumatic event.Take these home for a look.

“As for treatment, there is no medication as yet - what I can recommend you is a colleague who can take your father through the trauma. I’ll set up an appointment for you.”

Visits to the psychiatrist, stationed at the hospital, proved to help Kok Shung a little with his recovery. The therapist armed father and son with coping skills needed to survive the devastating trauma associated with war.

Kok Kiang was taught to listen actively to his father while he gradually helped the older man to speak up. There were times when the older man suddenly broke down in the sessions, revealing how guilty he was feeling about surviving while those around him died.

With little steps, the doctor got Kok Shung to accept the fact that he had been a war victim and that it was over - there was no need to be overwhelmed by it.

“Remember that it’s important for you to come here regularly with your father for visits,” the psychiatrist advised. “The support family gives to sufferers of a trauma can be so important to his recovery. Also, do remember not to criticize his reaction or say that he is being silly - the experiences are real and will remain so. Be sensitive.”

“All right, doc,” the younger man grinned. “We’ll take your advice. But is it okay if we eat Japanese food?”

The doctor shook his head with a cool smile.


What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect anyone who has had a very traumatic experience. Sufferers would include victims of rape, war, abuse or witnesses of murder.

What are the symptoms?

  • Hyperarousal - behaving as though threatened by an event similar to the trauma
  • Avoidance - trying to avoid talking about the event or withdrawing from people
  • Helplessness
  • Memory Problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Intrusiveness - the traumatic event intrudes into the sufferer's life
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Upsetting dreams about the event
  • Flashbacks

Treatment

Cognitive Therapy

  • Do not criticize the sufferer's reaction
  • Family emotional support
  • Listen patiently to the sufferer when he tries to talk about his trauma
  • Talk to the sufferer and help him or her realize that though what happened is a real event, it need not overwhelm.

Exposure Therapy

  • If the patient is afraid of loud noises because of his experience, gradually expose the patient to theses noises.
  • Focus on talking about memories that are less traumatic than the more traumatic ones.

Copyright (C) by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Gail!! I enjoyed writing this one.....often people don't really have a proper perspective of mental disorders so I meant to let readers know what goes on in the minds of those who suffer them. Thanks for dropping in!

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 5 years ago from United States

      This is a fascinating hub, midget38. It is well written and informative. Good job! Voted up.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Peggy, wrote it to make people aware that war can indeed cause not only physical but emotional and mental casualty as well. PTSD is precisely that. And not noticed because many just do not think much about each other's emotional states. In fact, it can even be stigmatizing! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a disorder that will affect more and more people as we continue suffering from terrorist attacks and wars. So sad...so sad indeed! You illuminated the subject brilliantly. Up votes and sharing.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Will be coming by and linking, Becky.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Thank you midget38. I appreciate all links. This is a terrible condition and it never fully goes away. When it is as bad as my husbands, after four tours in Vietnam, it usually gets worse instead of better.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I'm so sorry to hear this, Becky. My blessings to you and the family, and I hope that more people understand how traumatic this illness can be for all concerned. I will visit your hubs and link your story to this one so that it gets more shares....do take care, and hugs for everyone.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      My husband is 100% disabled with this from Vietnam. We have all been victims of it. It does not just affect the sufferer. They pass the symptoms of it to the other family members also. We have been married for 26 years and I find myself doing strange things sometimes. We all go to therapists and try to keep sane while going through this with him. Very good story. I have written of our fight just to get it treated and to get his disability. It took us 18 years to get his disability from the VA with him not being able to work much. It was a very difficult time and is not much better now.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hello Nanderson. Glad that you like this! Will be coming by your movie hubs...you write wonderful reviews!

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Well-written hub. Nice job! Lots of good info about PTSD.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, Carly, I love your comments! Glad that this hub reached out to a few sufferers, who are my target audience, actually. Thanks for the feedback that I've captured it properly.....I want to empathize!! Glad that your hub has been a support system though!! The human body is amazing, isn't it!! Thanks for the vote and share!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Michelle, another great hub, on a subject matter few like to look at or even write about. I applaud your ability to write in a way that the reader can feel what PTSD might be like if they have never had an experience that triggered PTSD symptoms.

      Unfortunately, I suffer from PTSD. It comes and goes, sometimes I am so jumpy, my husband of 10 years can walk in a room and scare me. Or I hear a loud sound and want to run and hide. It is amazing how our mind and bodies are wired to try to cope with an un-comprehensible event.

      Voted up and shared!!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Mr. Love Doctor, it definitely sounds that way! Will check out the book on your link! Thanks for coming by, and for the insight. It really hurts when humans treat each other this way.

    • Mr Love Doctor profile image

      Mr Love Doctor 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      I remember one time going to hear a presentation by a man named David Mitchell, whose parents were missionaries to China during that horrible period. He and his other classmates were bundled off to the concentration camp in Chefoo (where the famous Olympian Eric Liddel died), and lived through the war that way. His descriptions of how the Japanese soldiers would line up men, women, and children to take them away, but then weep over the children because they reminded them of their own at home, have stayed with me. His book about the story is rather cheerful, but in person he seemed kind of haunted. You can find the book, "A Boy's War," on Amazon (I'm not going to link it so no no one accuses me of trying to make referral fees). It's well worth a read.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Keith,

      I hope that your friends are better, my blessings. I hope that this helps to make others aware of what they are going through. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      You have perfectly captured the image and experience of what one may go through via PTSD. It really has reminded me of some of my friends who experienced such traumatic experiences....You really did a great job capturing the character of someone who suffers from it.

      Great Job, great story, and very informative! Voted up and Awesome :)

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Josh, it sounds as though you've enjoyed this and I"m extremely thankful for that. WIll keep it up!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Michelle,

      This story was a great shout out to a problem no should have to deal with. You narrated this story beautifully, and I felt like I was there. I am enjoying your short stories, you should definitely keep up them up for sure!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      sradle, thanks for coming by! I'm glad that you've found this useful and God will definitely help you make sense of what doesn't seem sensible. He has helped you go far! My blessings to you, and may you make even greater progress.

    • sradie profile image

      sradie 5 years ago from Palm Coast FL

      Thank you for this Hub. As a Vietnam veteran, my family, loved ones, friends and even complete strangers, are confronted with my behaviors resulting from PTSD. While there is still more for me to understand in my recovery, those around PTSD afflicted people have even more to learn. Some of it I will never get over. I can't stop the irritability for instance or the dreams. Sometimes the best we can do is moderate the symptoms. But, each time I read something like this it helps remind me of the progress I have made. Most of that is due to a vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ that makes sense of the craziness of my life.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Susnshine, thanks for stopping by! Yes. It's sad, unfortunate and really, really scary when the sufferer can't express himself openly, so I hope that I can help with a story. Yes, indeed, no one should ever have to suffer from this disorder!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      PTSD is scary, sad and unfortunate. It doesn't just effect the person, it effects their loved ones also. Amazing story Michelle. Well done shout-out to a disorder I wish no one ever had to suffer with.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Mary, thanks for stopping by and the wonderful insights. I'm really glad this has been a useful hub! I really appreciate the vote!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      This was amazing...sad, poignant, moving...an incredible short story that leads to the revelation of a very sad disorder. I can't say enough about how good the short story is...the details, the emotions...all come through so well then followed by your description of PTSD makes this entire hub a useful wonder.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi mismazda, indeed, these disorders are becoming more and more prevalent and people should know about them! Let's write and share our knowledge of them! Thanks for the vote!

    • mismazda profile image

      mismazda 5 years ago from a southern georgia peach

      Great storytelling and great hub..I wrote a hub recently about anxiety disorders....these disorders are very common now, people just don't know the signs..Voted up and interesting..

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the affirmation, Docmo! Wow. I didn't know that it is an actual medical approach but I am really glad it works, especially I believe to enable readers to empathize. Thanks for the vote!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      I love the way you have illustrated this condition with this heartrending story. Using narratives to illustrate medical conditions is a well tested medical approach and is not used often enough. Kudos to you Michelle, for bringing this to the attention of many. voted up!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Kelly, take care. Thanks for the read and share! Let's share this so that more can be aware of this condition and respond to it with empathy!

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      kelleyward 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic read. So well-written and informative. I felt I was right there. I have PTSD from trauma's I've experienced in my past and it can be a frightening condition. Voted up, useful, and shared. Kelley

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Annie,

      God's greatest blessings for you and your dad, and I empathize completely with the trauma which nobody should go through. War, by nature, is treading gently on the threshold of evil no matter how justified we think it is. Let's make more people aware of the suffering unnecessary fighting puts others through. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 5 years ago from Australia

      Midget your story captures the causes and symptoms of PTSD extremely well. The saddest thing is your story is akin to many, many stories of war and violent atrocities that have happened through time and continue to happen. It is so very heartbreaking to think what humans, driven by evil, put their fellow humans through.

      I am familiar with PTSD as my father suffered from this disorder for over 60 year following his service against the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea during World War II. You have described what I saw in my Dad, very well - withdrawal, memory problems, flashbacks, he never got over it.

      Your story is raw and disturbing and sadly real. Thank you so much for highlighting a very mentally and emotionally disabling disorder. My votes and best wishes to you, Midget and sharing.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      What are the symptoms and treatment for PTSD? Often sufferers bear them quietly without letting their loved ones know about it until they manifest themselves. Here is a short story about how PTSD can affect a person over a long period of time.