Happy Memorial Day: Triggering PTSD with Fireworks.

by Mary Beth Huwe

For a recording of me reading this post to you, click here.

Another Memorial Day has come and gone. A time when we profess to honor our service people by blowing up a bunch of fireworks. I cannot make sense of this ritual. Who is it for?

I can tell you who it’s NOT for. Him:

I wish this were more obvious.

And lots (and lots) of others like him.

The above picture is circulating on Facebook right now; I don’t know this man, but I’m so glad to see him.

Part of my ethical responsibility as an acupuncturist is patient confidentiality, which means I don’t blab about my patients’ stories. Ever. I can’t tell you the names of people I’ve treated, or any characteristics about them that could lead you to identify them as individuals. I take this charge very seriously, and err on the side of conservative. It would horrify me to think of any person reading one of my essays and recognizing herself or someone else. That is a betrayal of trust.

So I’m not going to reference a specific story about Jack or Jill Veteran. But I have treated Jack and Jill. They have been battered and spent in combat until their bones’ and muscles’ memories are entrenched with trauma.

They have watched people beside them lose body parts in explosions; they have killed people and haven’t slept through the night in the seven years since.

They jump out of a solid sleep, adrenaline pumping, when someone slams a car door across the street.

They are working on surviving, and they are giving up, and they are asking themselves why they survived, when so many didn’t, and they are no longer asking why.

They have a lot going on, in other words, and it is painful.

And acupuncture helps them; in many cases it helps like nothing else has: they’ve been able to reduce or eliminate their dependency on prescription narcotics; their nightmares diminish or cease altogether; they can go to the grocery store and not feel threatened in line.

But do you know what doesn’t help them?

I’m not suggesting we, the people, should abandon fireworks at every occasion where they are currently routine.

I am suggesting that common sense and manners – and true honoring – can be our guides in choosing rituals that actually support the people we are claiming to celebrate. And in this case I think we, the people, are missing the boat.

These writings are an exploration of what it means to be human – to be sick, to be well, and to heal – viewed through the lens of acupuncture and, occasionally, herbal medicine. These writings aren’t medical advice. And they aren’t meant to be the final word on… well, anything. Rather, I hope they are a beginning of a conversation you have with someone in your life. Thanks for reading! ~MBH

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