Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Pages: 5
- Word count: 1129
- Category: Life
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PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Trauma survivors often develop depression, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders in addition to PTSD. Drug abuse and alcohol abuse commonly co-occur with PTSD. Resolving these problems can bring about improvement in an individual’s mental health status and anxiety levels. Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut follows the life and experiences of Billy Pilgrim, from his early years to his time as an American soldier and chaplain’s assistant during World War II, to the postwar years, with Billy occasionally traveling through time. Vonnegut writes about the struggles and horrors of what Billy experienced during war and shows the effects it has on his life post-war. By showing what it’s like living with PTSD Kurt Vonnegut shows the reality of a soldier’s life during war.
Suicidal ideation is very common with PTSD. This is the thought or planning of suicide or taking one’s life. “One study found that Veterans with PTSD were four times more likely to endorse suicidal ideation compared to those without the disorder; and among those with PTSD, the risk for suicidal ideation was approximately 6 times greater in Veterans”. In the novel Kurt Vonnegut explains suicidal ideation through Billy time traveling. Violence and destruction surrounded Billy while he was a prisoner of war and frightful and damaging thoughts rarely leave Billy’s mind. Because Billy is constantly jumping through time, he is never given the opportunity to become comfortable in a single moment of his life. As a result, Billy says that he is in “a constant state of stage fright”. This explains Billy’s lack of focus that is shown throughout the novel. He is forced to attempt to portray all of it at once, going from one moment to another, always without warning.
Billy tends to “time travel” to Tralfamadore a lot during the novel and by the end, such skips create a feeling that Tralfamadore is Billy’s true home, not Earth. Vonnegut writes about Billy, “He was gently expelled from the studio during a commercial. He went back to his hotel room, put a quarter into the Magic Fingers machine connected to his bed, and went to sleep. He traveled in time back to Tralfamadore. ‘Time-traveling again?’ said Montana”. This quote makes it feel that Tralfamadore is Billy Pilgrim’s true home because of Billy’s lack of discomfort on this strange planet and how he wants to accept that he was destined to be kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians and transported to a zoo for observation.
Chronic alcohol misuse is another common thing endured by people with PTSD. “chronic alcohol misuse is considered to be a significant risk factor for suicidality among Veterans. The link between alcohol use disorders and suicide could be due in part to factors that commonly co‐occur with chronic alcohol use that increase the risk for suicide. These include having a depressive disorder, lower social support, greater number of stressful life events, more medical illnesses, higher unemployment, as well as other indications of economic adversity. Such factors could potentially have an additive effect, further increasing suicide risk to the extent that several factors are present.” This shows how big an impact chronic alcohol misuse has and what effects it can have on a person. In the novel Kurt Vonnegut explains abuse of alcohol. “I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses.
Vonnegut admits to having a problem with drunk calling. Vonnegut pairs mustard gas with roses, a strange combination, mustard gas represents the war and his mental trauma, when roses are usually associated with love and beauty. The combination signifies how damaged he has become as a result of the war, which is reflected in his characterization of Billy. Vonnegut invokes the odor of roses as sort of a coping mechanism, in order to escape reality of what he experienced in Dresden. Vonnegut portrays him as someone who is trying to move on from his experience in the war, but keeps relapsing due to his PTSD and delusional state of mind.
Lastly, another common thing associated with PTSD is change in behavior. “In addition to PTSD symptoms conferring a risk for suicidal behaviors, the increase in alcohol consumption further increases this risk due in part to the other relevant factors that may arise as a result of chronic alcohol use. As such, examining different factors that may be associated with suicidal behaviors in this population becomes even more important.” This shows a major negative shift in a person with PTSD’s life. When Billy is captured by the Germans and is transported in a train with other American soldiers, the train was marked with a striped banner of orange and black, “indicating that it was not fair game for airplanes – that it was carrying prisoners of war.” The orange-and-black motif appears again when Billy has trouble sleeping on his daughter’s wedding night. “The wedding had taken place that afternoon in a gaily striped tent in Billy’s backyard. The stripes were orange and black”.
The repetition of the orange-and-black motif reflects the effect of the war on Billy. Even in the happiest times of his life, like his daughter’s wedding, he is reminded of the horrible things that he went through during the war. Billy is ordered by a doctor to take a daily nap, “He was under doctor’s orders to take a nap everyday. The doctor hoped that this would relieve a complaint that Billy had: Every so often, for no apparent reason, Billy Pilgrim would find himself weeping. Nobody had ever caught Billy doing it. Only the doctor knew. It was an extremely quiet thing Billy did, and not very moist.” Billy also found out he had sleeping troubles when in the train, “‘Where can I sleep.Not with me.You yell. You Kick…And whimper’.Nearly everybody, seemingly, had an atrocity story of something Billy Pilgrim had done to him in his sleep. Everybody told Billy Pilgrim to keep the hell away.” When Billy is awake the way he escapes his thoughts and emotions, he jumps through time but when he is asleep he is forced to face his emotions and most likely can’t stop thinking about war and because of this he whimpers and kicks in his sleep.
In conclusion, Kurt Vonnegut shows the reality of a soldier’s life during war when showing what it is like to live with PTSD. PTSD is very serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. When researching and reading this book I learned more than I ever imagined about PTSD. This all taught me that the effects of war on a person are immense and that their life will never be the same after it.