So, the time has come for me to do a bit of a hard-hitting post that explains my PTSD and more importantly, the Moral Injury aspect. I don’t think that I would have been able to do this had it not been for my week at Project Trauma Support and the processing and growth that I went through as a result.
Before I go any further though, I think it is import to explain what a Moral Injury is. One definition, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) website, I found explains it like this:
Moral injury is a loss injury; a disruption in our trust that occurs within our moral values and beliefs. Any events, action or inaction transgressing our moral/ethical beliefs, expectations and standards can set the stage for moral injury.
and from the Real Warriors website, their definition is:
Moral injury occurs when one experiences an act that conflicts with or violates a core moral value, or deeply held belief, and leads to an internal moral conflict. It is the betrayal of what you may feel is morally right. It might arise from your own actions or inaction, other people’s behaviors or by witnessing the suffering of others. Moral injury can occur either during or at some point after the event, and may be associated with feeling shame or guilt.
Examples can include participation in direct or indirect actions such as; Killing or harming others, Witnessing death, Failing to prevent immoral acts of others, Giving or receiving orders from authority that are against one’s moral values.
The Real Warrior definition I believe is more accurate and they go on to add;
While there are similarities between moral injury and PTSD, moral injury involves guilt and shame while PTSD is a result of fear from a life-threatening or traumatic event. PTSD requires a diagnosis and moral conflict is not necessary for PTSD to occur. A moral injury is not established by a formal diagnosis and there is no set threshold to mark its presence.
So yeah, Moral Injury is an add-on to PTSD. The double whammy of a traumatic event or incident. I feel so lucky (actually being somewhat serious on this as I have begun to reframe my PTSD as a Badge of Honour).
So with the definitions out of the way, below is the letter I wrote earlier during the course of my treatment as a way of wrapping my head around the emotions that I had dealing with the moral injury aspect of my PTSD. I will warn you, it is ugly and some might have a hard time reading it, or even accepting that it happened. But, it is my reality and the result of a number of human errors and misjudgments on what was the best way to do things. So, without further adieu, here is the nitty-gritty but I have altered it slightly to protect those that were involved.
Well kid, you don’t really know who I am but we have met once before. And that meeting, regardless of its length, had a huge impact on me. Actually, you have had a huge impact on me and it is only within the last week that I learned your name. Heck before that, I had spent the previous 12 years thinking that you were a boy. In the greater scheme of things that actually doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you were a living, breathing human being with a heartbeat and a will to live.
We came into each others lives completely by accident as a result of your birth and me being a police officer. You see, you were born at home, well before you were suppose to be ready to be born. And because of my job as a police officer, I was the one that responded to the call for help that your parents made.
I have sat here in front of the computer as well as other times throughout the day wondering what I should write and say. Regardless of how much time I take to think about it, I always come back to the same thing. Kid, I am sorry. I am sorry that you were not provide the chance to feel the love of a parents touch, that you were not given the chance to be held, that you were left on a counter with no one giving you the attention that you deserved. And lastly, I am sorry that I couldn’t have been the person I was raised to be and give you those things by simply picking you up and holding you in my arms as you slowly passed away.
My heart hurts with the guilt and pain that my inaction has caused. I became complacent in the inactivity by simply sitting there and watching you die. Watching you die without knowing what the loving touch from another human feel like. For that, I will always fault myself for not doing or saying something about how wrong you were being treated. You deserved so much more than what you were given by the hospital and the people around you.
You showed your desire to live by fighting to breath as your life slowly slipped away. You laid there on you own and you fought. Your heart pumping, you arms reaching out and your little body fighting to live. But despite all this effort, no one reached out to help you No one stood up for you to say how wrong this was. We all just simply sat there and let you pass away. Lonely in a room full of people that could have given you the love that you should have had in those final moments.
But in the end, I can only say I’m sorry for my inactivity. I’m sorry for not being the person that you needed in those moments as you slipped away from life.
So yeah, there it is. Now as I read it back I see how irrational my thoughts were about it. I had no control over the situation. I did not cause the situation nor was I complacent in any part of it. But, that is not how your mind tries to make you understand it. What it is now though is one of the things that happened that graced me with PTSD and will allow me the chance to grow. To grow into a better person and to help others grow as well.
And I apologize to anyone that read this and viewed it as war porn or it triggered a memory for them. I thought long and hard about posting this and in the end, I needed to do it in order to help myself grow further from the experience.
Be safe. Be well.