A soul wound is how the psychologist Edward Tick describes what we more usually call PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; these days it is a commonly recognized condition which can arise from any dreadful stress, but in my next novel ‘Flipside’ David Sullivan is suffering a breakdown through his experiences fighting in a number of different war zones in the 1980’s and early 90’s.
Anyone who has read the poetry of the First World War, will immediately think of the ghastly images conjured up by poets who experienced the horrors of trench warfare; men who broke down under those conditions were said to be suffering from shell-shock, and that was the term used to describe the condition millions of men had to live with, usually for the rest of their lives.
As long as conflict has taken place, men (usually, as historically they have been the fighters) have suffered from PTSD; maybe Job in the Bible had it, and it is certainly described after the battle scenes in the Mahabharata. Soldiers in the Greek Battle of Marathon were debilitated by it, and Ajax too, shows signs of it in the Iliad.
Does Macbeth’s behaviour stem from the horrors of what he went through, fighting back to back with Banquo against the hoards of gallowglass?
Doubtful it stood;
As two spent swimmers, that do cling together
And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald–
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him–from the western isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show’d like a rebel’s whore: but all’s too weak:
For brave Macbeth–well he deserves that name–
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix’d his head upon our battlements.
As whence the sun ‘gins his reflection
Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break,
So from that spring whence comfort seem’d to come
Discomfort swells. Mark, king of Scotland, mark:
No sooner justice had with valour arm’d
Compell’d these skipping kerns to trust their heels,
But the Norweyan lord surveying vantage,
With furbish’d arms and new supplies of men
Began a fresh assault.
…If I say sooth, I must report they were
As cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they
Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:
Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorise another Golgotha,
I cannot tell.
But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.
Edward Tick lists a number of terms which have been used over the years, nostalgia, homesickness – heimweh, in German and maladie du pays in French, soldier’s heart, irritable heart, neurasthenia, hysteria… In modern times many of us would recognize the terms combat exhaustion/disorder/fatigue and stress response syndrome .
My character David Sullivan is outwardly strong, physically and mentally, but he is very, very damaged, which shows in his aggression and depression but more than that by the dreadful stutter which locks his tongue. At one point he describes himself as ‘broken’ which for me is interesting, because I’ve now found out that a Spanish term for the condition is estar roto, which means just that, broken.