Gordon Whitman, Vietnam veteran
Pinehurst, NC, US
I teach Psychology at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst,NC. For many years I used my own military experience including 1 year in Vietnam from Feb,1966 to Feb,1967 as a Psychodrama to teach students about Vietnam. I used the mental disorder known as PTSD to dramatize the plight of virtually anyone who experiences "extreme trauma" (I realize that is an oxymoron,ie, any trauma is extreme to the receiver). My students developed a "case study" of a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD symptoms. Information was given out piece meal from class to class as if they were the veteran's therapist. The psychodrama concluded with an actual face to face interview with the composite veteran. This was a highly charged and emotional experience for all students. I "character acted" the virtual veteran and responded to "any" question any student wanted answered. I also encouraged each student to offer therapy suggestions to the veteran to assist in his recovery.
Five years ago I had to stop this particular psychodrama and move to another scenario. Why? Two reasons. First, all of a sudden, most students knew little to nothing about the "war". That is, they would tell me their history classes might spend 5 minutes, if that, discussing it. Second, I wearied of portraying the "Vet". I simply could not do it any more. I checked myself into a VA hospital in Durham for PTSD evaluation and discovered I was diagnosed, myself, with PTSD. Mild, but, present.
Before the psychodrama, I did not want to talk about Vietnam. The psychodrama became part of my own therapy, almost unbeknownst, to me. I realized what had happened, after the fact. I am grateful for all the students who withstood this "Dark" side of my teaching. A look at the so-called "Dark" side of the human condition "rattles" most students. They are uncomfortable with it. But the awareness of evil is necessary or else we become unknowing victims. Today, my psychodrama is based on Debbie Cuevas Morris' experience with Robert Lee Willie, as interviewed by Terry (sp?) Gross on "Fresh Air".
I am better with my PTSD because of my students and their interest in Vietnam. Thank you, all. Gordon Whitman