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PTSD, otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, occurs when a person can’t move past a traumatic experience in their life.
Specifically, a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel hopeless.
What are they symptoms of PTSD?
Intrusive, upsetting pictures of events.
Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb.
Flashbacks to the events, and nightmares.
Feelings of distress when reminded of the trauma.
Avoiding people and activities.
Outbursts of anger, difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating.
Guilt, shame, and self blame.
PTSD in perek Alef: Feeling alone and betrayal (part 1)
Symptom of PTSD : Feeling alone .
Where, in Perek Alef, do we see a feeling of being alone and betrayal?
Multiple places, actually .
Pasuk Alef : “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people ! How is she become as a widow ! ” In this Pasuk, Beni Yisroel is sitting alone by herself as if a widow; no husband to comfort her .
Pasuk Bais : ”She hath none to comfort her among all her lovers” The pasuk continues to point out the obvious feelings of aloneness .
PTSD in perek Alef: Feeling alone and betrayal (part 2)
Now, onto the feeling of betrayal in Eicha:
In pasuk bais: “She hath none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.” Beni Yisroel clearly feel as if their friends, the people they once trusted and loved, have no not only abandoned her but have betrayed her so far that they are now enemies.
PTSD In Perek Bais: Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb.
Where do we see examples of being emotionally numb in Perek Bais?
From pasuk alef through tet of Perek Bais, the Navi describes Hashem’s terrible and destructive wrath being released on the Jewish people. “Destroy, Anger, Fire,” are just some of the words the Navi uses.
And how does Beni Yisroel respond?
Pasuk Yud: “ They sit upon the ground, and keep silence, the elders of the daughter of Zion; they have cast up dust upon their heads, they have girded themselves with sackcloth; the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground. “
The leaders of Beni Yisroel, the people that should be the most vocal, the people that should be trying to cheer the nation up and pray for redemption are silent. They have nothing to say. They just sit on the ground in state of mourning in total quietness.
This further adds to the feeling of aloneness (the symptom we mentioned in the first perek) felt by the whole nation. When the nation can’t even look to their leaders for guidance, when there’s no one to find solace in, then a whole new wave of hopelessness in the face of the situation sets in.
PTSD in Perek Gimel:Guilt, shame, and self blame
So where do we see instance of self-blame and guilt in Perek Gimel?
In a perek where Beni Yisroel almost refuses to acknowledge their wrongdoings, denying that they could be at fault we can find one instance where they do.
Pasuk Mem-Bais: “We have transgressed and have rebelled.”
Now you could say, “What does this one instance prove?” Most of the perek Beni Yisroel seems to be pinning the blame for all the destruction on anyone BUT themselves.
However, it’s just that. Beni Yisroel is a proud nation and they can’t believe that they could have fallen. However in this one pasuk, they start to doubt themselves. They admit that deep inside, surrounded by their blame of others, they really blame themselves for all the sadness that’s happened, and they feel guilty about it.” If they truly believed that they were not guilty, they would have never said this sentence in the first place. However the fact that they did, leads us to believe that in some small way, they do blame themselves for what happened. And even if it’s small, it’s still a viable symptom of PTSD.
PSTD in Perek Daled: Intrusive and upsetting pictures of events
In Perek Daled, perhaps more than any other Perek, the imagery is at it’s most disturbing and saddening.
Pasuk Daled: “The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the young children ask bread, and none breaketh it unto them.”
The image of a starving and parched child is always more powerful than that of an adult, and it shows from this pasuk from this super upsetting image of a child starving for food and water, unable to find any.
Pasuk Chet: “Their visage is blacker than coal; they are not known in the streets; their skin is shriveled upon their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.”
The Navi, which previously mentioned clean, handsome people in the last pasuk, contrasts that image with this one - and creates a powerful effect. Humans so malnourished and in such bad shape that they aren’t recognized; that they might as well be sticks.
Well...How do you cope with PTSD?
Treatment strategies include:
To communicate to others what you are going/went through.
Finding something that makes you happy and hopeful.
Overcoming your sense of helplessness.
Treatment for PTSD in Perek Hay
It’s in Perek Hay, that we see Beni Yisroel try and comeback - try and fight off their PTSD.
Pasuk Chuf Bais: “ Thou canst not have utterly rejected us, and be exceeding wroth against us!”
So first off, Beni Yisroel is finding some hope they can cling on to. They’re clinging on to the hope that there’s no way Hashem can ever reject us, and there’s no way he could punish us this much. It means, in their heads, that redemption is on it’s way and they feel they’re ready, and that Hashem will eventually save them.
Not only that, this pasuk also point to the fact that they don’t feel helpless anymore. In this perek they’re are beseeching Hashem to save them. If they felt as alone as they did in the previous Pasukim they wouldn’t bother; they would feel that there’s no point. However now they feel like Hashem will save them. Now they pray.
The last way listed to deal with PTSD though, is to communicate to others what you are going through/went through - and that’s the whole point of Eicha.
The point of Eicha is to communicate to us exactly what happened. All the troubles, destruction, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, and emptiness felt during this time period.
And by doing that, Beni Yisroel gets closure and comfort: Comfort in the fact that it will help future generations hold on to the most important way to fight PTSD - Hope.