On April 4, 2018

Acute stress disorder

By Marguerite Jill Dye

The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I was worrying and my husband was snoring. I crept downstairs and caught Stephen Colbert’s interview with Sean Penn. His face was drawn and his hair was disheveled. He’d taken an Ambien after a red-eye flight and looked like an exhausted, absent-minded professor. As he chainsmoked, I could clearly see that he looked the way I’ve felt recently: discouraged and exhausted. Then he disjointedly explained how he’s been so disheartened by the anger and resentment, hatred and division that he withdrew from the human race and has given up acting for now.

“The greatest thing an actor can bring to the party is collaboration, … I increasingly don’t play well with others, … Instead of being angry and part of the complaint culture, I wanted to vent,” he said.

So he vented by writing a dystopian novel, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” because “You don’t have to collaborate to write a novel.”

Initially released as an audiobook in 2016, the novel version was released March 27. Within days, the horrible shooting in Parkland happened, and when Colbert asked if the kids give him hope, Penn nodded an affirmative “Yes!”

Penn said he was amazed that, within days of being “under combat level horror,” the students began stating their case so articulately “in such inclusionary words that hopefully reasonable people on the other side of the conversation may listen. If it can become a more ubiquitous movement … with the whole picture and working together with other organizations, it will affect the ballot box and the culture, and then I might write a less dystopian book,” Penn continued.

I always thought of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, as a condition following military service. But ASD, acute stress disorder, shares some symptoms with PTSD, which it can develop into if not properly managed. Anxiety, irritability, detachment, and hyper vigilance are a only few of the warning signs, I’ve read. ASD can also cause trouble sleeping, concentrating, and remembering, as well as being easily startled, feeling surreal, and fearing certain images that reappear. Not enjoying things a person once loved is another important symptom. But ASD and its specific fear behaviors normally last three days to one month following a trauma or from repeated exposure to traumatic events. What of a daily ongoing exposure that lasts much longer?

I began to realize the severe and constant stress and damage resulting from continuous shock and disillusionment, frequent verbal assaults (even on the TV), and witnessing the undoing of what people have worked for, valued, and believed in.

In light of my insomnia and the need for healthy change, and instead of continuing to assault myself with the daily “shock event” news, I’ve decided to leave it to those with thicker skin. On occasion, I’ll consult their political synopsis. But as my spiritual friends always say, “Have faith. Everything happens for a reason. What’s happening now is raising our consciousness and will result in positive change in the end.”

So rather than try to decipher the chaos, I’m happy and relieved to report that “Mountain Meditation” will return to its original theme: about nature, spirit, creativity, and Vermont – its serenity, beauty, uniqueness, and goodness that inspires us all and lifts us up.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Vermont and Florida.

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