I have a new release which is part of the Regency Summer Escape anthology. In it illness we now call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) plays a major role. The main character has spent 15 years in war, first as part of the Napoleonic Wars and then on the Canadian front. Naturally, we must assume he has memories of the battles. Yet, PTSD did not exist as we know it. So, what do we know of PTSD in history?
GotQuestions.org provides us with a summary of PTSD. “Post traumatic Stress Disorder develops in some people following a traumatic event. The event or “stressor” could be exposure to death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. The sufferer may be directly exposed, indirectly exposed through a family member or close friend experiencing the event, or extremely or repeatedly indirectly exposed through his or her work (such as first responders, police officers, military personnel, or social workers). Common trauma experiences are combat, car accidents, natural disasters, abuse, rape, and mass violence. After such an event most people will show signs of stress such as feeling on edge, anxiety, fear, anger, feelings of depression, a sense of detachment, desire to avoid trauma-related reminders, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, headaches, changes in appetite, irritability, self-blame, “survivor’s guilt,” or a sense of numbness. For most people, these reactions lessen and eventually subside with time.”
In the Bible, Job likely suffers from PTSD. Job loses his wealth, family, health, etc. Job says of his suffering: “For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters./ I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” (Job 3:25-26) In Job 7: 14-15, we find, “Then thou scariest me with dreams, and terrifies me through vision:/ So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.”
From The History of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we learn more of the history of the illness. In “Mahabharata, an epic tale in Indian mythology originally written by Sage Ved Vyas in Sanskrit, Mahabharata illustrates the Great War of Mahabharat between the Pandavas and the Kauravas that happened in 3139 B. C. […] The great epic Mahabharata describes vivid combat stress reactions exhibited by the ancient worriers.” (Sir Lanka Guardian)
Examples in literature abound of the evidence of PTSD. The Illiad describes multiple battles scenes and combat suffering. Could Ajax in Homer’s tale suffer from the disorder? And what of Achilles? Was not Achilles devastated by the death of his comrade Patroklos? And what of the Trojan women who waited for their husbands’ return.
In the piece entitled “From ‘Irritable Heart’ to ‘Shellshock’: How Post-Traumatic Stress Became a Disease,” we have, “The Greek historian Herotodus writes a lot about PTSD, according to a presentation by Mylea Charvat to the Veterans Administration. One soldier, fighting in the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, reportedly went blind after the man standing next to him was killed, even though the blinded soldier “was wounded in no part of his body.” Also, Herotodus records that the Spartan leader Leonidas — yes, the guy from 300 — dismissed his men from combat because he realized they were mentally exhausted from too much fighting.”
In Shakespeare, we find a description of PTSD in Henry IV, Part 2.
Tell me, sweet lord, what is’t that takes from thee Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep? Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth, And start so often when thou sit’st alone? Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks, And given my treasures and my rights of thee To thick-eyed musing and cursed melancholy?
In Act 5, Scene 3 of Macbeth, we are provided:
“Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?
Doctor: Not so sick, my lord, as she is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep her from rest.
Macbeth: Cure her of that! Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon her heart.
Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.”
Charles Dickens speak of how a train accident affected him. He says he was ”curiously weak… as if I were recovering from a long illness,” after a traumatizing railway accident in which the front of the train plunged off a bridge under repair and 10 people died, with another 49 injured. Dickens wrote in letters to people: “I begin to feel it more in my head. I sleep well and eat well; but I write half a dozen notes, and turn faint and sick… I am getting right, though still low in pulse and very nervous.” Dickens admitted to continue to feel anxiety when train travel was necessary, even after the accident described above. (From ‘Irritable Heart’ to ‘Shellshock’)
Although in my story there is no real “word” or “diagnosis” to describe the effects of war, the early literature tells us that some sort of upheaval most assuredly did exist. So wether we call it melancholia, nostalgia, ester root, heimweh, malady du pays, soldier’s heart, neurasthenia, hysteria, compensation sickness, railway spine, shell shock, combat exhaustion, stress response syndrome, situational disorders, or PTSD, physical shock, accompanied by horrifying circumstances have haunted men since the beginning of time.
She is all May. He is December. But loves knows not time.
Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire has returned to England after spending fifteen years in service to his country. In truth, he would prefer to be anywhere but home. His late wife cuckold him, before he departed England. His daughter, who was reared by his father, enjoys calling him “Father” in the most annoying ways. However, his future is the viscountcy, and Andrew knows his duty to both title and child. He imagines himself the last of his line until he encounters Miss Verity Coopersmith, the cousin of his dearest friend. Miss Coopersmith sets Whitmire’s world spinning out of control. She is twenty years his junior, but all he can think is she is absolute perfection.
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Enjoy this excerpt from “Courting Lord Whitmire,” where our hero, Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire, acts instinctively to save the life of the one woman who fascinates him, Miss Verity Coopersmith.
Andrew turned to look out over the groomed lawns and inhaled slowly, while praying for calm. How could anyone, most certainly a woman he had known but a matter of weeks, understand how many people he had failed in his life, especially her relation, Robert Coopersmith. “You cannot know of the kinship I held with your cousin,” he said, attempting to keep the irritation from his tone. He turned his head to permit her to see his sincerity, but he found himself lost in her steady gaze. “Although I hold nothing but honest respect for your uncle and your brother, it should have been my long-time friend, Robert Coopersmith, who sits in this house as the 16th Lord Coopersmith. If he had returned to Worcestershire after the Peninsular battles, he could have been long settled with a family and an heir. Instead, he stayed with me—because of my foolish pride—my fear of others knowing how my wife cuckolded me—Robert died in the last battle of the war, ironically, saving my life.”
“You are in error, my lord,” she said softly, never looking anywhere but into his eyes. “Over the years, Cousin Robert regularly wrote to my parents and to my aunt and uncle and even, occasionally, to me. In each letter, he praised you as the best of men, showering you with compliments for your ability to instill leadership in your men.” She stepped closer still, close enough that Andrew could bend his neck and kiss her if he so chose. “Whether you realized it or not, Robert depended upon you in so many ways.” Her words were infused with a bit of sadness.
“You are in error; it was I who depended upon him,” Andrew contested.
“Robert was afraid to return to the estate and to the assumption of his inheritance,” she continued as if he had said nothing. “He wished the role of baron to pass to my father, but the law would not permit a deviation in the entailment nor in the title.”
“You cannot know this,” he argued.
“Oh, but I do,” she countered. “When I was about ten, I overheard Uncle Theodore and my father discussing that very fact. It was some two years before my father’s death. Evidently, Uncle Theodore had encouraged my father to marry a second time in hopes of an heir who could run Cooper Hall. My Cousin Robert was the most likable of fellows, but he possessed no skills to run an estate. Do you not recall how miserable he was in school?”
“He was just a rambunctious fellow. All would have been fine if he had taken his studies more seriously,” Andrew declared.
“The family kept the secret that Robert could not read—that the letters danced around in front of him each time he attempted to do so. No matter how many punishments he endured, nothing solved his dilemma. He only passed his courses because he would converse with you and his fellow classmates, discussing what you had read in your studies. Such was enough for him to survive university.”
Andrew looked at her expression, searching for any signs of deceit. “His calculating?” he asked, remembering how Robert despised his classes in mathematics.
“The same as with the reading. He could sometimes do the figures in his head, but not if they were too complicated. Can you imagine Robert balancing estate books, ordering supplies, responding to correspondence?”
“He could have hired someone to handle the accounts,” he reasoned.
“And never be certain the person was not robbing him blind or that others would learn of his inability to govern the barony,” she contended. “He could follow orders, but not give them with any assurance of accuracy. How would he contend with the bills in Parliament? How could he form an opinion on what was right to do for his cottagers? For Worcester? For England? For the Commonwealth? If he had been a commoner, he could have simply not run for the Commons, but, as a baron, he could not bear to be thought of as a simpleton. If you think upon your years together, you will recall that during school and in the military, my cousin never asked for your assistance. He did not want anyone to know of what he thought to be his faults, and you were the most perceptive of his acquaintances.”
“Apparently not perceptive enough,” Andrew grumbled.
“Robert stayed in the service because he idolized you as his friend, but, more importantly, because he wished never to be found wanting.”
Before Andrew could respond to such a wild assertion, the unthinkable happened. From somewhere off to his right, an explosion occurred, and, instinctively, he dived for the hard floor of the balcony, taking Miss Coopersmith down with him. Covering her with his body, he clasped his hands on the back of his head to protect it and waited for the debris to rain down upon them. However, nothing happened. The ground did not tremble beneath him, nor did another round of explosions follow closely after the first.
He held his breath, fearing even to breathe. At length, a soft hand caressed his cheek. “My lord? Whitmire? My lord, do you hear me?”
Slowly, he opened his eyes to discover the concerned expression upon the face of the woman who had executed havoc upon his dreams. “Forgive me, Miss Coopersmith,” he murmured in embarrassment.
Again, the lady’s fingers stroked his cheek. “Forgive you, my lord? Should I forgive you for placing yourself between me and what you perceived as danger?”
Andrew attempted to make sense of what had occurred, but his heart still raced in anticipation. “There was an explosion,” he said lamely.
“I know.” She continued to speak in quiet tones. “You were very brave.”
“Perhaps today,” he spoke in sorrowful tones. “But I was not always brave. I was not the brave one at Waterloo,” he confessed. Odd that he would tell another—someone who was essentially a complete stranger what he had never spoken to anyone. Was not confession a weakness? And he had never considered himself weak. He had always thought to suffer his own punishment in silence, but he said, “I sidestepped a French officer charging at me, pulling him from his horse and dispatching him to his God. Then, I turned to view my end. I froze in place.” Despite his best effort, tears formed in his eyes. “Robert was close by, as he always was when we were in battle, literally, fighting all comers, back-to-back, and he knocked me from the way. A cannonball. Hit him, not me.” Again, he had no idea what had driven him to speak so intimately to her—of all people—of that fateful day. Without knowing the reason of it, he had accepted the fact she would not judge him. Looking into her eyes, he could do nothing less than to confess the secret of his soul.
“Oh, my darling,” she whispered, before tugging him into a loose embrace. She rested on the base of the balcony with him now bent over her. “You were not to blame. You simply did not recognize the vagaries of Robert’s personality. It is said within the family that Robert was excessively merry, followed by periods of equally excessive unhappiness.”
Andrew lifted his head a few inches, so he might look more fully upon her. “Are you saying Robert meant to die that day?” An image of Robert on that fateful day flashed before Andrew’s eyes. His friend had taken more than the usual number of chances during the battle. Andrew had always thought his friend was as sick of the fighting as was he, but Miss Coopersmith was suggesting something he had never considered. Part of him wished to permit himself absolution, while part of him rebuked the idea.
“No one will ever know, but even Uncle Spenser has considered the possibilities aloud. We all knew Robert did not wish to return to England. As the battle turned toward a British victory, perhaps he made his decision. My brother would be next in line: The title would not suffer. Then again, it might simply have been Fate, or his faithfulness to you, but my cousin’s death was not your fault.”
“I wish I could be so certain,” he murmured. He might have returned home after Waterloo if he had not set himself a penitence to pay for what happened on the battlefield. How could he claim both his title and happiness if he was the reason Robert Coopersmith was dead? He may have been able to salvage a relationship with Matilda and nurse his father during the former viscount’s last days, but he could not allow himself to assume a normal life when the world, as he knew it, was no longer normal.
“If it is forgiveness you seek, you will find it among those gathered at Cooper Hall,” she assured.
Unfortunately, before he could claim the lady’s hand in forgiveness and lift her from the floor, the sound of voices approaching from the distance had Andrew scrambling to his feet. Spotting Spenser Coopersmith leading a group of visitors toward the house restored his sensibilities. When Coopersmith waved, Andrew warned the lady, “Do not move until your uncle and his guests pass. It would not do for you to be seen in a disheveled state.”
“Am I disheveled?” she asked in that now familiar tone that said he was acting his age, which he most assuredly was.
He studied her and, for a moment, wished to see her thusly arranged beneath him. Nevertheless, he said, “You know my opinion of your comely face. Now, be still until they pass below us.”
He returned his attention to the party crossing the side lawn. From her place stretched out on the balcony floor, she said, “Uncle Spenser enjoys setting off one of the small cannons he secured from the days of Charles II.”
Andrew did not turn to look at her for fear of drawing the attention of those approaching the house; yet, he smiled. “I managed to draw that conclusion,” he said from the corner of his mouth. “Your uncle still carries the rammer.”
Miss Coopersmith giggled, a sound he found delightfully uplifting. “At least, my uncle only uses the small cannon for his lectures. He owns one of the large ones that some say required sixteen horses to move into place, but it remains at the smaller estate outside of Manchester. Can you imagine your reaction if he possessed cannonballs for such a weapon?”
Andrew waited until the last of the visitors were from view before he answered. He extended his hand to assist Miss Coopersmith to her feet. “I would have responded the same, except a man of my ‘advanced years’ might not have survived the shock of large guns being fired once again in Worcestershire.”
The lady brushed off her dress and moved a few curls into place. At length, she looked upon him to pronounce in a voice of reason. “I would never wish you to know troubles, my lord, but I would be proud to accept your protection any time you care to extend it.”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! I have 2 ebooks of Regency Summer Escape available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Friday, July 26. Winners will be contacted on July 28.