What is Moral Injury – Henya Drescher – Medium
Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct. ~~ Syracuse University
Since war is a constant human condition, a devastating form of MORAL INJURY confronts most of the warriors once they return to civilian life. In the heat of battle, soldiers are often ordered to do things that are unspeakable in civil society: kill enemy soldiers; toss grenades into houses; burn down villages. These atrocities turn into memories that many veterans cannot discard.
In BLIND PURSUIT, my psychological thriller in progress, Homa the main character is an Afghanistan veteran who shows all the symptoms of suffering from a moral injury.
An ex-intelligence officer, Homa’s job was to translate and analyze communications between the Taliban. Though Homa was not in the front line, the knowledge that the consequences of her decision-making had caused loss of life is just as impactful as if she were experiencing it first-hand. This knowledge causes her to suffer a betrayal of her core belief of what’s right and just, even if such an act had to be used in high stake situations.
Until recently, experiences of war which is exhibited in rage, and isolation were diagnosed by the mental health community as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
But the familiar diagnosis of PTSD as an explanation of deployment-related suffering does not entirely capture the silent type of anguish. PTSD is attached to a description that points to a kind of fear syndrome. It’s easy to understand a car accident victim, or a brutal attack, or a witness of a horrendous murder. But what about, the kind that shows depression? The kind the sucks the life out of you, and you don’t know why?
BLIND PURSUIT is an intimate look at Homa’s journey through her struggle with service-related PTSD and moral injury. Her symptoms involve constant thoughts and memories of death-related events, vivid nightmares that make it hard for her to sleep, anxiety and loss of interest in relationships, or any activity outside her job. She has developed obsessive behaviors. She often checks the windows and the front door of her apartment. She is hyper-vigilant of her surroundings. She gets claustrophobic in tight places.
In Homa’s voice: “I have to accept my shame and feelings of wrong-doing, there’s no point trying to push them away. I’m going to feel terrible; it’s going to come in waves — stronger then weaker then stronger again — that twist in the pit of my stomach, the anguish of shame, the heat coming to my face, my eyes squeezed tight as though I could make it all disappear.”