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Friday, August 23, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Paranormal PTSD

Dear Jeannie,

My character is named Tex and is the equivalent of a preteen at the time the story takes place. He was raised by an older boy named Johnny who did his best to keep Tex out of harm's way, but ultimately failed when he was forced to leave on short notice when Tex was about 5 or 6. Little Tex had a rough time living on the frontier: malnutrition, inability to find steady work, people taking advantage of his naivety, having to get streetsmart or die, etc. He learned that he possessed the ability to experience emotionally impacting events that occurred in certain places. He found this out the hard way by experiencing the Battle of the Alamo first hand several years after it ended. As a result, Tex now avoids memorials and old battlefields like the plague, fearing something similar may happen. Tex doesn't see Johnny again for 16 years, by which point he promises to aide Johnny in his side of the American Civil War. What kind of emotional baggage might Tex be carrying with him? 
Stressing in the States

Dear Stressing,

It's pretty clear that Tex is likely suffering from PTSD. One of the key symptoms of PTSD is avoidance of stimuli (people, places, things) that remind you of the trauma. Since he is scared to visit old battlefields and memorials where people died, this would fit. He might also have flashbacks, nightmares or day can see my Anxiety Disorders label for more info.

What might be more painful for him is the idea that Johnny doesn't seem to remember him (whether Johnny does or not). I'm sure as a young boy he was wholly reliant on Johnny, and probably worshipped him with hero status. You didn't make it clear whether little Tex knew why Johnny had to leave suddenly, but either way, that event would have devastated him. Seeing him years later, seemingly having moved on, would make him very wary, if not downright pissed. I hope that you have given Tex a very good motivation to want to help him, otherwise that plot point might seem implausible. 

Best of luck to you, and thanks for writing in. 

Got questions of your own? Leave them in the comment section, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle, and I will post my answers in next weeks column.  The queue is empty, folks.