Sea: Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I hate to be a downer here, but there’s nothing really warm and fuzzy about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is pivotal to Heidi R. Kling’s Sea. However, it’s definitely worth learning about because it can happen to anyone — just think of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine High School shootings.

Sienna’s trauma psychologist father and his partners travel to post-tsunami Indonesia to help children at an orphanage who are suffering from PTSD. Many have nightmares and flashbacks. Some are withdrawn. Others just want their families back.

Here are the typical symptoms of PTSD:

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts
  • Although Sienna is only there for two weeks, she helps Elli and the other little girls overcome some of these problems just by being there, sharing her own grief and entertaining them with her foreignness. Deni and Sienna form a bond when they realize they each have trauma-related nightmares, both revolving around their mothers and the water that took them.

    In one of my favorite scenes, Sienna and Deni talk about what happened and how they each reacted to the trauma, and how the ocean is now an “unhappy place” because of what it represents (typical for PTSD). But there’s always hope. He says,

    We do not choose what happens to us. We can only choose what we do after. What we do now. We can only choose to keep going.

    Here are some great resources on PTSD:

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