No Simple Formula for Going from Horror to Healed

There is no timestamp on trauma. There isn’t a formula that you can insert yourself into to get from horror to healed. Be patient. Take up space. Let your journey be the balm.” – Dawn Serra 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a widely known disorder since the term was first used in the 1980’s in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-lll) published by the American Psychiatric Association.  Originally, this diagnosis was associated with the veterans of the Vietnam War, having earlier been referred to as “shell shock,” and “war neurosis.” Now with more people suffering from it (and unfortunately, in conjunction with more deadly military actions), we know it is not limited to veterans.  In pop culture, in large, most of the characters that suffer from some form of PTSD are portrayed as the wild card, whether hero or villain.  Mostly, many movies from the ’70s and ’80s present the character as broken men, who are ticking time bombs that could explode in a flash of violence and self-destructive behavior. Many of these are films that have been released to acclaim in some form or another, such as Taxi DriverThe Deer Hunter, Jacob’s Ladder, the Lethal Weapon series and even the Rambo films.  Admittedly, I’ve enjoyed these movies and have watched them multiple times and, more than likely, will again.   

My interest in this subject came from my time as an Army medic and nurse at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2001 to 2004.  During that time both our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan went from initiation to full on battle.  The influx of wounded from overseas was staggering.  Soldiers from all walks of life were arriving with the most grievous body and mind-altering injuries that I had, up to that point and ever since, have ever seen. Many of the wounded not only faced the trial of the immediate care, but the longer lasting struggle in learning what life would be post-war and post-injury.  You see after that type of experience there is no going back to normal.  There is going to the new normal.  In my search for stories that dealt with PTSD, however, I wanted to find work that doesn’t necessarily focus on the negative aspects of the disorder to develop into a horror movie or features the character as the  deus ex machina killing machine.  Enter Terry Moore, with some inspiration from Calvin and Hobbes. 

Terry Moore’s Motor Girl is an American comic series from his self-owned Abstract Studios, which made it’s mark with the long running Strangers in Paradise. The book itself is as beautiful as Moore has always displayed in his previous work.  Although the book is in black and white, with clean penciled lines, you find your imagination filling the story in the vibrant colors. When it comes to characters, they become equally as colorful with the personalities and emotions you take the journey through as you read. Moore draws more emotion in an expression, with few lines, than other artists can while adding every furrow and contour of the real human face.  Furthermore, in an industry dominated by art that stereotypically, and to much controversy, that has drawn characters with exaggerated proportions, Moore has always drawn the human figure in a realistic and respectful manner. For the scenery, while set in the desert, Moore manages to make it look as though an undisturbed Zen-like road to the further understanding and enlightenment that compels the reader to make the journey to the other side to discover what adventure may wait there.   

The story features as the main character, Sam, an Iraq war veteran, who runs a junkyard in the middle of the desert somewhere in the United States.  It is later, when we meet her friend Mike, a 500-pound talking gorilla, that only she can see, that we begin to discover that there is something more going on and that she is suffering from PTSD and the residual effects of injuries sustained in battle. A sequence of events ensue that set off adventure, intrigue, and the following is an engaging story that combines moments of whimsy and humor with those moments of dawning realization of the struggles of someone coping with the residual effect of traumatic experiences.  While different in tone from his other works, Moore continues to present the character development that he nurtured in his previous works.  Even though within the story are events that feature talking gorillas and little green men, Motor Girl is story of the human condition, creating a narrative that uncovers all the feeling and recognition for what it means to be human, including the flaws and brittle cracks to the psyche, coupled with the deep love and self-discovery humans can be capable of.  Each character you meet is endearing in their own way. All this combines to make a book that is incredibly moving, and emotion will hit you with the force of a 500-pound gorilla concerned for someone he loves as they grapple to discover their new normal. 

To read this or any of Terry Moore’s work contact your local comic shop or to buy directly from Terry Moore (or to just learn more about him and his other works) check out his website and store at https://abstractstudiocomics.com/.   

For more information on PTSD, please see the Mayo Clinic’s website here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967 or the Veterans Administration’s National Center for PTSD at: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/.    

If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD and you need help right away: 

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