In addition to the mood swings and bad dreams, I began having problems staying
focused, which of course reflected on my job performance. My mind wandered,
and I often felt like a schoolboy trapped in a classroom on a spring afternoon. I
began to resent my co-workers’ successes and distanced myself from them. On
numerous occasions, Dave took me aside and told me to lighten up and think
about what I did around the office. Now and then, he made an oblique
reference to posttraumatic stress, and even though I wasn’t ready to
hear that, I paid attention to everything else he said. Dave was
the only friend I had left at the bank, and I didn’t argue with him.
- No longer in Vietnam and in a state of constant alert, Lance’s
brain attempted to sort out the tangle of horrific images it had recorded
during the war. In the brain, the hippocampus is associated
with episodic memories – memories of experienced events and
their associated emotions – and damage to Lance’s hippocampus
resulted in his inability to form new long-term episodic memories. In
simpler terms, Lance Johnson experienced lifelong difficulty forming
new episodic memories not associated with the traumas he suffered in
In 1972, I transferred to the Vietnamese desk, a surprise because I didn’t
know any American bank did business in Vietnam. We were at war, for Christ’s
sake. Shows you now naïve I was. The planners at Bank of America
knew the war would end someday and were greatly interested in the economic
future of the region.
One day, after six months in the department, the
bank president sent me a personal letter encouraging me to support the American
oil companies’ bids on
offshore drilling rights. A map accompanied the letter showing the drill
sites already awarded throughout Southeast Asia, and I saw the void around
Vietnam that with bank support would be filled by American companies.
a joke. Twenty years, millions dead, and for what? To stoke
the fire in the belly of big business. I’d already tired of working
at the bank for too little pay and too little spiritual reward. That
letter was too much for me. After three years with B of A, my letter
of resignation was accepted without comment.
- Lance may not have been cognizant of the similarity between
the bank president’s request for his support in gaining access
to Vietnamese oil and his onerous duty as salation payment officer while
in Vietnam, but nonetheless, his PTSD was triggered. Lance went
to the extreme of resigning his position to avoid any activity that aroused
recollections of his trauma.