We Get Better

In the summer, with all our usual television shows on hiatus (and more relaxation time in the evening), my husband and I like to choose old series and binge watch them on Netflix. One summer it was Arrested Development, one summer Sex in the City (yes, I just outed my husband on watching the entire series with me) and this summer, West Wing. Which, if you can believe, my husband never watched when it was on.

I was a big fan, but forgot how brilliant the show was. Seriously, they don’t write series like that anymore. I love Olivia Pope as much as the next gal, but Shonda Rhimes is no Aaron Sorkin (sorry. I still love you Shonda.)

We’re currently watching season 2, and revisited Noel, the episode where Josh is diagnosed with PTSD after the shooting earlier in the season. The last 5-7 minutes of the episode knocked it out of the park. I searched high and low for a video clip of this conversation between Josh and the psychiatrist, but couldn’t find it, so I’ll include the transcript notes:

JOSH: You said you diagnosed me in five minutes. What was the diagnosis?

STANLEY: You have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

JOSH: Well, that doesn’t really sound like something they let you have if you work for the President. Can we have it be something else? Seriously, I – I think you might be wrong about that. I – I’m not trying to be difficult.

STANLEY: I don’t think you are.

JOSH: I know that you want me to talk about my feelings.

STANLEY: No I don’t, Josh. The last thing I want you to do is talk about your feelings. What we need to be able to get you to do is remember the shooting without reliving it. And you have been reliving it.

(a little bit later in dialogue)

JOSH: What started it?

STANLEY: You were already cooking for a few hours before the pilot.

JOSH: I was?

STANLEY: Usually with a gunshot victim it’s a car backfiring, or a twig snapping, but that’s not what it was with you.

JOSH: What was it?

STANLEY: (turns to Kaytha) Kaytha?

KAYTHA: The music.

STANLEY: The brass quintet.

JOSH: Why would the music have started it?

STANLEY: Well, I know it’s gonna sound like I’m telling you that two plus two equals a bushel of potatoes, but at this moment, in your head, music is the same thing as …

JOSH: … as sirens.

STANLEY: (nods) Yeah.

JOSH: So that’s gonna be my reaction every time I hear music?


JOSH: Why not?

STANLEY: Because we get better.

I loved so much about this episode. I love that they portrayed Josh as angry and lashing out, without understanding the complexity of his emotions or triggers. I love that the psychiatrist intern (Kaytha) says to Josh that the metallic taste in his mouth when he began the flashback (even though he never told her about it) was the adrenaline. (it does taste metallic. That’s exactly what fear adrenaline from PTSD tastes like). I love how the psychiatrist tells him that he was “cooking” for a few hours before he actually smashed his hand through the glass. I love how the goal of his PTSD treatment is not to “cure” it or to psychoanalyze it or to dig back into childhood memories or to lie on the couch, but the tangible and concrete finish line of being able to think of it, without reliving it.

I love how he tells him that music won’t always trigger him with the beautiful and simple and wise answer of “we get better.”

We get better.

Most of all? I love the end scene between Josh and his friend and boss, Leo.


4 responses to “We Get Better

  1. Thank you, every single post you share makes me think. I’m grateful for you.

  2. Yes!! We get better! I finally can see that too.

  3. litwithschmidt

    The West Wing is my favorite TV, ever. We need to swap favorite episodes SOON.

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