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How does a young boy of middle school age cope after he spent part of his life trapped in a parallel universe being chased by a life-threatening monster? That is how we open Season 2 of Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things. Will is back at school with his friends, engaging in all of the fantastic eighties “nerd” stuff that they are into- like dressing up as the Ghostbusters and playing arcade games. It has been about a year since the last Season took place, bringing Will, his family, and his friends, to the anniversary of Will’s disappearance. Everything seems to be okay and normal. Will’s mother, Joyce, is overprotective and concerned because, as we learn, Will has been having “episodes”. As the date of Will’s disappearance draws closer, the worse his episodes get. Visiting with a doctor at the notorious Hawkins Lab, where much of the events of Season one took place, Will and Joyce learn about PTSD, a diagnosis relatively new to psychologists at the time.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was thought to only affect veterans of war who had witnessed unimaginable brutality in the battlefield. Increasingly, doctors became aware that other people, like Will, who had witnessed inexplicable and uncontrollable life events, like being abducted into a parallel universe and fighting for his life from a monster, developed similar symptoms to veterans. Will has been having flashbacks, nightmares, and starts to have seizures. Spoiler Alert: The audience begins to infer that these aren’t just symptoms of PTSD, but that “stranger things” are starting to occur in Hawkins once more. However, we witness Will torturously endure his symptoms as they finally break him down. In a rather metamorphic climax, we see the new nightmare of Will’s trauma completely consume him inside and out.

The “Anniversary Effect” is a real condition of PTSD and many who have had significant traumatic events occur in their life experience this effect. According to the National Center for PTSD, people who are coming upon the anniversary of their trauma “…find that they experience an increase in distressing memories of the event. These memories may be triggered by reminders, but memories may also seem to come from out of the blue while at work, home, or doing recreational activities.” Will witnesses Flashbacks on Halloween, at school, at the arcade, and in his sleep. Will’s doctor informs Will and his mother, along with the town Sheriff, about the condition and tries to assure them there is nothing more going on. Of course, due to the nature of the show, there are much stranger things going on.

Similar to Season one, Will is not the only one living with PTSD. Spoiler Alert: Eventually, we come to meet Eleven again and watch her go through a journey of self-discovery and realization, finally liberated from both the laboratory and the “upside down”. Other characters show difficulty in coping with last year’s events like Nancy, the older sister of one of Will’s best friends, who lost her best friend Barb to the monster of the ‘upside down’. Nancy abuses alcohol, finds her interest in her romantic relationship gone, and has difficulty staying in school. She, along with Will’s older brother, seek to find some justice for her friend Barb and themselves.

As the characters struggle to cope with the effect of the anniversary of the events last season, new stranger things arise, bringing new experiences and possibly, new trauma.

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