Life after Trauma: Coping with PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not something people like to discuss. I grew up knowing it as “the thing that happens to soldiers.” That is a false way of thinking for two reasons:
1) While it is true that soldiers are often exposed to trauma that leads to PTSD, we often do not provide them with enough support when they return home.  We should not be comfortable simply being aware of these struggles, we need to actually help meet their needs.
2) ANYONE can experience PTSD, because trauma does not just occur on a battlefield.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. I am merely someone who has been through trauma and who currently lives with PTSD.

What is PTSD?

The best concise way of explaining PTSD is this: when a traumatic EVENT turns into a traumatic EXPERIENCE. Meaning, the trauma lasts way longer than the event itself.  An event has a start and an end, while an experience can linger or be triggered repeatedly by things outside of the initial event.

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Source: helpguide.org

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You can read about my family’s story and the trauma that caused my PTSD on KinBox Magazine by clicking here.

How to cope with PTSD

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  1. Talk with a trustworthy counselor or friend: I cannot say this enough, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help. It takes greater strength and maturity to be a receiver, than it does to be a giver. Knowing when something isn’t right is only the first step. Take the leap and let someone in who can help.  On the other hand, do not feel obligated to let people in that you do not trust.
  2. Get moving and get outside: Feeling stuck and being physically stuck often go hand in hand. If you are not ready to tackle the emotional piece of PTSD, try approaching the physical aspect. Go explore somewhere new, or work up a nice sweat. Let the accomplishment of physical challenges increase your confidence in tackling emotional barriers.
  3. Meditate and pray: After you get moving, now challenge yourself with being still. We can numb a lot with busyness and constant noise.

    Don’t be fooled, numbing is not the same as healing. It is okay to occasionally try and numb the pain if you need a break, but don’t stay there. We all have to face the music at some point.

    Let the silence and the stillness show you the areas of your heart and mind that still need healing.

  4. Identify triggers: What still sets you off? Figure out what sends you right back to your pain. Some of these you can identify beforehand, others will surprise you, and that’s okay. Your body will kick into fight or flight, it will be hard, but you will survive.  You have to let your brain relearn that you can overcome these situations.

    We owe it to ourselves to not live in fear. Instead, we must choose to challenge our fears. Invite a little bit of pain back in for a moment, so that we can free ourselves from it entirely.

  5. Do not withdraw: The process of healing after trauma is grueling. One day you can feel like you’re on top of the world, the next you are hiding in your closet shaking. Remember, it is a process, it is hard, and it shouldn’t be handled alone. Force yourself to be social, even on the difficult days.  Be around laughing and cheerful voices, instead of the dark ones in your head. 

Ways to Support Someone with PTSD

The best way I can summarize how to support someone is this:
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It can be tempting to try and relate in order to feel like you understand someone better. Sometimes things are just too bad, dark, and heavy for anyone to truly relate. That is okay! Do not try to fill the silence with words, just be present. Personally, I have an easier time opening up to someone who is not trying to see my pain through the lens of their own experience.

If you struggle or know someone that struggles with PTSD, please do not hesitate to reach out. It is a very difficult road to navigate, and it is not meant to be walked alone. Below are some links to start you off on your journey of healing.

You matter. Your pain matters. Talk to someone. 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

For more articles by the Grace Haven on dealing with trauma, click the links below:

The Anthem of the Abused

Hospital life and Hypotonia: when the NICU follows you home…

A letter from the NICU

The OTHER “Sex Talk”