PTSD was once a debilitating challenge for me in that I found myself consistently being labelled militant, disruptive, or too stern. As a result I’ve lost many jobs, seems I’ve always been the first to get let go when a company I worked for downsized, and I found it very hard to connect with people.
It wasn’t until after years of therapy that I came to understand what was going on within my own head, and how my thoughts and behaviors created separation between myself and the things I want out of life.
My experience has been such that I have not been aware I had reacted to a “perceived” threat until after I had done so. The end result is that I’ve had to apologize in many cases, and I’ve pushed many people away. Once I have a PTSD event it’s very hard to sort through it and determine if my action was genuinely warranted. In most cases they are not. During the time of the event and thereafter, I feel a deep sense of doom, I don’t want to talk, I feel frustrated that it has happened again, and I simply don’t want to be around anyone. My “cave” (my home office space) is my safe place. I got there to find the needed peace that will allow me to process the event and ultimately get past it. Imagine you are in a grocery store minding your business in one second, and then in the next you are pissed off at someone because your mind tells you there is a threat, and you are in immediate danger. You react to the threat even before you realized what the threat might be. You end up saying or doing something that could compromise your health and safety, or you end up saying something to Someone who is completely innocent of what you allege. This is when you get into trouble.
What many have to understand is once a trauma happens to an individual it does not leave our minds. As a Veteran this is particularly troubling because the trauma Vets are exposed to are unlike anything the vast majority of civilians ever would. That said, most people, even as they want to and try to, cannot understand the experience.
Each day I battle with internal thoughts of hopelessness and reckless abandon; I struggle with whether to take a next step in any direction, and I long for anything that will take my struggle away. Thoughts of not being good enough because so many died “on my watch” scream in my head, causing me to question why I even try.
It is a constant battle.
I was in denial for 30 years. No one could tell me something was wrong with me – at least I never believed it. It wasn’t until years after I had started counseling that I began to approach the idea that PTSD was real, and I had it. Now, after almost 10 years of therapy and many setbacks, I am close to fully accepting I have PTSD.
I don’t like it at all, but it is my reality.
With me, my PTSD causes me to want (desperately) to simply stay in my cave and only interact with my close family members. Even then it can be quite hard because, in truth, I am normally NOT fully engaged in the moment. Even as I talk to people I battle
thoughts in my head. It is most uncomely.
Ultimately, some of the things that trigger me are loud sounds, unexpected sounds, someone walking toward me in an aggressive way, someone saying something to me I did not expect and interpret as a threat. Sometimes I can wake up and be in the PTSD zone. I don’t know why this happens, but it is my truth. In every case, the only thing I can do is remind myself this is PTSD, not real, and I don’t have to defend myself. As I practice this internal messaging I am getting better – instead of me being upset and non-responsive for weeks, now it can take only days.
What helped me the most was an understanding family and consistent therapy work. I have come to understand there is no way to avoid the impact of PTSD in my life NBUT I can learn to manage myself. Therapy has helped me understand better how my brain works and how I can move past a PTSD episode without hurting someone I care about feelings.
PTSD will never go away for me. I will always have this battle.
The best thing anyone can do when dealing with someone with PTSD is to avoid brushing the experience off as “that person is just acting up”. We are not. Additionally, if you haven’t been exposed to the kind of trauma the person with PTSD has, do not say you understand… you cannot. Finally, do not push someone with PTSD who is having “an episode” to talk about what’s happening – oftentimes we don’t quite understand what is happening and it takes a bit of time to process things and get to a better understanding. Give that person space if they ask for it. And remember, sometimes we cannot ask for it… sometimes we simply need our family members/loved ones to see it first and give us space. I say this because, as I mentioned earlier, when we have a PTSD event it takes us time to even understand what it is… then we need time to process through whatever has triggered us.
9 Ways to Combat PTSD:
- Educate Yourself about the signs and symptoms
- Attend one-on-one therapy sessions
- Attend group sessions
- Practice relaxation techniques – www.calming-circle.com (free app)
- Pursue outdoor activities – hiking, biking, walking, etc.
- Read a book you enjoy
- Confide in a person you trust
- Spend time with positive people
- Enjoy sitting in nature