Twenty-five years ago a doctor used the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” to explain why I was having flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and general fear in my life. Now, PTSD is in the news a lot. PTSD is being recognized and accepted more often as a valid concern. More of my story at the end…
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a life sentence, but is a normal reaction to abnormal events. We CAN recover from PTSD, and may be stronger for the healing.
What causes PTSD?
Crime, natural disasters, accidents, war or conflict, and other threats to life. We do live in a world where we as individuals have little control over these things. People who are exposed to these types of events may be prone to developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The cumulative effect of repeated trauma especially affects those who work to help society at these times. This includes military, police, fire and ambulance personnel, as well as doctors and nurses. Victims of crime and refugees from war may also develop PTSD.
Who gets PTSD?
Anyone. At some point in life, we will all be exposed to a traumatic event. Most of us have coping methods to get through the trauma and move on. However, for events involving death, serious injury, or sexual violence, particularly when the event is unexpected or repeated, the trauma may be so frightening, overwhelming, and distressful, that our coping methods are not adequate.
How does PTSD affect life?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may cause nightmares, flashbacks (reliving the event in awake time), and intruding thoughts about the event. A person suffering from PTSD may feel nervous or anxious and have trouble concentrating. They may be irritable for no apparent reason, and have trouble sleeping well. They may not feel safe. Or, they may feel numb and detached, or apathetic and disconnected from themselves and others.
What can we do about PTSD?
If you suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
– Ask for help. While you may feel guilt or shame that you are unable to move on from the event, it is important to take your feelings seriously.
– Talk about it. Family and friends want to support you but may not know how. Find a counselor or a support group where you can talk and learn skills to deal with the nightmares and flashbacks.
– Medication may be necessary for physical issues like anxiety, depression, or sleep difficulties.
If someone you care about is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
– Learn about PTSD (start at the Canadian Mental Health Association – https://www.cmha.ca)
– Invite them to talk but give them space when they don’t want to talk.
– Don’t take their reactions personally.
– Encourage them to find healthy coping methods.
– Set boundaries to keep yourself healthy and safe; find a counselor for yourself, too.
– Talk about yourself using “feeling” words, which may encourage communication and healing.
Let’s help one another by talking about PTSD, and encouraging those with the potential to develop it to find ways to become resilient. Please know you are not alone, and reach out.
More of my story …
Twenty-five years ago a doctor used the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” to explain why I was having flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and general fear in my life. I was then able to start dealing with the sexual abuse in my childhood and how that was affecting my adulthood. I started a support group to help and be helped by other women who suffered childhood trauma, and I wrote many prayers to God.
We lived in a small town, so professional counseling was limited or required a lot of travel, but through the loving support of my husband who, no matter what I did “wasn’t going anywhere”, the 12-step type support group, and leaning into God, I was able to face the darkness and begin seeking the light.
It was not an easy time. In facing the pain and shame of the past, I was also facing me, with all the failures and bad choices I made. God is gracious, though, and showed me not only His love and care, but His presence in each circumstance. With time, new coping skills, and beginning to see the Truth from God about who I am, the symptoms faded and I could manage life.
I have recently begun to recognize my job as administrative support to our Canadian heroes in red serge is causing secondary but repeated exposure to the “ugly” in our world and some of those PTSD symptoms are once again developing. This time, though, I have weapons to fight with. I am confident in the support of my family, friends, and church. I have coping skills, including writing, to help make sense of the feelings. And I have God, who holds my hand each day.
For me, God is present, and that makes all the difference.
*photos by John Hain, courtesy of Pixabay.com CCO license