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Living with PTSD: Advice and Support

When we first hear or read about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we may assume it is military-related and the brutal after effects of war. PTSD isn’t just a diagnosis for military personnel. It is also the effect of any significant trauma in one’s life such as abuse, death, or various types of mistreatment that leave a person with mental despair and instability. Those suffering with PTSD (either military or non-military related) lead worrisome lives that not only affect the individual, but also their family and friends. In many cases, an individual living with PTSD will experience nightmares and night terrors, paranoia, anxiety, depression, resentment, confusion, rage, and in some cases, even seizure activity. Social gatherings and large crowds could send a person with PTSD into a state of panic and cause severe anxiety and paranoia. Depending on the traumatic event(s) that led them to having PTSD, symptoms will vary from mild to extreme. Many people suffering from the disorder are oftentimes prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication to help ease the symptoms. However, these medications should not be used as a “cure” for PTSD, but rather as an aide to help manage daily life. If you are living with PTSD, know that there are ways to help manage the disorder and work through the struggles. As someone who personally suffers from PTSD, I’ve come up with a few tips that have helped me over the years:

1. PTSD symptoms should not be viewed as “No Big Deal”
Many people who experience significant traumatic events often assume the after effects are no big deal. They are a big deal. Our subconscious mind is much stronger than many of us believe. What might not affect you right now could affect you later down the road. For instance, if you suffered from abuse at a young age and never sought counseling, PTSD symptoms could arise later in life. As you get older, you might start experiencing nightmares or a sense of fear when you are around someone who looks familiar to the person who hurt you as a child. Whether it’d be their age, sex, or attire, something as miniscule as their scent could trigger your mind to become unstable. You could begin to feel anxious, nervous, or scared to be near them or in the same vicinity. This is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. Understand that what happened to you is not something you should brush off. Consider seeking professional help.

2. Do not be ashamed to seek support and professional help if you are living with PTSD
Even if you’re unsure of your condition and whether or not you suffer from PTSD, you should never feel ashamed to seek professional help. No one deserves to live in fear or experience night terrors on a regular basis. You deserve to lead a happy life as much as the next person and therapy can help you get to that point. By communicating with a health professional, you’ll learn to open up and deal with your traumatic experience(s). A licensed therapist/psychologist will help you to better understand your emotions and offer support on how to manage your symptoms. There is no cure for PTSD, but with the right counseling you can gradually learn to accept, forgive, and move forward.

“You are still here, you are still breathing, and you are still living”—Corey Demaline 

 

3. No two mental health professionals are the same
If you are living with PTSD and choose to seek therapy from a licensed professional, understand not every therapist/psychologist is the same. Each professional has their own therapeutic method and practice. Personally, for me, I saw four different therapists until I finally found one who worked best for me. This is so important! If you feel your current mental health professional is not right for you, it’s more than okay to walk away and find another. This is about you and improving your wellbeing. If you feel like you cannot open up to your current therapist/psychologist, chances are you might never make progress with your condition. Some professionals are more holistic, whilst others might have a more clinical approach—and this is okay! Just be sure you find one that works best for you. It’s a relationship; a connection, between patient and counselor. No two cases of PTSD are the same, and neither are mental health professionals.

4. Lean on family and friends
Something that many people who are living with PTSD struggle with is communication. We have a tendency to bottle up emotions and never truly express our feelings. Oftentimes, we feel like a burden to our family and friends and we fear what others might think if we were to openly communicate our feelings. Two common symptoms of PTSD are shame and embarrassment. Never feel you cannot express yourself to the people who love you most. Your family and friends may not be licensed therapists, but they have been a part of your life for some time and might know you better than you think. Talk with them—they are part of your support system.

Suffering from PTSD is not your fault. PTSD does not mean you are not strong or brave, it means you have dealt with something so traumatic that many others may never have experienced, and your brain cannot cope on its own. This is okay! No person should ever have to experience what many of us who are living with PTSD have experienced. We desperately want to be like everyone else walking down the street; lead a normal life with normal thoughts and dreams. But no one is actually normal. We all suffer from our own demons—some of us just need a little more support than others, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. PTSD does not define you; it’s just a small part of you. You are still here, you are still breathing, and you are still living.

Further reading: Mental Health Awareness in School

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