Starting Over After Trauma
How Can You Help?
PTSD is hard for someone to understand if they haven't experienced it, themselves. Having PTSD is like being on a merry go round that never stops. Forever turning no matter how much you want to stop and get off. People have often said to me "What happened to you is in the past, just forget it and move on. You're just acting like that to get attention!" Oh if only it were that easy! I have heard these words from usually well meaning friends and family during some of the hardest times in my life.
If you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder you probably have heard them too. PTSD is an illness that causes you to make fresh starts repeatedly a little at a time. You can make progress and then a trigger or memory will knock you back into the place you were before. Just "getting over it" is impossible.
Consequently, if you are a family member, a friend. What do you do? How can you help? The first thing you can do is arm yourself with information. Having PTSD does not mean"crazy" It simply means that the person has had a traumatic event in their life that has left lingering deep feelings of helplessness, horror and sadness. They have no control over these feelings and can often go into a state of returning to the event if certain things or "triggers" remind them of the event.The best way to cope with all the daily challenges of PTSD is to learn all you can.
There are workgroups, classes and support groups you can attend with others experiencing the same thing. Your local mental health facility would be a good place to find more information about these things Take anger management classes. Read books and apply techniques to your situation.
Be sure to take time for you to "get away" and enjoy a hobby or interest. Recognize and accept your own feelings as well. You may feel hurt or frustrated by the one with the PTSD. You may feel distant or guarded because you are afraid to be hurt again yourself. On the other hand, you may become too attached, trying to make all the survivors decisions or overprotecting them.
Although PTSD is the condition that affects the one experiencing the trauma firsthand, be aware that you can develop what is known as Secondary PTSD. This can cause anxiety, trouble with communication and work or school. Seek counseling to deal with these things and also encourage counseling for the PTSD survivor. Don't pressure though as this can have a negative effect while being sure to care for yourself too, you can also be there for the survivor as a support.
"The best thing to do is to listen, even if you have heard it before let them talk," says Sandra of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Her daughters and son attended Westside Middle school in Jonesboro. Her son was also a student of Shannon Wright, the teacher killed while trying to protect students from gunfire. "They need reassurance that they did the best they could because the guilt and what ifs are overwhelming for a while. They need to talk about it in order to think out loud."
While not a PTSD sufferer herself, Vinita Agrawal is aware of the special needs of survivors from having someone in her life that has survived a traumatic event. "The PTSD sufferer "she explains "needs special support from the family and must not be made to feel insecure in any instance" She goes on to add that asking the survivors opinion on issues before making major decisions is very important
"The most important thing family and friends can do is just be there" says Pat who had a very traumatic birth experience with her child. Having been diagnosed with postpartum depression and having all the symptoms associated with PTSD afterwards, Pat felt that having her feelings justified was very important "Don't offer suggestions on how to just snap out of it. There is no need to talk about it unless the person brings up the trauma themselves. Just be there, listen and justify your loved ones feelings"
One final thing to remember, PTSD takes time to recover from. Healing is a day to day process for everyone involved. Some days it seems like all there is hopelessness. Don't give up. Creating a new life after trauma is well worth the effort and love and support are the key.