At some point in our lives, we experience a trauma that may cause us to have PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Everyone experiences trauma differently and one situation may affect someone else completely different.
Due to the stigma around mental health acceptance in the world, it may be hard to identify how something that has happened to you has affected you.
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Before you dig in, I want to clarify that these are ways to help you decipher whether trauma is affecting you and ways that you can work towards dealing with trauma.
I am not a medical professional. I strongly encourage you to seek professional guidance if you are struggling with PTSD.
These are my opinions on coping with my personal PTSD. I write this in hopes that it can help you or someone you love, discover whether they have PTSD and the need to seek further help is required.
I also write this to raise awareness that PTSD is more common than people think and you are not alone.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Definition:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition brought on by a single terrifying experience or a prolonged highly stressful, scary experience.
PTSD can present with increased heart rate, anxiety, fears, flashbacks, nightmares, shaking, tremors, panic attacks, agitation and many other symptoms.
Some of these symptoms, of course, usually occur after a traumatic experience initially. In the case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we are looking at prolonged symptoms that continue to come back.
They may come back due to a trigger or they may come back randomly and leaving a person unaware of the source.
A trigger for myself is the hospital and paediatric doctors/specialists. Once I become aware of a situation that puts us at the mercy of the hospital and doctors my PTSD takes over and I begin to lose control. Often times I can experience anger, nausea, flashbacks and overwhelming grief plus more all at once. Like a truck load of bricks coming down.
The First Stage Of Coping With PTSD.
Denial: For many people, myself included, we tend to be in denial of having experienced a trauma that has affected us to a degree that we are not who we used to be. Sometimes we experience such a traumatic incident that our minds start to put up roadblocks to escape the pain. These roadblocks can tend to skew our perception of what that trauma experience did to us.
We may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the pain or perhaps medications to further block its existence. All while we are still in denial of what actually has caused this anxiety, stress or depression.
If you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, anxious and stressed the fuck out, ask yourself if there is a traumatic experience behind it.
Did something happen to you that has caused these fears to become relevant in your mind?
Have you experienced a traumatic experience?
Remember, a trauma to you may be different to someone else, and that is okay, it is what makes each of us unique. We all come from different walks of life that have developed different levels of perception adn coping techniques.
It is also a reason to keep faith in your ability to overcome the traumatic experience. Perhaps someone else out there can help you find a different perspective to opening up the doors of overcoming your trauma.
Step Number 2 Of Surviving PTSD
Acceptance: The day you cue into your feelings and realize that a traumatic experience has given you PTSD is going to be a wild day. You will be filled with many emotions some may include:
- or possibly acceptance.
The day I discovered I was suffering from PTSD was a day I will never forget. I had no idea what I was experiencing stemmed from trauma.
I thought trauma had to be something that damaged me or someone I love physically or caused me severe pain.
Although that was the clear definition of what had happened in our situation, it was prolonged and it was an adrenaline-filled experience that we somehow got through and became something I overlooked as a very unfortunate circumstance.
I was blind to it. I thought it could not happen to me. I could not make the connection to PTSD.
I realized I had PTSD after reading a headline to a news article about parents of premature babies and NICU stays being a leading cause of PTSD. It perhaps was the first time I read an acceptance letter about PTSD being found in other places outside of the army.
I was blown away and over the course of the next few days, I felt myself releasing the denial and opening my heart and my mind to acceptance of the reality of my traumatic experience. I was not alone! There were others out there just like me!
I felt myself open up to the possibility that my inner turmoil stemmed from something deeper than an inability to forgive and forget, as many people had suggested.
I began to feel acceptance in my heart.
Step Number 3 Of Dealing With PTSD
Courage: Finding the courage to say I had PTSD was one of the hardest things I had to do. I was willing to accept it within myself but I was scared to tell others.
When we hear PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we immediately think of war veterans and life-changing accidents. Sadly, the misinterpretation of what PTSD really means is lost on the majority of the world.
After all, they have PTSD clinics for war survivors but not for parents of the critically ill, not for people who were left to die after a brutal attack, not for rape victims. So why on earth should I believe I too was a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?!?
In fact, I remember the first time I told someone. I did it in writing, in a message, to a group of close friends. They blatantly skipped over it like it was crazy talk and just a new rumour that parents were grasping at.
It did not matter that they too had experienced trauma that they worked in health care or that they were incredibly intelligent. My proposal for having PTSD was absurd.
They were not the only ones in fact. But the more I began to open up about it the more I found others and in others, we can find strength.
Step 4 Of Surviving PTSD
Connecting: Once I knew I was not alone in this struggle that had begun to consume me, I opened myself up to sharing my story and seeking others’ stories.
I still remember the first time I thought the word in my head, the first time I wrote them and the first time I spoke them out loud. “I think I have PTSD.” and I still remember the first time someone told me “of course you do, after everything you went through.”
First to intimate friends, then to support groups and then to social media and even on my blog post about miscarriages.
The amount of connection I received over this struggle I was secretly dealing with for years was eye-opening and I realized in helping myself I could help others.
By connecting with others and letting them know that their experiences and feelings were real and stemmed from a cause I felt like I was no longer alone.
I refused to let others live in the overwhelming control of PTSD without knowing that there was more to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the average person knows about.
Over the course of a year while my daughter fought for her life, while I fought for advocacy alongside her, while mistake after mistake happened in the OR and in her care I had found a connection with others.
The connection that helped me get through and keep focus and keep fighting although I was running on fumes and exhausted and in shock.
When it all ended and the adrenaline wore off, the grief consumed me, the rage chilled my heart, the fear stole my breath and I knew I would never be the same but I had no idea I had PTSD.
The Final Step Of Coping With PTSD
Expression: Finding a way to express yourself and unleash the pent up feelings of pain, hate, anger, fear, and exasperation are key to moving forward. Expression allows us to relate to it from within and prove to our minds it is real and we are ready to deal with it.
I need to talk about it but on my own terms. I can not keep it inside of me or it eats at me. Whether I tell a close friend, family member or even a complete stranger depends on my gut instinct and which trauma I’m open to expressing.
There are certain experiences I’m more open to speaking about with others like the one I mentioned above. There are others that drill through me and I grapple with the fear in solitude at times.
If you are ready there are phone lines you can call if you need a trauma counsellor to speak with. Check your local directory under emergency services or call your hospital for recommendations. I have listed a couple below as well. You can also seek counselling for the trauma that these lines can help direct you to.
There are specific lines for specific traumas such as sexual assault crisis lines, PTSD hotlines (in some areas), suicide prevention crisis lines and more.
Here are US hotlines for PTSD that you can call, I was unable to determine whether you can call if you are not an American citizen.
Here is a list of hotlines to call within Canada. This list of crisis hotlines also includes province by province breakdown.
Not all trauma experiences are easy to talk about, so let’s look at different ways to follow through with expression.
If you are artistic you could create a work of art that depicts what you feel inside. This is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and express your feelings. Depending on the medium and artistic expression others may not even know what you are implying in your masterpiece. Be free and feel deep while expressing.
If you are a writer perhaps you may like to write about it. Whether you write in on a blank sheet of paper you burn later, in your diary, on social media, a blog post, news article or a novel, writing is a great way to share expression and you have full control of whether or not someone sees it.
If you are musical you may want to write a song or make a musical piece. Some of the greatest hits have come from someone expressing a tragedy in their life. Sometimes even listening to a song that you can relate your PTSD with that inspires you to overcome it can help.
Whatever way you choose to use expressive healing, you must remember that at the end of expressing it you need to focus on the present here and now and how you are coping with it. You can not allow it to consume you anymore. Now that you know what it is you can find ways to conquer it.
Please note you may need to use multiple forms and help from professionals to find ways to cope. I highly recommend seeking guidance and support.
It’s not your fault. PTSD | 5 Steps To Surviving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Conclusion
Once we overcome denial and the stigma around PTSD it opens up a world around us that we never knew existed. Feeling the acceptance in your own mind and with others who are out there that are struggling or have conquered their trauma to varying degrees is reassuring that you are not alone and you can get through this.
Having the courage to say it out loud opens the gateway to beginning your path to overcoming PTSD. It shows how courageous you are. It is ok if you can not say it out loud to someone else.
Building connections with others will help you come out of the shadows of loneliness and start seeking help.
Expression allows you to release the pressures within your mind, body and soul.
Remember PTSD and trauma IS NOT YOUR FAULT. It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you a lesser human being. It does not take away from anything that you have done or overcome.
In many ways I have found that some of my most traumatic experiences have made me stronger, more empathetic and more understanding.
Please remember to reach out for support.
Take care and chat soon
Living A Boss Life