Do you know what PTSD is? If you answered yes or no to that question, then todays post is for you. Sarah suffers from PTSD and in todays post will help us understand what PTSD is, what life events led to her diagnosis, and her top tips on how to overcome.
The NHS describes PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as “an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.”
For me, PTSD started after being mentally abused for months and sexually assaulted in my own home, by a close family friend that we all thought was trustworthy. I kept his secrets, did what he said and believed him when he said ‘if I ever told anyone what happened they wouldn’t believe me, but if they did it would ruin my life and my families lives’, and that I didn’t want to be responsible for that. He told me he had planned the abuse since I was 13, which was over 10 years ago. He made me believe that I was the weird one for thinking what was happening wasn’t normal. Thankfully someone found out about what was going on, and I managed to get away from him. However, very soon after, even though I was in a safe place, the nightmares started, so vividly I would wake up screaming believing that he was on top of me. I wouldn’t be able to leave the house because of fear, and would regularly have flash backs and even panic attacks when something triggered the memories of what had happened. I would shake uncontrollably and even found my self gagging, and constantly feeling sick. I had to stop working and found myself crying to my doctor just saying ‘I’ve had enough, I want everything to end, I can’t carry on my life like this’. That was when I was diagnosed with PTSD.
My recovery is something I’ve been thinking over for a while now, about the lessons I learnt and the things I wish I knew back then. In no way do I have it all sorted or figured out, I’m no professional! These are just my honest reflections. I know I am in no way the first person to of had PTSD and i won’t be the last, this isn’t a “look at me”, but hopefully what I’ve learnt might help others.
So the 10 things PTSD has taught me are…
1. You are not broken: PTSD means that you’ve experienced something, something so traumatic that it is beyond what our body’s are naturally designed to cope with, it’s not that you’re weak, or broken and even though sometimes it feels it, you aren’t going insane.
2. Find your people: find the people you trust and stick by them. Not everyone needs to know, or should know what you’ve been through. Don’t feel like you have to tell everyone.There will be people who understand, people who don’t get it, and people who just don’t know what to say or how to help. Find the good ones, and stick by them. For your own sanity don’t post every emotion and breakdown over the Internet, it won’t give you the support that you need in that moment.
3. Vitamins and fruit: Once the initial trauma is out the way and the exhaustion hits, who knew what difference a vitamin tablet could make! Now obviously everyone knows healthy eating is good. But with PTSD your body has been under severe mental strain, and will need a helping hand with some extra vitamins!
4. It won’t always be that way: Learn to accept that it won’t always be this way. This is a symptom of an experience or event, it’s like a sickness it will get better. Sometimes in baby steps, sometimes up and down, but it will get better.
5. Discover your truth and hold onto it so tightly: Learn your truth, I’m a Christian and believe that I am valuable, I am loved, I have something to offer the world, and nothing to be afraid of. Your truth might simply be that you can get through this. Whatever it is learn it. So when you are at your worst you can hold on to it. Write it down, set it as your phone background, put it somewhere that you will see every day.
6. There is always someone else awake: When your awake in the night because your brain is going at 100 miles an hour, or you’ve had nightmares, there is always someone else awake. Find a friend with a small baby, and you can be tired and bleary eyed together. But equally don’t stress about not sleeping, it’s just how it is, and there is no point in adding it to your stress pile! Be kind to yourself and maybe catch up on your favourite tv!
7. Counsellors and doctors are amazing: Take all the professional help you can get. They know what they’re doing, and they can help.
8. It’s not selfish for you to look after yourself: Be kind to yourself, don’t make your self busy, or under anymore stress. If your exhausted then go to bed! Find something you love doing that relaxes you, whether it’s walking, or watching tv, having a bath or cuddling your pet, whatever it is do it, and do it regularly.
9. Figure out your line: With your people figure out what your “line” is going to be. This isn’t a lie, but you need to know what your going to say when people ask you what’s going on. As I already said it’s probably not great for the whole world to know the detailed ins and outs of your life, so learn your line. It also helps reduce anxiety about seeing people when you know what your going to say if they ask. For me my line was that there had been some disagreements, and that I was taking some space to figure out what I was going to do next. I was straight up honest with my trusted people, but the rest of the world really don’t need to know.
10. Find your quote: My favourite quote that has held me together is “Always remember you are braver than you believe, smarter than you seem, and stronger than you think.”- Winnie the Pooh.
According to patient.info it is thought that 3 in 100 people in England may develop PTSD at some point in there life. However it is much more common in survivors of car crashes, prisoners of war, firefighters and rape victims. Some people may have risk factors that make them more prone to PTSD when a traumatic event happens, this could be a history of mental illness, being exposed to trauma in the past.
If you think you may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD, please see your GP immediately. Don’t wait till its too late. There is always hope and you can get through this. With love
*name has been changed to protect her identity