Monday, August 21, 2017

What You Need to Know About the Truth of PTSD

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When you hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, what do you think of?

If a soldier returning from being deployed is the first thing that came to your mind, you're in the majority.

Here's a definition of PTSD from the Mayo Clinic:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event -- either experiencing or witnessing it.  Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.  Obviously, war is a big one, but there are so many others as well.  Traumas such as the death of a loved one, having a medically complex/fragile child or one who spent extensive time in the NICU, abuse, surviving a natural disaster, and more can cause PTSD.

What You Need to Know About the Truth of PTSD from Sunshine and Spoons

What you need to know about the truth of PTSD:

PTSD is isolating.  I try to keep my struggles with it to myself because very few people understand that it's not something I can control in the moment or just "get over."  The worst is when someone else has been through a similar experience and came through it without suffering from PTSD.  There's no way to predict who will end up with PTSD and who won't, but I can tell you that just because you're one of the ones who does, that does NOT mean you're weak.

PTSD means always being on edge.  It's wondering when that trigger will find you and send you spiraling into full-blown panic.  It's constantly being aware of your surroundings in an attempt to control your triggers.  It's emotionally and physically exhausting.

PTSD is paralyzing.  When it's triggered, it's like hitting a brick wall.  You feel trapped, stuck, and you can't get out.  You can't breathe, your heart is racing, and in your mind, you're right back in that traumatic event that caused your PTSD to begin with.  It's like being stuck in a nightmare that you can't wake up from.

How to Tell If You Have PTSD:

You can start by taking this online screening from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  Then print off your results and take them to your doctor.  

Symptoms of PTSD include having flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, feeling disconnected from family and friends, having symptoms longer than three months, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, being easily startled, etc.

My PTSD Story:

I've never been in the military, but I have PTSD.

When I was six years old, I had my first anaphylaxis event.  I was in a medically induced coma for five days so I could recover.  Because I was so young, I blocked it out of my memory, but then when I was 10, I had another attack.  And then another at 13, and another at 15 and so on.  I now average one severe asthma attack/anaphylaxis event that requires an ambulance ride about once a year.  The hardest part is that despite going to many doctors, we've never found a trigger and so there's nothing I can do to avoid going into anaphylaxis.  

It wasn't until after the anaphylaxis attack when I was 10 that I began to experience symptoms of PTSD.  I was walking past the ambulance shed just a few blocks from my house with my siblings when the ambulance peeled out and headed down the street with lights and sirens blaring.  I immediately felt like I was back in the ambulance struggling to get even a single breath.  It was absolutely terrifying, and I couldn't stop hyperventilating or crying.  I somehow managed to get home and cried myself to sleep that night.

Since then I've learned that ambulances, hospital "smells," or even watching someone struggle to breathe on a tv show can send me straight into panic mode.  There's no warning, I go from zero to sixty in a millisecond.
My PTSD story:

Over the years, I've learned different coping techniques to help me deal with my PTSD.  Thanks to implementing them, I don't have as many full-blown panic attacks/flashbacks as I used to.  I hope these tips can help you if you're living with PTSD as well.

Tips for Coping with PTSD:

1. Avoid your triggers as much as possible, while understanding that sometimes that won't be feasible.

2.  Distract or "ground" yourself.  As soon as the panic starts to set in, try to focus on something tangible right in front of you to bring yourself back from re-living the trauma.

Grounding Techniques for Anxiety and PTSD

3. Understand that on days when you're feeling good emotionally, you can probably handle your triggers much better.  On days when you're not doing so well, take extra precautions to avoid them.

4. Join a support group such as one of these.

5. Talk to your doctor about your PTSD.

6. Remember that your traumatic memories cannot be compared to anyone else's, even if they experienced the same event.  Each person is different and will react differently.  This does not make you weak.

7. You can find resources here for helping you cope with and heal from PTSD.  There are also books for helping your loved one with their PTSD.

Tips for coping with PTSD:

8. Share your PTSD story.  The more people that realize that PTSD is not just a veteran related issue, the more understanding they will have for it.

9. Memorize a few of the Psalms and recite them when you feel your PTSD start to flare.  Some good ones are Psalms 31, 40, and 42.  Doing so can help ground you and also comfort you.

Do you or someone you know suffer from PTSD?  I'd love to hear if this post helped you in any ways! Leave a comment or feel free to connect with me in the Sunshine and Spoons Facebook Group.

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