Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PTSD- the good, the bad and the ugly

PTSD is a repugnant creature, it's covered in the slime of anger and rage, fear and anxiety and once it has it's claws in you it can feel like a life sentence. It doesn't have to be like that but it can be frightening to admit that you've been captured by the darkness and once it has you in its icy grip it lies to you, trying to keep you there, isolated and lonely, as long as it can. It's time to break free from it's insidious lies, learn the truth, how to get and offer help and break free from it's stinking grip. That freedom starts with information, understanding and love, lots of love.

PTSD simply looks like a goblin, lets call it what it is- a disease that can be treated.
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and according to the Mayo Clinic it's a mental health condition caused by either experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. It can express itself in life-changing ways and be debilitating for those to suffer from it and it doesn't just affect the individual who has it. PTSD can affect those who care for the sufferer as well. There is treatment available, a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak for those who suffer and those who love them.

Lets chat.

PTSD is real. It's not some made up problem designed to get attention. When an individual experiences a stressful event it can change the way the body responds to stress, affecting stress hormones and the chemicals that transmit information between the nerves (reference). These changes affect the way we see the world around us, suddenly a visit to the doctors office or the prospect of driving in public is beyond terrifying. The beast grabs its victim causing them to freeze up and avoid that which the beast says they can't handle anymore. The person who's been drawn in by the demons of PTSD avoid the triggers that stress them out or to act out against them in an effort to win the battle.

These changes can be debilitating for those who struggle with PTSD in their daily life. Road rage and avoidance aren't the only ways that the PTSD goblins show themselves, if they were then it might be easier to deal with (not really but we can hope). Often they rear their hideous heads in nightmares, flashbacks, overly emotional reactions and anxiety and depression to name a few and rarely does it come with only one or two manifestations. Some of my husbands symptoms include depression, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, road rage, withdrawal and rage and each of these come with their own list of challenges as we work through them and learn to live again. They make simple day to day life a daunting prospect.

Lost in the desert of PTSD
As if the demons and goblins of PTSD weren't enough to make the prospect of living with them for the rest of your life a frightening prospect, they don't just affect the person who's suffering, their slimy tendrils reach out and grab everyone in the vicinity as well. PTSD affects the loved ones of those who struggle with it. They themselves can end up with PTSD from helping the sufferer or from dealing with their behaviors. I know myself that I simply can't drive with my husband behind the wheel. He has lost his temper too many times. Do I trust his driving? Absolutely! Can I remember that when we are in heavy New Jersey traffic? Never. It's just a fact of PTSD that we live with.

So what's to be done about this insidious mental health issue? First we can call it out, demand the demons and goblins show their faces by recognizing it as real, and by we I mean the general public. Second we can educate ourselves about it so that when it's mentioned we can carry on an intelligent conversation about it rather than mumble and change the subject (yes I've had that happen). Finally, we can equip ourselves to love and support those we know who suffer and their caregivers.

A little knowledge goes a long way
In my upcoming posts I will be discussing PTSD in more detail, the symptoms, the effects on family, and what sort of help is available. I will be posting an occasional journal entry, I hope to make it weekly soon, illustrating our journey with PTSD, I want you to know that you are not on this journey alone. I also intend to do a bi-weekly book review on a book about PTSD and list resources I have found for those suffering. My focus will be on veterans since that is my primary experience but it's important to note that it's not just a veteran problem and I will discuss that in more detail in another post. Lets keep this discussion going because the best way to find healing to pull those demons and goblins out into the light and let them burn.

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