Finding Hope When You Have PTSD
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It may develop when someone has witnessed a terrifying event or experienced a serious emotional trauma. Someone with PTSD may experience the majority or all of the following:
* Reoccurring nightmares
* Reliving the event
* Anxiety and/or panic attacks when exposed to places or things that remind them of the event
* Avoiding their feelings
* Avoiding thoughts associated with those feelings and the event
* Avoiding places, activities, and people associated with the horrific event.
* Forgetting important parts of the traumatic event (this is the body’s natural way of blocking the emotions and memories)
* Feelings of depression
* Detachment from others
* Not enjoying activities that used to bring joy
* Sleeping problems
* Becoming easily angered
* Becoming easily startled
* Development of new fears
What causes PTSD?
PTSD symptoms last for months or years. Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop from many different traumatic events such as:
* Watching someone die
* Being in a serious accident
* Being the cause of someone else’s death
* Being a police officer, firefighter, first responder, etc.
* Seeing something you already fear being played out
* Watching something traumatic happen to a loved one
* Experiencing long-lasting trauma
* Childhood abuse or neglect
What can you do to help yourself if you have PTSD?
Unfortunately, finding hope isn’t always easy when you have PTSD.
Everyone has different personalities and different reasons for experiencing PTSD. So unfortunately it’s hard to say, “If you do this, this, and this, your PTSD will magically go away and you’ll feel completely joyful again”.
But I can give you ways to help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.
You may be asking how someone who doesn’t know what you’ve been through could provide these options for you. Well, I’ve had PTSD too; and in fact, I’m just now beginning to feel better.
But because trauma is hard to talk about and I’ve cried several times while writing this, I’d like to tell you in a nutshell why I developed PTSD.
The trauma I experienced was watching my parents waste away from cancer (or more accurately the conventional cancer treatments) and then watching them pass away 5 ½ months apart. I’ve experienced anxiety attacks, flashbacks, hopelessness, depression (which I still have) and every other thing on the list above. My PTSD has slowly gotten better. While I still have some of the symptoms (such as hopelessness, depression, lost memory of some of the events, detachment from friends & family, etc.) the harder ones to cope with (flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks etc.) have lessened greatly.
And unfortunately it doesn’t get better overnight. It’s taken multiple things to help me feel better which is what I want to share with you. Keep in mind that it has been a combination of all these things and lots of time to help me get better.
Avoid places that are triggers.
What this means is don’t intentionally go to places that cause the bad memories and flashbacks to happen; at least for a while.
While this may seem like a “duh” kind of a suggestion, some people intentionally go somewhere or do something to try to “cure” the PTSD, only to find it made it worse. There’s no reason to push yourself that far – it won’t help.
For me, this meant I avoided the hospital where my parents had their treatments and where my mom passed away. I did have to go once to the emergency room. It was about 6 months after my dad passed and about 11 months after my mom. When I saw the hospital gown sitting on the bed I had an anxiety attack.
Sometimes you don’t even know something will be a trigger and stir up those horrible memories, but forcing yourself to be at those places or be around the triggers won’t help you.
After enough time goes by, it’ll become easier.
Lean on God.
This may be easier said than done for some people; it was for me. I had tremendously strong faith before going through my traumas.
But after everything that happened, I began to question God and wonder how a loving God could take away both of my parents that way. Take away their futures, any future memories I could have had with them. I couldn’t focus on anything except that they weren’t there when my brother and I still needed them. I was angry; it just wasn’t fair, and it never will be.
I’ll never understand why they aren’t here and I no longer believe everything happens for a reason. But I do believe God will give me strength, hope, and love if I just ask for it. And I firmly believe He will do the same for you. It’s better to ask for strength and hope than it is to live in fear and anger. Although not an easy thing to do, this is a key step in finding hope.
It took me several months to even start writing after their deaths – I thought it would be too hard to even get my emotions down on paper. But I can say after about 9 months of writing I do feel better.
It’s also part of the reason I started this website, HealthFaithStrength.com, so I could help others who may be hurting or are going through cancer like my parents did.
Don’t play the ‘what if’ game.
Yeah I know….not easy. I still play this game, but less often than I used to. Because I know there are better treatment options than using 40-60 year old chemo, I play the ‘what if I had known back then, they might still be here’ card pretty often.
Thinking of what you could have done differently or what someone else could’ve done differently is easy. But it also makes things harder. The truth is, unfortunately, we can’t change the past…or the future. And as much as I hate to tell you (and myself) that what happened can’t be changed….it’s still true.
But you can change how you think about it – the best way to start changing how you think is to stop playing the ‘what if’ game.
Find ways to help you sleep better.
A lot of my flashbacks happened while I was asleep. I’d wake up from the nightmares several times a night and it would take substantially longer for me to fall asleep. I found if I didn’t have noise to drown out my thoughts, I would start thinking about all the bad memories, which lead to crying, which lead to not sleeping. So I started falling asleep with the television on.
Audible is an app you can download on your phone and purchase books on. It’s not like Kindle though, as it reads the books to you.
I also have been taking 10 mg of melatonin every night since my mom passed away to help me get to sleep. I still fall asleep with the television on sometimes but I especially listen to Audible if I’m having a harder time falling asleep.
I also bought a Himalayan Salt Lamp for my bedroom and before I fall asleep, I turn it to a low light setting. It stays on all night.
In case you aren’t familiar with Himalayan Salt Lamps, they are actually chipped out of the Himalayan Mountains by hand and are natural negative ionizers and dehumidifiers. What this means is they induce negative ions into the environment as well as draw moisture out of the air. The air around us is filled with both positive and negative ions.
The air around waterfalls, mountains, and beaches, for example, is filled with negative ions. This contributes to why people feel more refreshed, relaxed, and joyful when standing near a waterfall.
We usually think of something negative as being bad (which obviously it is in most cases), but in this case you want more negative ions and less positive ions.
Our phones, televisions, computers, etc. give off positive ions which lead to headaches, depressed mood, etc., and so having a Himalayan Salt Lamp in several rooms of your house can improve the air atmosphere and your mood.
If you think a Himalayan Salt Lamp would benefit you also, you can click this picture below or go here to see one I suggest in my store – both are from the same company. It’s important to find ways that help you relax so you can get more restful sleep.
Get into nature more frequently.
As mentioned before, the air around mountains, beaches, and waterfalls is filled with negative ions; which helps to improve your mood. And personally, I feel closer to God when I’m out in nature. When I’m feeling depressed or just having a harder and more stressful day, I just want to escape to the mountains. And I find it always brings some relief.
Spend time with people who make you laugh.
For a long time I would force myself to smile and laugh when I was around other people. So this became a fake-it-‘til-you-make-it sort of thing. I still sometimes have to do this but the smiling and laughing is becoming more genuine as time goes by. Being around other positive and happy people does have an effect on you and your mood, so choose who you’re spending time with, wisely.
Finding hope when you have PTSD isn’t easy, but it can be done (usually after a lot of time has passed…). You’re more than welcome to share your story with me in a message. I’ll do what I can to help (keep in mind I’m not a certified therapist.
If you’re struggling with PTSD (or depression), you can also read my article, “What to do when you feel like Giving Up (from someone who has felt that way too)“.
If you would like to take a PTSD Screening Quiz, you can access one that I recommend, here.
Don’t lose hope. There is always hope.
It may also benefit you greatly to see a local counselor who specializes in PTSD support. There’s never any shame for seeking help. NEVER! It may end up being one of the best decisions you make.
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