Today is Memorial Day and this is a very hard day for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It is something that few understand and even fewer care about what we deal with. It is more the unspoken demon in the room. No one wants to believe it exist or that there is a problem. However, it does not go away.
It is imperial that we understand that not all PTSD is military related. In fact, most cases are not with veterans. It just happens to be the most extreme cases have been with vets and most funding (and research) had been done through the Veterans Administration. Anything from a bad relationship to a rape to a murder can cause PTSD just as much as seeing a live fire.
There are five steps, or levels that a person dealing with PTSD has to go through to recover. Each one of them can take up to a year in many cases. It could be quicker and it could be MUCH longer.
1) Peace within
For me, this is my faith in Christ. For some, it might be their inner man. Finding peace within is the key element to overcoming whatever trauma that has led to the breakdown of PTSD. For me, it was years in process. I did not have peace because I was trying to hold things together on my own. I have faith in Christ but I wanted to be strong. I did not want to admit that I could not do it.
The path to healing starts with surrendering to peace or in my opinion, the Prince of Peace. This is the foundation of everything that someone with PTSD has to do. Without this in place, everything after this will be a complete failure.
2) Establish Stability
The next level or step is to establish some type of stability. This is probably the hardest because the PTSD has made us thrive in chaos. How it looks is different for every person. For me, it was finding an outlet that I could debrief. Photography became that outlet. For others, it is a job or support group. (Support groups just did not work for me)
The best advice that I received was from a friend who is a pastor. He told to write down the things I am dealing with and next to it, write down the things I wanted to be doing in a year. He asked me what has happened to move from one list to the other. It gave me a clear mission to pursuit.
3) Keep Stability
Many people start out well but most struggle to finish well. Staying stable is the challenge. It is not easy. Anyone who thinks it is is full of crap. It is a daily challenge to not react or “fly off the handle.” In my experience, it is a choice I made every morning that I will remain in my stability no matter what comes at me.
This is where the rubber meets the road. There are people who will try everything they can to drag you down. They will remind you of the chaos and the damage of your not so good of days. These are what I call “Job’s friends.” (See the Book of Job in the bible)
4) Develop coping skills
As you grow in dealing with the PTSD and the damage, it is critical that you learn how to cope with the stress. For me, it is photography and gaming. For others, they use gardening or fishing. There is nothing wrong with either of those. Whatever works for each person is what matters.
The challenge is forcing yourself to focus on something beside the trauma. Every minute you do something less is one less minute of dwelling on the issues that cause the experience that led you down this road. The only important thing is making sure what you replace it with is a positive hobby. Getting high or drunk every night does not count.
5) Restore Relationships
One of the biggest challenges is the last level, trying to restore relationships. This does not happen overnight and in some cases, it might never happen. In one case, I can not heal it because the person died in late 2019. It is left unhealed.
As I said, it will take time to get to this level. In some cases, it will be 4-5 years of stability before you are prepared to address broken relationships. It does not happen overnight. It is very critical that you are able to maintain the first four levels no matter what happens at the fifth.
Understanding the doors of life
Life is full of choices and there is always a choice to walk through them. Sometimes, there is many doors and some of them might be the right one and some of them not. The problem is sometimes there is more trauma behind some doors that we can not see until we have opened it.
In my case, I have opened door over the years that caused the drama to be re-lived. I did not realize it when I opened that door until it was very hard to close. It was a chance that I took and there was the price of increase pain in the soul as the result. These days, I am far more cautious.
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. (Walt Disney)
If you struggle with PTSD, there IS hope! Reach out to someone and find someone that cares. I get it. Most do not care and want you to pretend the trauma never happened. Find that one person who does care and will help you through it.
If you want to help someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, educate yourself. Most libraries have a decent book or two about it. You can also start at the National Center for PTSD ran by the VA. (Even if the trauma is not military related, they are a great source). Here is a few more sources to get you started.
- Mayo Clinic research
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Psychology Today on PTSD
- Meditation helps with PTSD
- PTSD and Pregnancy
- PTSD found in blood?
- PTSD and Cancer