PTSD AND WHERE TO FIND IT
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Hello readers and welcome to my first blog post. With the gazillion blogs
posted every day I am so happy you have found your way here and I
hope when you leave it is with something new; maybe an idea you had
not previously considered, deeper empathy for a friend, a
stranger, a work colleague, yourself, or even just a desire to be curious
about something you may not have given much thought. Whatever it is, I
hope it adds a layer of understanding to the data base of what you know
and seeds a quest to step out of judgement and into the world of
curiosity and the delights that can bring.
Remember back when you were a child and every experience was too
new to sully immediately with inherited or learned judgement or
reaction? There was space to keep driving your parents mad with the
continuous loop of the question, “Why?” It is all the answers to your
why’s, plus a lifetime of experiences, of examining those experiences
outwardly in conversation with friends, teachers, strangers, then
internally with the voice inside your own head, added to the plethora of
information fired at you from all kinds of places in all kinds of ways, that
has you as you are right now, in this moment, with opinions, thoughts,
beliefs on all number of subjects and a well developed ego that probably
desires all who know you, to be in complete agreeance.
I am blessed (my internal self, begs to differ) with being a people-pleaser
at heart, so believe me when I say I am not here to convince you to align
your thoughts with mine – that would involve confrontation and possibly result
in you not liking me at all, which simply will not do.
Imagine a place where a story or information can be shared and it falls
where it falls. No-one says, “Yeah but,” or, “You should do x y or z,” or
“You’re an arsehole and …” Maybe instead the feedback is, “I’m curious.
Can you tell me more?” or “I never thought of it like that.” or “That
sounds tough,” or simply, “Thanks for sharing.”
That is the place I would like this blog to be. I’m counting on all of you to
call me out if I stray. It’s tough not to preach, especially when we feel
passionately about something, when situations rile us up, but I hope that
here, in this space I or others can share from a place of, “this is how it is
for me”, with the only agenda being the desire to allow the curious,
insight into what may be unknown for them, or validation they are not
alone if they are experiencing something similar beneath the surface.
Hopefully, discussing, sharing and celebrating all the many aspects,
perspectives and experiences of individuals on varied topics that fill our
lives without the need to form an opinion, will give us the opportunity to
become better listeners and practice at meeting ourselves, friends,
family, strangers, exactly where we are in any moment without the
judgement that can often leave the one’s most desperate to share, to
reach out, without a voice at all.
So, I have shot off on a tangent. I do that. A lot. Hopefully, you are all
still with me and willing to explore the nitty gritty of a condition that is far
more prevalent in our communities than we realise, yet - my experience
has been - so little is known about it, even by those suffering from it and
the journey to a diagnosis let alone a cure or effective treatment can be
long, soul destroying and lonely.
Here is something a person near and dear to me created some years
ago while trying to survive the complexities of the condition. Since then,
she’s learned a lot, traversed many ups and downs, tried many
treatments and whilst symptoms of the condition remain a part of her
reality, she is happy to report that they rear their head only rarely and
when they do she knows exactly how to deal with them. It’s a huge topic.
Too huge for just one blog post, but maybe this can serve as a starting
point for anyone who feels curious.
So; here’s what I think I know about PTSD, and bear in mind I am not a doctor,
therapist or practioner of any kind, I speak only from my own experience.
1. It’s fucking tough (I mean, imagine having a thing that everyone
who has ever heard the word for it thinks they know something
about, but really they don’t, how could they? You barely do and
you’re the one experiencing it.)
2. You hate yourself. (How could you not? Your memory is shot, your
frontal lobe has begun to behave like it did when you went through
puberty – imagine how it would be if you had PTSD before you
even got to puberty, no chance for your brain to create ANY
mechanisms for emotional control - I am guessing – Not A Doctor,
any kind of overwhelm and you resort to behaving a bit like an
animal – that’s the reptilian brain kicking in and basically because
your frontal lobe is not working, along with your amigdala and
hypocampus you suffer from overwhelm most of the time, so
you’re an arsehole most of the time, so full circle – you hate
yourself MOST OF THE TIME.)
3. You’re lonely. (How could you not be? You’re an arsehole most of
the time, the remainder of the time you’re crying, having
nightmares, full of guilt or want everyone to leave you the fuck
alone, which they do because who in their right mind would want to
be anywhere near you let alone hug you, comfort you, make a cup
of tea for you, wrap you in a blanket or whatever the hell else
would bring you comfort. Most of the time you don’t even know the
answer to that yourself.)
4. You’re angry. (why wouldn’t you be? Aside from losing yourself,
you are probably loosing the respect of anyone close to you and
although you are trying to be understanding as to why they don’t
want to be around you anymore or comfort you they don’t seem to
understand that you can’t control this monster and try and be the
bigger person and take care of you anyway. It’s not like you
fucking asked for this is it?)
5. You want to die. (Why wouldn’t you? The future looks bleak,
lonely, and no matter how hard you apply yourself you’ve yet to
find the treatment that works.)
And the list goes on, but I won’t bore you.
Oh, but wait. You should know this;
1. Despite what people think they know, PTSD is not depression, but
depression can become a symptom of it.
2. PTSD creates a PHYSIOLOGICAL change in the structure of the
brain and how it works (again not a Doctor, don’t take my word for
it, ask someone who knows.) so the treatment whilst can include
the use of mood altering medication is not complete with
medication alone. DEPRESSION is generally a hormonal/chemical
change in the brain hence can be treated sometimes effectively
with anti-depressant medication.
3. PTSD can be cured, but the chances of full recovery diminish the
longer a person is left untreated.
4. You can not THINK your way out of PTSD with positive
affirmations. There is a science behind this – refer to point 4.
5. Pressuring a person with PTSD to socialise, join a club, belong to
a group or get out more, can be counterproductive. Healing and calming of the
nervous system must come first otherwise you are putting that
person in an environment that guarantees a state of being on high
alert which engages the reptilian brain etc etc etc.
And now we come to the grand finale. The place where this whole post started
and I know I have taken my sweet precious time about it;
6. PTSD is not limited to the armed forces. It can be found EVERYWHERE!
It’s real. It sucks and it truly can be found everywhere.
Because we live in a world where bad shit happens. Bad shit has happened
since the beginning of time, I hear you say, so why
is it only now, in recent years that we are applying this label seemingly
more frequently, you ask?
Are we truly just becoming snowflakes as some people like to suggest?
How the hell would I know? The only thing
I can know for sure is me and I can tell you with great certainty NO! I am
no fecking snowflake. I am a fighter. I have a high pain tolerance. I have
schemers that bully the fuck out of me if I dare cut myself some slack
and I refuse to blame others for where I am at. In those early days,
before I had answers, I did blame myself. I did tell myself that if I was
just mentally stronger, if I could just get over myself, if I could just think
more positively, then I would not have this thing called PTSD. I mean
there are people out there who have been through far worse and they
show no sign of it. What gives?
Over time, during many conversations with doctors, psychologists and
psychiatrists and many and varied treatments from trauma practitioners I
came upon some helpful truths;
1. There are criteria surrounding a traumatic event that are present
with patients diagnosed with PTSD. So, no matter your own or
anyone else’s perception of how ‘traumatic’ the event was or
wasn’t, if those criteria are met chances are your brain and body
were not able to process the event in the way it needed to so it
could be stored as a past memory instead of as an ever present
2. There are probably thousands of reasons I can not possibly
conceive of as to why it is more prevalent today, but, from a
personal perspective I don’t believe it is because we are a
generation of snowflakes. My own experience, treatment and
research (I use the word research loosely because curiosity lead
me to read widely on the subject as opposed to researching it in an
academic way) has opened my eyes to how our physical bodies
need to deal with shock, trauma and unexpected events so that our
brains can process it effectively and for me it feels truthful to say
many aspects of modern life do not allow for that process to
happen. What we do, do a lot of is talking, which actually can
exacerbate the symptoms of trauma. The treatments which helped
me most involved little to no talking at all about the event itself and
involved physical movement in some way – shaking, rapid eye
movement etc which fulfilled my entire physical body’s need to
process the trauma and allow my brain to finally store the memory
where it served me best – in the past.
So, in wrapping up this post I would put it to you that there is a fair
chance someone in your life has PTSD. There is a likelihood that it is
undiagnosed, that the person themselves has no clue that it is the
underlying reason for some of their behaviour's, reactions to things or
their addiction. There is also a chance PTSD is not a factor. All I ask is
that you be curious to the possibilities of what makes another person
tick. That you hold your judgement. Hold your need to fix or make
suggestions. Hold your impulse to be impatient with or assume you
know the cause or the cure for another’s actions. Embrace curiosity as
you did as a child. Be brave enough to ask why? and, what do you
think? Be excited about what you may discover lying beneath the
surface of another and what may happen if what you discover can be
met without judgement.
Tell me all about it. I’d love to hear what you think.
If you have suffered a trauma, are feeling isolated or thinking of harming
yourself, please reach out to those trained to help; your doctor, psychiatrist,
psychologist and/or a counsellor. You are loved. People want to help.
If you would like to read more about trauma, its affects on the body and
how we can help ourselves heal, the following two books could be
The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk
Waking the Tiger, By Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick
Some PTSD specific treatments are: