The darkest days of your life are often the most traumatic. And lonely.
If your trauma is compounded by symptoms of post-traumatic stress, the pain and confusion can seem too much to bear. But heap on to those struggles a lack of understanding from the people you care for most, and the losses connected to your trauma can feel overwhelming, even hopeless.
But don’t give up. PTSD is difficult, to be sure. It will not easily fade. And to be sure, you will need support to live well again. Still, regardless of how it feels right now, you do have options. It is not a life sentence, and you do not have to face this disorder alone.
It just may be that your support will come in a variety of forms. In order to meet your needs for safety, care and forward movement, you will require a clear and self-compassionate strategy.
Look to the following for the help, patience, and perseverance you need:
• Individual counseling can fill the void of one-on-one support
First on the list? Find professional care that is skilled and dedicated to your recovery.
Whether your loved ones understand or not, it is unlikely that they can provide the quality mental health care you require. PTSD is stubborn and will try to maintain its grip on you. It is characterized by a sense of crisis and re-experiencing that few family members or significant others can relate to. Ease the burden on yourself and your loved ones by putting the responsibility for truly grasping the scope of your suffering and therapeutic needs on a professional. You might find that your family feels relieved and becomes more responsive knowing that your recovery is in good hands.
• Education can provide perspective and reassurance
Education by way of books, the internet, professional staff and community organizations, can reduce the emotion and upset PTSD introduces to relationships and provide concrete information instead. People tend to understand each other more if they are not expected to do so blindly. What looks like a dramatic loss of self-control or a lack of consideration may be judged less harshly when put in the context of a recognizable PTSD symptom, like hypervigilance or a strong startle reflex.
• Practice being present
To remain grounded and focused on the present moment may be one of the best ways to cope with both the pervasive anxiety you feel and the unsupportive people in your life. Your struggles to resist being consumed by the past or overwhelmed by the future are real, as is your hurt at being misunderstood or kept at arm’s length.
Try to become an observer of those feelings. It won’t be easy at first, but a little time devoted daily to slowing down your thoughts, breathing deeply and considering your emotions objectively is immensely helpful. Don’t judge. Just look at what’s there, who’s offending you, and how it affects your mental and physical responses.
Accept that you can do nothing about the past or the people who don’t get you or support you. Accept that, and allow yourself the freedom of being in the moment, rather than attempting to control it or control others.
Consider every thought and observation to be a little bit of support you’re able to give yourself.
• Consider forgiveness as an important form of self-care
It’s true, you are suffering. It’s also true that the support of those you love should be readily available. Hopefully, if you go to them and express how you feel, opening an honest, respectful line of communication regarding your struggles, you’ll get a favorable response.
However, that is not always the case. So, as you seek support elsewhere in the form of therapy, a support group or a community organization, consider forgiveness as a means of coping with your loved ones. You cannot control their response to your PTSD, but you can control your response to them. Try to understand their unwillingness to see you differently from the person they knew before the trauma. Be compassionate and patient as you see them struggle to adjust to the new normal. And then give them space and move forward with your recovery.
PTSD, if you let it, will isolate you. The resistance and reluctance of loved ones to accept your struggles will threaten to do the same.
Don’t surrender to either difficulty. Reach out until you find the help of people who are equipped to meet your emotional needs. You’re worthy of that kind of care and, if you’re ready, I am happy to be the first hand to hold.
Take the First Step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward recovery from PTSD, I would like to help. As a Certified EMDR Therapist who is very familiar with this disorder and how to heal it, I can help you move through your recovery quickly so you can get back to living your life. Please contact me by phone or by email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT