PTSD Support and Insight

So vlogging is a thing right? I threw together a vlog post for a mental health support group I’m part of last week, and decided to share it here as well. B1 smacked me in the face with his bottle giving me a wonderful bloody lip, and I’m operating on four hours of sleep, looking like a damn hot mess, but hey. #momlife lol.

A loose transcript:

Hi everyone. I’m a writer by nature and expressing myself vocally is kind of hard, so this is a huge step for me to sit and actually TALK about my PTSD. It’s actually one of the most obvious signs of my disorder: the inability to articulate my emotions. 
A little bit of back story: the roots of my disorder come from a childhood of emotional neglect, and abuse from my mom. Most of it was purely mental, but as I got older and gained more independence the abuse became more physical. I was also homeschooled through all of this, so my entire world consisted of my mom’s views until I turned 18. 
It was then when I met the man I experienced my first long term relationship with. I felt like he was my hero, literally picking me up off the floor when my mom’s abuse became too much and I wanted to end my life just to escape it. He welcomed me into his home, and protected me from my mom’s retaliation as I finally broke free of her control. Unfortunately I kind of jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire so to speak. Three weeks after saving my life, the man I was living with raped me, and continued to sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse me for several years, calling what we had a “relationship”, myself too naive to understand otherwise. 
The relationship ended on bad terms, nine years ago Monday actually, and ever since he’s been continuing to threaten and intimidate me via cyber space. At one point he was driving by my house yelling at me, and even went so far as to slash my tire. 
While the relationship with my ex isn’t the cause of my disorder, the trauma I endured while with him is where most of my other symptoms manifest. The flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and a lot of the anniversary dates I struggle with mostly surround my time with him. That’s what lead me to seek treatment and my eventual diagnosis three years ago.
My inability to “move on” and “forget” all of the trauma I endured with my ex began to cause a rift between my current husband and I. He didn’t understand my disordered behaviors, and neither did I until I received my diagnosis. Reading the symptoms and information about PTSD was like opening a treasure chest into my soul. It just made sense, and with a specific condition I could TREAT it. I wouldn’t just be “crazy” I could explain why I displayed disordered thought processes. I thought just receiving my diagnosis was the key I needed for my friends and family to understand too. Another part of society I was really too naive to understand at first. 
I think that’s really one of the most important things loved ones can do to support those of us diagnosed with PTSD. Acceptance of the diagnosis no matter what the trauma might be. A lot of the misunderstanding I think comes from societies unclear definition of trauma. Certainly being in the military, enduring the horrors of war, life and death for months sometimes years at a time is traumatic. Being a law enforcement officer, or a first responder dealing with life and death daily is traumatic. Surviving an accident or crime with lasting physical damage is traumatic. Those are all of the things that society readily views as “acceptable” trauma. Something that you can tangibly hold, or visually see, an experience where physical damage is caused or highly probable. 
Where PTSD’ers often get left in the dust is when the trauma endured is the result of emotional manipulation, and abuse. The clinical definition of trauma is an emotional response to overwhelming circumstances. Emotional damage isn’t always easy to see, like the physical damage many of those with “acceptable trauma” endure, yet it’s just as damaging. It doesn’t make the diagnosis any less valid simply because someone doesn’t wear a uniform, or doesn’t bare physical scars.
One of the most detrimental things I hear from friends and family trying to offer their support is a comparison of my trauma to their own, or someone else’s. Being an emotional response, trauma is a deeply personal thing, as unique to the individual as the color of their eyes, or fingerprints. What is traumatic to me, may not be to someone else and vice versa. If someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD the first thing to do is accept the situation as real and valid. It’s easier said than done, especially considering it turns your world upside down receiving any new diagnosis. It won’t happen overnight as you work through your own emotional response to the news, but being willing and making the effort will mean the world to those affected by the disorder. 
The second piece of advice I have to offer is this: listen. When they are ready to talk about their trauma, be patient and listen. Even if they tell the same story 100 times, about the same traumatic event, years and years after the imminent danger has passed. Being able to process emotions that get locked away when the brain kicks over into survival mode is one of the best ways to manage acute PTSD symptoms, but it takes time. Sometimes even when we feel ready to talk about things, actually talking triggers anxiety so consuming it’s easier to shut down; than continue forward. Sometimes it takes years of passing that date on the calendar, and a thousand times telling the story before the trapped emotional energy is released, and the pain and anxiety subside.

Finally, I think another really important thing to keep in mind helping a loved one navigate through their disorder is to understand that there is no cure. There are many different ways to manage the symptoms, quiet effectively to where you kind of reach a remission status, but the possibility of a relapse is always there. I just recently went through my first instance of relapse since entering treatment this past year and it was brutal. I think personally it was more difficult for me to have the stability, have the remission and then to lose it, even understanding that it’s the nature of the beast so to speak. It’s a part of the disorder, a package deal. Relapse will happen, and it won’t always be predictable. What helped control symptoms the first time around might not work after relapse. It’s a constantly evolving thing, and the best way to offer support is to keep offering it, through the bad days, and the good days. The relapse and the remission. 
Anyway… I feel like I’ve been talking for hours. I guess I have more to say than I thought when I started. Thanks for watching everyone. I hope this helps provide some insight.