Do you recall the feeling after watching a very horrifying movie? You won’t even go to the bathroom alone, and you’re afraid to even sleep alone in your room that night. Imagine having to live like that every day all the time.
It’s like there’s a ghost, a skeleton in the closet waiting to pop at you when you’re most vulnerable. Despite knowing that there’s something, you don’t know when it’ll reveal itself. So you live life always on edge because you’d instead welcome the anxiety than to succumb to that terror each time.
This is life for someone with PTSD. The anxious feeling and the constant uneasiness that won’t subside takes up all the life and energy from within you. It’s frustrating that the same thing haunts them continuously. They know their fears, their traumas yet find themselves falling for the same trap.
The worst part is that these wounds are as abstract as those skeletons in their closet. Helping a loved one with PTSD is like watching a combat where the opponent is invisible. You’re unsure of its weaknesses and, most importantly, the damages it can deal. But if I told you what the enemy is, let’s say, for example, it’s a lion, wouldn’t it be easier for you to understand the situation?
The same applies when supporting someone with PTSD. You need to know what PTSD is.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. You can probably figure out what it means just by the name. Severe stress, anxiety, or panic after trauma can lead to PTSD. These traumas are not only limited to retired military veterans but also rape survivors, TBI patients, and war refugees.
PTSD is as real as it could be. When you support a loved one with PTSD, know that the stress that they go through is not everyday stress that goes away with a good night’s sleep. PTSD is a package of very heavy and burdening feelings.
Someone with PTSD is bound to show the following symptoms.
- Recurring events like flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and frightening thoughts. Expecting a paranoid behavior is no news. They may even go overboard installing security cameras in their home.
- People living with PTSD may have one or two things that they strictly avoid. This can be crowds or gatherings, lifts, small alleys, and lanes.
- There will always be something that can trigger the anxiety within them.
- Some symptoms are associated with cognition and mood. People with PTSD can feel guilt, sorrow, regret, or even self-loathe.
How to Support a Loved One with PTSD?
1. Understand Them Before You Fix Them
What a person with PTSD most wants is a listening ear. Many patients have reported feeling alone and unloved with their ‘peculiar’ condition. They feel as if they are too flawed to be loved. Show that you understand what they’re going through. That way, PTSD survivors won’t feel out of place or misunderstood.
The therapist does that job but they are not going to be there all the time helping a loved one with PTSD. So you must step forth and comprehend the troubles they’re going through.
2. Don’t Make Them Feel As If They’re Broken
When you have a common cold or flu, do you get admitted to the hospital, or do people look at you with pitiful gazes? No, right? It’s the same for someone with PTSD. They already have a lot on their plate, and feeling broken and unworthy is the last thing they want.
Yes, you have to be gentle with them and pay extra heed and attention, but make sure you’re only there to guide them to recovery, not teach them to take each step towards it. You’re there to support them. It’s just how Sherlock Holmes had Watson on his feet and running around to each crime scene as nothing had happened.
3. Not all PTSD victims handle it the same way
Whether you’re a trained nurse or a relative helping a loved one with PTSD, you should know that not all PTSD cases are the same. Obviously, resorting to real-life examples on the internet is your first response, know that it is only to help you understand the situation.
A treatment that worked for someone else doesn’t need to work for your loved one too. This is the reason you should let the patient set the pace. Do not, in any circumstances, push them to conform to your ways. This will only worsen their condition. Supporting someone with PTSD requires a commendable amount of self-control and patience. You have to be extremely patient, and you can definitely not tell them to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on.’
4. Attend Therapy Sessions together
The path to recovery from PTSD is a two-way partnership. This means that without the corporation of the caretaker and the patient, it’s challenging. Make sure that you accompany your loved ones to therapy sessions to give you a better insight into the mind of a PTSD-stricken mind.
These sessions will also offer both of you to interact with people in similar situations. It can be beneficial to know that more people are sailing in the same boat as you. It provides a support system and an internal peace to know that a few people out there can understand and relate to you.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Supporting a loved one with PTSD is beyond cumbersome. The thing about this disorder is that it affects the victim and the people around them as well. PTSD survivors require a lot of care and attention, and this can be very exhausting. Changing your lifestyle and routine to fit your loved ones can often be depressing. You have to turn down socializing opportunities and also get used to a very sad environment as well.
If you intend to support a loved one with PTSD fully, you must first take care of yourself. Equip and prepare yourself to be stable enough to tend to a person living with PTSD.
All in all, you should realize that love is not enough to cure PTSD. Make sure that you seek medical help or trained nurses if you think you cannot emotionally and physically invest to this extent.