Last January, I wrote a post where I opened up for the first time about living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Earlier this month, there was a lot of discussion happening surrounding some comments that Donald Trump had made about veterans living with PTSD. Now, I am not going to get into my opinion on Trump during this post, and it is not what this post is about. I bring him up because all of the buzz around his comments led to me thinking about what I, as someone with PTSD, wants someone without PTSD to understand about life with the condition.
Here are six things I would like others to know about living with PTSD.
Recovery is not linear – Recovery from PTSD is not linear, and it comes with a lot of ups and downs. This can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. Sometimes progress comes in leaps and bounds. Othertimes, development can feel slow and close to impossible. Please, be patient with us, because we are working hard.
There is not one clear cause of PTSD – We all experience things differently. What leads to PTSD in one person is not necessarily going to cause it for another. Everyone comes to a situation or experience differently and therefore leaves differently, as well. It is not your place to decide whether or not someone should have PTSD following their trauma.
Do not rank traumas – Everyone’s trauma is valid. Please, do not judge that one story is worse or easier than another. You were not there, and you do not know what it was like for the traumatized individual. Often, those who have experienced trauma will feel that their PTSD is not valid because what they went through was “not bad enough.” One of the most supportive things you can do for someone who struggles with PTSD is to believe that what they went through matters.
PTSD is a physical condition – PTSD is not a condition that is caused because someone is not strong enough. The trauma causes actual physical changes in the brain. Brain scans comparing a brain without PTSD and a brain with PTSD shows that in an individual with PTSD the volume of the hippocampus is decreased. This change affects the brain’s ability to distinguish the difference between past and present memories. The alteration to the hippocampus is only one of the changes to the brain. For more information, you can read a quick and informative article at http://brainblogger.com/2015/01/24/how-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-change-the-brain/
It is amazing when you take the time to learn our triggers – This means a lot to us. When you take the time to learn what triggers us, it helps us to feel safer because then we know that there is someone who will avoid talking about certain things or pressuring us into certain situations.
Just listen – The most helpful and loving thing you can do for someone with PTSD is to listen. You do not need to have all of the answers. You do not have to try and fix things or erase our pain. The fact that you are there for us means so much.