Are you supporting someone with PTSD? If you are here to find out how you can better help them, I want you to know how awesome you are! Dealing with PTSD is hard, confusing, and complicated. It makes you feel like you are all alone in the world. So, the fact that you are looking to provide help and support is a real game changer.
Here are some pointers to help you make more sense of PTSD, and how you can be of most help to your loved one.
#1 – Knowledge is Power
Finding out more about PTSD, what it is, how it affects people, and how it may manifest is important. Educating yourself will help you recognize the symptoms in other people. If someone suffered from emotional abuse, learning about the dynamics and effects of abuse will make all the difference in the world. It can be hard for someone who suffers from PTSD to explain their experience while in the throes of it. So I here are a few links that can help you learn for yourself:Learn about the Effects of Emotional Abuse
Learn more about PTSD and C-PTSD
#2 – Trauma Changes a Person Forever
Everyone is affected by their experience of the world. From litle things all the way through to trauma as well. Whether our scars are visible or not, they have a profound effect on our who we are. Sometimes PTSD expresses itself in denial–trying to pretend the abuse never happened. One of the hardest parts of having this disorder is coming to terms with the reality of our traumatic experiences. Reconciling with our pasts require us to accept that they have made us more anxious, less confident, and less trusting.
One of the greatest things a person can do to help someone in this situation is to assist us in understanding that the trauma we’ve gone through has changed us. And while validating a survivor’s pain is crucial, it is really important to help us reframe it to help us see that our suffering has also made us more beautiful people; more kind, and more compassionate. As we come to terms with the abuse, and heal from its ramifications, we will continue to change and grow. Give us space for those changes to take place, and cheer us on as we build a new life for ourselves.
#3 – Abuse and PTSD Hijack our Identity
Both the abuse and the resulting PTSD make us forget who we are. Our personality, our understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, our self-esteem, and confidence are obliterated. At some level, we have no idea who we are, or what we are capable of. This is what kept us trapped in the abusive situation in the first place. And it is what now keeps us feeling isolated by the effects of that trauma on our identiy.
It helps to have people who love us reminded of our successes and talents. Negative feelings and thoughts usually take up most, if not all, the space in our heads. When we are on our PTSD-recovery journey, we need those around us to verbalize and emphasize the good things about us so that our confidence and sense of security can grow.
#4 – We are no Longer Grounded in Our True Selves
When you are facing troubles in your life, you will feel a certain level of groundedness in yourself. You know that you are able to face challenges, and you are secure in the knowledge that you have friends and family who will help you. As survivors of trauma, we do not experience that. Because our identity was hijacked, we feel completely lost and abandoned. We often think we don’t possess the coping skills or strength to deal with life. Not feeling a sense of groundedness causes a person to feel off balance, and as though they will slip and fall at any moment.
Please have patience when we get lost in these feelings. Remind us of who we are, and guide us back to a place of safety. Show us that we have people we can trust—people who will stick it out with us as we work through it all.
#5 – We Often Cannot Help How We Behave
We are not deliberately being difficult, insecure, or confused. PTSD has actually affected how our brain operates. When we are triggered, it feels like our brain is a beehive. It is busy, noisy, and confusing. All we have left is to try and cope as best we can. Sometimes it is all we can do is to not fall down to the floor weeping.
Our system is in a constant state of survival. We are just trying to cope with our fight, flight, and freeze response as best we can.
When you notice that our behavior has changed because we have been triggered—when you can see the panic written all over our face—help us to calm down. It often helps for us to find a quiet place and sit down. Fewer sensory triggers allows our brain to slow down; let us breath. It enables us to focus on, and strenghten, the rational thoughts that are fighting against the PTSD responses.
#6 – We Cannot Be Logical
The thoughts and feelings that overwhelm us when our PTSD is triggered are fear driven and completely illogical. More often than not, the evidence of reality would totally contradict the panic that has taken control of our mind. That’s the difficulty, though. We are not in control of our heads. We cannot make our rational thoughts stop the panic.
When you remind us of reality, we will likely fight you tooth and nail. We cannot see it. Not in that moment. Persist, nevertheless. Bring us back to reality by, patiently and gently, helping us to get grounded again.
#7 – We Cannot Just ‘Get Over It’
If we could, we would. We are not holding on to a grudge or trying to get special consideration. Many of us actually often try to pretend that we are doing far better than we are. Because we don’t want special consideration.
Telling us to ‘get over it’ will just make us feel worse and push us further into reliving the trauma that is causing us so much panic. Acknowledge our struggle without making us feel that it identifies us. Give us space without making us feel alone. Give us time to deal with our pain, and we will—eventually—learn how to move beyond it.
#8 – We’re Not In Denial—We’re Coping!
When we try to put on a brave face—when we pretend there is nothing wrong—we know there is. Living with PTSD is a constant battle between our survival instincts and our rational thoughts. Being at odds with yourself day in and day out is exhausting. Even if you give sound and well-intentioned advice, we cannot always follow it. When we are triggered, the relived trauma is our reality so that is what we’re trying to deal with. Not because we are in denial, but because we are at our limit. It’s often the result of simply not having the emotional energy to deal with it.
Let us know we can come back to you for help once we have recovered our energy. Make sure we know we have a safe space to not have it all together when the time calls for it.
#9 – We Do Not Hate You
Even if we cannot always accept your help, or express our gratitude, we love you for your help. Staying by our side and continuing to offer support is the best medicine you can offer.
#10 – Your presence matters
Throughout the abuse, and now while dealing with PTSD, we feel more alone than you can imagine. Having you by our side, doesn’t just support us it actually heals us. The more we feel we are supported by loved ones, the better our body and mind can heal.
Thank you for committing to helping your loved one overcome PTSD.