Every day most of us experience stress to some degree and have our own methods of dealing with those situations and with ourselves, and others, while in them. The situation calms down and we feel back to ourselves once again. However, those who have experienced a significant amount of trauma, or even just one isolated event, can develop a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When this occurs, the person lives in a constant state of distress. They cannot simply relax after their work day is finished, or when the argument is over, or even when it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and nothing wrong has occurred. They feel that at any moment something CAN happen. The tension does not leave them. They can become hypervigilant at avoiding anything they believe might cause more stress, particularly if it is related to the past trauma, though it does not have to be. Their nerves are frazzled and they cannot handle anything more than they are already dealing with. If avoidance does not help, they may lash out at others or even harm themselves as they feel trapped in their feelings and cannot get them out.
PTSD is very difficult to overcome and it takes a lot of patience and support from others to move forward. Not only will the person with PTSD have trouble, but those close to them will experience a good few challenges as well. Allowing the person to express their fears when they need to is very important. They may need to restate them again and again, as they go through them internally again and again. It is also possible that the person is unable to talk about any of it. If this occurs, do not force them to, simply be there with them. Ask them if there is anything you can do that would help them to overcome the current moment. During a particular bad episode, they can feel locked inside and frozen, unable to make even the smallest of decisions for themselves. They feel helpless and like this will never change.
Feelings of guilt may creep up and they may blame themselves for the trauma, their reaction to it, and/or the effect it is having upon others. Every person going through this is going to react and respond differently. For some, they may respond in anger, some with extreme avoidance, some with silence, some with tears. It is never the same. And sometimes it will be a slew of all possible reactions within a small timeframe. Be calm with them. Let them know that you are there no matter what happens, and never brush off their fears or feelings. If they feel like they cannot talk to you or that you will judge or reject them for what has happened, they will close off to you and be unable to confide in you in the future. This may look as though they are dealing with the situation better, but instead they are suffering just as badly, only now they are feeling even more alone, confused, and rejected.
Be mindful of their triggers and try to help them when those triggers occur. Understand that difficult moments will happen and help them recover from the whirlwind going on inside themselves when they do. There is no set of tactics that will be the right solution for everyone, so take the time to figure out what this particular person needs during these periods. Even when everything is going fine and nothing seems to be amiss, no triggers, typical day from the outside, you may find them suddenly crying or completely detached. This is part of the process. They do not feel okay and cannot simply “get over it”. This is an everyday, all the time thing for them. Time, patience, love, and support from those who care for them is going to make a lot of difference as things unfold.
It would be a good idea to talk to a therapist regularly who specializes in PTSD as well as joining a support group to connect with others who have gone through a similar situation.
Here are a couple of websites that can give you more information about the condition and what you can do to help:
Whatever has caused someone to feel traumatized is only secondary to what is happening to them because of it. Do not belittle their fears but rather build up their self-esteem instead of pulling it down by calling them weak or otherwise. Their coping mechanisms may feel strange to you and it may be difficult to understand, but let them do what works for them and accept that this is what they need. There is no overnight solution. However, there are many ways to make the journey just that much easier for someone. Hold their hand and take the path with them.
When overcoming an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!
Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kasiakraut/