Driving on Empty with PTSD as Your Passenger
Some days it can feel like you ran out of gas going uphill and you are late. Maybe not in reality but the weight of everyone else's demands and expectations of you in addition to staying present and not having a meltdown.
Referring to a PTSD episode as a meltdown may sound a bit harsh however, trauma changes the function and the structure of our brains by converging the cortex (Critical thinking), limbic system (Emotions Evolve) and brain stem (Survival Response) and literally has a meltdown.
Stress deregulates our nervous system for a short period of time. Emotional and/or psychological trauma is routine stress and has three common elements; the inability to prepare for it, expect it and prevent it (PEP). Symptoms are identified by quick upset triggered, frequent upset triggered, intensely threating the source of upset, pattern of the length of upset and the length of time to calm down.
How is it that you and someone with PTSD attend the same event and the experience is traumatizing for the person with PTSD while you had a wonderful experience? Perhaps you the reader are the one that is often traumatized by an event everyone else seems to enjoy. It really isn't the event that was traumatizing it was the individual's experience based their perception of the event.
If you are that person or love someone in this situation there are four areas that need coaching and practice. It is important to find a therapist, spiritual or life coach or mentor to help you and hold you accountable to these practices.
Example: At a wedding, everyone is enjoying it and the person with PTSD is traumatized.
1. Identify the personal values and belief.
2. Identify your self-talk as healthy or unhealthy.
3. Use coping skills and set boundaries, if you don't have any or know how,
find a coach or therapist.
4. Identify how the event is related to your life experiences.
The first step is crucial, research core values and decide which 2-4 words are the values are important to you. When we apply those values to our self-talk coping skills and boundaries it becomes crystal clear what the problem is. We are living according to our values. If respect is a core value and you are speaking to yourself in a negative, shameful manner you are demonstrating disrespect to yourself. You can not demonstrate respect to others when you do not respect yourself. So as the self-talk beats you down disrespectfully at a wedding that you think everyone is talking about how your still single or divorced or what ever your life experiences lead you to believe, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
I am a psycho-social rehabilitation group facilitator. Over the last four years it has become very clear that individuals diagnosed and treated with psychotropic medications for bipolar show greater evidence of have demonstrating symptoms of PTSD. We see many who receive the full treatment of our CLICS program, develop the coping skills, healthy self-talk and living within their values to manage their symptoms and live more fulfilling lives.
It is important to practice self-care and to also understand the needs of those you love who may have PTSD. You yourself may be a contributing factor in someone's PTSD so it is important to not deny the recovery of someone to hide your own accountability because you too may be suffering. My vision is to provide a place for families to be treated together for this very reason. One member with PTSD may have created trauma for the people within the family so it is important everyone get treatment both individually and together.