It’s now been 2 and a half years since I got back to the ‘old me’ following EMDR treatment for my PTSD. My daily suffering with PTSD was easily the worst time of my life – I honestly had no idea how I’d ever get out of the black hole of life, how I’d fix my broken relationships, how I’d feel happy again (or how I’d ever feel ‘normal’ emotions again full stop!) – how would I be able to live the life I deserved?
When I look back on that time, I know every day how lucky I am now to be rid of PTSD – to no longer feel so vacant, unworthy or alone, to be able to be in an unlocked car, to be able to listen to music in an empty house, to sleep a whole night through without a baseball bat by my side, to be able to be happy, and to look in the mirror and not hate the person staring back at me. Thankfully, I can also now objectively understand the things that helped me get to this point, and so I’d like to share them with anyone who needs them.
There are too many people in this world who struggle in silence and feel alone – this is for anyone who is struggling – you are not alone. You can beat this – no matter how long it takes, or the twists and turns the story might offer – you will beat it.
There’s no “one size fits all” measure for PTSD
The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on every day life can be far-reaching, but also deeply personal to each individual.
Being aware of your own mental, emotional and physical health, is vital. Become an expert on your own challenges and needs, and the steps you need to take to reach recovery.
Be willing to try new things
As recovering from PTSD is an individual journey there is no map to follow. You need to take things at your own pace and find the treatments and activities that best suit you.
For this to happen, you need an open mind and a positive attitude about therapies you may not have tried before, or services provided by unfamiliar practitioners. It is often through experimentation with therapies, that you find the best ways to live well with PTSD while waiting for treatment to progress to life without PTSD.
It’s not always easy, but if you approach these calmly, and with the belief that tomorrow can be a new day, you’ll get there. Having said that, if something is clearly not working, then don’t hesitate to research and try a new therapy or therapist.
Don’t feel you have to manage alone
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be an isolating condition. However, to manage everyday life and progress to recovery, there will be times when you need to ask for help and support.
Keep talking to your family and friends. Try to be open about your diagnosis, to manage the expectations of others and unlock their support. There are risks to disclosure – such as discrimination and stigma in the face of ignorance. However, risks are often outweighed by the benefits.
Focus on the end goal
Keep progressing onwards to life without PTSD, and don’t give up or “settle” for second best. Ensure that your treatment plan is reviewed and refreshed regularly, with milestones in place to keep you on track. Talk to your doctor and mental health care professional regularly, to adjust the support provided according to your changing situation.
There’s strong evidence that conditions such as PTSD can be alleviated by keeping busy and finding purpose. This could include, for example, getting involved with PTSD research studies, mentoring others at an early stage of treatment or raising funds for charities connected to PTSD or other conditions close to you. You could even start a blog or support group, to share your experiences with others.
This sort of initiative can make you feel more in control of your PTSD too.
No day will be the same
The only thing you can predict with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is that it’s unpredictable. You will have good days and bad ones. You could go for weeks feeling a little better, only to have a bad day when you least expect it. Be ready for this, and have plans in place to cope, such as exercising, socialising or carrying out a hobby to distract yourself. Eat well too, for better health and wellbeing.
Keep well informed
The goal is for you to understand your PTSD and therefore grow your ability to manage it on the path to treatment. Some of the experiences you will have could be confusing or even worrying. Learning as much about PTSD as possible helps. Talk to your health care provider or get to know the content on our website here to gain a better understanding.
Though this is your own journey to recovery, sharing your thoughts and experiences with others in a similar situation can help. You can pool tips and insights and provide each other with a significant level of understanding.
Keep to the plan and live your life to the maximum
Keep in mind that you are NOT your diagnosis. Nor are you alone. There is more to you than PTSD. Nor must you think this is a ‘life sentence’ – PTSD is an injury, and thus can be treated.
Your aim should be to “live well” with PTSD, while you recover. Learn to manage the symptoms and the challenges, and engage with treatment, and develop healthy living skills.
Know your limitations, but focus on your strengths
Managing life with PTSD requires a degree of honesty and awareness about your triggers and challenges. Find techniques (such as grounding) that can help you through these. Hold tight to what works best in overcoming your fears and struggles.
What you deserve is sustainable recovery and the life you want. So, keep your eye on that ultimate goal. Tomorrow CAN be a new day.
Jacqui, Founder of PTSD UK