How do you tend to answer when someone says, “What can I do to help?” or ‘is there anything I can do?”
For most PTSD sufferers, the answer is often, “Oh nothing, I’m ok” or “ I don’t know what will help”. With PTSD is so difficult to put into words how you feel, let alone what someone else can do to help. But it’s so important to get help where you can, and people feel good when they finally feel like they can do something to help – it’s a win-win situation.
What can help?
As you speak with your friends and family remember that it is better to ask for help directly with a specific thing that they can do. But how can they do something for you if you don’t know what will help?
Perhaps if you struggle to be at home alone, try to work out what your specific issues are with it. If you can work out more tangible issues, then someone might be able to help – for example, if you fear an intruder might enter your home, have a friend who is good with DIY check all your door and window locks to ensure they are working correctly, or if you have issues with answering your front door, have a friend install a doorbell camera so you can see who is there before you answer.
Suggestions of things that may help
From our own experiences with PTSD, we’ve created the list below of things that you may find useful. Some of them won’t be relevant to you, but maybe they’ll jog an idea in your head of something that would be good for you. Try and note down any ideas that come into your head.
- Have them sit outside the bathroom and ‘be on guard’ while you take a relaxing bath. Sometimes hypervigilance can cause havoc in a quiet and isolated bathroom, but knowing that someone is outside the door, perhaps reading a book, means you can perhaps relax a little more.
- Have them draw up a 15-point checklist for you detailing all the things in the house that need to be shut or locked up before bed. This means that each night, you can tick off the list to ensure that everything has been done. If you worry ‘did I lock that door’ in the middle of the night, you can check your sheet to put your mind at ease somewhat.
- Have them learn as much about PTSD as they possibly can – so that if you talk to them about how you feel, they can reassure you that those feelings are ‘normal’ and they will be able to help manage and understand flashbacks, anger outbursts, panic attacks, or any other symptoms that they can help with.
- Have them agree a ‘safe word’ with you – if you’re out and about, and things begin to feel too much or you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack, you don’t want to have to explain things everytime that you just need to move, or retreat to a quieter spot. Agreeing a word that you can say in times of emergency means you’ve always got a ‘quick’ way out – even if that simply means moving to the next street or shop.
- Have a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend be really clear about where they’re going and what they’re doing. Make sure they know how coming home later than they expected, or worries about who they’re with can suddenly turn into much larger fears. Catastrophising can be a huge element of PTSD, and so one simple missed call can make PTSD sufferer feel like their partner must be being unfaithful. Make sure you’re communicating as well as possible.
- Have them ensure that if you suffer with issues with noises such as hyperacusis, they they’re very aware of your issue sounds and can try to minimize them for you.
- Have them be really clear when they arrive in your house (if they let themselves in) – something as simple as clearly shouting ‘Honey, I’m home’ means that you know it’s them – and any fear you developed when hearing the key in the door can quickly be dispelled. It may be better for you to have even the person living with you ring the door bell, or texting you just as they arrive home, so you know to expect them.
- Have them move furniture around the house to suit you – if you feel you need to be able to see the doors/windows while watching TV, perhaps they can move the sofas so you can feel more relaxed.
- Have a partner switch side of the beds with you if you feel you want to be closer to the window, or perhaps further way from the bedroom door for example.
- Have them do the things your PTSD makes you need to do such as locking car doors as soon as you get in, having the TV sound down low etc. If they’re able to do these things for you, not only will you know they understand a little better how you feel, but you also won’t feel so much like you’re solely responsible for any ‘rituals’ you feel you need to do.
- Have them cook you dinner – you’re exhausted, and making sure you’re getting nourishing food is so important for self-care.
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed and someone asks if they can help, pull out your list and work out something that they can do to help.