Archive for February 10th, 2010

When I was in therapy, I asked my therapist numerous times when I would be “over” my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. He told me what I did not want to hear – I would never be “over” the PTSD. However, things would get better, and triggers would last minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. This was not what I wanted to hear, and I was determined to prove him wrong.

I have now been actively focusing on healing from the PTSD for 6-1/2 years, and I am somewhat sorry to have to report that my therapist was correct. Yes, I have healed enormously, and my life is so much better than I ever dreamed possible back when I began therapy. However, I still have PTSD. I still get triggered, and I still deal with nightmares. I am reluctantly accepting that my therapist was correct – I will always have PTSD.

Now that I have completely bummed you out, I will share the good news – You can manage your PTSD symptoms. My therapist was right about that part, too. When I started therapy, a trigger could keep me in complete “freak out” mode for weeks. Now, I can typically shake off a trigger in a couple of hours and sometimes even faster than that. I am generally aware when I have been triggered. I know what my body feels like in reaction to a trigger, even when I don’t know why I was triggered.

I also know what to do to bring myself back down. Early in therapy, I would just stay in a complete state of anxiety for weeks. Before therapy, I would “switch” and be completely out of touch with my life. Today, I know to take a few deep breaths and talk myself down. I tell myself that I am triggered and that I am having a normal reaction that anyone with PTSD would have. I also now have a Xanax prescription that can help bring me down if the trigger is severe enough that my other tools don’t work.

I am finding myself less dependent upon binge eating to manage my emotions because I am much more aware of what I am feeling and why. I also am fairly good at expressing how I feel in the moment so there is no need to “stuff down” the bad feelings.

My sister and I recently talked about how she wants her PTSD just to “go away.” I told her that I do, too, but that I think it is an unrealistic goal. We were very traumatized throughout our childhood, and we simply will not live long enough to dismantle all of the triggers and make the PTSD “go away.” However, we can lead fulfilling and productive lives as we learn to better manage our PTSD.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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