I often wonder what it would be like to get through one day without a jolt of terror running through my veins. One day without experiencing an off-the-chart startled response would be heavenly.
A soft knock on my office door or my husband’s gentle kiss to wake me in the morning can cause me to jump a mile high and send my heart rate into orbit.
People cannot understand the pervasive power of PTSD and its effects on the body and mind unless they have endured hard trauma. Hard trauma is defined as an event, experience, or ongoing circumstance that is or appears to be life-threatening.
Hard trauma cuts through a person’s ability to cope or process the traumatic event constructively.
The term has become more common due to studies of war veterans. However, an overwhelming number of people with PTSD are not war veterans; they are people we see every day:
All who have survived the worst evils of this world.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) is a diagnosed anxiety disorder birthed from a perceived or actual life-threatening event or series of events. Three factors seem to affect PTSD’s severity:
- Age of onset
- Intensity of trauma experience
- Duration of trauma endured
PTSD is now considered by specialists as an astounding mental-health concern not only for survivors of war but for survivors of . . .
- Natural disasters
- Child and domestic abuse
Further, some specialists have studied the fear/perceived-threat response in those who participate in extreme gaming or who watch certain movies and television shows.
These responses depend on a person’s age and developmental-coping strengths.
My son and I are both diagnosed with PTSD, and my husband is our champion.
He loves us through our . . .
- Intense hypervigilance
- Mood dysregulation challenges
The physical struggles with chronic pain, chemical imbalances, concentration, and autoimmune disorders require a patient tenderness and grace beyond measure. Because of his support and care, we are healing.
That isn’t always the case for everyone.
Often, those who don’t have support systems may choose alternative coping mechanisms that numb, but don’t heal, their wounds.
Alcohol, drugs, illegal medication, and risk-taking behavior may seem effective in the short-term but are more damaging in the long run.
These REALLY Help!
To support a PTSD survivor as he or she heals, it’s important to keep these things in mind:
- Those with PTSD need empathetic listening—regardless of how irrational their thoughts and anxiety may appear to the typical person—for them to trust your care over time.
- PTSD triggers may happen at any moment. Don’t invalidate the trigger by saying, “It’s no big deal!” or “What’s your problem?” Instead, ask, “What can I do to help you through this?”
- Emotions are difficult to regulate for PTSD survivors. Those with PTSD may seem angry, frustrated, annoyed, or irritated at the smallest thing. Instead of blowing off the urgent trigger, communicate your commitment to the relationship and ask what you can do to help at any given time.
- Don’t take personally a PTSD survivor’s over- or under-reactions to a given environment or behavior. Remember, they are doing their best to live in a world that appears frightening. Become more knowledgeable about PTSD and how to respond to out-of-the-ordinary responses from those with PTSD.
- Know that PTSD survivors long to be happy and free of triggers, pain, history, flashbacks, and nightmares. Your concern and love means more than trying to fix them.
- Sometimes when PTSD survivors are quiet, they might be trying to process a circumstance that they know cognitively is safe yet feels threatening emotionally. Don’t dismiss their fear; enter it with them and help them see the truth.
- Know that PTSD survivors’ anxiety has a voice. It’s usually critical, accusatory, presumptuous, and often irrational. Don’t take it personally; know they are fighting shadows of their past that appear very real to them.
- Some days, PTSD survivors don’t want to go out and play. Play is difficult. Be patient, and offer to be available for play and fun.
- Examination and extreme vigilance is exhausting, but remember that these automatic habits were possibly lifesaving. When a PTSD survivor is stuck in a pattern of thinking, offer a distraction like playing a game, going for a walk, laughter, breathing techniques, and companionship. These help change thought patterns.
- Never tell PTSD survivors they are “crazy” or “to get over it!” They long to be over it, but trauma bores deep wounds that take time to mend. Patience is a virtue PTSD survivors need from others to heal.
- When PTSD survivors say, “I can’t handle this,” “This is terrifying,” “I can’t do this,” offer affirmations for how far they have come, and help them with breathing and meditating exercises. Providing strength helps PTSD survivors become stronger.
- Remember, PTSD survivors will examine, question, and contextualize everything you say. Obsessing over things may last a long time; your constant reassurance is more healing than you know.
- Instead of dismissing PTSD survivors’ struggles, offer to help get them to people trained in PTSD healing. The help of trained professionals can change their world.
Also, I can’t over emphasize the importance of finding an experienced, compassionate counselor or therapist to assist you in bringing perspective and help for your struggle.
I strongly recommend finding someone who not only can provide professional assistance, but who will support you with hope-filled, biblical counsel that points you to Christ. Take some time to let these verses pour over your weary soul today:
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses (and trauma), for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:15–16 NLT).
Join me at the throne of grace . . . there is mercy and help for all of us in Him.
Let Me Hear from You
PTSD is a very real, very difficult, and complex trauma diagnosis. We follow a God who promises to heal as we submit to His care and to the care of those trained to provide treatment and healing.
You are the hands and feet of Jesus. What are ways you can help us heal and live a life we never expected? Or how has someone helped you in your journey with PTSD?
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