June is PTSD Awareness Month.
I have noticed that a large portion of our US Flag Store community “likes” the posts on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I wanted to dig a little deeper. It’s a sensitive, serious subject, and please correct me gently if I step on any toes. PTSD is a broad term used to describe any disorder triggered by severe trauma. While we use it on our website to refer to military personnel and vets who suffer because of it, it is a very real condition for many who have never been in battle. I cannot imagine the trauma suffered by those who have.
I started by going to the militarymentalhealth.org website and taking their quiz on PTSD. After filling out some basic information I was directed to four questions signifying the criteria for diagnosis:
- Did you have nightmares about the event, or thought about it when you did not want to OR
- Went out of your way to avoid situations and places that reminded you of the event OR
- Were constantly on guard and easily startled OR
- Felt detached from others and your surroundings
My first husband committed suicide. I have been abused, among other things I’d care not to share online. Additionally, in the last 8 months I have gone through a divorce (second husband), terminal cancer diagnosis for/subsequent care of/death of a parent, job change, city relocation, home purchase; I figured if any civilian was borderline suffering from something traumatic, it would be me. Not. I passed with flying colors. However, I immediately answered “yes” to all four questions answering for my boyfriend, whose teenage son was killed in an auto accident.
I already knew I can’t possibly fathom what he lives with, day in and day out. So here is the tender part: I am writing about something whose depths I do not understand. If you are reading this, please don’t misunderstand that I think I know what you are going through, that I could offer platitudes or begin to understand what you have seen and felt. You deserve more than that. I read over this article after it is finished and my words seem so trite. It was an exercise in educating myself. Please take my findings as simply that: a collection of resources that I found online, that may direct you to help if you or someone you love needs it.
You Are Not Alone!
Important thing to remember: You are not alone. This can’t be said enough. 7.7 million Americans aged 18 and over suffer from PTSD, also known as shell shock or combat stress. It can be brought on by a variety of events, regardless whether you were physically harmed or not. Common symptoms include nightmares, sleeplessness, depression, numbness, anger, irritability, inability to focus, and myriad other things that reduce your quality of life. Symptoms often do not manifest immediately, and may not be constant.
Factors that can contribute to an event leading to PTSD include intensity, physical pain, loss of loved one, proximity, lack of control, and lack of support after the event. That last one screams that it is imperative to get support as soon as possible, even if you feel fine at the time.
Many sufferers report handing the condition with drinking, suicidal thoughts, workaholism, and isolation. These things actually eventually exacerbate the issues.
Is there help?
There is. PTSD has been recognized as a viable condition and researchers from around the world have increased our understanding of it and how to treat it. Medication and counseling are the two most effective methods of treatment. Counseling can help you understand and cope with what you are feeling while medications can block feelings of excessive despair. You can make lifestyle changes to help you on the path to recovery also – communicating with loved ones about what places or situations make you uncomfortable; volunteering in your local community can offer you the support you need. Start by talking to someone if you notice you are having a tough time: your spouse, best friend, doctor, or religious advisor. Connect with others who have been there, who can help you know what to expect and what things worked for them, and who will offer to be there for you if you feel you have nowhere else to go. That is one place I know we all have been!
Explore some of these resources, many of them free – they are my resources for this writing: