The worst thing about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that it affects every area of your life. Emotional numbing makes your relationship with your spouse and children uncomfortable, at best. Flashbacks force you to relive the horror. (It’s no wonder you’ll do just about anything to avoid bringing back those painful memories.) Hyperviligance results in isolation thereby destroying any social life you might have. And then there are the sleep problems: the inability to sleep, or falling asleep but not being able to stay asleep through the night…it can leave you exhausted and struggling to find any peace or joy in life at all.
And is that enough? Unfortunately, the answer is often no. Many times the difficulties you’re going through have a direct impact on those closest to you. One soldier’s wife told me she would lie in bed at night burning to get up to use the bathroom, but she didn’t dare. She was afraid it might trigger a flashback for her husband and he would attack and beat her. The pain of the beating wasn’t what was so distressing to her though — it was seeing the horror on his face when he realized he’d been betrayed by his own mind and had hurt her that kept her motionless and suffering.
The tendency with PTSD is to avoid anything that brings back those painful memories, but avoidance does little to exorcise those memories from our psyche. “Talk Therapy” is one of the most successful methods of treating PTSD and it’s just what the title implies: talking to a trained counselor about those memories can drain them of their poison, a little at a time.
As we discussed last week, there are several forms of treatment that can be used successfully to cope with PTSD. You have to keep looking for the one that works for you. The thing is, doing nothing and hiding from the memories simply allows them to maintain their hold over you. Reclaim your life. Happiness is worth fighting for too…after all, what’s freedom without happiness?
Several of the veterans I work with have said the best thing they’ve done is take the Anger Management Course offered by the VA. Have you found that to be helpful? Why, or why not?