Today I’m starting a new series call “Living with PTSD” because it’s an issue very dear to my heart. I call myself a PTSD survivor because I’ve been free of symptoms for several years, but it was one of the darkest times in my life and I still feel the ripples to this day. This series is for those who have or love someone who has PTSD symptoms – I hope my journey and these stories are helpful to you.
There are few things more difficult than seeing your friend spiral downwards in a mental disorder that you cannot control and cannot seem to help. This, at least, is how I imagine my best friend felt as I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder in college.
She also happened to be in school to be a nurse.
When I asked her for her thoughts on being friends with someone with PTSD, she bubbled over with things I didn’t even realize at the time – or rather, not until I asked what it was like for her to travel this road with me. Here’s a collection of her thoughts and how to relate to someone struggling with PTSD or other anxiety disorders.
The best thing that you can do for someone with PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms is to be patient. You have to daily – or hourly – remind them that they are loved, cared for, and worth your time. This is most likely the worst part of their life, and they feel not only attacked from all sides (inside and out) but it can be very isolating.
Below is a list of things to do and act and how to help when you might be feeling like this is a foreign land.
Things to Do
- Emphasize understanding
- Give the person space when needed
- Just listen
- Provide good support
How to Act
- The person needs to be show love when they are at their worst
- Focus on the little steps they take on recovery and celebrate those
Coping for Them (and You)
That there is no miracle for recovery. It takes time.
Lots and lots of time.
They may often need help remembering their best times before the incident that triggered the PTSD when it seems like the whole world has been dark and depressing for forever.
They may also need to know they may never feel like their old self again, but they need to accept their new self just as we would a new friend. It’s probably true that they may never return to their old self…But a newer, better version of their self will stay.
Getting mad at the person for PTSD symptoms is stupid. Focus your frustrations not at the person but the disorder and help the person through the bad times.
This person, your friend, who is experiencing PTSD can’t go through recovery solo.
They will need a support system of friends, family, therapy and recovery groups where people with PTSD come together to help each other out in order to come out the other side.
I hope you can see why I’ve been so honored to call her my best friend all these years – through thick and thin.
Part of this series’ purpose is that you never feel alone in your journey. Whether you have PTSD, know someone who does, or are just struggling with a totally different bump in the road, you are not alone. Please always feel that you can reach out to me and to others. I would love to talk to you about this or other posts at whatever stage in the journey you are on, so get in touch by email or Twitter.