In my personal PTSD-Recovery experience nothing is more important to re-establishing my sanity than those loved ones that are in it with me every day. I have no clinical proof that what I’m about to say is true or false so you must weigh it in your own lives to know for yourself. If there isn’t at least one person in your daily life that knows of your PTSD, has at least a basic understanding of how that impacts you and the world at large and can commit to at least one aspect of your PTSD in terms of them helping you, then you might as well get that cardboard sign out and start writing down what you want to tell the world when you find yourself living under a bridge because you can’t stand to face the world outside of your personal version of the foxhole(s) that put the monkey on your back to begin with.
So, to all you loved ones out there that have the courage to stay in it during PTSD-recovery I say Thank you and God Bless You for your strength.
This post is as much directed at the well-meaning loved ones as those of us that want to go hide in the attic or think we might any-minute take enemy fire as we drive down main-street USA in our ill-armored compact car. Helping us with PTSD really means understanding what triggers our PTSD-Grid, how to help us decompress from a PTSD energized state and assisting us in deconstructing our PTSD triggers/behaviors while helping us construct a new – a functional, healthy life.
Some of you, like my wife and I have achieved some success. I bet you wonderful loved ones have also discovered how hard it is to navigate through the tortured landscape of the PTSD-Survivor’s PTSD Grid. The lure for you loved ones is when things start to get better. It’s very difficult to overcome the non-PTSD metaphors for how PTSD works. “Finally, he/she is feeling bettter, going back to work, having social interaction without doing strange or scary things…we can go back to being normal.”
No you can’t! You might eventually achieved “Normal” – I definitely want that for every single one of you out there. BUT YOU CANT GO BACK. The person who existed before the PTSD was consistently manfiest in the PTSD-survivor’s life was eaten by the PTSD. The easiest way to think about what happens to a person that has PTSD is that one day an alien invaded their body and has been in control every since. It is possible to remove the alien eventually with a lot of hard work but what is left when the alien has gone is a very very very different person than before the alien arrived.
The job of the survivor and the survivor’s loved ones is to identify this new person being born out of the removal of the PTSD-Alien. That person’s tastes, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, fear, loves, likes, dislikes and interests will only hold an echo of the pre-PTSD person’s life. It is the instinct of the loved one to seek out the “normal” through their memory. They remember How you used to be. That’s their criteria for you getting better. And of course this is a trap. It is the very trap that often derails PTSD-Recovery and the interest and contribution of the loved ones.
The loved ones try to talk to the old-you, which of course was the you that eventually walked or was dragged into your PTSD-Imprinting experiences. By talking to the old you they’ve built a bridge instantly back to some things that are more likely than not to trigger your PTSD-Grid. They almost certainly don’t know this and you probably won’t know or understand it until it’s happened a few times and you have someone to help you sort it out. Like me. I had to sort this out myself and it wasn’t easy and if it wasn’t for very loving wife I’d be drowning in my PTSD on this topic right now.
So, give yourselves a great gift. The gift is what to do when the survivor emerges from the triggers/PTSD-Behaviors that I refer to at the PTSD-Grid. Discover who that person is without their metaphoric PTSD-Alien. Be open to the mystries of the universe, don’t try to control the PTSD-Survivor with thoughts of how they should be or what they should do, etc. Let them be who they really are. You will never be able to have a genuine relationship with a PTSD-Survivor if you can’t allow them to recover and discover their Post-PTSD self.
If your survivor is open to it the next time they show some progress in their effort to regain their sanity, then celebrate their success by encouraging them to do something new – their “new” not yours of course. Exploring newness together as you support them in their climb out of the PTSD-Blackhole will create a powerful bond between you and the new person that is all that is left after the PTSD has been conquered.
It is ever my hope that my blog helps you Erase Your Own PTSD.
Bruce Burns, PTSD-Survivor