August 5, 2011

Let's Talk About Physiological Symptoms

Triggers and talking about trauma can cause those living with PTSD to experience physiological symptoms. When talking about my sexual abuse experience with my counselor this morning, I began to feel very nauseated and I did get sick when I got home after my appointment. Sometimes those living with PTSD can feel something physically before their conscious allows them to be aware they have been triggered. A couple years ago, I saw a man I had never met before. I began to have a panic attack and I felt a hand gripping my arm. It wasn't until a little while later that I realized I was panicking because that man looked similar to the man who had kidnapped me as a child and before he molested me, he had grabbed me by the arm and dragged me a few feet across the room.

I want to invite you to leave comments with your experiences and/or thoughts on physiological symptoms that your friend or loved one experiences related to PTSD and get a dialogue going about this topic.

Use the comment box below to join in the discussion. Comments can be posted anonymously.

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

January 15, 2011

A Sister Blog... Living with PTSD

This blog was created for friends and loved ones of those living with PTSD.  I know it is read by friends and loved ones as well as those living with PTSD, which I think is great.  I have received some comments and questions on this blog from those living with PTSD.  After much consideration and thought, I have decided that these are two different areas so I started a sister blog titled Living with PTSD for those living with PTSD who wish to share thoughts, comments and/or questions.  Please visit this sister blog as well for more insight on what living with PTSD is like.

If you have recently submitted comments or questions to this site because you are living with PTSD, please see the Living with PTSD blog for a blog post addressing your question or comment.

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

December 31, 2010

What are triggers for my friend's or loved one's PTSD?

My loved one can't talk about having PTSD because that alone is a trigger for her. She broke up with me because I caused a trigger to happen. I had no clue but the damage was done and she no longer trusts me. She told me that I should know what her triggers are without having to tell me and that if I knew anything at all about PTSD from the research I had done then I would have known what her triggers are. Should I have been able to know what her triggers are if she won't talk about them with me? If there was no way for me to know how can I get her to see that I never meant to hurt her and I will not do it again? I love her and want to be here for her. I have never done anything to hurt her in the past and never plan to do so in the future. She is my world.
Triggers are things that bring up thoughts and/or memories related to our PTSD.  They can be anything,.  Really any type of thing, no matter how big or tiny, no matter how unusual or routine... anything can be a trigger.  Just like things we like and things we dislike vary from person to person, triggers also vary from person to person living with PTSD.  They may be directly related to the person's trauma or they may be remotely related.  It could even be something someone was looking at when they were telling their story, even if it was years after the fact.

If you are a friend or loved one of someone living with PTSD, there is likely no way for you to know what their triggers are unless they tell you.   If they have told you their story, there may be some obvious things you can identify as triggers, but there will likely be a whole other group of triggers that are not evident in their story alone.  If you want to be able to identify their triggers, it will take a lot of careful listening and probably carefully asking some questions with caring behind them.

It is usually very hard for a person living with PTSD to talk about triggers, even with loved ones, because it will always bring up thoughts and/or memories of the trauma they experienced and it also has the potential to bring up issues they have not yet faced or dealt with and this is a very overwhelming and frightening place to be.  It is also quite likely that the person living with PTSD has brought up some triggers with a friend or loved one or counselor or other professional and they were misunderstood and/or ridiculed because the trigger they mentioned was such a normal routine thing or usually associated with a happy experience.  An experience like this will cause that person to be inclined to never mention that trigger to anyone again.

Because it is so hard for us to mention a trigger or talk about it and why it is a trigger, sometimes we try to mention it in a less threatening (to us) way.  For example, Sara might mention in passing to David that she doesn't really like the red plates with the green trim.  In her mind, she might feel like she has expressed to David that the red plates with the green trim are a trigger to her.  That might have been the only safe way to say it.  But from the perspective of  the friend or loved one, it might sound like just a suggestion that she likes the other plates better.  You can see how there is a disparity in communication here.

Both parties need to move closer to each other in the communication.  The person living with PTSD needs to be more open and straightforward with what he/she is trying to say about what his/her triggers are and why.  The friend or loved one needs to listen, ask questions and most importantly actively create a safe place for the person living with PTSD to be able to express their feelings and concerns about their triggers.

Going back to our example with Sara and David, let's see how they could have communicated better.  When Sara tells David that she doesn't really like the red plates with the green trim, David can prompt her to say more about that by asking why she doesn't like those plates.  Then Sara will need to take a risk (because she probably won't want to say anything more about it) and share with David that she doesn't like them because she was always sexually molested by her uncle when they came to visit for Christmas and red and green are Christmas colors.  Then David needs to respond to this in a caring manner and maybe ask her if she would like to not use those plates or use them less often.  Or he could also ask her if she wants to talk more about that experience and her triggers.  And then, knowing that the colors red and green together are a trigger for her, he might be conscious of this trigger in the future.

This is an idealistic and fictional example but it does give an illustration and hopefully help with a starting point for friends and loved ones to communicate more clearly with the person living with PTSD.

Addressing the question that was submitted.  You should not have to know what your loved one's triggers are without her telling you.  There might be things you could pick up on here and there but it really is the responsibility of the person living with PTSD to share triggers with the friend or loved one.  Triggers are different for each person so no amount of research will tell you specifically what your loved one's triggers are.  You might learn more about what PTSD is and that is a good thing and you might learn in general what triggers are and that they can have a negative effect but you will not learn what your loved one's triggers are, why they are triggers or how those triggers affect your loved one.  All you can do is continue to try to create a safe, loving and nonjudgmental place for your loved one to share with you what her triggers are.  And this will likely be done over time.  Depending on what kind of place your loved one is in with her PTSD, you may want to consult a professional for assistance in communicating with each other.

The most important message from this post is for friends and loved ones to create a safe, loving and nonjudgmental place for the person living with PTSD to share his/her experiences and triggers.  Ask questions and keep communication open.  We are not perfect people, so if you fail, be honest and explain why you thought something was silly or stupid or you just plain didn't understand.  Trust needs to be built and that can only be done in a honest environment and over time so also be patient with him/her as he/she shares with you.

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day in America

Doing something a little different today.  It is Veteran's Day in America, a day we have set aside to honor and remember our veteran service men and women who have fought for our freedom.  Far too many of these men and women are still fighting a war on home soil, a war with PTSD.  Too often we forget that these men and women are still making a sacrifice for us, as well as their family and friends.  Even though it is an American holiday today, let's keep in mind that this is true for veterans all over the world.

So, today I'm opening up the blog for you to leave your own words of thanks or a tribute or whatever you would like to say to veterans everywhere. 

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

October 28, 2010

What if the cause of my friend or loved one's PTSD was a person or institution that should have been trustworthy and helpful?

I value your new blog.  Another essential resource on the Internet.  Your accessible writing style is easy on the eyes and heart.  I would love to hear your take on PTSD that's actually caused by people and/or institutions who are supposed to help.  This includes abuse by counselors, doctors, advisers, therapists, clergy, and of course parents.  I myself was traumatized by institutions and persons whose very purpose is to heal, which raises the perversion bar much higher.  In my experience, it's not a good idea for one to put complete trust in even helpers, and to always ensure that in the end we ourselves take responsibility.  All the best, and look forward to following your blog.

Counselors, doctors, advisers, therapists, clergy, and of course parents are all people that we should be able to trust and get help from but unfortunately sometimes these people are the source of trauma. I'm not talking about a situation in which trauma is brought up as a result of the process of therapy.  I am talking about when someone in one of these (or other) roles abuses their position or relationship therefore causing a traumatic experience.

I wish I could say that all people are good but the sad truth is that they are not.  It is especially sad when trauma results from someone abusing their trusted position/role.

PTSD resulting from a source other than those listed above will cause trust issues.  If the source of the PTSD is a person that should have been trusted or someone that should be helping and not hurting, then that adds a whole other dimension of trust issues to the picture.  As mentioned in the comment, it "raises the perversion bar much higher".

Imagine if firemen came knocking on your door one day, stepped inside and then proceeded to burn your house to the ground.  What if cops came bursting into your house and robbed you of all your valuable possessions.  You'd probably have a hard time trusting these people to do the jobs they are supposed to do after you experienced them abusing their positions to do you harm.  You would probably have a hard time trusting anyone in those positions again, regardless if they were the ones that actually perpetrated the crime.  It is, of course, that much harder to heal from PTSD if you feel like you cannot trust the people that you need to help you through the healing process.

Another aspect of this question that should be discussed is when a client comes away feeling re-traumatized as a result of the healing process with a trusted professional who is not abusing his position/role.  I got the following thoughts on this subject from a professional counselor.

With professionals working with people living with PTSD, there is an almost 100% probability that the client will re-experience the traumatic event/relationship at some level.  The issue is not about a professional avoiding re-traumatization, but the pace, purpose and process of the healing journey that may include therapeutic exchange between the trauma event and the client's response to the event.  The goal in PTSD treatment is not to help the client eliminate the event, but to help the client become more effective in living, given the intrusion of the traumatic event as now a piece of history in the present life.
A professional should never bring a client into psychological contact with the event(s) without having a treatment purpose and follow through that brings healing purpose to the contact.

So, we have discussed two aspects of this issue, (1) when a person who should have been trusted has caused PTSD due to an abuse of their position/role and (2) when a client feels re-traumatized by a trusted professional.

In the first aspect, healthy boundaries should be put in place and maintained as quickly as possible.  If a professional has caused the PTSD, then treatment with that professional should be ceased and action taken where appropriate.  If this has been the case for your friend or loved one, then please keep in mind that he/she will be experiencing heightened issues with trust and these are sure to spill over into any interpersonal relationships of the one living with PTSD. 

In the second aspect, it may or may not be the case that the professional has abused his position/role.  Healing from PTSD is not easy and often brings us into contact with feeling and emotions that we would rather not experience.  These can be very threatening at times and sometimes it is hard for us to differentiate where the threat is coming from.  If someone living with PTSD feels re-traumatized in the healing process, then he/she needs to evaluate (probably with with insight of trusted friends or loved ones) whether or not what they are feeling is a valid part of the healing process or not.  As stated by the counselor in the quote above, if the professional does not have a "treatment purpose or follow through", then the professional is not acting properly and the client should consider seeking out treatment with another professional.

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

August 16, 2010

Without experiencing trauma, how can I understand what life with PTSD is like for my friend or loved one?

Larry, a friend of the blog on facebook, posted the following on the Understanding PTSD facebook page.  I thought it was well-stated so I wanted to include it in this post.
You're right many people don't understand how this (PTSD) effects peoples lives. They don't understand how this affects someone’s life.

For those that don't understand, I ask them if they've ever been extremely frightened by something? I ask them to remember and re-experience that event. Re-experience this very powerful emotion in the moment!

Then I ask them to imagine what it would be like for them to not to be able to turn this off. To not be able to get away from those feelings they experienced in that moment. I ask them how they think it would affect their choices if they couldn't turn off or get away from these feelings.

Though they may have a hard time grasping the inability to get away from these feelings, as they have already done so. It becomes a physical experience that they can relate to. They can grasp how these powerful emotions can over rule conscious thought and logic.

Emotions are Very powerful stuff! When combined with the subconscious mind, they can dramatically affect your life! I get to see the impact this has on people's lives on a regular basis.

Having people like you willing to talk about it from your perspective helps greatly to remove the veil of misunderstanding for those that are fortunate enough to have never experienced this.

What seems like the obvious course of action, "just let this stuff go" to those that don't understand it. They don't understand why you won't "just let this stuff go". They really can't grasp the these negative emotions really are stuck! That you can talk about this until you are blue in the face, but these negative emotions remain stuck.
My pastor mentioned PTSD during his sermon yesterday and described it as being frozen in the moment of trauma that was the source of the PTSD.  Frozen and stuck are just words to attempt to illustrate the difficulty in just letting it go or just getting past it or just moving on.  There are invisible chains trapping or invisible walls blocking those who are living with PTSD.  I'm not saying this with a defeatist attitude.  There is hope for those living with PTSD.  I'm just trying to illustrate the level of difficulty that moving forward can entail for the person living with PTSD.

Breaking through these chains or breaking down these walls will not look the same for each person.  Depending on the severity of the PTSD, there may be several layers of chains or walls.  We are all very different individuals and the source of our PTSD is very different for each of us, therefore the method we use, the path we take and the journey we go through in healing will look very different.  Keep this in mind if you are walking this journey with your friend or loved one.

Please note some new features added to the blog since the last post.  
  • You can post a comment on each individual post or I have added a General Comments tab at the top of the page for comments not specifically related to an individual post.  
  • You can "like" the blog's facebook page, submit to Stumbleupon or submit to digg - all on the right-hand side of the page.  
Take advantage of these links to share the blog with others.  Thanks!

If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

If you recently submitted questions, please know I am composing blog posts in response and they will be published soon.  Thank you for your patience!

August 10, 2010

What is your best advice for someone living with PTSD that does not want to take anti-anxiety and anti-depressant prescription drugs?

I have to preface this response by reiterating that I am not a professional and that I believe anyone living with PTSD should seek out some level of professional help.

That being said, I'm going to take a stab at providing a helpful answer to your question.

There is not a blanket answer to this question because everyone is different, everyone responds to trauma in a different way and everyone responds to triggers in a different way.  PTSD is very multi-faceted and multi-dimensional and so are individual people so no two cases are going to be alike.  Additionally, everyone responds to medication in a different way.

The decision about whether or not medication is a good idea for a person living with PTSD absolutely needs to be made with the help of a professional.  I know there is a stigma about taking these types of medications and I believe that stigma probably prevents many people living with PTSD from getting help when they need it. 

Here are some points for you and your friend or loved one living with PTSD to know about medication.
  • Medication can be helpful in maintaining stability and functionality.
  • Taking medication does not have to be a long-term thing - the severity of PTSD tends to fluctuate and therefore it is difficult to predict how long medication will be necessary - it could be short-term, it could be long-term, it could be back-and-forth.
  • Finding the right medication or combination of medication can be a trial and error process - it is important for your friend or loved one living with PTSD to be honest and communicate what is working and what is not working and what side effects they are experiencing to their doctor.
  • If the cost of medication is a concern, there are usually generic options, or some doctors have samples, or some drug companies have programs to help, so explore options before ruling medication out for financial reasons. 

    What can you do to help your friend or loved one decide about taking medication?
    • Talk to your friend or loved one about their level of functionality.  What are their goals in healing from PTSD?  Do they want and/or need to be more stable?  More functional?
    • Offer to help them search for a good psychiatrist.  They can get a referral from their family physician, from a counselor, from a social service agency, from a church or you can do an online search for practitioners in their area.
    • Offer to go with them to their appointment.  You do not necessarily need to go into the office with them but sometimes just having moral support in the waiting room is helpful.  You can offer this, but then be respectful of your friend or loved one's choice.  Do not push this if they say they would like to go on their own.
    • Talk with them about what possible side effects of the medications are and how you and your friend or loved one will respond if they do occur.  This will reduce tension and surprise on both ends if the side effects do occur.

      The points listed above are not all-encompassing.  There are multiple factors to consider and each individual case is going to be different.  As I said in the beginning, this is a decision that needs to be made with the help of a professional.  They can evaluate all the factors and help your friend or loved one decide if medication is the right option for them.

      It is important for friends and loved ones of those living with PTSD to understand that this is a very difficult situation to be in.  PTSD was caused by a traumatic event that was out of our control and our minds and bodies react to PTSD in ways that are out of our control.  It is our human nature to try to gain that control back somehow and having to take medication makes things feel more out of control too.  It's a scary place to be and on top of that most of the world looks down on people who have to be on medication.  This is a sad but true state of the world.  

      Be kind, listen well and be respectful of your friend or loved one's decisions (the exception being if you think their life is in danger).

      If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

      August 5, 2010

      Why do things sometimes suddenly go from good to really bad for my friend or loved one?

      You may or may not have heard your friend or loved one talk about triggers. Triggers are usually the reason for things going from good to really bad so suddenly.

      Remember Big Red gum? Remember Lemonheads? Just the smell would make your mouth water and you could taste it in your mouth even without eating any. I bet you can probably taste it just from reading this, can't you? Your body is involuntarily reacting to this trigger, the smell of or even just the mention of Big Red gum or Lemonheads.

      Did your grandma bake a lot? Maybe the smell of apple pie brings back good memories for you. That smell automatically takes you to a place rich with memories.

      You probably don't realize it, because they are innocent enough, but these triggers cause involuntary reactions in your body and in your mind leaving you in a certain place for some period of time. The examples above are usually pleasant triggers and therefore we either don't realize or we don't mind being in this place where our body and mind are reacting involuntarily.

      For a person living with PTSD though, the triggers usually have a negative connotation attached. Instead of smells producing pleasant tastes or causing the recall of happy memories, these triggers cause unpleasant involuntary reactions. These triggers usually leave the person with PTSD trapped in a very bad place. A lot of times they are experiencing panic attacks and/or flashbacks before they even know what is happening to them. This is an extremely scary place for us to be trapped and while we are usually aware of the trigger, there are times in which we are not consciously aware of what the trigger was.  This causes a feeling of being very out of control of our lives.

      I always describe it as being as quick as the flip of a light switch.  All of a sudden, you find yourself in a very dark room and can't find the way out.  Most likely some kind of injury will occur in the midst of stumbling in the dark trying to find a way out.  It is a scary and defeating place.

      A good topic of conversation for you and your friend or loved one might be about what you could do that would help him/her have an easier time finding the way our of that dark room.  There may not be a quick answer to this question and it may require lots of trial and error but maybe, possibly there could be some benefit and healing from the process.

      If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

      July 28, 2010

      Why can't my friend or loved one understand, accept or believe it when I tell him/her that I love or care about him/her?

      "I tell Julie all the time that I care about her and I love her but she never accepts it and never believes me."
      "I am always telling Jim how important he is to me and to our family, but he just doesn't listen."

      These are a couple of quotes that I believe accurately represent the frustrations experienced by the friends and loved ones of those living with PTSD.  I have had several conversations around this topic with a friend of mine and I think it is still frustrating for her as well as for me.  I was talking with a person who has a friend living with PTSD.  What she shared with me during our conversation was very similar to the second quote above.  PTSD is initiated by some traumatic event in our lives and when that happens some level of darkness invades the inner being of that person.  It's not so much that we don't listen, or we don't understand, or we don't accept it, or we don't believe the person expressing their love and care for us, but the reality in our world is that the darkness is all-consuming inside of us.  So much so that we don't have any place inside of us to deposit that love and care that friends and loved ones are expressing to us.

      A little bit of an odd visual picture for you to try to illustrate the differences between the two worlds of living with PTSD and living without PTSD. 

      Jodie and Sally are two close friends.  They are both living without PTSD.  Jodie tells Sally that she has been a really important friend to her and how much she values the friendship they have had over the years.  Picture Sally's brain having a filing cabinet inside it.  She takes this expression of love and care from her friend, Jodie, and it has a special place in a file inserted inside this filing cabinet in her brain.  The filing cabinet has a vein running from it to Sally's heart.  These files inside the cabinet, full of love and care she has received, are pumping lifeblood to her heart and she is therefore allowed to fully absorb that her friends and loved ones care about and love her. 

      Eric grew up in a home where he was constantly berated, yelled at and always punished for things he had not done.  He suffered severe verbal abuse and some physical abuse, but all this took place behind closed doors.  His family was upper middle class, religious and respected in the community.  Everyone who knew his parents would always tell him he was so lucky to have such loving and kind parents.  Obviously this scenario proved to be very confusing for Eric.  He has no concept of what it really means for someone to care about him or love him.  His filing cabinet has been laced with a poison that finds its way into all the files he inserts into it.  Instead of a lifeblood flowing out of the cabinet to his heart, it is instead a poison.

      Andy is a war veteran who fought on the front lines and came literally face-to-face with the horrors of combat.  Holly was violently gang raped one night.  Marlee witnessed horrific criminal acts as a young child, things no child should ever have to see.  In all three of these cases, which resulted in severe forms of PTSD, their filing cabinets either disintegrated or exploded and no longer exist.  There is no place for them to deposit the files of love and care they receive from their friends and loved ones.

      For all of these people living with PTSD, the all-consuming darkness has done something to destroy or overtake their filing cabinet and they are left with no way to fully absorb the love and care they receive from their friends and loved ones.  It's important to pay attention to the words here, we do receive the love and care that are expressed to us, but there is no place for us to store it.  With no place to put it, it eventually gets thrown away no matter how desperately we want to hang on to it. 

      It is a very frustrating process for those living with PTSD to not have a way to accept the love and care they so desperately need and want to hang on to.  And we can see how frustrating it is for our friends and loved ones when they feel like we don't believe them or they think we just aren't listening.  This in turn adds extra frustration for us, often leaving us feeling as if things would be simpler for everyone if we just didn't exist.

      I am wanting to believe that the destroyed or dysfunctional filing cabinets in our brains can somehow be restored and hoping that one day we will experience that lifeblood of being able to fully accept the love and care from our friends and loved ones.  This probably happens in small steps though.

      If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

      July 21, 2010

      What is PTSD?

      I am guessing if you found your way to this blog or if someone told you about this blog, it is because you have a friend or loved one who is living with PTSD.  So, you most likely already know what PTSD is.  I am not seeking to explain what PTSD is in this blog.  This blog is intended to help friends and loved ones get a better understanding of what life is like for the person living with PTSD.  If you are wanting or needing to find out more information about what PTSD is, you will find a plethora of information upon doing an internet search for PTSD.

      That being said, I do want to give a brief definition and talk a little about the effect it has on a person’s life.
      PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event.  Unfortunately for the person living with PTSD, their normal reaction will often look abnormal to the rest of the world.  This disparity in perspectives increases the lack of understanding between those living with PTSD and those living without PTSD.  This in turn makes the world of the person living with PTSD smaller, scarier and lonelier.

      Here’s an example to maybe help put it in perspective.  When a baby (who is wanted and expected) is born, there is always great joy.  Almost everyone around the world has experienced this in some way and the normal reaction to a new baby is happiness and joy and excitement.  We all know how the normal reaction and how to express our joy, whether it be hugs, kisses, congratulations, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, or even those cheesy little fake cigars.  No one will question you about why you reacted with happiness and joy or why you bought gifts for the baby or why you congratulated the new parents.

      When someone experiences a traumatic, abnormal event, it is the normal reaction for that person to experience some range of the symptoms associated with PTSD.  In this case though, everyone questions the person.  Why are you scared?  Why are you depressed?  Why do you have panic attacks?  Why don’t you want to be around people?  Why don’t you want to do the things we used to do? And on and on…  All this questioning can definitely make a person feel like they are not reacting normally.  I’m sure that most times, the questions are asked with good intent by someone who cares and just wants to understand better but the questioning is usually counterproductive, regardless of the motive.  Usually the person with PTSD does not understand what the answers are to these questions either or  they may not know how to express their answers in a way that makes sense.

      So, in both cases there is a normal reaction.  In the first case, the world understands and expects the normal reaction.  In the second case though, the world does not understand the normal reaction and often expects something quite different.  This disparity usually only serves to alienate and isolate the person living with PTSD, making them feel like they are alone in this world even when they are surrounded by people.

      If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.

      July 20, 2010

      How will reading a blog from a stranger help me communicate with my loved one or friend?

      People living with PTSD have a hard time communicating with others about issues related to their PTSD.  I am hoping that sharing my experience and thoughts on living with PTSD will help friends and loved ones be able to approach conversations with a better understanding of what it is like to live with PTSD.  This has the potential to put the person living with PTSD more at ease or give them better tools to communicate about what living in their world is like.

      I often think in some kind of visual analogy so you will see a lot of those in this blog.

      Think of trying to start a fire without a match or flint.  If you have ever watched the beginning episodes of a season of Survivor, you know this is very difficult, tiring and frustrating.  Often this is what it is like for a person with PTSD to talk about issue related to their PTSD.  The words won’t come out or they don’t have the right words to communicate what they are trying to say accurately.  This is very frustrating for the person living with PTSD. Often this also frustrates you because you do not understand why this person you love or care about has such a hard time just explaining their feelings or experiences to you.  This in turn adds double frustration to the person with PTSD because they are now also frustrated because you are frustrated.  Everyone is experiencing normal emotions but unfortunately these emotions may lead to a breakdown in communication with one side or the other giving up in frustration.

      When you read something in this blog and then say to your friend or loved one, “Hey, I read this about PTSD. Is this the way you are feeling?” or “Is this what it is like for you?”  It may not seem like much but it could be the equivalent of handing a match or flint to someone who is trying to start a fire.  It may spark a conversation, resulting in some real and honest communication.

      It may help open a door that has been locked shut or it may penetrate a hole in a wall that has existed for years.  It may not look like much to you but this is a huge move forward for the person with PTSD.

      Listen well to your friend or loved one.  Let them explain and then repeat back what you heard to give them a chance to verify that things were communicated accurately or give them a chance to try to explain again in a different way.  This is a very important step in good communication.  It is vital to closing that gap of lack of understanding between a person with PTSD and a person without PTSD.

      If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.