June is PTSD Awareness month. As someone who has battled this awful mental health condition, I first thought it was important to say: #SameHere, I’ve been through some challenges in life too, and they’ve affected my mental health. I’m with the rest of you. While PTSD can affect literally anyone, it’s important we salute our brave men and women who are more susceptible to this condition, because of the atrocities they witness first hand. Thank you sincerely for your service.
I also thought it was important to share the notes below. A good friend, and fellow advocate, Steven Ratson @stevenratson (on twitter) asked if I would serve as a “Crusader” in a program he is building around the concept of “Couragegrams.” He is compiling a database of encouraging notes, written from the perspective of people who have battled various mental health conditions, related to what they would want to hear from friends/family/caregivers. Below are the 10 notes he asked me to share. If you’ve battled any of your own mental health conditions and would like to discuss being a Crusader, please reach out to Steven on twitter!
I hope these 10 provide comfort to those currently “in the fight,” and tools for those caregivers looking to help:
1) I’m sure its frustrating that others can’t clearly SEE what you are battling against each day, but please take comfort in knowing that I recognize that your battle is very real. You are so strong for fighting as hard as you are and I’m here in your corner for the duration of the fight.
2) Just like you can rehab and heal from physical injuries to your body, with PTSD, all the research shows you can rehab your mental health from the past “stresses and traumas” that have caused you to feel this way now. It’s going to take some work, and a routine, but you WILL get through this and will heal, just like you’ve healed from physical injuries in the past.
3) I believe you that there are times and even days when getting out of bed feels impossible. The good news is, there are healing practices you can do even from your bed on those days, and I’m happy to sit or even lay with you to do those practices alongside you. In time, after doing those practices, it will be easier to get out of that bed and participate in the activities you have traditionally loved.
4) We all experience life differently, and through different lenses. What’s been easy for others to witness, may have been harder for you to see and even comprehend. That’s OK. We all face stresses and traumas in our lives. To an extent we are all affected by them. I know that some of your stresses and traumas affected you more, and I know you can’t just “not think about them.” But, we will work with practitioners to help you reprocess those experiences so you feel better about them and so that they don’t maintain the same hold on you.
5) You did NOT choose to witness or live through these stresses and traumas. We each have our own unique life paths and I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with more difficult things than others may have. But nothing you feel now, from these experiences in the past, is your fault. You were just there – a victim, and there is nothing anyone blames you for and especially nothing you should blame yourself for.
6) I know it may feel like cognitively you’re so removed from how clearly you were able to process things in the past. But the beautiful thing about our brains and central nervous systems is that we have something called neuroplasticity. Our brains continue to make new connections and repair themselves. You will be able to get back to your full level of cognitive functioning and even remember the happier times, again. There has been no permanent damage that can’t be “undone” so please stop worrying about being “damaged beyond repair,” it’s just not true.
7) If you are upset as to how long it is taking for you to heal from this, please think about the perspective you are gaining. What was “easy” for you to do in the past, may feel difficult right now. But, as you gain back your abilities for the “small things,” those small things will feel like beautiful miracles. What you may feel like you are losing in time now as you battle, you will gain back in greater appreciation of each moment of the day, down the road. Your life will feel even more meaningful when that happens.
8) The more you try to think about your past and figure it all out in your own head, the more these negative feelings will stay there. Please open up about what you are feeling, or have felt, so that it no longer swirls around in your head and takes up space. We don’t need to focus on it, but at least share it openly with me or your doctor as a starting point. These thoughts are like air taking up space in a balloon. You need to let out some of that air so your balloon doesn’t feel so bloated and full.
9) Something as simple as focusing on your breath, when you are feeling your worst, can be very soothing, and help take your mind off what may be bothering you. Concentrating on your breath actually has healing properties. It can be as simple as counting your breaths in and out to take your mind off of whatever else may have been bothering you.
10) Progress back to health from PTSD is not linear – for anyone. You may have three days where you feel better, even lighter, followed by two days that feel like you are taking major steps back. Just know, that as you heal, you are going in the overall right direction. The more you obsess about the few down days, the longer they will last. Accept them as part of the process, let them come and go, and look forward to when that next “better” day comes around…because it will.