Half the battle is realizing the fact that your reality is but a sub-reality created by your PTSD, realizing that the way you act and react in many situations isn’t your true self and is in fact rooted in trauma. It kind of throws your whole world upside-down. The more you learn about PTSD, the more you learn about yourself and how your exact reactions and the way you are feeling are the same things your brothers are going through. The other half of the battle after the realization is split up into a few different parts: knowing your triggers, managing your symptoms, and letting your emotions come up to release them. These are helpful hints to be used as general guidelines, I am not trying diagnose or treat anyone. My intention is to spread the knowledge I have acquired through my continual struggles with PTSD, to be the voice heard through the darkness, and also to enlighten those who have friends or family that have come back from war a changed man.
Alright, on to the task at hand, let us see how we can manage those symptoms of yours. The first step of managing your symptoms is awareness; awareness that you have PTSD, awareness of your triggers as well as other triggers that are out there, and awareness of yourself to realize when you are being triggered. If you check out my previous article “Combat PTSD: Triggers” you can get an idea of different triggers that are out there. Once you are aware of the triggers out there you need to ask yourself, what triggers me? How do I respond when X happens? Is it a physical response of my body, or is it a mental response, or both? Being aware of what is triggering you when it is triggering you and knowing how you respond to it allows you to counter-act the trigger in a few different ways.
Number one thing to help yourself in every situation, breathing. It seems too simple and kind of lame, right? It isn’t lame at all, its power lies in its simplicity. The act of deeply breathing in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth is calming on the mind, the intake of more oxygen can have euphoric effects on the brain, and the deep breathing will also slow your most likely elevated heart rate. While you deeply breathe it also allows you time to rationalize your current feelings, it allows you time to figure out how and what triggered you, and it allows you time to realize everything is okay and there is no reason to be upset in any way. Breathing into the emotion you are feeling and releasing it is another essential step. Breathing is a powerful tool and incredibly easy to employ.
Coping is another tool, learning coping mechanisms to counteract your symptoms and triggers. Coping with flashbacks, coping with difficulties sleeping, coping with symptoms at work, etc. I will go into further details with these in later articles.
Reducing avoidance behavior. This is a pretty big one, it is way too easy to become a recluse and shun the world, but this can spiral you downward faster than flushing a turd down the toilet. Stay active! Go places, do things, get out of your house and live life! INTERACT WITH OTHERS AND SOCIALIZE! Stop avoiding everything and go have some fun, you won’t regret it.
These are just a few ways to help manage your symptoms, there are many more. Do some research on your own and learn about how to help yourself, it is both rewarding and empowering. Better yet, talk to a good counselor who you connect with and get some professional advice, having someone to help guide you through your journey of healing is important; sometimes it is easy to get lost and they will help keep you on track.