PTSD Awareness

PTSD Awareness

By: Sarah Reno Baker

“Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again… we are survivors. If you are here today… you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing?  We bare a different name: warriors.” ~Lori Goodwin
What people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD) need are love, compassion, understanding, and patience. They do not want pity or to be deemed unfit in society.
National PTSD Awareness Day is June 27th and June is PTSD Awareness month. The national awareness day was designated by the United States Senate to bring greater awareness to the issue of PTSD as the awareness month was designated by the National Center for PTSD.
A mental health problem, PTSD may occur after an individual has been exposed to a single or multiple traumatic events. According to the National Institutes of Health risk factors that increase a person’s risk for PTSD are, getting hurt, exposure to another individual being hurt, or seeing a dead body. Other factors can include living through traumas and dangerous events, childhood trauma, or feelings of helplessness. The lack of support after a traumatic event can further increase the risk of PTSD. Any added stress from pain and injury, the loss of one’s home or job, and the added loss of a loved one can also increase the risk. Understanding PTSD is comprehending that anyone that goes through natural disasters such as an earthquake or tornado, a car wreck, terrorist attack, sexual or physical assault, childhood physical or sexual abuse, and combat exposure all contribute to the risk of PTSD.
I had the opportunity to briefly interview two people with two very different traumatic experiences and am both diagnosed with PTSD. The first interviewee is a veteran of war where many people he was close to lost their lives. The second interviewee was victim of sexual assault in her early pre-teen years. Ironically, both individuals were diagnosed only a short five years ago.  This is their story of how they cope with PTSD:
Initial treatments for both individuals were similar.  The veteran of war was removed from combat, was seen by a therapist, and given antidepressants. Eventually leaving the military and not taking the medicine, the veteran of war had good support. The interviewee expressed that his good network of supporters kept him from going over the deep end.  He tried counseling once again, but felt like he was not going anywhere and stopped. He now has a couple of people he confides in when he needs to express himself and says that is all he needs. He stays busy at work and says that it is a lot easier this way. On days off he keeps busy by participating in martial arts, working out, and hanging with a friends or family.  When those situations are not possible, he keeps his hands and mind busy focusing on projects. He states he has always been a quiet person, but this experience has made him more reserved and less social. He is uncomfortable with crowds and fireworks scare him.  He often feels like he would like to be left alone and in his comfort zone with his close knit friends and family. “There is not a whole lot people can do; you can’t just make those memories go away”. He is uncomfortable with the thought of people knowing he has PTSD; he does not want pity, and does not want to be looked at different.  What this amazing veteran of war says is that all people can do is be understanding.
The second interviewee and victim of sexual assault were treated for her PTSD in the past five years through cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy. She was not treated when the traumatic experience took place, but now recognizes she dealt with other problems. “The physical problems consist of sensitivity sexually, and relationship problems consist of mistrust of men”. Through her more recent therapy sessions she learned healthy ways to address her triggers and fears. This survivor had to address a trigger when her perpetrator was released from prison and lived only a mile away from her current residence. She is a strong advocate for anyone who suffers from PTSD, the stand for awareness, legal rights, resilience, and prevention. “It is a lifelong process to be a victim of violent sexual assault; especially when it occurred at a pre-teen age. I understand that I am a survivor now and not a victim still; however, the emotions of fear, pain, hurt, anger, psychological triggers, nightmares, flashbacks, and fear/anger when seeing my perpetrator; and physical problems and relationship problems are a constant effort to work on.”
Just as every person is unique, what people experience with PTSD is also unique. They are survivors and warriors in their personal story, and I am thankful they felt they could share their stories to bring awareness to others.
If you or someone you know is dealing with PTSD, there are resources available. The following sites have a wealth of information that a person can benefit from:
National Institutes of Health

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

National Center for PTSD

This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.