First of all, everyone is different and has their own unique experiences with PTSD. There is no ‘formula’ for how you may feel, or the intensity of symptoms you experience. Some people may experience some symptoms which are problematic, while others may have different symptoms which are problematic.
What follows is how one person coped with some of the debilitating symptoms of PTSD. In a way, it is a formula for taking the edge of some of the nasty stuff.
DO NOT TRY TO TAKE ON TOO MUCH! Just approach one thing at a time. PTSD has many symptoms which can be debilitating. Try to pick one at a time and take things in small stages. Trying to handle too much at the same time does not help.
1: Understanding the symptom.
The first thing to do is understand what happens to you and why. Ask professionals and do your own research from reliable sources about the symptom.
Understand something about what happens to your body when the symptom is triggered. For example, if you experience panic attacks, why do they happen? – what is the physical process which makes you feel so awful? – how can the physical reactions be controlled?
When you have information about why the symptom happens, then you have something to work with
2: Understand yourself.
When you have information about why a symptom happens, compare this to how you feel and how the symptom is triggered in your life. How does it start? – how does your body react? – what are you thinking? You may be surprised at the similarities.
3: Think of a plan.
When you know why something happens and the real effect it has on you, you are in a position to develop a coping plan.
Emphasis is on ONE THING AT A TIME! Don’t try to rush it!
A common reaction to many symptoms is to try and ‘get away’ from them. Perfectly natural. But you can not do that if you want to control them and reduce their impact on your life.
For example, if a symptom occurs and the trigger is being in a public place, you need to develop an awareness of what the REAL situation is rather than what you THINK it is. So, imagine the scenario in an objective way. Is there a REA L threat to you? Are people REALLY interested in you? Are people REALLY bothered if you are there or not? You HAVE as much right as anyone else to be there!
Another example may be flashbacks. Perhaps your reaction is to get away from them – forget them. But you know what they are so you can do something about them. They are pictures in your mind – they are NOT the REAL situation you are in. So instead of trying to shy away from them, what would happen if you looked at them from an objective viewpoint? Really looked at them? Rationalised why they are happening? Perhaps understanding that a picture is only a picture and can not harm you.
Whatever plan you develop for a symptom is flexible. You can change it to suit you at any time. The important thing is to have a plan in the first place.
On thing of note is that you may not be able to make the symptom go away forever. It may still be present in some form for a very long time. You will need to accept this, but your attitude to it is the key. If the symptom happens, try not to get stressed – just let it pass then carry on.
4: Using the plan.
It is important that you realise that things take time and persistence. There is no ‘magic. With a plan you are informed and ready.
The first few times you use your plan you may find it extremely difficult, and it may be disturbing. STOP! DO NOT force yourself.
Try it again, and again – small steps. Also, you may have ups and downs. One time your plan may work and a few tries later it becomes very disturbing or difficult. That is OK. Just keep trying it.
If your plan doesn’t work at all, reassess the information you have and think of another plan – KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Not everything works for everybody all the time. The important thing is to think about the things that you need to do and how to overcome symptoms that stop you doing them.
We could go in-depth, but the important thing is you understand the general principle.
The author of this piece had a major problem being in public places which resulted in extreme panic attacks. They developed a plan based on understanding the process of a panic attack. They took a few steps at a time into a town centre using the objective knowledge of what was really happening and the people around them. It worked and has been applied to other areas such as flashbacks, suicidal thoughts and other aspects of PTSD.
Whatever you choose to do make it your own! Only you know what and how things affect you. With a little research, objective thinking, planning and implementation your life can become far less complicated over time.