PTSD: a biased survival guide

Life goes on with valleys and peaks after trauma. You don’t completely stop, nor do you completely continue. Your timeline is not what it would have been, though, and your day is not what it would have been.

If you’re lucky enough to have good weeks, or days, or maybe even months (though I do not), you can be almost lulled into believing you are ok. Not fine, but ok.

And then there is the flare. The flare happens because PTSD has a steady pilot light. It waits, and then seemingly randomly, it is the all consuming bed of heat and light and terror it was in the start. The severity is the same, and you go back to square one. So it feels. Therapists assure you it diminishes over time but in your bones you know that’s bullshit.

The helplessness in the face of this apparent permanence is deeply felt. Will my life always be this waiting between painful, clamouring, fear filled eruptions?

To survive you need an emergency kit. What is difficult is that a lot of people with PTSD often lack the elements of a good emergency kit because their symptoms make them seem far away, prickly, acutely unwell. Humans by nature seem to fear the panic and discord of others, so even though you most need them, they go away. PTSD often stops you from working, so having access to therapy and access to medication, meditation, alternative therapies, yoga, whatever will help and heal you becomes more difficult and sometimes impossible to afford.

So I acknowledge that I have some privilege in what I can access, and that privilege underscores what appears on my PTSD survival kit list. Forgive that. This is what I use or try to use, or need when I am not well. These are the things I use, and I also acknowledge that not all of them are healthy.

I want to write this down for friends and family so they know what they can provide, for times when I can’t really say what I need:

– one safe place (usually my bedroom, sometimes the whole house)
– being hugged after being asked “can I hug you?”
– text communication in preference of phone calls
– at least one person outside of my partner I can call almost anytime and I know they’ll pick up their phone
– having meals cooked for me or brought over
– a quiet beer
– non judgement when I blather on about feeeeeelings
– saying things like “that sounds so hard” and “how awful” but avoiding telling me how I feel
– avoiding trivialising statements saying how I should be coping like “you just need to get on with it”
– avoiding reminding me of the consequences of my illness (“you can’t really afford more time off” “the house is messy” etc) but instead saying supportive stuff like “we’ll find a way” “we can always find a solution” even if you don’t believe it
– understanding when I don’t have energy to clean/go out to dinner/see you/be happy and animated in your presence
– helping get to and from places I need to go with lifts, cabs, walking escorts
-non judgement of temporary negative behaviours like drinking or self harm, but keeping an eye on them if they persist.
– surprises that make me feel loved even in times that I feel unloveable

This is what helps me.

What helps you?


About laketothelight

Feminist. Tea drinker. Cat snuggler. Canadian marryer. Queer. Fat. Lover of movement. View all posts by laketothelight

One response to “PTSD: a biased survival guide

  • Peter Langston

    Time … and permission to still hurt, years later. It never goes away but it fades so far into the background that it doesn’t interfere often and when it does, I can know with assurance it will go away again.

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