Tag Archives: ptsd

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?

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Help: I need somebody.


Needing people is horrible.

Wouldn’t it be nicer if we didn’t? I’d love to occupy that sacred space of the successfully neuro-typical. I think few of us actually breeze through life without depending on somebody sometime, but I reckon you’re a bit closer to that breezy feeling without a brain that doesn’t work the way everyone says it is supposed to.

I’ve had a really rough week at work. I’ve a history of abuse from a couple of sources, which has left me with a bit of the ol’ PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). While it seems like I have the things trendy to have, these days – bipolar, ptsd, anxiety disorder – they’re still really real. Most of the time, I can ignore them.

But not this week. I’ve been dealing with some gross chronic pain stuff and I’ve had a lot of triggers (things that cause my body to react and often ‘remember’ and ‘relive’ the feelings felt both physically and emotionally when experiencing abuse). The result has been panic attacks and a very strong fight or flight response. When you’ve got a line of customers banking up 20 strong, that’s not ideal. There’s no time for it. Having a full blown anxiety attack while smiling through gritted teeth and asking “cheque or credit?” is some kind of perverse exercise in will.

I get to a point when I’m having a rough week where I feel like pretty soon I’ll fail to cope. That’s when I start to feel like I need to ask for help. I reckon chucking up in the staff loo while having a good ol’ sob is a decent indication that I might need some gentle words and support.

But when you’re having a rough week, how do you ask for that aid? I often find it difficult to ask people to give me a little leeway when I’m not in the best space, and I don’t know quite how to go about asking for some kind words and a little love without seeming needy or weak, or feeling needy and weak. I usually write about it in places like this, obscurely, in some effort to turn my discomfort into a useful tool. But I am very ashamed of my sadnesses. Deeply. I feel like my fright and mental hand wringing lessens me, and asking for comfort is asking for indulgence.

I guess the problem too with all this mental health stuff is – in the end, everyone goes away, and you have to somehow find a way to feel ok alone in your bed, with no help. All the rest is trimming.

I guess the trimming just makes the bedtime easier though. That’s not such a bad thing is it? Lord knows, the bedtime is hard enough. If we have to be left to the silent halls of our heads, let the last sounds be the words of a loving friend, not the pitch and fall of a shrieking problem.


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