“I do not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” That’s not a denial or defensive statement, it’s just a fact. I was lucky enough that my years in service, while by no means easy, did not include any trauma worse than the aftermath of a few undercooked Afghan meals. And those effects were blessedly short-lived. That said, as a veteran, I’m no stranger to PTSD.
While its sufferers come from all walks of life, we who served, are serving, or have the privilege of caring about someone who served/serves know all too well that PTSD affects our community deeply and inescapably. Between decades of uninterrupted war, the inherent dangers of training for high-risk scenarios, the pervasive rise in sexual assault, and the myriad other hazards and stresses of service we have surely all dealt with PTSD in ourselves, our friends, coworkers, or families.
June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day. In honor of that, I’d like to share some pointers for those afflicted with PTSD or caring for someone who is.
- PTSD is, as the name implies, a variety of recurring emotional stress. And the tried and true methods of dealing with stress (exercise, meditation, regular sleep, a healthy diet, etc) will usually mitigate PTSD in the short term as well.
- Look to the future. Having things to look forward to can alleviate the sense of hopelessness that accompanies PTSD. Plan some positive goals for yourself and/or your loved one. A trip to take, a book to read, a movie to see, or even bigger picture stuff like a degree, a job, a home, or a family. Create a potential future worth building towards.
- Patience. If you’re dealing with PTSD, be patient with yourself. It’s not a problem with a quick fix. If your loved one has PTSD, be patient with them. Don’t pressure them and don’t take their symptoms personally. Patience breeds calm.
- Learn the triggers. What sounds, sights, smells, dates, etc are most likely to set off a flashback or panic attack in you or your loved one? Knowing what they are can help you anticipate and deal with the consequences as quickly and calmly as possible.
- Last, and most important: seek help. People need professional assistance to confront and manage PTSD in the long run. There are many wonderful programs, organizations, and charities out there staffed by people who want nothing more than to help you get better.
There’s no universal right way to deal with PTSD. Each person’s battle to live a normal, happy life will be different. But all such battles are winnable and I, your fellow veteran who inadvertently ate almost-raw goat twice in one month, wish all of you the best of luck in winning yours. I won’t wish anyone a “happy PTSD Awareness Day” because that is an absurd sentiment. But I do wish you all a fully-aware PTSD Awareness Day, despite its redundancy. Be aware, be helpful, be kind, and be there for those who need your support.