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Sharing strategies to help with PTSD

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

One of my biggest learnings has been - PTSD is not like a broken arm. When you break your arm, it mends. PTSD is with you for life. It took me ages to recognise that I'd been triggered. Some of the simplest things - like going to the shopping centre at the beginning of winter and seeing the multi-colour shirts - red, blue, black squares. The hardest part for me is identifying the trigger because the pacing heart, the sweats, the panic, the fear doesn't happen immediately. It happens after I walk out of the shopping centre.For the first few years after being diagnosed with PTSD I was hell bent on identifying the trigger. Now - I don't worry. I simple accept I'm triggered - do my breathing, relaxation to beautiful music, write down my feelings and emotions, talk with my husband. Let him know I've been triggered. Most times my cats won't come near me while I'm working through a 'phase', but they certainly know when I've come out the other side. They come and give me lots of comfort and love. The down side of how I manage is to drink alcohol - to stop the feelings and emotions. It doesn't work, but it helps go to sleep. I'm not recommending drinking as a strategy!!

I have had 2 excellent psychologists that helped me. It's important to find someone other than those close to you to talk to. One was very good at helping me identify what was happening - e.g. being super alert, wanting to save or please people. Recognising these things helped to build better relationships with my work colleagues and my friends. I have conversations in my head - oh, you just want to please because something has frightened you. Then I say - you're okay, you're safe, you can say what you need to.

Basically, the strategy of self talk in a challenging way - I challenge what I'm doing, what I'm thinking. But I also recognise the little girl who screams out when things happen and comfort her. Very important to know she hurts terribly and needs comfort. The comfort she never received as a child.

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Community Member

Wow, fantastic post Pam, I really appreciate you putting those strategies into words.

I remember one of my very first therapists helping me with `mothering' my inner child. She actually made me sit in a different part of the room and speak to her from the perspective of the vulnerable` inner child' , and another part of the room to speak as `the parent'. It was strange but very effective. I realized how mean I was to myself-Critical, perfectionistic, shaming. She helped me learn the importance of kindness, and of being a witness to these different parts of myself. in those early yeas of therapy, and i didn't go often, I think I overcame shame. That was a huge hurdle for me.

And then, I don't know, I stopped trying.I had some difficult relationships with men after that, people not at all interested in healing or psychology. Like you, I easily fall into the `saviour' role, and I let it take over. If its not people, it animals. These days (in my late 40's) I have dozens of birds and animals, various rescues and disabled wildlife that I keep safe and happy. I'm usually finding homes for unwanted pets, and treating this or that illness or broken bone. I don't know why I let it take over. I totally lose myself in it. Maybe that is the point? I'd like to hear what you think about `saving', I would be very grateful to hear your thoughts..

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hiya Bindi, the mothering the inner child therapy helped me (and my inner child) wonderfully. And my therapist did as you indicated got me to sit in different seats with different hats and talk to one another. It worked well and at the very least got me to acknowledge my inner child and the pain she suffered.

You rescuing birds, pets and wildlife is fantastic. My thoughts are this is some very positive in your life. You're wonderful. Someone has to take care of ones that are abused by the more powerful. If you think though it's a little over the top (e.g. obsessive), then maybe limit the number of animals you'll take in. Set yourself some goals for 2018. I'm sure you've wonderful abilities to do this just by the things you've written! I just get the sense you're afraid of the world (people/men) out there. My biggest way to combat that fear is think myself as a 'lion' 'tiger' 'elephant'. What I could do to them.

My need to 'save' people stems from a couple of sources I think. One being my mother was the most negative, sad, stressed and whinging person I knew growing up. OMG, if you looked the wrong way you were in for it - beatings. So I learnt, to read the signs. Being stressed was particular the worst, so when someone around me is stressed, I have to find out what's wrong. I've used various techniques. In my earlier years I was very 'uncouth' and just asked - 'what's wrong', then try to 'fix it'.Of course this didn't go over very well with most. I hadn't realised what I was doing. My therapist helped identify my need to 'make things good' so 'I was okay'. But that's as far as it's gone. My worst experience was in the 90s while going to uni and one woman I got to know had some issues. My technique was not very well received at all and she told me so. That put an end to our friendship. I think from then on i was a bit wary about my 'questioning technique'.

Hi Pam,

Thankyou, I'm so very grateful to have these conversations with you:)

I found what you said about surviving by being very observant and fixing things very insightful. I came from a` walking on eggshells' background too, my mother was violent , moody and unpredictable. A lot of my coping skills revolved around reading body language, being calm, independent, figuring out her emotional needs and meeting them to my best ability.

I sometimes forget to see the ability to manage my mother's difficult nature as a gift, rather than only a response to trauma.

Thank you for supporting my wildlife and pet rescue, what you said made me feel very good. I suppose I'm just a little isolated, and don't normally receive encouragement for what I do. It really feels so nice when someone thinks to praise me; Thank you for that. I also run a business so I have to be wary of how I manage my time.

I was wondering what you meant about being rejected when you tried to fix your friends problems (or encourage them to fix them?) Do people find that rude?

Hi there,

I'm new to these forums, and reading both your posts has made me feel a bit less alone.

I was diagnosed with PTSD a couple of weeks ago, after self medicating with alcohol and drugs for most of my teens and 20s.

I also feel the need to try and 'fix' people's problems, or animals, and get overwhelmed sometimes because I pour a lot of myself into these things, and sometimes it feels like I'm draining myself. It's like a compulsion, I guess, to try and help those suffering and 'make it better'.

I have been trying to support a friend who has been going through a really rough time, and it's been a long time friendship, but have recently realised it's a bit one sided sometimes.

Can you help someone if they don't want to or know how to help themselves?

Anyway, just a few thoughts, thank you for posting your experiences. It's good to hear that I'm not alone.

Hi Emily, Its so nice to meet you, I am glad you are here. It means a lot, finding people who understand. I really hope that talking about it will reduce the burden you carry. I am very impressed by all the different physical activities you do, and your accomplishment of being sober for almost a year. I wish I had your martial arts skills, that's great you learned that!

I haven't put enough thought into `fixing' in recent years, its a compulsion for me as well, and when it comes to wildlife rescue, it almost feels like my vocation. Its brings me purpose and a lot of joy.

But I feel when it comes to helping or saving friends, family, or partners, we are on rocky ground. These are people we need too, to meet some our needs. So if their issues mean they not present for us, then we can suffer.

I feel most comfortable and safe caring for people a little at arms length. I feel the worst situations for me were trying to save `problem partners' who were not able to provide me with what I need, and often brought chaos and pain to my life. So I wasn't really in a strong position to save them, even though they needed help.

Some people I try to be wary about, are the ones who won't help themselves, because having problems gains them attention. I call that `playing the victim' and it can sometimes be a form of extreme selfishness IMO.

Anyway really nice to be talking to you too. I look forward to many discussion,when you have time or the need for it 🙂

Hi Emily

Welcome to Beyond Blue. Must admit, I'm very new to BB myself, so learning from everyone.

About helping friends - I think I used to automatically do that because I'm a problem solver by nature. Give me a problem which is what friends often share, I looked at it logically and what were the logical things to do. I learnt however, through counselling that people sometimes just want to ventilate. I did have one friend, a beautiful person, though very troubled, who always ventilated, always wanted me to listen. Which of course I did. However, this began to drain me terribly. And while that person was my mentor and motivator to go to uni, I've found I've had to let her go. It was just too draining and she didn't really want me to fix her problems. Had I realised that then perhaps our relationship may have been different and we'd still be friends. So I guess from my experience is people need space to 'just ventilate'. They often know what they need to do, but they have to make the decision to solve their issues. As a friend you can't do it for them. You can be a listening ear, help them to explore their different options, but ultimately they will do what they will do.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hiya Bindi

I too enjoy our conversations! Especially when we have some things in common, like - caring for animals, birds etc.

Yes, that person found my 'fixing' 'rude'. In hindsight, the way I questioned and proposed solutions was rude. I think I've developed much better ways of communicating. Mostly through the counselling I've had over the years and the self reflection I learnt to do through my studying behavioural sciences.

It is great talking with you, Emily, Doolhof.

Hi Pam, Sorry I missed your post, sometimes they seem to take a little bit to show up.

I think I understand what you mean. I wouldn't find your `problem solving' rude at all myself, I would consider you a good friend, but I can see what you mean.

Particularly, I understand how beneficial it was to realise that anxiety can drive the need to solve other people's problems. Perhaps some people feel pressured by that, or perhaps they worry we need them to be perfect to be our friend, which also creates pressure? I usually don't have a problem with it, but like you said, perhaps good communication is the key to helping people, and seeing venting as valuable too...theres lots of wisdom in what you've learned I think. Thank you!

Community Member

...Just getting back to the topic, of strategies. I've been thinking a little bit about that these past few days.

Sometimes, I just don't know. The feelings surrounding my worst triggers are just so big. They have proven to be so powerful, they caused me a stress breakdown. I can have panic attacks that make me fade out, feel like I'm about to faint, or actually faint. And even then, I'm still not really feeling, just reacting to stress.

I like crying at movies or reading a book, perhaps you could call it `grieving indirectly'. Maybe that gets the grief out in little ways I can handle. Things like relationship breakups and crisis can get me crying. And of course I've cried a world of private tears as a wildlife rescuer, when some beautiful creature loses the battle for life.

The last person I saw said I should talk about it more. Truthfully, I'd rather laugh about it, make a joke of it, not think about it. But maybe I have to have a balance.

What about you, do you talk about it much?