Updated: Mar 10
What are the main causes and symptoms of PTSD and coping mechanisms you can use on a daily basis?
Hi friends and welcome back to Riding the Wave <3
Hey guys! How are you doing?
I have been meh, like not good and not bad just straight up meh. I think that is just because I have been feeling burnt out recently, I tend to get like that when I have a lot going on but it is what it is.blog post about being burnt out
( side note here is my last blog post about feeling burnt out if you want to check that out )
So yeah, I have been taking a bit of time to re-charge my batteries and now I feel like I am ready to get back into it!
My post this week is something I can find difficult to talk about but I’m going to be a bit vulnerable with you all and talk about my experience being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Let’s get cracking!
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
I am going to tell you about the day I was diagnosed with PTSD, it was a little over two years ago now and, after waiting six months for an appointment with the mental health team in my area, the day of my appointment finally arrived! I was super anxious, so one of my closest friends came with me to my appointment and waiting outside whilst I went in to see the therapist.
The appointment was just your standard getting to know you and what you’ve been through type thing. So, we went through all the standard questions and back story stuff, then this lovely lady that I had been opening up to for an hour completely floored me by telling me that I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
At first, I was confused because I thought that PTSD was something that happened to people who have been in a war and I was shocked that a therapist that had known me for one hour was giving me this diagnosis, but then I learnt more about what can cause PTSD.
What causes PTSD?
Any traumatic situation can cause a person PTSD, for example
- An accident of any kind
- Health issues or surgery
- A stressful past relationship
- Abuse of any type
- A state of war
- An unfavourable work environment or deployment to a stressful place.
So, after I came out of that appointment I was in bits, my friend could see straight away that I was on the verge of ugly crying right in the middle of the waiting room and she took me outside for a cigarette and I just lost it.
I was feeling such a mixture of emotions because I had it in my head that they were going to tell me something completely different. I was shocked and confused but also a little bit relieved because finally, I had the answer to so many questions about what was wrong with me.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
The symptoms of PTSD are;
- Being easily startled.
- Thinking negatively most of the time.
- Lack of trust.
- Fear of recurrence of the traumatic event.
- Experiencing flashbacks.
- Lack of concentration.
- Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns.
- Substance use or drug abuse.
- A sense of guilt.
- Unexplained aggression.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Loss of hope in everything.
- Avoiding people, places, conversations or activities that might remind the person of the incident in even the slightest way.
- Always in a defensive mode to guard oneself.
So, whilst I was outside balling my eyes out like a baby, an older woman came up to us having heard me telling my friend what the therapist had said and she was so sweet, bless her. She told me that she also has PTSD and that every day she looks in her mirror and tells herself that she is safe and loved and that she is going to be okay and that I should try it.
After chatting with me for a while and helping to calm me down, she told me that I am strong and that I can get through this and I will be okay and bless her I don’t think she knew how much I needed to hear that at that moment.
Coping with PTSD.
Coping with any mental health disorder is never easy. What works for me, may not work for you, but here are a few coping mechanisms that I have been recommended to try and a few of my own mixed in.
Breathing techniques – Breathing techniques can be extremely helpful when dealing with any form of anxiety, not just PTSD. The act of focusing on one’s breathing will help to distract you from any feelings of fear and panic that you may be having. Whether it is from a flashback or anxiety or anything else, try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding it for 3, then out for 5, repeat this a few times and hopefully you will feel a lot calmer.
Telling yourself that you are safe – I know that this one is pretty self-explanatory but when that lovely lady told me that she gives herself a pep talk every day in her mirror just to remind herself that she is safe and loved, I tried it and you know what it really did help. I mean now I will talk to myself like I’m narrating my life like I’m in a 90s chick flick but it works!
Journal – I started bullet journalling during the first lockdown and it made a massive difference on my mental health. Not only is bullet journaling a hobby you can do by yourself, but it is also fun and creative and you can make it look super colourful. It also helped me track my moods and open up about how I was feeling each day, which was a weight off my shoulders.
Grounding techniques – Grounding techniques were the first things that I was introduced to after I was diagnosed. They are a bunch of different techniques that you can use when you’re experiencing flashbacks or intrusive thoughts and need to be reminded of the present. For example, one that I was encouraged to use was carrying an object with me at all times that reminds me of the present and that I am safe, like a keyring or piece of jewellery. Another good one is, connecting a positive memory or thought to an essential oil that you can carry with you, so when you are experiencing a flashback or intrusive thought you can smell it and it will bring you back into the present. Here are some more you can use – https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques
Self-soothing – I self soothe a lot, in fact, I am guilty of self-soothing probably when I don’t need to. Sometimes I need to feel a little bit of comfort. Sometimes the best that you can do is to just be, and in those moments try watching your favourite childhood film or curling up under a heavy blanket. Having a self-care routine is also very helpful! Your inner child needs to heal and be taken care of, making time for yourself is really important!
Make a bad day box – A bad day box is something I will make for myself ready for the bad days. What I do is take a shoebox (you can decorate it if you’d like), and I fill it with things that will be soothing for them days where I feel like I am swimming against the tide. In mine, I will put some face masks, my favourite chocolate bar, a teabag, a letter that I have written to myself, some fluffy socks and whatever I feel I may need on a bad day. I keep that in a safe place, ready for when I need it.
Okay, so these are the self-help techniques that I use to help me to cope with my PTSD, but they are not a fix. If you are struggling it is so important to seek professional help, there is treatment available for PTSD. Please do reach out if you need to! https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/treatment/
Having PTSD is not easy and I know that I find it very difficult and I am still learning how to cope with it. So if you are reading this and like me you are struggling.
You are not alone! Sometimes all you can do is keep your head above water and that is okay.
Keep going, you got this!
My email is email@example.com if anyone needs to talk, I am always here <3
Dear future em,
I think that you are doing amazing! I know that you are really burnt-out and stressed but we do have a lot on our plate right now and a lot of exciting things happening.
Right now the future looks a lot brighter than what it did a few weeks ago lol.
Keep up the hard work and remember to always be kind, to others and yourself!
Love past em x