From war to child abuse. From mass shootings to car crashes. From domestic violence to sex slavery. These are just some examples of the countless traumatic experiences that can cause a person to develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
It’s a complex and compounding disorder that manifests different for everyone.
As someone who has battled PTSD for more than a decade, I have firsthand experience with the common and quite risky “fight-or-flight” response and subsequent adrenaline rush that accompany this severe disorder.
I know better than most how difficult it can be to tackle, manage, and control the symptoms, daily, weekly, yearly.
Knowledge and understanding of the disorder can give any person who suffers from it the capacity to overcome the symptoms, regardless of severity. Absolutely anyone.
To accomplish this, the PTSD sufferer needs a custom-tailored plan of action, a good support system, and a lot of tenacity. You need to find out what works for you.
If you are sick and tired of enduring the frequent unwelcome thoughts, the extreme sense of fear, the flashbacks, and hyperarousal for many years – like me – you will want to move forward in life.
When you find yourself at a point where you no longer want to live in fear or have daily fight-or-flight responses, then it is time to attempt to deal with your PTSD.
Personally, I truly thought I was going to live in a state of imbalance and fear for the rest of my life. My experience with PTSD has been long, painful, and draining, but I never gave up.
My PTSD developed due to severe and prolonged exposure to trauma, which left me terrified from a young age. Most of my life I have focused on trying to take normal breaths and lived with constantly agitated heartbeat and heightened senses.
For years, normal sounds were like sonic booms to my ears. People coming from behind to say hello ended up with broken noses from my unmanaged reactions.
Back then I had zero coping skills and mechanisms.
The adrenaline accumulated in my body, triggering a constant state of hypervigilance and all-around uneasiness and extreme discomfort. I eventually reached a point where I had no more fight in me. I felt empty and trapped in my own body and life, and this lasted for years.
To make matters worse, I surrounded myself with people who didn’t necessarily have my best interest at hand. They simply wanted me to ‘stop being like that.’ Having a solid support system is paramount to help you move forward. You support system doesn’t have to consist of a band of people: one person who cares for you can make all the difference.
When you experience PTSD, your adrenal glands are hyperactivated. The most insignificant stimuli can trigger your “on” button and can set you off.
I firmly believe that everyone can overcome their PTSD, but it is a gradual process that requires lowering your arousal response, and essentially re-wiring your brain.
Recovery from PTSD is not immediate. It’s not as simple as taking a pill to deal with a headache, or another one to make you less anxious. Recovering from PTSD requires that you accept, recognize, and shift your behaviors. Recovering from PTSD can only be done if you learn about and disembowel the disorder, the symptoms, and how they affect you personally.
Learning to retrain your brain can take months or even years because you must drop your level of stimulation to a comfortable, functional, and manageable level.
While recovery from PTSD takes work and effort, it is certainly not impossible.
It requires heaps of courage and self-determination, because you have to question your current consciousness and reality and be willing to face and cage your demons. That requires a good plan of action.
Once you manage to do this, you will no longer allow the fear factor to take over your body. You will be able to recall times in your life where you felt relaxed and maximize on those memories instead of allowing the traumatic memories to affect, even rule your life.
But without retraining your brain, memories become suppressed, and you cannot cope with the symptoms.
Overcoming the Beast
PTSD affects people differently, so there is no specific set of guidelines that everyone can follow to overcome the disorder. But if you remember that your mind and body are stuck in a state of disproportionate stimulation (hyper-drive), then you will learn to slow them down enough to learn coping skills and mechanisms to retrain and re-wire your brain back to a normal state.
In my experience, life stress played a crucial role in the peak of my stimulation, which lasted about 10 years, and took earnest effort for me to control.
If you have PTSD, and you are tired of letting it rule your life, then step up and fight. Start by learning how to lower your adrenaline levels to re-wire your nervous system and cope with everything that PTSD throws at you daily.
After you lower your arousal, you will need to pacify the intrusive memoires of your trauma and take control of your own brain, thoughts, actions, and more importantly, perception of the surrounding world and reaction to it.
Everyone single person affected by PTSD is different. Techniques that work for one person may seem like a total crock of sh*t to others. But if you’re focused on getting better, you will need to expand your horizons, open your mind, and give innovative approaches a chance before assuming they won’t work.
You could stay where you are, with the same things, and do nothing but you will stay stuck in a state of hyperarousal and never live your life to the fullest.
The first step to winning the battle against PTSD is to admit that you have the disorder and accept it. You must refuse to stop living like a victim. This realization and acceptance will have a profound impact on your life. You must accept the trauma endured. Trying to deny, block, or avoid the mess of symptoms PTSD brings won’t lead you to recovery.
Finding the right therapeutic approach to deal with your coexisting issues is perhaps the most crucial step to manage and win against your PTSD.
Talking about your disorder and how it deeply affects you can make all the difference in the world. Some therapeutic approaches may require you to re-visit the traumatic events and learn to accept it, but others don’t. You will have to find the method that best suits your mental needs.
In the beginning, talking about your trauma may seem nearly impossible. You must take the initiative because professional help is crucial for recovery. It is important that you feel comfortable and safe with your therapist. If you don’t, keep searching until you find the right mental health professional for you.
Pacify Your Brain
Therapy will empower you and give you tools to face the intrusive memories of the trauma head on. Regardless of what therapeutic approach you and your therapist decide on for your case, I strongly recommend that anyone suffering from PTSD seeks the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT).
In my professional and personal experience, CBT is the only approach that gives you the necessary tools to effectively retrain and rewire your brain.
If you asked me, your goal with your therapist should be to come up with ways that you can desensitize yourself from the trauma. In a sense, a good therapist should give you’re a guide to help you pacify your brain from the trauma.
Reclaiming Your Brain
Pacifying your brain is just the beginning. After that, you must reclaim your brain. That’s right, you must take control of your brain and reprocess your memories so that they cannot continue to harm your, to fire at you. This is a key component of managing the symptoms associated with PTSD.
To reclaim your brain, you need to change the way you look, feel, and think about your memories. This is the spiral thought process that makes you perceive the surrounding environment as unsafe all the time.
You must look back and understand that whatever happened belongs in the past, it was not your fault, and your present deserves a better chance. If you continue to wallow on the past, instead of using it as a catalyst for change, you are allowing the events to ruin your life.
Seeing your memories from a different standpoint will help you understand that you are still here, and you are strong.
PTSD can make life messy if you don’t have a hang of its symptoms. If you’re in a funk and feel trapped in the same old routine, then a change might be a good idea.
Change is not always easy, especially if you’re an introvert. But getting involved in healthy activities is paramount. Sitting around home, perhaps alone, is not good for your mood and doesn’t help you push your comfort zone.
You need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Restructuring your day to fit in healthier activities is an effective way to start. Perhaps you can take a walk after dinner. Plan to get outdoors as much as possible. If there is anything that can help you control your PTSD symptoms, it’s the great outdoors. There is always something for you to do and it will make you feel better, guaranteed.
PTSD comes with an insurmountable amount of excess stress. Elevated stress levels play a role in your ability to manage your symptoms. Exercising, writing, meditation, or yoga are always good stress and anxiety reduction options. Whatever you can do to calm your fight-or-flight response to a manageable level, then that’s what you do.
Give it Time
Recovery from PTSD doesn’t happen overnight. It took me many years to recover from and learn to live with my complex diagnosis. Regardless of what others tell you, therapist included, only you will know when you are on the path to recovery because you will feel it. How? When things that previously caused emotional pain are no longer an issue. When you feel less tension and adrenaline because your stress response is reduced or moderated. When your body and your mind relax.
Ask Yourself: Do I Really Want to Overcome PTSD?
If you really want to overcome the struggles that PTSD brings, then you must work at it because it is possible. It may feel like passing (repeatedly) through the gates of hell throughout your recovery. There were times when everything was so difficult, I just wanted to give up. But I am glad I had the strength to get through it, because it was well worth it.
Trying to improve your situation should be your main focus and priority. Full recovery entails shifting your fight-or-flight, fear-based state of being back to a comfortable state. It could be the way you felt before the events occurred.
It’s a long journey, and I hope you don’t choose to do it alone, if you have a choice. PTSD and its accompanying army of symptoms are a fear blocking patch: they keep the real person you always were from shining through.
In a sense, PTSD gives you a unique perspective on reality and the world. However, this reality is based on fear, guilt, and shame. You must change this fundamental flaw in your belief system. The world is an amazing place full of life and beauty, and your perspective on it is preventing your from living a fulfilling life.