I recently did a radio show broadcasting from one of the nation’s largest cities. I was asked to talk about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, not because I’m a mental health professional, but because I’ve walked through this issue myself and at the side of close friends and family members.
Ten years ago, I thought trauma was something that touched the lives of soldiers. Today I know that everybody knows and loves someone who suffers from PTSD, and most people don’t have a clue how to recognize symptoms or how to get help.
After the show, I was inundated with calls, emails, and Facebook messages. Approximately 10% of the contacts came from mental health professionals who didn’t know where to turn for help with their own trauma.
So what do you do if you think you have PTSD? Where do you turn for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed?
Take an assessment. Several self-assessment links are available on our Resource Page. Use that information to evaluate the symptoms you may have and to gain a better understanding of what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like and feels like
Learn about PTSD and ask a trusted family member or friend to learn with you. The more you understand PTSD, the more you’ll understand your symptoms, responses, and how your brain has responded to your trauma. Self-understanding is an important key to your recovery.
Discuss your symptoms and your trauma history with an experienced traumatologist. A traumatologist understands the impact of trauma on the brain and the resulting symptoms that trauma produces. If your finances or insurance limit your options for mental health care, call your community mental health agency and ask for referrals to traumatologists trained to work with PTSD.
Find a trusted advocate and begin to talk. People with PTSD often feel trapped by guilt and shame. Their symptoms often include depression, addictions, and self-abusive behaviors they feel they must hide. They often isolate and withdraw. But the only way to find healing is to break the cycles that keep you bound to the past. Find someone you can trust who understands PTSD or is willing to learn, and ask them for help in moving forward.
In spite of how you may feel, choose to believe that you can get better. Choosing to believe you can get better can help create the positivity to create forward momentum–for you to take an important first step. Even though your world may seem chaotic and out of control, people with PTSD make sense. The good news is that trauma is treatable. You are not unfixable. Borrow the faith of a friend and move forward.
Three years ago, my best friend was desperate, suicidal, and hopeless. Today, she speaks to thousands of people across the country, offering hope and consulting on PTSD because she chose to hold onto hope and move forward one step at a time.
If you or someone you know needs help, take the first step. Then reach out for help and build a network of support as you move forward.
What about you? We’d love to hear your story here at PTSDPerspectives.