The last months of my life have been a minefield of trauma triggers that have made life challenging. I confessed my weariness and discouragement to a few close friends and received varied responses ranging from compassion to polite superficialities to spiritual exhortation.
Often people–especially those in faith-based circles–tend to see PTSD as an emotional response that people can choose to step away from, discipline themselves to overcome, or trust God to heal. People often feel uncomfortable knowing how to respond to long-term struggle. We want to offer solutions and can find it difficult to listen to other people’s pain.
Some people, thankfully, do find healing through discipline and tools of resilience. And some do receive God’s gifts of healing in a brilliant burst, rather than along the steps of a longer journey. But even when those who are treated with PTSD find successful treatment, some triggers may still remain.
Why? Because triggers are physiological. Trauma with a “big T” causes terrifying events that overwhelm the brain’s ability to cope, producing chemical and biological changes.
A recent post by Louie Pukelis illuminates the problem with the term post-traumatic stress disorder:
“A disorder is defined as a “disturbance in physical or mental health functions,” but Chicago-based Eugene Lipov, M.D. (developer of Stellate Ganglion Block for treatment of PTSD) and Frank Ochberg, M.D. of East Lansing, Mich. (the psychiatrist who coined ‘Stockholm Syndrome’) agree that the word “disorder,” when associated with PTSD, completely misses the mark because the condition is medically and technically a biological phenomena. In recent years, Dr. Ochberg has led a movement to drop “disorder” and replace it with “injury,” essentially rebranding the acronym as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
“The reclassification is long overdue because ‘disorder’ implies a psychological condition thus not a real disease and it doesn’t actually characterize correctly what is happening in the brain of someone suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress,” said Dr. Lipov. “Dr. Ochberg and I both agree that there are significant physiological changes that take place in the brains of PTS subjects and, thus, effective therapy should include a biological component.”
In order to address our symptoms, we need medical treatment that rewires or reboots our brains.
We also need people to understand that we have a brain illness, in the same way that we have diabetes or hypothyroidism or cancer. We do not simply need to work harder at getting better, we need treatment specific to our disease.
And we need our community and friends to understand and support us in the process.
What have you found most helpful in your battle with post-traumatic stress injury?