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It’s been three years now since something happened, something so bad that it gave me PTSD. Three years later, and I’m doing okay these days. I haven’t forgotten what has happened, but I seem to be forgetting what the pain felt like. So now it’s my turn to help you. Here is a list of five ways to cope with PTSD, from personal experience.
1. It’s okay to hide a little.
Since you are reading this, I feel it’s OK to assume that you probably don’t go outside as much as you used to... or maybe even not at all, and that’s OK. Well, for a little while, at least.
Being afraid of the outside world is very normal after having your safety compromised. So, being a homebody is a part of the process. For now, it is OK to hide a little, but make plans to break out of your comfort zone eventually. Unfortunately, the truth is that you can’t do it forever, even if you do get a job at home. It may also freak out your friends and family if you vow to never leave the house again.
2. Tell your doctor.
Not all doctors take PTSD seriously, especially in women. I was lucky and my doctor believed me right away. However, I can’t say the same for the three failed attempts at counselling.
If your first attempt at getting help doesn’t go well, go to another doctor. Don’t give up and know that your pain is real, even if a doctor can’t visibly see it.
What helped me the most ended up being anti-depressants, and I uses to hate the idea of them. However, there is no way I am ever going back now that I have found something that helps. More specifically, I have found a way to keep the random disturbing thoughts from entering my head.
If you are having random disturbing thoughts too, you are not alone. Your doctor can help you with them. You don't even have to go into detail about the thoughts are, just tell your doctor that they make you feel vulnerable.
3. It’s OK to ask for help.
If medication really isn’t your thing, there are other ways to reach out for help.
I asked an old friend of mine to simply message me once a month to ask how I’m doing. I don’t think I ever said anything other than the generic “I’m good, how are you." However, these simple texts seemed to help me a lot.
Eventually, I told him it's okay to keep messaging me like that since I was doing better. Now he messages me only once in a blue moon, but I still appreciate it.
4. Dealing with Flashbacks and Unwanted Dark Thoughts
At the end of the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry says to Ron's little sister that "It's only a memory now, it can't hurt you." Since you are reading this article you probably already know that this isn't really true. However, telling yourself this when you have flashback can help a lot. What happened to you it over and you are physically safe right now. Even if this isn't completely true, telling yourself this can help you get through the worst of things.
Another calming thought is to remind yourself that things will eventually get better, it just takes time. While everyone is different, my general rule is that things start to get better about six months after it happened. I'm not saying that you will be cured in six months, I'm only saying things will slowly start to get better. So your first goal is just to get past the first six months. After that, you will still be spending years with coping methods, but I promise you that will eventually forget what the pain felt like.
5. Distracting Yourself
My parents insisted that I could distract myself by watching happy TV shows; however, this was not the case. It took a very long time before I could enjoy watching shows again. In fact, I mostly insisted on pacing around the kitchen. It turned out this is a very scary thing for people to watch. I don't know why, I felt the pacing helped.
Later in the recovery process, you can try calming techniques like meditation and prayer. If meditation and prayer really aren't your thing, there is an endless amount of options to try. Something small and simple that doesn't take too much concentration is best, but it needs to take at least some concentration. Solving puzzles is a good place to start.
Whatever it is you choose to do could easily turn into a full-fledged hobby and that's a good thing. Hobbies are good for you for a wide variety of reasons.
As a side note, please make sure your hobby isn't an addiction like smoking or drinking. Those things don't really help, they are just a bandage. I know it's very common for people with PTSD to turn to addictions, but please try to fight it. Also, do NOT make your hobby being vindictive and hurting others. Avoid anything that seems more like an obsession than a hobby.
Having PTSD does not make you weak.
I wanted to throw this message into this article too. It turns out that getting PTSD is actually more random bad luck than anything else. If two people see the same thing and only one of them gets PTSD, it's just simply bad luck.
I've heard stories about firefighters who have amazing mental health and see two decapitations and are simply just fine. However, the third one sends them into a horrible case of PTSD. Why did the first two not do this and the third did? I have no idea. PTSD seems to be random sometimes. So please don't think you are weak or mentally unfit somehow. If someone doesn't understand what you are going through, it is just because they have managed to be lucky so far in life. Maybe later when they go through the same thing you can help them.
How to Cope with Stress
The Time a Stranger Gave Me a Rose
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