PTSD Symptoms: Educating Family
Monday, May 11th, 2009 • Uncategorized •
Actually, something else I think is important (for your own sake) is not assuming your family will understand or be as supportive as you’d like. Some families are and will be. But if you go out on a limb by telling someone in your family, you are making yourself a little vulnerable. And unfortunately, not everyone likes to deal with the horrors of something like PTSD. Especially if you’re trying to explain what caused it in the first place.
My advice for others, if that is what happens is… don’t let that get to you if you can, as hurtful as it can feel. Instead, reach out to other people you can trust. If you think you can’t trust anyone in your life, find a professional therapist you can trust.
When I began writing these posts it was with the assumption no one would approach family unless it was safe. But Svasti’s comments made me realize maybe we should pause for a moment and really highlight the fact that not every family is a safe place. If this is the case for you, don’t worry. As Svasti says, there will be someone who will be supportive; your job will become to find who that is. In the coming days we’ll explore how to approach friends, lovers and colleagues.
For today, sit back and think about your family. Are they supportive of you in general? Do you feel unconditionally loved by them, or any one person in your clan? Do you trust your family, or feel threatened by them? Are they part of the problem, or do they usually help you find solutions? If you have a therapist he or she might be very helpful in figuring out how to assess your family and who to approach.
Healing is a slow process. As much as we want recovery to move quickly and as often as we feel compelled to act on any new idea, we must remember to slow down, think things through and above all: Make wise decisions.
Now, just to throw a monkey wrench into the decision making process: The flip side of all this decision making, this caution and intuition, is that in the grip of PTSD we are not, exactly, always thinking straight. We have put in place fears, assumptions and behaviors that often skew the decision making process.
For example, the summer I was 18 I was struggling extremely with undiagnosed PTSD symptoms that I had not yet learned how to cope with or manage. I was in a deep blackhole and I was sure – no, absolutely positive – I could not speak to my family about this. I was afraid I would frighten them with my black, suicidal thoughts. I felt disconnected and separate from their entire way of living. I felt I existed in a realm of experience no one could never understand. I felt helpless and hopeless and utterly alone and in a type of despair that made my mind all but shut down.
So, I stayed quiet and suffered alone and engaged in some very destructive behavior and my PTSD continued to worsen dramatically over the next few years until I had a real collapse and then there was no choice – I reached out and found my mother immediately by my side, supporting me and helping me through. I had been wrong. My warped thinking had kept me from support I needed when it was waiting for me all along. Which is not to say that every mother, father, sister or brother will respond this way, but is to point out that sometimes, since we cannot see the world properly because PTSD has warped our lens, we don’t see our family properly either.
Deciding who to reach out to and whether or not we can reach out at all is an extremely tough wrinkle in the healing process. After all this thinking, I’m wondering what is the best way to assess whether or not your family will help or hurt if you reveal the truth.
Don’t leave me hanging out here all by myself. How have you decided whether or not family is a safe place to tell the truth?