September 8, 2010
This guest blog comes from therapist and counsellor, Jackie Walker. You can find Jackie on Twitter here and her personal website here. I will hand you over to Jackie, but first thank her for writing this guest post. Much appreciated!
Hi Charlie, thank you for asking me to write and help your readers with noticing the symptoms of PTSD/R – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Response. Just to clear the name up, the Response word has started to be used more frequently, as in reality this is not a Disorder, it’s simply a response to a situation.
When I trained for working with Talking2Minds last year, we were taught that PTSD is:
A normal response to an abnormal situation
The thing about PTSD is that it can be triggered by one event or a series of events. These events are usually traumatic and/or life threatening. It might have happened directly to the person involved or they may have witnessed something.
Not everyone who has seen live action gets PTSD/R – this makes it much more challenging to identify and deal with. There is also no definitive timescale of when it might start to take effect – for some it is immediate, and for others it can be months or even years later. A bit like carrying a dormant virus, it might be within the system and exposure to something which creates similar feelings of a past event might just trigger it. And it might not. Until it happens, it hasn’t happened. Wrapping someone in cotton wool will have little preventative help.
The really good news is that there is help available and the earlier one can get a sufferer to admit that they would like to return to a peaceful existence free from the debilitating effects, the better it is for all concerned. The key to this is that they themselves must want to seek out help. For some this is still a sign of weakness.
As a family member, wife, or partner of someone who has returned from deployment, what you are looking out for are changes. Women in particular are used to using their intuition, their guts, to tell them when something is different. Men are perfectly able to use it too
The changes you might notice:
- Mood swings
- Flashbacks – nightmares
- Aggression and irritability
- Excessive drink or drug use
- Inappropriate anger
- Self harm or harming others
Notice if they are still doing things they used to love doing. Are they behaving differently? Is their life (and/or yours) being affected by their behaviour, their attitude?
Are they still able to join in with family life, have a social life and enjoy it?
Take a good look at your loved one. When you look into their eyes, what do you see? How are they carrying themselves now?
I’ve worked with partners of PTSD sufferers and they all experience things differently. Many have feelings of guilt because they are finding it so hard to deal with their partner. Some can feel disappointment, sadness or frustration, that he isn’t the person he once was. Many over love and over compensate for the changes without taking into recognition what it is doing to their life, or that of their children.
In order to be there for someone else, it’s important to be strong in yourself. Remember what they say on the airplanes – put on your own oxygen mask, before you put on someone else’s. It is possible that you too go through emotional upsets and seeking your own help to deal with any problems is a good start to keeping yourself healthy.
You will not be able to ‘make’ someone else seek help, however you can reach out and ask for advice from many quarters – contact your regimental/squadron/commando Welfare office and they will provide you with the relevant expert military medical & psychological contacts to help.
Talking2Minds (http://www.talking2minds.co.uk) is a charity of ex servicemen and women helping service men and women overcome the symptoms of PTSD
Jackie also has a website for divorce ~ http://www.thedivorcecoach.co.uk