Writing and talking to a sympathetic counsellor was a significant step on my road to recovery.
But what is recovery? Is PTSD curable, or is it something we just have to learn to live with?
Recovery from PTSD doesn’t mean forgetting the trauma that triggered it.
What happened, happened, and that will not change. You were there, you remember, you will always remember.
The only part of the PTSD equation that can change is you.
Recovery does not mean cure. What is does mean is regaining control – control of your life.
It means learning how not to have the debilitating emotional and physical reactions that have become part of your life.
It means learning about PTSD, what it is and why it effects you in the way that it does – Understanding brings strength.
It means learning to relax, to reduce stress levels and to sleep, and not just any type of sleep, I mean that quality, restful un-interrupted sleep that you used to enjoy before the dreams.
It means finding ways to ease your symptoms, such as ways to limit your reactions to trigger events.
It means regaining self-confidence and self-respect.
For me, the road to recovery has been like the game of snakes and ladders.
But with some differences.
In the board game, you move forward, starting on square 1, to eventually aim to end the game at square 100. On the way, if you land on certain squares there will be a ladder to help you up or a snake that will send you further down the board. Some ladders are very helpful, others not so. Some snakes are a small setback, others much greater in effect.
On the road to recovery you don’t know which ladders are going to help you or how far they will help you climb. At the point where you step on the rung, your upwards journey may be very short or even go nowhere, or it may be just the ladder you were seeking and end up taking you a long way forwards.
Similarly with the snakes. At first, on your journey, you cannot see them. They take you by surprise, shock you, and slip you very quickly towards where you started. But, as you experience the snakes, you get better at reacting to them. You learn how to jump off, so you don’t slide so far. And, as your recovery improves, you learn how to spot the snakes and how to step over them as you move onwards and upwards.
Winning the game.
Making effective progress means seeking help, and being brave enough to accept that you cannot do it on your own. It’s a long upward climb, a mountain, one that nobody should undertake on your own.
To climb it, you’ll need equipment that’s up to the challenge and guidance from those that know how.
And to get that guidance, you’re going to need support. Not just the support of those close to you but professional support and peer support.
There are many sources of help, from Combat Stress through to the NHS, and many types of treatment.
Not all will work for you. We are all different, with different trauma, different memories and different symptoms. And we all respond individually to the range of treatments available.
Writing was my ladder.
Go find yours.
PTSD – let it be a mountain that you turned into a molehill.