How can I help myself?
“I worried that I would never be able to go back to the job I loved. I worried that I would be stuck like this forever. Had I not been through it, I think I would find it hard to believe how real the whole thing was at the time. Having got through it, it has made me more hopeful about my ability to get through anything difficult – I got through PTSD, so I can get through anything!”
After a traumatic event you may feel numb, dazed and disorientated. Many people find it hard to accept what has happened to them and you may behave as though nothing bad has happened. This response may allow you time away from the trauma and you may subconsciously be beginning to process what you have been through. When you feel ready, you may find the following ideas helpful.
Talk to someone close to you
Talking about your feelings, when you feel ready, may be a good way of coming to terms with the experience. You may turn to friends, relatives and colleagues, or seek professional help when you decide you do want to talk about what you’ve been through.
“The things that helped me while I was going through the worst of it […] I took up running (which helped me sleep, as it seemed to ‘clear’ the excess adrenaline); talking to lots of my friends and my sisters, again and again; giving up sugar and alcohol (I was using them as masks for my erratic behaviour).”
Talk to people with similar experiences
It may be very helpful for you to share your experiences with others who have been through something similar. This can be an extremely important step in moving away from isolation and towards regaining control of your life.
Give yourself time
Everyone will have their own unique responses and will need to proceed at their own pace. Talking before you want to might not be helpful. It may make you relive memories of the event, increasing the risk of flashbacks or nightmares. Allow yourself to feel ready to talk about your experiences.
Mindfulness is a technique for becoming more aware of the present moment. It can help us enjoy the world around us more and also understand ourselves better. Some of the ways you could practise mindfulness are through meditation, tai chi or yoga. Some people find this helps them manage anxiety and stress.
“Mindfulness I think has changed my life – it has given me amazing tools for managing difficult times, especially anxiety, and I feel much more resilient as a result.”
Contact an organisation for support
You may find it useful to contact an organisation that specialises in PTSD. They will be able to give you advice, information and support. You may find it particularly useful to find a specialist organisation with expertise in the particular type of trauma you have experienced.
Visit your family doctor
If you want to, you can ask your family doctor for help and discuss the support options with them (see ‘What treatments are available?’ for more information). Before prescribing treatment for PTSD, your family doctor or mental health specialist will do an assessment so that they can match the treatment to your specific needs.
Doctors and therapists should be aware of your cultural and ethnic background. If you need an interpreter, they should arrange this for you. They should also assess the impact of the traumatic event on all your close family and provide appropriate support (see ‘How can friends and family help?’).