Coping with PTSD is not easy. Far from it in fact. It’s like that one wanker that you just can’t seem to shake off and every now and again they pop up right in your fucking face.
I’ve had my PTSD for about 10 years or more. It’s only this year I can say I am starting to finally feel free from it. For the past 2 months I have had no flash backs, nightmares, panic attacks or questionable thoughts. It started after my dads death which happened when I was 12 years old but I didn’t realise I had PTSD till I was about 17/18 years old. I think it was mainly associated with people who had been in the army. I feel its only recently being recognised. I was thrown into counselling against my own will by my teachers in high school. Obviously it didn’t work. Then in college I was thrown into counselling again which is when my then counsellor told me I had PTSD. Was anything done about it? No. Each session was just me talking about my fucking day. It just wasn’t the type of counselling I needed.
About May time last year, I had a mental breakdown that beats all of my previous mental breakdowns. This was the real turning point for me. It made me realise that I needed to work through my issues and sort my shit out. So I went to the doctors but I was reluctant. I felt as though I was a lost cause. Damaged goods. I felt like I was fucked up in the head, and that’s why my previous counsellors were unable to ‘fix’ me. I got to the doctors and just broke down. I was put on anti depressants and started some online counselling. This counselling was for about 11/12 weeks and it was mostly focusing on my depression and anxiety. Then I moved onto one to one counselling which was a mixture of CBT therapy and anxiety counselling. As thankful as I am for my current counsellor, our session were the most painful and difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had to talk about shit that I had bottled up for over 10 years! I was a mess.
But, my counsellor taught me a lot. One processing/coping strategy she taught me was TIES. This was something we used when we needed to work through a traumatic event. I hated it because I couldn’t ignore the past any more. I had to work through it if I was going to get better. By doing TIES both in the sessions and at home, its got me to where I am today. So what I had to do was close my eyes and bring the event into my mind, which when you have PTSD its piss easy because it’s always ready to pop back into your head.
T – Thoughts. I had to think about all the thoughts I had on the day my dad died.
I – Images. What could I see in my head? Where was I?
E – Emotions. This was the tough one. As soon as I had to focus on this, all emotions from the day came back at me.
S – Sensations. This is something that’s more in the present. So when we focused on this section I usually felt sick, had a head ache or a lump in my throat.
We repeated each individual section about 5 times for 30 seconds each. I can only speak from my point of view but afterwards I was absolutely shattered and broken and it would affect me for days afterwards, but I had to keep doing the TIES. If I wanted to get better and to be able to leave the past in the past, I had to do this.
One session, about a month ago, I was struggling. I had been to a family do the weekend before and ended up having a massive panic attack. It was horrible. So my counsellor recommended doing TIES but with a happy memory about my dad. It took me about 10 minutes to even think of a happy memory. My PTSD had taken all those happy memories away from me and replaced them with this one shitty memory. The memory I chose was a time me and my dad went horse riding on the beach. It’s not the happiest memory I have but it was the only positive one I could think about. So we started
T – Thoughts
I – Images
E – Emotions
S – Sensations
After 10 minutes I was smiling, laughing and I was happy! I had completely forgot that it was okay for me to remember the good times I had with my dad! It was okay for me to think about them and talk about them! I left the session with a massive smile on my face. The black cloud that was constantly following me had gone. Just like that. It was euphoric! The PTSD fooled me into thinking the only memory I would ever have of my dad would be the most traumatic, but fuck me it was wrong! Ever since that session all these happy memories I had completely forgotten about were flooding back to me! It was overwhelming but it was like nothing I had felt before. It was like my happy memories drop kicked my PTSD and knocked it the fuck out! Ooh I felt empowered!
If you suffer from PTSD or know someone who does, just recommend TIES to them. They might not yet be ready to really focus on the traumatic event, but TIES can be done by using happy memories! It’s a simple 10 minute exercise that can be done wherever and whenever. For me, I struggled to focus when I was at home, so I started doing TIES in my head whilst out and about. I found it worked better for me because I wouldn’t dwell on the memory as much because I would be out doing something. I still felt as though I was in the present moment. I used to do TIES whilst mucking my horse out, in the shower or when I went for a run. That’s what worked for me, but everybody is different. What works for some might not work for others.
I started my CBT therapy September last year and this Thursday will be my last session and I can safely say I am a changed person now. I’m not the same person I was even 3 months ago and I have my counsellor to thank for that. After feeling like I was failed previously, I am now able to leave the past in the past, and god forbid if something traumatic does happens in the future, I will be prepared for it.
Please, if you or someone you love suffers from PTSD just be there for them. Give them a hug, bring them food, do something stupid to make them laugh, just be there!! PTSD is draining beyond belief and can be confusing and very traumatic.
My heart goes out to all those who have suffered or are still suffering with PTSD. I promise, one day you will reach a point where you will move forward and the past will stay in the past. I promise.
Love you lots,