When you undergo a trauma of any kind, there are often residual effects that can impact your life for weeks, months, or even years. When I was attacked at the juvenile detention facility where I worked, I thought I’d get over it and go back to normal living. My physical scars began to heal, but I had a big uphill battle mentally to tackle. It took me a long time to accept that I had PTSD, and to seek help.
I went through many dark days before I was diagnosed and began treating my PTSD. I had withdrawn from my life, I was depressed, and there were a few times when my mind went down a pretty dark trail. If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD or any kind of mental illness, I encourage you to seek treatment. There are so many options available today that can help you cope and find a new normal.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This is what many of us think of as counseling. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy is a very specific kind of therapy that teaches you how to replace negative thoughts and feelings with more positive thinking. It’s designed to help you train your mind with new behaviors that not only help you process the trauma but also better handle any triggering moments.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR): This therapy combines cognitive therapy with directed eye movements. According to the EMDR International Association, “This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion).” It helps the brain process trauma and begin healing.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy: These therapy sessions are designed to help you confront things you have been avoiding, and deal with the anxiety that may arise.
Stress Inoculation Training: This type of therapy teaches you coping skills to manage stress and anxiety. These skills may range from deep breathing exercises to role playing or thought stopping. They are designed to help you de-escalate your thoughts and anxiety in the moment.
Medications: There is nothing wrong with taking medications your doctor prescribes to help you deal with your anxiety, stress, depression, and other symptoms. For many people with PTSD, the brain’s neurotransmitters have been disrupted and medication can help regulate them again.
Whatever you are going through, it helps enormously to have a professional to work with or talk to. They are there to help you process what happened to you, and give you tools to deal with any stressful situations that arise. Reach out to a friend, family member, or even on this blog.
Read my previous columns for this month on PTSD or pick up a copy of my book, You’ve Got Some Nerve, today and learn more about my journey and how I rebuilt my life after a traumatic event.