Thursday, April 23, 2015
When the inconceivable becomes reality: Dealing with PTSD ...
What a traumatic experience!
In his book, "In the Eye of the Storm," author and pastor Max Lucado shares the following story:
"Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
"The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said 'hello' when 'ssssop!' Chippie got sucked in. The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie --- still alive, but stunned.
"Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do ... she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
"Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
"A few days after the trauma, the reporter who had initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering.
"'Well,' she replied, 'Chippie doesn't sing much anymore --- he just sits and stares.'
"It's hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over ... that's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart."
There are millions of people who can identify with this traumatized bird in that something they have experienced has "stolen the song" from their hearts. Something previously inconceivable has pierced it's way into their reality and become a traumatic, real experience for them. Most people have stress responses after a traumatic event, but for some those responses won't fade but instead be the beginning symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as "PTSD."
Those four initials, "PTSD," have become much more familiar to us as countries have been mired in wars for years now. But it isn't just military personnel who can suffer from PTSD. Anyone can experience PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event such as combat, sexual or physical abuse, sexual or physical assault, a terrorist attack, serious accidents such as a car wreck, or the trauma of a natural disaster such as a tornado, fire, or earthquake. While going through such traumatic experiences, a person usually feels their lives or the lives of others are endangered and that they have lost control of the situation.
There are four types of symptoms for PTSD:
Avoidance - This is when a person tries to avoid any setting or situation that cause them to remember the traumatic event they experienced.
Replay - A person who has experienced a traumatic event may experience "flashbacks" where they feel as if they are going through the trauma again, or they may struggle with bad memories or suffer from mightmares.
Negative changes - Often as a way to avoid bad memories, it's common for someone suffering from PTSD to make negative changes about what they believe or regarding their feelings. They may struggle with feelings of fear, guilt, or shame, and they may no longer have an interest in what used to interest them.
Hyperarousal - People with PTSD may feel constantly alert after experiencing trauma. This is known as increased emotional arousal which can cause difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a person may become easily startled.
Additional problems may include generalized anxiety disorder, depression, substance abuse, conduct disorder, and chronic pain; such problems often lead to additional problems in relationships and with employment.
As you see, experiencing trauma can bring new and significant troubles into a person's life. BUT there is some good news for those experiencing PTSD and it's the loudest message I want to convey in this post: THERE IS HELP TO OVERCOME PTSD! The treatment for PTSD is usually psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both depending on the needs of the individual. But the good news is that treatment IS effective in helping people overcome this disorder.
If you suffer from PTSD, GET THE PROFESSIONAL HELP YOU NEED, it truly could help you change your life!