Whether it’s a near-death experience or being made to watch an entire Rohit Shetty movie in a single sitting, trauma awaits us in every corner on the path of life – disguising itself in different forms, waiting to strike.
Although we cannot control when calamity strikes, what we can control is how we respond to it. Ever since a very young age, it’s been inculcated within us that as long as our lungs take in Oxygen and gives out Carbon dioxide, we are “fine”. A person suffering from chronic depression just needs to “stop being depressed”. How are mental health issues any less important than physical ailments?
Society has begun to modernize and be more accepting and open-minded to mental disorders. People are being made aware of the various conditions, yet only a few of them remain the ones talked about in popular media. One that doesn’t seem to make the cut is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD shares symptoms such as panic attacks, nightmares, and flashbacks with other more commonly a diagnosed illnesses such as anxiety disorders, but it has a completely different course of treatments.
The first step towards beating PTSD is to acknowledge that you might have it. The illness is generally disregarded because of the absence of a “traumatic event” in the recent past, but what the society may not deem as traumatic, may have been severely disturbing to you. Approach a trained professional, take the tests, and respect his diagnosis. WebMD does not know more than a real-life MD, and that cannot be stressed on enough.
Unlike physical illnesses, mental disorders, especially PTSD, has no expiration-date. It may take years to recover from, or you may wake up the very next day with a completely positive outlook towards life. Although most experts believe that the first symptoms appear three months after the tragedy, for some it may take as long as a year even. What that means is, rather than scanning your calendar searching for the day catastrophe struck and pulling out your calculator to do the math, accept the fact that no matter how long it’s been, even the slightest trigger is enough to induce PTSD.
Apart from the physical symptoms such as a racing heart, excessive sweating, panic attacks, frightening thoughts and flashbacks, PTSD takes a great toll on one’s social well-being. Avoidance symptoms – going out of the way to escape even the slightest reminders that may trigger a traumatic memory – develop. These go hand-in-hand with self-loathing, frequent angry outbursts, and being ‘on edge’ throughout the day.
Everyone has a different coping mechanism and threshold for the adversities they face in life, and thus if anyone you know is suffering from PTSD, try to understand their point of view, what they’re afraid of, what they need, and how they want to handle things rather than following a WikiHow page titled “How to cure your friend’s PTSD.”
There are several medications and psychotherapeutic options available for keeping the monsters under the bed at bay. Medication, although effective, cannot “cure” your illness because it just helps in controlling the symptoms.
PTSD usually stems from underlying guilt/shame associated with the traumatic experience, and psychotherapy aims to help rid you of exactly that. Various options such as Exposure therapy, Cognitive restructuring and Talk therapies help individuals comprehend the nature of their bad memories and help them face their fears in a safe, controlled environment.
One must realize that the battle against PTSD, or any mental disorder for that matter, is a gradual process. Talk to the people you love, do the things you enjoy, go for a run, fill your room with balloons, do what makes you feel happy to be alive, and most importantly, count your blessings. It’s called “Post-traumatic” Stress Disorder for a reason. The worst is over, and you survived it. The demons never really go away, but after a while we realize that we’re bigger than them. Just remember the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic.”
In conclusion, as a society, more often than we care to admit, we treat those suffering from mental disorders as victims of their own thoughts. Just because they look completely normal externally, we fail to see the shriveling, weeping sides of them helplessly trying to find happiness again. The least we can do is be kind to the person next to us at this very moment, for we may be completely oblivious to the wars raging just below the surface.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?”
-Pujan Parikh for MTTN