dyslexia, learning disorder, puzzle

What causes PTSD

Some may know that I was diagnosed with PTSD (amongst other things) because of my job, being on operational Response cop. I am even registered as disabled due to the condition, so it should not shock people that I have a vested personal interest in the subject of Post Traumatic Stress synDrome (it is not a disorder).

I have read many articles, press clippings, magazine stories and even medical journals and have to say that none of them resemble my own experiences and I believe it is these types of scribblings turn a lot of people away from asking for help. Albeit that they are well intentioned, these musing can cause more damage than provide help, as are their intended purpose.

Personal stories

Genuine sufferers have differing reasons as to how they succumbed to this condition. For me it was a life and death incident, whilst at work doing my job, someone pulled a gun and shot at me. As it was point blank, I believed that I was dead yet I am still here (how do you get your head around that?) The trauma was left to fester for too long a became the condition that I have to fight everyday.

Others may have similar life changing occurrences, road accidents or even sporting disasters. Childhood experiences and there are those that have experienced trauma in others, including military personnel or medical staff (COVID 19 will have an impact) are other prime examples. Also there are victims, those that were prayed upon and are now survivors of abuse or violence. The list is endless and the condition is a real daily battle for many, so to those that just throw a post together, hoping it will impress (to grow a business or just because it is a hot topic), I have something to say to you. Stop, just STOP.

I would never write a post on brain surgery, giving ‘my advice’ because it was on the TV show ‘Casualty’ last night, I have no clue about that sort of stuff all I know is the brain is inside the skull. So for those that do not know the true damage that PTSD has on people, please for the safety and sanity of others, stay away from the subject and keep your thoughts to yourself.

What I can say is that this post is from personal experience and speaking to fellow PTSD sufferers. All of us have been locked in an internal battle from actions that are not of our own doing, then not knowing what to do about it. We read articles to help us understand but when they are full of talk and no action (a bit like some managers in the Police?) then it only pushes the damage in further.

I have returned home after shifts and not known what to do, I have not been able to get close to what was making me feel so ‘odd’ and had no way of being able to tell someone what I was going through, as I did not understand any of it myself. I developed a warped sense of humour, wanted to be alone and be with someone all at the same time, been paralysed because of paranoia and changed my whole personality because it no longer felt like me. It is the most confusing and damaging part of the condition, it was the most scared that I have ever been… being me, but not me.

There are certain aspects of my own experiences that many sufferers will identify with, there are plenty more (that I have not listed) that others find more frustrating. This is not a one size fits all mental health illness. Introverts and Extroverts deal with emotions and feelings differently, giving different symptoms and needing different coping strategies. I cannot say this enough, each person and case is different, and this is why it is so hard to identify in yourself.

My last word to those that are not medically trained and try to shoehorn their ‘coaching/therapy/counselling’ business into a sales pitch, what you are doing is damaging and wrong, please stop trying to make money off of those that are vulnerable and need genuine help for PTSD and stay in the ‘stressed’ area of your work (perhaps one day I will share why I made this statement).

If you suspect someone of suffering PTSD you need to look out for the most common symptoms;

Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD include (not exhaustive):

  • Flashbacks – reliving the traumatic event (not just memories or visions, but also include smells, feelings and other senses are all included)
  • Nightmares (Waking in a sweat, heart racing with no memory of any dream – have not been able to recall dreams for months)
  • Panic attacks (at any time, any place and with anyone for no reason)
  • Depression (Often ignored by the sufferer, believing they are OK and will push through)
  • Anxiety (Can appear to be indecisive)
  • Anger (over the smallest of things, no milk or just bad driving/road rage)
  • Aggression (appears to have no patience, will take over tasks without asking, being rude)
  • Extreme irritability (even those that they care about most will no longer be tolerated for long periods of time – needing head space)
  • No filter (insensitive jokes/comments/questions, loss of personal boundaries)
  • Reckless behavior (substance/alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity)

Often the sufferer will deny any of these conditions, believeing they have not changed and it is others who perceive them to be different.

Denial

With all the internal dilemmas the sufferer is experiencing, they will be lost. Completely and totally lost within themselves. They will not have time to think about others, as they will be trying to make sense of the turmoil going on deep inside. Certain situations will not register and they will carry on as usual (very close to some autistic tendencies) but deep within there is a fight no one will be aware of. If behaviour has challenged, they will probably deny it, if continually challenged about their conduct they will bury the emotions deeper and further damage will be caused.

Please never take a denial of emotions or inappropriate actions as a task that needs to be remedied and challenged, without taking some advice – Damage will be caused.

Can people get over it?

PTSD is not to be taken lightly. It is not a condition that can be treated by someone who has taken an online course and been sent a certificate. It is a debilitating and infuriating condition. Having gone through CBT, EMDR, Schema and many other treatments, which have all failed, I am one of many cases that is stuck with it for the rest of my life.

My belief is that my own condition was not detected, managed or attempted to be treated until six years after the gun incident. In that time I continued as a front line cop and had many other close calls (almost being taken on the A419 by a car whilst on the side of the road dealing with a car break down), fights, arguments and stressful incidents all added to new traumas, burying it deeper inside. I was not offered TRiM after the incident and it was allowed to manifest and set solid within my psyche.

I now have to live with the condition, I have learnt how to manage it and most of the time I can remain in control of it. But like any monster when it gets loose, it has devastating consequences and takes days to recover for an outburst.

For me it is too late. For others who are able to get at the trauma before the condition is set in stone, the chances of coming through it is much better. My personal experience is if it is caught quickly and managed properly, then there is a high chance of the person recovering. It is down to speed, how quickly it can be caught after the trauma and how good managers and supervisors are at recognising and managing people.

S.L.A.P Technique – Talking

To help those troubled with a ‘fresh’ trauma, people need to work on the principle of speed. No more than 24 hours after a traumatic experience allows best results. If they are delivered with a S.L.A.P. then the chances of the trauma turning into PTSD can be greatly reduced.

S.L.A.P is a very easy training session. Giving basic understanding of the condition, delivered to those who genuinely care about clearing a problematic incident that can cause illness, dramatically reducing time off work, sickness, costs and reputational damage as well as improving employee welfare.

If you or your organisation would like more information on S.L.A.P Technique, please contact me.

Proviso

The only caveat I have about this post is that I am not a doctor and it is not about treating PTSD. These are my own personal experiences and it is written to make people appreciate that PTSD manifests very differently amongst sufferers and needs to be treated with understanding and patience.

That training mentioned within is in recognition and prevention of the condition, which is a thousand times better than ignoring and banishing the subject, until it becomes a real problem.


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