Supporting a Loved One With PTSD
Supporting a loved one with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a difficult journey, but it can make a significant contribution to their recovery. In this blog post, we will discuss the essential ways in which you can be there for someone coping with PTSD, offering compassion, understanding, and an assisting hand on their path to healing and resilience.
First, Care for Yourself
This step is overlooked far too often, but it is one of the most critical ones. You cannot effectively be there to support your veteran loved one through their PTSD and difficult times if you yourself are emotionally and mentally exhausted. Feel free to take a step back at any time if you’re feeling overwhelmed and do something to replenish your supply. This can be a fun activity you enjoy, like seeing a movie, riding a bike, going out for a nice meal, or even relaxing on the couch and reading. Should these exercises not be sufficient to fulfill your need to recharge, you may want to consider seeing a therapist to help you with your second-hand trauma. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself so that you can be of better service to your loved one.
Encourage Your Loved One to Practice Self-Care
Just as you should take your own self-care seriously, you should encourage your loved one to do the same. Remember, the idea behind self-care is to build up positive and sustainable mental energy for dealing with tough emotions and situations. Keep things positive and encourage your loved one in a calm, respectful, and loving way. Activities that promote physical movement, such as exercising, going for a walk (or going for one together), hiking, cycling, and more can be great ways to encourage self-care and take care of yourself at the same time. Overall well-being can be encouraged through maintaining a balanced diet, a regular and sufficient sleep schedule, and even practicing meditation. Create a routine to practice these self-care activities together, fostering growth and communication as your loved one goes through this difficult time.
Be Patient and Understand Boundaries
As much as you want to help, it can be frustrating at times if your care doesn’t seem to be making tangible progress. While it would be amazing if everyone were able to move at the same steady pace, it’s critical that you respect the pace your loved one is willing and able to keep. Sometimes that pace may be quicker, and other times it may be slower. It’s all about taking things one step at a time.
There may also be topics of conversation your loved one isn’t quite ready to talk about yet or that they are comfortable talking about with other veterans and/or therapists but not with you. That’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their comfort zone, and your loved one will appreciate you being respectful of their boundaries. As they recover and learn to take back control of their lives from PTSD, they may open up some of these boundaries, or they might not. Either way, it is important that you stay mindful of the long-term goals.
Avoid and Stay Informed About Triggers
Communication and education work in tandem to help you minimize the impact of triggers. There will almost definitely be weekly, daily, or even more frequent triggers from various sources. The most important thing to do is to stay informed about what these triggers are, be it through your loved one directly or through your continued education on supporting a loved one with PTSD. These triggers may be loud noises, confrontations, depictions of war, crowds, unwanted or unexpected touches, and more. Remain calm and supportive as you help them through flare-ups that result from any inevitable triggers. Creating a safe environment for healing is a massive help to veterans who are struggling.
Be Adaptable and Stay Vigilant
The desire to simply “return to the way things were” is one that needs to be adapted to recognizing and building a sustainable “new normal” for both you and your loved one. The pains caused by PTSD are enough on their own without adding rigidity to the mix. Staying flexible will enable you to provide optimal support for your veteran-in-need. Beyond all these traits and those discussed above, it is important to stay vigilant and always seek to educate yourself about what your loved one is going through. Practice communication and openness, and create a safe environment where everyone can thrive.