Living Better with Your Loved One’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – How Not to Catch It as You Help Them Heal
by Robert L Bray, PhD, LCSW, TFT-VT
Of course you cannot catch it like the flu or a bacterial infection.
When your loved one is exposed and develops dysfunctional survival and coping reactions, thinking, or behavior, do not just wait for time to heal this injury. Waiting adds to both of your stress levels and makes you more susceptible to developing more symptoms. Traumatic Stress Responses come in many forms. Even if your loved one does not meet enough of the 20 symptoms listed in PTSD criteria, the pain and healing can be just as difficult and they need your help. The closer your relationship, the deeper the love, the more at risk you are for the conditions that could lead to you getting your own dose of post traumatic stress.
Traumatic Stressor events can be any form of violence presenting a threat to life or safety. These events encompass a huge range and could be a one-time high- intense event, such as a car crash or shooting. Or it could be many less intense events over time, such as waiting for the next time a drunken rage ends in a physical fight or having to live in an environment under constant threat of attack. We all have our breaking points and traumatic stress can be a response to war, combat, assaults, childhood abuse, rape, domestic violence, natural disaster, or social indifference.
You can be affected by something called vicarious traumatization or secondary trauma, which can happen when you’re connected with someone through love and you know that your loved one has been overwhelmed and exposed to traumatic stressor events. This reaction is normal, and while it does not happen in every case and is not a test of your love in any way, you need to be aware of your own responses to knowing what happened to your loved one. You can find yourself with your own intrusive images and sensations about events and your own problems such as sleep, avoidance, or other symptoms causing dysfunctions in your work, relationships, or living a positive life. You must acknowledge and treat your own PTSD to be available fully to help another. There is much to be done to help and you are not alone. Using Thought Field Therapy is the best place to start. When
the overwhelming feelings are addressed, you can think and act in healing ways for you and the ones you love.
When you live with someone with PTSD, the everyday stress in life is increased. Your concern for his or her well being is at the top of a long list of concerns that come with a close relationship. And now, the one you relied on the most is not functioning as before the events. Often PTSD can come with a host of other conditions affecting your loved one: physical injuries that require extensive surgery and treatment, depression with loss of previous functions in lifestyle, hopelessness in finding meaning in life with this new condition, physical pain that does not go away, and fears of being a burden to others.
Do you worry? There is a lot to worry about – from how you find the time to take a shower to the unpredictability of your loved one’s condition day to day or month to month. For some, the biggest worry is knowing that sometimes humans with PTSD do commit suicide – both intentionally and unintentionally. More veterans of combat die at their own hands than at the hand of the enemy. People with untreatable pain often turn to suicide as a solution. Tap if this thought overwhelms you so you can hear this next sentence. You are the best medicine in reducing the risk your loved one will turn to this extreme behavior. Through your relationship he or she is not alone and not without hope. There is much to be done to help the healing and there are many people who can help. Although you may feel alone at times with all that now falls on your shoulders, it is a fact, that there are family members, friends, and organizations that do care, and will help.
Starting with self-care including TFT and moving to strategies for making yourself a positive force in your loved one’s recovery is more than possible, it is common. Integrating Thought Field Therapy to keep your emotional pain, anger, fear, and frustration at workable levels allows you to avoid the unnecessary stress interfering with achieving the health possible in your home. By learning what is important in creating a healing environment and having the tools to maintain your own strength and health, your loved one can better work back to the moment in this time that holds hope and connection to what is of value. Taking care of you greatly reduces the likelihood of both you and your loved one being overwhelmed emotionally and acting irrationally at the same time.
The first rule of rescue workers is “Don’t become a victim too”. A lifeguard does not attempt a rescue for which he/ she is not prepared and supported. To act otherwise can result in the lifeguard being overwhelmed and becoming a victim too. Prepare yourself and get the support you need.
• Know the course of healing using the NOW model for complete recovery.
• Recognize the signs and symptoms of vicarious traumatization (also called secondary traumatization).
• Recognize the difference between compassion fatigue and burnout.
• Practice action steps to prevent and/or reduce compassion fatigue and burnout.
• Learn how Thought Field Therapy can help you and your loved one to speed healing.
• Practice TFT techniques together and use this safe, non-invasive, non-drug, fast, effective to end the overwhelming emotions blocking the connections you both need.
• Develop a self-care plan that supports your loved one’s healing process.