I’d like to thank everyone who sent emails, commented or reached out after my previous blog post: My PTSD Journey: 7 Years of an Unforgiving Minute. Many of those notes were to make sure I was ok, so let me kick this off by saying… I AM DOING DARN WELL. As I began to read the notes, it dawned on me: our society seems to be getting better about admitting behavioral health is a struggle for many, but we rarely share the mechanisms we try in coping with PTSD, depression or other other mood disorders. I’d like to share the 4 self-help tips I tried in my coping with my PTSD battle.
Before I get into this, my path to coping with PTSD started a little differently than most PTSD sufferers’ stories. It went like this…
“Why are you ashamed of your PTS son? See I don’t say that “disorder” word, it’s just PTS to me,” the voice on the other line questioned.
I paused, thought and spoke, “I’m not sir.”
The voice on the other line piped up again, “Ok fair enough, well if you truly aren’t I’m going to get you set up with someone to talk to….”
The voice on the other end of the line was former President George W. Bush. I owe part of my success to coping with PTSD to Mr. Bush, and the other part of my success I owe to my friends and my family. Because not everyone can receive an encouraging call from President George W. Bush Jr., I am hoping by sharing the four self-help tips I tried to cope with PTSD I will be able to help even one person battling PTSD, anxiety or any other mood disorder. My four self-help tips for coping with PTSD are:
- I FAILED: On my own, without clinical or medical assistance, I failed by pushing away traditional help. I thought I knew what was best for me. Why would anyone know what’s best for me other than myself? My self-diagnosis quickly saw negative repercussions. I had begun self-medication and partaking in poor decisions as “my treatment plan” wasn’t working. I incorrectly assumed the extensive research on mental health and PTSD was sufficient. I liken this to a broken arm. If I broke my arm, it’d be darn difficult with my business operations research degree to triage, x-ray, set, cast, follow up, re-mold and ensure that I was healing correctly. So why did I think I could do this with a behavioral health condition? Was I afraid to admit I have PTSD?
**I didn’t say these 4 things were going to be things that worked, but they are part of my journey to PTSD recovery. **
- MODERATION: Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states “a body at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by outside forces.” I am a very introverted person. My happy place is at rest and alone. But like anything in life, moderation can be the key to healthiness. I started focusing on what I could do week to week even down to day to day to just keep it moving – literally, move my body. Go get a coffee outside instead of in my apartment, go for a walk, go buy a magazine at the store. For a human not affected by mental health, these are normal activities; for me, these were daily accomplishments and how I attempted healthy ways of coping with PTSD.
3. DISCIPLINE: Pick anything that should be a daily routine, but you blow off. Then, commit to not blowing off that routine. I started doing this back in 2012 at the height of my struggle. I only had two criteria for picking a routine:
a. They had to be self-improving
b. They had to be smack dab in the middle of “too easy” and “too difficult”
The 6 effective PTSD coping strategies I tried were:
Making my bed each morning (yes I know, Captain Obvious, but it works)
Drinking 4 bottles of water a day
Reading 10 pages of a book daily
Texting one person daily that I hadn’t told lately that I cared about them
Putting my phone out of arms reach when I sleep
Flipping my physical exercise regime
Starting an exercise regime was the hardest self-help coping strategy to take on for no reason other than the disciplined exercise – I went from working out at night to working out prior to work daily. It was not easy 🙂
Nowhere in here am I telling you that you need to do all of these or any of these strategies to cope with PTSD. Just pick something, pick a time period (one month, two weeks, etc) to practice it and commit. At the end of each time period I allowed my new routines to either continue or say, “Ehhh, this is effort. I’m out.” You’d be surprised how happy you get from drinking that 4th bottle of water!
- I ASKED FOR HELP: I can’t tell you the number of times I would sit on the phone with my parents sharing my struggles only to lead to a response of, “I just wish you would talk to someone who knows how to help you cope with PTSD.” Ughhh, I can still feel my skin crawl as I hear their voices saying that. I thought “Therapy is not my answer.” I consider myself lucky as I love my parents and they mean well, they also weren’t incorrect in their assessment. I’m also lucky that a former President decided to pick up the phone and borderline force me to cope with PTSD on a professional level -therapy. Yes, as a logical human being I can say it shouldn’t take a presidential act to get treatment, but it did for me.
My PTSD coping journey has been a learning experience. I’ve had ups, and downs, and fought my way back up again. I wake up every day often afraid that I may fall back into depression and disabling PTSD, but I remember my failures, and I keep it moving by practicing random acts of discipline and I raise my hand when I need help. I am far from perfect, but I’m working my hardest to be the best damn person I can be in this life.
Let your failures be the catalysts to your PTSD healing journey.