Stretching can help; however you need to deal with the emotional issues behind PTSD, so therapy is a must. I'd recommend EMDR, as far as I know it's efficient to deal with PTSD in a few sessions. Of course, your mileage may vary.
All my life, I've lived with people with various degrees of PTSD from Serious to Life-crippling-in-and-out-of-care levels. So much that I'm now diagnosed with mild PTSD from just living with it.
I don't understand it at all.
But I do see the symptoms. And the biggest symptom is that it brings out the Prey instinct in humans.
For example, we have a wild rabbit on the farm that has become quite used to us. Rabbits have very strong prey instinct. Lots of things eat rabbit. It's delicious with 'taters. Because she's used to us, we can get quite close, and she will come to sniff our shoes or take things we give her from a foot or so away from our hand. But we have to make sure to make the right amount of noise. Simple calm talking and no eye contact. If we are too noisy she won't come close. If we are too quiet, she panics. Any change in the environment makes the rabbit nervous. Altering the routine makes her afraid.
I've noticed this is how my humans are.
If they are startled by someone quietly entering the room - that can put them out of action for days or send them into a nasty emotional spiral.
It's made more difficult in that most of them have lost a lot of hearing. So I make sure I have noisy shoes and even tap along the walls as I approach a blind corner so they don't get surprised.
Another thing I've noticed is the kind of events that caused the issue. I'm a military brat, so most of the male members of my family have served. They have seen things that I'm not allowed to admit to knowing about. But the ones that went through WWII had support. They had other people that they could talk about the events and this made it easier. They weren't alone and they felt that people could relate. The ones that got PTSD from being bombed at home during the war also had people they could relate to. As they lost people they could relate to, the PTSD got worse. But it's the later generations that have the most problem. One family member had ... a certain level of security clearance... and even if there was anyone left alive who had experienced that life, they wouldn't be allowed to talk about it. There aren't shrinks with high enough security clearance to help. When that person retired, they had a 6-month life expectancy, and even though it's 30 years later, the military has zero support for him because he isn't supposed to be alive.
And then there are the ones who survived horrific personal abuse as children. Traumatic personal experiences. That's the point. Personal. There aren't people out there to relate to. But the shrinks love the retelling of the story. Each time they retell it, they relive it. It gets stronger. They lose the ability to relate to the world outside their own story. They attack and push away anyone who would try to support them.
So actual curing it? I have no idea.
But being kind often helps
Being consistent with routine and making the environment predictable helps tremendously! Being able to know that when they reach for something it will be there. It helps build up trust (lack of trust is another prey instinct).
Working with animals can help. But it depends on the individual. My grandfather was abusive to the animals because that's how he thought one interacts with the world. But others do well and like the routine of animal care.
Most calming herbs seem to make things worse. Hypervigilance is a big symptom (prey response) so having calmness imposed from the outside tends to heighten the hypervigilance.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy seems to be a good starting place. But the person has to be ready for it.
If it's someone else... you ever work with a feral cat, or a dog that had a rough start? Calm, steady, reliable routines, let them have their hiding spots, announce yourself with sounds as you walk, all that stuff. Accept that some days will be fine, others won't. Unlike (most) animals, people talk. If they are at a point where they need to talk about it and you can actively listen patiently, they're fortunate. Don't push though. Some people process verbally, some don't. Be aware when they're going through bouts of poor or no sleep - that can unhinge anyone for a while. Many trauma survivors have lots of sleep issues.
If it's you... I've got it too. Be patient with yourself. It is a survival trait, not a weakness or an illness. Your ancestors survived that second tiger attack, and the way this part of you works is why.
Do what you can to take care of your physical needs, sleep, good food, regular exercise. Learn and pay attention to the speed of your pulse and other body signals telling you when you're reacting. (Those pulse reading wearable bracelets are great for that.) Build up an understanding of the things and sounds and thoughts that overwhelm you, and make changes in your space to manage them. Learn what calms you when things are rough, and add them to your space. If they're activities, do them.
If you're having intrusive memories or repeating nightmares, there's techniques like EMDR and visualized distancing that can help lower the "charge" on the memories so when they're in your thoughts they don't come with that overload of emotions. Letting those memories rerun at full charge reinforces the trauma. Medications and calming herbs might or might not help.
Be brave when you can about facing what comes up, and on the days you can't, be patient and kind with yourself. It can take a long time, but it does get better.
My hubby has complex CPTSD after childhood abuse, and also PTSD from stuff that happened to him in adult life (military and healthcare professional). He's also on the autistic spectrum which makes the world an even more confusing and hard-to-be-in place for him. He's come close to accidentally hurting me a number of times before I realized how things were and learned I need to make plenty of noise when I approach him, give warning of what I'm doing waaaaaaaay earlier than I think I should need to, take everything slowly and gently. When we first met and in the early years of our marriage, drank far more than I realized to self-medicate, dangerously high levels. One day, he recognized the harm alcohol was causing his body and stopped drinking. He's been sober for many years now, but the PTSD symptoms, hypervigilance and constant anxiety became far worse when he stopped drinking. It was healthy, because as long as he kept drinking, he couldn't heal the memories and the beliefs he'd formed about himself. But things were tough for a while.
Raven, you are so right about traditional talking therapies for PTSD. Certainly for my husband, most of the therapy he went through made things worse, not better. Most therapists have no idea how to deal with PTSD, let alone CPTSD, let alone CPTSD complicated by autism. Too much retelling the story reinforces the hold the past has rather than lessening it. He worked for a while with one clinical psychologist who helped, because she didn't use a one-size-fits-all therapy model (works about as well for therapy as it does for clothing!), She worked with him and tailored an approach based on narrative therapy and CBT that helped him feel really heard, and then she helped him to see different ways of thinking about himself. That was a limited time thing, but he's carried some of what he learned there forward with him. He's far happer and more constructive in his thinking than he used to be. Life is still challenging for him and for me, and will always be. As I've grown older I've gained patience and wisdom, though my own health has suffered in the process. But things can and do improve.
Jennifer, if you're living with or supporting someone with PTSD, all I have to add to what the others said is this - make self-care a focus. Don't let the other person's issues run your life. It isn't selfish to want time out, to need respite, to set healthy boundaries, and to recognize that you can't be the other person's therapist. You can be a friend, a lover, someone to help them feel seen, someone to remind them of their true value and worth, separate from whatever happened to them. But you can't heal them, and it's not your job to, even though they may think it is and you may think it is. All you can do is love them and love yourself too, and that's the most important job there is.
If you're the person with PTSD, K Kaba said it so well. Please treat yourself with love and care. Eat healthy, do things that nurture you. See your value and your strengths. See that you are more than your past and what happened. Trust that things will get better. They will. <3
I'm only 60! That's not to old to learn to be a permie, right?
Much love to you, Jennifer (and/or to your loved one who is suffering).
I have PTSD and permaculture has helped me reframe things in a way that therapy couldn't. I really recommend checking out Looby Macnamara's book People & Permaculture, especially Chapter 4 on "Internal Landscape."
Using a permaculture lens has helped take the shame and personalization out of my process and view it in the same way that I view land management: a slow, arduous process that will take a lot of observation, slow changes, and tweaking to reach goals. I am happy to take on the challenge because I believe that disturbed land still has value, worth and beauty. It can be recovered and turned into something harmonious and productive, but it will take time, creativity, and perseverance.
Just like land, every person is their own unique system with their own individual topography. You don't have to be ashamed that your property floods and your neighbor's does not, but you should probably make some adjustments to manage the flooding. If your first adjustment turns out to be a miscalculation that makes the flooding worse, do you just give up and sit in the water??
It's okay to be you. It's okay not to have all the answers. But in order to recover, you must stay dedicated to making changes to your system and observing the results.
Progress isn't linear. Observed results might be something like...."I can't get out of bed today due to crippling anxiety, could this be related to the scary movie I watched last night? I am going to be kind to myself about this setback and experiment with only watching movies that make me feel happy or relaxed."
As far as diet/excercise/herbs go, I do have a few things that have helped me but may not work for you/your loved one. Feel free to try them out and observe your results:
- Prioritize eating healthy and getting enough sleep
-Intense exercise for 5-10 minutes is my best medicine. My therapist says it literally changes the chemistry of the brain and is as effective as taking an antidepressant. I didn't take this advice for awhile, because I do physical labor for work and figured I was already covered. I was wrong!!! I need to sprint or go all out on a stationary bike to get the benefits. It really does help.
-Anxiety can really screw with your digestive health, and bad digestive health can cause anxiety. It's a feedback loop! I take probiotics, eat fermented foods and drink teas for digestion. My favorites are raw dandelion root and Mate Factor's Digestive Tea. I recently cut refined sugar out of my diet and it has helped A LOT, but the withdrawal symptoms were extremely difficult and lasted ~2 weeks.
- Doing meal prep every Sunday so that I have healthy food readily available during my work week. Otherwise, I may not prioritize eating or make food healthy choices.
- Yoga with Adrienne channel on YouTube
- Headspace meditation app
Also noteworthy, many people with PTSD struggle with healthy boundaries. There are lots of fun examples of this in nature. I think of it like my mint patch. I love mint and I want it in my garden, but if I am not careful, it will run wild and takeover everything. Weeding the creeping edges is not rude or violent to the mint. I love the mint AND my other veggies too and must keep them in appropriate balance for optimum production and harmony.
Some permaculture principals & applications that I have found helpful: -Diversity: What are your needs? How can you meet them? It is important to have multiple ways to meet each need, so that if one thing falls through, your needs are still guaranteed to be met.
example: My partner is not capable of providing me with emotional support whenever I need it, so I must also rely on trusted friends, family members, a therapist, my dog, my journal and myself.
-Produce no waste: How are you using your personal energy? What causes a lot of stress and wasted energy? How can you cut down on wasted energy?
example: As president, Obama chose to wear only blue and grey suits to conserve his mental energy - he had enough choices to make.
- Catch and store energy: Recognize and take advantage of opportunities to fill your cup/replace your spoons! If there is an opportunity to meet a need, you should take that opportunity while it is available.
example: Recently, I chose to go to a cider pressing gathering instead of doing a $100 job. I felt like I should prioritize the opportunity to make money, but was able to recognize that my social needs were going unmet. I would have more opportunities to make money but very limited social opportunities with covid/winter coming.
- Obtain a yield: You can't give from empty pockets.
example: Read Paul's Spoon Theory blog!
Good luck out there <3
And big thanks to everyone else who responded! I learned some new things and am grateful for the support on this thread.
I have some PTSD. I have never really sought treatment after the evaluations. Knock on wood it seems to be getting better as time goes by.
Exercise seems to be the biggest factor in how bad PTSD (or any stress really) is going to get at any given time. Exercise breaks a lot of bad loops in the brain in my humble opinion. The hands on physical activity that comes from permaculture has been an absolute blessing.
Alcohol has been an ally and an enemy, Sometimes it helps to get drunk and let the brain relax. Shit, sometimes it helps to get drunk and remember too. Obviously this is not the case for everyone, or even most. I am not trying to sound funny or tough but I count it as a positive. I don't drink that much.
The primary "herbal" cure applied to PTSD can go both ways as well. Daytime use can cause the brain to go into overdrive which is the last thing you want. At night though, right before bed I like it. It's like a knockout pill without the nasty consequences.
Anyways, all the advice given above gets my stamp of approval. It's not the loud noises that get me, it's the surprise. I still like shooting guns sometimes and I can laugh it off afterwords but unexpected gunshots or fireworks sometimes cause me to drop down to a knee and reach for a rife that isn't there. I can still watch war movies but I have to do it alone. The brain is a wild $%$ eh?
These are the worst of times and these are the best of times. And this is the best tiny ad: