The Canadian Critical Incident Stress Foundation
When someone you care about suffers from post-traumatic stress or the disorder it affects you too. The symptoms of PTS(D) aren't easy to live with, and the changes in your loved one can be downright terrifying. You worry that things won't ever go back to the way they were before. At the same time, you may feel angry about what's happening to your family, and hurt by your loved one's distance and moodiness. It's a stressful situation all around one that can leave you feeling overwhelmed, even as you try your best to stay strong. The most important thing to know is that you aren't helpless. Your support can make a huge difference in your partner, friend, or family member's recovery. But as you do your best to care for someone with PTSD, you also need to take care of yourself.
It is important to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this journey of "new normal"
We are working diligently to develop and implement a support group where spouses and partners of our Emergency Service Professionals have a place to connect with eachother and discuss what they are experiencing, ask questions and raise concerns. There has been an official private Facebook group that has been created and if you wish to be added to this group please message [email protected]
Encouraging and Supporting Treatment
Despite the importance of your love and support, it isn't always enough. Many people who have been traumatized need professional help. But bringing it up can be touchy. Think about how you'd feel if someone suggested that you needed therapy.
Wait for the right time to raise your concerns. Don't bring it up when you're arguing or in the middle of a crisis. Also be careful with your language. Avoid anything that implies that he or she is crazy. Frame it in a positive, practical light: treatment is a way to learn new skills that can be used to handle a wide variety of PTSD-related challenges.
- Emphasize the benefits. For example, therapy can help them become more independent and in control. Or it can help reduce the anxiety and avoidance that is keeping them from doing the things they want to do.
Encourage the person to join a support group. Getting involved with others who have gone through similar traumatic experiences can help your loved one feel less damaged and alone.
Focus on specific problems. If your partner shuts down when you talk about PTSD or counseling, focus instead on how treatment can help with specific issues like anger management, anxiety, or concentration and memory problems.
Acknowledge the hassles and limitations of therapy. For example, you could say, know that therapy isn't a quick or magical cure, and it may take awhile to find the right therapist. But even if it helps a little, it will be worth it.
Enlist help from people your loved one respects and trusts. He or she may be more open to counseling if the idea comes from someone else. Suggest the person see a doctor or talk with his/her pastor, rabbi, or spiritual leader.
Tips for coping with PTSD in the family
Be patient. Getting better takes time, even when a person is committed to treatment for PTSD. Be patient with the pace of recovery. It's a process that takes time and often involves setbacks. The important thing is to stay positive and keep at it.
Educate yourself about PTSD. The more you know about the symptoms, effects, and treatment options, the better equipped you'll be to help your loved one, understand what he or she is going through, and keep things in perspective.
Don't pressure your loved one into talking. It can be very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Instead of trying to force it, just let them know you're willing to listen when they're ready.
Take care of your emotional and physical health. As the saying goes, put on your own oxygen mask first. You won't be any good to your loved one if you are burned out, sick, or exhausted.
Accept (and expect) mixed feelings. As you go through the emotional wringer, be prepared for a complicated mix of feelings some of which you'll never want to admit. Just remember, having negative feelings toward your family member doesn't mean you don't love them.