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Friday, 29 January 2016

10 Things NOT to Say to Someone with PTSD

PTSD (short for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a very complicated and largely misunderstood condition. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, wealth etc, all it takes is a traumatic event to trigger it off and your life can be changed forever. Of course, there are ways of coping with PTSD so that it's not quite so difficult to live with, but speaking from personal experience, I don't think there's any way of ever getting rid of it completely. In the years since I've been diagnosed with PTSD I've had lots of things said by lots of different people, some of them are just careless, but some can come across as pretty nasty.

what not to say to someone with ptsd

"That still bothers you? But it was years ago!"

Believe it or not, there isn't a 'right' amount of time to move on from something in your past. It could be a relationship break-up, a death or something that haunts your every waking moment, we're all different and we deal with things in our own time and way. PTSD is something that may affect you for the rest of your life in one way or another, and there's nothing that we can do about that.

"My friend went through that and he/she's fine"

Well, good for them. Seriously if someone can recover permanently from something that had the potential to ruin them that's amazing. However, if you're not with the person 24/7 you'll likely not know if they're "fine" really. Trauma survivors can be some of the craftiest people with their feelings, you'll only know how we really feel about the incident if we choose to be 100% open with you about it, and that only happens with very special people.

"Just don't think about it"

If only it was that easy! If we had a choice, do you really think we'd spend all night too afraid to close our eyes because as soon as we do we see faces/situations etc that take us right back to the worst time in our lives? If it was as easy as watching a TV show, listening to music or reading a book (all things I've been told I need to do) life would be great.

"Have you tried..."

Yes! Before you even finish that sentence, yes I have. I've tried everything I can think of, everything I've ever been suggested and everything that Google could throw at me. If you genuinely feel that you have some revolutionary new thing to suggest I'm more than happy to hear it and will almost certainly give it a go, but if it's something like meditation or listening to music, rest assured that we've tried it all.

"You need to stop living in the past"

*Sigh* where do I even start with this one? I think the best analogy I can use here is if you had a broken leg ten years ago, which didn't heal properly meaning that you've since had a limp, would someone telling you to "stop living in the past" cure your limp? No, of course it wouldn't. A mental illness is just that, an illness!

"Are you still talking about that?"

Yes, I am because it still dictates how I have to live certain areas of my life. It's difficult to explain to someone why I can't go to certain places, listen to certain songs or smell certain scents without even hinting at what happened to make those things so hard to deal with. Don't get me wrong, I don't like talking about my PTSD so rarely do, but when I have to bring attention to it don't roll your eyes or make a snide comment, if you're that annoyed by my illness perhaps we shouldn't be hanging out at all.

"You're using your PTSD as an excuse"

As an excuse for what? For not living a 'normal' life? For having restrictions on what I can and can't do? For crying myself to sleep some nights? That's not an excuse, that's a reason! No-one wants me to be able to live the average life more than me, so when I say I can't do something you'd better believe that there's a genuine reason for it.

"What happened to you wasn't that bad"

Granted there are always going to be people who have things harder, but life isn't a competition. Just because Mr X has the worst life imaginable doesn't make the things you're going through any easier for you. When you say this to a trauma survivor you trivialise what they've been through and make them feel guilty for it still affecting them, and believe me when I say that we deal with enough guilt already.

"You're damaged/used goods now"

My blood boils at this one! Not only are you saying that the person is no longer complete, 'normal' or good enough, but you're also dismissing them as a human being by comparing them to an inanimate object. Just no, don't ever say this to anyone.

"Why do you have PTSD?"

While this may seem like an innocent, and even caring, thing to ask, the reality is that it can be really damaging. I spend the majority of my waking hours trying not to think about things that have happened in my past, so when someone asks this it destroys all that hard work and takes me right back to where I was when the event/s happened. If someone wants to open up and tell you more about something so personal, they will in their own time, please don't put them in the uncomfortable position of feeling like they have to try and qualify how they feel.

In the past, I've had each of these said/asked at least once and each time it made me feel horrible, so I'm speaking from experience when I say please, before you let any of these horrible clich├ęs fall from your lips, have a little think first and imagine how it sounds to the person suffering.

If you know someone with PTSD and would like more information on how you can help them, I recommend this website, it's clear and concise. If you're interested in finding out more about the condition I suggest checking out PTSD UK, it's a wealth of information.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I've never been so open about my mental health before, but I know you're all fantastic so that really does help a lot.

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