Hi Guys. It’s been a minute. Yeah yeah. This time, I’m not downplaying it… Asides the sequel I’ve been running on the blog, I haven’t posted in a few weeks. Which isn’t so bad considering where I was last year but not so great as well since I’ve been posting at least once a week. Not a lot has happened but I’ll spill what’s up. So I had a 2-week leave from work about 3 weeks ago. I’m entitled to one month of leave during my one year internship programme and I decided to split mine into two parts of 2 weeks each. I had my first leave last year which makes this the last. I’m not sad about it, because I’m finishing my internship on May 1st. Whoop! Whoop! To be honest, I’m both excited and anxious because of NYSC. But let’s leave that for another post.
I travelled back to Owo in Ondo State last week Monday (if you’ve been following my blog posts, you’d know this is where I’ve been undergoing my internship programme) and during the journey, I decided on sharing my experience with you. I’m sure you’re wondering what’s there to share? Well, not the journey but my experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It occurred to me that there might be other people who have had or are undergoing PTSD but are not sure how to talk about it mostly because they think they’re alone so I decided to talk about it on here in order to make them realize they’re not alone.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety stress disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, or learning that a traumatic event has happened to a loved one. It is a psychological reaction which manifests after a traumatic event. For an event to be classified as traumatic, a person has to have witnessed, experienced or been confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of themselves or others. The person’s response MUST involve intense fear, helplessness or horror.
The major symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to:
1. Continually reliving the traumatic event or having nightmares about it.
2. Involuntary or conscious avoidance of things that remind the victim of the traumatic event.
3. Being on the look-out for a danger that isn’t present.
There are a bunch load of symptoms that are a lot more specific to individuals and I dropped links below for further reading.
Examples of traumatic events include:
1. Experiencing or witnessing natural disasters.
2. Violent crimes such as kidnapping, physical abuse, assault or murder of a loved one.
3. Being involved in or witnessing a car accident.
4. Undergoing a major surgery.
5. Chronic physical or sexual abuse.
Sometime last year, I was involved in what could have been a fatal road accident. I had travelled to Ibadan for the weekend and was heading back to Owo when one of the car’s tyre flew off in full speed. Immediately, the car started spinning for a few minutes and flipped on its side before going back on its wheels. During this period, I was very scared but somehow I remained calm. There was a lot of screaming from the other passengers but my instant response was to pray. When the car finally came to a halt in a ditch, that’s when I felt the shock from the event. Thankfully no one was hurt, except for the driver who strained a muscle in his arm while trying to control the steering wheel.
The week following the incident, I was still in shock. I became so withdrawn and sullen. I kept having flashbacks of the incident and saw life in a whole new perspective. Prior to this, I had been travelling home about twice in a month but after what happened, I didn’t travel nowhere for the next 3 months. Eventually, when I had to go on a 45 minutes journey to Akure, I had a panic attack for most part of it and even ended up breaking down in tears at some point due to the horrific flashbacks and paranoid imaginations the journey triggered. It’s gotten a lot better now but I don’t think I can ever really get over it. I can no longer travel without blocking out the car’s noise with music in addition to praying all the way.
Treatment usually comprises different types of psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.
An evidence-based treatment for PTSD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The concept behind CBT is that our thoughts affect how we feel which invariably affect how we behave or respond to certain situations. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviour can influence one another to create a cycle. So, If we consciously program our minds to think positive (about a situation that would normally be accompanied with lots of negative thoughts), these positive thoughts will have a positive influence on our responses and behaviour in that situation.
But let’s be practical with a lot of consideration to our environment, visiting a Clinical Psychologist is uncommon in this part of the world (except in severe cases). As a matter of fact, it is avoided as much as possible. In my case, immediately I started having flashbacks and paranoia, I had a pretty clear picture of the diagnosis yet I didn’t go to see one (well for me, I knew it will pass with time) but ideally I should have gone to see one. So I’m in no way discouraging anyone suffering from PTSD from seeking medical attention, I’m only trying to be realistic. So in event of all these, how does one cope with PTSD and inevitably get better?
Time! They say time heals all things (including PTSD). The fact is that it gets better with time. The amount of flashbacks I had immediately after the accident has reduced drastically now. Although, I still get very paranoid when I’m about to embark on any journey via a public vehicle but I’m handling it a lot better than I was some months ago.
Talk to someone! They say a problem shared is a problem half solved right? Taking to someone helps me a great deal. Every time I get paranoid prior to a journey or on a journey, I talk to someone who understands and can help me get over the paranoia.
Prayer! I never underestimate the power of prayer. This is the most important in my opinion. Prior to the accident, I prayed about everything no matter how mundane. So it was only natural for me to talk to God to help me get past the flashbacks, the paranoia and panic attacks. I can’t tell you how much peace I feel after praying each time I’m having a panic attack while on a journey. Prayers work.
Think Positive! Whenever I start having negative thoughts related to the incident, I try to get rid of those thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts and imaginations that will put me at ease. This helps me in most case and is an example of employing the concept of CBT.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage and mediation can help one get past PTSD as well. I mostly use deep breathing exercise technique when I’m getting a panic attack and it works like magic.
I hope this reaches someone who needs it. I’d love to see your comments below. Have you experienced PTSD or do you know someone who has? How did you/they get past it? If there’s anything you’d like to add, please I’d be glad to read.
Wish you a lovely week Guys.