I follow several pages on Facebook that advocate for those with PTSD. When I see an article that interest me or adds to the story of living with PTSD I like to share. I also feel that if I am going to share it I need to add my perspective.
SometimesMagical shared these insightful suggestions on how to support a loved one through a trigger or anxiety attack. Part of it is visual so I recommend going to her page and checking out the pictures.
Her header points are important.
The sense of feeling safe is difficult to feel when triggered or already in the panic attack. I believe it is important to identify and plan for escape routes to safety, especially when I am going into a situation that is high stress already. I also believe it is my responsibility to help me be safe. Friends and family sometimes have a hard time understanding that my idea of safety might not be theirs. Sometimes people think they are helping me to be safe by touching me or trying to hold me. Sometimes this has the opposite affect for me. Ask me at the time if hugging or touching me will be helpful. Direct me verbally, even if I don’t respond at first, words from someone else require me to come to the present to process. Words are an awesome life line when I feel like I am drowning in a sea of anxiety. I used to listen to my counselors answering machine, kind of like hugging a security blanket.
Anchoring, grounding, mindfulness are all terms that mean get into the present reality. However, if you are in danger and your body is aware of it before you are, PAY ATTENTION to this feeling. If you are in a safe place, anchoring your mind to the same safe place is helpful. Count your breath and breath slowly, 5 counts to breathe in 6 counts to breathe out. Look around your self and name the colors you see. Look at and name 5 things, touch 4 things, listen for 3 noises, taste 2 things, smell 1 thing you know you will like. All these methods are for the purpose to bringing your thoughts back to the safety of where you are now.
Touch (Use with extreme caution!)
Refer to the above safety tip from me. Please, keep in mind, not everyone views touching as safe or comforting.
After a bad episode I need weeks to recover. The next day everything is wonderful doesn’t happen for me. I wish I were different than this but I’m not. During recuperation I try to do things that are self-soothing, some video games, TV, coloring, photography, hiking, and other activities that help bring down my adrenaline levels. Each person is different that works for them. Collect a list of things that help calm and renew the emotions and mind.
Sometimes I need to talk, sometimes I won’t say a word but talking to me is helpful. Once in awhile sitting in the same room quietly is what I need. No hard and fast rules with this one. Prying, demanding I say something has a big negative impact. I spent a lot of time talking in counseling once I felt safe there. It is worth the money to talk to a healthy professional about experiences. Notice that I say “healthy”, sadly not all professionals are healthy or they don’t understand the complexity of PTSD.
I mentioned this in the Safety section. Plan ahead did I mention plan ahead. Once you know what you are fighting (I lived with PTSD for 40 years before I knew what was wrong with me) plan for when the next anxiety/flashback occurs. They are going to happen again. Take note of what works and stop doing what doesn’t work. Education expands your options for finding things that work.
Living with PTSD is not an easy task, loved ones that support me in the way I understand easy this burden I carry everyday.