Plan in advance

I am always on the look out for more ideas on how to cope.  I am also aware that some families and friends want to help.  I learned that without actually experiencing a flashback, trigger or some other PTSD/CPTSD symptom it is hard for them to know what to do.  I like what this young woman did by writing out in advance how her boyfriend can help her during an anxiety attack.  Her list is very different than mine.  However, the concept is the same. Put in writing where others can easily find it, a list of how to help you through rough times.  For me, most of the time get me in a safe place such as home or a familiar place and let me sleep it off.  I usually sleep with the light on and sometimes music on too.  The sound helps drown out the noise in my head.

The young woman, Kelsey, appreciates a gentle hug.  I do not.  I prefer to see another person but not interact with them.  Kind of put me in the corner so I can see I am not alone and let me go through it.  For me, especially afterwards, my skin hurts, all of it.  The skin is the largest organ in the body and it can all hurt at the same time.  No, I don’t know what cause my skin to be so painful, I just know that it is. The feeling will eventually pass in a few hours.  I remind people that when I ask them not to hug me it is not about them, it really is me with the problem.   After writing the list, have an open conversation so your friend or family member can ask questions.  Things that may be obvious to me is not always clear to the other person. Inviting comments and clarification ups your chances of working together to cope with each event.

One of the things I learned is to give the other person helping choices of ways to help.  Being aware that their comfort level might prevent them from helping in some ways.  Along with choices, practice different techniques before being in crisis.  Just like schools have fire drills, panic attack/ trigger response practice is appropriate way to help building confidence in your relief plan.  After practicing you may discover that some of the things you thought were helpful aren’t as effective as you thought it would be.  I especially like Kelsey’s suggestion to have a conversation hours after what happened.  This type of immediate sharing and caring helps to keep communication lines open and may help strengthen your relationship.

I do not recommend doing any of this with someone who is not helpful.  Sharing with an abuser the best way to comfort you is counter productive since they will use the information to hurt you more.  I learned this one the hard way.  Accept the abuser abuses no matter how nice they sound sometimes.

Learning what helps your self cope, sharing with caring friends or family, and recognizing when the episode is over are all skills that take practice.  None of us came with a set of instructions on how our hearts, minds and body works.  An awful lot of this stuff is trial and error and repeating what works while avoiding what doesn’t work.

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