“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” ~ Lori Goodwin
1. I’m not going to treat you any differently because you’re sick, and you know you wouldn’t really want me to.
Well, no. What you’re really trying to say here is that’s you’re determined not let my illness impact on your life, isn’t it? Since I’ve told you, repeatedly actually, that I need to you to act just a little bit differently so that you stop triggering me. Dick.
People with PTSD have their own specific things which trigger their anxiety or cause them to act out. If you want to support someone with PTSD ask them what their triggers are – or whether there’s anything that they need you to do differently, or not do at all – so that they can continue to feel safe around you.
2. You must be a bit better, you’ve been off work for ages.
Now, see, the mistake you’re making there is assuming that my ‘getting better’ is an inevitability. At this point it’s a pretty even bet that this thing’s going to kill me.
PTSD is a frustrating illness, the healing process can take a very long time, and I’ve found that an episode has to reach it’s absolute worst before things start to turn around. If someone you care about has PTSD prepare to be in it for the long haul and don’t expect change to happen fast.
3. You can’t make your whole life about the fact that you’re ill.
There are voices on a loop in my head telling me to kill myself. I panic at the thought of leaving the house. If anyone I don’t know already so much as dares try to speak to me I completely lose it. I can’t even cross the road to fetch a pint of milk, for god’s sakes. What else, exactly, do you think my life is about right now?
The problem with PTSD being a disorder of the mind is that it gradually takes up all of your thoughts, until there really isn’t room for anything else. It’s a painful and scary illness, and it’s very difficult to think about anything when your mind just hurts. If someone you know has PTSD try to forgive them for being self involved, it is unavoidable at times and they do need to focus as much of their energies as possible on trying to get better.
4. But that’s not a symptom of what you’ve got (in response to me cutting myself).
Actually, no, I’ve still got nothing on that one.
Having PTSD means that your brain isn’t working properly, and so it makes you do crazy, inexplicable things. Hard as it may be to understand if your loved one is hurting themselves try to be sympathetic and understanding about it. Being judgmental of them could make matters worse as it may add to their feelings of isolation and despair.
5. Why have you had so much time off work for that? (locum GP: after I told him that I was being treated for PTSD after being raped – because he couldn’t be bothered to read my notes.)
Well, yeah, it was a pretty big deal, y’know? Think how well you’d like it. (And to the receptionist: Do you have any kind of feedback forms here at all?)
I can’t really tell you what’s the best thing to say to someone who’s been sexually assaulted. But this isn’t it. Try to offer sympathy and reassurance. Refrain from passing any kind of judgment on the victim. And offer to be there to support them if you mean it.