If you clicked on the link to open this post, then PTSD probably isn’t totally unknown terminology to you. I can’t say that I was ever particularly thinking about PTSD until it affected me personally. As I discussed in the previous post, I was diagnosed with PTSD at the beginning of this year. I suffered anxiety and flashbacks but was determined to overcome my fears and get my life back. So how to overcome fears and manage PTSD when the trauma didn’t fade yet?
It is crucial to say that everyone can experience trauma from any stressful, distressing or frightening event. There is no age limit, and sometimes it can take time to notice the effects that a traumatic event has left. We are also all different and react and cope with things differently. There is no right or wrong response to a traumatic event, and what can cause problems to one may not be traumatic to another. After experiencing a traumatic event, our brain tries to process what has happened and make sense of it. Our feelings and responses can change over time. However, if your symptoms persist even after four weeks, then it is a good idea to talk to a trained therapist.
According to PTSD UK, around 50% of people experience trauma at some stage in their life. And approximately 20% of them will develop PTSD. Although we don’t know why this happens to some people, certain factors may make you more vulnerable to developing PTSD, according to Mind.
- previous experience of mental health problems
- experience of repeated trauma
- experience of childhood trauma
It also depends on the type and severity of the traumatic event.
Time heals, but sometimes we must take steps that help the healing. Sometimes we may require professional help. And this is ok. Remember, it doesn’t make you a failure just because you need help. It isn’t a weakness. It takes a strong person to reveal their honest emotions, to talk about it. Mental health is just as important as physical. After all, if I wasn’t ashamed that my vertebrae were fractured, why should I be embarrassed that my mental health suffered? They were both the result of a traumatic event that I encountered. And to recover fully, I had to heal from both sides, inside and out.
Is it possible to ever overcome fears and anxiety?
After almost two weeks in hospital, I returned home. I was happy to be at home, even though I didn’t have the professional support and the strong medications I had during my stay at the hospital. They pumped me up with medication before leaving the hospital to help me manage the car journey home and the stairs once at home. Once I had made it upstairs, I stayed there for the whole week.
After a week spent almost entirely in bed, it was time to face the world. After I finally managed to go back down the stairs with the help of my husband, the next step was to go for my first walk outside. I could feel my heart pumping as we went out. I was on crutches, and it wasn’t easy, but I’ve managed to walk a few meters around our house and even cross a road. Even though it was only a short walk, I felt so delighted and proud I did it!
After my first walk, we started to go outside regularly, even if only for a short time. I felt so anxious and scared every time I was approaching a road. My hands started to sweat, and I began to shake. Then I was glad that I had the support of my husband. I would still experience flashbacks. I would get them when I was trying to cross a road, and a car would suddenly come into my vision, even if it hasn’t been close to me.
You know those vivid flashbacks, where your body and mind bring you at that moment back to the place where it all happened. Right there and then. And everything is just as intense as it was. You can hear it, see it, and it’s all happening again. You can’t determine anymore what’s real and what’s a nightmare. I would often freeze up, feel paralysed and scream when unexpectedly seeing a car driving towards me. It could be still far away or even turning off the road, but at that moment, reality stopped for me. It was like I was feeling disconnected from my body, from the world.
How to overcome your fears?
However, you can only overcome your fears by facing them. Start with little steps. Take things day by day. For me, it was going for walks with my husband before I was brave enough to do so on my own. Walking with my husband to the location of the accident for the first time was very emotional, but I knew I had to do it. Unfortunately, it happened on my way home from work, so I knew I would have to face it every day once I’m back at work.
It happened rather unexpected when we went for a short walk to a postbox to send Christmas cards to our friends. On our way back home, my husband asked me if I would like to continue our walk instead of going home. I thought about where we could go when he suggested the place where my accident happened. I remember my husband saying something about how leaving all the fears from this year behind us and walking into a new year with a fearless mind would be a good idea. First, I was very hesitant but then agreed.
As we got closer to the place, I remember looking all around, everywhere other but where I got hit. And then, just a few meters before we got there, I turned around in tears. I couldn’t face it. After a few minutes, I started to walk away. But then something inside me made me stop. Something was telling me that I’ve got to do it if I want to move on. So I took a deep breath, turned around and walked towards it. I found the strength to do it. It was emotionally exhausting, but I also felt delighted and proud of myself. I crossed the road, and everything seemed to be going ok. Unfortunately, I got a flashback triggered by a car driving towards me when crossing the road on our way back home.
Dealing with anxiety
It is crucial to set yourself realistic goals and not expectations that will make you even more scared. Breaking your goal into small steps will help you feel in control and less anxious. You must be careful with it. Of course, you want to push yourself but work together with your body and mind so you don’t cause more harm than good. And don’t be ashamed of it or disappointed. Always think of how far you have come. You can even make an Achievement Board as I did.
Taking the first step is always most scary. That’s why you break your goal into small steps. I’m not going to pretend that I’m a superwoman and that everything went smoothly for me. I had lots of setbacks, but then I learnt from them. Going out for the first time was scary. Going to where the accident happened frightened me…but doing the same thing, again and again, helped as it became slowly less and less scary. Do you see the pattern there? Whatever brought the nightmares back did scare me, but you have to face it to overcome your fears. Slowly, step by step and every time a little bit more until it won’t scare you any longer.
Effective ways to help with PTSD and anxiety
I wanted to overcome my fears as I wanted my life back. I love travelling, so I want to be fear-free and be able to go wherever my legs take me. Being outdoors in the fresh air also helps with depression, and anxiety and improves our mood. It will also help you to sleep better. Watch my video about the benefits of nature on my IG or Tiktok account. Exercising can also help you with it. However, as I couldn’t exercise much, I was glad I could go for walks. I shared a blog post on NAMI’s website about it, you can read it here. Simply, do something you enjoy. Put at least one thing you enjoy doing on your daily to-do list. Activities such as reading, listening to music and watching TV also serve as good distractions and help you focus on something other than your anxiety.
Relaxation and grounding techniques such as meditation, praying, positive affirmations or simply closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths will help. Focus on breathing, on things you can smell, hear, feel. Box breathing worked for me. Before I stepped on the road to cross it, I took a deep breath, counting to four, then holding for four, before breathing out for four and holding for four. I repeated it until I calmed down. You can watch my video on box breathing on my IG or Tiktok account.
What also helped me was to have someone I could talk to about my feelings. Surround yourself with people who are good for your soul and general wellbeing. I am also grateful for the therapy I received as I became a more confident and resilient person. You can do a self-referral or talk to your doctor or GP. There are a number of professional networks that can help, such as Samaritans, Anxiety UK and others, or you may be eligible to receive help via your employer. So reach out. After all, you want to get better and overcome your fears. With effective treatment for PTSD, you can live a fear-free life again.
Thank you, and if you would like to share your experience with PTSD, read about the PTSD: My Story Project here.
Read some more real-life stories from trauma survivors here: ‘PTSD: My Story Project‘.
Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post?
I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.
And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you. The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.
To be featured
If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still contact me, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.
The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it. You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.Follow Journeyofsmiley on WordPress.com
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