When I discovered The Establishment, the amazing women’s site that launched last year, I knew I wanted to be a part of it somehow. And as luck would have it, I got my chance today when my first piece went live. I wrote “How To Support A Loved One With PTSD” in honor of PTSD Awareness Day and even though this is a topic I’ve written about before, it was a great experience to think about PTSD at this time in my life.
I’d started seeing a psychiatrist and therapist shortly after his passing to help manage my anxiety and grief. But then the anxiety grew even more acute—with the power to transport me back to the most traumatic experience of my life, no matter how much time had passed. Especially in the direct wake of my father’s passing, when my grief was its most raw and jagged, anything seemed to set me off. The vivid scenes of the hours and days after my father’s death would replay on a loop in my head. Over and over. It was like a nightmarish home movie that I couldn’t turn off.
I would learn that these types of PTSD responses are common among those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide. I was suffering from what is known as complicated grief, the type of grief that occurs after “an unexpected or violent death, such as death from a car accident, or the murder or suicide of a loved one.” PTSD and complicated grief often go hand-in-painful-hand.
When my post-traumatic stress symptoms began, I felt helpless and totally out of control for the first time in my life. Until I learned about the disorder, I had no idea what was happening to me, which only intensified my grief and anxiety. Thankfully, I’ve seen some shifts in the public’s perception of mental illness and PTSD in recent years, and this move toward understanding symptoms and treatment—and away from stigma—has benefited sufferers.
Still, it’s been a battle. In addition to seeing a psychiatrist and taking antidepressants, I’ve been in therapy for the last decade. This has been life-changing in helping me confront my feelings and issues surrounding my father’s suicide. But although I’ve come a long way, I know PTSD is something I’ll struggle with for the rest of my life.
And unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, helping someone with the disorder can feel like trying to navigate a minefield without a map—especially given our society’s tendency to push people to “just get over it,” which can make those suffering feel the need to hide what they’re going through.
You can read the full essay here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! Love you all… xoxo