Tonight my son asked me that very question. He's taking psychology in school and we've talked about things before. Still, it was an unexpected topic and set me on my heels.
We talked about how there's really a couple of pieces here- there's the crisis of an active episode and there's the very significant life and daily living issues that are part of PTSD.
We talked about how important self-care (regular sleep, decent diet, moderate exercise, finding connection with other people, having a creative outlet of some kind that you practice regularly, some kind of schedule to reduce the chaos in life, boundaries- you know) is so that survivors have a strong base to work from. As cliche as it sounds, taking care of yourself- especially when you couldn't care less- is crucial.
We talked about maintaining connection with people even when it's hard to put out the effort.
We talked about how I try not to put myself in situations that I know will cause me trouble. Fireworks, some movies, most news, some bands,
We talked about how I stay away from alcohol because ... well... it's not a great long-term coping plan. He laughed.
And we spoke about therapy.
He asked me "If our brains don't know the difference in our imagination between fantasy and history, what's the difference between therapy and movies or TV? Aren't you just reliving the stuff again?"
I told him that the difference between allowing myself to become engrossed in Band of Brothers or watching fireworks or whatever and therapy is with therapy there is a goal. Also in therapy my conscious mind is not just along for the ride- it's paying attention as we try to work through some of the trauma. Therapy helps remove the sharp edges and allows me to accept things that happened without letting them get all in my head.
The next question was "Do you think you'll ever get better?" Man, I hope so. I mean, I know I've gotten better over time and through connecting with other people. I know therapy works for me. I know my bad days no longer define me. I know there are more good days than bad days now. I also know that there will always be a piece of me that's changed. And the last thing I know now is that it doesn't always have to be so sharp.
I told my son that these things don't directly help with an active episode. That's crisis management and I've got different tools for that. They do make my active episodes less frequent. They do help with daily living and going beyond simple existence. They do let me live with hope. And I told him that sometimes when the suck hits you just gotta hold on until help arrives.