21 July 2010

The meaning of getting help with PTSD

I've read so many web pages and pamphlets about PTSD that say "Get help", and have in fact given that advice-- go to the VA, the Vet Center, a university or college counseling center, and "Get help."  It's good advice, but it's a bit vague.  What's really involved in getting help for dealing with PTSD?

I have been through the VA's 12-week cognitive based therapy (CBT) program, which starts by having you face the traumatic event(s) directly, and then teaches you how to get past them and move on.  It is an amazing program, it works, and it's why I've made it this far.  I haven't talked much in detail about what actually happens in the sessions mainly because you have to go through the experience on your own, and with the guidance of a professional who is trained to guide you.  You have to face the trauma, whatever it is, head on.  You also have to be ready to face it, and that's something that only you can decide.

That being said, Salon published a book excerpt that does a very, very good job of describing what it feels like to go back and remember-- not just remember what happened, but feel what happened.  This is the kind of thing you'll be doing in a CBT program.

BEFORE YOU CLICK ON THE LINK:  The story is really graphic, and will probably be very stressful and triggering, especially if you've been through sexual abuse and/or rape.  Seriously, pause for a minute and think about whether this is what you want to see today, before you follow the link.  You can't unread it.

Why didn't I scream when I was raped? (

That's the kind of writing, remembering, and feeling you'll do in therapy; and that's what it means to "get help".   It is hard, frightening, painful, and difficult, but the reward is that having made the journey, you'll have at least some of the tools you need to heal and move on. 

Side note:  I went through the CBT program during a semester where I was taking two classes and working two jobs; life didn't stop while I was in therapy.  That semester I got the highest math grade I've ever received.  I'm sure it's different for every person, but want to make the point that yes, it's possible to do this while you're also in school, working, or both. 

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