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I'm Still Standing: PTSD and Survivor's Guilt

According to the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don't have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.

Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical in reducing symptoms and improve function.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

During my previous blogs pertaining to PTSD, I covered intrusive memories and avoidance. On this current blog, I will be discussing negative changes in thinking and mood.

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

*Negative feelings about yourself or other people
*Inability to experience positive emotions
*Feeling emotionally numb
*Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
*Hopelessness about the future
*Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of      the traumatic event
*Difficulty maintaining close relationships
*Changes in emotional reactions

Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

*Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
*Always being on guard for danger
*Overwhelming guilt or shame
*Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too        fast
*Trouble concentrating
*Trouble sleeping
*Being easily startled or frightened

Although I can identify with many of the above-listed symptoms, one of the major challenges I face daily with PTSD is the overwhelming guilt I feel surviving an armed robbery (survivor's guilt) in Harlem, NY where I witnessed the murder's of my mother and godmother. No matter how many times people continue to tell me that I was destined to survive, it doesn't nullify the fact that I lost two people very near and dear to me.

No matter which of the above-mentioned symptoms that you may be struggling with, it's always very helpful to seek counseling from a licensed Mental Health professional and also share your thoughts and feelings with those who can identify with your inner struggles. This has been very beneficial to me because there's truly POWER in numbers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they're severe, or if you feel you're having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

Also, if you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, please call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Until next time, God Bless and have a safe and Happy Holiday season.

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