Just some background for you before we get to the questions:
My friend has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from something that occurred in his childhood. I've probably had something similar happen as well, only he has a better memory of what really happened while I only get the occasional irrational emotion and/or flashback with the right triggers. (The incidents that happened to us are in no way connected. We met just last year.) He's been seeking professional help for quite a while and is still working on it. However, he doesn't find it too useful. This shouldn't complicate matters, but just to lay it out on the table, we're FWB and very close friends in general.
In the past few months, my friend decided to actively dig into his past (a lot of professionals had discouraged him beforehand) by confronting certain people. I never thought confrontation was necessary for my case so I didn't have anything to offer him other than "good luck". All I could really do was just worry about him and hope for the best. As predicted, he bit off more than he could chew. Now he has a full workload on top of this emotional mess and he's constantly been having doubts about his ability to handle both.
His typical symptoms after confrontation:
- mood is all over the place (lethargy, depression and anxiety for a few hours and then he's suddenly raring to go on his research)
- suicidal ideations (infrequent, but I'm still a bit wary on that one)
- decreased libido
- tendency to dwell on his past and plan further actions
- constantly flipping around ideas about his future, particularly about career
(As far as I know, he doesn't seem to have nightmares in general)
The point I've underlined is the one which concerns me most since more digging and confrontation will probably just exacerbate all the other points. His rational mind realises this but it's not really stopping him from thinking about it. And that's where we differ.
My symptoms after some sort of trigger:
- plain ol' lethargy and depression
- lots of venting in the form of drawings (I've been trying to find him an expressive outlet but none of them seem his style)
- decreased appetite, increase in sleep
- avoidance, less social activity
- intense, vivid nightmares but I don't remember the details (thus the increased need for sleep)
- kiddy-like suicidal thoughts, but nothing that I'd really act upon
I just deal with my bouts of depression, etc. As they come. Normal people get down and then it passes. My episodes are just worse than some, and probably better than others anyway. I try to be optimistic and this mindset hasn't failed me so far.
Generally, he has a tendency to dwell on the past and future. I live for the moment. Our different careers probably have some influence on that.
So here's where I need your help:
It's not so much that I want to completely change is way of thinking. We both know that his ability to dwell on things and nitpick at details is very useful to his work. But I can't get him out of this rut of dwelling on his own past constantly. I'm not saying it's my responsibility to get him out, but it's normal to worry about one of your best friends, right?
It's not so much that we (and I mean "we") need to persuade his rational mind that staying stuck in this rut isn't helping. It's trying to get his emotional self to know things could get worse if he continues this line of thought for this particular issue. Any tips or tricks? Any experiences to share on what to do? What NOT to do?
NOTE: Sorry for not offering more details about what happened because they're too personal. Feel free to ask whatever questions you want though. I'll answer them as long as they're not too (potentially) revealing.
It's hard to answer you since you state your problem is "too personal". Honey, nothing is too personal that someone else has not gone through and survived. You just think you're too embarrassed to share.
I had two horrible auto accidents. One in 1972 and the other in 1986. I had PTSD from both of them. The one in 1986 involved being on I-95 and my full size van being rearended by a fully loaded tour bus and front ended when I was slammed into a heavy old car. (my van was totalled with me in it) The last thing I saw when I looked into the rear view mirror was a tour bus headed into my rearend. For the longest time I could not stand to have any vehicle behind me that was larger than a VW bug. A semi would make me go into a panic trying to get out of it's way.
I went to psychotherapy 2X per week for about 9 months trying to cope with the emotional trauma. I would not drive on any highway if I could help it and only drove the city streets. I would come home from these sessions literally a wreck emotionally as I would relive all of my past relationships, etc. Sometimes I was crying so hard I could not see to drive. This was not good, believe me. I would obsess about the accident to no end. Forget about the horrible physical pain I was enduring in the meantime as I had neck, mid and lower back injuries. The steering wheel hit my right side and the dr thought I had ruptured my appendix. My knees were jammed into the dash board. I hurt like hell to put it mildly physically. My emotional state was not too much better either. I had a drunk for a husband and a mother who was in failing health. Neither understood me to put it mildly.
I finally had to just stop going to the appointments as I could not keep reliving the emotional trash that was brought up at each session. Eventually the PTSD abated to the point where I don't dwell on it anymore. Don't get me wrong, it's still there but not just as bad as it was back in 1986, 1987, 1988.
The best therapy I had actually was going to work all day and working. It essentially took my mind off all the pain, both physical and emotional.
Give it some time and stop obsessing about whatever it is that caused yours. The fact that your friend is still bothered by something in his childhood tells me that someone is making a swell annuity out of his problem. Having treatment for more than 6 or 9 months for this does absolutely nothing except exacerbate the problem as far as I am concerned.
[quote=twinkiedooter]It's hard to answer you since you state your problem is "too personal". Honey, nothing is too personal that someone else has not gone through and survived. You just think you're too embarrassed to share. QUOTE]
Yea I think there are things out there that are personal and that if need be need to stay personal...even if this is a basically anonymous internet site. Venting is good, but some of us don't need details if the details are more vivid than an automobile accident. Know what I mean?
Anyway, do you want to help your friend forget what he found out or help him cope in general with the knowledge? Or both? He's in therapy already right so that hasn't been helping any. Maybe he just needs time. It's kind of like finding out that someone has died you need time to deal with the news and eventually accept it. How long has it been since your friend started acting like this?
If nothing else I'd really look in to some therapy or group sessions or maybe you could help by trying to gey your friends mind off of whatever they're thinking about. Take him or her (you didn't really specify) to a movie, hang out with other friends, go sky diving (lol just an idea, it might work if your friend's going through a mid life crisis though).
Have either of you tried hypnotherapy? I know weird but I've heard some very convincing arguments about it helping with stuff like stress and depression. If it doesn't work it's always a good laugh in the end. It's not like you're in a trance or anything just really relaxed almost sleeping and you only say what you want to...that's the beauty of it really.
Both twinkiedooter and Gernald have mentioned time being one of the healing factors. We both know this. Only problem is that he hasn't internalised it as much as I have (which explains why I try to live for the moment). The issue here is trying to get his emotional self to understand this instead of just being able to rationally know it.
On to the questions Gernald asked:
Anyway, do you want to help your friend forget what he found out or help him cope in general with the knowledge? Or both?
He's in charge. Whichever he wants, I'll try to help him in that path. From what he's told me, it seems to be a bit of both. He wants to prevent himself from dwelling too much on the past and just focus on what's in front of him. Career is one of his top priorities and all this is wreaking too much emotional havoc on him to focus normally on his work. However, he still gets the temptation to figure out hard facts about what happened to him - as a form of resolution for himself, and as a preventative measure for others who may experience what he already has. So I guess it's a bit of both.
How long has it been since your friend started acting like this?
Ever since I knew him, I've noticed that he tends to dwell on things, talk about them and toss and turn ideas in his brain. As mentioned before, this is a good quality to have for his career. The trouble comes when things affect him personally and he's still using that same mindset. As for the plunge in mood, I noticed a hint of it in mid-November, which is some time before he started group therapy. It did not seriously affect him to the point of having suicidal ideations until the past week.
I do try to take him out. The problem is that he can easily use his work as an excuse. It's not really "just an excuse" either because his workload is much higher than mine. Neither of us are very social, despite having decent social networks and it's something I'm trying to work on. I'm not too sure about him, since he seems to be a bit more cynical about his connections than I am. Majority of my time spent with him is in his study where we would... Well, just act like nerds.
Thanks for the recomendation on hypnotherapy. I'll read up on it a bit more. I'm actually doing a fair amount of research about PTSD kind of as a hobby on the side, but the amount of literature out there is a bit overwhelming.
My PTSD got better when I began to meditate. From what I understand he is either in the past or thinking about the future. Someone really pissed me off once by telling me that I had one foot in the past, one in the future and was pissing all over the present.
When a person meditates the present moment is all that is happening. It sounds as if meditation would be extremely difficult for him to learn. But, if it were a challenge?
That is a tough one. I think it's great that you are being so supportive for him. I also think that it is great that you are expression your feeling through art! It would be great if you could find him an outlet like that. But, maybe he just needs a different way to let it out. Maybe if he isn't the creative type, maybe doing meditation, martial arts, or something like that will help him channel the feelings somewhere else.
I used to be very involved in marital arts. We had a lady taking classes there because she had been in an abusive relationship and been abused as a child. Her therapist suggested martial arts to her. She had problems with angry outbursts because of everything that had happened. Once she got involved with the martial arts, she was able to channel all that energy from the anger and hurt into the work she did in class. Today, she is much better emotionally and she is a teacher at the martial arts school. Not sure if your friend would be interested in something like that or not.
Have you or your friend ever considered taking a medication to help you out with this? Sometimes people want to take them, to get over the rough spot, such as therapy drudging up all those feelings. Others prefer not to. If you think it might help you out or your friend, talk to your doctor or therapist about the idea.
Tell him that sometimes confrontation helps and sometimes it doesn't. Ask him if he felt better or worse after the confrontation. When he answers 'worse', then tell him that, for right now, he needs to work on staying strong emotionally and taking care of himself. Tell him that there may be a time when he is able to deal with the confrontation, but for right now, you see how upset he is because of it, and you hate to see him hurting. Is that something he would be open to hearing?
I do have a question about his situation. If it is getting too personal, then please tell me and I apologize in advance. But my question is, what happened when he confronted the person? Did they try to deny whatever happened? I ask because I had someone deny that they abused me, and it was really hard for me. I knew what happened, but the fact that the person wouldn't even admit it to me of all people really upset me. It took a while, but now I can honestly say that I have moved on. I now know that just because that person is a liar, I know what happened and it doesn't matter what some jerk says. But it took me a long time to get to that point. Initially when the person denied it, it made me more depressed than before. That is why I am wondering if something like that happened with your friend.
If he tells you he wants to kill himself or hurt himself, please tell someone. Tell a doctor, the police even. You may feel like you are betraying him, but you would really be saving him.
He actually knows a few forms of martial arts and he's been talking about getting back into the habit of exercise, at least just for the natural endorphin boost. He isn't really putting it into action though, even after I suggested he should go with his roommate who exercises practically every day.
Have you or your friend ever considered taking a medication to help you out with this?
We've both thought about medication, and from past experiences seeing other people on it, it's something neither of us would consider an option.
Tell him that there may be a time when he is able to deal with the confrontation, but for right now, you see how upset he is because of it, and you hate to see him hurting. Is that something he would be open to hearing?
I think it's safe to say that all of the professionals and even the people in his group therapy agreed on the fact that confrontation was a big no-no (at least at this stage). He knows what his priorities are, generally, and has recently come to the conclusion that his own well-being is more important than his career. Career still comes a close second though, so I'm happy he's not making huge changes while he's emotionally unstable. As far as I know, this shouldn't be an issue until late February, when there is a slight chance that he may talk further to people involved. Only thing is that I will be in a foreign country at the time.
But my question is, what happened when he confronted the person? Did they try to deny whatever happened?
He's never answered me directly and I don't want to push him. However, other people involved in this have confirmed the key points in his beliefs/memory. This is just speculation on my part, from the bits of detail that he's told me, it seems more like the person merely sat dumbfounded without confirmation or denial.
We haven't been seeing each other as much this week since we're both busy. I phoned him yesterday and it seems like he's happily busy with his research. The only suspicion I have to go on that he hasn't gone through all the major hurdles is that his libido is still low compared to how he usually is. It's relatively minor though, since he's probably just catching up with his work.
Is there another person that you could ask to check up on him while you are gone in February? Maybe you could talk to his roommate and ask him to keep an eye on him while you are gone, if you know he might be talking to the people then. That way you won't be so worried.
That's good that he is going to group and counseling. I'm glad that he is taking care of himself and not worrying about his job so much.
I know it's rough when you confront someone and they won't talk to you about it. I'm sorry he is having to go through that.
It sounds like you are doing all the right things to help him. I'm glad that he has a good friend like you.
PTSD or people phobia panick attacks happen for a variety of reasons. 1) traumatic experience in childhood that ones brain threw way into the back and will never remember. When something triggers that part of the brain and it correlates with the event the fright fight flight hormonal defense mechanism begins to protect. That is what those weird feelings are. So, a woman can carry a child for 9 months and wants the weight off immedietly. No. It took 9 months to gain it takes 9 months to lose. Cognitive behavioral therapy is all that will work to fully rid of that disease. With ptsd panick attacks comes depression. Low self worth self asteem. A person wants to run and hide. 9 months is not even close to healing. A person has to replace the row of neurons that has been created over time with new a correct information over time. For a male to have this disease effect them they have to be a really sensitive caring emotional individual. They are fragile yet continuing on as a "man" should with the added effects of fear of being labled. Men have this disorder less than females. How often is cognitive behavioral therapy readily avail.? Not often. So a person will never be free from this. Medication will only mask it. Living in the past and future can bring on attacks but it is also a safe haven. It creates a world where outside influences and pains won't hurt as much not immune to them but not as much pain. Where they can say I told you so. That was created young. Too many negative events for a sensitive caring person. Battling the attacks wheres a person down mentally. When they finally have some control so much time has gone out the door years and they are worn out but its worth it to not give up because to have control is like putting sunglasses on. All he can do is keep going to treatment and if he has an attack be there for him. Oneday his critical anylization of past and future worrying and battling the attacks will mentally burn his brain that the only thing he can do is too relax providing he doesn't give up. The other type is someone in a war, a car wreck etc...and they see a semi and have a panick attack but thatis more along the lines of conditioned response then a panick attack than ptsd
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