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What is PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that occurs after a potentially harmful or painful event. This kind of event can involve a real or perceived threat, such as an accident, physical or mental abuse, injury, post-war experience, natural calamity, or death of a loved one, to name a few.
A person with PTSD can suffer for years, and the symptoms can adversely affect their interpersonal relationships and professional career, thus leading to decreased quality of life.
PTSD with the onset of pandemic:
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to social isolation and distancing, which in turn triggered an increasing sense of loneliness, fear, anxiety and depression. All around, loved ones succumbing to COVID-19 and resulting death lead to state of helplessness, psychological pain and living in fear of anticipated death from COVID. Living with the continued fear of the wrath of COVID leads to developing PTSD in many, especially among the elderly.
Around 3.5 million Americans are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder every year. About 37%. Experience severe PTSD symptoms.
My Story: Battling PTSD
I was raised by my parents and two siblings in a happy and cheerful home. In March 2020, while I was living in India, and had just begun my Master’s program, the government imposed a countrywide lockdown to tackle the COVID spread.
I was fearful, as this was the first lockdown I had witnessed in my entire life, and we didn’t know the proper treatment plan or the process to get hospitalized. At the same time, I was optimistic, as the virus was new, and we didn’t know what the repercussions were. We as a family followed all the instructions given by the government, maintained our physical distancing, and remained in our home.
Our lives suddenly took a U-turn when, a few days into the lockdown, my older brother had a fever and severe cough, and he sought medical attention. He fell victim to the virus and was tested positive for COVID-19. He was immediately hospitalized. Little did I know that it was my last moment together.
At this point, we were very anxious, as we didn’t know what was going on. We would wait outside the hospital all day long and would take turns at night. Unfortunately, he did not respond positively to the treatment and his health declined rapidly. He died a few days’ post-hospitalization. To this day, I am unable to reconcile the death of my brother to the merciless attack of COVID. I suffered from sleepless nights, anxiety, and anytime I heard the word COVID from a family or friends, it caused immense anxiety crippling me with unknown fear.
Every day was a struggle. I had to force myself to get out of bed. All the things in and around the house reminded me of him. The couch where he sat, the bed, he slept in, his favorite food and drink, the way he goofed around with me, the movie we watched together, all reminded me of him and that was all that my mind could think of. I would feel suffocated and out of breath thinking of him. My family members noticed, what I was going through and sought professional help, and I was diagnosed with PTSD. With the support of my family, I sought treatment from a professional counselor. With the help of the counselor and family, I began to recover, sleep better and could return to normal work life activities 3 months after the loss of my brother. However, this lasted a short while before my father lost his battle with COVID-19. The gap between the 2 deaths of my closest family members was 8 months.
My dad was the one person with whom I always felt comfortable talking; the same person was no longer there. Unlike others, he understood my problems and listened to me. Regardless of how big or small the problem was, he was the one to solve it, and now that same person was no longer there. I didn’t know how to react or how to even process what I was going through. This time around, I was inconsolable. I broke down, cried, and became out of control with my emotions and behaviors. I became depressed, withdrawn, preoccupied, and distracted. Furthermore, I spent time just crying incessantly, and for months I lost the ability to get a good night’s sleep. Our extended family was not a great help, as most of them avoided us out of fear. I felt deserted and was well on my way to hitting rock bottom. It was during this time of pain and agony, when my uncle reached out to me, my sister and mother, embracing us in kindness and compassion and helping us heal. He sought the necessary help based on each of our needs and mental condition, and helped us come out of the state of despair and depression we were in. It was a long journey in healing and coming back to our normal lives over the course of the last one and a half years. There is still some remnant of the fear and anxiety when I hear the word COVID, but with professional and family support, I am able to quickly bounce back from the fear. In short, recovering from PTSD after losing my brother and father in a short span of 8 months is something that I will never be able to fully deal with, but it is one I have learned to cope with. Losing a loved one does not get easier; you learn to cope with the grief, and having a supportive family is one thing I am immensely thankful for.
How to overcome PTSD:
With PTSD, you may recall painful memories and feel trapped in a sense of danger. The good news is that you can regain your sense of safety and recover from trauma if you learn new coping skills such as keeping yourself surrounded by positive people, speaking with a therapist, using self-calming methods such as exercise, yoga, music, and meditation, and participating in social activities.
There are usually two types of treatment: medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Depending on the condition of the patient, the treatment may vary.
I would not be here today if I had not received the right counseling at the right time. It is never too late to seek help.
You can reach out for help:
You can reach out to us if you still struggle with any of the dangers associated with memories. Doctorite features a self-help module where you can practice self-relaxation such as meditation, yoga, and music. Our empathetic listeners offer you confidential and non-judgmental safe space to express your distressing thoughts and emotions. Furthermore, Doctorite can connect you with a large network of best-in class psychologists & psychiatrists for effective counselling.