So, if you were just diagnosed with PTSD, the number of therapies is daunting. You've probably seen a handful of psychiatrists (can prescribe medication) and psychologists (the person who will do the therapy with you) and they may have laid out a treatment plan.
Except your anxiety was probably at a 10 through all the appointments, meaning your processing skills weren't really set to "listen". Your brain was just trying not to freak out and run, or punch something for no reason.
As someone who has done most of the current therapies for PTSD, here's a quick rundown of what they are and a bit about my experience. This does not mean your experience will be the same. Some therapies won't work, some will. It's really all dependant on you. Also, I AM NOT A PSYCHOLOGIST. I'm talking about this purely from the perspective of a patient and what I know/remember about the process.
So, without much more of an intro, here's a picture of K9 Kane on her first real outing.... "Who's a good girl" should be your only thought...
Gold star to anyone who reaches out and tells me (correctly) where I got Kane's name from (by gold star I mean I'll send you a signed copy of my first book, Pulse).
Types of PTSD Therapies:
COGNITIVE PROCESSING THERAPY
Cognitive processing therapy is, in simple terms, talk therapy. My current psychologist says it's kind of like cleaning out the closet. When you have too much shit, you tend to just shove the closet closed and kick stuff back. Cognitive therapy helps you take stuff out, look at it, then wrap it up nicely and put it back in the closet.
This type of therapy works well for a lot of people. Personally, I really like it as it doesn't require digging into the trauma as much as other therapies I'll talk about below. It helps you recover from every aspect of your life and other traumas and things you need to need to recover from.
It also helps poing out "stuck thoughts"
Stuck thoughts are logical falacies that get trapped in your head around a trauma. Ie: "I could have done more", "I should have known better", "I let this happen to me", "I made this happen", "I should have been the one to die", etc. Those thoughts aren't true, as much as you believe them. I'll get into stuck thoughts in another blog post, because these are a BITCH to get rid of. A psychologist can help you identify and counter the stuck thoughts in your head.
Let's be honest. If you're a first responder or corrections, your stress management and trauma processing has probably been shit. Especially when it comes to accumulative trauma (everyone has had the red bull/junk food breakfast off of no sleep between nights). You probably have a ton of trauma you need to go through, even if it didn't cause PTSD. Cognitive Processing Therapy helps you with all of that, instead of just the 1 trauma (if there is 1 specific). It also helps you with your family and relationships, treating you as a whole person.
STRESS INOCULATION TRAINING
This is really fancy way of describing gaining knowledge of better coping mechansms. It's most likely worked into Cognitive Processing, and probably in a way you don't realize.
When I try to hang up coats and am talking at the same time, the coat will often fall off the hanger. I'm good for one, maybe two times.
The third time that coat falls, I want to burn the fucking house down.
That is bad stress management.
Through Stress Inoculation Training, I've learned that when I get that frustrated at simple things, it's because my brain is trying to tell me that it can't do 2 things at once anymore. I simply take the frustration as information. Then, I tell whoever I'm talking to that I will chat with them in two seconds, I focus and hang up the coats, then I focus on the conversation.
No fires are lit. And I hanged up the coats, proving my superiority over the inanimate object.
Kate 1, Coat 0.
PROLONGED EXPOSURE THERAPY
To sum it up... A bitch.
So, prolonged exposure therapy (or Long Exposure) is a type of therapy that works to desensitize you to the trauma in the hopes that your fight or flight will simply stop responding to memories of the trauma.
You expose yourself (not like that, creep) to the trauma - it could be a place, a person, or talking about the traumatic event itself. You do so in small increments, then work your way up, and your body becomes desensitized and stops reacting.
So, in my experience, that meant talking about the trauma inducing call with my psych.
Great, that doesn't sound too bad.
Okay, so what I would do (for months and months) is, every friday, I would go to my psych appointment. Then I would record myself talking about the call (basically giving a start to finish rundown) for an hour. Then every day for the rest of the week I would listen to that recording.
Take the worst moment of your life. Start recording yourself as you relive it over and over.... then listen to that.
So, yeah. It worked. Eventually. It was also fucking exhausting and terrible.
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING (EMDR)
Alright, full disclosure here. This therapy fucked me up, and bad. BUT it is often referred to as a life saver by others. This can be a game changer, and people swear by it. It's pretty rare to have the same type of adverse reaction that I had, so don't be scared of it if your psych has decided to pursue it with you.
So, this is a type of hypnotherapy that works to rewire the neurons in your brain through bilateral stimulation.
Still with me?
The cool thing about this type of therapy is that no one really knows why bilateral stimuation works for PTSD, they just know that it does. Now, Bilateral stimulation can mean a variety of things. Following your psychs finger from left to right (Eye Movement), tapping on your knees from one hand to another, using pulsars (they are a little machine that sends vibrations into each hand), there's sound (headphones, one side to another).
So, what happens is you focus on a feeling around your trauma. This will be a bad feeling, trust me on this.
Say it's guilt. Or fear.
Now, you are on a train (or watching a movie) and you really get into feeling that feeling. Your whole body is focusing on that feeling. Then you look out the window of the train (or turn on the movie screen) and you talk about any other parts of you life that bring up that feeling... You're not supposed to hang on to the moments, or get too wrapped up in them. Instead, you're supposed to just let them pass as you focus on the feeling.
Some memories make sense. Some don't.
That's not the point. The point is to relive everything that causes the feeling without being too wrapped up in it. And you do that while doing some sort of bilateral stimuation. This is to rewire your neurons and allow you to focus on something else (the stimulation) while talking about your trauma.
So... instead of just reliving one shitty moment in your life, you get to relive all of them.
No one said that your battle with PTSD will be easy.
I am a huge believer in medication.
Take your meds, people.
But I have also been on a ton of different medications and regimes until I found the one I'm currently on which (mostly) works.
Ativan is a common Benzo prescribed for anxiety attacks.
Ativan makes me hallucinate like a son of a bitch.
Ativan is bad for me.
So, now I'm on Clonazompam for breakthrough anxiety. It puts me to sleep. No hallucinations, no thinking I'm in the psych ward when I'm tucked into bed.
Sure, the Ativan made me go to sleep, but the hallucinations sucked. I told my psychiatrist, who switched my benzo. It might be wicked frustrating and take some time before you get a regime that works, but stick to it. There's meds for nightmares, meds for your depression, meds for breakthrough symptoms, meds to help you sleep.
If you hate a side effect, talk to your doc. There might be a better option for you.
Medication really just calms the brain so your receptive to another type of therapy. It's not being weak, it's not taking the easy way out.
MDMA FOR PTSD THERAPY
MDMA is a party drug and the main component in ecstasy. It releases a bunch of hormones in your head to make you feel good.
Great, what does that have to do with PTSD?
This is actually super interesting. MDMA is being used in some breakthrough research to treat people with PTSD where other therapies haven't worked. It allows the person to relive their trauma without having any self-loathing, any judgement, or any fight or flight kick in.
It's not an authorized therapy, but it is seeing some pretty crazy outcomes (as in a full reversal of PTSD symptoms). So, its currently in Phase 3 of studies, and hopefully it will be more widely available soon.
DO NOT GO AND BUY MDMA OFF OF A STREET DEALER AND TAKE IT! MDMA THERAPY USES PSYCHS DOING SPECIFIC QUESTIONING AND HAS YOU MEDICALLY MONITORED THROUGHOUT... THERE'S MORE TO IT THAN TAKING A PARTY DRUG.
Check out the super interesting research here: