Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stigma is alive and well. If you have PTSD, you’ve probably heard someone tell you to “just get over” your trauma. Maybe it was a well-meaning friend or family member, like my father who was frightened by my suicidal ideations. Or maybe it was a less well-meaning stranger, like the rude New Yorker who recently commented on my blog telling me to “grow up and take responsibility for [my] life.” Whether the statement comes from a place of love or stigma, it doesn’t make sense in the context of PTSD. Here’s why.
How feeling helpless helps my trauma recovery? Yes–you read the title correctly. The subject of this article is helplessness as a form of healing. If that sounds completely counter-intuitive to you, you’re not alone. I’m sure that if I had come across an article making this same claim in the past, I would have labeled it as completely ludicrous. But hear me out. If you totally disagree, you can write out your counter-argument in the comments.
Also, as you read this, I need you to understand that I’m not arguing you should intentionally bring yourself to a place of helplessness, nor that dangerous helplessness (the kind that can cause posttraumatic stress disorder–PTSD–or re-traumatization) is somehow cathartic. Instead, I want to tell you about a situation in which I was clearly helpless, and how accepting that helped me feel a little bit safer in this chaotic world.
Recovery from mental illness often begins as an uphill battle. It doesn’t help that aside from difficult symptoms, those of us living with one or more mental illness also have to combat stigma and wide-spread misinformation–all while navigating a mental healthcare system that often favors the wealthy. Recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is saddled with some very specific barriers. In fact, treatment-resistance is actually a symptom of PTSD. If you or a loved one are struggling to recover from trauma, please hold back from judgement. There are reasons for treatment-resistant behaviors; you or your loved one are not at fault.