Have you ever wondered how to help suffering individuals? Today, we discuss Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and discover how to support survivors of traumatic events.
I’m honored to welcome author Welby O’Brien to the Quid Pro Quills. Welby is crazy about her veteran husband, who battles PTSD. She founded the spouse/family support network Love Our Vets PTSD Family Support, LLC, and wrote the book LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD. Although she has a Master’s Degree in counseling, most of what she shares comes from daily life.
QPQ: Thank you so much for joining us, Welby.
WO: It’s a blessing to help people know about PTSD and share that there is hope.
QPQ: What is PTSD and what causes it?
WO: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder results from exposure to an experience that is horrific or life-threatening. The whole person gets locked into emergency mode (fight, flight or freeze survival!), and stays locked in that emergency mode at some level for the rest of their lives. 24/7 they live as if the trauma or an impending crisis could reoccur at any moment. It totally overwhelms their ability to cope, so when something triggers them back into survival mode, they have no reserve with which to handle it.
It is not a chosen situation, an illness, or a temporary condition. People who struggle with PTSD are not crazy, weak, failures, bad people, nor are they without help and hope. The good news is that they can learn to thrive again!
QPQ: How would someone know if they or their loved one has PTSD?
WO: Some typical symptoms may include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts of the trauma, avoidance, numbing, putting up walls, withdrawing, hyper-vigilance, irritability, easily startled, memory blocks, sudden bursts of anger or other emotions, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, fear, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other addictive behaviors, difficulty holding a job, relationship problems, and unfortunately, sometimes even suicide. They are people who are reacting normally to an abnormal experience. Thankfully, not everyone has all of these symptoms.
QPQ: Because PTSD is an invisible wound, people may not realize just how many are affected. Is PTSD limited to combat veterans, or can it affect anyone?
WO: PTSD is not limited to veterans. ANYONE who has survived a traumatic event may find themselves struggling with PTSD. It actually affects millions in the U.S. alone, along with all those who love them and live with them.
QPQ: That’s an incredible number. Is there a cure?
WO: And the numbers are skyrocketing! Unfortunately, there is no total cure, mainly because the trauma cannot be erased. However, there are many helpful resources, support groups and effective therapies available. I can personally say without a doubt, it IS possible for PTSD survivors to thrive, and to have loving, fulfilling relationships in spite of the PTSD.
QPQ: For veterans with PTSD, is there anything we should be especially mindful of when observing patriotic holidays like 9-11 (Patriot Day), July 4th (Independence Day), or Veteran’s Day (November 11th)?
WO: These holidays can be very stressful to veterans and their loved ones, along with other anniversaries that can catapult them right back into the battlefield. Bottom line: Express gratitude for their service and sacrifices, and show respect, kindness, encouragement and support…all year round.
QPQ: How can we support individuals, veterans, and families dealing with PTSD?
Be willing to reach out even if it feels awkward. Remember, God only uses imperfect people.
Volunteer at a local Vet Center or charitable organization for veterans.
Learn all you can about PTSD and how it affects everyone in the family.
Combine compassion with knowledge. Open your heart wide to those who are struggling.
Show appreciation and respect to all veterans and service members.
Pray for them.
Have a list of resources and contacts for referrals (see loveourvets.org for ideas).
Encourage them and the whole family to get help if they are not already.
Remember them during patriotic holidays.
Share the Veteran’s Luck video on You Tube with them. It includes a short gospel message from an anonymous veteran that reaches deep into the hearts of the veterans and loved ones.
Contribute if possible to the non-profits that minister to them.
Share a copy of Love Our Vets with your pastoral staff, doctors, counselors, and with the loved ones of the veteran’s family.
Help other people become more aware of PTSD. You can request free copies of PTSD Basics cards to share with others.
QPQ: Thank you for these wonderful suggestions. One final question: Why do you fervently publicize PTSD?
WO: There is way too much stigma and negativity surrounding this issue, and I want to shout out a message of hope! Life will never be perfect for any of us, but it can be good. I thank God every day for the privilege of loving my warrior and being loved by him, and I want others to experience what we have.
QPQ: Thank you, Welby, for informing us how we may help individuals affected by PTSD.
WO: Thank you, Jericha. I hope people will reach out to those who struggle, and to their loved ones who stand by them.
Welby O’Brien and her veteran husband find fulfillment as they face the daily challenges of PTSD. She has a Master’s degree in counseling from Portland State University, and a teaching degree from Biola University. Welby has authored the books Formerly A Wife (divorce support) and Good–bye for Now (grief support)(WingSpread/Moody Press), as well as contributed to Chicken Soup for the Soul (Divorce and Recovery), and Shepherding Women in Pain (Moody Press). And most recently LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (Deep River Books).
Welby has been welcomed as a guest speaker across the country, and on radio and television. Welby initiated and continues to facilitate the spouse and family support network known as Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC. She lives what she writes.
Join Welby and thousands of others on Facebook: Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC.
~ Jericha Kingston