Friday, March 6, 2009

PTSD Healing: Join the Crowd

Yesterday I received an email from a mother, we’ll call her L. Her son had been robbed at gunpoint and shot in the back in Los Angeles. L. was in Houston when she got the call. She jumped on a plane not knowing whether or not her son would be alive when she landed.

This was 6 months ago. Her son did live. In fact, he’s fully recuperated and returned to living his normal life. L., however, can’t get past the trauma. Her PTSD symptoms continue to persist.

She wrote asking me to cover these topics (which I will in future posts):

One, I feel ridiculous/guilty/whatever the word is for still having symptoms because a) my son is fine now, and b) people have been through a lot worse.

Two, my brain has been completely addled since then -- so much so that I have an appointment with a neurologist in case it is early dementia rather than PTSD. One of the most disconcerting symptoms is that I truly cannot remember what day of the week it is. Is it Sunday? Is it Thursday? I have to work my way back a few days to figure out what today is.

I’m struck by the isolation of L.’s experience. She's not the only one to feel ridiculous. She's not the only one whose brain isn't functioning optimally. Clearly, L. could benefit from reaching out to the PTSD community. She is feeling alone and frightened and unworthy. (As if your trauma has to be of a certain caliber to render your PTSD worthwhile!) I suggested she see a therapist to discuss her symptoms more in-depth; I wasn’t sure whether or not she was already doing this.

In the meantime, I also suggested L. join an online support group where she’d have the immediate advantage of a community of likeminded people to whom she could address her questions, and from whose viewpoints she could learn how common her feelings and symptoms are. If L. reached out to an online community she would discover we all struggle with various forms of the same thing. For example, do all of you know exactly what day it is? Do any of you feel ashamed about your symptoms? Brain fog is a common occurrence for PTSD experiencers. (I've written about this in my own PTSD experience.) L. might heal just a little bit by knowing she’s not alone. She might engage in healing more if she thought her healing was worthwhile. If we don’t feel our symptoms are worthy, how can we feel our healing is worthy?? The erroneous thoughts in our minds cannot continue if we let in the sound of other survivors' ideas and experiences.

L. ended her note to me saying, “I'll look forward to hearing from survivors.” But L. doesn’t have to wait for you all to leave a comment of solidarity or encouragement, she – and you – can immediately get answers and hear others’ voices in an online support group. Of all the online PTSD support groups I’ve researched and participated in, there’s one that I've found far surpasses all others: has a wonderful mix of intelligent, educated, proactive, struggling and healing PTSD experiencers. They are vocal and supportive, strong and thoughtprovoking. And the best part; you can be anonymous, so you can really get in there and say what you want to say, get answers to your darkest secrets and listen to your peers as they unravel the path of their own PTSD journey.

BRIDGE THE GAP exercise:

Today, join an online support group. Fill out your profile as much as you can (even if you're using an anonymous name) so that other survivors are able see who you are and identify with you and your experience.

Read the most recent discussions for the past few days.

Post answers to topics that have been posed.

Post your own ideas, thoughts, feelings, problems, issues, and questions. is active 24 hours a day with people from all walks of life and all around the world. You will feel at home there. You could begin to exercise your voice. You could begin using the speaking tools we’ve been developing here to connect to a community; to bridge the gap between you and the outside world. Come on, you know you want to. Click here to reach out.

If, in your research of other online support groups, you come across additional sites you feel provide a great forum for PTSD experiencers, please post a link in the comments.

(Photo: Justin Ward)


Anonymous said...

"Brain fog" yes. It can be a bitch.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks for the tips about the online support group, etc. Would you consider submitting this post (or any of a number of your excellent articles) to THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. We have one coming up next week. This would fit well in the "Healing & Therapy" category, as a lot of child abuse survivors have PTSD. Thanks for considering.

Michele Rosenthal said...

Marj - I'd be honored to submit for the carnival. Let's discuss. You can email me at:

Anonymous said...

PTSD stats for Iraq and Afghanistan:

20% of soldiers who went to afghanistan come back with PTSD. That's 20% AFTER training for it.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Anonymous re: vets -- This is exactly why we need to spread the word about how to heal PTSD, both in therapeutic environments and individually. There's so much we can do for ourselves.

I know the VA doesn't always (ever?) provide the right support for PTSD. What can the rest of us do to help build awareness for you and your comrades??

I'm interested in learning more about the internal combat PTSD mindset. I read as much as I can on the topic, but I'd like to hear more from vets themselves. If you're ever in the mood to give me an idea of what the PTSD internal dialogue is for vets, please, please email me so that I can learn and better advocate in that area. Email me at I hope to hear from you and I don't mind if you keep yourself anonymous.

Anonymous said...


I'm not a Vet.

I think that if official figures are 20% then the actual figures are somewhat higher and that treatment should be provided for returning troops. In the UK treatment is poor.

I think really it's a matter of honour that the people who fight our battles should be treated well when they return with injuries.

At 20%+ I think it might be fair to describe PTSD as 'normal'.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@ Anonymous re: the vets -- Oh, let's never think of PTSD as 'normal'! I'd hate to think we'd ever get to the point we'd accept PTSD as a part of daily life. However, I agree with you if you mean that it should be 'expected' and so the military should properly prepare programs for early diagnosis, treatment and supportive healing. If we all join together just maybe we can bring PTSD into a global focus and everyone will be able to receive the help they need. I'm in the process of launching a PTSD advocacy organization whose mission will include these ideas. will go live sometime in May.

Kelli said...

Yes L. being with a community of people who have healed from PTSD is SO important. This is a good place to be and my personal belief is that Michelle is going to do more to help folks who have survived a traumatic incident than she could possibly ever imagine. L. you are not alone, and do not isolate yourself. ( I should know I did for MANY years) Three things that I know have helped me more than anything: 1. Re learning how to relax 2. Talking with others who are healing 3. for me painting (or anything hobby you find enjoyable and brings you joy). Also Cognitive Behavior Therapy is great because you "retrain your brain" to think positively instead of catastrophically. It takes some effort, but please try these things so you do not have to suffer as long as Michelle and I did. We are here for you L. and we do know what you are going through. Stay with Michelle, she is a VERY good leader.

Sarah R said...

Thank you for your nice comment.

Yes, my sister participates in group therapy, although it is in general for people with all kinds of issues, not just PTSD.