You would assume, and rightly too, that, as a pharmacist, I am well positioned to understand the various medications and treatments that can assist with managing PTSD. And as wife to a man with complex PTSD, you can appreciate that it can be hard at times to keep from exchanging my wife hat for my medical one.
So how did I overlook one of the most important therapies?
How did I manage to forget?
Sadly, there are no magical treatments for PTSD, so most therapies and medications revolve around managing some of the more debilitating symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, intrusions, flashbacks, substance abuse, insomnia and nightmares.
Doctors usually love to prescribe. “I may not be able to cure your complex PTSD, but I can give you a tablet to help with [insert distressing symptom here].”
Psychologists often love to teach techniques. “Mindfulness practise will be most beneficial if you invest at least 30 minutes twice a day.”
But it turns out we had a powerful tool that we weren’t even trying.
How did I manage to forget?
Since my husband’s latest PTSD relapse, just over two months ago, our home-life has been more tense and stressful than usual. His sleep has been a constant battle, which only makes his days worse. And his bad days affect us all.
I have been earnestly trying to keep everything at home as calm as possible for my husband, which can be difficult with three young children. And I have been keeping the family afloat while my husband desperately tries to escape the triggers and the reminders.
To be honest, there hasn’t been much room for brightness or hope recently.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that I forgot. That we both forgot.
But then, by chance, just a couple of weeks ago, it found me.
The kids were asleep and my husband was safely home, so my guard was briefly lowered. The TV happened to be on and an Australian comedy special caught my attention.
I watched, I relaxed, and then I let go and I laughed!
My husband, hearing the unusual sound, came in to investigate. He gave me an odd look. I knew he wasn’t convinced, so I laughed even harder. But he sat down. And then a twitch of a smile slowly turned into a chuckle, that eventually turned into a genuine laugh.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see him truly laughing!
We watched, and we laughed, and we connected. That blissful moment lasted for a hour, and it was better than any drug. It was healing us.
Yes, he will still need his medications. Yes, he should continue making time for all the techniques his psychologist teaches him. And yes, he should definitely try to choose a glass of water instead of something brewed.
But I will be making it a priority to reintroduce the laughter, as often as possible and as forced as it may feel. And especially on those days when it’s hard to say anything without tears in my eyes – because these are the days when laughter will truly be our medicine.
(original post published 26th April 2016)