PTSD and the Empath

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event.  It either has happened to the person or they witnessed it.  Examples of events could include surviving a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist acts or war as well as domestic violence just to name a few.

After World War I, it was talked about as combat fatigue and generally thought to happen only to soldiers…until the condition was documented among people who not only went to combat, but also lived in war zones.  It is no longer associated only with war and combat and many people are learning to live with undiagnosed PTSD but suspect perhaps something isn’t quite right.

Symptoms of PTSD

After a traumatizing event, things might seem fine at first.  You survived the car crash and try to get on with your life.  Three months after the event, the dreams begin.  Uncontrollable thoughts start to creep in about what could have happened, and how things could have been prevented or maybe turned out even worse.  Sometimes substance abuse kicks in, anxiety, depression or harmful thoughts.  After a month of these things happening, you could experience any of the following:

  • Intrusive thoughts of the event that are so vivid your brain thinks you are reliving it.
  • Avoidance of the places that remind you of the event.
  • Moods that shift and thoughts about yourself based on the event that happened.
  • Reactive behaviors that occur and shifts in character.

Many more symptoms can happen, but these are the ones that usually occur right away and continue.

 PTSD and the Empath

Growing up in a volatile household, being bullied, seeing people hurt constantly, can really cause sensory overload.  Take any one condition that most people would be in fight or flight mode in, then try to live in it 24/7.  Think about your body being flooded with adrenaline and as a young child, you have nowhere to go.  No way to blow off steam if you are trapped in say a time of “troubles” like the children in Northern Ireland would have experienced from the late 60’s all the way until 1998.

This is just one such example, but many examples around the world exist of different circumstances flooding our newsfeed and not being able to help and/or change the circumstances if we, ourselves, are there.

Right now, I want you to clear your mind though.  I have set up the circumstances, but I don’t want you to go there with your thoughts.  Place yourself out of body for a minute and really look inside for just a minute.  A switch was turned on and now we want to create a space where we can work on turning off that fight or flight mode and calming the emotions that were stirred up for possibly many years.

Empaths have a tendency to immediately put themselves in situations that they didn’t even create (the nightly news stories for example) and feel all the emotions of the people who are living through it.  The nervous system seems to be on high alert as we tune into what others are feeling, thinking, and we just sense the energy without even meaning to.  So right now, I want you to imagine yourself grounded.  Moss under your feet.  Sun on your skin or whatever image makes you feel comfortable.  Be present…back in your body, in the here and now for this part.

Healing the Empath from PTSD

First of all, I want you to acknowledge the experience you went through and speak to your inner child.  How old were you when it took place?  If it helps, journal this out.  Tell the inner child that it was not their fault, but that you need their help in letting go.  Forgive yourself.  This can be very powerful because you did nothing wrong, and you need to let that part of you know.  Take as long as you need on this until you visualize yourself healing at that age.  You can use imagery like sending that part of you love, a pink bubble of healing, an angel’s wings wrapping you in safety, or whatever you need, but feel yourself saying “I am sorry you witnessed that.  It’s okay to let it go now.”

All of your work is to be done now, in the present moment after you heal that experience in the past.  As you work through the inner child healing, take as long as you need to process emotions.  Each morning, write out a mantra such as “I am safe” until you really feel it in your bones.  You could also use “I am protected”.

Start a mindful practice that includes journal therapy, yoga or meditation, walking outside daily, or something you love like gardening, but it has to be something that can help your mind get in what we call flow.  Flow is basically when your mind actually shuts off and is consumed by the activity with a feeling of energy and enjoyment.  I get in a state of flow with yoga, bird watching, gardening, music and of course, writing.

Check out these materials here if you need more tips on that:

Limit your exposure to news outlets.  Do you have that ONE person in your life who tells you everything horrible they have heard?  Also create boundaries with them.  They are to be told hey, I am really not doing well mentally at this time and if you don’t have anything good to tell me right now, please respect my wishes not to be told horrible things on the news that I literally can’t control.  I can only control my thoughts, and I am trying to work on that right now.  You don’t have to use my exact language here, but here are a few more tips on boundaries.

Nutrition.  I created a program years ago because of the things I was going through mentally.  That is a longer story, but it resulted in my own form of PTSD from years of diagnosis, pain, some other things, and then autoimmune.  I went backwards in my eating and figured out a gut to brain link before I had ever heard of anyone doing that.  I found an old piece of research and I knew I was on the right path (you can check that out later as I linked everything here, plus there’s a lovely search on my blog). I would love it if you cut our alcohol, sugar, possibly gluten, and anything else that is inflammatory for a bit to help your mood stabilize.  This really helps, trust me.  Drink more water as well.  Again, the above link shows you some of my research, but notice how you are feeling after eating mess.  The thoughts are likely to be worse and the bloat as well.

Join others on a like-minded path.  I get it, trust me, funds are tight.  You might not even want to get out but think of some ways you can either help others secretly if you’d like (think pay it forward), or volunteer in your community.  Read to children at schools.  Pick up trash.  Do what you can to feel better about helping others because it really will lift your spirits.

A few more tips before I go are self-guided things I have actually used and taught:

I have lived through some interesting things, and I understand how difficult trauma can be.  I have thoroughly linked my suggestions, but if you need more, feel free to check out my LinkTree.


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