I lived with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for almost 22 years before I received treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. After five years of therapy, I healed enough to consider myself living in PTSD recovery. However, I still have symptoms that require maintenance, depression being the most notable. No magic formula exists to cure PTSD, but I have coping skills to manage my symptoms. Let’s look at the reality of living in PTSD recovery, and the myth of being cured.
Living in PTSD Recovery Is Not Like Being Cured
To the average person, curing an illness means you eliminate it entirely. I once broke my thumb. After a trip to the doctor and a few weeks of medical care, it healed completely. Once cured, my broken thumb was gone. It wasn’t suddenly going to break again on its own. With PTSD, there is no guarantee that once controlled, the symptoms will never return, even if months or years pass between occurrences.
By saying we live in PTSD recovery, we can acknowledge the reality that a mental illness relapse is possible, and the need to practice self-care consistently exists. For myself, this includes taking my medication, keeping my stress levels under control, and avoiding triggers.
I learned the importance of this mindset several years ago. I felt fully healed, so I stopped taking my medications. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, I encountered a particularly challenging trigger. As a result, I relapsed and experienced a dissociative fugue. I had not understood the long-term maintenance needed with PTSD.
Living in PTSD Recovery Symptom-Free
Symptom-free recovery is possible. It doesn’t mean you are done taking care of yourself. Here are some tools that are my essentials for continued PTSD recovery:
- Following a wellness recovery action plan (WRAP).
- Establishing and keeping a strong support network.
- Avoiding known triggers.
- Understanding that mental health recovery is a lifelong commitment.
My most debilitating PTSD symptoms have been in remission since my fugue. I continue to follow my recovery plan and seek help at the slightest concern of a relapse. While it has been a long stretch of symptom-free recovery, I know my PTSD still exists, and that’s okay. I don’t need a cure. I need to use my resources to stay on track.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you faced roadblocks to recovery? Do you have supports or tools you use to stay on track? Please let me know in the comments below.