When someone is hurting, friends can be … complicated.

The trouble is, what they want to do is hear all about the problem … give you someone to pour your sorrows out to … a sympathetic ear, and a shoulder to cry on …

Except that, sometimes, talking about it does more harm than good! There are forms of trauma, and stress, where the problem isn’t bottled up emotions, but rather emotions running rampant that can’t be bottled up at all! 

Perhaps the worst effect of PTSD is the flashback … there’s usually a trigger: a sound, a smell, a sight … then WHAM! Into the Wayback Machine you go to relive the original trauma, in all its blazing, blistering, hurtful, freaking traumatic glory …

You can’t make it stop. You can’t function while it’s going on, because you literally are not in the here and now, you’re in the there and then – and it hurts just as much this time around as it did the first time! And what your loving, helpful friends want to do – all they know how to do, is make you relive it all!  They think it’s just another memory, like the time when you were 7 and found your pants were unzipped at your birthday party …

Except these memories ain’t like those memories – not even a little!

One theory is that the memories were formed while the future sufferer was awash in adrenaline.  I’ve written before about what adrenaline does to the brain:  it basically intensifies your thought processes, while numbing your body.  And any memories created at such a time, the theory has it, are etched into your mind at the intensity of everything else you’re experiencing!  Whatever is going on is literally life or death, and the importance of events is underlined in such a way that, even if you have a crappy memory, you’ll remember these events in full detail forever!

When it’s bad, it’s bad. At such a time, inevitably, a good friend will step forward and say “I’m here if you need to talk!” or will say something like “You need to talk about this with someone!”

You deflect them gently, acknowledging they have good intentions, you thank them for their concern … they persist, though, because with ordinary upsets, and typical issues, they know it helps to talk, and they think you’re holding back because you don’t want to burden them, or don’t want to seem like a cry-baby, or are doing the whole John Wayne macho tough-guy thing …

The truth is, you don’t want to talk about it, because that forces you to relive it!  All you want to do is distract yourself … with a complex game, or an interesting documentary (no emotions, just facts), or a good book – but nooooo your friends know you’re hurting and they want to help … and they can’t understand why you won’t even explain to them why you don’t want to talk – because while you’re trying to explain it, you’re reliving it, and you can’t make sense, and explaining is all so very freaking exhausting that you just want to cry out “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!!!!!”

Except they’re your friends, and that would be rude.

If you know someone going through something bad, make yourself available to talk, but don’t push … If the sufferer resists your attempts to help, do not demand explanations, simply understand that he may have a better grasp of what would be helpful than you do …

And pray a lot.


~ by dourscot on July 18, 2013.

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