Developing Hope in PTSD Recovery
Developing hope in PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) recovery is, in a word, difficult. You're struggling with the symptoms of PTSD that include depression, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and hypervigilance (all of which can lead to despair) and you're supposed to find some way to be optimistic? You might be tempted to say, "No way," but if you want to heal it's going to be important to find a way to say, "Heck, yeah, I can develop hope in PTSD recovery."
Why Hope is So Essential in PTSD Recovery
My struggle with PTSD lasted for almost 30 years. During that time, I felt enormous despair, depression, darkness and just all out insanity. It was very hard to develop hope in my PTSD recovery. In fact, there were many days I sank into the deep muck of hopelessness.
For weeks I might wallow in sadness and self-pity thinking my life was doomed to darkness until some event (it could be as simple as seeing a beautiful sunset) brought me out of my head into a world of possibility. In an unexpected instant I would develop hope again. From that small inspiration, I would start looking for ways to translate my desire to heal into choices and actions that brought about results.
I've been free of all symptoms of PTSD for years now and when I look back I realize: in a world that offered zero guarantees for healing all I had to go on was hope. On days that seemed the bleakest, I clung to hope like the tiniest life preserver in the wild ocean of posttraumatic stress.
Developing Hope in PTSD Recovery and Holding Onto It
The real challenge in PTSD recovery is to tap into, grab hold of and maintain those things that sustain a healing mindset. Hope is a real challenge but research proves how important it can be. Recently, I interviewed Yael Danieli, a clinical psychologist, victimologist and traumatologist, for an upcoming article. Danieli offered many ideas about what helps us rebuild our lives after trauma, including:
- Dedicating ourselves to meaningful work
- Committing to family relationships
- Contributing value in the community
- Using humor to regain perspective
The idea that most stood out to me, however, was about hope and how essential it is in the post-traumatic world. Her statement was simple and powerful.
Here's Danieli's perspective on hope and why we need it:
Clinging to hope was, has been and always will be one of the most effective survival strategies.
From my own point of view, developing hope in PTSD recovery was essential because it allowed me to constantly have a frame of reference from where I could begin again. In moments I felt like a failure or all alone, or without answers, hope was light, a small flickering light in the distance of a dark tunnel. When I made the choice to move toward it -- ever so slowly -- it always helped me move forward.
The reason hope is critical in PTSD recovery is because developing hope is life-affirming; it's in the moment of life-affirming experiences that healing happens.
Rosenthal, M. (2015, March 19). Developing Hope in PTSD Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2015/03/developing-hope-in-ptsd-recovery
Author: Michele Rosenthal
I am in the same boat as Teresa. I haven't had hope in a long time or any positive emotions for that matter. I don't see an end to any of this. I just got out of my first hospitalization. It lasted 2 months and I am just as lost ever. I'm supposed to go to IOP starting in a couple weeks but if it's just groups I don't know that I can bear it. I want to be able to handle my own life yet it's always out of my grasp. I've been inundated with appointments and what not and am on meds for the first time. It's bad enough the side effects make things almost worse but it's all just so overwhelming. The question I have been asking since I started feeling things weren't right, is how do I get hope back. I know it's important but if I could turn it on, I feel I would be in a much better place.
@Jamie, that's a great question to be asking -- some ideas here: http://changeyouchoose.com/3-ideas-for-how-to-create-hope/
Teresa, I don't know how to tell you to have hope, but I'm experiencing the same things you are. I understand, I too feel like I'm going crazy. All that you described happeno to me as well. It helped me to know, I'm not so defective, and that what I'm going through is the same struggles you are experiencing. I go from being totally hopeless to getting angry and fighting and saying I will not allow you (my past abusers) to destroy me through PTSD. My hope is just to survive at times, but I'm getting tired as I'm sure you are also. Hopefully it helps you just to know you're are not alone as it did me, by reading your story
@Debra -- Wonderful response and just the kind of connection I like to create in the PTSD community. Some ideas for sustaining hope here: http://changeyouchoose.com/3-ideas-for-how-to-create-hope/
where does hope come from? I honestly do not know how to keep positive emotions. I don't recall happy childhood moments. I can't look forward to stuff. because there is always the after, when it all comes back crashing down on me. I absolutely dread the pain and fear that it causes me! I have an amazing therapist who I feel safe with. Being safe is so important to me. I lose my safety when I leave a session. I literally fall apart. I can't seem to hang onto things he has said and shown me. I am so frustrated with myself! I feel like a failure and a reject. I'm fighting to hang on. Every day. Nights are awful! I don't sleep. I sit in terror and trigger and panic. Without going into detail, I have complex ptsd, major dpression and attachment disorders. My therspist told me because of the childhood abuse and neglect and not being wanted, the horrendous abuse and traumas that happened later, has made it harder to to feel safe. I'm asking how do I get hope? What does looking at a sunset have to do with hope? I'm so tired and alone. Full of hurts and pain. Deep soul pain. I'm sorry I'm just wanting to find hope? Can someone help me?
See my comments below
@teresa, ultimately, hope comes from a place deep inside each of us, but it can be sparked by things outside of us. Some ideas for how to do that here: http://changeyouchoose.com/3-ideas-for-how-to-create-hope/
Hi, 3 years ago this May 5, 2015, I witnessed my husband's suicide in the backyard of our home. We were married 10 yrs. I have had experience with traumatic events in my life, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I have been hospitalized, had 6 ECT treatments, participated in a intensive outpatient day program, am actively involved in therapy and see a psychiatrist regularly. Everyday is a struggle to get up, and do what I need to in order to get through the day. However, I do it, every single day, because I keep telling myself that I have PTSD, it doesn't have me. There is hope, I believe that. I believe that if you are able to work with the professionals and medication management for the anxiety, sleep disturbances, etc., you have a better chance of healing at some point. I am not saying it just all goes away one day, but you can actually find a light at the end of the tunnel. Please, let's do this together!!!
@Lisa -- You're a very strong soul dealing with an incredibly traumatic experience. Yes, indeed: Let's do this together! Please feel free to join us in the free Heal My PTSD forum for additional support and a warm, welcoming, compassionate and healing community: http://www.HealthUnlocked.com/HealMyPTSD
Teresa, I know it's hard to get through a day sometimes but then it becomes a week and before you know life is moving forward. Are you seeing a therapist? I have been fortunate to have some good ones.Please look at my blog, it is based on my faith but even if you don't share that we share the task of healing. Don't let the bad guys win by handing over the rest of your life. The trauma has already taken enough. Hope can be a change of season, a new adventure, a change of venue, anything that keeps you from focusing on what happened. Hope changes your perspective and when I focus on something or someone else there is purpose and a glimmer of light and light removes the darkness. Little steps lead to bigger ones. You can change your story. You are in charge.
What is hope? I don't have it. I don't see it getting better. Everyday I fight to be here. What does hope do? I have no clue. Its not getting better. I'm getting worse! I've tried so many things. Hope is hopeless. People le when they say it gets better.
I relate to this so much - "For weeks I might wallow in sadness and self-pity thinking my life was doomed to darkness until some event (it could be as simple as seeing a beautiful sunset) brought me out of my head into a world of possibility. In an unexpected instant I would develop hope again.". Thant is why I fejected the idea of having depression for so long because if I could just get a different perspective everything seemed better. I now understand how a violent trauma coupled with drug and alcohol used for repression, can change your brain forever. http://healingtakesalifetime.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html this link takes you to my blog and a paper I wrote based on my research. Hope is so important. Hope changes everything!