As an abuse survivor, I know firsthand what it’s like to suffer from PTSD. And as an advocate for traditional real foods and natural medicine, I know firsthand what it’s like to look for safe but effective natural remedies. I’ll be frank: in the middle of a panic attack, I cannot afford to rely on nothing. It’s just plain common sense for me to have a prescription that can help me immediately, whether I know it’s “natural” or not. At least, until I can find a replacement that works as well as a prescription.
I still have lingering effects from the abuse that I grew up surrounded by: panic attacks, hypervigilance, a tendency to dislike loud noises, chronic stress, sleep problems, etc. But the good news is that I find relief in real food and in real homemade natural remedies. I am only learning to use essential oils well this year, and I wish I had started earlier. Because I have found that essential oils work, in some cases, just as well as their over the counter counterparts. For example, Deep Relief works just as well as acetaminophen for me.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD. (source)
There are three main classes of PTSD symptoms (source):
- Re-experiencing: intrusive memories, sleep disturbance, dissociation, intense anger or anxiety at memory
- Avoidance: avoidance, detachment, estrangement, numbing, “shutting down”
- Hyperarousal: nightmares, irritability, sleep disturbance, anger, aggression, impulsivity, panic attacks, exaggerated startle response
Ways to Manage PTSD Symptoms Conventionally.
Conventional methods can be helpful. Therapy is a wonderful resource. Medicines are a little more tricky for me.
In conjunction with natural methods (listed below) of symptom management, I sometimes also rely on conventional methods. In the case of relying on conventional medicine, it’s not because it’s ideal, and not even because I like it. It’s because I value my ability to function as a mother, a volunteer, a partner. So I weigh my options and then make decisions on which conventional medicines I use. Do your own research and make your best decision for yourself. You know yourself best.
Aside from my hesitance to use conventional medicine, I happily and readily rely on conventional psychotherapy. I am a big proponent of therapy, especially when you choose a therapy that is a good personal fit. For some people that may be traditional talk therapy, for others it might be reading a lot of self-help books, and for others they may want to join a support group. The process of talking through the issue can be very helpful.
Ways to Manage PTSD Symptoms Naturally:
The best way I have found to manage PTSD symptoms is with essentials oils. They are concentrated, tried and true over the millenia by our ancestors, and they are just plain earthy. I am a very earthy person, so the use of essential oils is incredibly grounding. Plus, essential oils have a measurable effect on the body. This isn’t woowoo like homeopathy or other so-called natural medicines.
Here is a list of essential oil singles and blends that I like best for treating PTSD (source). The starred (*) items are from the Premium Starter Kit, the best way to get started with essential oils.
Deep Relief: relieves muscle tension, soreness, soothes sore joints and ligaments, calms stressed nerves, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving; apply generously on location every 15 minutes for up to four applications
Peace and Calming *: promotes relaxation, deep sense of peace and emotional well-being, dampens tensions, uplifts feelings; diffuse, add to bath water, apply to wrists, edge of ears, or feet. Combine with lavender for insomnia.
PanAway *: reduces pain and inflammation, accelerates healing; diffuse, add to bath water, apply to temples, back of neck, forehead.
Stress Away *: brings feeling of peace and tranquility, helps relieve daily stress and nervous tension, improves mental response, restores equilibrium, promotes relaxation, and lowers hypertension.
Lavender *: relaxant, anti-inflammatory, calming; diffuse, add to bath water, apply on location of stress and tension.
SARA: helps relax into a mental state to facilitate the release of trauma from sexual or ritualistic abuse; apply over energy centers or locations of abuse.
RutaVaLa: promotes body and mind, soothes stressed nerves, and induces sleep; apply to wrists, temples, neck, or the bottom of feet.
Trauma Life: combats stress, uproots trauma that causes insomnia, anger, restlessness, and a weakened immune response; diffuse, add to bath water, apply to bottom of feet, behind ears, along spine, chest, forehead, nape of neck.
Valor *: empowering, helps energy alignment of the body, increases feelings of strength, courage, and self-esteem; apply to feet, wrists, and back of neck.
Tranquil: reduces restlessness, decreases anxiety, calming effect on mind and body, uplifting and relaxing, promotes sleep and reduces stress; apply to temples, neck, and wrists.
Release: release anger and memory trauma from the liver, opens subconscious mind through pineal stimulation; diffuse, add to bath water, apply to bottom of feet, and behind ears.
Joy *: produces magnetic energy, helps overcome grief and depression; diffuse, add to bath water, apply to heart, thymus, temples, wrists, lower back, and abdomen.
Present Time: empowering, disease lives in the past; apply to sternum, thymus, neck, and forehead.
Try muscle testing for which oils your body is craving or calling out to. Or simply tap into which ones you really really like. For example, if you are consistently drawn to a certain oil, there’s a reason. If you love the smell of a certain oil, there’s a reason. Bodies are smart.
Bodies Are SMART
I say this all the time. If you are craving a food, a person, a place, an oil, or anything in life, there is a reason. Naturally, you might be craving a cigarette or something else unhealthy, so you will need to learn how to distinguish between what a healthy craving is and what an unhealthy craving is. But once you can hone this ability to pay attention to your cravings and where you are being “pulled”, then it’s a good idea to keep paying attention to that. I have started to make a lot of connections as I pay attention to what oils I am drawn to.
Because of my PTSD, I notice that I am drawn to lavender in particular. Lavender helps me calm down at night, and it helps me manage my anxiety while I go to sleep. I have trouble sleeping because it’s when I am vulnerable to attack (in my mind), so nighttime can be fraught with opportunities for my panic attacks to flare up. I put lavender in my diffuser, or I also put it on my forehead and wrists before I go to sleep.
I am also drawn to anything with citrus in it, especially grapefruit. Citrus oils are known for their ability to uplift spirits and improve mood. This helps when I feel tired (from not sleeping well) and when I feel depressed about my progress. I like to put grapefruit oil in a small spray bottle with water and use it as an uplifting spritz that I can take with me in my purse. Plus, it helps cool me off in the summer heat.
Lately, I have been using a lot of Stress Away and also Peace and Calming. Both of these essential oil blends seem to be helping me in ways that plain lavender cannot. I am finding that the mixture of certain oils are particularly powerful. An essential oil blend tends to carry more power than a single oil. I did not realize this until I started using these two. I also find that Valor can really help when I am feeling weak and unable to make decisions.
Quick Stress Reliever
Sugar and salt in equal parts under the tongue: this trick is straight from Eat For Heat. Read it! It can greatly help with PTSD symptoms. A 50/50 mixture of sugar and salt placed under your tongue can trigger a relaxation process in the body. I have used this during a panic attack with success.
Sleep is Underrated
Another note on tiredness: this seems to be the major hallmark of my PTSD struggles. Sleep solves most of my problems. The way I make sense of it is that I spent the vast majority of my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood not sleeping well. And when I didn’t sleep well, I tied up a lot of stress and negative energy in my body. Now I can heal that by sleeping, deeply and restoratively. And I can facilitate that sleep by creating a different
Yesterday I was feeling the pull of my fellow women. I wrote this (below) on my Facebook page along with a link to my story about living with a pedophile in my house growing up.
Every time I choose to be brave again and talk about being sexually assaulted, I open myself up to criticism and judgement, and therefore feeling marginalized. Which I am. Which kind of illustrates the point of #YesAllWomen
I’m not going to stop being brave and open. But sometimes I feel the pain of that choice very acutely. Today is one of those days.
All I want is to be a human. A human who gets to live, equally, with my fellow humans. That’s equality. That’s feminism.
The hate comes from somewhere else. It doesn’t come from me or feminists or women. It’s not from me for bringing it up, it’s not from being righteously angry that I am being (and have been) used and discarded, and it’s not from me attacking men.
The hate comes from the misogyny I am talking about. See why I’m so passionate and sensitive about it? It’s my right.
#NotAllMen have to listen to me. But I sure respect anyone, male or female, who can. It’s the decent thing to do.
I included the line “because I thought 8 years old was old enough to “‘know better’”. It’s terrible to live through a trauma. It’s even more terrible to look back on how young I was and to get present to how hard I was on myself. My learned survival response at such a young age kept me alive, but also wasn’t really about living.
It’s time to live. Taking action in my life to change habits, including destructive thought processes, is helping me heal over the years as I grow and learn. I sleep, I use my oils, I go to therapy, I keep reminding myself to live and thrive. It’s time to let go of being reactionary and constantly in survival mode. My life is so much more than that. And so is yours. These natural methods can help you.