Supporter Supporting a teenager with PTSD

deepblue

Sponsor
Hello everybody,

Lately I've been trying to support a teenager who went through shit around two years ago, and was diagnosed with PTSD 6 months later. Sometimes we talk about what he still experiences (lots of hypervigilance, sleep problems, lack of control at school). I've read a lot on PTSD, so sometimes I can explain some things or offer hypotheses (which I think brings him relief and fear at the same time, since he has basically spent the last two years trying to reassure himself that what he was living was normal, and made his best to function and not make waves). Lately though, I've been feeling my limitations. I’ve talked to him about this place and asked his authorization to post for him about the behaviours he’s describing. So, here I am.

I’ll be showing and translating my posts and your answers directly to him (we're from France), he seemed genuinely interested by the different boards and this community.

Right now (well, before the lockdown) the biggest problem for him is the fact that he has been going awry at school, which has already happened before and ended in him getting expelled. He’s terrified of it happening again ; I’ll create a specific thread about this issue. (Can you confirm to me that I can post about this in the PTSD & CPTSD section if I’m acting as a mouthpiece? Or should I rather post it in the supporters section?)

Reading through these boards has been a huge help lately. Thank you to all those who contribute to it. I wish a lot of patience and healing to those of you who suffer and cope. Since I’ll be asking for your advice soon, I’ll try to contribute regularly as well. When I do, please don’t hesitate to tell me if I overstep my place as a supporter.
 
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deepblue

Sponsor
He's not in therapy, and it's been a touchy topic, but steps have been made.

One/two month ago a spot opened in a talking group (in a "CMP", medical & psychological center), one year ago he had said he was willing to try that (individual therapy was a no no), so I talked to him about this group. He went to the presentation, was told he needed to have individual meetings with a doctor before entering the group. He agreed to that. The staff was very clear on the fact that it was a therapeutic process and only him could know if he was ready for that.
The plan was a meeting once a month until the summer holidays, to prepare for an entry around september. But everything has been put on hold since the lockdown.

There's also some discouragment/avoidance on his part, I think. He's willing to try the group but isn't convinced it's going to help him.
I think he hasn't really felt real benefit from the previous attempts at healing and he's felt discouraged/resigned since then. Two years ago he had been hospitalized (hence the diagnosis). He got medication, tried EMDR (which was a very painful experience, I don't know how the hell it was done or prepared), and was discharged from the hospital with the medication + weekly therapy. The crises and suicidal ideation kept on, so he was feeling very discouraged at the time. Then the summer holidays happened, the therapy was put on hold... I don't have the details but the holidays went badly, he was hospitalized again (and maybe that's when the EMDR attempt was made, actually?). When school started again he was very withdrawn, stopped taking his medication (he now tells me the only difference it made at the time was the nightmares coming back) and didn't want to go to therapy anymore. So, yeah, he's coped on his own since, and therapy has been a touchy topic. But he's been opening up lately.

When I talk about individual therapy now... well the idea of "seeing someone in an office for one hour" repels him. Seeing someone once a month is ok. And yeah, when we talk about his experiences, our discussions are rarely planned, it's more of a "now that i'm talking about it i can keep on talking about it" thing.

The ressources of the family are scarce so we're talking about public structures or nonprofit organizations. A lot of psychologists here refuse to do phone or video therapy (the psychology field in France is..... something.... especially in my region where every psychology university is psychoanalytic......). Not closing the door completely to the idea, when there's a will there's a way (with long waiting lists ahah), but yeah, it's not common here, even less so in the public structures.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
One thing I'm wondering about (welcome to both of you by the way, glad to have you :) )

Would online sessions with Belgium or Swiss therapists be an option?

Mentioning Belgium as thinking of French speaking first - since it came up language not English is relevant and that local system has more disadvantages than advantages.

The non-profits & international non profits were the other route I was about to suggest, if a state sector is a hellscape it might be more viable option for seeking care.
 

Friday

Moderator
Welcome to the community :D

This >>> The ptsd cup explanation <<< was & is the single most useful thing I have ever come across in dealing with my own PTSD... as well as helping my own teenager. It’s something that can be put to use immediately, which is rare, and the effects aren’t ‘it will get worse before it gets better’, because it’s about stress management rather than trauma therapy. As a parent? You’ll probably recognize the kinds of things we have to do when our kids are young... because they can’t regulate themselves, yet. Like throwing a tantrum because they’re overwhelmed, or their heart breaking into pure despair at a minor disappointment, because they simply get flooded with emotion. PTSD? Comes along with that kind of dysregulation, and we have to learn to do consciously what our bodies don’t simply do unconsciously anymore. Exquisite stress management? Doesn’t treat the trauma / root cause, but it can make life vibrant and fun, again. Not by avoiding stress, which is impossible, but by managing it differently.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I can totally understand his reluctance to do one on one therapy. I avoided it for years! But, I think it's true that this isn't a problem you can deal with alone. At least not successfully. And, it's a huge task for a "civilian" to take on, although it's great that you're doing what you can to help.I can't imagine being able to access therapy as a teenager. Too many other people to have to get onboard with the idea, for one thing. But, IF I could go back with a magic wand and make it happen? I would, no doubt about it. It most likely would have made a huge, positive difference in the rest of my life.

About his school. I don't know anything about how your system works there. Does his school know about his PTSD? If they don't, would it help if they did? In the US, except in the most dysfunctional of school systems, having the school aware of something like this would help. He wouldn't necessarily have to tell them what led to the PTSD, but it might be useful if they were aware of the diagnosis.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Or, I'm thinking more (familiar with French school system but I haven't studied there on a HS level personally) -

Would asking learning / testing / scheduling accomodations be something to look into while you are getting therapy sorted?

As in take stress off him & give him time for tasks where he can, might help the stress management. More stress managed & out of the way might give him some space and lessen urgency for finding psych health personnel while you are still looking. Etc.

Taking edges off where can be?
 

deepblue

Sponsor
One thing I'm wondering about (welcome to both of you by the way, glad to have you :) ) Would online sessions with Belgium or Swiss therapists be an option?
Would asking learning / testing / scheduling accomodations be something to look into while you are getting therapy sorted?
Thank you! :)

Finding a Belgian or Swiss therapist is a clever option! I hadn't thought of this. The problem would then be financial, but it's still more accessible than travelling miles weekly to see a good therapist, and could facilitate the process one day. Similarly, I had thought of local nonprofits but not of international ones. It opens up options for when he's willing to do the extra step.

Very good questions on the school thing. He's already in a special needs class (inside a regular middle school), and he's definitely a clever one among his class so the tasks given shouldn't be stressful in themselves…. but you writing this makes me second-guess my beliefs, and maybe what seems easy to me (comparatively to his abilities) is stressful to him, maybe what was once easy is now difficult (maybe more in term of focus/attention than raw skills). To me he doesn't express lack of self worth but he definitely does to other people, so maybe some part of him is convinced he can't do it. I don't know, I'll ask him.

The « reduce stress at school in the meantime » seems like a very good strategy to me. Lately it must have been extra stressing because he's afraid of getting expelled + there's a contract/sanction system in place for his behaviours, which, from this perspective….. surely doesn't help at all. Explaining PTSD to the teaching team, and trying to get everyone on board with a « lessen the stress » plan, could be an idea which goes along what scout86 said as well.

He also has a huge accomodation : he's spending two school days/five at another place, where he's doing professional activities with only a few other teens and a good staff. It's going very well over there (a bit less wonderfully lately but it's still going well). But despite these days when he can breathe, his behaviour has been worsening at school. I'll try to write the specific thread about school just after writing this message, so I can give all info at the same time instead of letting you discover things little by little. But yeah, I think « taking edges off where can be » is a good way to go.

This >>> The ptsd cup explanation <<< was & is the single most useful thing I have ever come across in dealing with my own PTSD... as well as helping my own teenager.
Thank you, it's precious to know which explanations/things have been the most useful, it's easy (for me) to get lost in the information and not knowing what actually « matches »! The heart breaking into pure despair at a minor disappointment will also speak to him, it's happened in the past and he brought it up. Learning to regulate oneself / stress management will be a major thing for sure, I still remember him screaming "but I can't!" when someone asked him to get his sh*t together instead of acting out.

I'll have to reread the article but it sure explains things, and could also explain why he oversleeps so much when he has school, which has been a major question for him!

I can totally understand his reluctance to do one on one therapy. I avoided it for years! But, I think it's true that this isn't a problem you can deal with alone. At least not successfully.
About his school.[...] He wouldn't necessarily have to tell them what led to the PTSD, but it might be useful if they were aware of the diagnosis.
Thank you very much, I'm sure it will be comforting for him to hear about your reluctance, and very useful to have your hindsight about what you would have done, coming from someone who has actually lived it.

Right now he's in a special needs class inside a regular middle school. He has been expelled from his previous school and, when he got accepted into the new one, the consensus was to have nobody know of it so that he could make a « fresh start » (yeah, i know). So only the director and one teacher are aware. The kid is open to the idea of the director and the teachers knowing about the PTSD but he really really doesn't want to get any « favour treatment », as he sees it. I think it's a lead worth investing time into though, and worth discussing with him (as in, it's not a favour treatment, it's just appropriate to your needs). It responds to the current urgency and could make the whole situation much more manageable to him.



Thank you so much for your answers and your inputs! I'm looking for insight and solutions when he's more looking for connection and understanding of his behaviours/experiences so far I guess, so everything is useful :) I'll start writing this specific thread about school...

(Just to clarify, so far I answer on my own - I'm seeing him on Wednesday but I'm not sure I'll sit down with him to read your answers just yet, because last meeting has been extra stressful and I don't want each of our meetings to be colored with stress :D )
 
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