Honoured Mrs Psychologist.

For many years now, I have been suffering from a bad problem. Even writing about it feels bad and I must almost force myself to do this. Sometimes, my mind is forcefully taken over by the pictures of what once happened to me in my home country. They are bad and disgusting things that no one would be able to listen to. Things flash through like a film in my head and I feel awful at the same time. I have been told that for many years now, I have been very tense and getting easily nervous, I was not like this when I was younger. I know that my experiences have changed me, but talking about these things is making me even sicker and I do not want to even think about them much. Sometimes at nights, I have woken up all sweaty and according to my family, I have even shouted in my dreams before waking up. Sometimes I can remember something of what I have dreamt of and sometimes I do not understand anything when I wake up. Could a sleeping medication help me? I want to forget all, but how could I do that?

Dear Questioner,

It seems to me that what you have experienced has left you with very deep scars. When a person experiences something overwhelmingly shocking like you have, it is said that he/she gets mentally traumatised. A serious mental trauma is often followed by a disorder that is called post-traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms of it include the feeling of anxiety just like you said you have.

Person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder feels anxious with things reminding him/her of the trauma and tries to avoid them. Sometimes, it is hard to remember these things and it seems as if they are wiped out of the memory. It is also typical that things try forcibly to come in mind and that then causes the person to feel anxiety and even unreal. Repeated nightmares are also common. Sometimes, a person who has suffered this way may feel it hard to be with other people and feeling tense, just like you described. Life may seem hopeless and somehow actually be difficult too. It may feel that all the warm and loving feelings have been lost and it may seem like you have to stay alert all of the time and maybe even a little suspicious.

Sleeping medication may be a temporary help for you, if you can not get to sleep in the evenings or if you wake up during the night. The same is with a medication that lowers the anxiety levels. Treating the actual problem, however, requires most often the same medication as is used for depression. Seeing a psychologist would be important for you, but I do understand that it is hard for you to talk about these things. It is quite usual that after seeing a psychologist, things get worse at first, there will be more nightmares and so on. Considering the long term though, it is important that you should get in to terms with your past as we can never fully forget our experiences unless we are suffering of a serious memory loss. Often, it is also a good idea to practice with the situations that feel scary, such as travelling on the bus or meeting with people for short times at first with the help of, for example, someone close.

In Helsinki, we have a place called Centre for Torture Survivors in Finland that gives treatment for the victims of torture. You must be referred there by your own doctor or by someone at the Immigrant Services. Treatment is available to those suffering of the trauma caused by torture.

Siirry ylös