I won't say my PTSD is the same as someone who's fought at war or was raped, but I do have PTSD and I thought I'd tell you what it's like to live with PTSD.
You're pretty much ALWAYS on guard. Everywhere you go you don't feel completely safe. The tiniest things can set things off. One time after a Bible Study a couple years ago, my husband and I were walking back to the car and a friend came up from behind me and pretty much jumped me saying "Happy Halloween!" I wanted to curl up somewhere and die because it freaked me out so much! I don't fault them though, they didn't know. Even little taps from behind freak me out.
Nightmares, you tend to keep reliving your trauma over and over again. It feels like you can't really escape your trauma. You have many late nights and don't sleep well because you don't want to keep reliving the trauma. It doesn't only happen in your nightmares though. Sometimes little things will bring up memories. There was something this past week that brought back bad memories for me and I flew into a tailspin. These memories can make you feel sick. It makes it difficult to trust people too. I suppose that's part of the reason they have service dogs, it's easier to trust a dog than another person I suppose.
My PTSD is probably mild compared to most people wth PTSD honestly. I can't really think of a lot of stuff about PTSD except for what I've experienced. I'm hoping some day I can get a service dog for my PTSD, though not until my cat is gone. So it won't be for several more years.
What are some things that can help cope with PTSD? Honestly, I'm still in the process of finding out, but what sometimes works for me is holding my cat Shiro. Unfortunately, he tends to get angry with me when I do that and will sometimes scratch me trying to get away. I have a plushie I got at AWA this year of Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth/Tsubasa Chronicles. I had been wanting it since 2008 and my husband got it for me! So I've been cuddling with that and it helps some.
If you know someone who has PTSD, please be patient with them. PTSD can really change a person. Let them know you're available for them whenever they need to talk and that you won't judge them with how they are reacting. If you are struggling with PTSD, please see a counselor and a psychiatrist. I'm on medication for PTSD and it helps it a lot. You are not alone.