DE’JA’ VU

It can be very frustrating when you find you are making progress in learning to cope with your PTSD and then having life drop some new horror on you. It is depressing to think that I must revisit so much of the healing that I’ve done in the past in order to cope with this new trauma.  I find it very depressing to think that I’ve backslid in my progress…and, I guess more than anything, I don’t want to go through the hard work I went through before to get back to where I was.  It’s not fair.

Well, thank you for letting me whine. I guess the silver lining in this cloud is recognizing, first of all, that I can heal, and secondly that I have the tools already in my possession to make it happen.  And, I know my enemy now better than I ever have in the past.  I know I will have flashbacks, but I also know they’ll lessen over time.  I know I will have emotional pain to deal with, but it also won’t last forever.  I’ve been here before…and I’ve come through it.

I don’t want to be here. But, since I am, I can take a few moments to be thankful that I’m a survivor and know I’ll get through this latest trauma too.

MANAGING STRESS

None of us gets away without having some stress in our lives. We tend to think of stress as being a bad thing, but even good things can sometimes cause us stress (think of your wedding!). But whether it’s good stress or bad, it can build to the point where it becomes unhealthy or even dangerous. I know there are times when stress becomes so great that I simply want to give up and accept the negative consequences no matter how severe they are.
Your health can be comprised if you are stressed for too long a period of time too. Stress can affect your mood leaving you depressed and unable to think clearly. It can even weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to serious illness. Some ways to manage your stress level include;
• Recognize potential stressors. Think about the things that increase your stress, and look for better ways to handle those situations before they arise.
• Getting enough exercise. Exercise increases the production of endorphins helping you feel better.
• Chill out. Learn relaxation techniques and practice them to control the amount of stress you’re dealing with. You may want to learn to meditate, take a class in yoga, or even schedule times during your day to destress.
Stress is part of everyone’s life, but it can be managed. Stress adds to the symptoms of PTSD and can make it that much harder to deal with; managing your stress can help you cope with your PTSD and make life better for you and everyone around you.

OVERCOMING SELF-IMPOSED ISOLATION

While it is easy to limit social interactions and isolate yourself, it does not promote healing from PTSD to do so. When you are isolated you prevent the very interactions that promote healing.  How can you learn to trust others if you never take the chance that they are trustworthy?  Successful interactions with others can provide experiences that help formulate a new belief structure.  That’s a big step toward healing, and it’s a step toward reclaiming your life.

Social interaction is something that, as humans, we need to thrive. When we limit our social contacts to just a few close friends or family members, we stunt our emotional and social growth.  Once you begin limiting your social interactions it’s easy to continue.  Challenging yourself to increase your social contacts can be quite difficult.  It may help to start slowly and simply increase the number of times you place yourself in public settings, or increase the length of time you choose to interact with others.

It may help if you begin going out with someone you trust such as a spouse or close friend. Look for social interactions where your feel safe such as small group meetings with other veterans.  While the world can sometimes be a dangerous place, if you hide you’ll miss out on many rich and rewarding experiences and you’ll deprive yourself of the opportunity for growth.  You, and those you love, deserve a life that includes good friends and good times.  Don’t let PTSD take that from you.

PTSD: CHANGING YOUR FOCUS

As a child, I remember learning you could start a fire by focusing a magnifying glass on tinder. If you held the glass long enough so the sun would shine through it, eventually the tinder would ignite. I think sometimes we act like the magnifying glass and focus on our pain until it blossoms and intensifies.

I worked with a man once who had PTSD but refused to talk about it. That was ok, it was his choice, but by closing himself off from others, it also forced him to stay exactly where he was so he didn’t heal at all. His physical pain was intolerable. The doctors tried everything to bring it under control, yet nothing worked. Eventually, one of his aides gained his trust and he began talking about his experiences. The aide found that this man believed he had done such hideous things that he had to suffer to pay for his prior behaviors.

This individual focused directly on his pain until he became a slave to it. It ruled over every aspect of his life until he was finally began to forgive himself for the insanity that the situation forced upon him. Then, his pain was brought under control.

I am not suggesting that everyone’s pain is caused by a belief that we have to suffer, but I am saying that we can focus on our pain until it becomes so severe, it cannot be controlled. That is why diversion is such a powerful tactic in controlling pain. When we focus on something we really enjoy doing, we may reach a point where we aren’t even aware of the pain. Getting into a good book, or doing any activities you love to do can help take your focus off your pain.

We all seem to be able to withstand a certain amount of pain, especially if there is an end in sight. When pain reaches the point where it becomes relentless, then you may want to try changing your focus. Meditation is a great way to start, but immersing yourself in any activity that captures your full attention is the key. Will it cure your pain? No, but it can remove it for a while and that can make all the difference.