CAGING THE TIGER

Uncontrollable anger is one of the side-effects of having PTSD.  Unfortunately, when I’m lost in my rage, I tend to strike out at whomever happens to be closest.  I’ve found that once it is unleashed, anger tends to grow in size and ferocity.

Unmanaged anger is an ugly thing; that’s why I compare it to an uncaged tiger.  For those unlucky enough to be within range, it can turn into a snarling beast that devours anyone in its path.  I’ve noticed that unmanaged anger often starts out as sarcasm or a mild annoyance, but without being checked, it lashes out at others hoping to make them as miserable as it is.   The good thing about the situation is that you do not have to allow anger to escalate.

It is possible to control your anger.  Rather than giving in to it and letting the tiger run free, you simply have to recognize what you’re doing, and then stop doing it.  I know when I’m letting my anger control me…and I don’t like it.  I feel terrible that I’m out of control, and that’s when I find I usually get burned in the process too.  It is much healthier for me to control my rage and not give in to the shouting, swearing, raging behaviors.  Instead, I tell the person I’m angry at what they are doing to feed that anger.  Then I add what I would like to see happen instead.

Some things I can do to help cage the tiger of anger:

  • Realize that I am not perfect either, and so I cannot hold others to a standard of perfection
  • Recognize that I do not really want to hurt the ones I love, only get their attention. There are better ways of doing that than tearing them apart.
  • Acknowledge that even when the people I’m angry at deserve my rage, it only says something negative about me when I give into it. Far better to maintain my temper and not make a scene than to fly into a rage and let everyone know I’m out of control.

Uncontrollable anger might go hand-in-hand with PTSD, but that doesn’t mean I have to give in to it.  I can control my anger.  I can state my needs without hurting others.  And if they continue to prompt my anger, I can find healthy ways to respond other than turning my anger against them.

LIVING WITH DEPRESSION

One symptom of PTSD is depression: on-going sadness, hopelessness and withdrawal.  Depression robs you of joy and zaps your energy, and can make life a chore.  Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to get treatment to help their depression because of the stigma attached, but you must remember, depression is not uncommon – it affects almost all of us at one time or another.

Depression is caused by the chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) being out of balance.  It is often attributed to a genetic tendency, or stressful life events such as death, long-term illness, or relationship problems.

Signs of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Loss of interest in participating in the activities that ordinarily you would take pleasure in doing
  • Loosing or gaining weight
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Restlessness or sluggishness
  • Exhaustion
  • Feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem
  • Difficulty focusing, memory problems, high anxiety

Depression is indicated when symptoms last for two weeks or longer.

What helps?

  • Taking good care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and exercise
  • Try to be realistic. Set goals you can meet and don’t take on more than you can handle
  • Don’t blame yourself or others for your depression
  • Don’t make major life decisions when you’re depressed
  • Get support and treatment
  • Try to stay involved in social activities
  • Focus on what is good in your life
  • Avoid alcohol and substance abuse

Don’t be afraid to get help.  Counseling, psychotherapy, and/or antidepressant medications may help.  Don’t give up; if one treatment doesn’t work, try another.  You deserve joy and happiness in your life!

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS WITH PTSD

Sleep problems go hand-in-hand with PTSD, and I’ve found I’m no exception to the rule. I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, so I tell all my friends that no one may call me after 9:00 p.m. short of an all-out emergency.

The other night, a friend called after I’d gone to bed. I awoke from a sound sleep and grabbed the phone (I’ve had too many nights of sitting up with family and friends who were dying to let the phone go unanswered).  I was only on the phone for a couple of minutes, but it was enough to keep me up until 4:00 a.m.

Being a poor sleeper means I’m sleep deprived most of the time. Many days I struggle to stay awake.  I overeat out of frustration at not being able to fall asleep, and I crave comfort foods (high calorie) when I’m over tired.  Worse of all is trying to make my brain work the next day.  Sometimes I feel as if the world is passing me by and I’m just too tired to care.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me cope with the problem. I don’t struggle to stay in bed if I’m not sleepy.  I get up out of bed.  I may read, clean house, work on an art project, or whatever captures my interest at the time, but staying in bed getting mad because I’m not sleepy doesn’t help at all!

I often rely on soft music to help me fall asleep. I’ve found that classical music helps me relax and often breaks the cycle of “psychobabble” I have going on in my head.  Music gives me something else to think about other than my problems.  I choose the classical music because it does not stimulate me to be more active.  Soft music allows my brain to slow down and get into the proper mode for sleeping.

I also try to keep my bedroom a bit on the cooler side. I know I won’t sleep if it’s too warm.  Then all I do is focus on how uncomfortable I am and that gets me no-where.  I also sometimes take a pain pill.  Because I have arthritis with accompanying pain most of the time, I am often not consciously aware that I hurt.  If the music doesn’t work, then a pain pill is soon to follow, and it almost always does the trick.

Whatever you try to cope with sleeping difficulties, keep searching until you find what works. Live is too short to do less!

PTSD: CONQUERING INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS

One of the more frustrating things about PTSD is having horrific scenes run through your mind again and again. You’d like to turn a switch and have it all stop, but that’s not possible and you’re at the mercy of being subjected to something you never wanted to see in the first place.  Intrusive thoughts are one of the more difficult symptoms of PTSD to treat too.

The best method I’ve found for dealing with intrusive thoughts is to use diversion. Diversion is anything that captures and holds your interest.  Sometimes, it’s reading a good book, one that I can’t put down because my attention is riveted to the characters in it.  Another is to listen to good music.  My taste changes from time to time, so what I play is variable, but as long as I really like it, it does the trick.  One of the things I’ve found that make it more effective is wearing headphones.  It’s like the more I can shut the world out, the better chance I have of really getting into the music and not letting anything else get in to distract me.

You don’t have to use either books or music though. Look for the things that really interest you, and try to avoid those that prompt those unwanted memories from returning.  As time goes by, you may find that the more you stop them from coming, the less often intrusive thoughts will come.  Bad memories can haunt you and make your life miserable.  Try using diversion to stop them when they first start to creep into your head.  I hope your day is better.