SEARCHING FOR THE BRIGHT SIDE

It’s been a heck of a week.  Last week Sunday, I bought a new computer.  It was hacked while I was setting it up.  Cost me $180 to get it swept clean so I could start all over again.  Then one of my dogs bit a family friend.  We had gone to the vet to get her rabies shot and she was in an unfamiliar place.  When our friend led her out on the leash, she panicked and attacked him.  She bit him twice, once in the leg and once in the arm.

A few days later, one of my best friends was diagnosed with scabies (Eek!  I’m hoping I didn’t pick them up too!), and today, two of my dogs dug under the fence and ran off.  Can things get worse?

Actually, yes, they could.  Fortunately there were experts around to fix my new computer.  And the dog bites healed nicely.  I don’t have scabies (Thank God!), and the two dogs found their way back home uneventfully.

Sometimes life seems to be all bad news, but, again, it’s all so much in how you look at it!  Things could have been much worse.  I remember reading once that if the things that were wrong in your life could be fixed with money, then nothing was really that wrong.  That took me a while to get to where I could see that viewpoint and agree with it.

When a friend or loved one is dying, that’s bad news.  I paid $180 to get my computer fixed; I had the money, I could have easily spent it on some other frivolous thing and been no better off.  Yes, it was a bit of a headache dealing with the hack, but there were lots of good things going on in my life at the same time.  I focused on them instead of the bad things.

Another good friend found out he did not have cancer; the tumor on his neck is benign.  The friend with scabies is currently undergoing treatment.  I successfully loaded Quick Books onto my new computer and now it’s cutting down on all the paperwork I have to do.  I have another friend who is getting married next week.  How much more fun was it to focus on the joyous times she’s going through rather than the irritants I was experiencing?  Lots!

Look on the bright side.  Yes, it makes me seem like Pollyanna, but I am much happier for focusing on the bright side rather than wallowing in grief.  And in the final analysis, I’m glad I’m here instead of there!

 

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CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK

One of the more helpful things we can do to combat PTSD and the resulting depression, is to work on changing the way we think.  Our tendency is to generalize and believe that just because things were bad in one situation before, they’ll be bad in every similar situation.  That’s just not true, but it’s still a difficult habit to overcome.  But changing how we interpret circumstances can help us view them with less anxiety.  Let me give you an example.

This was a pretty hard weekend on me.  On Sunday, I picked up a new computer as my old one was fading fast.  While I was in town, I had my business partner bring several of our dogs to a local pet store where a vet clinic was being held.  The dogs needed their rabies shots and a couple of them needed to be microchipped.

One of the dogs, a 7 month old puppy, panicked at being on a leash and bit the friend who was handling her twice.  They were nasty bites, and he was very forgiving since he recognized she was frightened when she went after him.  I wanted him to go to the hospital and have the bites checked out and get right on some antibiotics.  He didn’t feel that was necessary.  We were able to calm the animal down, get her shots and get her home without further incident.

I brought my new computer home and Monday morning I sat down to set it up.  What fun (NOT!).  I am not computer proficient, so it’s a real chore for me to do anything like this.  The man who sold me the computer told me it would be very easy for me to set up.  Of course, it was anything but.  I tried to install the Microsoft Word program and immediately got an error sign.  Fortunately, a popup window came on saying it was Microsoft Remote Service and they went into my computer to see if they could assist in the set up.  They ended up explaining to me that I’d been hacked and that they could fix the problem….for $1,200 they could do a 1-time fix.  For $1,800 they could fix the problem and prevent further hacks, for $2,200 they could prevent further hacks for 3 years, and, imagine this, for $3,000 they could prevent further hacks for my lifetime.  Well, of course, the red lights in my brain started going off and I explained that this certainly was not going to happen.  They disconnected at that point and I realized that, indeed, I’d been hacked – by them!

It turned out they weren’t Microsoft.  They were hackers trying to get into my computer to ferret out private information.  I had to take both computers to a local computer store so the new one can have all the programs cleared and the old one will have all information filtered out before it is transferred to my new computer.

All of that left me feeling perhaps this wasn’t the best week in my life!  I had to close out my credit and debit cards and it was very disconcerting to think that someone could access my private information that way.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I realized: this could have been MUCH worse!

The dog could have bitten someone who would sue me.  It could have been a much more serious bite than it was.  The computer hackers could have drained my financial accounts before I got into the bank to close them down.  This wasn’t a matter of things going terribly wrong.  It was a matter of things going wrong that could have gone much worse.  I felt much better about the situation once I looked at it in that light.

You may have to work at reframing circumstances in a new light when you first start working on seeing things differently, but it’s worth it.  Had I continued to think about how all my confidential information had been violated, I could have become very paranoid about anything to do with my privacy.  Had I allowed myself to focus on the dog biting my friend and what could have transpired, I could have become frozen with fear.  Neither of those things happened.

Today, I think I’m a pretty lucky person!  Things could have been much worse, and for as bad as they were, I can deal with them.  That alone is worth the effort it took to change my thought process.  With PTSD, we seldom “look on the sunny side.”  But, I have to say, life is much brighter when we do!

FINDING YOUR JOY AGAIN

I think one of the most difficult parts of coping with PTSD is losing your joy.  The world changes and it’s much more unforgiving than it was.  Finding your joy again can be hard, but it can be done!

I think I probably went for years without really laughing.  Ok, I laughed at a few things, but it wasn’t that gut-wrenching howl that I do now.  How did I find my joy?  I guess it’s like the proverbial answer to the question of how does one eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

I started by giving myself permission to laugh and to enjoy things again.  That may seem like a rather stupid statement, but in the face of all the horror that I’ve seen and experienced, allowing myself to enjoy the good things in life seemed to be a form of abandoning those who had similar experiences.  How could I enjoy life when they had also suffered so?

What I finally realized was that even those who had paid the ultimate price would not want me to live under such a cloud of doom as I was.  In fact, by reclaiming my joy, I was saying that, while I might be knocked down at times, I would certainly get back up again to fight another day.  And then it became to live another day.

My joy is different these days.  I love the color of flowers, spring breezes, warm puppies, and the glitter of new snow.  I laugh at the antics of my dogs playing together and it brings me a sense of great satisfaction to watch the new dog that was abused before I got her, as she now runs across the yard, tail wagging, and, I swear to you, smiling!

I found my joy again.  I had to look for it.  I had to embrace it.  But it was worth every ounce of pain I paid for it!  I hope you find your joy again…soon.

PTSD AND DEPRESSION

Unfortunately, depression often goes hand-in-hand with PTSD.  Most of us who suffer from it understand exactly what is going on and it is depressing at times.  I realize I’m overly anxious and hypervigilant, but that doesn’t automatically mean I can just stop the behavior.  That does get depressing.  The problem is, getting depressed doesn’t help; it just means I now have two aspects to the problem, not just one!

Depression can be treated in a variety of ways though.  That’s the good news.  I have gone through treatment when I was younger, and I’m glad I did.  PTSD is bad enough to deal with on its’ own.  Add depression in and it gets overwhelming very quickly.  Treating the depression allowed me to focus on coping with the PTSD.

If you have a day or even a few days of feeling down, that’s not the kind of depression I’m talking about here.  I’m referring to the clinical variety where you go three months or longer feeling like you’re living under a cloud of doom.  Coping with PTSD can use up most of your energy to begin with.  Stir in a healthy dose of depression and things can become unbearable rather quickly.  It was worth getting some help with medication to deal with the depression so I could continue working on dealing with the PTSD.

Depression is often a part of PTSD.  By not responding to it and getting proper treatment, you’re extending the healing time in coping with your PTSD.  Take the time to get help for your depression when it seems to be getting overwhelming.  You won’t regret it!