Surviving PTSD

Having PTSD takes a lot of energy. Those of us with that diagnoses know that we are “on point” 24/7.  We monitor everything and know what’s going on around us all the time.  Being hypervigilant is frustrating, to say the least, but it has become such a way of life, that we can’t even conceive of things being any other way.

Keeping track of all that’s going on is not an easy job, but it is part of who we are. Anxiety drives the hypervigilance, and our thoughts drive our anxiety.  Learning to control our thoughts then is the first step in learning to manage our anxiety.  Remember, our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected.

Our thoughts are shaped by our life experiences, and while they may well have been right on target immediately following the traumatic event we experienced, as time goes by they may become less accurate. We may perceive something as a threat when it actually isn’t anymore.

There are four types of feelings we can experience connected with PTSD: fear, sadness, guilt and anger. Think about a feeling that’s bothering you.  Now, weigh the pros and cons for why you feel the way you do.  Weighing the pros and cons helps you decide if it’s worth holding on to those thoughts.

If keeping those thoughts outweigh letting them go, then you need to keep them for now. But, if it’s time to let them go, try looking realistically at what’s behind them.

If you decide it’s time to let them go, it’s the first step in changing your feelings. PTSD affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  But we can take back some of what we’ve lost so far.  Take the time to identify what your feelings and thoughts are, and then weigh the pros and cons of keeping those thoughts.  If the cons outweigh the pros, then it’s time to start changing your thoughts.

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Living With Lung Cancer

The VA is promoting a new clinical program to help veterans diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. When the individual is first diagnosed, physicians will take a biopsy of the tumor for targeted genomic sequencing.  This allows identification of the DNA sequence that makes up the tumor.  With this information, doctors use drugs specifically designed to target that type of tumor.

The treatment also allows veterans the opportunity to take part in clinical trials of new drug treatments. By identifying the specific mutations that cause the tumors, and targeting the treatment using drugs known to be effective, there is a much greater chance of success.

If you have lung cancer, never give up hope. Do everything you can to stay strong, such as eating healthy, and staying active.  You may find it difficult to maintain your weight, so focus on eating foods that are high in protein and calories.  Eating more small meals during the day may help too.

Staying active improves physical and mental health. Try to work in some physical activity every day.  This may help you sleep better and increase your energy.  Staying active can also help reduce side effects of medications.  Focus on being active when you feel energetic and rested.  Don’t overdo, rather stick to moderate activities such as stretching, walking, swimming or biking.

(For more information, go to Myhealthevet).

AVOIDING MEDICATION ERRORS

Chances are you are already taking more than one medication or over the counter (OTC) drug each day. It’s easy to make a mistake in remembering what to take, why you’re taking it, and what drug interactions may result.

Here are some tips to help you avoid making any errors when taking your medications:

  • Keep a current list of all the medications you take: prescriptions, OTC, and any vitamins and herbal supplements
  • List the name of the drug, the dosage and frequency, the reason you’re taking it, dosing directions (such as whether you should take it with or without food), and the date you started taking it. For prescription drugs, also list the doctor who prescribed it and the pharmacy where you get the prescription filled
  • List all allergies and intolerances, and any other information that may apply
  • Make copies for yourself, and for your medical file at the VA. Place a copy on the refrigerator for paramedics and give a copy to your doctor
  • Keep the list updated!
  • Ask your doctor to clarify his/her handwriting on prescriptions you can decipher
  • Write the condition being treated on each bottle. If multiple medications are being used to treat the same condition, talk to your doctor
  • Use the same pharmacy. Their records will match yours. This also allows your pharmacist to be alert to any potential issues or interactions with other medications you’re taking
  • Learn what the possible side effects are and any possible drug interactions

This material was adapted from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Caregiver Support.