When you have PTSD, you don’t necessarily look forward to holidays. Family gatherings may be tense with all the people milling around and the emotional baggage often paired with family interactions. You may not enjoy shopping because intermingling with the crowd leaves you feeling exposed and in a dangerous position. All the activities that often go along with being part of the holiday experience can become burdensome and leave you feeling as though everyone else is in their happy place and you are the odd person out. There may be things that are connected with the holiday that are triggers for you too, such as loud noises, smells you associate with your trauma, or feelings that are uncomfortable for you to deal with.
Sometimes we have to accept that for us, holidays simply aren’t going to be the thrill they are for others. We have to say we had a good time based on the fact that we made it through, not that we had any sort of special experience of joy and laughter. But that’s okay; we have different criteria for what constitutes a good time. While most people don’t understand that, those of us with PTSD know that just surviving another holiday is often a success.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of trauma is often rage. It seems, the stronger the trauma, the stronger the rage that follows. I know; I’m there. Following the fire at my kennel last week, I’ve found it’s easier to fly into a rage and scream at everyone around me. It’s not something I want to do, or something that leaves me feeling in control or content. I hate that I feel this way and that it negatively affects others. I went to the Coach on Line program the VA offers and went through one of their training modules on anger.
I was surprised at what I learned about myself doing this. I had some pretty strong thoughts about what I could/should have done during the fire…even at the possible cost of my own life. Once I analyzed those thoughts, I started realizing that I was demanding perfection from myself, then punishing myself and everyone around me when I couldn’t deliver on it.
Once I realized that, it was easier to forgive myself and start over. I can’t change the past, but I can limit the impact it has on my life and my feelings of peacefulness. I can make the present better just by believing in myself and doing my best.
I wish things had turned out differently with the fire. I wish I was Super Woman and could have saved the lives that were lost. But I’m not and I didn’t. It’s time to move on and do the best I can for those who are left.
There is a new form of treatment for PTSD that seems to be making a difference for some veterans. Floatation therapy involves laying in a small pool that has been filled with salt water. High levels of salt allow the individual to float gently on the top of the water.
The water is warm, around 94.2◦ F. causing the sensation of being suspended in the air. The result is similar to the old sensory deprivation chambers that used to be popular in the 1970s. In this warm, peaceful environment, the individual finds it easy to meditate allowing the brain to enter the Theta state, the same frequency that occurs prior to falling into deep sleep. Deep relaxation results, and may even facilitate the processing of past trauma.
Those individuals who have participated in float therapy have experienced reductions in blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and physical pain, as well as improvements in sleep quality and optimism. It looks like floatation therapy is making a place in the successful treatment options for PTSD.
I have, this past week, been witness to the development of PTSD in a dog. One week ago, I awoke to screams of “Fire!” My kennel was on fire. One of the dogs saved was a 9-week old puppy, a female beagle. Little Lucky Kate was severely traumatized by the fire. Not only did she receive damage from breathing the smoke, but when the firemen rescued her in their yellow rubber suits with gloves and masks, she freaked out as she did not recognize who or even what they were.
Little Kate was saved from the worst of the fire, but she was placed in my arms screaming in terror. She screamed for 3 hours after being rescued, then cried for another 2 hours. She finally cried herself to sleep. In the week since, she went through a period of not wanting to be anywhere but wrapped in a towel or blanket on my lap. That was the only place she felt safe. I watched as she exhibited many of the symptoms of PTSD: hypervigilance, isolation, excessive startle responses, and even night terrors. She also went through several seizures.
The veterinarian diagnosed her as having thrown a blood clot (from the smoke damage to her lungs) to her brain stem. For several days, she could barely walk and would run into anything in front of her. She continued to exhibit the signs of PTSD too.
Slowly, Kate is gaining control of her body again. She still has night terrors and I expect she will for a long time to come. This was a horrible ordeal for her to go through. She is no longer trying to isolate herself, I believe because I could not allow it to begin with, so it was not a rewarding behavior for her to continue. Her lungs are healing and she is now romping and playing with her sister again…but she is blind.
I do not know how long Kate will continue to exhibit the symptoms of PTSD, but I can say she is not in this alone. I will keep Little Lucky Kate for the rest of her life and I will be watching for signs of the PTSD. I will be doing everything I can to help her through it.