One of the sadder things I’ve noticed with having PTSD is that it is so difficult to let go and just have fun. We have to first overcome our depression, and engaging in activities is not something we want to do. Mental exhaustion is something I seem to fight all the time. I don’t want to have to think too much about anything, but if I remain in this state of fog, it never gets better either.
Knowing that, I force myself to take part in activities. I tell myself I can always stop and go home if I feel the need. I try to go into an activity, such as going to the movies or shopping, thinking that I’ve enjoyed them in the past and there is no reason I can’t enjoy them again now. Most of the time I do enjoy them – it’s the getting started that’s hard.
One thing I know is that with PTSD I can’t surrender. If I don’t fight it, it gains ground and I lose. By fighting it, I don’t let it win and it does not take over my life. The quality of my life is better, and the best thing is that every year it gets a bit easier to live with.
If you have PTSD, have you considered what a service dog may be able to do for you? If you have ever looked into getting a service dog, you have probably been somewhat overwhelmed. If you try to purchase one already trained, you’ll find it can run you anywhere between $3,000 and $30,000, depending on what the dog is trained to do. Most of us can’t afford it.
If you want to try to find an agency that will provide you with a trained service dog, then you’ll need to get on their waiting lists. You may be on the list for a long, long time as it is not uncommon for there to be hundreds of people with disabilities on those lists and only a few will get a trained dog each year. But, don’t give up hope!
According to the law, you do not need to use a professional trainer to train your service dog (although it is recommended!). You can train it yourself. Now that also may seem rather intimidating if you aren’t a trainer, but many reputable trainers will assist you at little or no charge.
Service dogs for those with PTSD can be taught to block (stand in front of the handler preventing people from walking up into your space), watch (stepping behind the handler to watch his/her back), to alert you when it’s time to take your medications, to check out the house to make sure there is no one else in there when you return after an outing, to wake you from nightmares, turn on the lights before you enter a room, comfort you during panic attacks, and the list goes on and on!
Many of these commands are not difficult to train your dog to do. If you do decide to go this way, make sure your dog is quiet natured, obedient, and willing to work to please you. If you want a professional dog trainer’s assistance, call around and ask how much they charge. Any way you look at it, it is probably cheaper than trying to purchase a dog that is already trained.
We hear a lot about veterans with PTSD and how it can increase the level of anger they exhibit toward others, especially family members. Veterans themselves report that anger is the issue that most affects their functioning when they return home. Studies have shown that the relationship between anger and PTSD is not as much about anxiety as it is about a heightened anger response. These same studies have also found that military service members are not more violent than civilians in the absence of PTSD.
Some of the contributing factors that can fan the fires of anger in a veteran with PTSD include:
- Alcohol use problems
- Traumatic brain injury
Depression plus PTSD equals an increased risk of partner violence. The negativity that comes with depression prompts a veteran to get angry faster. Alcohol use is the most common factor related to PTSD and anger. Alcohol use affects the drinker’s ability to reason and reduces inhibitions that might prevent angry outbursts. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can affect the portions of the brain that control aggression. Returning veterans often have trust problems and low self-esteem. They also have low “Other” esteem, meaning they don’t feel that others are valuable either. Many times they feel powerless and become aggressive as they try to increase their power within the family. That can cause them to become more controlling towards their partner and children too.
If you have a service-related disability, there are laws that protect you when you are employed. Some of these laws protect you from discrimination on the basis of your military status or obligations. Some protect the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the military.
The ADA prohibits employers from treating an applicant or employee unfavorably in all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotions, job assignments, training, termination, and any other facets of employment simply because s/he has a disability. If you have a disability, the ADA protects your right to reasonable accommodation to apply for, perform your job, and to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
Your potential employer may not ask about your disability as far as when, where, or how you were injured. If it seems likely that you will need a reasonable accommodation to do the job you are applying for, an employer may ask if an accommodation is needed and, if so, what type.
If you are a disabled veteran and you are seeking employment, know the laws that are designed to protect you in your job search and in the work you do.
We all must learn to cope with loss as we age, but sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the losses we encounter. Divorce, separation from family and friends, loss of social network when you move frequently, or loss of body function and image as a result of injury are all common forms of loss.
When we lose things that are important to us, we may become depressed, sad, or feel anxious and irritable. We may have problems sleeping, or feel as though we don’t have the energy we need to cope. When our reaction to loss is long-term, it can have a negative impact on our quality of life.
Fortunately, there are healthy ways to cope with loss. If you find yourself overwhelmed, try the following:
- Remember, you aren’t alone in how you feel. It’s important to realize that we all experience loss differently, and how we react is not good or bad – it simply is what it is.
- Talk to those someone you trust. Sharing how you’re feeling can make your load easier.
- Social support from friends and family helps decrease stress. Don’t be afraid to get together with your friends or support group members to do fun activities.
- Keep active; participate in activities you are passionate about or enjoy doing like sports and hobbies. Distractions can offer periods of peace in an otherwise stressful life.
- Avoid unhealthy behaviors such as coping with drugs or alcohol. They only make negative reactions worse.
- Talk with your spiritual care advisor or your doctor.
We will all face losses as we go through life. Not letting those losses overwhelm you will make them easier to withstand.