Taking Note(s)

Writing about a problem can be helpful in several ways. First of all, journaling helps you clarify the facts about the issue. When you journal about the problem you are forced to put things into words an outside reader would understand. It helps you see the problem clearly.

In addition, writing about the problem may surprise you with some of the feelings you have concerning it that you haven’t otherwise consciously identified. When journaling about the frustrations of dealing with the insurance company after a recent fire at my home, I wrote that I was feeling like a victim (of the insurance company, not the fire). It was the first time I had identified that feeling to myself! It helped me see why I was feeling so frustrated and as though everything were out of control.

The process is simple. Write down your thoughts on the events in your life that aren’t going the way you want them to. Write down what happened, leaving out any personal thoughts or feelings on the situation. The next step is to take a look at how you feel about what happened. Finally, write possible solutions down and see if any are really possible.

Journaling or writing about whatever it is that is bothering you can help lessen your anxiety and help you feel less sad about the situation. Getting a clear perspective on the issues makes it easier to find solutions.

Compound Stress

We all have stressful times in our lives, but with PTSD, stress compounds what we are dealing with on a daily basis. Sometimes that stress can become so great, that we shut down rather than implode. Those are difficult times to deal with.

Knowing how to reduce stress, especially in ways that work for us, is especially important. For me, that means getting away from it all into a different environment for a while. I use music to reduce stress quite often. In the car, I crank it up and sing along and no one is offended by my voice! The good thing is that I can adjust the theme of the music to whatever I’m feeling at the time. It really helps.

I also like to take time with my dogs as a form of stress relief, unless they are the reason for the tension in the first place. Grooming them, cuddling them, and just watching them play brings me a great deal of peace and comfort.

I also like to lose myself in a good book. During stressful periods, I often read on and off all night long. I wake due to worrying about something, then grab my book and read a chapter. I can get into the story, leave the problems behind, and then go back to sleep. It works for me.

Try different things to reduce your stress level. Learn what works for you and what doesn’t, then keep a list of those things that do work so when you can’t think of what to do, you have some options. It’s not unusual to fight brain fog when you’re tired and stressed out, so having a list helps.

Compound stressors may need more than one remedy to defuse them. Add several to your toolbox and don’t be afraid to try new things. You may be surprised to learn what might help!

Dissociating

Dissociation means disconnecting. When we think of it in terms of PTSD, it is a method of self-defense. Dissociating allows us to escape. We just do it mentally rather than physically.

Dissociating is a term it took me a while to learn. When I finally understood it, I was relieved because I had what I thought of a “time blackouts.” For example, I remember entering a room once where I was forced to walk past my father.

Now, my father was a violent man, and I was terrified of him as a child. I stopped in the doorway and wondered if I had the courage to walk past him when I would be in a confined space and close enough for him to hurt me if he wanted. Then, all of a sudden, I was on the other side of the room, past him! I had no memory of having walked past him. It was as if I had been transported through time.

That experience, and others that were similar, were very frightening to me. I wondered if I had “blipped out” because of mental illness or some other strange mental defect. Years later, after much research, I ran across the term “dissociating,” and looked it up. I researched it thoroughly and realized that was what had happened.

I no longer think of myself as being defective for having lapses of memory. I think of myself as having some pretty cool build-in defense systems that protect me from things I could not otherwise deal with. Dissociating is just another way I coped with the horrors I was living with. It is another way I found to successfully survive.

STRESS

Stress can have a severe impact on PTSD. After all, PTSD usually comes with a good dose of anxiety to begin with. Stirring in a load of stress with it just expounds the problems we’ve already been dealing with.

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. I’ve had multiple appliances break down in the house (washing machine, hot water heater, furnace and television). Because most of them we cannot get along without for any lengthy period of time (especially the water heater and furnace!), I’ve had to scrounge to find the finances to cover replacements and repairs. That’s stressful.

At my house it is also “puppy time.” That means all of our female dogs have whelped. So, in addition to the water heater and furnace not working, all of a sudden I had 42 puppies to think about! How do I keep them warm enough? How do I get their bedding clean? Believe me that was stressful!

Over the years, I have learned that if I’m in one of those “heavy-stress” periods, then I need to stop and spend extra time taking care of myself. No one else is going to do it. It means that sometimes I have to leave the regular chores for another day. Or, that I am eating out more and cooking less. It also means I have to think about whether I’m getting enough sleep, and that my nutritional status is healthy so I can handle all this stress. I have to take extra good care of me!

Stress is a factor that is going to affect all our lives. Sometimes it will grow out of control and we’re going to have to hustle to withstand it. Taking care of ourselves is the best place to start! We all know how what we need to do; let’s just make sure we do it!