THE POWER OF THE MIND

PTSD Coach Online suggests journaling about your problems as a way of coping with them. Seems pretty lame on the surface. I know what my problems are, why would writing about them make a difference? But, in the name of trying everything, I went ahead and took 20 minutes out of my life to write about the most pressing issues I’m dealing with.

You see, I’m struggling to make sense out of a senseless event. One single trauma that has burned me to the bone. I know I won’t fully recover from it, but I have to learn to live with it or it’s going to kill me.

Much to my surprise, I found I did learn something from writing about the traumatic event. I was able to get a better, I believe more realistic, perspective on what happened seeing it on paper in front of me, and I was able to better evaluate my feelings. Maybe that’s not moving mountains, but it is a start to understanding the size of my problems and, perhaps, how to view them in a different light.

Sometimes opening the wound is the only way to get a clear picture of how deep it is and why it won’t heal. When we stop running and face our issues, we start to recognize how much of the problem isn’t just the initial trauma we experienced, but how we allow it to grow and fester in our minds. I don’t know if I will come out on the other side of my problems whole and healed, but I’m sleeping better and I’m not as stressed out as I was. That’s something good.

VOLUNTEERING: ENDING TUNNEL VISION

When we have PTSD, we tend to be primarily focused on ourselves. We think no one else understands or has ever gone through the troubles are experiencing. That’s not true. PTSD can give you tunnel vision, where you see only the problems you have, not those of the family and friends you interact with every day. That’s why volunteering can be so powerful for us.

We have many talents and skills to share; after all, we are survivors! When we volunteer and share those skills with others, we start seeing their problems as well as our own, and that often helps us cope better with our issues.

Volunteering can help you as you interact and help others. It can allow you to experiment with working again to determine whether you can take on a 9 to 5 job. It can lift your spirits, help you develop or sharpen your skills, and it can even reaffirm your believe in society as a whole. That’s a lot of positive impact coming out of a single step.

Please consider volunteering your time to help others in some way. Look at how you can share your passion about a sport, a skill or a way you can share part of yourself. You’ll grow from the process too, and helping others…isn’t that what it’s all about?

PTSD: FIGHTING BACK

Here are some things you can do as a family member of a veteran with PTSD that can help:

  • Take good care of your own health. It can be difficult when the focus is always on your loved one with PTSD, but you can’t help someone else when you’re having problems yourself.
  • Take the time to do things that you enjoy and find relaxing. Dealing with a loved one with PTSD can be exhausting and hard on your physical and mental health too. Pamper yourself; you’re worth it!
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself. You can’t be everything to everyone. Be as patient with yourself as you are with your loved one with PTSD, and if necessary, consider seeing a counselor or therapist.

If you have PTSD,

  • Don’t isolate yourself. Plan enjoyable activities with your family and friends.
  • Make a plan for how you will deal with a crisis if it arises…before it happens.
  • Be patient with yourself and with others. PTSD can leave your irritable and cranky. Don’t let it take over your life.
  • If you find yourself getting out of control, contact your VA Medical Center and ask to talk someone there. You aren’t in this alone!

 

Caging the “Temper Tiger”

With PTSD, we often have issues with controlling our anger. Due to chemical changes in the brain, we operate in the aroused state most of the time, and that can make us super-sensitive to what’s going on around us. Because of this, we may over-react to what might otherwise be considered normal behavior in our children and spouses.

Caging the temper tiger isn’t always easy! We have to work at controlling our temper and we often must learn different ways of channeling that anger into more positive responses. Fortunately, the National Center for PTSD offers “PTSD Coach Online.”

PTSD Coach Online is an excellent program where you can work on your anger issues, getting guidance without having to bare your soul to the world. One entire section is devoted to Anger Management. There are segments on changing your feelings through changing your thoughts, noticing your thoughts and feelings, relaxation through visualization, changing negative thought patterns, planning enjoyable activities, relaxing your body, looking carefully at your thoughts, relaxing through breathing, and weighing the pros and cons of your actions. You can access this material by going to: www.ptsd.va.gov/app/PTSDCoachonline/tools.