MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENT

When you live with PTSD, things can act as triggers, setting you off in a fit of rage.  It’s the responsibility of those of us who have PTSD though to make sure we channel that anger into acceptable directions rather than allow it to hurt other people.  So, how does one do that?

Knowing what triggers your anger is the first step.  It can help to keep a journal, noting those times you’re raging over something.  Being mindful of what is happening not only to you, but within you, can help you intervene before you find yourself out of control.  What irritates you beyond the normal?  When the kids are screaming and having a good time, does the noise trigger your anger?  If your spouse is nagging about financial fears, is that the burr that gets under your hide?

If you can recognize what’s setting you off, you can often manage the environment so that you stop the anger before it gets a grip on you.  When the kids start screaming, send them outside.  When your spouse is complaining, take a good look to see if those complaints are valid.  If they are, then try to problem solve and seek realistic solutions.  If they aren’t, look at ways to offer reassurance.  It may be that the real issues isn’t the finances at all, but other fears you aren’t even aware of at the time.

Whatever you are facing as a trigger to your rage, brainstorm ways to head it off before it grows bigger than you can control.  Look at alternate ways you can respond other than giving in to your anger.  Is it easier to just let your rage lash out at others?  You bet it is!  But the courageous way to handle the situation is to accept responsibility for your anger.  You are responsible for the ways you hurt others.  In the long run, it’s may take some effort on your part to control your rage, but your relationships with family and friends will be stronger and healthier for it.

 

 

QUIET, PLEASE!

Excessive noise is a trigger for me, sending my PTSD into overdrive. It took a long time for me to realize that loud noise irritated me more than it should have, but I finally was able to see what was happening.   I hate when I start feeling like “something” is about to happen. Loud noises make me feel that way. I need to manage my environment so I can survive, yet this is an on-going problem. The steady drip of the faucet, a barking puppy, the television being on when no one is watching it – all of these things, and many more, make me a nervous wreck.

Managing the environment is one way of reducing the triggers that set my PTSD off. Unfortunately I can’t always have things the way I want and need them to be, but I can make every effort to keep things down to a dull roar! I’ve found that I need to respond quickly when I hear the faucet dripping and make sure it’s fully off. If the puppies are crying, I have to get right up and see what’s wrong so they quiet down. If the television is on and no one is watching it, I turn it off.

I can’t manage everything all the time, but I can make every effort to do what it takes to keep my PTSD under control. Learning to live with PTSD often means making an extra effort to keep things on an even keel. Fortunately, I can do that!

REFLECTIONS

I am so looking forward to this New Year! The past couple of years have been quite trying for me, so looking at a clean slate coming up is a delight. This year I would like to make some progress on stabilizing my finances. I have the tools to do this, and was quite successful last year, but then unforeseen circumstances pulled me back into the mud again. I don’t like being broke all the time, so it’s time to step it up and get back on track.

I’d also like to find more ways to reduce the stress in my life. I’m getting older now and find that stress affects me more negatively than it did when I was younger. For one thing, I am facing knee replacement surgery soon, and I’ll also need cataract surgery on both eyes. I’ve been putting it off for several years now, but I don’t think I can get away with that much longer.

As the New Year comes in, I want to have a plan for reaching some of the goals I have. I know that writing a plan down increases the likelihood of achieving it by greater than 50%, so I will think it through and write it down. These things are worthwhile to me as I want to achieve some things before I retire.

I hope the New Year is filled with blessings and prosperity for you too, and that, as a nation, we can learn to live in peace with each other and with ourselves. Happy New Year!

RETROSPECT

As 2019 draws to a close, I find myself reviewing all the things that have happened, and the effect it has had on me. I survived one of the worst years of my life, and that, I feel, is a success. I took on some new responsibilities, gave up some old ones, and found things to look forward to even in the midst of all the chaos. Although I would not want to repeat this year, I believe I have done a pretty fair job of getting through it.

Sometimes we have to look back to see how far we’ve come in order to appreciate the distance we’ve traveled. It also helps us to not become overwhelmed by all the negativity that life can throw at us. While I have to say there are things I could have done better, I can also say I’m a survivor and I made it through some very tough times.

I’m looking forward to 2020. I know there will still be tough times ahead – there always are. But I also know I can get through them, no matter what is thrown at me. And, as I enter this year, the slate is clean and perhaps things won’t be as bad as they were last year; that gives me some hope.

As this year closes, I congratulate you on being a survivor too, and I hope the New Year will be one of prosperity and peace for all of us. Happy New Year!

A HAPPY HOLIDAY

I remember loving Christmas as a child. It was the best of times! I was always filled with excitement and the season meant so much to me. Now, things are different, and it angers me that the innocence I felt as a child was taken from me. That’s one of the things PTSD does: it robs us of the joy in our lives, if it can.

I still love the lights and the scents of the season, but things are different with PTSD. I don’t enjoy the crowds at all. Anyone with PTSD knows the difficulty of living with hypervigilance. That makes shopping difficult too. And, family get togethers…not something I look forward to, that’s for sure.

Holidays are much more difficult with PTSD coming along for the ride. So, I have to look deeper for the good times. I’ve accepted that I have to find new traditions to look forward to, like baking and decorating cookies and dropping them off at the homes of friends rather than going to parties. And, I can still enjoy the music and the lights.

I have to accept that life is different with PTSD, but at least there are still pieces of Christmas that used to mean a lot to me that I can still hold on to. I refuse to surrender everything. The meaning of the holiday hasn’t changed, I have. But that’s okay; I can live with that and still find joy in the season.

BOUNTIFUL RESOURCES

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the West Michigan Veterans Coalition where many local agencies and organizations were present. Each organization represented had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the group reviewing the services they provide to Veterans. I was amazed at the amount of services available.

Many had programs to help homeless Vets. Some included assistance with rent payments, others were focused on employment assistance. There are agencies that work with Veterans with a goal of owning their own homes. There are many organizations that provide employment readiness programs. Others that help supply appliances for the home, or offer legal clinics, or provide transportation to and from Veterans Medical Centers so Veterans can get the medical treatments they need.

There are organizations that exist to help Veterans become more socially active to prevent social isolation. Those that provide supportive employment services, or that help with home care and light housekeeping. There were many services designed to promote healthy living for Veterans.

It is good that, as service organizations, we all know about each other so when a Veteran is in need, we know where to send him or her for help. Michigan does a good job of providing services to aid Veterans in need. If you aren’t sure where to go for answers, try contacting your local Center for Independent Living to get connected to the resources you need.

THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL

Most of us like to think we have control over ourselves and our behaviors all the time. We like to think we are in control of our environment and the things that happen to us too…but, unfortunately, that’s often not the case. When stressors build up and we have a lot of difficult items to deal with, we may find things are out of control more than we’d like to admit.

Let’s face it, life is hard at the best of times, and bad things happen to good people. Normally, I just accept this and move forward as best I can thinking if I do my best, I’ll come out okay. Sometimes though things move too fast or the stressors pile up, one on top of another, and I reach the point of just losing it. I don’t like it when that happens.

Because stressors pile up, I find I need an arsenal of items in my emotional toolbox to fall back on. One solution just isn’t going to cut it. I may find I need to take a time out for myself and go for a walk where I can think things through and enjoy nature a bit to regroup. Even that may not be enough if things are especially crazy, so I may have to come back and listen to some upbeat music, or burn some vanilla-scented candles, or lose myself in a good book.

If that doesn’t do the trick and I find I’m still feeling like a cat walking on hot cement, I may resort to deep-breathing exercises, going for a drive out of town, talking things over with a friend, or going for a massage. The thing is, I have to monitor my stress levels and apply whatever solutions I need in order to reach the point where I can cope. Having a large number of items in my toolbox makes it a bit easier as I can apply as many solutions as necessary to reach the point where I can survive the situation.

I’d like to be in control of myself and my environment all the time, but I know that isn’t possible. Life has a habit of throwing some nasty curveballs that I have to deal with. Sometimes a single solution isn’t enough.   Sometimes it takes a bit more than that to get through the rough stretches. I’m fortunate in having a lot of ways of relieving stress so it doesn’t get the best of me.