MOVING FORWARD

I’ve been writing blogs here now for several years, and as thing progress, I find it necessary for me to progress too! I will be moving to a new blogging site now. If you’d like to follow me, and I hope you will, you can find me by going to:
http://www.dnlakeshore.org. Scroll to the bottom of the website and you’ll see a list of services. “Blog” is listed, and if you click on it, you’ll find me!

I appreciate your input and your loyalty over the years. As I have grown through my PTSD, and in my desire to learn about emergency preparedness planning, I’ve been blessed by your participation either as a reader, or with your words of wisdom too. Thank you for making this experience worthwhile for me. I hope to see you at the new site!

Chris

FACING THE DARKNESS

I have, at various times in my life, been overcome by the “black dog” of depression. I guess most people face times when they just feel trapped and unable to move forward, but this is even deeper than that. It’s the darkness that falls on you like a weight and leaves you wondering if you can even stand up under the pressure it creates. During one of my worst bouts, I decided I needed more help than I could get from family, faith, and friends, and I went to the local Community Mental Health for help. I’ve never regretted that decision.

I told my therapist that I felt like a black cloud was following me, and that I was always waiting for something else to go wrong. For the first time, someone explained to me that I wasn’t “crazy,” I had PTSD.

I spent several months in therapy confronting the demons in my mind. Then I finally began to climb out of the hole I’d been living in and could finally feel the sun again. Since then, I’ve have not had to return for more therapy, but it has helped just knowing that it was there if I needed it. I’ve learned many tricks for “bumping” myself off the stuck position so I can move forward again: art therapy is one of my life-savers. I also use music therapy, prayer, and talking to a special, non-judgmental friend. I’m fortunate to have these tools available to me. They’re available to you too, if you need them.

KNOWING WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED

Stress, even good stress, can take quite a toll on us. It is helpful to learn to recognize the signs that you are becoming overstressed so you can take steps to alleviate it.

Recognizing the signs you are feeling too much stress can require some self-monitoring. Some of the signs to watch for include:

  • Tapping your foot repeatedly
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. This may occur most often in your sleep, but you will often feel the results in the morning when you wake with a sore jaw.
  • Feeling anxious, nervous, helpless or irritable.
  • Frequent accidents (we often rush too much when we are stressed).
  • Forgetting things you usually don’t forget.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.

When you realize you’re feeling stressed, try to figure out what’s causing it.  This is a good time to use your relaxation methods to relax.

If you know what’s causing your stress, that’s a great first step to dealing with it. You can begin to work on solving the problem before things get out of control. Remember, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine can make the situation worse, so try to avoid them.

Use the techniques that work best for you; exercises, meditation, music, etc. If you find you remain stressed to the max, consider contacting a therapist or perhaps your spiritual advisor. Sharing the problem can often give you a better perspective on it or how to deal with it.

 

RELAXATION AND STRESS REDUCTION

One thing we can do in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, is remember to relax. As silly as that might sound, too often we allow ourselves to get wound up by listening to all the hype in the media (indeed, it’s difficult to escape these days) until we reach the point we are operating on autopilot and in a state of almost constant anxiety. It’s time to take charge again and chill out!

Indulging in a little mind-time can be quite rejuvenating. Relaxing doesn’t have to be a big production, although there is room for more complicated techniques too. But, consider taking a few minutes each day to try one or more of these methods of relaxation:

  • Take a hot, soaking bath. Throw in a handful of bath salts, light a candle and turn out the lights. Maybe even add some soft music.
  • Read a good book, one that gets you right into the plot and right out of your head!
  • Play your favorite music. Sing along, and crank it up!
  • Go for a walk in the woods. Not necessarily a power walk, but taking the time to notice the sounds, smells and beauty of your surroundings.
  • Visit the local beach. Yes, take care to adhere to social distancing recommendations, but there is something about watching the water that is relaxing and compelling at the same time.
  • Play with or cuddle your pet. Contact with the pets we love can lower blood pressure and be heart healthy for us.
  • Indulge in your favorite craft, be it wood-working, sewing, painting, etc.

There are many other ways to relax. Not all will work for everyone. Not all will work instantly. Sometimes it takes 10-12 repetitions before you start to develop a habit and the activity becomes something enjoyable. Try different methods until you find one or more that work for you, then don’t feel guilty for taking some time for yourself.

DISORDER OR INJURY?

I’ve seen several programs on television recently that have included a character that was suffering with PTSD.  In one episode, the main character said it should not be called PTSD because it is not a disorder, instead, it is an injury.  PTSD occurs because you have witnessed an atrocity.  It is caused by an injury…an injury to the psyche.  It is also a disorder because the injury causes actual physical damage in the brain, resulting in how chemical signals are processed.  It is a wound in the psyche and therefore requires healing to take place in the psyche, not just the physical body.

I may not be saying this well, but I believe it is why PTSD is so difficult to heal.  How do we heal a psychological wound that has physical manifestations?  I believe the answer is that we must resort to healing modalities that result in psychological healing.  Prayer, meditation, and talk therapies are perhaps the most powerful methods, those that put us in touch with our psychological side.  Perhaps that is also why the things that are esthetically appealing also seem to help us heal.  Things like walking in the woods, or stopping to appreciate how beautiful the flowers are in springtime, or sitting by the river watching the water.  All of it touches a place inside us that has suffered a significant wound.

Does it matter whether PTSD is a disorder or an injury?  No, what matters is that we seek until we find those things that put back into our spirits what has been damaged and torn away. Only then will we begin to heal.

DEALING WITH DISASTER

This Coronavirus crisis has been quite a stress-producing event for all of us, hasn’t it?  Not only does it include the fear of catching the virus and getting sick, wondering if there will be the equipment available we need to get well, but also the loss of jobs, dealing with home working environments, not being able to purchase supplies you need, and the list goes on and on.  It all adds to the stress level those of us with PTSD deal with every day.  It’s no walk in the woods.

Let me suggest you take stock now of what you need and don’t have, or want and can’t get, so the next time an emergency arises you are better prepared.  That being said, dealing with this added stress is something we need to think about and develop a plan to handle.

Of course, you know the VA has many resources for coping.  The VA COACH ON-LINE is one, with many suggestions for ways to handle your stress.  Meditation, physical exercise, relaxation techniques, journaling, talk therapy, anger management techniques, and many other ideas are listed along with guided exercises to teach you how to use them most effectively.

The thing is, each one of us finds our own way of coping, and when times become increasingly rough, we may need to add additional items to our usual ways of coping.  We often find that no single mechanism will keep us in the healthy zone, so we have to resort to a mixture of different coping techniques.

Take some time today to think about what’s adding to your stress levels, and come up with a plan that will help bring your anxiety to a manageable level.  When you have PTSD, you tend to want to isolate, but don’t fall into that trap!  Call a friend and talk about what’s happening.  Old adages such as “a burden shared is a burden halved” exist for a reason…they are true!  Use your music, try diversion, write down a plan for what you’ll do as soon as the shelter-in-place order is lifted and follow through on it.  Don’t let depression, stress, anger, or anxiety win – make a plan today!

 

 

 

FINDING THE SWEET SIDE

Everything and everyone seems to be focused on Covid-19 these days, and while I understand our need to stay updated and informed, I think there is a danger of forgetting there are also good things happening. While these may be the times that put pressure on all of us, many, many people are stepping up and reaching out to help each other. It’s heartening and it reestablishes my faith in humanity.

I have a friend who is extremely functionally disabled. He struggles to stay independent, working with multiple disabilities. His friends have stepped up and are bringing him food and dropping off his medications so he doesn’t have to go out (one of his disabilities is COPD). They are calling him almost daily so he doesn’t get lonesome, and they will even drive to his home, sit outside while he stands on the steps so they can visit while respecting the social distancing order. He’s making it through; without these friends, I don’t think he would manage.

Another person I contacted recently told me that a local church member had dropped off a basket of food for her. She was wondering how she was going to manage as she was so afraid of going to the grocery store.   She also has breathing difficulties and felt it was too dangerous to go outside her home. She was so thrilled because it seemed to her as if each item had been specifically hand-picked for her enjoyment. And, remember, this was not a church where she attended.

There are many more stories of people who might not have made it if someone hadn’t helped. Can you lend a hand today? Is there someone you can call, someone you can befriend who could use a little help? Try reaching out to someone in need today and find the sweet side of life again!

A TIME FOR CHANGE

While all of us shelter-in-place in an effort to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, many businesses and organizations are working to find ways to continue providing services. Most non-essential appointments have been cancelled, as well as most scheduled surgeries that can wait.

As a Veteran, you may find your appointment at the VA Med Center has also been cancelled. That can be a frightening prospect if you were seeking changes in your current treatment plan, or were expecting to have your prescriptions renewed. All is not lose, however. If you would like to try a teleconference or a video conference instead of a face-to-face meeting, you can contact the VA to arrange one by going to: https://www.va.gov/coronavirus/.

If you are looking for accurate information on what Veterans need to know about COVID-19, you can access the VA’s website for the answers by going to the Frequently Asked Questions page. And, if the pressure becomes unbearable, and you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 for assistance. You may also access the Crisis Line at: www.veteranscrisisline.net.

 

SEEKING THE GOOD

Staying positive during all this stress is difficult, yet, like everyone else, I need to focus on maintaining my sense of humor.  With the news about the Coronavirus focused on how many victims have expired, I’m flooded with negative images and thoughts of how this could affect me, yet I’ve been through hard times before, and I’ll make it through this difficult time too.

I’ve found that limiting my exposure to the news and all the hype helps. I tune in once a day and listen to the latest reports on what’s happening locally and worldwide, then I stay away from the news.  Instead, I’ve been reading books, working on my craft projects, playing music, and taking walks.  I avoid other people when I’m walking, and I’m lucky that I’m sheltering at my sister’s home while this is going on.  I figured if she or I got sick, we’d be able to care for each other.  I didn’t want her to face this alone, or to face it alone myself.  It’s nice to have someone to share the burden with!

I’ve been impressed by the good I see coming out of this pandemic. It warms my heart to hear of those who have medical experience that are answering the call for help in New York and are flocking to step in where needed.  That to me is the essence of the human spirit!  I try to remember that when I hear about the selfishness of students who don’t care if they spread the virus to older people simply because they are young and won’t likely die from it.  Perhaps they don’t care if their parents or grandparents are victims?  And, perhaps it says something about the youth of today and how morally barren some of them are…but isn’t that true of every time in history and every culture?

Staying positive is hard work, but it’s something we all need to do in these troubled times.  There is good coming from all of this, and it reminds me of the old saying, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Perhaps that’s true too.

 

 

PTSD & ANXIETY

You certainly don’t have to have PTSD to be anxious over all the implications of COVID-19, the Coronavirus that is currently making its’ rounds throughout the United States and the world. If you turn on the television or your computer, you are flooded with reports of how people are being affected by the virus. Most of the news consists of projections for how serious the outbreak can be. For those who are already anxious, this additional stress can be almost as overwhelming as having the virus itself!

While it is understandable to be concerned about the Coronavirus, immersing yourself in a constant barrage by watching the news all day long only makes things more problematic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the utmost authority in the U.S. about preventing and controlling pandemic outbreaks. Follow their advice and you will reduce your risk considerably. 8

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Properly dispose of used tissues.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, arm, or elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect objects or surfaces that may have come into contact with germs.
  • Make plans for what will happen if someone in the home becomes ill or if quarantine or shelter-in-place measures are ordered.

While it is wise to keep abreast of what is developing with the Coronavirus, do not watch television or follow it on your computer all day long. Remember, most people who get the virus will get through it just fine. Even if you are elderly or your immune system is compromised, it is not a guarantee that you can’t survive the virus. Do not give up hope! Do not give in to fear. We will get through this and we’ll be stronger for it.