RECONNECTING TO REALITY

Sometimes, with PTSD, we tend to lose ourselves and disconnect from the reality around us. It can be difficult to stop when we find ourselves tumbling down the rabbit hole, but it can be done. One way is to focus in on actual sensations of touch, sound and sights. The PTSD on-line Coach offers suggestions for how to ground yourself and prevent disconnecting from reality.  Some of the simple grounding activities you can try are:

  • Place your feet flat on the floor. Focus all of your attention on your feet and feel the floor underneath them.
  • Walking. Walk slowly while focusing on what it feels like to take each step.
  • Examine an object. Pick up any small object and focus on it. Pay attention to the texture and feel of it.
  • Pet an animal. Use a cat or dog that is quiet and calm. Focus on the sensation of touch, the feel of the fur, the peacefulness of the animal.
  • Feel the earth. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Close your eyes and imagine you’re putting roots down into the earth, making you strong and stable.
  • Ice cube. Hold an ice cube. Focus all your attention on the sensations- cold, wet, tingling.
  • Name what you see. Look around you and name the things you see. Start with large objects and then move on to smaller and smaller ones.
  • Focus on touch. Rub your hands together and clap them. Focus on the feeling, sound and experience.
  • Reorienting. Remind yourself where you are, what the date is, when you were born and what you did yesterday.
  • Call a friend. Discuss some activity you did together recently.
  • Past success. Remember what you did to successfully get past a previous painful experience.
  • Stamping your feet. Feel the force, hear the sounds.

As you can see, these are simple exercises that you can do most anywhere at any time. In all of them, you are focusing on something other than unwanted memories. They are easy to do and can be used successfully to keep yourself grounded and in the moment.

PTSD: GARBAGE IN/GARBAGE OUT

I’ve found, over the years, that it is beneficial for me to monitor what I’m watching on television or at the movies and limit programs that are billed as having a lot of violence in them.  I know the more violent the story, the more likely it is to negatively affect me and trigger my PTSD.  It’s just easier to stop and say, “It’s not worth it!”

Although many people enjoy action-packed dramas, knowing it’s a trigger means that it’s my responsibility to limit what I watch.  I’ve learned that seeing the movie often isn’t worth the trauma that comes after.  I tend to think of this as the “garbage in/garbage out” effect.  If I pour violent visual input into my brain, the output is going to be negative too.  It’s just not worth going through.

I think it’s easy in today’s society to just kind of let things happen, and use the television to anesthetize ourselves. We tend to get lazy in ensuring that what we’re taking in is worthwhile, or at least not toxic.  Television is a great escape, but it comes with a price: if you don’t monitor what you’re watching, you may well find your subjecting yourself to unnecessary content that simply inflames your PTSD.

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of senseless violence.  Turn off the TV and find something more worthwhile to take in.  Garbage in/garbage out is controllable!

GENERAL ANXIETY DISORDER

While it’s normal for all of us to feel anxious at times, when that anxiety becomes excessive, it can have a tremendous impact on our lives. Generalized Anxiety Disorder feel anxious for months at a time and display other symptoms of he disorder. Other symptoms include:

  • Restlessness or excessive alertness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Tension
  • Sleep disorders

Panic attacks may be one way the disorder manifests itself. These are sudden periods of intense fear. Physical symptoms may include pounding heart, sweating, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom.

If the anxiety is connected to social contacts, then social anxiety disorder is the cause. Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling anxious around other people and difficulty talking to them
  • Feeling self-conscious in front of others
  • Fear of being humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
  • Fear of being judged
  • Avoiding other people
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUST

Recently, I was listening to National Public Radio and they did a segment on one the programs where the VA is reducing benefits. Many Veterans who were enrolled in the Family Caregiver Aid Program are being bounced out without any explanation for why their benefits have been cut. Even stranger, on a national level the program is growing. The VA responded by saying some of the Veterans who were cut didn’t deserve the benefit in the first place. Yet many of these Vets were wounded while in the service, are totally unable to work, and the strain being placed on the family members caring for them is terrible.

The VA has long had a reputation for inconsistency in providing services, and unfortunately, this appears to be another example of the same. While the VA says they want to do more for Veterans and get Veterans enrolled to receive the benefits they deserve, too often the men and women who apply, for one reason or another, don’t qualify, or the services they’ve received in the past have been cut without explanation.

Many Veterans have trust issues when it comes to the VA and that’s sad. The very organization that is supposed to be their greatest support has left them feeling betrayed and abandoned. There are still changes that need to happen in the VA before Veterans are going to feel they are receiving the support they deserve; trust won’t grow until those changes are made.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It is defined as damage to the brain caused by sudden trauma or injury as a result of a blow to the head.  This may be from the impact of a bullet, blast waves from an explosion, or other head injury.  Whatever the cause, the result can have a wide-range of effects, both physical and psychological.  Because the damage may involve bleeding and/or bruising in the brain, the individual may appear fine in the immediate hours following the injury, but develop symptoms days or weeks later.

With mild TBI, symptoms may include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Feelings of confusion or disorientation
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Moderate to severe TBI can include any of the symptoms of mild injury on a more severe basis, as well as loss of consciousness from several minutes to several hours, convulsions, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, inability to be awakened from sleep, weakness in the extremities, loss of coordination, agitation or combativeness, slurred speech, or even coma.

Treatment for mild TBI may involve no more than allowing time for the brain to heal itself along with over-the-counter pain relievers. For moderate to severe TBI, more emphasis will be placed on ensuring the person is getting adequate oxygen and maintaining blood pressure.  Care may focus on preventing further damage due to inflammation, bleeding or reduced oxygen supply to the brain.

Medications may be needed following a brain injury. Diuretics to reduce the fluid in tissues, or anti-seizure drugs.  Sometimes doctors will induce temporary comas as a comatose brain needs less oxygen to function.  At times, surgery will be necessary to minimize additional damage to the brain.  Blood clots may need to be removed, or fractured bones in the skull may need to be removed.  Sometimes an opening is made into the skull to relieve pressure by providing room for swollen tissue.

Most individuals who have had a moderate to severe TBI will require rehabilitation care. They may need to relearn basic skills such as walking or speech.  There are many things that can help in coping with TBI, such as joining a support group, journaling if you have difficulties remembering dates and appointments, sticking to a routine, and doing what you can to minimize distractions.

TBI can be a life-altering condition, but with the support of family and friends, and direction by a qualified physician, you can overcome many of the setbacks experienced in the early days following an injury.

CONTROLLING HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Often, people who have high blood pressure aren’t even aware of the problem. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a silent killer.  There are many factors that affect your blood pressure, and while that may seem a bit daunting, it also means there are many ways you can make a difference in lowering your blood pressure.

To begin with, try to eat smart. Stay away from salty, high-fat foods, which means limiting your consumption of canned, dried, cured, packaged and fast foods.  Eat 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Yes, I know you like to think you eat enough fruits and vegetables, but try writing down in one day exactly what you eat.  Most of us are lucky to find we’re eating 3 or 4 fruits and vegetables per day!

When selecting the meat you’ll be eating, choose lean meats, fish or chicken. Eat whole grain pasta, brown rice and beans.  Eat two or three services of low fat or fat-free dairy products per day.  Try to keep your weight down.  If necessary, count calories so you know what you’re taking in and where your problem areas are.  If you can get a few pounds off, do it: weight loss of 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure.

Get active. Target those activities you enjoy and do them often with friends or family.  Remember, connecting with other people can help you keep your blood pressure down too.  Try to be active for a least 30 minutes each day, most days of the week.

Watch your smoking and alcohol consumption. If you can quit smoking, do it.  There are many programs out there to help; don’t quit quitting!

If lifestyle changes don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor about prescription medications. You may not want to take a pill every day, but it’s sure better than living every day paralyzed from a stroke.

HIRE A VETERAN

I was surprised to learn there are almost a million Veterans in the U.S. that are currently unemployed. I know sometimes employers mistakenly think that the skills Veterans have won’t transfer to civilian jobs, but that just isn’t true.  Most of the time the background training Veterans have makes them excellent candidates for civilian jobs.

One of the best things is that Veterans already know how to work.  They may not know the particular details of a specific job, but knowing how to apply themselves and keep at the job until it’s done and done right is a huge bonus.  Veterans are goal-oriented, and they understand the importance of teamwork in getting the job done correctly.  But while they value teamwork, they are also quite capable of working independently without constant supervision.

Veterans are capable of reasoning out solutions to problems and they take their work seriously. They are usually quite up-to-date on the latest technology, and they’re informed on health and safety issues too.

Hiring a Veteran can be very cost effective. There are several programs available to reimburse employers for hiring Veterans.  The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit provide incentives of up to $9,600 annually for hiring eligible unemployed Veterans.  Then there is the Government’s Special Employer Incentives program that allows employers to hire a qualified Veteran at an apprenticeship wage.  Employers are reimbursed for up to half each veteran’s salary to cover certain supplies and equipment, additional expenses and any loss in production.

Our Veterans are experienced workers, skilled in many fields, dependable and focused on doing the job right. Hire a Veteran today!