It’s an uncertain world we live in. I guess it always has been, but it seems things are a bit crazier these days. Maybe that’s just my observation though and not what everyone else sees. And, maybe I see things that way because my vision is blurred by PTSD. I don’t think of myself as a negative person, but I believe my observations are accurate concerning the state of the world. There is more civil unrest. The weather patterns are harsher. There are more wars and less tolerance for those who are different. Maybe it has always been that way, but things seems to me to be to be getting worse.
Sometimes I have to stop and look a bit closer and note that there are many good things going on too. We can cure many diseases that devastated the population in the past. We have made technological advances that are nothing short of phenominal. There are programs and people willing to lend a hand to those in need. Yes, the world may be crazier than it has ever been, but it’s also full of good people with good hearts. Sometimes we have to stop and take an accounting of the good things as well as the bad. If we don’t, we lose perspective and the world becomes a much scarier and dangerous place to live.
A recent Hepatitis A outbreak in southeastern Michigan has moved into the homeless population and is affecting homeless people, including veterans. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that affects the liver.
Hepatitis A is contracted most often from contaminated food or water, or from exposure to someone who has it. In many cases, the individual who has Hepatitis A does not even know he or she has it. Most people recover completely with no permanent liver damage.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include:
- Sudden nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side of your abdomen beneath your lower ribs (over the liver)
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- Intense itching
Symptoms may be quite mild though and go away within a week or two. However, the infection may last several months in more severe cases. If you are concerned about getting Hepatitis A, ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated.
I think PTSD is how your body attempts to keep horrible things from happening a second time. If we are hypervigilant, then we stand a better chance of seeing disaster before it strikes next time. If we isolate ourselves, then we have a greater chance of knowing when someone is a danger to us. If we unleash our anger more quickly, then maybe we’ll be able to drive off danger before it gets to us. Those aren’t bad qualities to have if you know that horrible things can and do happen. The problem is, we tend to take it too far and we intensify those traits until we choke on them. That’s PTSD.
The big problem is how to learn to live with the protective aspects of PTSD but without going overboard. How do we learn to be hypervigilant enough? How do we learn to isolate ourselves so that we can see disaster coming without becoming so cut off from others that we can’t see anything at all? How do we use our anger without it damaging everyone else around us? In other words, how do we live with PTSD and make the most out of it without having it consume us?
Seeking balance is the obvious answer; allowing our subconscious to exert some control without seizing total control. That’s a hard balance to find!
If I had to put one word on myself as someone with a diagnosis of PTSD, that word would be “survivalist.” I have survived things no one should have to go through, and those events have left scars that will never heal completely. In spite of the horror, I have made it through and I can say I am actually fairly happy too. I am proud of that.
I once wrote a paper in college describing what it was like having PTSD. I compared it to feeling like “waiting for the other shoe to fall.” By that, I meant that we have experienced the first wave of horror and we know another wave is coming…we’re just watching and waiting for it to reach us. We have heard the first shoe drop and we know the second one is about to land. My professor thought it was a great way of depicting the general flavor of having PTSD.
PTSD is not something I would wish on anyone, but in spite of it, life goes on and I don’t want that to be the sum of who I am. I try to look at the bright side if there is one and focus on the positive. I guess being a survivalist is one of the positive aspects I can claim. I think I can say that although I may not be better off for having PTSD, there are strengths that I have in spite of it.
Another holiday has past, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that it is over. Unfortunately, with PTSD, holidays seems to bring more bad than good. I don’t like the stress that comes with getting everything ready and knowing family will be coming in with their own expectations that they demand I live up to. I’m learning every year a bit more about how to say “No” and how to choose my own path rather than letting everyone else around me buffer me around.
Over the years, I’ve learned to weather the storm, so to speak. I try to just close my mouth and not let myself be drawn into defending my own beliefs from those who think they have to convert my thinking to theirs. I stick to myself quite a bit, but I do try to step out of my safety zone and interact with others, at least to the extent that I’m not a complete hermit. But I’m so much more comfortable without all the posturing and posing that comes with social interaction.
I made it through another holiday. It wasn’t as painful as it used to be. It wasn’t as good as I would like it to be either. But, I made it through. I guess that is the one thing they can say about those of us with PTSD: we are survivors. I’m glad of that.
Surviving the holidays can be quite a chore! Parties, baking, cleaning the house, in-laws arriving, the list seems to be endless, and with each new item comes more stress. During the holiday season more than any other time throughout the year, stressors seem to pile up on us. Remembering to take time out for ourselves becomes important at this time of year.
Remember all those different stress relievers you have learned over the years and put them to good use. Try deep breathing, meditation, listening to soft music, muscle relaxation, and any other way you can think of to reduce your stress load. You, and those around you, will enjoy the season more if you are not stressed to the breaking point.
The holidays can be a wonderful time of year if we keep calm and don’t allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. Take some time away from others if it helps you too. This should be a cheerful, fun time of year, not a frantic load of work. Enjoy the holidays…you deserve it!
The National Center for PTSD has a Consultation Program that offers consultation, education, information, and other resources to those who treat Veterans with PTSD. Their consultation relies on evidence-based practices for PTSD. Providers treating individuals who have PTSD can access this website to connect with a wide range of resources. There are opportunities for free email and phone consultations with a response within one business day. To send an email, go to: PTSDconsult@va.gov. Call (866) 948-7880, or visit www.ptsd.va.gov/consult.
Free, in depth educational materials are available to help those who are living with PTSD. There are more than 40 online courses at www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/continuing_ed. In addition, there is a monthly lecture on the third Wednesday of each month hosted by the Consultation Program. For more information visit www.ptsd.va.gov/consult. Visit the PTSD website at www.ptsd.va.gov to access free videos, educational handouts, manuals, PTSD-related publications, PTSD and trauma assessments and screening tools, mobile apps, and more.