Why is it that when we have PTSD, we deny ourselves experiences where we can have fun? I see that in myself all the time. It’s rather sad because all of us deserve some fun in life and I’m no exception. Neither are you.
Depression can lead to inactivity, and feeling anxious about interacting with others. Sometimes we just don’t want to make the time to deal with other people, but isolation doesn’t help us at all. It may help if you think about the activities you used to enjoy and start by trying one or more of them again. Think about some of the things you really used to love doing. Make a list if you can, because when you’re depressed, you may find you have difficulty thinking of what those activities were.
Now plan a time to do one of those activities. Set a firm date because if you wait for a time when you feel like it, it may never happen. Choose the day and time for your activity, and add it to your calendar. Are you finding you are hesitant to schedule activities that involve being with others? That’s not unusual, but try to carry through with the activity anyway. You may find it’s not as painful as you first thought, and the more you interact with others, the easier it may get!
Life has challenges, it’s true, but in order to be balanced, it needs to have some fun too. Allow yourself to find your joy again. It makes life worthwhile, and after all, you deserve it!
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.
Christmas has been my favorite time of year since I was a child. We were very poor when I was young, but at Christmas time, it was a happy time anyway. I have a brother and two sisters, and we all shared one present, usually a boy’s gift because my mother felt it was better for her girls to play with a toy that traditionally was given to a boy, than for her boy to play with a toy traditionally meant for a girl. I didn’t mind. I didn’t know anything different. The season held such joy for me, and most of it revolved around things that didn’t cost anything. The lights, the music, the smell of the pine tree in the living room was so special. My how things have changed!
Last night, as I was driving into Grand Rapids to do my volunteer work for the week, I realized that I was not enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights like I usually do. As I thought about that, I realized I wasn’t even seeing them, I was too busy worrying about all the stressors that are overwhelming me. How will I pay for the rest of the presents I have to buy? I need a new furnace; where is the money for that coming from? Will the snow-blower start again this year? How long is my car going to go without falling apart?
There are a million things to worry about, and it seems that lately, that’s where my focus is. The problem is, worrying about things I can’t change, robs me of the joy of the season. I was fortunate in realizing what was happening before the season was over. I slowed down, said a short prayer of thanksgiving that my car is running, I can still shovel snow if I have to, and the holiday isn’t about how much money I spend. I actually was able to recapture some of the joy of the season!
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there will always be problems; that’s what life is about. It’s taking the time to be appreciative of what you have and for the good things in life that make it worthwhile. Take a few moments to stop this holiday season and appreciate all the wonders of the holidays. It will be over soon enough and you can get back to worrying then! Happy Holidays!
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.
PTSD and depression can occur simultaneously, with symptoms that often mimic each other. While depression happens to all of us at one time or another, clinical depression lasts for an extended period of time, usually three months or longer. It flavors everything going on in your life and makes it difficult to get up in the morning and keep going throughout the day. PTSD can have the same effect.
It’s not unusual to experience depression following exposure to trauma. If you have PTSD, depression is 3 to 5 times more likely to occur than if you don’t have PTSD. We may struggle as we process traumatic experiences and that can lead to depression. In addition, the trauma may have affected others around us leading to survivor guilt or grieving. The lack of trust we feel when we have PTSD can cause depression too.
Many of the symptoms of PTSD and depression overlap, such as sleep difficulties and concentration. In fact, you may not know which condition is affecting you. Both can lead to isolation and irritability. Fortunately, both can often respond to the same treatment too.
Milder forms of depression can be treated with counseling or talk therapy. More severe forms may involve medications. If you are suffering with PTSD and/or depression, talk with your healthcare provider. Treatments for both work!
Life is all about choices. With PTSD, anger often rules our emotions, but we always have a choice about how we respond to stressors. We can choose to not let things escalate, or we can choose to let our rage go and let it lash out at others. That’s something I don’t want to do. When I’m in a rage, it’s not easy to cage the tiger, but I don’t want to hurt anyone! It’s not just making it easier on my family members, but I don’t even want to hurt the people who are causing me grief. That makes me like them, and that’s something I don’t want to do.
I want to be the stronger person, you know? The one who says just because someone has wronged me doesn’t make it right for me to do something horrible to them. That’s an attitude that never helps, never allows for healing. I want to have the strength to let the rage go and say, “Hey! I’ve done that too.” I’ve cut people off on the road. I’ve stepped on the toes of others without even realizing it at the time it happened. I’ve had others turn on me and scream at me when I didn’t even know what I’d done. I don’t want to do that to anyone.
Expressing my anger towards others is a choice, and I choose to not let my own lack of self-control hurt someone else. That doesn’t make me better than anyone else…it just makes me a better me!
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!