One thing I have discovered as I’ve gotten older is that if I’m angry and I let myself focus on that anger, it intensifies. Focusing on that anger, or feeding it, allows it to take off and very shortly, I find I am out of control. Once I realized what was happening, I knew I had to stop feeding the anger beast in order to keep it from growing.
Out-of-control anger is not something I want people to associate with me! It seems that I become angry more easily these days, perhaps because as I age, problems are getting more difficult for me to deal with. I do not have the energy I used to have, or the strength. When problems develop, I still have to resolve them. I just need to keep my anger in check as I do.
Not feeding the beast can be harder than it sounds. It requires considerable effort to consciously focus on tamping the rage down in order to stop it. Yes, I can be mad. Yes, I can express that anger, but I do not need to express my anger at my loved ones or at everyone. I just need to acknowledge that the situation is frustrating and handle it.
Everyone gets angry at times. Sometimes it is even necessary, but never do I want it to lash out and strike the people around me. I do not want to be known as the person who is out of control when something goes wrong. I would rather be the person who maybe had reason to be angry, but kept cool instead.
As I get older, I’m finding that I have less patience, less strength, and less ability to bounce back from stressful situations. PTSD always seems to make the situation worse. I’m finding that what I really need to do is work smarter, not harder.
For one thing, I can’t work harder. I no longer have the strength I did when I was younger. As a senior citizen, I’m only able to do a part of the work I did in the past, at least where physical strength is required. I’d like to think I automatically work smarter, and I believe I do, but I need to slow down and think things through more often so I’m using my head and not my limited muscle.
While I may find it more difficult to recall things than I did when I was younger, I now have a world of experience to draw from and a lot more savvy. That makes a difference. I am learning to listen to my body when it tells me it’s time to stop and take a break, even when I’m in the middle of a project. I will get things done, just not all at once, and the quality of my work is better when I come back at it fresh rather than trying to force my way through.
I often grump about how old age is so awful, but I need to remember that the alternative isn’t that great either! I can either use my head and take a bit more time to get things done, or I can try to bull my way through and pay the price later on. I’m sick of paying the price. My body hurts too much for that anymore. It’s really time to work smarter, not harder.
One of the ways we tend to look at things is by thinking that if we do not do something by a certain time, we’re a failure. It is called “All-or-Nothing” thinking, and most of us indulge in it at times in our lives. Although, if we do think about it closely, we realize that it is not true, we don’t tend to think about it closely. We just accept it as being the way things really are.
I recently worked with a veteran who told me he felt he was a failure because he would soon be 40 years old and he was still unmarried. He was successful in every other area of his life, but he felt he was a total failure because he had not found the right woman, married and had children. He had told himself throughout his life that this was a goal he had to meet.
I suggested he try the PTSD Coach website that the VA offers. On the site, he was able to print out a worksheet and then work through this thought pattern. Once he considered it, he realized he wasn’t a total failure because he had not found the woman of his dreams, he was holding out for a relationship that was balanced and healthy. That made him a success! He was also able to see that he had met his goals in many other areas of his life, and that turning 40 without being married didn’t mean he was a failure.
PTSD Coach is a good tool for helping you cope with PTSD. Please consider using it to examine your own thoughts and challenge those that are not healthy and are holding you back from finding peace.
One of the most interesting things I find with PTSD is there are so many different symptoms or ways it affects us; hypervigilance, sleeplessness, isolation, flashbacks, and on and on. Avoidance is one of those symptoms that we may indulge in without even realizing we are doing so.
Excessive sleeping is a form of avoidance, and there are times I find myself using it as a coping mechanism. If I am so tired I can’t participate in activities I probably should be involved in, it becomes a good excuse to not take part. Excessive sleeping can look like depression too as it can also be a driving force in that way.
Avoidance prevents us from engaging in life, and that is not healthy. We need challenge in our lives and we need interaction with other people. Avoidance prevents that. Sometimes the challenge becomes forcing ourselves to participate in events in our lives so we don’t indulge in avoidance.
It is with a spirit of gratitude and humility that I would like to acknowledge all those veterans who have contributed to my freedom and all those service men and women who currently stand in harm’s way. I do not say this lightly. I only have to look briefly into the news to see the oppression others live under to know that even with all the political unrest currently rippling through the United States this is still the best place to live. I know “thank you” seems paltry in comparison to the losses experienced, the pain and suffering that have been paid in the name of freedom, but I offer it in respect as I have nothing else to offer.
I am thankful that I have been so blessed as to be born in a country where I can make choices as a woman that others are denied. I have had opportunities that people in other countries will never know, and all of it has been supported by the men and women in the armed services. Thank you.
Tonight, I will sleep peacefully without the sound of gunfire outside my door. Thank you. If disaster befalls my community, I know there are service men and women who will deploy to provide rescue services. Thank you. There are so many ways that my freedom is assured that I am not even aware of, it is overwhelming. Thank you for all of that. This Veterans Day, and every day, thank you.
Too often we seem to go through life letting things happen to us. We are reactors to circumstances instead of choosing our own actions. For instance, it’s easy to take on the role of victim and simply sit passively while things happen that we don’t want to happen. We tell ourselves, “This is the way it always is and there is nothing I can do to change it.” But that’s not true! We can make different choices and take another course of action that may change the outcome of what is happening.
Sometimes we get caught in what I call the haze of ordinary. It simply means that we aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in our lives and when something we don’t like happens, we just lament how bad life is and we sit there suffering. How foolish can we be! We are capable of making changes in our lives, in the ways we think about things and in what we do in response to challenges. We sometimes just need a bit of a bump to bring us back into a mindful way of thinking.
By mindfulness, I mean paying attention to what’s going on and being open to trying new things to change the situation. This means living in the present moment and stopping ourselves when we get on the pity wagon before we take off and ride it for hours or days. Yes, bad things happen in life. That doesn’t mean I have to focus on them and wail about them forever. I can also realize that good things happen in life too. If I focus on my blessings rather than my problems, it makes the problems shrink in size.
Stress makes mindfulness more difficult. If we’re stressed, we focus on what’s stressing us out rather than on the good things going on around us. I work on reducing my stress levels and think of it not as a selfish thing to be doing, but a necessary way of improving my life and the lives of those around me. Let’s face it, if I’m out of sorts, then the people around me will know about it and, in most cases, pay for it too!
I have to stop sometimes and look at what’s really happening to me at that moment. I’m not in danger. I’m not particularly uncomfortable. The sun, if it’s not shining now, will shine again in a day or two. The problems I’m experiencing, although they may seem insurmountable, will fade away and others will replace them. But good things will keep happening too and I don’t want to miss any of them. Remaining mindful helps me live in the moment and feel hopeful about life.
Having PTSD takes a lot of energy. Those of us with that diagnoses know that we are “on point” 24/7. We monitor everything and know what’s going on around us all the time. Being hypervigilant is frustrating, to say the least, but it has become such a way of life, that we can’t even conceive of things being any other way.
Keeping track of all that’s going on is not an easy job, but it is part of who we are. Anxiety drives the hypervigilance, and our thoughts drive our anxiety. Learning to control our thoughts then is the first step in learning to manage our anxiety. Remember, our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected.
Our thoughts are shaped by our life experiences, and while they may well have been right on target immediately following the traumatic event we experienced, as time goes by they may become less accurate. We may perceive something as a threat when it actually isn’t anymore.
There are four types of feelings we can experience connected with PTSD: fear, sadness, guilt and anger. Think about a feeling that’s bothering you. Now, weigh the pros and cons for why you feel the way you do. Weighing the pros and cons helps you decide if it’s worth holding on to those thoughts.
If keeping those thoughts outweigh letting them go, then you need to keep them for now. But, if it’s time to let them go, try looking realistically at what’s behind them.
If you decide it’s time to let them go, it’s the first step in changing your feelings. PTSD affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But we can take back some of what we’ve lost so far. Take the time to identify what your feelings and thoughts are, and then weigh the pros and cons of keeping those thoughts. If the cons outweigh the pros, then it’s time to start changing your thoughts.