Sleepless Nights

I spend too many nights not sleeping. I find that it can be very frustrating, especially when I am tired but sleep still won’t come. There is no easy answer for sleepless nights, but I have found one of the most important things for me in dealing with them is to not fight it. I used to get mad when I did not fall asleep right away. I would rage at how tired I would be the next day and how unfair it was that I would feel so exhausted, yet not sleep. Now I know better. It is just a waste of time to get angry over not sleeping. It changes nothing and does not help at all. There are, however, some things I have found that do help.

I find a hot shower or bath makes a world of difference. I believe it is because it helps relieve some of my pain making it easier to relax and fall asleep.   I also have found that many of the traditional solutions work: go to bed at the same time each night, do not drink caffeine after noon, sleep in a cooler room, and do not do heavy exercise before bed. All of these things help.

I may not have the magic solution for falling asleep each night, but I do not lose a lot of sleep over it! I do the best I can, and those nights I am lying there wide awake, I get up and read or listen to music or do other things to try to engage my mind without getting me too excited. I wish I could drift off at the drop of a hat, but it is okay when it does not happen. I will still be able to make it through tomorrow. Sweet dreams!

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PTSD & Guilt

We all have things we are sorry about; things we wish we had done differently. Guilt involving the trauma that caused your PTSD only delays your healing. It may be survivor guilt, or you may feel guilty that you did not choose another way of responding than you did.   You may feel you should have acted differently in some way, but you have to remember that at the time you did what you thought was best. When an event is happening, we have to do the best we can choosing how we react. We usually have to make snap decisions. We can second-guess for the rest of our lives what we could have or should have done. The fact is we did the best we could at the time.

Forgiving ourselves can be difficult. We often expect more from ourselves than we would ever expect from others in the same circumstances. It may help to join a PTSD support group and gain some perspective from others who are in the same situation.

Guilt and blame are not healthy responses. They do not help anything or anyone. Work on accepting that you did the best you could, and let go of the guilt.

Ground Hog Day

I find it so frustrating when I have gone for months and months without having a flashback, then out of nowhere comes a blitz that knocks me off my feet. It seems so unfair to collide with an unwanted memory. For one thing, as time goes by, I start thinking I likely have healed to the point where I won’t have them anymore. Then, something triggers those memories and it is like revisiting hell all over again.

I remember the movie “Ground Hog Day” starring Bill Murray where he has to continue reliving the same day over and over again until he makes the right choices. I don’t get the option of changing the way I think and the flashbacks stop. I just relive the events again and again without having any control.

Those are the times I have to stop and remind myself that I am still making headway with this PTSD thing. It may take the rest of my life (in fact, I am sure it will), but even though I may never “get over it,” I am doing a better job of handling it. I cannot turn off the television or change the channel, but I can recognize that I am moving forward and there are longer and longer periods of time between flashbacks. That is part of healing too.

Anger Management

Lately, I have been experiencing so much anger over all the things that have been going wrong in my life. One of my dogs broke her leg; another was killed digging under the propane tank when it shifted and fell on her. I’ve had multiple problems with my car, unexpected taxes from the government, and lots of financial difficulties as a result. With all the problems stacking up, I guess it’s no wonder I’m short tempered too. Added to all of this is that I’m worrying so much at night that I don’t get much sleep. All-in-all, it’s a bad situation.

What I finally realized, was I was spending so much time worrying and coping with problems, that I no longer found any joy in life. I was too tired to enjoy anything. Because I was in such a hurry, I was eating meals at the kitchen sink, or at the fast-food restaurant. It’s a recipe for disaster!

Once I saw what I was doing, I started slowing down. I took a long nap – something I don’t normally allow myself. Then I made myself a decent meal and sat down at the table to eat it. I went over my finances and came up with a plan for what had to be paid and what I could either put off, or make smaller payments on for a short while.

Slowly but surely I’m gaining control of my life, my finances, and my temper again! It is easy to fall into a pattern of neglecting yourself, but it’s not healthy. Taking the time to come up with a plan, and then following it, allowed me to get out of the tight spot, but had I not realized what I was doing, it would have just continued.

If you are feeling out of sorts, frustrated and angry, take a look at what’s happening in your life and work out a plan to get back on track. You won’t be sorry you did!

PTSD and Pain

PTDS is usually thought of, not a physical problem, but one that affects us mentally and emotionally. However, it may well begin with a series of physical symptoms: headaches (possibly migraines), dizziness, exhaustion, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or stomach or digestive issues. Many veterans who suffer from chronic pain also have PTSD. In some instances, the individual may believe she or he deserves to suffer, although this may not be something of which they are consciously aware.

Lack of sleep can intensify feelings of pain and discomfort and cause an increase in anxiety that feeds into the emotional aspect of PTSD. The result can be a “round-robin” of physical pain related to emotional pain that intensifies physical pain.

Veterans suffering from PTSD may experience depression or anxiety from flashbacks and nightmares. Anxiety may lead to severe depression, withdrawal, or indulging in risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse or thrill seeking. Severe depression can also affect the ability to withstand pain.

PTSD has both physical and emotional components to how it manifests itself. While we tend to think of it as a mental health issue, it often is expressed in physical symptoms and physical pain.

Reducing Stress Through Problem Solving

Solving your problems is a skill you can learn, and there is little that will reduce your stress levels as effectively. According to the PTSD Coach Online, there is a process you can follow to improve your problem-solving skills.

  1. First, define the problem. Put it into your own words and be clear about what is really bothering you and what needs to change to make the situation better.
  2. Next, identify the barriers. What is keeping you from resolving the problem? Make a list of those barriers, and then brainstorm possible solutions. Try to come up with as many different solutions as you can.
  3. Next, evaluate your solutions and select the most promising idea you have. Examine the pros and cons of your top solutions, then choose the one you think has the best chance of working out.
  4. Finally, list the action steps you will be taking to resolve the problem. Keep the steps small enough that you know you can actually follow through on them.

Practice makes perfect, as they say. The more you work with the above plan, the better you will become at it and the more likely it will work when you are really stressed over an issue.

Moving From Status Quo

It can be difficult to challenge ourselves into making changes in our lives, especially in those areas that are most uncomfortable to change. It is more comfortable to just let things ride and not make an effort to expand our comfort level, but trying new things allows us to continue growing, and that is a good thing.

Sometimes it is fear that holds us back from making progress in our healing. We don’t like facing those fears or challenging the reality that we’ve associated with them for so long, but things change and those things we were once afraid of may not be a true danger today. It is good then to push back and ask if it is realistic to continue being afraid. If it is not, then it is a good time to begin to challenge those fears and try to overcome them.

Status quo is certainly more comfortable. It is what we know. It is something we are familiar with responding to on a regular basis. Change requires allowing new experiences and that can be frightening on its own, but status quo does not allow for growth. That takes change. Embrace the changes that allow you to grow and heal. While it may be difficult to do, it is the best way to move from wounded to healing, and that’s what it is all about.