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New Experiences!

My intention when I started this blog was to write 1-2 blog entries weekly, but then life happened.  February was TERRIBLE, just awful, no good, a thank-God-you’re-done month.  There was tragedy and marital upheaval, illness and exhaustion.  I am not giving up though.  A few years ago, I would have deleted everything, pretend it never happened and chalked it up to just another failure.  I am inspired by bloggers and activists who have started an online community and admit to when they are struggling.  It’s ok to struggle, it sucks, but we have permission.  I have permission to feel overwhelmed, permission to step back, and permission to rest.

With that said, I’m trying something new this week!  New things scare me, more like terrify.  I still have an underlying fear of people seeing through me.  That they might actually see my pain, see my experiences, see how I am different.  They will see the “real” me and judge me.  As paranoid as that sounds, it is honest and authentic, this feels very intimidating.  But I am in DIRE need of fun.  I am in need of human contact that isn’t too serious.  We have a local shop that offers art classes.  Usually these art classes involve painting a specific scene, but this week, it is a sculpture!  *pause for ooo and ah’s*  We will be making a wire sculpture that can be used in a garden (or whatever) of a fairy.  This excites me because I have been wanting to create a whimsical garden next to my patio on a hillside area for…like…ever.   This year is the year!  Well maybe…but whenever I develop this garden I WILL have a handmade fairy to add to the mix AND hopefully know how to make more. This is a big deal y’all, BIG!  I am going by myself.  I am doing an art project with zero artistic talent, I’m like an art troll.  I need this!  Did I mention I am going by myself?  I am full of surprises.

I have another new experience coming up in a few weeks.  April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month and locally we hold a march through downtown called “Take Back the Night.”  Participants meet at different locations in the city marching with signs and chanting toward a central location.  There we listen to speakers and learn about services to help those who are victims of sexual violence.  The stage then opens up for volunteers to speak and tell their story.  This year I will be speaking.  Do you guys have any idea how nervous I am!  ACK!  I’m really more anxious than nervous.  I want to focus more on a specific issue and encourage others to speak up and be a voice more than talk about what actually happened to me.  If this goes well, I plan on joining a team of volunteers who work with the rape crisis center and speak to our state congress about funding and laws on this issue.  I have been wanting to do that for years but couldn’t, because I wasn’t ready.  These things take time.  If you rush the process, you risk hurting the cause more than helping it.  I have to be strong to do this!  I feel ready and this, my friends, is a good feeling.

I did promised a friend of mine that we would do a C25K program together.  We were supposed to start this week.  It is Friday…it didn’t happen.  We both suffer from RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and have both been struggling with a flare up.  Between stress and temperature variations, I’m not surprised.  Both RA and PTSD sufferers deal with brain fog which inhibits mental clarity and focus.  Since I have both and I am in the midst of an RA flare up, the fact that I am able to form sentences is pretty darn amazing!  *insert applause here* I was determined to do a blog post this week though.  It’s good to push yourself sometimes, as long as you are encouraging healing and not beating yourself up.

It is Saint Patrick’s Day so I will leave you with this Irish Blessing…

May your joys be as deep as the oceans, your troubles as light as its foam, and may you find sweet peace of mind, wherever you may roam.

Love and healing to you all… Go out and try something new!

Self-Care, a Time of Healing

I need to recharge.  Somebody hand me some battery cables, I need to be rebooted.  I’m tired, exhausted y’all.  If you have read my last two blogs then you know this has been a terrible month, horrible, in a word…Blech.  *Now this is the time that you go back and read my last two blogs.  Then read the blogs before that so that you know every day is not a bad day.* I have been struggling with my energy levels and with motivation.  I have termed it “battle fatigue.”  All of these recent emotions have brought up the dangerous cocktail that comes with PTSD…anger, depression, anxiety, and hypervigilance.  While my brain is trying to sort through it all, the end result is exhaustion.  Enter stage left, self-care.

I think at times we confuse self-care with self-indulgence.  Self-indulgence isn’t always bad as long as it doesn’t lead to overindulgence and self-absorption.  But self-care is different, it is about refilling and revitalizing yourself.  How can you be of any good to others if everything in you is depleted?  How can you be any good to yourself?  I’ll just give you the answer; you can’t.  Society, culture, today’s standards, whatever you want to call it, has told us that we have to be everything to everybody all the time.  A sacrificial lamb to all those who need us whether it be a business, coworkers, friends, family, kids, spouse, significant other, you just give till it hurts and you, YES you, will earn a gold star.  It’s an impossible goal.  Someone is going to get slighted, and the one who pays the biggest price is you.  We have to listen to our bodies.  We have to listen to that still small voice that is whispering in our ear, “Relax for a moment,” or “Don’t grab a burger in the drive-thru, you need a salad,” or “How about some time to yourself.”  We often ignore those voices because there just isn’t enough time or who has time to chew a salad, I mean really, I have to actually stop and eat that…with a FORK!!  Give me this burger, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.  But are you really living?

What I have described above could apply to just about anyone.  We could all use some self-care.  But when you are dealing with PTSD, or any other mental condition or injury, you are much more vulnerable to the effects of stress.  As I am dealing with the current chaos in my life, I am more likely to fall into depression and isolation.  I am more likely to wear anger like a favorite shirt.  I am at a point that I need to make sure I am “filling my cup.”  For me, I have to allow myself to rest, as well as, set daily goals.  I am tempted to lie down all day.  That’s not healthy.  I set goals for myself that keep me active without exhausting me.  Today, my goal is to write this blog.  I also made sure that I worked at the kitchen table facing my window so that I could listen to the birds and watch the squirrels.  It makes me feel better.  Yesterday my goal was to clean my refrigerator; I did it.  The goals can vary but I set them, every day.  I do not have the energy right now to do any form of high impact exercise like running or aerobics.  I can still walk though.  Even a leisurely stroll is better than being sedentary.  I have inspirational books and fun fiction to read or maybe I can grab my camera and look for some photo opportunities.  I want to rest my body and feed my soul.  I need to heal.

If you are still skeptical, how about some science?  Michele Rosenthal, author of “Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity” shared with Healthyplace.com, an easy to understand explanation of how our PTSD bodies react to stress,

Cortisol is the stress hormone you most need to understand.  Useful during a trauma, cortisol helps desensitize us so we feel less pain, increases short-term memory function, and acts as a quick energy boost.  All good things, right?  But here’s the kicker:  When present in higher levels for a prolonged period of time cortisol can be responsible for memory loss, fatigue, and reduced serotonin levels.  Typically high during and immediately after trauma, some studies have shown that cortisol levels actually decrease later in the presence of PTSD.  (We’re all unique and different so the only way to know how cortisol might be affecting you is through the results of a quick blood test done at any lab as prescribed by your doctor)

The adrenal system processes stress hormones, including cortisol. When there’s an overload on the adrenal system a survivor might experience a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, exhaustion and an overload of stress.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  That’s science people.  Science I say!  It is NOT in our heads, it is real and yes, it can be debilitating.  But the good news is, it is manageable.  Setting goals, allowing a time of rest, releasing guilt (that’s a big one), and communicating with your therapist or a trusted friend who understands (that’s big too). Make a plan and replenish your soul.  Please, please, please…take care of you!  And I will take of me as well.  Much love and healing to you all.

My World Exploded…

I just recently experienced a communication explosion.  Not just any explosion, but the nuclear holocaust of communication blow ups…BOOM!   There was a time when I was incredible at expressing my feelings, staying on task with the subject matter as opposed to attacking, and talking about things immediately instead of letting things fester.  We change though, especially if we find ourselves in an abusive relationship.  This happened to me many years ago when I endured personal insult, gaslighting, manipulation, and threats in communication attempts.  I found myself shutting down.  I shut down to protect myself.  I eventually was able to leave the relationship, but the damage had been done.  Fast forward to today.

My husband and I met almost 7 ½ years ago.  It was a Boom Shaka Laka kind of meeting; you get that, right?  It was an immediate attraction, whirlwind romance, full speed ahead, let’s get this party started kind of romance.  We were married a year and a half from our first date.  We each brought to the table our own special circumstances.  I was a trauma survivor with a history of abusive relationships and undiagnosed PTSD.  He was a recovering crack addict, four years sober at the time.  I saw the world as a dangerous place.  He saw it as a new beginning.  I thought things through, he was sporadic and impulsive.  Sometimes it felt like ying and yang, other times like an uphill battle.  I would get angry, he took nothing seriously.  I would want to discuss and analyze the why of something, he did not see the necessity in dragging out our problems any more than needed.  We were both right and we were both wrong.  Our communication broke down and we fell into the Passive Aggressive Zone.  Resentments and distance now had a garden to grow in and we were all too eager to tend to it.

My therapist likes to use the term Big T or Little T, T standing for trauma.  “This is a Big T, Lisa,” or “These Little T’s add up.”  I will use this template for my situation with the reference Big B, the Big Boom.  Things eventually come to a head, it’s unavoidable, and so it has come to our door, the Big B.  We are facing our first relationship changing issue.  There is no passive aggression at this point because it is too big to hide under a rug.  There would be no more hiding from our feelings.  It is now time to face them head on.  Looking back I visualize it this way.  Imagine several small dilapidated buildings surrounding a house.  The buildings are in need of repair, yet no one wants to take the time to invest in them.  The house that is looking out over them suffers a gas leak.  It explodes taking with it all of the surrounding buildings.  The property lies in shards of carnage.  The owners have two choices, rebuild or just leave it.  What do you do?  It would be easy to walk away from the mess and just start new somewhere else with a new property.  Rebuilding this one means we have to meet with contractors and clean-up crews.  There will be a time of displacement, there will be a time of discomfort.  When it is finished, we can come home.  It won’t be the same, which is both good and bad, it will be different.  What is the right choice?  Neither are wrong quite honestly.  Sometimes we have to walk away from the mess and start anew, sometimes we stay and do the dirty work.  We have chosen the latter.

We are now looking at the healing process.  The Big Boom has destroyed the dilapidated buildings that we were ignoring so that now everything is on the table.  Therapists will be visited individually and couples therapy is in the near future.  Holding a grudge is not a choice for either of us if we want to heal so we have to offer reassurance and honest communication, even when it is difficult.  This is all a process and it will not take overnight.  My hope is that we grow as a couple.  That I learn that I am safe expressing my feelings in a healthy way.  That he learns that sometimes you do have to discuss problems and saying “I’m sorry,” is not always enough.  We are forever changed moving forward, much like the exploded house I described, it will be different…but it could be better.  It could be stronger.  It could be more beautiful.

We fell short in the communication department and we are paying the price with hefty repairs now.  Practicing good communication and open discussion is the foundation for healthy growth.  Here are some healthy communication suggestions that I found on www.loveisrespect.org.  This is an amazing website that not only helps with issues such as communication, but also helps with identifying abuse and other relationship issues.  I highly recommend checking it out!  Here are their suggestions for healthy communication:

  • Find the Right Time – If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed, or in a rush.  You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you is really busy!
  • Talk Face to Face – Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters and emails can be misinterpreted.  Talk in person so there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications.  If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.
  • Do Not Attack – Even when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choice. Using “you” can sound like you’re attacking, which will make your partner defensive and less receptive to your message.  Instead, try using “I” or “we.”  For example, say “I feel like we haven’t been as close lately” instead of “You have been distant with me.”
  • Be Honest – Agree to be honest. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s the key to a healthy relationship.  Admit that you aren’t always perfect and apologize when you make a mistake instead of making excuses.  You will feel better and it will help strengthen your relationship.
  • Check Your Body Language – Let your partner know you’re really listening by giving them your full attention: sit up, face them and make eye contact when speaking.  Don’t take a phone call, text or play a video game when you’re talking.  Show your partner you respect them by listening and responding.
  • Use the 48 Hour Rule – If your partner does something that makes you angry, you need to tell them about it. But you don’t have to do so right away.  If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something.  If not, consider forgetting about it.  But remember your partner can’t read your mind.  If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change.  Once you do mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologies, let it go.  Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.

I wish I could say that my husband and I followed the above suggestions, obviously we did not, not consistently anyway.  The good news is we are working on that now and are trying to rebuild and start over.  If a trauma survivor with PTSD and a recovering crackhead can do it…I’m guessing you can too.  Much love and healing to you all.

The Demons.

I had planned on posting a blog post a few days ago.  I had begun writing when tragedy struck.  A tragedy entered my world and I was struggling with the processing of it.  I do not understand it.  I am angry.  I am sad.  But most of all, I am numb.

We have a friend who did a terrible thing, committed a horrific act, and then took his life.  This was someone who had been to my house.  Our greetings were hugs.  We had exchanged Christmas gifts.  We ate dinner together often…he did a terrible thing.  I never saw it coming.

Years ago, before I met him, he had hurt someone else while under the influence.  She had been hospitalized for her injuries and he was ordered into a drug rehabilitation program.  That is when I met him.  He was kind and he was quiet.  The demons seemed silenced.  He openly spoke of what he did with remorse, but still blaming the addiction for his actions.  I informed him that everyone who is under the influence does not become violent.  He needed to search his soul and see why.  He thought that was a good point.  The demons were hiding.

The years passed by; he worked and visited.  He rarely dated.  He would go to AA.  Life was fairly quiet.  The demons remained silent.

He began dating and the dysfunctions began to show.  Falling too fast, falling too hard, ending as fast as it started.  The words he spoke changed.  Always their fault.  The demons began to whisper.

He met a woman and fell in love.  “She is an angel,” he would say.  He expressed these feelings to me and although his words were sweet and innocent, I was worried.  He had put her on a pedestal so high that no one could live up to these expectations.  The demons were scheming.

The dysfunction began to return.  His talk became disrespectful.  I could see she was unhappy.  The end was near for them, I could see it on the horizon.  I spoke to him about his behavior.  I told him that he needed to see what was inside his soul that made him act this way.  He thanked me.  He thought that was a good point.  The demons were snickering.

She broke it off.  He acted horribly.  He would not let her go; he frightened her.  He spoke badly of her.  I stopped speaking with him.  I have no tolerance for that kind of behavior.  The demons waited.

He met a new girl.  She thought he was kind and quiet.  He called her his angel.  I wanted to tell her, “This will wear off.  This won’t last.  You deserve better.”  But I remained silent.  I never saw it coming.  She never saw it coming.  The demons were laughing.

No one knows what was said; what set off the night’s events.  The demons rejoiced as he did a terrible thing, a horrific thing.  Two people are dead.  A boy is injured.  We all remain silent.  We never saw it coming.  The demons were dancing.

I have been going through the motions.  I post on Facebook.  I watched the Super Bowl.  I go to my committee meeting as if everything is fine, “That’s a good point,” I say…and I smile.  But the demons, they laugh at me, as I remain silent.

Do I Dare Speak??

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

I try to read this to myself several times a week.  It is difficult standing up for what you believe in when confrontation is your kryptonite.  I find it invigorating to hold a discussion with someone I feel safe with, even if we have opposing views.  It is more difficult to do so when you cannot predict someone else’s response.  Will they put me down; will I be verbally abused; are they going to make me feel stupid?  Social networking is a cesspool of trolls and angry folks ready to wield their cyber-courage at all costs.  For me, this means that when I share a view online, I risk the chance of a differing opinion attacking me as opposed to engaging in healthy debate. The effect this has on me is weeks of reliving the words that are thrown at me, sometimes months, sometimes years.  I could say nothing and go on posting funny pictures of goats in rain boots but then I feel fake.  I want so badly to express myself, whether it be to support women’s rights or to speak out against the latest social injustice, but it is scary.  Can I do it afraid?  Yes I can.

You may have noticed that until recently, there was no name on these blog posts.  I made every effort to hide my identity for self-preservation, but that is not “being in the arena.”  That is hiding.  I do not share this in shame or embarrassment.  I was trying to protect myself which is totally understandable.  I had to ease into this.  So this is me, my name is Lisa.  I have PTSD and am a sexual violence survivor. I have two teenage children and PTSD does not mean that I cannot be a good parent.  I say that because sometimes I worry that I fall short.  I have also heard parents say that they are afraid to seek counseling because they might lose their children.  This makes me sad. It also frustrates me that the stigma of mental illness is so strong in our society.  So strong that we avoid seeking help due to fear of judgement and condemnation.  “My PTSD Life” is about me and issues that I have come across and dealt with as well as an admission of times I have come up short.  This is who I am…

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I want to be in the arena.  I won’t do it to the point I sacrifice my mental or physical health but I want to “dare greatly.”  I want to speak for those who have not found their voice yet and join in with them when they do.  I take the chance of being attacked, but those who attack me (not disagree, attack) do not deserve my attention.  They were never interested in my soul, more than likely just the increase in their “friend” numbers.  I think it is important to remember that we control our cyber-world.  I am free to post what I want, respond to what I want, befriend who I want, and delete them if need be.  It is important to keep a personal meter on what is healthy and what is becoming overwhelming.  I do take breaks at times, especially when the anger gets out of hand, and that is okay.  We each can find our voice and the freedom to express ourselves in whatever avenue we so choose.

It is nice to finally meet you!

Much love and healing to you all.

Don’t Be Stressed About Meditation…

Meditation is a remarkable way to practice mindfulness, relieve stress, relax, and is an integral part of PTSD therapy.  Easy, right?  Maybe for some, but if you are like me your mind is racing and a thousand thoughts are crossing paths at the same time.  Why is this so hard???  The important thing is to not give up.  Don’t do it!  We got this!

This is what my meditation time generally looks like… I find a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that I fall asleep, and I begin to concentrate on breathing.  Breathe in for five counts, breathe out for six.  That’s it…breathe in one, two…breathe out one, two fish, red fish, blue fish, wow the kids are growing up, can’t forget that meeting tomorrow, did I send in the field trip money?  ACK!  I’m supposed to be breathing.  Start over.  Comfortable position.  Breathe.  Focus on my visualization.  I see a creek, the creek is flowing softly by.  I wish the citizens of Flint had a clean creek.  I need to read that article again to see if I can write a letter or donate water.  Something has to be done!  ACK!  Start over.  Comfortable position. Breathe. Visualize.  Creek.  Creek is babbling.  Who is that talking outside?  Why are my dogs barking?  Ugh I need to check on that… Does any of this sound familiar?

Meditation takes practice.  Yes at first it may seem impossible but the benefits are astounding.  The science behind meditation tell us that it decreases worry and anxiety, enhances self-acceptance, improves resilience against adversity, increases information processing, aids with better decision making and problem solving, reduces blood pressure, lessens PMS symptoms, and increases longevity. (www.liveanddare.com)  And that’s only a partial list!!!  Wow!! I definitely want to continue working at this.  I want this mind clear…I want this head completely empty!  Oh, wait a minute…

I began looking for books that might help me in this endeavor.  The one I am currently reading is “Meditation for Beginners: A 22 Day Program” by Vern Lovic, MA.  What I like about this particular book is there is no pressure on HOW to do it… Sit this way.  Don’t sit like that.  Concentrate on Buddha.  Concentrate on Christ. So much pressure!  This is a basic guide that concentrates on what works (and doesn’t work) for you.  It’s easy to understand and follow and I like where this road map is going.  After getting the basics down, I can feel free to incorporate deeper meanings and disciplines into it, but only if I want.  As Mr. Lovic says, “It’s up to you!”

There is also plenty of guided meditations on YouTube to experiment with, as well as phone apps that you can use.  I have an app on my iPhone called Relax Melodies.  It is a free app that allows me to play background sounds while I meditate.  I can choose sounds like thunder, white noise, monk chants, a cat purring, or any combination.  I personally like thunder, wind, and rain on the roof.  There is also a vacuum choice in case I need my pets to leave the room. Just kidding…sort of…

Do you have any meditation advice?  Feel free to share your experiences!  Let’s relax…

Much love and healing to you all.

When Those In Power Cause Triggers

I was diagnosed with PTSD four years ago while seeking therapy through a rape crisis center.  I knew something was very wrong with me.  Rage was a part of my everyday life and was damaging my marriage, my work life, and keeping me isolated from other people and new relationships.  A friend suggested that I seek counseling at the local rape crisis center as she knew my history.  I had been sexually abused as a child and raped in my adulthood.  This foundation of trauma had led to abusive relationships that further impacted my mental state.  Although there is no cure for PTSD, therapy has helped greatly.  I have also had the chance to participate in equine therapy which was a real turning point in my healing.  I was doing well.  Yes, the operative word is “was.”  I was doing well and then entered Donald Trump.

When I first saw that he was running for president, I thought it laughable.  This man is not qualified to be president!  Look at all these choices that the Republicans have put forth; many are better than the ones presented the last two elections.  He is making a fool of himself!  But then…he spoke.  He spoke hate.  He spoke misogyny.  He spoke racism.  He made fun of a disabled reporter.  He even openly described his ability to perform sexual violence.  America loved him.  You either loved him or hated him it seemed.  The ones who loved him though, are actually more frightening than the man himself.  The women who back him, leave me astounded.  The man who said he can’t help himself and that his power and fame allows him to grab a woman’s pussy; that they just let him because of who he is.  Who when accused of sexual assault did not say that he did not do it because it was a repugnant act that he would never consider doing to another human being, but instead said they were too unattractive to rape.  When I see a woman support him or I know that a woman voted for him.  I feel differently about them.  There will be a permanent distance between us.  Always.

I thought when he made fun of the disabled reporter that was it.  It wasn’t.  When he was caught in lies; I thought that was it.  It wasn’t.  When I heard him talk about what he was able to do to women, you know, grab their pussy and such, I thought surely, that was it.  It wasn’t.  The man who did all of the above, was backed by the Ku Klux Klan and assisted by Russia in the election…is now our Commander-In-Chief.  He is the President of the United States.  His face, his demeanor, his lack of character will now be forced down my throat for the next four years.

His mannerisms, how he points and yells, his anger and condescension, his disregard and insult of people who are not in full agreement or support of him trigger a response in me.  The response comes from years of abuse by men.  It is based in sexual and domestic violence and I cannot turn it off.  There is no getting over it.  It is not going away.  I am tempted to go into hiding, to withdraw from everything…at least for a while.

Since the election, I have been struggling with depression, anxiety, rage, and isolation.  I feel like all of the work I have done to combat my PTSD is withering away.  I have read that I am not alone in these feelings or experiences.  Others are suffering under this new administration.  I cannot open the news page without seeing his face or reading about decisions that he is making that only reiterate the person I feel that he is.  When I see these things daily, I can only wonder; how will I get through this and still remain mentally healthy?  I’m really not sure.  I’m talking to my therapist, I’m meditating, I am practicing mindfulness…I am trying.  I am also sharing this, my story, in case some of you are feeling this way as well.  You are not alone.

I would like to start by saying that I am not a licensed therapist.  I have no training in the field of mental health.  What I am is a woman who has PTSD and has tried many coping strategies in my quest for healing.  These are some things that help me; I suggest speaking with your own therapist or counselor to see what suggestions you might find in your own journey.  These are strategies that I use:

  • Limit social networking. I have a love/hate relationship with social networking.  It is easy to get caught up in it, especially if you are lacking companionship, but the culture of it right now is one of finger pointing and spewing opinions.  This can leave you feeling rejected and attacked.  An important thing to remember is, you own your page.  You can surround yourself with whomever you want.  If someone is toxic, there are no requirements to have them in your life.  I would encourage you to make a lunch date, meet a friend for coffee or have a girl’s night/boy’s night out for some REAL interaction.
  • Exercise, go for a walk, turn on some music and dance, whatever appeals to you, just get out and move. Being active releases endorphins in your brain that can help combat stress and depression.  It also helps to take your mind off of the negative things you may be focusing on.
  • Have a pet? Spend some cuddle time with them (unless it’s a snake, can you cuddle with a snake?).  Pets have been shown to reduce stress levels.  Emotional support animals have been shown to be of assistance to those who suffer with PTSD.  I personally do not have a trained support animal, but I find that sitting quietly with my cat purring on my lap or stroking my dog’s head has a direct impact on my own anxiety.
  • Redirecting your thoughts through a healthy hobby is a great practice in mindfulness. For me, photography and crochet help to take my mind off of the thoughts that haunt me and keep me focused on the task at hand.  Plus in the end I get to create something beautiful…BONUS!  What is mindfulness?  It is being focused on the present, what is going on right now.  For example, when I am out with my camera, I am focusing on the framing, the light, the color, the subject, my placement, my focus is on the shot.  What I am not focusing on is a fear that could be facing me in the future or a memory that is haunting me from my past.
  • We all want to be informed. As much as I am tempted, I cannot hide from the reality of what is going on around me.  Check headlines and newscasts during healthy times.  Make sure that you are mentally in a good place. Decide on a time of day that you will allot a limited amount of time catching up on the day’s news.  I avoid early morning news checks because it can affect the mood of my entire day.  Find what work’s for you, just try to not get caught up in the continuous news flashes and obsessive checking.  I also try to make sure I am on the lookout for inspirational stories as well.
  • Eat healthy and limit alcohol intake. It is tempting to go on a junk food binge and self-medicate with a bottle of Pinot Noir, but it certainly won’t make you feel better.  Alcohol is a depressant and will actually contribute to any depression that you might be experiencing and you do not want to combine that with being weighed down by unhealthy foods.  Eat your fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water.
  • Communicate with your therapist! Let them know how you are feeling and what is going on. They can help you develop your own coping strategies and offer insight and guidance.  That is what they are trained for! If money is an issue, there are income based therapy programs that you can call about in your area.  In my case as a survivor of sexual assault, I went through my local rape crisis center where counseling was offered free of charge.

Remember that we are never powerless.  There are tools and people out there that can help you get through the rough patches in your healing process.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you are practicing self-care.  You have to take care of YOU!  Feel free to share some of your strategies for dealing with triggers, anxiety, depression, and rage, whatever PTSD decides to bring to your door.  Much love and healing to you all.