I want to share with you something I personally believe is very important… I promise that even if you do not suffer from P.T.S.D. (as I do) you will at the least understand it better and even be able use these techniques at points in your own life where emotions are running high and you just need something to reduce the intensity of them or help regain control over your mind and body, so you can breathe and find your “center” again!
For those of you who DO deal with P.T.S.D. in your own lives, these will be so important for your recovering from, dealing with the fallout of and managing your P.T.S.D. illness and it’s symptoms. Also please note that there are resources out there and people who understand… Both in your communities and online as well. At the end of this article, I will include a few links for you to check out or pass along that may help. The most important thing is — Stay SAFE!! Whatever it is that you need to do to ensure that you (and others around you) are and will remain SAFE from harm ~ Focus on that!
I recently came across a Facebook page called PTSD and Me and honestly, was so relieved to know that no matter what, there is someone there I can share with (or not) that UNDERSTANDS!! There is a place I can go where I don’t have to feel crazy and like I will be thought of as crazy! I was diagnosed with (multiple counts) of P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) about 15 years ago as well as Anxiety and Depression and even though I sought counseling and was prescribed medication, NOBODY told me what to expect or even really what this was or how to deal with it! I went all these years thinking that I had a pretty good handle on “it” and even like I had somehow dealt with all the events in my life that brought on this illness, but I was fooling myself! I allowed myself to react to situations and people in a certain way because I felt I needed to be strong and control my surroundings to a point where nothing would ever happen AGAIN to make me feel so powerless… I “self-medicated” and never even understood what that meant, all the while thinking I had “control” and that I was not “numbing out” because it seemed to me that I was able to talk about many of the things that had happened, therefore I must have dealt with them…..
How wrong I was! Until I finally began to really deal with the underlying reasons I HAD to feel in control and why I was making the choices I had for so long and then ultimately went into recovery, I never even had a clue that all the pain and fear was still with me in so many ways constantly!! I had to accept that I was now a different person and that I did not have to live with this in the ways I had before. I finally am dealing with the fact that EVERY DAY I react in some way or think in a particular way not because I want to be in fear or be a “witch” or have to control everything, but because my brain is forever altered and I can find ways to deal with it and not let it rule me!! When we have lost all trust — when we find ourselves in a place where we are utterly and completely vulnerable and exposed and we feel like the only way to stay sane or feel a little safe or secure is to either withdraw or be on constant alert status, it is difficult to imagine life where the simple things can bring us joy or where we can feel comfortable just being around people and enjoying the moment or being silly. We have good days and then all of the sudden out of nowhere it seems, we find ourselves in a place where the walls are closing in quickly and it’s getting darker and we cannot breathe and oftentimes we do not even realize where it is coming from — this just compounds that desperation, lack of control, fear and vulnerablility we feel!
I recently started attending a group here in the community I live in called “CREATING RECOVERY” ~ It is specifically for women dealing with the co-occuring (dual diagnosis) diseases of P.T.S.D. and Substance Abuse. It is unique in that we alternate between an informative style within a group setting to the next week we will use art to PROCESS and understand better our emotions and and behaviors in the hopes that by being aware, we can begin to make changes! I would reccommend to anyone interested to find a similar setting to help you in your recovery and living with P.T.S.D.
A few weeks ago I went to group and had woke up late and was rushing around and when I got there it was obvious to all but me that there was something I was dealing with — I just thought I was in a hurry and needed to settle myself some and would be able to do that once I got there… My counselor reassured me that we were in no big hurry and to JUST BREATHE….. The more I tried to do this, the more I COULD NOT until I felt a full on panic attack coming on and could not catch my breathe and began crying for no obvious reason…. We took about 10 or 15 minutes and used relaxation and breathing exercises until I felt more “in control” and then began the group project which was all about GROUNDING!! Through the artwork and discussion, I realized that it was not because I was running late, but that I was immobilized with FEAR that day!! There had been some things going on that brought up some issues for me surrounding fear and past events in my life and I had no idea that I was burying it all until then!! I also learned some very important techniques that I can use every day, anywhere to GROUND MYSLEF to the moment – stay in the now and not lose myself sink into the fear, anger or grief of my past and let those emotions immobilize me!
Here are just some of those techniques….
- Describe your environment (without any judgment) in DETAIL using ALL your senses: “The walls are white, there are 5 brown chairs and a bookshelf next to a window with green curtains…” Describe objects, sounds, textures, colors, smells, shapes, numbers and temperature – wherever you are at that moment.
- Play a “Categories Game” with yourself: Try to think of “dog breeds”, “styles of music”, “bands you like”, “states that begin with an A”, models of cars” or “books you have read”, “TV shows” and see how many you can name.
- Do an “Age Progression”: If you have regressed back to an earlier age, you can slowly work your way back up through the ages until back where you are currently. (ie. if regressed to 8-9 yrs old, you can say “I am now 10”, “I am 11 years old now”, 15, 22, 35 and so on)
- Describe an everyday activity in GREAT, VERY SPECIFIC DETAIL: For example describe a meal you can cook… “First I peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4s , then I boil the water and next I make an herb marinade with olive oil, basil, garlic and oregano…”
- Imagine: Use an image and let it fully expand in your mind. For example imagine gliding along on skates away from your panic, Dive into a pool to calm and soothe you, think of a wall as a buffer between you and your pain.
- Say a “Safety Statement”: “My name is _________; I am safe right now, I am in the present, not the past and I am located at __________, the date is _____________…”
- Read something – Saying each word out loud or if not alone, in your head: Or read each letter backwards so that you focus on the letters themselves not the words or the meaning of them.
- Use humor: Think of something funny to jolt yourself out of your mood or emotional state.
- Count to 20 (literally) or say the alphabet: …VERY S L O W L Y!
- Run cool or warm water over your hands or wash face thoroughly
- Grab tightly to your chair and as hard as you can – noticing the feel of it
- Touch various objects around you – a pen, your keys, clothing, the table, walls. Notice textures, colors, materials, weight, temperature. Compare the objects you touch: Is one colder? Lighter? Smoother?
- Dig your heels into the floor – Literally “grounding” them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this and remind yourself that you are connected to the ground.
- Carry a “Grounding Object” in your pocket – a small object that you can touch whenever feelings triggered. Such as a “worry stone”, a ring, rubber band, piece of cloth or clay…
- Jump up and down or go for a brisk walk
- Notice your body and the feel of it – The weight of your body in the chair, the way the chair feels against your back, your toes wriggling inside socks… Remember you are connected to the world.
- Stretch FULLY and/or Clench and Release your fists
- Walk slowly, noticing EACH footstep
- Eat something, describing the flavors in detail
- FOCUS On Your Breathing… Noticing each inhale/exhale while repeating a pleasant word/phrase
- Say kind staements to yourself – as if you were talking to a child. (ie. “you are a good person going through a hard time – You will get through this!”
- Think of your Favorites – colors, animals, books, songs, or articles of clothing
- Picture people you care about or look at their photos
- Remember the words to an inspiring song, poem or quotation
- Remember a (your) “Safe Place” and describe it in detail
- Say a “Coping Statement”
- Plan out a “Safe Treat” for yourself
- Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week
Grounding DOES work!! Practice these methods as often as you can and create your own that work for YOU! And of all else, the bottom line is ~ “DON’T GIVE UP”…. EVER!!!
I hope you find this helpful in coping with your individual challenges – whether it be in the form of P.T.S.D. or anything else that causes us to feel stressed or emotionaly paralized… Like with anything, it may not work so well right away – so make sure you give it a fair chance and also allow some time for it to take root and work. And most of all remember…. You are NOT ALONE and THIS TOO SHALL PASS…. Yes, even THIS moment!!
- https://www.facebook.com/800273TALK?ref=pb — National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
- https://www.facebook.com/nsvrc?ref=pb – National Sexual Violence Resource Center