Vets With PTSD Do Not Hide!by Michael on 08/20/15
Okay, let me share some much needed info and hopefully squash yet another veteran/PTSD stereotype. I saw a meme today that quoted "A veteran hides from fireworks show..." First and foremost, LET ME MAKE THIS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR, vets with PTSD DO NOT hide. Hiding...not in veteran our DNA! Regarding fireworks, the MAJORITY of vets with PTSD can handle large firework shows going on in front of him or her. It is in plain sight/predictable. What is VERY difficult and incredibly triggering for vets with PTSD? The random staccato pops and unpredictable explosions of fireworks that go on in neighborhoods and outside of their homes...sight unseen.
Let me be clear...there are varying degrees of PTSD severity. Even with large fireworks shows, a veteran with PTSD may have a satiation point. That is where self care and self awareness is crucial to well-being. This meme is NOT targeted at my brothers and sisters who just returned from combat. I do not advocate viewing fireworks shows until you feel settled and well enough to attend. Use your common sense and that inner barometer...gage how you are doing by way of a myriad of factors going on in your life upon returning home. Use your voice and TALK about your experiences.
Give yourself an exit strategy...let people know you may have to leave early if you are feeling triggered. If you are feeling triggered...time for self care...for example...go home and put your head phones on and turn the music volume up...especially if fireworks are going on in your neighborhood at random and unpredictable intervals. Tell your self it is temporary...you are safe...they are fireworks and not small or large arms fire. Please...consider therapy. PTSD and triggers do not get better over time...like the disease of addiction...the older we get...the older they get. PTSD is as much of a progressive illness as addiction is.
Keep this is mind as well, viewing fireworks, as in a large show with people around, can actually work in your favor. Why? Those of us with PTSD isolate. Big time. Trust/feelings of safety are a huge part of recovery. When in a large crowd of fireworks revelers, spend time watching the people around you. Begin to marvel, once again, in the feelings of being social in a safe yet loud PUBLIC gathering. Concentrate on the smiles/laughter of others. Try and feel their excitement versus your anxiety. Soak in a child's energy while he or she yells with excitement at the colors and sounds of a fireworks show. They feel safe because they are with mom and dad, brothers and sisters, friends...the people with whom WE need to re-establish relationships with when we come home. Take it slow and easy. You should not feel pressured to reacclimatize. At the same time, you DO NOT have permission to isolate. Isolating is one of the most damaging and DANGEROUS things you can do regarding your overall well-being!
Brother and sister veterans, we must find ways to climb out of our social isolation and become a part of life again. Here is the bottom line, if we do not begin to change our thinking, we will not change our behaviors. I repeat, If we do not change our THINKING, we will not change our BEHAVIORS! I could speak for hours on this topic as it means that much to me, however, I will refrain from doing so. Just know this...from me to you...you re not alone. Not now. Not ever. You are loved. You are respected. You are important. You matter. You belong here!
WE DO NOT HIDE! WE ARE SURVIVORS! WE ARE NOT NOR WILL WE EVER BE VICTIMS!
With much love and deep appreciation and respect for your PTSD journey (I am walking it with you!),