PTSD: It’s NOT a Shame

As Diane has mentioned, June is PTSD Awareness Month.  In 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). Since then, during the month of June, The National Center for PTSD asks that the issue of PTSD be discussed openly and without judgment, in the hopes of reducing stigma.

Anyone who has dealt with mental illness either directly or indirectly knows that, indeed, not all wounds are visible…or measurable, for that matter. No, there’s no blood test to measure levels of depression, anxiety or trauma. Many people look “just fine” on the outside, while they are suffering greatly on the inside.

Trauma is not the same for everyone. Many people think of Veterans when they hear the term PTSD. While Vets surely are a group that’s at greater risk, anyone can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And what traumatizes one person may not affect another. In fact, traumatic events don’t have to be “catastrophic” to cause this reaction! Losing a pet, having your child get off at the wrong bus stop, car accidents and other “everyday” events can cause traumatic reactions in some people.

On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike came through my neck of the woods. Since it was “only” a Category 2 storm, we decided to ride it out. I took a sleeping pill that night and had no clue if it was scary or not – I was asleep! However, the next day, I fell apart as we drove around looking at the damage the storm left in its wake. We lost our back fence – we were lucky that it wasn’t worse. But until recently, any time the power went out at my house, I would instantly panic. So, it wasn’t the catastrophic hurricane that caused the traumatic reaction – it was the loss of electricity that became my trigger!

PTSD symptoms – anxiety, panic, sudden anger, nightmares, flashbacks – can be caused by just about anything and is the brain’s natural response to protect your psyche from pain. They are also signals that you need to process the event, no matter how “small” you perceive it to be!

PTSD is NOT a shame…it’s an opportunity to get help and come out on the other side a healthier, happier and more resilient person! To find therapists who specialize in PTSD in your area, visit psychologytoday.com‘s therapist list. For more information on PTSD, visit The National Center for PTSD.

Video Does Great Job Explaining Depression

I came upon this video yesterday and thought it was an outstanding way to explain depression to someone who has never had it. It also mentions the awful stigma that comes with dealing with mental illness and its symptoms. Feel free to share this with someone who could use it. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc. Namaste’.

Halloween: More trick than treat for those with mental illness?

I came across a thought-provoking post today and wanted to share it here. The original post came from Healthy Place.

Halloween: More Trick Than Treat for Those With Mental Illness?

Halloween and Dia De Muertos (The Day of the Dead) can be child’s play. Ghosts, goblins, superheroes, Disney princesses and more bring both smiles and horror. For those with a mental illness, PTSD or panic, Halloween can conjure up very intense negative responses.

Sometimes horror flickers on the TV screen or in the movie theater, sometimes horror is found behind a mask, sometimes it comes to visit wrapped in “Trick or Treat!” Potential triggers lurk everywhere: black cats, oversized spiders, masks, horror movies and even costumes that perpetuate mental health stigma, domestic violence and much more. Ahhh, the midnight hour.

I Hate Halloween

I admit it – I hate Halloween with a passion. My dislike for Halloween began innocently enough: my birthday is the week before Halloween. Instead of a cake of my choosing, I used to get the horrid orange and black Halloween birthday cakes. There is nothing more unappetizing than black frosting. Next up: My 4th grade Halloween party. My teacher decided that fun would be turning off all of the lights in the room and having us stick our hands into bowls of food that represented body parts: elbow noodles for brains, olives for eyes and chicken liver for…well, you get the idea. Fun? Not so much when 15 kids are vomiting. Fast forward to 2003: I was assaulted on Halloween. My assailant wore a Halloween mask. Yep, I hate Halloween.

Halloween is Scary for Adult Trauma Survivors

For the adult survivor of trauma, Halloween can hold all the makings of flashbacks, panic and terror. The macabre comes out to play in the form of costumes, props and decorations. Whether it be fake blood, severed body parts, all-out zombie attacks, masks from classic horror films such as Friday the 13th, It, Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Pin Head, Scream or witch costumes or the props (knives, needles or impalement, anyone?), Halloween brings out those who enjoy Halloween for shock value. The beauty of Halloween is that for at least one day, we can be anything we wish: the shy become bold pirates, the geek becomes the hunk or diva, those who would suppose him or herself to be weak chooses to be a superhero. That is also the beast of Halloween.

Facing Halloween Can Be Difficult

If Halloween is troublesome for you, here are a few things that may be helpful:

  • Avoid watching television during this time.
  • Don’t give out candy or if you choose to give out candy, don’t answer the door by yourself.
  • Spend the evening doing things completely unrelated to Halloween.
  • Listen to some soothing music to help lower the hyper vigilance.
  • Eat the candy yourself. No one said you have to share it.

Some Inspiration for Your Weekend

The Holidays Are Here: How to Stay Low-Stress

The holidays are here with fun-filled and stress-filled times sandwiched together, not unlike raising children, work, marriage and other life pursuits. So, here are some recommendations to make the holidays calmer and happier.

First, have realistic expectations of yourself.  Many of us feel disappointed because our “fairytale images” don’t materialize. Instead, focus on feeling good from the inside out.  Build a fire and roast marshmallows, shop with a friend, or take a long walk in the woods.  Meditate, workout, read, or  listen to music.  Feed your soul.

Second, have realistic expectations of others.  No one’s family or friends are perfect, and the holidays won’t change this.  Since we can’t change them, we need to rely on ourselves to gather what’s positive and let go of the negative.  Create new family traditions so they don’t stir up bad memories.  If a situation becomes too negative, leave.

Likewise, don’t take relationship stress too personally. If your partner snaps about household clutter because they’re stringing Christmas lights while baking cookies, understand it’s their problem.  Don’t let them take their bad mood out on you but don’t react poorly either.  After all, love is the true intention of the season and it starts with you.

 

Kids Need Self-Care, Too

One of my daughter’s best friends is Chinese. Her parents came to the U.S. before she was born, so she is an American citizen. Her mother, on the other hand, is holding on tight to the Chinese culture. This causes heavy distress for Jane* as she tries to make Mom happy while fitting in with her friends. I call this phenomenon, which happens more than you would think, Cultural Gap. Jane is falling right into it.

As I watch how things go in Jane’s household, I realize just how high her mother’s expectations are for her. If she makes an 89 on a paper or test, she gets sent to a tutor. She is expected to excel in all areas, and is taking an art class taught by a famous Chinese artist. As you can imagine, Jane is quite miserable sometimes, and she and her mom butt heads constantly.

In this case, the main player is culture. Jane and her mom are having a tough time navigating between Chinese and American cultures. Yet, I see plenty of American children going through similar experiences, being held to impossible expectations and being punished for a “B”. Just look around on the Internet and you’ll find all kinds of studies about how kids these days are more stressed than ever.

Our readers with kids in school, have you noticed if your child or children are extra stressed? Have you evaluated your expectations? Have you spoken to your child about how he/she is feeling? As parents, we sometimes get so focused on external achievements, like grades and extracurriculars, that we overlook the consequences they can have on our offspring.

One thing that my family does to lower stress is limit our 13 year-old daughter’s extracurriculars to 2 activities. We also went from the “you must take all Pre-AP [advanced placement] classes” to “take whatever classes you can handle.” Our daughter has a special situation. As the child of 2 anxious parents, she has developed OCD. So it is especially important to us to help her manage her stress, and knowing that our expectations are meetable definitely helps.

If you have dealt with, or are currently dealing with, a stressed-out child, what advice would you give to other parents as to how to help manage the stress?

*Name changed to protect privacy

They Grow Up So Fast

It is almost noon and I am sitting here waiting for my teenage girl to wake up. It is now summer break, and she takes advantage of catching up on her sleep deficit. As I sit here, I’m feeling nostalgic and a little bit sad.

Yesterday, the kiddo and I made plans to spend the day together. It’s my day off and it seems like I don’t see her very often. She’s really good about doing all her chores and so her reward is being allowed to visit friends. And visit she does! I know her friends now know her much better than I do, thus the sadness.

I remember when she couldn’t wait to spend time with me. She was always a “momma’s girl” and really still is in a lot of ways. I know in my heart that this is what happens developmentally: adolescents focus more on their peers than on their parents. She’s developing her individuality. She’s proving the idea that “they grow up so fast.” But who says I have to like it?

This is our challenge, moms! We have to move into acceptance as our children grow up. It is our job to teach them and guide them so we can feel confident about them eventually going out into the big, bad world. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad or whatever else you may feel. Just make sure you don’t let yourself go down the “hurt” road. Your child is not trying to hurt you on purpose; he/she is doing his/her job, which is growing up and launching him/herself out into the world. You don’t have to like it, but just know that’s how it is. Accept this and look back at all the things you and your partner have given your children: lessons learned, guidance, being there through sickness or emotional issues, and letting them know that you will always be here if they need you. That, my friends, is how it’s supposed to be!