William W. Horne1 spotlights the subjects of former President George W. Bush’s paintings of war veterans who found a way to survive:
“Petty Officer Chris Goethner, May 2003-2006: As a medic in Iraq, Goehner treated some 1,200 patients, and his unit was often shelled by mortars at night. Medically discharged with PTS, he suffered insomnia, nightmares and survivor’s guilt. But he was able to come to terms with the deaths and shed his medications. He now does mission work in South Africa.”
“Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell, Army, 2002-2005: After an IED claimed her leg in Baghdad, an impatient Stockwell quickly got back to biking, running and swimming, winning the bronze medal in the triathlon in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She wore the American flag proudly on her prosthetic leg while dancing with Bush in Texas, after a hard day of biking.”
“Sergeant William Ganem, Marines, 1998-2005: Garmen lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq, then headed for rock bottom- with a divorce, a DUI, and a bankruptcy. Then he sought help: “I wanted to see what I could accomplish with my head removed from my ass.” The ‘what’ was impressive- a masters degree in social work and a job helping vets transition to civilian life.”
Matthew Hunt2, “You don’t have to be a veteran coming home from Afghanistan to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also be the result of unresolved emotional wounds from childhood, surviving a traumatic incident like a car crash, or witnessing horrific spectacles like the Boston Marathon bombings.
It’s not “in your head”
Unexamined trauma can lead to serious physical imbalances. Sudden or prolonged stress makes the endocrine system produce too much cortisol – a “fight or flight” hormone which converts protein into energy. This is normal for short term as a reaction to stress – but when prolonged or buried, it creates a hormonal haze which continually affects your body’s systems.
It’s important to get help
These “fight or flight” hormones are supposed to do their job and go home. When they don’t, it’s a good idea to seek counseling to understand why. Left untreated, there’s a good chance of living life continually in an anxious, edgy, tense place that is vulnerable to emotional storms.
The body may handle the continual ‘high alert’ for weeks or even years, and then boom! A trigger may cause a cascading event like an emotional explosion.
Things like a lack of sleep, stressful work situation, relationship issues, death or illness in the family, improper dieting, or even traffic jams can trigger anxiety attacks, nightmares or flashbacks of a terrifying event.
Often people may seek to self-medicate through recreational drugs or alcohol – but this is only a temporary fix with diminishing returns, and is especially dangerous because it can lead to addiction.
Proper counseling is invaluable
Proper medication may be a part of therapy, but figuring it all out first is the first step, and talking to a qualified therapist can be a vital help.
The irony is that many people find it difficult to fit one more thing into their busy lives. But that’s where Counseling on Demand offers additional help. Our therapy group meets you where you are – at any location – using online tools such as Skype to blend a face-to-face connection with convenience.
Anxiety & Depression: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 11 self-help tips to try (and 4 more for others to assist you)
Many think of PTSD as a military phenomenon, but we are all vulnerable, no matter the age or circumstance; a home fire, domestic abuse, witnessing a traffic accident. Any experience of a life trauma, either physically or emotionally; lived, witnessed or thought of, can cause an anxiety problem- even depression, known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The anxiety & depression of PTSD can affect you for years after the event occurs – possibly even the rest of your life. PTSD can very well affect you both psychologically and physically. As a result, you may relive the trauma, as though transported back in time.
These reminders are what fellow mental health practitioners term, “Triggers” (Yes, just like a pistol trigger; and with similarly catastrophic results.)
Triggers, such as loud noises, images or other situations may “trigger” panic attacks, extreme anxiety, unexplained anger or fear (of recurrence) and depression. Those with PTSD also experience issues with their emotional thinking and future: detachment from love, numbness, depression, feelings of helplessness/hopelessness or avoidance behaviors of events, things, and even people that may remind them of the dreaded event.
11 self- help tips to try3:
1: Get moving-Focus on your body and how it feels as you exercise,
2: Spend time in nature- Pursue outdoor activities like hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and skiing or just a simple walk in the woods- even a relaxing view out your window.
3: Self-regulate your nervous system- Learn that you can change your hyper-alert system and calm yourself directly.
4.Mindful breathing- A quick way to calm yourself through mindful breathing. Simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each out breath.
Sensory input-Listen to an uplifting song. Smell ground coffee or a certain brand of cologne. Pet an animal.
Reconnect emotionally- Learn more about a mindful practice that connects you to your emotions.
Connect with others-Find someone you can connect with face to face— someone you can talk to for an uninterrupted period of time, someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted by the phone or other people. That person may be your significant other, a family member, a friend, or professional therapist.
- Exercise or move- Take some time to exercise. Jump up and down, swing your arms and legs. A few minutes of that and you’ll be breathing heavily. Your head will feel clearer.
- Vocal toning- Find a quiet place and in a straight back chair, purse your lips together and teeth slightly apart, simply making “mmmm” sounds. Change the pitch and volume until you experience a pleasant vibration in your face.
- Volunteer- your time or reach out to a friend in need. This can help you reclaim your sense of power. Join a PTSD support group.
- Take time to relax-Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, massage or yoga can activate the body’s relaxation response and ease symptoms of PTSD.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Eat a healthy diet-Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Limit processed food.
- Get enough sleep- Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness.
Tips for what a loved one can do to help (Show this to them):
- Be patient and understanding-Getting better takes time so be patient with the pace of recovery.
- Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers-Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the trauma and certain sights, sounds or smells. If you are aware of the triggers that may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to help your loved one calm down.
- Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally-If your loved one seems distant, irritable, angry or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
- Don’t pressure your loved one into talking-It is often very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Never try to force your loved one to open up. Let the person know, however, that you’re there when and if he or she wants to talk.
The good news is that there are genuinely effective ways to help. Many people have cured their anxiety altogether, and others find ways to make it easily manageable. Our military heroes discovered how. Congratulations to you heroes who recovered. For those who could use moral and professional support, Counseling on Demand counselors are good at this.
We are online at CounselingonDemand.com
Effective Online Counseling…Only a Click Away
- William W. Horne, Portraits of Courage, AARP Magazine, April/May 2017, pgs 50-53
- Matthew Hunt, PTSD, Understanding the Physical Side, http://www.counselingondemand.com/counseling/understand-physical-side-ptsd/
- Matthew Hunt, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 11 Self-Help Tips to Try