Archive for the Category » Anxiey/Hyperarousal «

Habits and PTSD

Habits and PTSD

We got on this subject this morning and I thought it was something different to talk about regarding PTSD. What about the “habits” that form once PTSD is a part of life?

We know the common ones… checking locks on doors and windows, looking out the window at every different sound, pacing, to name a few. But what about other things?

I mentioned that Craig picks at or bites his finger nails when anxiety starts to increase or he becomes unsettled, to the point he does not have nails. You know, as a spouse you can only say “Please stop biting your nails” so much before it becomes irritating to PTSD, or “Remember your coping skills”. So it’s important to find other ways of addressing habits as well.

I had noticed that when Craig’s anxiety starts to increase or he feels unsettled, before he goes for the nails, he messes with his medical ID bracelet but it does not hold his attention for very long. But it did give me another idea. That watch I just bought him. wink emoticon It might hold his attention a little longer since it does have moving parts he could focus on etc. We will see if it can be a combo with his coping skills to help. wink emoticon

Another thing that is common is the leg shaking. I can spot someone with PTSD and/or anxiety a mile away by that leg that is on the move. It is a common occurrence for many when symptoms increase and one is feeling on edge.

So… Here’s a couple of questions for you…

What are so called “habits” that you have noticed have formed since PTSD became a part of life? And, How do you handle or manage them?

Those questions can be for EITHER the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner. Oh yes, spouses can form different habits too from their normal.

Thank you for your input and for letting others know they are not alone! (Please visit my facebook page for comments by others)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Category: Anxiey/Hyperarousal, Uncategorized  Tags: ,  Comments off

PTSD and Driving

PTSD and Driving

We had a very good question come to us this morning and I wanted to talk about this in depth.

“Question; does anyone here see a difference in their loved one’s driving? My son has had an accident with every car he’s driven since coming back from Iraq. He speeds and appears to be paying more attention to what’s going on everywhere else except for the important things like speed limits, brake lights etc. He notices the person coming out of the store but not the stop sign he just blew through. He honestly scares me when he drives. I spend my time saying things like “red light, stop sign, watch the guy at your 3 o’clock…” -Pat

I want to start by saying, the thing I hear most from those with PTSD regarding driving is, “I fear they will take my driver’s license away.

That is a very valid fear. PTSD does change so many things in life, as well as how one has to manage things, that one just does not want to lose one more thing especially since driving is a form of freedom and self reliance, helps with self-esteem, as well as self worth. It brings independence.

However, many do notice changes in the way their loved one drives once PTSD becomes a part of life. The examples given with the above question are very real life examples. And I’m sure many are raising their hands or nodding their heads yes right now. In a way, many times the passenger becomes the co-pilot.

Those of you with PTSD, don’t worry,  I’m not going to throw you under the bus on this one! (figure of speech)

So why do these changes in driving happen? Let’s start there.

First off, just because a person has PTSD does NOT mean in all cases they can no longer drive. There are many that have no issues with driving. Then there are others that have issues at times. Then there are those that driving is just no longer a possibility. Each case will be different even though so many may have things in common.

This is not only military or first responder related, even though we do hear of many who do have driving changes that are/were military or a first responder. Other examples of ones that may also have changes in driving skills may include those that have been in car accidents, witnessed a severe car accident, lost a loved one due to an accident, or any trauma where a vehicle relates to the trauma one experienced. Those that have PTSD from a personal attack or stalker related trauma may also experience changes in driving. And then there is just plain and simple, PTSD itself and what it brings.

It all goes back to the symptoms. PTSD can cause anxiety to increase when one leaves their “safe” environment or home. The “what if’s” or questions that can go through one’s mind can increase. Hyper-arousal can increase. Looking for an attacker/enemy or trauma related objects, can increase. PTSD triggers can be experienced. And even flashbacks can occur.

When any of these symptoms step into play when one is behind the wheel it causes or can cause concentration to decrease, which can lead to one not noticing the things a driver would normally watch for or pay attention to. Instead the concentration goes towards watching for that trigger and/or being alert to or looking for anything that is related to their PTSD trauma. Many may not even realize they are doing this, or to the extent they are doing it.

So, now we know the “why”. Now what do we do?

First and foremost, we want to make sure everyone stays safe! That means the one driving, the passengers, as well as those also out and about. Here are some examples of things that may help…

* From the start. If you know PTSD symptoms are high, avoid driving for the time being. If you HAVE to go somewhere, ask someone if they could drive for you. If you don’t HAVE to go somewhere, waiting a little while for the symptoms to calm down is okay!

* If you know, or someone else mentions they notice, PTSD symptoms are increasing while one is driving, be honest about it! There is nothing wrong with saying “Hey can you drive for a little while?” and allow someone else to take the wheel. What’s the worse case scenario? You get a chauffeur for part of the day.  There’s nothing wrong with that!

* Pull over. 

If symptoms are increasing you can always pull off the road and use your coping skills. Once you are feeling less overwhelmed, then continue your travels. Take a break when you need to.

* Talk to yourself. 

Nope, you are not crazy if you do this! Talk out loud or to yourself, tell yourself  “I’ve got this, I can do this, focus on that light coming up. I’m in my town [or a place, even a destination you are going to] and nothing is going to [whatever the fear is].” By doing something along these lines, you are forcing yourself to stay grounded.  Time, place, and to people who are with you. Tell yourself for example, “There is a light coming, if it turns yellow I need to start breaking.” You can do this with anything! All you are doing is maintaining your focus on driving and taking it away from those symptoms and what if’s. This works great to keep triggers from flowing into full flashbacks and also helps you stay focused on those things you need to pay attention to while driving. 

* Road Rage.

It happens! PTSD at times will look for that fight or be triggered into one, especially when another driver could have harmed you and/or your loved ones. Those out there with poor driving skills will become PTSD’s target. DON’T allow them to mess up your day! If something happens, do NOT chase them down. Unfortunately if something happens many times PTSD gets the blame and that is not going to lead you to a good day when you were actually the victim, of sorts. Pull over and take a deep breath, use those coping skills. And if another driver out there is being careless to the point they could hurt someone with the way they are driving, it’s okay for you to call their tag and location in to your local authorities. Allow yourself to release from the rage and let the authorities handle it, that makes you the good guy that may have saved a life. 

* Co-pilots. Yep that’s all of you that raised your hands at the beginning of this 

Sorry folks co-pilots or side-seat drivers are going to be there. And many act like they have an invisible break pedal on their side of the vehicle. Just love them for caring about you and making sure everyone stays safe! And try not to become snappy at them if they point things out. If you need to say something about their co-piloting, try to use a calm tone. “Would you like to drive?” is what Craig uses as his code phrase with me  And at times the answer is YES! Other times he tells me “thank you” when he may honestly not have noticed something. Whatever works, communicate so the drive is a decent one.

Now Co-pilots (yep I’m one of them  ), you have to make sure you do NOT over tell things or talk too much, it just becomes static noise to one with PTSD that is trying to focus. It is okay to direct or point things out when NEED be, just be cautious to not over-do it or it is going to spark PTSD frustration which could make the situation even worse. It is very common for co-piloting to become a bad habit, make sure you give the one with PTSD a chance and only say things when they are NEEDED.

* Navigation Systems

Oh these are awesome! There are many different types of GPS systems as well as apps available that can be used. My absolute favorite is a phone app! It “talks” to the driver so no looking at the phone is needed AND it tells you or alerts you not only to directions, lights, stop signs, but to your speed as well… if you are going over or under the speed limit for the location you are at and as you travel. I LOVE it! No more saying “Watch your speed”, I can sit back and relax with a little chuckle now.  There are many different systems or apps available, research them and see which ones can help.

Speeding is common with PTSD. When anxiety levels and other symptoms go up that gas pedal seems to go down. It’s almost like a “hurry up let’s get there” that takes place. Focus can go to destination instead of those dash gauges.

* Come up with an agreement ahead of time! 

Craig and I actually have this in place. It helps keep anger or frustration down while driving… for BOTH of us. If his symptoms are high, he does not drive, period! If we are out and symptoms increase, we switch drivers. If he needs to pull over, then we pull over. If I start needing to co-pilot too much, then I drive. If he’s having a good day, no questions asked, he can drive. Whatever agreement and plan you come up with, just make a plan of action. By already having this in place it can save a lot of pulling your hair out (so to speak) for either person.

These are a few things that seem to work well, and that work well for us personally. Feel free to add things that you may have come up with that helps when you or your loved one is driving.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

The Lake Path…

The story behind this new photo…

Yesterday, Craig took Maya, his dog, outside and he came back in and said, “Bec! There’s a guy down in our path to the lake clearing it, it looks like.” I asked him if he spoke to him, he replied no. So good ol’ Alex and I went outside. I watched for a few minutes and sure enough, there were actually 2 men down there and they were coming up our path… which was VERY overgrown, about 10 feet tall. So you know me, I had to find out why they were there and at the same time ease Craig’s mind to these strangers being on “our part” of the lake property.

I walked out the fence and down to the lake. I spoke loudly to the one closest to our property, startled him actually. Instantly I apologized for startling him and he said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, hang on let me come up there.” He said, “Um, I assume this is not so and so’s property?” I chuckled and said, “no it isn’t they live next door, but wow at the work you have done. Can I pay you for it?“. He was talking a mile a minute, almost a tremor in him as he talked, but that was okay, I’m use to that from Craig when his anxiety is high. And refused to accept anything.

The two men said they would finish clearing our path to the lake, I offered to pay them again, but they refused to take anything… but a drink I offered. I told the one which I talked to the most that my husband and I have been needing to clear this and it was on my to-do list this coming week before Spring Break starts and all of the kids are here. I offered again to pay them, still got a no.

We talked for a little while longer about the lake and area, in the conversation I mentioned that my husband is a disabled Veteran who has PTSD. Then I started to say PTSD is post… and he already knew exactly what I was talking about and said “REALLY?“. I said yes and he does not get outside much, so I had not worked on the path since last spring. This was awesome that they were doing this even though it was actually a mistake on which property was which. They said they did not mind at all and would finish it for us.

So, I thanked them again and walked back to the house to get them some drinks. I knocked on the window where Craig was. I told him they are actually neighbors from around the lake and he should come meet them. To my total shock!!! Craig walked back down to the lake with me! (By the way, Craig and I, neither one are the jealous type so the talking to a guy thing was not an issue and had nothing to do with Craig coming out.)

Come to find out, one of the guys lost his dad a few months back… and his dad was a Veteran as well. He and Craig talked for a few minutes and seemed to have a lot in common. 

Craig actually told them to come by sometime, and the guys told us where they lived and we could stop by anytime. One of them is married with a baby on the way, so I said I would love to meet his wife. Also has two dogs and he is working on training them, so he and I talked about that as well.

The guys told us they would be back tomorrow to finish the neighbor’s path, and just wanted to let us know they would be back down there, then went back to clearing.

Isn’t it interesting how paths cross sometimes? 😉 Yesterday was just simply amazing! These two men we had never met, even after discovering a location mistake actually, were kind enough to finish clearing our path so we could get back out on the lake, a huge task off my shoulders… and refused to take a penny for it. The whole event actually pulled Craig out of the house and he had a good conversation with them. And, it really seems we all have a lot in common! 😉

Even though it was a day with high PTSD symptoms and anxiety, it was an amazing day and what a great small step forward! I just had to share! 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Category: Anxiey/Hyperarousal, Uncategorized  Tags: , ,  Comments off

My coffee and things to think about…

Okay 😉 I have a confession…

Last Monday I had my check-up, and you know my doc told me I HAD to decrease my coffee intake. Those of you that know me well, know I LOVE my coffee! Since I was a teen I have drank 3-4 cups per day, then water the rest of the day. Doc said I HAVE to decrease to 2 cups per day and then I can have 1 decaf cup. WOW that was a hard one for me lol!

The reason for the decrease is because I am very healthy, but I do have anxiety. Her words were she would hate to see someone as healthy as I am have a stroke because of the combination of my anxiety/heart palpitations and high intake of coffee. She was pretty darn serious with me about it.

SO, I listened and have been following doctor’s orders. I wasn’t too thrilled with this, but did what she said I needed to. I have only had 2 cups per day, one day I did have a cup of decaf as my third cup but that, haha, that was not for me.

I have to confess, the doc was right! It’s been five days and I can tell a huge change for the better in the way I feel/my heart feels! I have drank high quantities of coffee for so long that I never thought coffee would actually effect me, or my anxiety! Boy was I wrong! I feel better and you know what? My coping skills for my anxiety are working even better for me then what they already were!

There are many foods, drinks, and other things that can effect the way you feel, effect things such as anxiety, PTSD, in general health, etc. This small example of what I had to change, shows that you do need to be watching what you do, as well as how those things are honestly affecting you! I never, in my wildest dreams, would have thought my coffee intake was adding to my issue or could cause the problems it could potentially cause with the combination of my anxiety.

If your doc says to change something, trust me 😉 don’t put it to the side and think a change will not work, your doc might just be right!  😉

SO, my 2 cups of coffee per day is perfectly okay with me!  I can feel the change and it feels good!! 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Category: Anxiey/Hyperarousal, Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,  Comments off

PTSD and Hypervigilance

PTSD and Hypervigilance

This can be a VERY difficult one! You are trying to keep up a normal schedule, doing things that PTSD does not want to let you do, trying to keep up with what others expect of you, all of the symptoms that come with it. It can become overwhelming in many cases and can send one into high speed.

Sometimes you have to slow down and make sure you notice what it is doing to you… or even those around you.

But first you have to understand what might be at hand…

You may be experiencing hypervigilance.

This is when you may experience an increase in scanning everything around you, an increased feeling of needing to look for threats, scanning of every person, place, sound, site, smell, even human behaviors… it’s an increase to the sensory sensitivity and includes behaviors forming for the purpose of detecting threats. It can lead to increased anxiety and that alone can wear you out and cause you to become tired or exhausted.

Hypervigilance can cause you to focus so much on possible threats that you lose connection to those around you and/or family members. It can cause you to over react to loud noises or even cause you to have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. It can cause you to avoid crowds or even making it out of your home.

Basically it puts you on high alert which leads to high speed.

Now the hard part. If you don’t learn to control or cope with this to a certain point, it could become dangerous if the right, or should I say wrong, situation presents itself.

As an example, Driving is a common time this can happen. I’m using this example because it is the one I hear about the most, but by all means not the only time it can be experienced. I’m not saying one that suffers from this can’t drive by any means, I’m just saying you have to use more caution then one that does not suffer from it. See, it causes you to watch everything and very well could sway your attention away from your actual driving, it could cause you to drive faster then you should be, or over react to things while driving. This could become dangerous to you, your passengers, as well as others on the road.

So using that example, what can you do to make the situation better?

* Pull off the road and take a few minutes to regroup so you can focus back on how you are driving.

* If you have a passenger that can also drive, consider allowing them to drive until you are in a better position to.

* Use your coping skills!

* Admit when you driving may be more then you can handle at that time. Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t drive, it just means right now at this moment maybe it’s not the best option.

* If you know when you start to leave you are in “overdrive”, don’t get behind the wheel to begin with. Allow help from someone else.

* Listen and do not dismiss others if they make comments they are not comfortable with your driving at that moment. Don’t get upset at them, they are trying to help and point out what you yourself might not be noticing, listen and work through it.

* Pace yourself. Don’t take on more then you can handle. And family members, YOU have to let them! Don’t overwhelm them with more then they can handle at that moment. Expectations can weigh huge with anything that comes with PTSD, be cautious and don’t push too hard to where it increases levels in PTSD symptoms beyond what they can cope with.

Noticing the signs that you are experiencing hypervigilance at that moment or what someone else nicely (and I mean do it nicely) is pointing out to you, it can help save you and others from unneeded tension, hurt feelings, or even a serious situation later.

I know we have a rule, if hypervigilance is up then you don’t get behind the wheel or you pull over and let someone else drive. And it can sure keep you out of getting a speeding ticket too.  It seems that in many cases when that feeling of alert or high threat goes up, that peddle gets pushed down more then it should be.  Avoiding this or learning to control/cope with this can help tremendously!

It does not make you any less of a person, it makes you a more responsible person when you handle a situation in the best interest of everyone… including yourself. So don’t take it harshly. It’s going to happen, it does come with PTSD, and it’s just another one of those things you have to learn to cope through the best you can.

There are many situations that hypervigilance can become a part of, again my example is just one example and it’s by no means limited to only that one.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Anxiety, Fear, and the Unknown…

I think one of the toughest things in life, especially for PTSD, is the unknown. Those things that come that aren’t on the calendar as scheduled events to happen. I already know some of those might happen this year, kind of have an idea what they are going to be already to be honest, besides the regular unknown that PTSD itself can bring. I think I’m ready for them lol. You know how it is, life can throw you a curve ball, keep your eye on the ball and make sure you swing the bat hard when they come… type of things. 😉 I was always good at baseball and could pitch a pretty good curve ball myself when needed lol. 😉 Just take it and apply it to life when needed and it can put things into a different perspective. 😉

Always focus on your anxiety, fear, and how you cope in situations of the unknown. It can take over if you don’t. Use your coping skills, teach yourself to focus on the event and see it in real facts and not always the what if. You can prepare for the what ifs but keep in mind that at the moment it’s only a what if and might not actually happen. Don’t let it consume you. And that comment is to the spouses and loved ones. PTSD won’t always allow the one with PTSD to do this, but it can’t hurt to try, you might find at times it can make a huge difference for you too.

A doctor once had Craig do a worksheet exercise. I found that it is really helpful to anyone, I’ve actually used this myself lol. You write down your fear, especially if it’s something that has happened and you fear it will happen again. Then after it you chart the real life possibilities of it actually happening or not happening, the statistics of it. Doing that can take the real life fears away or at least put them into perspective and not just what your mind has you thinking or believing, so it’s easier for you to face them, refocus, and cope. It doesn’t change the past or what you have experienced already, but it can sure change how you view or learn to handle that fear in the future.

Just a little something to think about. 😉