“PTSD vs Avoidance”

“PTSD vs Avoidance”

You know how you do things and just don’t think about it? Well, back when I first injured my knee I was headed for another cup of coffee, bummed knee so hobbling, and I thought, why don’t I go the other way through the kitchen? It’s a pass through kitchen and I take the long way…every time. So I turned direction and went the other way, the shorter way. Then I realized why I take the long way…there’s not a light switch for the kitchen at the other end.

**Again, I’m not a doctor of any sort and can not give medical advice. These are only my personal opinions and experiences.**

Ahhh…I was going somewhere with that, wasn’t I? 😉 One of the true symptoms of PTSD‬ is avoidance. You avoid crowds, gatherings, family, friends, events, relationships, the news, tv or newspapers in general, maybe things that seem simple to others such as a trip to the grocery store, emotions, thoughts, etc. You may avoid getting close to others, relationships (emotional or physical). The list is endless.

Are you really avoiding all of those things? Or are you really avoiding the “what if” that comes with them? The situation which may arise or happen? The feeling that you are different? The mind set of something bad is going to happen? The chance of a trigger happening? The avoidance of feeling or emotion?

Avoiding things has it’s good as well as it’s bad that comes with it. It’s a way of coping right then and there, short term. It helps you get through a situation or the what if’s. You might feel like you want to cry, or on the flip side lash out. Avoiding the thoughts and emotions of what you have been through can help keep these things from happening. One that many do, you get quiet. Which at times, and I clearly state at times, can help avoid tricky or uncomfortable situations, arguments, conflicts, and helps give you time to cope and think… which can be a good thing.

However, long term avoidance can be more damaging. Avoiding things and seeing it helped you hold back those feelings or did avoid that tricky situation, can lead you to being numb. Pulling you away from family and friends or even things you used to enjoy doing. I know, that feeling of if I face it am I going to lose control or something bad happen? Control of the tears, control of the anger, and everything else that may come with it. Are expectations going to come?

Sometimes you have to just have that trust, that trust within yourself. If I face this, I won’t lose control, I can have a grip on it. Sometimes it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to face things…you are human!

I have watched my husband become a hermit because of PTSD avoidance along with it’s other symptoms, and depression. I have also seen him bounce back at times for small amounts of time. And when he does find the strength to face some things, it’s not easy! Anxiety goes through the roof. But I also see his reaction when he has made it through something, done something, gone through a motion even without emotion…and nothing bad happened! That smirk on his face of ”I did it.” That smirk is priceless!

Walking out that front door is one of the hardest things for him to do. It takes a lot and every ounce of energy he has, and many times I do kindly remind him it’s healthy to go outside, how he will feel better when he does even through the anxiety and what if’s. The fresh air, seeing things around you other then four walls, the sounds of nature. It all plays a roll in being the best you can be, even if it’s just for that moment.

Mark it on a calendar, I’m being serious! “Today I made it outside for 10 minutes”. Do you know what that can do? Come tomorrow when you look at that calendar you might think “Wow, yesterday I went outside for 10 minutes. Hum, today I can make it for 15.” It gives you something to look at, to put into perspective of what you accomplished and a goal to work forward from. Maybe today is a day you can’t pull yourself from your bedroom. Mark that too. When you start seeing on paper, in your own handwriting, hey I haven’t made it from my bedroom in 4 days, what do you think you will do? I bet you make it to the living room. 😉 It’s okay to have those bad days, they are going to be there, but they are also something to build from.

I always direct you back to a wall calendar. My reason, you can see it plotted out by days. You can see how many days have passed by, you can see accomplishments you have made, you can figure out where you want to improve things from here. How about “Today I didn’t have any triggers”, then another day you might have 4, write them on there. It helps you notice the triggers and at times may help you figure out exactly what they are. It can help you face them in a way that you don’t feed the avoidance…with your own writing. You can also flip back when you want to an look at things. Just something to think about. 😉

There is something else that works really well that a doctor told us once. Take a sheet of paper. Write down what it is, whether it’s a fear, something you want to do, etc. Then make 2 rows. In one row write what would be positive or accomplished…the facts of the situation. In the second row write the negative or the facts that could lead to a negative outcome… the facts. Everything is based on the facts. For example, “I don’t want to go on a cruise because the ship will sink.” Okay, that might very well be true, but what are the odds? Take the facts and numbers of how many incidents have in reality happened and weigh them against the unlikeliness of it happening. Odds are, you are more apt to have a good time and enjoy your trip than the likeliness of the ship sinking. You can use this method for viewing the reality on paper which can lead you past the fear to try. No, I’m not saying the fear will just disappear, we know it doesn’t, but it gives you a factually based guideline to help you do something that you would normally avoid.

Avoidance is going to be there, it’s all a part of PTSD and what you have been through and I’m by no means saying it’s not. However, sometimes in some situations looking at the facts can help you get through the avoiding feelings and help you get a little piece of life back that you thought or feel is gone. You might just find out that you are stronger than a lot of those avoiding feelings. Again, it won’t happen every time, so don’t view yourself as a failure if something doesn’t work out, but trying will make you stronger and help you find new boundaries to your limits of avoidance… as well as the limits you thought were there that you can step past, even if it’s just a small step.

PTSD is so overwhelming that you can lose sight, and focus on the “who I was”, “what I was”, “I let you down”, “I’m such a burden”. Getting past that, or to a better place than you are right now is hard! Beyond words! Finding the good and positive in things is a difficult task and no one can do it for you. It’s a step you have to take or try for yourself. Does it make the horrors go away, no. Does it make the triggers stop, no. Does it stop the anxiety, no. Does it stop avoidance, no but it can help. But does it put things into a perspective you can understand and look at? Yes. It helps you with the avoidance.

Battling avoidance… Easier said than done? Absolutely! But then again, what in life is easy? Especially when PTSD is with you. Nothing! The calender idea and making a fact sheet are just a couple of ways for you to be able to learn and watch your path, to see when coping is needed as well as what does or does not really need to be avoided, and simple ways that may help you learn to live again. There are many things you can try. PTSD is not the end, I refuse to believe that! You all are worth more than anything that could be put into words.

A simple example. How many of you have avoided posting on here? I bet at times every single one of you. I know I myself bit my tongue at times. 😉 Why? Because someone may judge you? Someone might not like what you say? Someone might think you are crazy? SO WHAT! Do those things really matter? You are who you are, and that is a very special human being. One thing you think and don’t post, know what that one thing might do? It might just save someone’s life, might make another person stop and think, it might even educate someone close to you that didn’t understand you or PTSD. Look to the good my friends, at times it’s there and just hidden or masked… and you might be surprised at what you find there. (And no, I don’t expect everyone to post! I leave that to each of you and your comfort zone! That was simply an example 😉 )

Sometimes avoiding things is needed, but other times it’s not. Will I stop taking the short way to the kitchen when it’s dark? Yes, I sure will, there’s no way of having light from that way. But will I take the short way when it’s daylight? Yes, it helps me with my bummed knee. There’s 2 ways to look at everything, always remember that. 😉

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