Sometimes I feel guilty saying this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” The holidays have always been a time that I long for or look forward to, but that changed in 2010.
It took several years to enjoy the holidays again. And now, there are days where holiday cheer is replaced with walking on egg shells. Days where I see Sam drift and know he is physically with us (like in the same room or at the diner table), but he is not mentally with us.
For some with PTSD, the holidays make them a little more vulnerable.
Darkness, cold, holiday events, family gatherings, work related potlucks, parties, excessive special events, Christmas concerts, final exams, financial stress, trauma, anniversary dates, busy schedules, travel plans, being pulled in a thousand different directions, lack of exercise, crowded stores, busy parking lots, traffic, late nights, early mornings, long work days, being mentally and physically exhausted..
Those are just a few things that have gone through our thoughts and home in the past few weeks. None of these are helpful to Sam, a PTSD survivor. None of these are helpful to our family, our children.
We make it through, we toughen up, survive, and push forward.
So, in the event that you need to best make it through a long, cold, difficult day (or week), here are some things that might relieve some of the seasonal stress.
1. Be aware of the triggers. I know there are certain dates, times of the year, sounds, objects, and even movies that can trigger Sam. Unfortunately, he works in an environment where he is triggered often. PTSD symptoms increase, there might be flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, sweating, fidgeting, anxiety, fear, depression, difficulty breathing, sleeping, and eating. We learn to adapt, or adjust to our surroundings and try to decrease these symptoms and signs. Is it easy? No. Despite having Memphis, sometimes Sam still has moments where he panics, or he deals with some of the signs/symptoms listed above. Being able to keep him grounded is important, getting his “boots on the ground” or “in the home” is key.
2. Listen to your body. This is a hard one for me. I have been in school mode for 16 weeks now. A full semester of chaos, papers, late work, early work, and all the things that I should be accustomed to in the classroom. I’ve been doing school at “ninety to nothing” and it is catching up with me. My body is tired, my eyes are hurting. Learning to trust the signs from our bodies has been difficult at times because we feel the need to do all the things, all the time. Be aware of your own needs. Saturday was a nap day. I needed that. I also needed a little time away from school things, so naturally I watched Netflix (THE CROWN SEASON 2, YOU GUYS).
3. Surround yourself with good support. Lord knows this has saved us more than we can count. Who are the people that are helpful to us? The ones who can handle our chaotic lives, be with us no matter what, and always have our backs. Reach out to those who are supportive to you. I’ve had a few nights of phone calls, texting, and chatting. That is helpful, especially with people who just “get it,” this crazy busy life.
4. Be good to yourself. Treat yo’ self. This is key for Sam and for me. Sometimes we indulge in the little things. For example. The other night we ran some errands without the kids. We got a Starbucks treat when we went to Kroger. We don’t do that often, and it sure was nice coming home with a nice coffee when I sat down to grade papers. Caregivers and loved ones must remember to do what we can for our own needs too. I love listening to my favorite music when I grade. It seems distracting, I know, but it is a comfort to me. I also love a good cup of hot tea. My kettle has had a workout this week.
I think the short “lesson” here is to not dread the holidays, not stress about the seasons, but also remember to stay connected to your people, your loved ones, the ones who can support you and love you. One thing I always have to remind myself is that I have to take one day at a time. Especially at the end of the semester when I want to do all the things because all the things need to be graded.
We thank all of you and appreciate all of you who read our blog and support us (despite the season, or lack of posts in a week). Your support and encouragement, love and kindness means the world! <3