Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Regressing ... a Tempting Thought Some Days!

Have you ever thought to yourself, "I sometimes wish I wasn’t an adult!”  Isn’t it true at least sometimes?

When we think of children, we often say (wistfully) that children view the world with eyes of wonder.  Many times I have wished I could suddenly morph into a 4-year old that covers their eyes to become “unseen”.  If only hiding or withdrawing temporarily were that simple!   Don't you often wish you could believe as they do:  If I can't see you, then you can't see me?
As a caregiver, how do you insert Wonder into your life and view things as you did before you became older, more challenged, tired, and ... a grownup?
Gratitude is a good start.  Make it a priority to take a fresh look at your life, starting today.  Why would you wait?  As you walk through the day, consider a change in perspective.  Can you make light of any of the tasks you do? Will you allow yourself time to laugh when the dog tilts his head with what seems to be a look of total empathy?  Certain days, the dog may absolutely be your best  and only friend!  Go ahead and talk to yourself, having a unique dialogue that makes you ruefully laugh at how crazy the day really and truly is!

Days can be bleak and lonely, no question, but can you try to view other days with the eyes of a child who finds the sunshine throwing shadows through the window blinds special?  Listening to the crunch of the autumn leaves on the edge of the driveway? Savoring the taste of a s'more?  It's often the little things that make life brighter and lighter, but as adults, we may have to look harder for them.  

Purposefully.  Intentionally.  Mindfully.

It’s worth the time and if practiced daily, can become your default life-stance. The word "Wonderful" means literally, "full of wonder".  Looking for the moments of Wonder in your day can be a personal therapy and compassion toward yourself. 

Caregivers are notoriously hard on themselves, but you can gently work more often to alter your mind shift, tracking the Wonder moments in your day.  See if it doesn’t slowly but surely change the way you treat yourself.  Bonus:  It can also change those around you, as Wonder brings back the naiveté we all once had in abundance.  Try going for the enlightened, lightened regression – and may it bring you joyful, wonder-filled moments!

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What IS PTSD Really?

Many military family members (rarely the caregiver except in the beginning…) ask this question:  What is PTSD really?   

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is the mind and the body's response to a traumatic event.  PTSD can is more commonly seen in combat veterans and first responders who experience and witness trauma doing their jobs.  PTSD is one of the Invisible Injuries.   Though PTSD is largely invisible, meaning that to a stranger, it wouldn't be apparent, the condition is often misunderstood by friends and family.

Symptoms vary and can be either subtle, or abrupt, leading family and friends to be confused.  It can also leave the veteran wondering if life will ever be the same again, and the family members unclear on what to expect each day.  One of the earliest signs to a caregiver may be that the service member or veteran is acting “differently”. 

The relationship can feel upside down, and there may be avoidance and isolation.  The vet may re-live the trauma through night terrors or flashback memories during the day.  This can be exhausting, and possibly alarming to the spouse who becomes the imagined enemy or situation in the dark.  Training kept them alive, but upon returning home, it’s hard to “turn off” the extreme vigilance, the hormonal cascade (testosterone and adrenaline) when PTSD is triggered by a scent, a sight, or even an anniversary.  It is not uncommon to see self-medicating to try to keep PTSD at bay.

With treatment, it is possible to anticipate possible triggers (prompts) such as a car backfire, or Fourth of July fireworks.   There may be a startle response, and hypervigilance which shocks children with its suddenness, and feels like rejection to spouses. There may be emotional numbness or increased aggression that feels as though it should go away now that he or she is safely home.     
The body needs time to recondition itself to the new safe environment and many effective treatments exist.  Since PTSD is both a psychological and neuro-hormonal response to perceived danger, newer treatments address both aspects and treatment, including complementary therapies for anxiety reduction, mindfulness, and communication help families to manage PTSD.   Know that treatment is necessary and the right “fit” can be found with persistence and the knowledge that life can become higher quality over time.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team