After deep consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the best way veterans can help each other is to share what works for them in dealing with PTSD, a common term today to cover many things. Those suffering from this condition need to know there is hope, and one thing that has worked has been veterans helping each other, by meeting together, sharing their experiences and supporting each other. Since this is a national blog, it’s difficult to create an actual location for everyone to meet and hug, but it is a means where we can share our experiences in writing. I’m pleased to introduce Dan Slack, CD1, Sergeant (Retired), who has agreed to lead this self-help forum. I have tried asking psychiatrists and therapists to volunteer information for this venture, but so far none have offered. As always, we venture forth on our own. SO, please keep in mind, that what you read here are the results of each contributor’s personal experience, not their professional advice. What we want to know is how did they achieve a positive recovery from such a devastating mental state? Today — Part 4. BONNIE
Living with PTSD and Survivingby Dan Slack, CDI Sergeant (Retired)
DISCLAIMER: Dan Slack is not a medical professional
PART FOUR: Fast Tracking Yourself Through the World of PTSD
There is a non-invasive form of treatment that not many know about called Neurofeedback. What is Neurofeedback you might ask? Well, neurofeedback is therapy that changes your brain waves – the electrical activity in your brain – and that changes how you feel, how you react, how you interact with others.
You’ve probably seen photographs showing different areas of the brain lighting up. Measurements of that electrical activity are called electroencephalograms – EEGs – and Neurofeedback uses that information to help you modify how you feel and operate in life.
In a way, Neurofeedback is like having a personal trainer for your brain – you take it in for a tune-up, so that it can operate at its best potential.
For more information on Neurofeedback and how it works, you can go online and go to YouTube and search the topic. You will see various ways Neurofeedback can help for many disorders.
The next thing that worked for me was positive thinking and trying to stay in that positive mindset. Now, keep in mind that this takes time and practice and by practicing this everyday you will eventually see the benefits of thinking this way and doing this for yourself. Hopefully it will reflect on others you may encounter in your life.
One of the places where I have trained and studied to help me change my mindset is The Option Institute of America. Here is the webpage so have a look around. http://www.option.org/index.php.
If you go to the Video/Audio/Print icon at the top of the page, you will see under Teaching Videos, Videos/Webcasts, many productions to help you change your mindset if you watch and listen to them. Have a look at them. They helped me very much.
Let’s backtrack for a second. I was diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression back in 2003. Because of this change in thinking, my world was ripped away from me. As you all know, you go from a military person in control to not having any control over anything, not even yourself.
Now that being said, I, as most of you have, looked, hunted and searched for a way to find yourself again. I have been to the Option Institute of America and studied a few new ways to deal with the PTSD that robbed me of my positive self. The main trick I’ve discovered is: STOP LOOKING. Accept who you are now and move on from that.
Consequently, I have developed a descriptive list of things that I like to share with people to help you go forward with a clearer, more positive mindset. This, I believe, will help you too and lead you to live a happier and more productive life. This can be done, but remember, it is all up you. You have to WANT to do it. I refer to this list as the FAST-TRACKING GUIDE. But, it will only work for you if you want it and practice it daily. It works, trust me.
- Accept where you are in your life; it is OKo be where you are.
- Don’t blame yourself for whatever happened to get you here. Let it go.
- Life could always be worse. Think about people in third-world countries and how good you really do have it.
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
- Look at everything that happens to you as good and a way to learn.
- Whatever is making you think about the PTSD, analyze why it is affecting you and keep doing it. Over time it will get smaller and go away.
- If you think it is bad, spin that thought and say, “Hey, this is good, and I am learning.”
- Think about life as a scripted journey and that you picked that route before you were ever born, so it must be happening for a reason.
- Always remember that over time things always get better.
- Look at what you used to think of as negative and change it to a positive. For instance, “Oh it is crappy out because it is raining.” Spin that thought around and say what is good about the rain: “It’s raining. That’s good – I don’t have to water the lawn.” Or, “The flowers will grow.” Try to turn everything you see as a so-called bad or negative thing into a good thing.
- Love yourself for who you are NOW. There is a reason you are who you are. Just trust that it is your journey and everything is great and for a reason.
- Always tell yourself it is so good that this has happened because you are learning. If you don’t fall down, you never get back up, and well, not learning would just suck.
- Don’t fear going back to the world of PTSD. If you fear it, you will never explore why you were there in the first place, and that will only hinder your recovery.
- Never give up on yourself.
- Always challenge yourself when it comes to fearing what you are afraid of.
- When you are triggered, look around you. Find out what is triggering you. Look at it. Know that it is NOT dangerous now and will not hurt you.
- Put yourself into situations that you previously could not confront. Stand there and confront it. Look at it. List what is not dangerous about it. Look at what you thought was dangerous about it. Know that it is not dangerous to you now.
- Stop telling yourself that you can’t and start telling yourself that you CAN. Just do it!
- Changing things can be exhausting. Take a nap when you need it and don’t judge it as anything other than, just a nap.
- You only have one life and to live it as a crusty angry person helps no one, so be happy and live your life.
- Your happiness is your choice.
- Don’t judge anything as good or bad. Just say to yourself, it is what it is, and leave it at that.
- Help others to get past their issues.
- Keep repeating these steps until you get better … every day, until they get smaller and smaller. They will, you’ll see, and your world will become a great big beautiful world again.
- Accept the new you. Embrace yourself.
- Be kind to yourself and others.
- Stop trying to control what you have no control over.
- Live in the now and leave the past in the past. While the past is gone, the future is never here until it is now, so live in the NOW. That is all we have — right now.
- Whatever you are feeling it is all about you and no one else.
- Stay away from things that stress you or, when stressed, say this is friggen fantastic. The more we keep saying things are good or great, the better we see them.
- Take time to see the beauty in the world. By seeing things in a brighter light, all will become that way and the things you saw as bad or negative before will no longer be that way NOW.
Please keep in mind that I am in no way a medical professional. I have lived with this condition and found these steps have worked for me. You can try them but remember that whatever works best for you is what you need to do to have a more productive and happy life style. PTSD is manageable.
All the best,Dan Slack, CD1 Sergeant (Retired) Head Operations Officer United Federation of Canadian Veterans
Dan, thank you for sharing this way of helping veterans and civilians too to rewire their thinking so they can become a wiser and more compassionate person than they were before they experienced PTSD.