September 11 is coming….an anniversary of a vicious attack on innocent people in the name of terrorism. For PTSD survivors such anniversaries may trigger nightmares, anxiety, melt downs and a host of other challenges. I appreciate others posting their suggestions on Facebook, this is from Welby O’Brien. Yes, it is military background. That’s ok. Welby has great ideas on how to cope through this time. I believe we benefit by helping each other without judging why we have PTSD. I do believe it is important to be prepared for this 9-11 outpourings of remembering. Yes, I believe it is important. Yes, I will have a post for that day in memory of the fallen. Yes, I have an entire book on it. Yes, I will prepare myself and give myself extra space for accepting and coping. I added a few notes to the preparation lists from my experience in orange.
9-11 & PTSD: Can We Still Be Traumatized?
By Welby O’Brien
It was bedtime as usual on the night of September 10, 2001. Little did we know that by the next morning, countless Americans would NEVER again be the same! And maybe you and your loved ones are more impacted than you realize.
Since 9-11, an astounding number of people have been afflicted with or re-activated by PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), a condition that can affect anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic or life-threatening event. It has been described as a “normal reaction to an abnormal event.”
I just received a desperate text from another wife of a veteran who battles PTSD. She said, “Welby, I’m not sure I can handle another 9-11 anniversary. Last year my husband was triggered so badly not only did I think he was going to end up as one of the suicide statistics, but I found myself struggling with PTSD symptoms too and just wanted to run away! Why is it that our warriors are so drawn to war movies, and horrific news, when it actually makes them worse??? He won’t turn off his newsfeed on Facebook, and stays glued to the T.V. and all the replays of the disasters. What am I supposed to do?”
Veterans are just part of the millions who have been severely affected by trauma. And even if a person was not directly involved with the disaster, horrific events such as 9-11 can re-traumatize those who already have PTSD. It’s similar to grief. Those who have deeply grieved the loss of a loved one, find that any further grief or loss in their life will also exhume all the grief they thought was buried.
One amazing lady shares, “I already had PTSD after the suicide of my husband, so when 9-11 hit, things went from bad to worse. Now I am remarried to a Vietnam veteran who also has PTSD. When his PTSD kicks in, mine does too…and it gets really interesting here! I still cry at the drop of a hat, but volunteering, connecting with others, and also directing my grief in positive ways has really helped.”
As one of the most tragic days in the history of the United States approaches, (or any patriotic holidays or traumatic anniversaries), be alert for increased symptoms of PTSD in yourself and those around you. These may include anxiety, avoidance, depression, fear, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, numbing, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, relationship problems, outburst of rage and other emotions, withdrawal, employment problems, increased substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.
But before you toss in the towel, I’m here to tell you there is hope. I see victory over PTSD every day in my veteran husband, who has battled it for decades. Although it is never easy – a continuous challenge – the rewards are so worth it!
I encourage everyone who struggles with PTSD and all the loved ones who also live with it, to do all you can to be prepared for triggers and traumatic dates like 9-11.
Bottom line: know what resources are available, and connect with others who care. I encourage you to visit www.LoveOurVets.org for helpful information about PTSD, resources, and ways to connect with others.
For those with PTSD, here are some ways you can prepare for the 9-11 Anniversary:
1. Stay aware of your body and emotions. (Your body often reacts before you are consciously aware of a trigger at hand. Are you feeling dizzy? You may be hyperventilating. Cup your hands over you mouth and nose and breath into your hands. Slow down your breathing. Other triggers may occur, listen to what you body is trying to tell you.)
2. Talk about it with someone who is supportive.
3. Have the courage to call for help if you need it. 1-800-273-8255
4. Avoid the news, photos, and all T.V. about 9-11.
5. Plan something enjoyable to do that day, and the next. (Celebrating life is not ignoring the tragedy that occurred. Being with family and loved ones at a time of stress reminds you what is important in your life.)
6. Consider volunteering or helping someone with a need. (Service is a fascinating paradox, when feeling overwhelmed, helping someone else brings life back into balance. Don’t try to make sense of it, just try serving someone else to see the results.
7. Be with someone you trust, and who cares about you. (Yes, people with PTSD have trust issues. Being with someone you trust does make difficult times easier to bare.)
For all loved ones, you can also be prepared:
1. Stay mindful of your own body and emotions. (Caring for someone else is not possible if you don’t take care of others….to clear out those double negatives. Self-care gives you the strength to care for others.)
2. Remember you cannot “fix” the one you love. (Don’t blame yourself for their choices.)
3. Give them space if they need it. (Yes, sometimes being alone is the best thing for them. See #2.)
4. Encourage them to connect with a support group and/or counselor. (Accept that someone else may be better with helping your loved one get through a difficult event.
5. Keep the television and all media off, or tuned to something unrelated. (Avoid watching the events aired again. Not watching it doesn’t mean you are not remembering.)
6. Connect with others in a similar support role. (Others experiencing similar challenges can help you during tough times.)
7. Do something special for YOU. (You are important. Self care is important.)
And as for the young lady who is dreading 9-11 and wants to run away, I reminded her that she cannot control her husband or his reactions; but she can continue to express her love and support, while at the same time staying focused on taking care of herself and her children.
As long as there is trauma, there will be PTSD. And although people with PTSD may never again be the same, they can live happy and fulfilled lives in spite of it. I know. Because we do. heart emoticon
Welby O’Brien is crazy about her veteran husband, and together they find fulfillment as they face the relentless challenges of PTSD. With a Master’s degree in counseling, she has authored several books, including “LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD” (available on Amazon and wherever books are sold). Welby has been welcomed as a guest speaker across the country, and on radio and television. Welby initiated and continues to facilitate the support network known as Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC.