I woke up this morning thinking about sharing a sample plan and some inside thoughts on how I made my decisions. I don’t want PTSD to rule my life, but pretending it doesn’t affect my life sets me up for failure.
Basic questions when creating a Plan for an event.
When is the event happening?
Why do I need to go to the event? Is it an event that I can miss? What are the consequences if I miss the event?
What are the pros and cons of going?
What are the possible pit falls?
What coping skills do I have already practiced ready to use?
Is there someone I trust that I can review my plan so they can look for other ways to succeed?
What is my escape plan if I run into more difficulty than I can safely handle?
This is only a sample….by this time I’ve learned a number of different coping skills for any given situation.
The event 3 day 40 year class reunion. I first needed to decide if I wanted to go at all. The disadvantages is high school is from one of the darker parts of my life. My mind deleted many of the memories. I get flustered when people use statements like, “You remember when….?” “You remember so and so?” basically my answers to these questions is No…Sadly this seems to offend those that do remember. I did not intentionally go through my mind deleting stuff. It happened and I try to cope the best I can with the blanks. However, some times I remember events or people in such minute detail it is like it happened yesterday. The advantage of going is I am very curious as to how I will react to people. I’ve come a long way and I am curious how I will handle each situation. Rather than decide on the whole thing all at once, I pulled it apart.
Day one is at a restaurant/bar on the same night as my Karate class. Easy choice for me, be in an environment where my chances of hearing are slim to none or go to my class that I love. OK. Day one is a miss at the class reunion. Day 2 is a tour of the school and home coming football game. Since my husband likes football, I thought it was something my husband and I could do together. I also learned a lot more about football since our son was in football. When I went as a teenager, I had no clue what was happening on the field and listened to the band. I went for the half time. I decided this is something that I can go to without much difficulty. I’m used to crowds in football stadiums (something that I worked on when attending our son’s football games) and usually everyone’s attention is focused on the field. If need to, I can go for walks and move away from the crowd. I have options. Yes on Day 2. Now Day 3, first I have to pay for it. Well, a bonus from work made that easy. Bummer no ready made excuse. I know that several people that I knew and liked are going. I would like to talk to them but I have many reservations about my ability to cope. You can only slip away to the bathroom so many times in one night before people wonder if there is something seriously wrong with you. PTSD is serious, I tend not to talk much about it in large crowds or casually because there are so many misunderstandings about PTSD. I am still really curious. I finally decided I would go but take my own car with no one else. My friend emailed me to see if we could car pool. I declined, explaining that I needed my own car with no passengers to have an escape plan I feel comfortable with. I was willing to explain since we both have PTSD and a clear understanding of what we each need. So I am driving myself, gave myself permission to leave 5 minutes after I arrive if I want to, and I can stay as long as I like since there is a natural ending at 10:00 PM for the event to be over. I now structured my plan with enough breathing space emotionally to mostly succeed. However, I already accepted in my mind that leaving early is not a failure. I am making an attempt so for the progress I made, I already succeeded before I even arrive. If I have fun too, that is icing on the cake.
Skills to help me with the activities. Recognize early stages of panic, don’t wait for a full blown attack before doing something about it. Slow breathing, counting breaths. Opening and shutting my hands, I can do this one under the table or to the side of me. Practice saying ‘no’ as a complete sentence….”Do you remember…?” “No.” Or adding a leading question if the person seems safe to me, “No I don’t remember, would you like to tell me about it?” Movement helps me stay focused in the now. Grounding can be used with sucking on ice, touching the chair or bench I am sitting on, or tapping my feet. Another helpful tool is to understand that many other people at the class reunion will feel equally uncomfortable and my effort to put them at ease goes a long way to feeling more comfortable myself. I’ve practiced this technique at school and getting much better at being aware of the needs of others.
I have a plan. I reviewed it with my friend that is also going. I already started putting the plan into action. Set aside for a time since I can do nothing about it for now. Mentally put it in the worry about the rest later pile. For me this works, if I refuse to worry about it all my brain kicks into over drive. Giving myself a scheduled time to worry gives me a bit of a break.