Impending Danger PT 2

In part one of Impending danger: Psychological shock, I talk about how my fight, flight or freeze system is always engaged because of the hypervigilance that accompanies post-traumatic stress disorder and how it impedes me from living a full life. My mind is always combined my firefighting past with the present; off work and struggling with mental illness me. So then, how am I moving on?

More on Fight, Flight or Freeze

Well, I believe that the odds of success are more likely if one has a plan. In my case, my plan goes far beyond taking a pill and hoping for the best. The complexities of PTSD are far greater than “pill to make it better” approach. Nothing about this mental health journey I am on is easy, I accept it; for better or for worse it’s amalgamated itself within every fibre of my being.

You maybe wonder at this point; “OK John, What’s the plan?” Well, in order to increase my odds of beating this monster, I had to open up to the many options out there. I looked into and otherwise read about many potential options. Word of advice; if you’re looking for answers too, don’t take whatever you see on the internet and run with it. that could end up being a recipe for disaster. Rather, look for commonalities in your search. For example, through all the research I have done and it’s been a lot, on better health, sleep almost always comes up. Therefore, I try taking sleep very seriously.

The absolutely crucial need for sleep tops my agenda of how I attempt to move on. The lack of sleep makes every symptom of PTSD, depression and anxiety so much worse. Noise, the hypervigilance and the startle response are all intensified when I am exhausted. My psychiatrist and I are working to try to quell the nightmares and help me sleep with medications.

I try to eat well and I exercise four days a week. Both of these are essential to symptoms management and are key to my survival. Isolation, for me, is essential but there is a fine line between healthy alone time and out-and-out hiding from the world. I have learned that, like it or not, I need social connection. I find that I end up really enjoying the company of those I care for.

Getting to know my internal conflict, that with mental illness, I have sadly but rightfully come to the conclusion that I am not the man I used to be. I can no longer successfully integrate myself in the wider world like I once was able to do. I have learned that I am too easily overstimulated to tolerate any length of time in a public setting. So, for now, I force myself outside of my comfort zone but know when enough is enough. I am learning how to cope better through mindfulness.

Ways of coping with mental illness.

So in the face of Impending danger, how are you moving forward? Man, it sure isn’t easy, but it is so worth every battle you face.  Whether it’s with your interior world or the external one around you, you are struggling with, learning good coping skills and other techniques will help you win your life back.

Forgot to read part one? Impending danger: Psychological shock PT.1

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Impending Danger Pt 1

One of the most difficult aspects of living with post-traumatic stress disorder is a near-constant feeling that impending danger lurks around every corner, every car that passes me on the highway and everyone I meet is a candidate for a potential tragedy, thus potentially putting me in the position to render assistance.

This feeling evokes constant scenarios in my head, flash thoughts that intertwine with my real-life experience with critical incidents I assisted with as a firefighter. The fantasies PTSD manufactures in my head go something like: “Are that elderly gentleman in the lineup going to have some sort of medical event?” or “Is that car speeding down the highway going to cause an accident that will force me to stop and help?” When I have these thoughts, reverberations of dread fire down my spine and radiate throughout my entire body.

For similar stories, go here: Battles with PTSD

I know, the ignition point of all this fear, is merely interior storytelling, but it doesn’t stop me from shutting down and disassociating. Actually, the word fear is only accurate when describing my good days. If I was being honest, I would have to admit that I am petrified that fate will place me in the throes of an emergency once more, leaving me little choice but to spring into action like I had for so many years, except, well… I can’t. I know that I can’t.

This blog post has taken me much longer to write because it’s so triggering and again, being honest, this PTSD thing, it really breaks my heart. The fear of an impending emergency allows whatever coping skills I have acquired to be taken by the dark and replaced by a depressive episode. I hate that I am rendered useless and incapable of helping people in the way I had dedicated most of my life doing, I feel broken and it feels although my identity has been stolen by such deep, deep despair.

So, I feel somewhat angered when I see people unnecessarily speeding by me on the highway, taking everyone else s life in their hands with a 3000 pound (1.36 ton) hunk of metal on wheels, wheels that I’m betting haven’t been checked in god knows how long.

I am easily dismissed by many when I use the speeding car example, but, dammit, I have seen what speeding does to people and their lives as a result. It makes me angry and I find myself growing increasingly more resentful of humanity for its inability to see the potential damage the lack of common sense can do. secretly, deep inside I loath that this lack of common sense will place me in a scenario in which I am mentally ill-equipped to deal with. I am worried about impending danger all around me because I fear what one more tragic incident will do my mental well-being.

I can’t help but feel like, because I have sacrificed myself to help others, that the world around me gives little to no thought about myself or others who respond to pick up the pieces of an emergency that in a lot of cases, could have been prevented. The results of these, oftentimes careless moments, are literally destroying the lives of an untold amount of emergency service workers. So before you text and driver again or speed to get somewhere, please think of the potential lives you could destroy. Your families, someone else’s and yes, that of EMS workers.

Now, I muddle through the world like an accident victim wandering around the scene in shock. This is what being faced with Impending danger: Psychological shock is what’s produced. I must learn to accept that the days of helping others in this capacity are long gone… An Ongoing process that saddens me to the core.

In an upcoming article, I will discuss what I do to heal. 

If you are suffering from PTSD, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada

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