Today is your day

Today is your day

Yesterday, you found yourself too heavy to get on with the day. Well, yesterday’s gone. So, live it, today is your day.

Before you reading, Today is your day, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported The Road To Mental Wellness, your contributions keep me going….. Thank you! Any donations are greatly appreciated. To donate, please click the donate button below

So you had a stay in bed kind of day yesterday. You felt overwhelmed, inflicted by a heavy feeling that is often described as dread. And like that of someone drowning, you went weak, let go and stopped fighting. Even though you desperately wanted to fight on, you were just too exhausted to do so.

If your experience is in any way like my own, you can’t help but worry that days like that are going to take you out and down the road of no return. But is this true? You might have thought; “Will this be the day I slide into oblivion, never to know happy again?’ I am confronted with this fear whenever I fail to muster the strength to do, well anything.

Thankfully, despite my fears, I can say with 100% certainty that I have never once remained trapped in the darkest recesses of my mind; its this time and tested truth that I take great comfort in. All it takes is a constant reminder to “ride it out.”

How to get through those mentally tough days

Waking up this morning, you felt wonderful and refreshed and without an ounce of mental pain to contend with. You think to yourself, “Today is your day.” Already, you’re off to a wonderful start. With that said, it can be useful to keep in mind that you may not be 100% well for the entire day. And that’s ok; you can however, choose where you put your energy so that you can have the greatest amount of success.

So, what helps with that success?Firstly, it’s helpful for me to understand that there is a fundamental difference between normal stressors and disordered ones. Normal anxiety responses are driven by things like, speaking in front of crowds or anticipating a moment when it’s almost your turn to speak at a meeting. All normal responses to normal, everyday events.

But… When one experiences stressors like ones that are driven from trauma, it’s more likely produced by an abnormal event(s). In this instance, it’s our brains trying to make sense of what disaster the eyes have seen. Incidents like a death, a car wreak or an assault.

I like to think of this form of anxiety as residual effects in a sense. For example, PTSD doesn’t let go of the most horrific experiences of our lives. Therefore, we relive them; sometimes years after the tragic events have passed. This is, in my view, disorder driven anxiety.

I have PTSD, now what?

For me, anxiety, feels the same. Whether it’s “normally produced” or spawn by my mental health conditions. Regardless, it can be important to determine the source. While I know this isn’t always possible, it can help in those scenarios where you know it’s origins.

How? Well, therapy can be a great tool to help one determine what they are facing. To be more specific, a type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy can help bring angst to the fore of the mind so you can “think” your way through what factors are causing it to spike.

Today is your day
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

If we are able to conquer the feelings produced by anxiety and other mental illnesses, then we increase our odds of getting to its epicentre. In other words, if you’re about to go on stage for a spelling Bee and your anxiety is high, this is considered normal. In such a case, the more you go on stage, the better odds of helping to minimize your fear in future. Remember, stage fright can be disorder driven but for many, it’s simply a bad case of the jitters. Regardless, it is common to be anxious in the scenario.

Once you come to the conclusion, that this is indeed a normal response, you can then ask yourself. ‘What can I do to help me alleviate my angst?” Deep breathing is a great tool to deploy when on the hot seat. Of course, throwing yourself out there is also key to overcoming it all.

Learning breathing exercises.

Post-traumatic stress on the other hand, is born out of abnormal events. Like those mentioned above. Thus, they require other therapeutic tools like mindfulness and EMDR. In the case of ptsd, knowing your triggers may not be helpful. We can however, acknowledge them and say, “I know you are there, but you don’t have to rule my life.” The great thing about this approach is that you now have a framework to refine your skills. For example, strong mindfulness skills can get you through the noise and fear of a crowded environment; thereby improving your quality of life.

So, let today be your day. Make it so by acknowledging what is causing your anxiety. Furthermore, work on the skills you are learning in therapy to help you cope. It will liberate you so that you can have more good days than bad.

“Any freedom worth a damn is won an inch at a time, then a foot, then a mile and so on.”

Jonathan Arenburg.

20 authors from the military and emergency services tell their story a post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jonathan Arenburg, signing a copy of Lemonade Stand Vol. III

If you are struggling please go here for help: Crisis Services Canada

OR

Checkout our Mental Health Resources Page

Contact me on my Facebook page: The Road To Mental Wellness

Ebb And Flow
There is a sort of ebb and flow to PTSD and depression. …
A test of mental strength.
Let's make no mistake, this holiday season will be A test of …
Hang in, there is hope.
For those with PTSD, sleep can be their enemy; plagued by a …
Don’t let your illness define you
It was pointed out to me that we are more than our …

Who’s taking care of you?

Who’s taking care of you?

I learned very early on that I wanted to spend my life helping others. I can’t describe why or where it came from, All I knew is that it burned deep within. Later on, I began to wonder who’s taking care of me.

So, joining the fire service seemed like a perfectly good place to fulfill my desire to help. In the first years of my service, it was wonderful. I caught they bug, big time and never looked back. At least and until my desire to help others was manhandled by mental illness.

I recall being so happy to be part of this organization. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to contribute to your community than signing up to be a volunteer firefighter. Although I battle with PTSD everyday, I will never regret my years jumping on the rig and running in to help extinguish chaos.

The other bug in the room, the one that was rarely discussed or even seen as a priority, was PTSD. People in the emergency services aren’t good at looking after themselves. I’m living proof of this.

“I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD is higher when you factor in the undiagnosed. “

There is a silver lining in the dark storm clouds of nightmares and hypervingilance, PTSD is becoming more acceptable. Great news for all of us, especially for those places that have peer support programs and easier access to professional help. But, what if your emergency service doesn’t have such things in place? What is one to do?

Symptoms of PTSD

Well, I can only offer up lessons of my own inner battle, a battle I now know, I should have waged years before I did. Although grateful to still be here, its a struggle everyday. I share my experience through this blog, here’s a post you might enjoy: The Power of PTSD – Overtaken

First of all, no matter what your buddies say, post traumatic stress is not something that can be buried. It’s buried alive and will eventual claw its way the surface. For many, it will exact it will exact its revenge.

CBC’s The Nature of Things explain some facts about PTSD in their article; PTSD: Canada Has the Highest rate, plus eight more surprising facts; In this article they indicate that 9.2% of Canadians will experience PTSD at some juncture in their lives. This number is the hightest in the world!

So, What dose this tell us? Well it demonstrates, at least to me that PTSD is real and can happen to you. I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD are higher when you factor in the undiagnosed.

Now that we know post traumatic stress is a thing; the question becomes who’s taking care of you? Since we know that stigma looms large within the fire service, it is our responsibility. In my own case I knew something wasn’t right for a very long time. In simple terms, if you feel any form of mental discomfort for a pronged period, don’t ignore it.

Different treatment options for PTSD

This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

We are now living in an age where there is more help than ever for this debilitating mental health condition, ranging from peer support to government programs. With that said, prevention is still the area where we need to work harder on. In Nova Scotia we have a crisis response team to help debrief emergency service workers following a critical incident. A prevention option that was severally under utilized in my department.

Although it should be the fire service leaders who put preventive measures in place, it is incumbent on us to ensure our own wellbeing. I came to this conclusion when I realized that my family, my support system have an emotional investment in my health. This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

Who’s taking care of you?

Whatever encourges you to get help, if you know you need it, do it. Find your reason to get better. You got this! Your pride and fear could quite possible have dire concequences…. Trust me.

If you are a firefighter in Nova Scotia and are in need a debrief, visit the Critical Incident Stress Management for the fire service in Nova Scotia. Or for individual treatment go here: Dr. Jeffery Holsick, trauma Specialist

Shell Shock to PTSD

metnal health war injury, from Shell shock to PTSD

Today, we honour all the men and women who have served their country in battle, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice. While I always take the time to honour them all, I want to pay homage to those who weren’t only physically injured and or killed trying rid the world of human suffering at the hands of those who seek to destroy life.

but I also want to pause for a moment to think about those who have mental war injuries that are, not only painful beyond comprehension, but for some, last a lifetime. For these brave women and men, their battles are never over, their war within is never won. And, depending on the period, the mental injury has been called everthing from shell shock to ptsd.

 
 

Nowadays, this mental heath war injury is known as Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is well understood compared to when the symptoms of this mental health condition were first observed by medical professionals during the first world war ; (The Canadian Encyclopedia) when thousands of soldiers were stricken with depression, insomnia and nightmares. By 1917 these symptoms would be given a name; Shell Shock. For a full list of symptoms go here

 

Charles Myers, a British medical officer was the first to use this term for the symptoms he was witnessing on and off the battlefield. These clusters of symptoms were also known as war neurosis, (Encyclopedia.com). I

 

Despite the fact that doctors of the day had ruled Shell shock out as some sort of physical medical ailment and came to believe that it was psychiatric in nature, stigma still prevailed. As a result, the men who exhibited the signs of this condition were considered to be cowards, even being charged in a fake trial, found guilty of deserting the military and shot by their colleges. After the war, many more were committed to mental institutions and subjected to ETC, electroshock therapy, whilst many more were placed in solitary confinement as a treatment option.

By today’s standards, this approach to treatment is considered Berberich. I would go so far as to say that it is these very sorts of atrocities people go to war to try and prevent. That being said, we have come along way since the days of WWI, so far in fact, sigma seems like a minor itch today in comparison, there’s no doubt that things are so much better now.

But we must always remember that the internal torment of PTSD can not be minimized. Understand that our brave men and women who are wounded in this way live in a form of psychological solitary confinement and many are only receiving minimal treatment. Yet, many more veterans live life on the streets, a tragedy that’s made worse by government cutbacks to veteran’s support systems.

However, you brave warriors are not forgotten and I think about the sacrifices you have made and the suffering you continue to endure often. Thankfully, PTSD is more accepted today than it ever has been and with that comes more empathy and support. Despite cutbacks, there are programs out there to try and help heal your injuries or at least make them more tolerable. There are support groups springing up full of people who understand your pain.

Again, thank you so much for your service, I am free because of you and I am grateful. Let me leave you with this short poem by Siegfried Sassoon, a world war one soldier and poet who suffered from the horrors of shell shock, this poem was inspired by his injury.

“Lest We Forget”

Survivor

 
No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

 

 
 
–Siegfried Sassoon, Craiglockhart. October 1917.
 
Source: BBC Home, Inside Out Extra: Wednesday, March 3, 2004, http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/extra/series-1/shell_shocked.shtml