Sunday, December 8, 2013

PTSD And The Holiday Experience.

During the Holidays, I often become more isolated and less likely to want to spend time in large crowds.  Typically, groups of over 10 or 15 people, make me immensely uneasy and jumpy.  Since I still have issues with making connections, even family events are sometimes uneasy and some what un-nerving to me.

Now, I have not really identified what triggers my attacks, or what makes me more or less un-easy, I sometimes feel skipping events more of a comfortable setting than participating in family get-togethers, or company parties.  I live in fear of having an anxiety attack, or of something triggering an episode of aggression or even to find myself in an all out panic attack.

Holidays, bring with it a heightened sense of unease and hyper vigilance that really brings a demeaning tone, to family get-togethers such as Thanksgiving or Christmas; where family is usually holding events in close quarters, with people moving behind you, all around you, in a form of frenzy to get the holiday spirit and events to come off just so perfectly.

As I have stated previously, I have not yet started my counseling sessions, with the VA.  Unfortunate that Dr. Hun seemingly keeps putting out my appointments, and has not seen me since my being assigned to her, in the Corona, Ca. Clinic, over Three months ago.   Because now, most of all I feel the need for her attention.   Anyhow, despite my growing distrust of the VA. and it's ability to assist me, I am eagerly awaiting to get on the road towards living a better mental life with my PTSD and other issues.

Back on subject;

So, due to the lack interest on the part of the VA. I have not been able to find what triggers my symptoms, or have I found a means of dealing with those triggers.  However, during the holidays when I do attend functions, I pretty much deal with the event in sessions and take the event in doses; periodically excusing myself from the event venue to go out and to calm down.  I typically will go and seat myself outside or in a corner of a room; as not to allow anyone behind me or to the rear of my peripheral vision.  Once dinner is done, I will once again slip out of the room and get to a wide open space or in a remote location, where no one would likely look for me.

Sounds Of Celebration:

The sounds of any celebration, really sends me into a frenzy at times.  Manic does not cover the reaction of  my mind or body.  As others are sharing the past events, since they last had access to the people who are nearby, they are eager to share past events to "catch up" on the times.  I think it is great that they were reunited and are able to share, but for me; it's not enjoyable.

Now, I know for me to state that the conversations are not enjoyable, is in no way being intended to be disrespectful.  But generally, I hear nothing more than mass chatter and the words coming from ever corner of the room, fill my ears to a point that if anyone is talking to me it all blends together to make a low, unrecognizable drone of noise, being mixed  with other conversations.

The shortest version, for me anyway, is that these types of events just puts me further on edge and I have to distance myself from the people at the event, and I feel like I constantly have to watch my back and the movements of everyone in the room.  If I lose track of even one or two people, I get very nervous and start feeling dizzy and more mania sets in.

So, How Do I Handle The Loneliness?

For me, the holidays present a special challenge for me.  You see, I enjoy cooking and catering, to friends and family.  So, in some regards I enjoy giving or showing my feelings for family, via my cooking.  Since the holidays are all too often filled with cooking and catering, which relaxes me; I am faced with a conflict, I must face when it comes to family events.

So, How do I handle the loneliness and the confusion?  It is not easy, but I have somewhat figured  a way to deal with everything, I have control over.  It may not be healthy, but it works.  the easy answer is that I cook while I am alone, deliver the food; keeping some of it for my freezer and for about a weeks worth of dinners and meals for myself.  The remainder, I decorate  and present it to the place where the event is going to be held.  Then I leave.

Yes, I leave and plan a day at work, letting others go home to be with their families.  I have pretty much been able to do this, over the years, spending the Holidays alone and spreading the Cheer with complete strangers whom are stranded with their vehicles, trying to get home to family and friends.  Seeing the smiles on their faces, after getting them home, or getting their vehicles running safely, so they can go about their routines, is the most fulfilling thing I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Sharing This With You, Hopefully Will Resonate.

I know that my wish to become active in bringing change, within the Veteran's Administration, on a Violence Free Basis, for male victims of PTSD and More specifically MST Victims who suffer PTSD due to Sexual Abuse or Rape.  I know this account of my story and past, will partially if not completely resonate with your experiences.  I know this, because I also know that this is bigger than I, and that I can not be the only one out here, who is experiencing and dealing with this in silence.

I am sharing this with you, because like myself, I know that there are those who wish they can find a connection with friends and family, once again.  No matter what I say, or write within these posts, I know that there are skeptically eyes, peering through the words and trying to categorize the emotions and feelings I have, into what does or does not pertain to them.  That is fine, and I encourage that as well.  But  the bottom line remains, for those who have been sexually assaulted or raped, Things have never been the same and we all feel like no one understands our pain.

Unfortunately, there is no one who can experience or recall the pain that each of us feel.  No one can ever match the level of pain we feel daily, no matter how close their experiences within being sexually assaulted, brutally or not, we all have our own reality of how much that pain has or will effect us individually.  But one constant seems to be alive and well.

Loneliness, Our Greatest Fear; Our Biggest Companion:

For those victims of PTSD, in general, we all experience loneliness and the inability to connect with once very close and intimate friends and family members.  Oh, we try to melt in and go through the motions.  However, for someone whom has kept quiet for any length of time, these feelings can be significantly more complicated and overwhelming.  Especially during the Holidays and during Reunions.

Suffering in Silence is likened to being in a "Self Made Prison" that could never be matched by a physical prison made by mere man.  Our imagination and our own perspectives on our assaults, is made more solid in building barriers, around us which can not be knocked down.  At least can not be knocked down with out assistance of therapy, and our coming out and admitting that we were victimized.

Even If You Can Not Feel Connected To Others;

Even if you can not feel connected to others, there is one suggestion I can make.  You see I work for a  Towing Company, Here in California.  Doing so, allows me to work with strangers within a structure that protects myself and protects the people with whom I work for and with.  To some degree, it is regimental and controlled which allows me to connect with the need of others to obtain help.  It also allows me to walk away at my discretion.

Working with Charities in which you can alter the roles of  your involvement, brings some of the feelings of becoming momentarily connected; as you and the person you are helping has a need.  You fulfill that need, and they walk away happy; thus you walk away feeling like you made a difference.  Even if for a moment, that feeling of giving something with no strings attached, is like nothing I have never felt.

Doing this or something like this, allows me to feel like I can make a difference, on my terms.  It also allows me to witness the feelings of rewarding fulfillment, as I see that difference is anonymous and the person is one step closer to being able to accomplish what their life needs.

This Year, Is No Different Than The Last 30.

I sat in silence over my sexual assault/rape, for the last 30 years.  Now, to some degree, I have started a discussion of my assault, to hopefully make a difference in someone else's life.   The only difference I am seeing in my life, is that after these last 30 years, I am finally able to come out and open up a bit about my assault, rape, and self mutilation due to the trauma I experienced within the horrors of my attack and there after.

Although I have not directly addressed the actual events of my attack, I have skimmed over for several reasons.  One because of the fact that I do not know what age group the reader of these blogs are.  The second and most important reason I have not fully disclosed what has happened during and directly after my attack (by my own hands), is that I am not fully prepared to disclose or even acknowledge the actual events.  I call it Not able to face my "Demons, or dealing with "Letting The Ghosts Our Of The Closet."

So, this year, during the Holiday Season, I will be on the highway and by-ways, looking for that one person, who is trying to get home.  I will use all the tools at my disposal, to get them home or some where safe, and then I will shake their hand, and see their smiles of relief.  And that to me, has been and will be the best holiday, I can imagine in my current frame of mind.  Because seeing my family, and being at company functions, are too hazardous for me right at this point in my life.

I look forward to one day, being able to share both; Time with my family while not feeling so our of sorts, and then retiring to helping others on the road; in perfect balance.  I look forward to a time, when I can do both and feel satisfied enough to find some level of happiness in experiencing both sides of that Holiday Experience.

Thank You For Visiting.

Gary Brents

One Final Note:

If you or a Family Member is a Veteran who needs help, the following will be of assistance:  Please take advantage of this.  It is quiet Helpful with dealing with depression and other issues.  If you or your family is in sever crisis and are fearful of causing harm, call 911 immediately.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.