Dealing with Trauma Anniversaries

Valentine’s Day was just this past week, and while this day was filled with love and romance for many, it was filled with heartache and suffering for others. Valentine’s Day, just like any holiday or anniversary, can be a hard thing to go through, especially if you have PTSD.

 

Anniversaries are usually seen as a positive thing, something you look forward to and plan for. You celebrate the anniversary of your relationship or wedding, and even birthdays. But some anniversaries aren’t quite so cheery. It can be difficult when you lose a loved one, break off a serious relationship, or experience any sort of traumatic event, and PTSD can be the result of these things. The event itself can be hard enough, but when the anniversary date for it rolls around, you might find yourself experiencing the struggle all over again.

 

Oftentimes, the anniversary of the traumatic event can cause your PTSD to really flare up. Depression, guilt, and shame might begin to set in as you think about the event. Triggers that you thought you had overcome now take hold of you once again, and you begin to experience flashbacks and panic attacks.

 

If it’s been long enough since the traumatic event, you’ll begin to notice these anniversary patterns and you might start avoiding certain places, people, and any other triggers related to the event. Before the anniversary even arrives, you might feel nervous and on edge as you dread the upcoming day.

 

Anniversaries of traumatic events are definitely no fun so it might help to be prepared for when the day comes. The right way to approach the trauma-related anniversary truly depends on the person and what the trauma is. For some, they feel closure and relief by doing something in honor of the event. This could be visiting the grave of someone they lost, donating or volunteering to help disaster relief, or simply taking a few moments of silence.

 

For others, like rape victims, for example, the best thing to do is avoid thinking about the event and try to completely distract themselves. This is where planning ahead is really important. Maybe plan for a fun day with family or friends, spend the day out in town, go to a movie, or do anything that you know will keep your mind busy.

 

If you’re unsure of how to handle the upcoming dreaded day, then talk to your therapist. They are trained to know how to handle these situations, and, being your therapist, they should know what way of coping should work best for you. Your therapist is there to help you in any way that they can.

 

The anniversary date of your traumatic event might feel like it lasts forever, but that day will soon pass too. Sometimes though, the feelings that arise from the anniversary can last up to a few weeks, and that’s okay. Take all the time you need to process and cope with the event, and know that it does get better from here on out. Healing from PTSD is possible.

 

What are PTSD Triggers?

In these blogs, we’ve mentioned PTSD triggers quite a bit – how to avoid them, how to overcome them, and even how common they are. We talk about them all the time, but what exactly are PTSD triggers?

 

Triggers can be anything that sets off your PTSD, sometimes even making you feel like you’re reliving your trauma all over again. They can arise from specific sights and sounds, as well as from smells and tastes. Even certain thoughts can become triggers for you. Many people with PTSD feel the need to avoid certain places and environments that remind them of the incident.

 

For example, if someone witnessed a school shooting, that person might have a hard time entering or even talking or thinking about a school building. Some triggers can be less obvious though. For example, if you happened to be eating a peanut butter sandwich when you first heard the gunshots, you might be triggered any time you take a bite out of or even smell one. An important thing to remember though is that regardless of whatever your triggers are, they are completely normal to have when you are suffering from PTSD.

 

So why do we end up having triggers later on anyway? As most of us know, PTSD usually develops some time after the traumatic event. It does this because, in the moment of the event, our minds and bodies go into fight or flight mode, unable to actually process what is happening at the moment and only focusing on pure survival. Unfortunately, the trauma still has to be processed, and this is why triggers and flashbacks begin to set in much later.

 

In some cases, you might not even know that it is triggers that are causing you to go into a panic episode. Sometimes it seems as though you feel fear and anxiety for no reason at all. It can be a challenge to figure out what all of your triggers are, especially when you don’t want to have to admit the facts to yourself and face them. But once you learn what they are, you can start taking steps toward healing. It might help to know what things you need to avoid in order to stop having panic attacks and flashback. Then, with the help of your therapist and support from your friends and family, you can slowly learn how to overcome your triggers once and for all.

 

The best way to learn what your triggers are is to simply be observant. Take notice of when you begin to feel anxious and afraid. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you thinking about? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself. Once you do, reflect on the answers. Do any of them resemble something from your traumatic event in any way? If so, then you’ve probably found one of your triggers. If you’re still having a hard time trying to figure it all out on your own, your therapist should be there to help you determine your triggers, as well as help you overcome them.

 

How to Deal with Panic Attacks in Public

One of the many terrible side effects that come with dealing with PTSD is having to face panic attacks. If you have PTSD, you know how awful suffering through panic attacks can be, especially when they come on unexpectedly while you’re in public. The fear and embarrassment that comes with being hit by a panic attack in public can seem just as bad or even worse than the actual panic attack itself. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help ease your trouble.

  • Control your breathing. Focusing on your breath can serve as a quick and easy distraction, and by controlling your breathing, it can help you feel more in control of yourself and the situation. Taking deep, slow breaths can also help your heart rate slow back down and bring you back to calmness.
  • Distract yourself. When in panic mode, it’s hard to focus on anything but the problem itself and the panic that you feel. But if you can manage to divert your attention to something else, it’ll help to lessen the panic. Try engaging in an in depth conversation, or maybe play a quick game on your phone.
  • Take a break. Sometimes social situations can just be too overwhelming. If you feel a panic attack coming on and you just can’t shake it, calmly excuse yourself for a few moments. Step outside and get some fresh air, or freshen up in the restroom. It’s okay to take a break every now and then.

PTSD and panic attacks are no fun, especially when there are others around. In fact, social situations can even make things worse. But you can get through it and you are not alone in this battle.