Go Outside: PTSD and being a bit of a shut in

Hey friends. I wanted to make this post because I’ve found that as the weather warms up I’m still remaining a bit of a shut in this year. Depression, fear, or even being triggered by the seasons can lead to staying inside in your free time. I’m a believer in the positive mental health benefits from enjoying nature and being active, so I’d like to post a few tips for those out there who peer through their blinds in the morning, glaring at the sun and the neighbors mowing the lawn— but are perhaps wishing they could go out and enjoy spring. 

1. Do what is best for you. Ride your bike if you like to ride your bike. Walk if you like walking! If you can’t do those things, try sitting out in your yard or in a park. Try not to feel bad about not being able (physically or mentally) to do certain tasks. 

2. It’s okay if you have to give up. These things take time. Start small. 15 minutes, then thirty, then an hour.

3. Go places that feel safe to you. Try to make memorable positive experiences in those places. If you like a particular park, street, spot in the backyard, or beach, make an effort to go there. If animals make you happy, find a place where people frequently walk their dog. 

4. Don’t feel bad if you need a distraction. Try reading a book or listening to some music. 

5. If hyper vigilance is a problem for you and you find yourself feeling uneasy trying to “distract”, instead focus on being mindful. Feel the grass under your feet. Listen to bird songs. Practice a calming breathing exercise. Focus on relaxation and getting comfortable.

Ways to motivate yourself to go outside

1. Open up a window in the morning. For me, steps I take early on in the day set the mood for the rest of the day. Open the window and catch a breeze. Listen to the outside noises. Let some sunlight in. This might help warm you up to going outside.

2. Plan an activity that involves the outdoors. Maybe there’s a spot you like to bike to: do that! Maybe you want to plant a garden. Maybe you want to have a bird feeder out back. Take your pet for a walk if you have one. 

3. Find friends who will encourage you to come out to the park. Socializing can get really tough if you’re experiencing symptoms. Maybe there’s one person in your life who really understands what’s going on with you. Open up to them. Express a need to enjoy the outdoors and to relax. Find some activities you and that friend can do together to make it less scary. 

Here are some places you can read about the positive benefits of the outdoors for people suffering from PTSD:

Sierra Club on PTSD and the outdoors

Heal My PTSD’s article on the subject

PTSD: Thoughts on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack

   PTSD makes us especially sensitive to trauma. You may feel an unreasonable amount of empathy, despair, hopelessness and pain when a traumatic event happens. Your personal trauma may be entirely unrelated to a tragic event in the news. And yet, you may feel weak, especially tired, anxious and uneasy. Friends and family may not understand why you are taking an event so hard. Most people feel shock and grief, but the extent to your reaction may lead some people to call you oversensitive.

   I have experienced these kinds of feelings after many traumatic events are reported in the news: the India rape case, the Boston Marathon, the shooting in Conneticut. I have sobbed. I have felt a total fear of the world. I have experienced negative feelings about the world: the belief that no place at safe, that the world is cruel, that it will be impossible to get over a certain tragedy.

   These feelings are deeply rooted in our personal experiences with trauma and post traumatic stress. We suffer from PTSD reactions even when the events don’t resemble what happened to us. It’s just the nature of the beast. Suddenly we feel more anxious, more distracted, fearful and alone.

So, what can we do?

1. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions. Know that your reaction is valid. It seems so simple, but the truth is that many of us struggle to accept our feelings. We criticize ourselves for overreacting, for being ‘too sensitive’. Quiet that inner critic and just let yourself feel. Painful emotions pass by much more smoothly if we aren’t battling them out in our heads.

2. Give yourself permission to TAKE A BREAK! It can be the case that when tragedy strikes, we are glued to the news, anxious for updates. Even when we know it is too much for us, we find ourselves compulsively checking the headlines on TV or on our phones. We can sometimes feel a personal responsibility to bear witness to the tragedy. Allow that sensation to pass, and then take time away from the news. Turn off the tv for a while. Allow yourself to feel the guilt and anxiety, and let it pass.

3. Talk with loved ones. About anything, everything! Open up about how tragedy effects you. Be honest. Don’t feel weak for needing emotional support and comfort. Every person needs this, in one way or another. Don’t talk about the events if you don’t want to. Ask your loved ones how they are doing. Talk about the weather. Do something that puts you in touch with others. It is very easy to feel alienated and alone under these circumstances.

4. If the weather is nice, go outside. It sounds silly, but going outside can help ease fear and worry. Take your shoes off, listen to the birds in a park. Do deep breathing excersises. Our homes can become a place of intense worry— you can lay in bed feeling trapped, worried and alone. We can watch too much news, or become glued to the computer, reading gruesome details. Sit on a park bench and practice self-soothing techniques instead. Realize that these feelings will pass.

5. Look for the positives and get involved. If you feel as worried as I do after a traumatic event in the news, you often want to find some way to help. Read positive stories about the traumatic event. Read about EMT workers, or people who ran into the blast to look for friends and family. Consider donating time, money or blood to relief efforts. Attend a vigil in your area, or a prayer circle with your faith community. Our intense empathy doesn’t always have to be a crippling factor in our lives. We can overcome the initial negative emotions, and then use that empathy to help others.

I hope this helped anyone out there going through what many survivors experience after tragedy strikes. Many people with PTSD don’t even admit to these emotions out of shame— either from the feeling that they are overreacting or that the tragedy ‘isn’t about them’. I just want to remind you again that these feelings are valid, these responses are to be expected, and that you are not alone. <3

perfectlyandbeautifully:

perfectlyandbeautifully:

I was feeling dreadfully confused and annoyed earlier and relatively triggered. So I wrote this on my bus ride home.

i can’t believe the notes on this!

perfectlyandbeautifully:

perfectlyandbeautifully:

I was feeling dreadfully confused and annoyed earlier and relatively triggered. So I wrote this on my bus ride home.

i can’t believe the notes on this!

(via ptsdpuma)

Resources Masterlist

Firstly, an all time favorite that’s been passed around: If you’re healing from sexual violence, read this every morning.

Self Care and Symptom Relief:

Hope everyone is well. Please, don’t hesitate to message me if you’re having trouble. You’re all amazing!

"The experience of being raped has touched every aspect of my life. People like Ron Rosenberg, the PR head for Tomb Raider, tend to talk about rape like it’s some character-building challenge to overcome, a wound that heals into scar tissue, making you tougher. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding. Rape isn’t a scar, it’s a limp — you carry it with you as long as you’re alive, and it makes life harder, not easier. Being raped does change you: it’s more than non-consensual sex, it’s psychic murder. The person you were beforehand ceases to exist and you can never, ever be them again."

anonymous, “The R Word” (via morecoffee)

The last 2 sentences. Read them over & over & over. They are the most truthful sentences I have seen in years. 

(via academicsilence-deactivated2012)

(via elytra)

Anonymous said: I just found your blog and read your story. I too, am a survivor of emotional/sexual/physical abuse, and I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months ago. Recovery is hard. But I just wanted to say thank you for having this blog - for putting this part of yourself out there for others who have shared in that pain. It helps to know we're not along.

I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through terrible things. I hope you’re doing well in your recovery. It is very difficult as abuse can make you feel so alienated— it’s very important to have other survivors support each other. Feel free to message me any time if you want to talk. I hope you’re doing well! 

hypofailmus said: I read your post a while ago about deciding not to press charges against your abuser. How did you come to this decision? Aren't you afraid he'll abuse again? Do you not feel it is your responsibility to protect others from his crimes? Also, have you had any contact with him since? Sorry if this sounds accusatory - that really wasn't my intention. I'm sure you have very sound justifications for your actions... I just want to understand.

I’ve been sitting on this a while because it’s a difficult question to answer. Keep in mind that this response is personal and shouldn’t be applied to anyone else going through something similar. 

  • In the case of my abusive situation, I don’t feel the courts would be the correct way to handle/”punish”/correct the abuser. I would much rather he receive therapy and become a healthy person who deals with their issues in a nonviolent way. In my case, I don’t see the courts accomplishing much.
  • Of course I think about every single girl he could hurt in the future. But there’s a point where, even if I did make it my life’s goal to try to prevent that, it could still happen anyway. On top of that, to keep pursuing and trying to prevent that, I am becoming again responsible for his abusive actions. I’m going to carry that guilt around knowing he could hurt someone again, and that is my burden.
  • A part of me still feels, of course, responsible for what happened. How can I prosecute someone for something when I was (seemingly) a participant? Abusive dynamics are strange and people can interpret these statements as victim blaming. Please keep in mind it’s just how I feel about my situation. I’m half responsible for the abuse, in my view. Everyone tells you not to blame yourself when you’re in therapy. I do blame myself, and that’s something I’m working on.