Jane had to learn to allow herself to have the anxiety rather than try desperately to get rid of it.
for distraction to work, you have to do it mindfully. Pay close attention and throw yourself into whatever activity you are using to distract yourself. If you engage in distracting activities but think about your problems the whole time, then it won’t work.
If you change your actions, you can change your emotions.
Chapman, Alexander L.. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety: Breaking Free from Worry, Panic, PTSD, and Other Anxiety Symptoms (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) (Kindle Locations 912-914). New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition.
In a few days I am going on vacation to celebrate my brother’s wedding. I’m really excited!
I’m also a little worried.
It would be nice to be able to just turn my head on to vacation mode so that I could be worry and flashback free, but that is not how recovery works. While yes, medications and a positive attitude can help, the fact of the matter is that while I am in the recovery process from PTSD, painful memories and intrusive thoughts are going to happen.
Often when I say I am sad, people will wish that I will be happier the next day - usually now though, I interrupt people and tell them that no, I fully expect to be sad tomorrow. I do not want to deny my current reality and wishing myself to be happy will not magically make it so.
It would be weird if I was all of a sudden super happy right now. I am not sad all the time but I would be setting myself up for emotional failure if I did not acknowledge that I feel some amount of sadness every day. Sadness and anxiety are not necessarily bad things though - of course I don’t want to be depressed and panicked, but it is natural to mourn the death of an old self and be anxious about the creation of a new one.
However, I can set myself up in ways so that my experience is more positive than negative. I really do want to fully enjoy officiating my brother’s special day. While I am still struggling, I am genuinely glad that my brother and sister in law are in my life.
As I am trying to prepare, I am asking myself three things:
- What makes me happy now that I can bring with me?
- What is soothing that I can bring?
- What are my strengths?
Writing, creating art, and listening to music are the top three things that make me feel good right now, so I plan to do these things at least a little bit every day. I am so thankful that I can carry an iPad or journal with me everywhere I go! I plan to bring some of my paint markers, coloring books, and other small art supplies as a healthy distraction. I’ve discovered a BlackOut Poetry app called “BlackOut Bard” that will enable me to be creative even without pen and paper
Other things that I will bring to self soothe myself are are comfy clothes, scented lotion, ear buds, my anxiety PRNs, my microwaveable tea pot, high protein snacks and low acid coffee in the hopes that traveling will not mess up my digestive system too much. I have talked about self soothe kits before to bring on vacations.
I hope the older generation will not think that I am too much of a rude millennial because I will probably be on my phone a lot. Smartphones are good distracting tools and I really, honestly, don’t understand all the condescension a lot of people have towards them. People have always used things to distract themselves, but now instead of physical books and newspapers, we just read articles and blog posts on our phones. I use my phone to create artwork and read Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde - so what if the medium is a phone instead of a physical book? When my thoughts become too intrusive, fully expect me to start writing, reading, creating art, or listening to music if I can.
Here is my plan for success:
Focus on how I can support others.
Distract or soothe myself in positive ways from intrusive thoughts.
Mindfully accept painful thoughts/memories when they are too loud.
Begin and end each day in gratitude and positivity - I seem to have more control over the morning and night than I do of the middle.
Listen to uplifting music.
Validate my emotions as legitimate.
Accept where I am so that I can enjoy as much as I can.
Continue to read DBT & PTSD self help books.
Stay true to myself and not compare myself to others.
Give myself permission to enjoy food and not second guess myself.
I hope this post is helpful to anyone who is about to go on vacation but still struggles with painful thoughts or anxieties. Here are two examples of blackout poetry that I have created using an app called BlackOut Bard. (Click on the picture to see it better.) Follow me on Instagram if you want to keep up with my artwork and travels.