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01 July 2011

More on PTSD and Holidays - July 4th

Summer around here means lots of stuff to do, especially on three day weekends. July 4th is Independence Day. BBQ, beer, brats, potato salad, family and friends... and fireworks. Stuff that shoots up into the air and goes BOOM, and stuff that stays on the ground that sounds close enough to gunfire to be a real problem for someone with PTSD.

Personally, I don't have much issue with organized fireworks, like a city or town does every year. I do okay with those. It's the other stuff that's a problem. The firecrackers, bottle rockets, etc. that make loud noises or fly into the outside walls without warning. I simply do not do well with those kinds of unexpected noises. I'm usually jumpy as it is, and they don't help.

Which makes things interesting if I'm at a BBQ or other such gathering, because there's always that one yahoo that got his hands on a truckload of illegal fireworks. The yahoo may be at my gathering, or one a few houses or a couple of blocks down. Doesn't matter. It is his mission to make as much explosive noise as possible all weekend.

I don't usually go to those BBQs any more, unless it's with really good friends. It doesn't help me fit in that I'm one of the only adults not drinking, that there's noisy kids running around I'm uncomfortable, and I'm just kinda anxious in new places anyway. So I stay home, or I head out to the woods to camp somewhere quiet that doesn't allow fireworks and enforces the rule. In the past, I'd have a great time at gatherings on holidays-- I could deal with just about anything then because I'd successfully self-medicated with alcohol. O'Douls doesn't have the same effect.

July 4th can put a Veteran in a tight spot-- most people that know you probably know you're a Vet, know you're patriotic, and know the 4th is important to you. It's hard to say "yanno, I really don't want to do the fireworks this year" when the whole family is going. If you're the Veteran, you have every right to not be around fireworks if you don't feel comfortable. Family and friends should respect that, but we as Vets bear some responsibility to explain why we'd rather stay home. Communication in both directions helps.

(That's how I hope it works, anyway.)

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This weekend I also signed up to go on a local camping trip. There's a county park on the other side of town that's great for camping, and cheap because I don't have to drive very far. I'm in a couple of groups on meetup.com, and this outing was organized by one that I'm a member of. From the group I'm in, about 6 people are signed up-- a number I can easily deal with.

The outing also includes, as I found out, two other groups. In the past, those groups have had 40+ people sign up. So I've bailed out. Camping for me is about solitude and quiet and recharging.

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Both of the above are cases where I'm avoiding a potentially uncomfortable situation, and with the camping outing, I'm backing out of an activity I enjoy. I've learned to pick my battles. Yes, I'd like my PTSD symptoms to decrease to the point where I'd have no problems at all with a holiday like this one.

I am, in fact, feeling a lot better lately-- but I'm taking things slow, and making sure I'm standing on solid ground where I am before I try to do too much.

Have a safe, happy, 4th of July weekend.

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