Category: mental health
Closing the door on 2020
Years ago, when I was a Correctional Officer at Kingston Penitentiary, separating the two worlds of prison and personal life was vital to maintaining mental, physical, and relationship health.
Access in and out of the massive complex was via a heavy, eight-inch-thick, steel door, that could only be unlocked by an officer working a control inside. It would close with a thunderous bang. This entry/exit point was called the North Gate.
When I arrived, the sound would remind me that I’d entered a different world, one in which the abnormal became normal. After a shift where anything and everything did happen, the sound of that door banging shut would be my cue to leave the day’s drama behind. I’d step out onto the sidewalk where cars and cyclists sped by, and parents pushed their babies in strollers, oblivious to the walled world they passed. I had just reentered the normal.
This post is not about prison or my past life, it’s about you and how you choose to close the door on 2020 . . . a year of abnormalities that became normal. How do you heal from this and move on?
Unfortunately, we will all carry some scars from this past year, depending on your experience and resilience . . . everyone will be affected. I’m not trying to be negative, just realistic, that’s just the way the human brain works.
Now for the positive . . . you can heal from this and move on. Yes, I know that the abnormal continues into 2021, but there are some signs that we are turning a corner. Vaccines are rolling out, and hopefully those who need it most will receive it soon.
So many things happen that we are not in control of, but we are gifted with the ability to control our thoughts, and if we cannot stop the obsessive ones, to seek help.
Thoughts beget emotions, which beget actions.
My father, a wise man, used to say, ”Garbage in, garbage out.” If you feed your mind bad thoughts, your emotions will follow.
So now might be a good time to think about a way to close that heavy door and move forward to a life of peace.
A few things that may help:
-develop an exercise routine and stick with it (plenty of exercise videos available, if you are confined to an apartment)
-get professional help; many clinics offer virtual meetings
-find positive distractions
-develop an attitude of gratitude; there is still good in this world and always something to be thankful for
-practice mindfulness; live in the present
-talk to a trusted friend
-use the Capture/Check/Change method for dealing with negative thoughts. This one takes some practice. It works like this: As soon as a negative thought comes, you Capture it, then Check to see its validity, finish off with Changing the thought with a positive (might I suggest the attitude of gratitude)
-seal off those bad thoughts in an airtight container. It was a heavy metal door for me, yours could be a large safe, an indestructible bubble made from Hubba Bubba gum, or a titanium box . . . whatever you choose, try to stuff all those baddies in there and seal them off.
You are not alone in all of this and it too, shall pass. There is still hope and good in this world.
I wish you and your families all these best in this upcoming year. Stay safe!
EASIEST PATH, FRAUGHT WITH HIDDEN DANGER!
The “Ghosts” in my Darkness
This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.
No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK.
YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.
PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.
IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.
YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.
YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.
SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.
My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.
PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.
No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.”
That’s complete bulls**t!
I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!
If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.
Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.
What Haunts Me.
Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,
For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much
“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”
I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch
What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,
He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.
We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.
My belief in God.
My wonderful and supportive friends and family.
Prescribed and monitored medication.
Leaving the situation (work).
An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.
Regular physical exercise.
Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.
Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).
Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.
Avoiding the news and social media, at times.
Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.
This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.
Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.
I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.