Coping with Trauma Anniversaries and Anxiety
Dealing with trauma anniversaries, triggers and the general anxiety that goes along with them is one of the toughest parts of having an anxiety disorder. So today I've got some tips to help you cope with anxiety cues, and heal post traumatic stress.
Reactions to Trauma Anniversaries Can't Gauge Your Strength
- Don't keep time limits for "getting over it". I did, at first. It didn't do me any favors.
- Take as many breaks as you need. Especially in the period leading up to and around the anniversary. Sometimes the emotional affects won't hit me until later. I'll get (more) nightmares in the run up to it, so I know something's not right. Can't always put words to it, which is fine.
- The body speaks: Listen. If you experience somatic symptoms, feel panicky for "no reason," or find yourself overwhelmed with weird mind-body stuff that you can't seem to trace to anything specific. That can be a reaction to trauma.
Trauma Anniversary Dates
I suppose that should be obvious but it tends to sneak up on me regardless of any intellectual awareness I might have. The times I've managed to pay attention to what my body was telling me, and relate it to the date/season/anxiety trigger, have been most helpful in processing anxiety and trauma.
- You can do some of the best anxiety healing when you're aware of the issue but not overwhelmed by it. Keep in touch with the cues that signal anxiety. If your brain is lit up like a fireworks display and you don't why, that can be a signal that it's a trigger causing your anxiety. At least in part. Triggers tend to get mixed in with everyday stuff, plus they're not exactly conscious by their very nature so it can feel like you're fighting invisible dragons.
- Why am I so anxious? What's wrong with me? Those questions run through my head over and over. Sometimes I know why and just don't really want to admit it, deal with it. Gathering the energy, let alone the courage to combat anxiety is difficult.
- Acknowledge the date, acknowledge the difference. When an anniversary of trauma comes up, and it holds that much power, and the anxiety around that starts in, I sort of re-frame that. Because feeling more now, today, when it's safe is OK. It's a pain in the behind but it's a whole world of safer compared to the trauma I remember. Or I don't remember but sense. Drives me crazy when it's like that. Like this itchy, uncomfortable background noise full of pain and heartbreak.
Anxiety isn't forever
Sometimes treating anxiety is making a terrible thing into a space for a bit more than pain and anxiety stretching out into forever. Yes it's dark and terrible - suicidal thoughts are common around trauma anniversaries. It hurts more than there is language to create but it truly doesn't always have to be that way. The past is a shadow, no matter how vivid it seems in the present, or how much fear and anxiety it stirs inside us.
- What is true of the present that wasn't true of the past? Things that shouldn't happen, not in a million years, they do. And we go on living. Surviving, thriving, all of the above. Other, take your pick: I breathe therefore I guess I must be here, and not there.
- Not trapped, not alone with trauma, triggers and anxiety. Come the day, come the hour, I honor memory, and blood. Time, and peace. Grief, and the lost sands of time that feel so empty now. It feels like visiting a grave but there are rituals to cope with that . Ways people deal.
I've been told people make their own rituals, to deal with PTSD flashbacks and trauma anniversaries. I tend to just distract myself.
I think how yeah, there was this thing. It happened. I'm OK now. Even when I'm not. I'm still standing, finding a way to go on doing that. And I don't have to discard what was but rather acknowledge it - for a time that will always, just as with death, be marked Before, and After.
White, K. (2011, January 21). Coping with Trauma Anniversaries and Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2011/01/coping-with-trauma-anniversaries-and-anxiety