Road Tripping with PTSD

As summer begins to wane and the occasional cool breeze brings a hint of fall in the evenings,  I find myself packing to hit the road to participate in an art and authors festival in Northern Minnesota. It’s been planned since last winter, but I gave it zero thoughts until this week. I’m excited because I will be traveling with my bestie and we have always wanted to take a road trip together, but the driver is someone I don’t know. I’m a bit anxious about that part of it because it’s not easy for me to travel and manage my symptoms, especially around strangers. I don’t want to be the person who appears nervous, edgy or aloof as I navigate new places and different surroundings.

Traveling with PTSD takes a lot of planning on my part, and I have to be aware that this time of year can bring about triggers as the evenings turn a bit fall-like. I have to make sure I have some plans firmly in place so my fun little road trip doesn’t become a series of frightening flashbacks or anxiety-riddled days of being overwhelmed and hypervigilant.

I absolutely love the freedom of hitting the road. I love the spontaneity of it, and the possibilities of  “let’s take this road and see where it leads” adventure. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people! These things appeal to my carefree nature but unless I’m planful, these experiences of joy can often be squashed by PTSD symptoms that lie just below the surface.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my distress tolerance tools to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited while in my hometown.

Busy roads while not necessarily triggering, can be overwhelming for me. The speed and crowded freeways can be overstimulating, and I tend to get anxious.  The same anxiety I used to feel in gridlock or driving at night with 18-wheelers whizzing by is now more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often drove me to places across the country.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I leave. My support works together to provide regual check-ins and remains available if I need to reach out. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support, but I’m grateful that I have this in place so I can do the things I would like to do and experience new adventures.

Road Trippin’ with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning and the agreement to tell my travel companion if I’m having any symptoms and their willingness to be fluid with plans this adventure is not only possible, it’s happening!

Photo by Madhu Shesharam on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

Road Trippin’ with PTSD

As summer begins to wane and the occasional cool breeze brings a hint of fall in the evenings,  I find myself packing to hit the road and drive thirteen hours to go hang out in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It’s was a spur of the moment decision to leave, which makes this even more exciting. But, for me, especially this time of year, where there are triggers, triggers everywhere, I have to make sure I have some plans firmly in place so my adventurous road trip doesn’t become a series of frightening flashbacks from a time long ago and a place that I don’t like to talk about.

I absolutely love the freedom of hitting the road, not having a specific destination to sleep, and just enjoying the journey. I love the spontaneity of it, and the “let’s take this road and see where it leads” adventure. It appeals to my carefree nature that is often squashed by my symptoms, but still lies just below the surface.

I love the majesty and strength of the mountains. They make me feel safe, protected, and extremely grounded.  They touch that part of me that needs to feel grounded by the steadfast rock, the earth.

I live in Minnesota, which is nowhere near the mountains. When I get close to the mountains, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road-trip?  I was the first person to raise my hand and jump into the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people!

Then I was struck with PTSD and everything changed. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks, especially at certain times of the year when my symptoms are easily triggered.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my distress tolerance tools to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited while in my hometown.

Busy roads while not necessarily triggering, can be overwhelming for me. The speed and crowded freeways can be overstimulating, and I tend to get anxious.  The same anxiety I used to feel in a gridlock or driving at night with 18-wheelers whizzing by is now more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often drove me to places across the country.

I used to try to navigate where I was by counting the light poles. I thought if I kept track of them I could find my way back home. Of course, I would lose count very quickly or realize that it didn’t matter anyway, and simply sit quietly waiting until we stopped at a final destination.

But once I became a young adult and understood the freedom of the open road, I began to love road-trips. I still love road-trips!

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I leave. My support works together to provide text, phone or FaceTime calls with regular check-ins. I must be mindful and respect the times that are available, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support, but I’m grateful that I have this in place so I can do the things I would like to do and visit the places that bring me peace.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time and get my spirit renewed in the mountains. I’m going to the The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at the Shambala Mountain Center. This has been on my list of things to do for many years, and I’m so excited to go.  My intention is to hike and camp in the beautiful Rocky Mountains and fill my senses with the crisp, clean mountain air, and for just a few perfect moments, breathe with ease.

Road Trippin’ with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning and the agreement to tell my travel companion if I’m having any symptoms, this adventure is not only possible, it’s happening!

Photo by Madhu Shesharam on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

Why your health doesn’t have to stop you from travelling

Thank you, Globetrotter GP for including me in this wonderful and inspiring article. Please take a moment to read about how even with significant mental, emotional, and physical health challenges you can still live a life that includes travel.   https://theglobetrottergp.com/2018/01/05/why-your-health-should-never-stop-you-travelling/

Why your health should never stop you travelling – 10 Truly Inspirational Travel Health Stories

10 hugely moving stories from truly inspirational people with serious health problems who won’t let it stop them

https://theglobetrottergp.com/2018/01/05/why-your-health-should-never-stop-you-travelling/

PTSD and Travel

With the holiday season upon us, there is a lot of traveling going on. Crowds are larger, increased stress around the holidays, delays, weather issues and heightened expectations are just some of the typical stressors many of us contend with, this time of year. If someone you know or love suffers from PTSD or other mental health issues,  perhaps this can shed some light on what they are trying to navigate (on top of the typical stressors) during this travel season.

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in Minnesota, which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be-all, end-all, and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks, and my symptoms are easily triggered.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of the many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before, PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited in my hometown.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most others feel at airports is more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and sent me all over the world. So just by walking into an airport, it’s triggering. And yet, I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. It’s part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text, phone or FaceTime calls with regular check-ins. I must be mindful and respect the times that are available, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support.

I just want to jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read and relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But the extra support is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, or spend some wonderful girl-time with a good friend. My intention is to look at the beautiful palm trees and fill my senses with the healing ocean air, and for just a few perfect moments, breathe with ease.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.

rose

Featured Image -- 1029Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

PTSD and Travel

I’m excited to share that I have an article in this month’s Edge Magazine, titled PTSD and Travel.  With the holiday season upon us, there is a lot of traveling going on. Crowds are larger, increased stress around the holidays, delays, weather issues and heightened expectations are just some of the typical stressors many of us contend with, this time of year. If someone you know or love suffers from PTSD or other mental health issues,  perhaps this article can shed some light on what they are trying to navigate (on top of the typical stressors) during this travel season.  http://www.edgemagazine.net/2016/12/ptsd-and-travel/

rose

 

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in Minnesota, which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be all, end all, and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks, and my symptoms are easily triggered.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of the many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before, PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited in my hometown.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most others feel at airports is more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and sent me all over the world. So just by walking into an airport, it’s triggering. And yet, I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. It’s part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text, phone or FaceTime calls with regular check-ins. I must be mindful and respect the times that are available, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support.

I just want to jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read and relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But the extra support is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, or spend some wonderful girl-time with a good friend. My intention is to look at the beautiful palm trees and fill my senses with the healing ocean air, and for just a few perfect moments, breathe with ease.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.

 

 

Featured Image -- 1029

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

 

 

PTSD and Travel

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It’s huge, sometimes angry and wavy, sometimes calm and clear. I love the taste and feel of the salt water on my skin and lips. It’s different and well, oceany. Also, I love the smell of the salt air. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in MN which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be all, end all and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks. I’m easily triggered. Not only by the typical anniversary dates but sometimes the wind can blow a certain way and BAM, I’m triggered which can quickly spiral into a flashback.

My trauma occurred over a 20 year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, a dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback, sometimes, I can get disoriented and anxious and sometimes it is just a general feeling of WTF is happening to me. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.  I love being in new and different places. That is part of the travel experience.

Another symptom of my PTSD it that I become very overwhelmed in busy, loud, places. Restaurants are one example. It’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed by too many choices. Menus can be a PTSD nightmare. There are so many coices and I can’t decide, my brain starts to shut down. At home, I can go to the same restaurants and figure out what to order. If it’s a new restaurant, my support system will nonchalantly offer me a few choices that they have scoped out on the menu and know what I will eat. If I’m with someone I don’t know very well, I will do that thing that I do, “what are you having? That sounds great, I’ll have that too.” When I travel, most places are unfamiliar, so I’m overwhelmed just by virtue of being somewhere new and different.  I love trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have in my hometown. That is part of the travel experience.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most other’s feel at airports are really pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and me sent all over the world. So just by virtue of walking into an airport, it’s triggering.  I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. That is part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. They get a break. I don’t feel bad about that, and they don’t feel bad about that fact either. It’s a necessary part of caring for someone who has an illness. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them with me. So a lot of moving parts has to happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text support, phone or facetime calls with regular check-ins. I have to be mindful and respect the times that they are available for support, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I have to have this support. I want to just jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read, relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But that is what is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

Today, I am going to get on a plane and visit my friend who is sharing her beach house with me for a few days. I’m excited and know we are going to have a great time. I had to promise my support team that I wouldn’t wander around California alone and had to make sure my friend was going to be with me during the days. I had to promise to eat, and let my friend know that if I get overwhelmed at a restaurant that I need help choosing something. My tendency would be to not eat, and that’s not acceptable.  I have to make sure I’m in contact with the people here who support me.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, and spend some wonderful girl-time with my good friend. I got the all clear to go after a dicey few days dealing with triggers. This evening I intend to look at the beautiful palm trees and have my senses filled with the healing ocean air.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.

 

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