PTSD and Distraction

So I have PTSD. It’s bad—not as bad as it is for some, but enough to lock me into terror and keep me there for sometimes days on end. It’s like a descent into hell, whether gradual or sudden, where there is nothing but me and my fear in my head. It doesn’t help to pretend it’s not there, that I have nothing to fear—I do. And denying that it exists just makes it worse.

What does work, which I have trouble with in a sense because it’s not directly dealing with the problem—a direct dealing of which would involve, on a deep level, accepting what happened to me, which as far as I’m concerned is like giving up and something I never want to do because it feels like it’s letting something horrible win and that’s just not fair—what does work, anyways, is distraction.

But it has to be the right kind of distraction. There’s a study somewhere that shows the effectiveness against combat PTSD that playing lots and lots and lots of Tetris brings about. To me that’s more than a little boring, and boring tends to make me stop doing a thing and suddenly BOOM thoughts and memories in my head. Thanks to little green pills called Abilify I’m able to keep those thoughts and memories from becoming immersive, i.e. partially separating me from reality, but they still disturb me and frighten me with their power and clarity. It’s just like it happened yesterday—hell, sometimes it’s just like it’s happening now. Except at least I know where the line that demarks where reality is.

What kind of distraction works? So far, I’ve discovered that intensity that I like drives the best distractions. Whether that’s fighting fires—metaphorically speaking—at work when a severity-1 ticket pages me, or coming up with the right words to express myself with clarity and elegance when I’m writing, or when I’m trying to play a challenging game by playing both sides of some or other skirmish-style game, all of that immerses me into something else for a while.

I’ve noticed that distraction is at its most effective if the immersion happens as soon as possible. I need to be able to drop right in—thus building up to getting “into the zone” for work doesn’t help when I’m in the middle of the worst of my PTSD, while on the other hand an emergency snaps me out of it, even if temporarily while the emergency is in progress. Sadly, the same holds true for editing, which means I need to be able to drop straight into my writing, not attempt to warm up; and the same reason why I can’t write most of my stories when I’m locked into PTSD—I need to regather my thoughts and pick up from where I left off the last time, which could be days ago. On the other hand, blogging I can drop into and hit go.

Hmm, I wonder if writing flash fiction on a time limit would help? It would generate something I can submit around after editing once I’m out of PTSD land.

Anyways, I’m lining up the following quick-immerse distractions:

  • Live-blogging some Star Trek: TNG episodes. Amusing ones preferably.

  • Writing more blog entries if inspiration comes to mind.

  • Playing war games on both sides that don’t require immense set-up times (which rules out BattleLore but includes Pocket Battles and Mythic Battles and possibly WarAngel). By the way, the epic music I’ve been playing during these sessions is Two Steps From Hell. And I’ll even try to write up session reports, though those tend to have the same problem as writing long-form stories.

  • Possibly flash fiction based on quick prompts and on a timer.

Got suggestions, from episodes to flash prompts to, well, anything? Please feel free to add.

One thought on “PTSD and Distraction

  1. I keep a Scrivener project with a file for every idea I have for a blog post.

    I date each file, and dump in whatever made me think to start this particular topic.

    I have twenty or so just waiting for me to have the time to write posts, or for when I want to finish one and post it immediately (you can use the Schedule option on WordPress if you want to accumulate a few entries in advance – you can always reschedule them later if you have a different post).

    I find I can just sit down and let it flow – my typical blog post runs 500-1000 words, not exactly flash fiction (fiction has to be thought about more, in my universe).

    Maybe it would help think about topics when not in the throes of it – accumulate a file just of prompts, too, when you find lists of them.

    You could have fiction and non-fiction categories.

    You don’t have to publish them after you write them – but do date them for reference (Scrivener has an easy date/time stamp (Shift-Ctrl-Cmd-D), so I’ve gotten into the habit of using it every time I sit down to write anything).

    You could experiment and see which kinds of topics help at which times, but writing does take your brains and your hands and get them busy. (Sorry to be so verbose!) Best of luck – but keep data to be mined later, for your own long-term benefit.

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