PTSD does not just affect combat veterans, former military, or law enforcement and emergency services personnel.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) survivors of all demographics report dreading the first holiday of July due to excessive stimulation and trauma responses.
Some even retreat into isolation or substance abuse as a form of self-medication. These experiences also plague women and non-binary survivors of trauma.
Hell, one of the most devastating and life-changing traumas to happen to our Executive Director, Shannon, was having a Glock 45 held to her head as she exited her car on July 4th, 2018.
She still jumps at the sound of loud noises and avoids July 4th celebrations entirely but she reports the below tips and tricks have helped in certain situations.
PTSD and Substance Abuse
We’d be remiss to not mention that having PTSD and developing a substance abuse issue go hand-in-hand if left untreated. This is especially true when the survivor isn’t supported by community members, services, and other healing initiatives offered freely to those suffering from visible, often physical illnesses.
The stigma towards those with mental health concerns continues.
Because it is a sedative, cannabis can relieve tension and anxiety in some individuals. As a result, self-medicating with cannabis is common among people with PTSD. Some with anxiety disorders say that the plant helps them to deal with problems associated with traumatic experiences, like anger and chronic stress.
4 Coping Tools for Survivors and Allies on the 4th of July
1. Reach out to neighbors and places you plan to visit and ask if they have plans to celebrate the holiday with fireworks or other explosives.
Expecting noise can help you avoid being caught off guard and allow you the time to plan alternative travels. You may wish to share your struggles with anxiety or PTSD and that fireworks can make it difficult for you. We understand that confrontation is hard for survivors so if a friend or family member can do it for you, let them!
2. Practice a 5-4-3-2-1 sensory exercise to feel centered, grounded, and calm.
five things you can see
four things you can hear
three things you can feel
two things you can smell
one good thing you are grateful for or can say about yourself.
3. Accept What Is, Knowing That Eventually, It Passes
Allow yourself to accept the reactions that you have. Don’t be self-critical, embarrassed, or ashamed. Millions of people have startled and upset reactions. Remind yourself you are ok; these noises are temporary, and you are safe.
4. Prepare a Self-Care Kit (That Includes Earphones)
Feel free to get creative here. Include some of your favorite, comforting items. Maybe it’s a book, a photo, a stuffed animal, but whatever you do, if you plan to or think there’s a possibility you’ll be in close contact with fireworks, BRING EARPHONES.
Resources for Those Struggling Today, or Any Day
If you are struggling with PTSD and want confidential guidance, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or if you experience suicidal thoughts along with your PTSD episodes, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you or someone you know identifies as a woman or non-binary trauma survivor, please have them contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org and include "compassionate care" in the subject line.