8 Lessons Learned From My First Ever Camping Trip

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Ahhhhhh. . .camping.  The great outdoors, s’mores over the camp fire, sleeping in a tent under the stars.  So romantic – until it isn’t.  This past weekend the hubber aka David, a traveling partner and I embarked on a trip.  Ohhhhhh we had high hopes and optimism for the trip:  lots of fun and sun, laughs and memories in the making. We loaded up the van and off we went.

LESSON 1:  Claustrophobia is unpredictable and presents itself in situations that one might not expect.  Especially when one has PTSD and panic disorder.

Yes, I have known about my claustrophobia for some time.  I did not think it would manifest itself on the ride up.  Yet the combination of cramped quarters with no real leg or elbow room, not being able to see around me much and items shifting and hitting me in the head brought on the panic.  The heart began racing, I felt as  though I couldn’t breathe and I had to ask to switch to the front seat.  A solution easy enough to accommodate.  We made the adjustments and continued on our way.

LESSON 2:  Tents make me claustrophobic if the wind is blowing the walls around my face and there is no room to move. 

We arrived and set up camp and went to dinner.  As we were leaving, I stepped into a crack in the pavement and sprained the ankle.  We returned to camp just as the rain began to roll in.  Lightly at first, then intense and  wind-driven.  We took refuge inside the tent and tried to sleep.  Unfortunately, the proximity of the walls to my face brought on flashbacks.  The hubber and I ended up sleeping in the KOA pavilion for the remainder of the trip.  It rained and was cold (50 degree highs every day but the day we left) nearly the entire trip.  Our traveling partner was disappointed that a) I was injured the 1st day and b) that she just wanted everyone to have fun and it was starting off poorly.

LESSON 3:  One can try to orchestrate fun to the extent that no one has any.

When one invests a good deal of time, energy and money into planning an excursion and has firm ideas of what to accomplish, visit, etc in a day, the expectations can become a burden.  Disappointment on the part of the person who did the planning and stress for the person who is unable to keep up for whatever reason.

LESSON 4:  Semantics can divide.  Triggers and boundaries are not one and the same.

Triggers are situations in which one feels vulnerable. These situations are called “triggers,” because they trigger the onset of symptoms. While people with the same mental disorder may share similar triggers, triggers can also be highly individual.  My triggers include claustrophobia, things near my face or throat and feeling as though any expression of my feelings is wrong, not welcome, will be punished in some way (withholding of affection, ending of friendship, etc).

Read more: http://www.minddisorders.com/Py-Z/Relapse-and-relapse-prevention.html#ixzz2Vj6faFes

Boundaries stem from a sense of self-worth and personal values.  They embody both a way of being and an expectation of how others should treat us.  My boundaries include room to move, time and space to process my own thoughts without undue pressure to respond before I am ready and not being expected to only deal with the needs of others to the detriment of my own.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/10/importance-of-boundary-setting-in-recovery/

 LESSON 5:  Boundaries that are not respected can BECOME triggers. 

Especially for those who have survived abuse, the disrespect of boundaries can feel like another violation and become a trigger for flashbacks and/or panic.

LESSON 6:  Those who don’t respect clearly and politely stated boundaries are not people you can count on to respect YOU.

LESSON 7:  I need to be given a chance to process information and environmental feedback before being expected to respond.

Demanding an immediate response when stimuli is nonstop (constant chatter, noise, yelling, crying, snarkiness etc.) only plays into the overwhelm even more.  If a response is needed, please ask if I need a moment of quiet or space to think.

LESSON 8:  Mental health stigma is more hurtful when tossed out by a fellow sufferer. Every person has a bias of some sort.

ACTION STEPS FOR DEALING WITH BOUNDARIES & TRIGGERS

1.  Verbalize and enforce your boundaries.  Clearly state what you need.   If you are at the mercy of another, try to level the playing field by taking back your power a bit.  If you are unable to negotiate a mutually affirming environment, focus on deep breathing and progressive relaxation.

2.  Remove yourself physically from the situation.  If a person or place are making you uncomfortable, move or do some exercise to change the energy in the space.

3.  When all else fails, remove the person or situation from your life.  Sometimes the only solution is to remove the toxic factors.

Remember, the only obligation you have is to yourself and your well-being.  All else is secondary.  Above all, love yourself enough to enforce your own limits.

© 2013 Paulissa Kipp

Tips for Lovingly Communicating with a Depressed Person

© Paulissa Kipp, 2013

Tips for Loving Communication with a Mentally Ill Person

  • Don’t tell your loved one that how he or she feels is “selfish”.  You wouldn’t tell someone that he or she doesn’t deserve to feel ______ amount of happiness.  It’s the same concept, really.
  • If your loved one asks you to stop a behavior because it is causing anxiety, is a trigger, etc, STOP immediately.  Your failure to do so speaks volumes about your love for the sufferer.  Not immediately stopping the behavior ramps up the anxieties even more and when your partner believes you cannot be trusted, all bets are off.  The mind wanders to self-doubt, lack of self-worth, wondering why am I not important enough to respect or protect, suicidal thoughts, thought of self-harm and more.
  • Do not mock your partner when he or she asks for you to stop talking and listen, when told that your noise (radio, voice, etc) is overwhelming.  Do not be facetious.  Do not say things such as “Do I need to send up a flare every time I enter a room because you startle so easily?”  That is not helpful and merely drives a bigger wedge between you and your partner.
  • Do not feign ignorance and say “I didn’t know ______ was a trigger for you” if your partner has clearly communicated that it is.  Your partner isn’t buying it.  Forgetting is understandable from time to time, but your partner will pay attention to pattern and frequency.  Forgetting and do a behavior once in a month or less frequently – you are more likely to be forgiven or believed.  Do it more frequently and it seems like a choice and recklessness with your partner’s feelings and wishes.
  • Beginning a statement with “Why?” can be a trigger for your loved one.  We want people to treat us with kindness, even if they don’t understand our actions. Having to explain to people solves nothing and has the effect of making your loved one feel judged, thereby adding to stigma and anxiety.
  • Beginning a statement with “just” as if it the desired behavior is simple to achieve and your loved one isn’t making an effort to change or cope.
  • “Just think positive.”
    “Just get over it.”
    “Just think about something else.”
    “There are people who are worse off than you.”
    “Stop complaining.”
    “Come on. It cannot be this bad.”
    “Cheer up.”
    “You are making it up.”
    “You don’t have a reason to feel that way, so stop it.”
    “Stop being so selfish.”
  • Comparing one person’s circumstances to your loved ones’.  If your loved one needs inspiration for succeeding with a mental illness, he or she will find it on his or her own.  Your attempts, while well-intentioned, may create further overwhelm.
  • If offering self-help books, frame your offer in terms of “You may find this information helpful.”  If your loved one refuses, graciously allow that to be the end of the conversation.

MORE LOVING WAYS TO COMMUNICATE:

  • Ask what you can do to help.  At times your loved one may need silence, sleep, a massage, music, a hug, a mug of tea, etc.  Do what you can to facilitate that.
  • Offer affection.
  • Let your loved one know that you are concerned FOR him or her, not scared OF him or her.
  • Communicate to your loved one that his or her challenges do not affect your love for that person.  Many sufferers worry that their challenges will lead to abandonment by friends and family.

©Paulissa Kipp, 2013.  Please share freely with a link to this blog and proper acknowledgement of me as the author.

As a sufferer or one living with a sufferer, is there anything you would add to this list?  Leave a comment below and let me know.