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How Seasonal Changes Affect My Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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The early birds are singing a lovely song as they wake each other up before sunrise. The bright yellow tulips are halfway open. The buds on our trees are out. Yesterday, the wasps were trying to decide if they wanted to make our deck their new home, and I have a bit of a farmer’s tan from being outside all weekend. Jackets off, shorts and flip flops on. It’s May in the Midwest; it’s shorts weather after enduring months of layers and mittens.

• What is PTSD?

I love the sounds of springtime, but when the calendar starts to remind me a certain day is coming, the spring evenings smell a certain way and full moons hurl me back to the past in a flashback of terror, that can make this time of year challenging. The triggers and flashbacks happen because that’s the nature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It brings back the past when I would much rather live in the present.

This spring, I have more tools than I had a year ago. I have another year of accepting and coping with my diagnosis and the effects of the trauma. I have incorporated yoga nidre into my mindfulness practice and made some wonderful new friends.

I would be grateful if my symptoms would go away as I immerse myself in this new season; the birth and growth of plants and animals; the excitement for change as we put our renewed energy from the winter blues into projects and outside activity.

For me, my symptoms decrease during the winter. Not as much trauma happened during the winter months, so I don’t have the anniversary time of year triggers. Spring brings memories of rituals — rituals that went awry, which left deep-seeded damage to my mind and spirit. I have processed the memories but the damage is deep, so often the sounds, smells, moon phases and beautiful springtime renewal comes with a shadow side. Not always, not every day, but when the symptoms of PTSD decide to rear their head from a sight, sound, smell or a certain touch, springtime becomes triggering.

In the spring, I know part of what I have to cope with is triggers — triggers everywhere. I’ve been hurt, I’ve been abandoned, I’ve been threatened, but I’m not going to let the effects of my trauma keep me from the life I want. I am living with my past, living in my truth and recognizing and acknowledging the feelings of internal contentment when those moments come. Those are the goals I set for myself eight years ago when I first started my healing journey. Somedays those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I can see them just through the clutter, almost there.

The change of season can make my life a bit more difficult, and my symptoms can seem daunting some days. However, deciding to live with my truth, accept my past and continue to emerge from the shadows of silence helps me smile and relish in the beauty and the sounds of springtime.

Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius

Originally published: June 3, 2017
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