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How I Survive New Year’s Eve With PTSD

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The holidays are coming up, and with that, there have been infomercials about fireworks and house pets, telling individuals to take steps in order to make sure their dog feels safe. I don’t have a dog yet, but I still need to take those steps.

• What is PTSD?

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypervigilance is a constant state I experience. My trauma makes loud sounds a trigger, especially any sound that could be described as a bang. A balloon popping or the sound of fireworks sends my body into hyperdrive, telling me that it is happening again.

The result of this is that New Year’s Eve is more work than fun. The first three years after my trauma, I spent New Year’s hiding and crying, trying to keep sane as every bang of fireworks reminded me of the day I so dearly wish never happened.

After the third year, hiding in a blanket under a dining room table, crying and shaking, I realized I needed something that could help me survive that evening. The world would not stop celebrating this event and sending up fireworks just because fireworks and balloons were suddenly my two least favorite things.

I have always enjoyed taking photos, so I decided to try bringing my camera and capturing the beauty of fireworks, instead of hiding and only hearing the sounds of them. The first year, it sort of worked halfway. I took some good photos, but I still needed a break and ended up going back to the blanket, the table and the crying.

Now, the last two years has been OK. I still feel shaky and it is still an evening I prefer to spend with family, in a safe place that I know. But it works. As long as I work with the camera, trying to get that perfect fireworks photo, I can keep the flashbacks and anxiety at bay. As long as I have something to focus on — “a job to do” — I can survive what has become one of the hardest nights of the year.

Unsplash photo via Melanie Hughes

Originally published: November 21, 2017
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