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).
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.
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