Welcome to part 1 of 3 talking about PTSD. Here at K9 Kavalry, we understand the complexities of living a life with PTSD, the shame, the flashbacks, the chaos, and the isolation. We also understand the guilt and shame that can come with acknowledging that you might have PTSD, because of that K9 Kavalry focuses on integration into a pack, reminding you that you are not alone!
I might have PTSD, now what?
URGENT: If you’re in a crisis or feeling suicidal, dial 988 and then press 1. Or text "help" to 838255 to contact the Veterans Crisis Line. You are not alone!!
If you are generally in a rut, K9 Kavalry has found many things that are helpful in times like these. If you find yourself out there on lonely island, here's a few things to try:
Our first recommendation is to find a pack! Building a support system and knowing you are truly not alone is very important for treating your PTSD. Opinions about PTSD as a mental health diagnosis has changed drastically over the years. In addition to the various job descriptions our dogs fill, there are also many more specialized PTSD treatment programs available out there now. If that feels like too much right now, perhaps find something a little less structured by contacting your local VA for information on support groups. Either way, don't give up. PTSD treatment is not a quick fix. It requires focusing on one step at a time. It also needs flexibility, and patience as the tools of the trade don’t always work as well for everyone as they do for others. It really takes a custom approach. Some standard practices for treating PTSD are exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and even medication. Much of this can be coordinated through the VA. K9K takes a triangulated approach, treating the Veteran, the dog, and team simultaneously. This approach covers all the blind spots that traditional treatment can miss, and keeps everyone involved in the growth and well being of the team and the pack as a whole. These days, asking can actually get you help!
Integration of specific activities into your daily routine can also be effective and helpful: mindfulness, exercise, activities that reduce stress, journaling, avoiding substances such as alcohol and drugs, maintaining a daily routine, spending time with trusted friends or family, setting realistic expectations (understanding that symptoms improve gradually, not quickly or immediately). K9K believes that the relationship built between a veteran, their K9, and the pack can also be a big contributor towards healing.
Do you know what your triggers are, internally and externally? Knowing what your triggers are can help you predict and deflect your triggers in real time, and help you build tools to help deal with them in the time between. PTSD can leave you feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and alone. Always remember to call in your extraction and look up. You will find a hand to help you out of the hole.
Take care of yourself! You’re not helpful to anyone being sick, run down, or without capacity to engage. Make sure you’re eating, sleeping, exercising best you can, and engaging in activities that support your own well being.
DAV: Keeping Our Promise to America’s Veterans has a helpful pdf with an extensive list of information and support that can be located utilizing this link.
Supporting someone you think might have PTSD or does have PTSD
PTSD can manifest itself in many different ways for different people. Not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms, nor responds the same way to those symptoms. Each case takes a multi-pronged approach for proper treatment.
If you are supporting a veteran with PTSD, here are some helpful tips from K9 Kavalry to help you support your pack.
Understand the early warning signs: The symptoms of a PTSD trigger onset aren't always obvious. Some typical ones are; A shut-down / muted response, high heart rate with calm demeaner, eyes moving rapidly (scanning) or locked on a particular trigger (acquisition). Face might blush, hands may clench. You might see a brief moment that looks like the veteran is distracted or confused. If you see any of these signs, follow the K9K Prime Directive: CREATE DISTANCE BEFORE ENGAGEMENT OCCURS.
Listen to other veterans: Though it's true that not all veterans wish to reveal the deepest corners of their demon's lair, when in safe company, many do share anecdotes and coping mechanisms for how they deal with their PTSD. These little techniques can be invaluable to a veteran who doesn't have any tools in their kit yet. So when you do hear these things coming across your information chain, be sure to write them down and try them!
Ask K9 Kavalry: We aren't psychologists, but we are experts in behavior. And, we like to remind ourselves that every veteran in the pack is broken in their own way, from the Commander all the way down. Having worked with al most 100 veterans in the last 7 years on top of the decades of personal PTSD work done by the principals of the organization before K9 Kavalry was created, we have built alot of techniques and practices into the program that are easy to understand, easy to follow, and fun to do. We will always be happy to explain these to a spouse or family member actively involved in the treatment of a Brother or Sister in arms.
Locate a support group; Your local VA login (www.va.gov) should have access to an online support group or two. Online groups might be sparse but some do exist, often found under the title of ‘Caregiver-online support group’.
Take care of yourself! You’re can't help if you are sick, run down, or without capacity to engage. Make sure you’re eating, sleeping, exercising best you can, and engaging in activities that support your own well being.
Understand that the hardest is always the first one; reaching out for help. If you are looking for more information to help you down that path, try this link; “Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD”
EVERY DAY - ALWAYS - NO COMPROMISE
Always FIND THE WIN
Stay tuned for Part II, Utilizing your K9 for support.
Information highlighted in this blog was taken from the following list to create the compiled information: