As our nation takes time to pause and celebrate freedom and the birth of our nation, let me turn our attention to the lyrics of our National Anthem. Let me give a glimpse of what the joy of freedom can mean to some individuals when the skies light up, and the fanfare of sky-gazing crowds marvel at pyrotechnic skills. While to others, pyrotechnic works of art where explosives paint night skies very much like a painter brings to life a canvas lead to anxiety triggered post-traumatic stress.
Oh, say can you see?
Some veterans can enjoy fireworks, while others find it best not to participate in the crowds and high arousal activities that can be counterproductive to good mental health.
By the dawns early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
For many, these lyrics can activate pain deep within unseen wounds. Booming sounds, the smell of sulfur, or a crowd into which perhaps a veteran watches hyper vigilantly become an exhausting setting. Trained skills kick in, and the need for situational awareness as a trained professional to keep safe personally and a perceived need to keep civilians safe leads to exhaustion. To the veteran that struggles with PTSD, the oath combined with the job done during active duty carries on as if separation from active duty never occurred. Only now, the mind has transitioned for occupational and operation mode or survival mode in combat to bear the invisible wounds that can rear their impact in unexpected settings. Casualties of war are many, and the average civilian has no idea, nor could stomach what a loved one carries as an occupational injury. In a crowd of hundreds, even a child holding a sparkler can trigger a warrior to react from the internal and unseen damage to spiral into flashbacks. Suddenly, the autopilot reaction to take cover can feel the real threat once survived as if reoccurring in real-time.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
indeed depicts what inwardly a person battling PTSD can start to experience as civilians celebrate the victory our anthem hails. Yet, inwardly a veteran may be in the perilous fight or flight mode. With little warning, something seen, felt, heard, smelled, tasted, or sensed sets off a chain reaction of residual invisible wounds left by some underlying IED that plagues not only a veteran but can also include victims or witnesses to gun violence.
O’er, the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
All the while, it may be that the expression of victory and gratitude we give a soldier stirs up hurt and flashbacks to what they had to do as part of their job so that freedom could continue. The internal conflict is fierce. Fight or flight modes are survival reactions. Remember that respect and honor are vital to our freedoms. Follow city ordinances. Consider that neighbors are home as means of sanctuary and want to feel safe. Refrain from setting off neighborhood fireworks. You may be watching and enjoying what someone is simply trying to keep a sound mind and maintain their wellness.
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in mid-air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Be mindful that those colorful choreographed fireworks lighting up the sky can trigger someone into reliving the horrors of what was survived. A rush of memories floods every hurt sustained. Indeed the celebration of fireworks today gives proof that the flag is still here—freedom rings. Still, a warrior can flashback and feel every sensation of grief if unit comrades took a final flight draped in the flag. Such are some things that can disturb the peace of a veteran or survivor of gun violence. Grieving loss sometimes leads to questioning survival, lamenting the battle within, or depression. Consider what means joy and excitement to one person can also mean stress to another.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
How about a wave or respect? A wave of honor, respect, and silence in the place we call home makes a difference. What if “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” we showed compassion, consideration, respect, and supported quiet neighborhoods? Perhaps displaying signs that say, “Please Be Courteous with Fireworks, Veteran Lives Here” would inspire the respect the sacrifice freedom requires from us all.
6 Tips To Help Support PTSD Wellness Concerning Fireworks.
- Display a courtesy sign such as “Courtesy Please, No Fireworks. Veteran Lives Here / Veteran Friendly Neighborhood.”
- If hosting a watch party, have earplugs available or, better yet, sound ear muffs on hand as a standby resource if needed.
- Let the guest or significant other knows where a quite “safe” room to decompress is available if needed.
- Use digital aquariums with water sounds, Netflix Moving Art has a soothing audiovisual calming effect. Worship or calm relaxation music is priceless.
- Have the Veteran Crisis line on hand at 800-273-8255.
- Heavy bass woofers have the potential to agitate anxiety.
Written by Veronica Sites author of Love Me To Life; Suicide Recovery At Church. Veronica is a certified trainer available upon request for suicide preventions program offering CEU’s by Livingworks and available for speaking engagements online or in-person for groups seeking to grow peer support for survivors of a suicide attempt.
Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Veronica Sites
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