PTSD often occurs in waves, determined by external triggers that revamp feelings of stress and anxiety. For many adults, the time of a particular trauma can be directly associated with a specific date, and the recurrence of that date can rehash feelings associated with that traumatic event.
The anniversary of trauma can influence one’s interest in participating in day-to-day activities, and knowing that a particular date is approaching can create nervousness and anticipation of unwanted feelings.
Rather than dreading the arrival of a PTSD anniversary, we at Lost Creek Ranch, welcome veterans coping with PTSD to join us for a journey to peace through wilderness therapy. Wilderness therapy is an approach that allows people who have experienced trauma to acknowledge the discomfort of certain times of the year and make a deliberate step forward to address that stress through finding internal solace – choosing to spend a PTSD anniversary away from triggers and other stressors without avoiding the problems at hand.
Jessica Hamblen, PhD, Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD, and Paula P. Schnurr, PhD suggest that “survivors may find it helpful to make specific plans for the anniversary day so that they have other things to occupy their time besides memories of the event.”
Lost Creek Ranch offers a retreat for those coping with PTSD to breathe in fresh air, bask in beautiful mountain views, hike winding mountainous trails, and contemplate their struggles in a place free of distractions and judgment. The connection to nature offers comfort at a time when everything is chaos. The soothing sounds of the birds in the trees or the water flowing through the creek speak directly to those in need. The wind flowing through the leaves and the sun shining through the clusters of trees provide warmth and welcome to those struggling to be understood.
The National Center for PTSD states that, “Anniversary reactions may occur because of the way a traumatic experience is saved in memory. Memories of trauma contain information about the danger that the event involved. The memory helps us be aware of when we should be afraid, how we should look at such situations, how to feel in that situation, and what to think. The trauma memory gives information that may help us stay safe.”
A sense of safety parallels a person’s comfort level, particularly in regards to his or her surroundings. In a crowded city full of shouting passersby and honking horns, the level of comfort is nearly absent. In a group of friends who are too familiar with one’s traumatic past, the comfort level may be better but may also lead to a feeling of vulnerability, exposure, or misunderstanding.
In the mountains, the surroundings are peaceful. No sounds are unwelcome. No people are invasive. No unwanted questions are asked. The mountains don’t assume how one might feel. They don’t intrude on one’s memories of the past. They offer peace through wilderness therapy, the purest form of finding inner peace.
For that reason, we would like to invite you to plan ahead for a retreat that takes place away from the triggers of daily life. If you know that a certain time of the year stirs up memories that complicate your usual state of mind, we encourage you to consider wilderness therapy over the usual, and at times, ineffective attempts at coping with PTSD anniversary reactions. We are not asking you to avoid the memories, but rather, encouraging you to address them in a way that is healthy and helpful. The mountains have a natural power to bring thoughts to the surface while providing a safe haven. This sense of freedom permeates even the confines of one’s own mind, allowing those coping with PTSD to access their memories in a realm that allows them to find perspective and healing.
Lost Creek Ranch offers a wilderness therapy experience that merges a mountainous journey with internal exploration. The natural surroundings offer the prime setting for personal reflection. While traveling through the hills and trees, a veteran coping with PTSD can travel into his or her own mind. He or she can face the memories without fear of judgment or criticism, but rather with comfort and solace. Taking a step outside of the norm to immerse oneself in nature can lead to growth and personal awareness that aids in the long-term healing process.
The Wilderness Society is aware that much of society’s current “Research suggests that outdoor recreation may enhance treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While about 7-8% of Americans suffer from this disease, about 10-30% of veterans are affected.”
Those coping with PTSD may not have all the answers, but it is clear that finding peace can help to quell the stresses and anxiety that go hand in hand with memories of trauma. Wilderness therapy is not the only option, but it is a way for one to find comfort and acceptance within the chaotic world around him and the swimming thoughts within.
For those of you anxiously anticipating the surfacing of traumatic memories, our retreat may be the solace that you need for your journey towards internal reflection and peace. We are here for you, and we want to do our part to give back to you for the immeasurable courage you showed us. Read more about the services we offer, and see how we can reconnect you to the peacefulness you may be missing.
Even if you are not coping with PTSD, but you find value in supporting the 10 – 30% of men and women who are, we hope that you recognize the benefit of providing our veterans with resources for healing. Lost Creek Ranch, a wilderness therapy retreat, is one source for this healing. Call us now or email for more information about how you can make a difference in guiding our veterans to a place for reflection and peace. It is our turn to give back.