Now I know this may seem a bit odd at first. But I’m going to explain to you how only flossing your teeth can be your first line of defense against PTSD.
A quick count of hands
How many of you out there have the incredible ability to make a little problem much bigger in their head? You know, completely blowing something out of proportion, or creating an issue that didn’t even exist in the first place. I’m going to guess quite a few of you. Now I, on the other hand, should be awarded an Oscar for the way I can create, direct and perform any worse-case scenario. It must be in our nature.
Watch how PTSD can screw this up
For example, I can turn a fun family picnic at the local beach into an absolute horror show, just ask my ex-wife, my family, friends, anyone. What would look to most people like a family playing joyfully in the water, would to me be a drowning hazard. In my head, I see a small child disappear under the water. What role would I take to help? I would be reviewing compressions. A father was lighting a hibachi -I see a fire hazard. What is the water supply like, what about burns? I could not turn it off. Everything around me was so loud and distracting, my mind going from one thing to the next, always bouncing around. You can just imagine how engaged I was with my kids and family – NOT AT ALL. Sure, it may have looked like I saw only them and was completely focused, but trust me, it was just an illusion. I saw and heard everything. If a mouse farted on that beach, not only did I see it, but I saw his little mouse friends laughing at it! In hindsight, the only way to describe those days is with three little words. LACK OF CONTROL.
When does being prepared start to take from your life?
Now there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. Sometimes running these doomsday scenarios keep you ready; keeps you sharp at work. But the real problem begins when it becomes an obsessive cycle that you can’t break. It consumes your thoughts. There is a big difference between being prepared, to worrying something bad is about to happen at any moment,
all the time, to the point where you make yourself ill. You are just waiting for shit to go sideways because you know (at least in your mind) it always does. Ironically, you are so preoccupied with what might happen that you miss out on what is going on. And while this was all going on I missed my son asking me if I wanted to play catch with him. And my daughter, who had lost interest in trying to talk to anyone, would just stare at her phone like a zombie. And the whole time this is going on I would be sitting quietly in a chair in my imaginary world of chaos.
Prepared; good. Over prepared; scary
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe how healthy that mindset felt. To be able to completely and entirely shut every single person out. I was too busy looking around for imminent doom.
Now I don’t want to come off as ‘that guy.’ You know the one; the guy that has his thumb on the pulse walking around with a scanner on his hip, always in the loop with what is going on.
But I’ll tell you one thing, if I saw my kid get anywhere near a busy road, I would lose my shit proper. To a level quite frankly, that would be a little scary.
But one question, how the hell do you turn PTSD off?
But that is what we have been trained to do, isn’t it? It has been ingrained into us until it has become second nature. It’s called size-up. We evaluate what needs to be done, what to do to prevent anything further from occurring, and what to do if shit goes sideways. Assess, mitigate,
treat, prevent, control, repeat. But what I found was nothing bad ever happened, at least not to the level that I had created in my mind. The only thing that was going on was me losing out on creating memories with my family. These were now replaced with memories of what
MIGHT have happened IF something bad happened. No joke, I remember once missing an entire circus show worrying about fire escapes if the big top suddenly burst into flames causing mass hysteria. It was essential that I had mapped out an effective fire escape plan, plus a backup plan, plus a backup plan. Assess, mitigate, treat, prevent,
Fastest way to fix something, admit there is a problem
Now you can imagine what this level of constant pressure will do to your overall health. Always on guard, always waiting, always worrying. I started to have chest pains on a regular basis. To the point that I thought I had mini heart attacks, and worried that the ‘big one’ was soon to follow. After months of tests, a cardiologist confirmed my heart was in perfect shape. As was my blood-pressure, cholesterol, etc. Believe it or not, this news was devastating. It was at this exact moment that it occurred to me that I might be suffering from a ‘mental problem.’ I would have preferred to have something physically wrong with my heart for God sake than to consider this might be depression, anxiety, or god-forbid PTSD.
Best explanation of ‘fight or flight’ I have ever heard
It was explained to me like this: Human’s possessed a ‘fight or flight’ instinct that has been embedded in us for thousands of years. I’m sure you’ve all heard of this before. This ability kept us safe from very real dangers that existed at the time, a bear attack for example.
Your body would give you a super charge, so to speak, to help you get through whatever dangerous situation you found yourself within. Once the danger no longer existed, our bodies would come down from that heightened state.
Can’t argue with science
The problem lies with humans today, whereas we no longer have the same physical threats, but our brains have not yet caught up to this fact. So when we feel threatened or are in danger, we still have the same fight or flight instincts that release the same adrenaline. The problem is we stay at that heightened state for extended periods of time; Days, weeks, a month with no release. It is, for this reason, this situation causes an incredible strain on your overall health. If you try to stay at that level of alertness for too long, your body and mind will eventually give out, out of sheer exhaustion.
Let’s get to the point already
So, what does this all have to do with flossing? Well, as I mentioned earlier, worrying for no good reason is a major problem of mine, just as it is with many emergency service workers. You see the thing with flossing is you can’t rush it. Being of British descent, the subject of oral care was never really a big thing in my family. Flossing was a relatively new concept to me. In fact, my mother is in disbelief at my new flossing ritual. The rules of the game are simple, every time you eat; you floss your teeth, that’s it. Easy, enough right?
You first must understand the game you are trying to win
Most people never truly understand just how fast your brain can work, some never even try. But by only taking 5 minutes, you can begin to form a new habit. You can train your mind to start to think about flossing (or whatever new pattern you choose) instead of the repetitive, negative thought processes you are trying to avoid. At first, you might feel dumb while you’re in a public washroom flossing your teeth after a killer burger. But I can assure you it’s a better feeling to be casually looking for a restroom so you can tend to your killer oral-health game,
than having the mindset that at any second you may have to grab your kids and run for your life in a panic. See what I’m getting at? I don’t care what you pick, as long as it’s not the same negative thoughts that are causing you to have chest pains. Because ultimately you are not only hurting yourself; but you are hurting everyone around you.
Get a game plan, stick to it
I understand the problem that was sometimes trying not to think about something only makes you think about it more. It’s like telling a child in a room full of toys that they are not to touch a particular item. What does the five-year-old what to touch?-That one thing they are asked not to touch. Look I’m sure there are a hundred doctors out there that could blow my theory out of the water, but I can tell you this: The flossing thing, with the understanding of why I was doing it, worked for me.
What did I get out of it?
It was able to help me rest my thoughts and allowed me to take back control of my mind. It allowed me to take off the work glasses even if just for a few minutes. And sometimes that is all it takes to stop the run-away thoughts.
You have to come up with your own PTSD plan
If you aren’t feeling the floss this, then find something else that takes you at least five minutes to do, and that you must do it at least 4-6 times a day. (And no, before you ask, rubbing one
out does not count). Anyways, back to flossing.
So what do you say?
Find your action that breaks the cycle; flossing was mine; yours can be anything. Create a new habit, a distraction. As long as you understand that all your mind needs is a little nudge in the right direction. Give yourself something else to focus on and eventually your brain will grow bored of creating ‘worst case scenarios’. You will finally get to see the world that everyone else gets to play around in. And maybe even fight gum disease in the process.