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Old 05-20-2013, 07:08 PM   #1
DisneyDreamer0610
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Touring with PTSD Veteran - advise?

I am finally taking my family to disney for the first time. I am the only one who has been but it has been 10 years at least. My husband is disabled from his tours in Iraq. He has severe PTSD and can't handle overwhelming crowds and fireworks...any suggestions as to where he can "duck and hide" during the firework shows that he won't hear the fireworks? Any places he can go if he gets too overwhelmed by the crowds that is not crowded and is quiet? Any other advice for a PTSD Army vet touring Disney for the first time?
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Old 05-20-2013, 07:20 PM   #2
NACFl
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I was recently at MK and Epcot with a friend who is also a Veteran with severe PTSD as well. We avoided any rides with booming (Pirates). For fireworks at MK, we ducked into the shops on Main Street and skirted our way over to Adventureland right after they ended to avoid the crowds disbanding from the fireworks. At Epcot, we went into the Mexico pavilion and had margaritas, then rode the boat ride there.
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:35 PM   #3
lanejudy
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A suggestion for the MK fireworks is to watch from somewhere outside the park. The contemporary has a few spots, or our favorite - the beach at the POLY. They pipe in the music and it's a good view, but you'll avoid all the extraneous booms and whistles as well as the crowds.

Enjoy your vacation!
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:54 PM   #4
Wee Annie
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My husband has PTSD from Iraq, and we have tended to leave the park before the fireworks and watch them from outside the park. They are still very pretty from outside, but not so much in your face.
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:50 PM   #5
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I agree with avoiding them but if he does find himself in the park during fireworks ducking into a shop is probably the easiest thing. They also aren't typically that busy because everyone is out watching the fireworks.

If loud booms are an issue there's really a lot of rides and shows you'll want to avoid... Soarin, Philharmagic, Pirates, are what immediately come to mind.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LockShockBarrel View Post
I agree with avoiding them but if he does find himself in the park during fireworks ducking into a shop is probably the easiest thing. They also aren't typically that busy because everyone is out watching the fireworks.

If loud booms are an issue there's really a lot of rides and shows you'll want to avoid... Soarin, Philharmagic, Pirates, are what immediately come to mind.
Also the indiana jones show and great movie ride come to mind as places where there is "gun fire". I don't know if that is an issue for your husband but something to think about.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:24 AM   #7
DLgal
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My advice would be to remain in sight of fireworks when they are going off. My husband has PTSD from his tours as well. He has episodes if we are INDOORS during fireworks, like in our hotel room, and he can hear the booms. That takes him back to Iraq instantly. That feeling of hearing those sounds outside and not knowing if its enemy fire or not. But, he is fine actually watching the fireworks because then he knows what is causing the booms. The advice to duck into a shop might be the wrong thing to do.

Crowds will also be a problem, especially at night. My husband gets very jumpy in crowds, so we avoid them as best we can. We watch Illuminations from near the IG entrance. We don't watch Wishes at ALL. Shows with fire or rides like pirates don't bother him but everyone is different.

Good luck but please be prepared for things to maybe not go too well and try very hard not to get upset with your husband. Have alternate plans in case he just needs to get out of the theme parks. Most of our trips we might spend 3-4 hours in the parks each day. The rest is relaxing at our resort.
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Old 05-21-2013, 08:45 AM   #8
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It might be worth the extra dollars to get park hoppers, so that if one park suddenly becomes overwhelmingly crowded you have the option of going to another.
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Old 05-21-2013, 08:55 AM   #9
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I don't know what it was called, or if it's still going on, but when we were at MK over Christmas, there were multiple shows per day around the castle, that included some small fireworks, just a few shots around the castle. Just something else to be aware of and look for in the times guide.
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Old 05-21-2013, 12:29 PM   #10
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Yes to the above advice re getting out of the parks when too crowded. We always hit the parks at opening, and are usually leaving to return to our hotel by early afternoon, when the parks get much more crowded. My husband does not do well in crowds either.
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:41 PM   #11
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if he needs a quiet place he can always stop in to the first aid station in each park.

Unfortunately, it's going to be pretty crowded when you're there. No getting around that. I would make sure you're out of the parks before closing as they're simply a wall to wall flow of people. Transportation is just a sea of folks.

If you're using your own car do beware of trouble with vehicles around yours (and the same with the buses). My husband had the most trouble with being in traffic, stopped regardless of if it was on a bus or in a car.
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:52 PM   #12
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Not very familiar with PTSD myself but thought I would throw this out there:

If it's the Booms that are a trigger would noise canceling head phones help in a pinch? At the very least to help him till he can get far enough away from the situation causing the issues? Also I've heard that the rides are practically empty during the fireworks If you find yourself there at closing I would just hang out at the back of the park and slowly make your way front only when you absolutely have to.


Good Luck! And thanks to your husband and your family for the sacrifices you all have made for our country!
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Old 05-21-2013, 02:04 PM   #13
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Don't know if Jungle Cruise is at WDW, but if it is make sure to avoid this one as well. ( the cm shoots a gun to ward off the angry hippos) .

Oh and is there maybe a code word you can give the rest of your party, or even your PTSD member, to help them? For instance, I just had surgery and the man next to me in the recovery room had severe PTSD. Luckily, he told the staff before hand because he came out of anesthesia believing he was back in the war and had been shot or stabbed in the back( where he just had surgery). He was throwing some pretty good punches at the nurses until one who had checked him in said a keyword that made him relax( I guess he has been in therapy and it was word association). I think the word was safe...though I was pretty groggy myself so not sure...but after calmly repeating the word to him about 12 times he was able to come out of it and realize where he was.

Now, this could work for your party by quickly helping the PTSD member get out of an area quickly. Say the word and all the members of the family make a protective moving circle to get him out of the area to somewhere he can work on coming back to reality. Or, if he already has a keyword to help him , then just repeating over and over to bring him back might work too. You can also maybe have a designated area that you determine in the beginning of the day...or perhaps one for each land you are in. Example: he has a flashback in adventure land, you and your family immediately do your best to move him to a corner in the park maybe near an exit to a ride ( since those are usually the least crowded areas). Having these predesignated areas can help your entire party be on board, and ready to go in a moments notice...which is sometimes needed...and you won't all be pulling him in different directions which can exasperate the situation.

Hope this helps! Remember, you are not alone and I am sure CMs have run into this situation before...so if you need help..don't be afraid to ask!
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Old 05-21-2013, 05:18 PM   #14
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Alright im also a vet with PTSD who has learned to control and cope with it for the most part.

okay first things first, walk right into guest services tell them your husband is a vet, has severe PTSD and has trouble with crowds they will likely give you a GAC card with an alternate entrance stamp. vets with PTSD are prime examples of people who that card and stamp are for. that will help a lot with crowds and confined spaces for long periods of time.
i dont know if your husband just gets panic attacks or if he gets full blown flashbacks since every case of PTSD is very different but i really would recommend speaking with whatever medical/psychological professional he is getting treatment from about these situations that you may encounter at Disney world.

i can tell you one thing for sure as a person who used to not even be able to leave his house to go to the store but can now function and enjoy pretty much every activity id like. Avoiding situations that may trigger a panic attack or other episodes is just a path to agoraphobia, finding a way to cope with these situations over using the run and hide/avoidence method will help more in the long run. So maybe watching the fireworks from further back or being in semi busy crowds those kind of things then trying to do a little more each time.. But without knowing your husband I cant give more advice than that so like I said talk to whomever he is receiving treatment from but dont let him just give in to his condition because it can be overcome.

Last edited by heyitsmejosh; 05-21-2013 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 05-21-2013, 07:07 PM   #15
DisneyDreamer0610
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heyitsmejosh - thank you for your advice and everyone else! You described my husband to the "T"! He has become almost agoraphobic and it is worrisome with this trip being that we booked this almost a year ago (and its way too late to cancel) and his condition has worsened. I'm hoping this gives him a good "escape from his reality" that he lives every day (getting him out of his head) by helping him truely relax and not worry about anything along with try and enjoy that side of him that is deep inside of him he use to be. He use to be a HUGE thrill seeker and I'm hoping Disney revives that part of him. He is ok watching fireworks if he can see them but the main concern he has with the fireworks is making sure that no "booming" noises go off BEHIND him or where he can't see. If its in front of him he's ok. Surprise stuff from BEHIND him is a trigger...it makes him feel like hes going through an ambush or another mortar is hitting. Any "walkie talkie" or "comm" type sounds freak him out - he can't handle hearing excited voices over a relay radio or communication device like a walkie talkie where the voice isn't crystal clear like a cell phone. Crowds freak him out...thats my biggest obstacle trying to dodge crowds. Our plan so far is to get there at rope drop, leave around 11:30-12 and return around 5PM and stay until right before park closing or leave before the fireworks and watch them from the parking lot or T&T. Fire doesn't really bother him (SHOCKINGLY) its mainly the loud noises, crowds and walkie talkie sounds that get him.

Our plan is to have him duck into a shop if he gets overwhelmed or hide out in a corner that isn't crowded.

We are planning on getting a GAC card but I was going to take claim to it because my husband is embarrassed and doesn't want any attention directed towards him. He too, is afraid of people judging him because they don't see his "wound" or why he deserves to receive a GAC card. I don't mind getting dirty looks if it makes him feel better. Does the GAC card really help? Does it work for all the rides or just a couple at Magic Kingdom? I've heard conflicting opinions so I was hoping to get some clarification.

Thank you all for the advice!
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