Helping plan trip for veteran with anxiety/PTSD

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by JessBadger, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. JessBadger

    JessBadger Earning My Ears

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    I am currently helping plan our families WDW trip for my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, husband, myself, and my two younger adopted brothers (10 & 8). My brother is an air force veteran and is having a really hard time with feeling anxious about being at Disney. It's a case of anxiety and some (minor) PTSD from serving, but exacerbated by not having ever been to Disney before. His triggers mostly involve crowds and being concerned about Disney being a "target" due to the military training/service.

    He wants to be able to go with the family, but it is obviously causing him a lot of stress and anxiety even as we plan. We're trying not to talk about the planning too much other than to show him how we're going to take care of having ways for him to "get away" if he starts to have a panic attack or just feel overwhelmed. He is seeing a doctor and they are talking through strategies/what he needs in general, but I wanted to see if there was anything we can do to make him feel better.

    These are the things we are currently doing:
    1. Staying offsite and having two cars to drive in/out of the parks to be able to give him the option to leave and go back to the house if he needs to.

    2. Going in September at the "least" busy time of year, but obviously I know that's all relative when you're talking about Disney.

    Is there anything else we can do to make the experience enjoyable for him and help ease his anxiety and make the trip enjoyable for him?

    Thank you in advance for any help you can provide!
     
  2. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    I'd recommend looking into getting the DAS for him. This would allow him to wait for rides outside of the queues and then enter through the FP line when it's time to ride. Please read the first post of the following thread: https://www.disboards.com/threads/w...15-digital-das-on-tickets-magicbands.3178976/

    I'd imagine he might have difficulty with fireworks. Be aware there are fireworks shot off during the Royal Friendship Faire show at the MK. This occurs several times during the day in front of the castle. If that might cause some issues, you will want to look up the schedule for the show when you are at the MK.
     
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  4. JessBadger

    JessBadger Earning My Ears

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    Forgot to add that he is fine with fireworks, as long as he knows they are happening so I will make sure to add that to the list of things to make sure he knows about.
     
  5. lanejudy

    lanejudy Moderator Moderator

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    It sounds like crowds are his biggest obstacle -- though I'm not sure if that is just "crowds" in general, or the combination of the crowds and perceiving WDW to be a (terrorism?) target. If it's the former, planning down time, sit-down meals at restaurants away from the crowds, time at the resort, not trying to do rope-drop-to-close touring, and maybe just a more relaxed touring "plan" might help. DAS may or may not help if you don't have a plan to mitigate the crowds outside the queues. The crowds within the queues might be easier to mitigate by using your large party to provide "buffer" space between the people ahead and behind. With DAS, he'll spend more time out in the main park with the masses.

    I don't have any suggestions to help with his worry about the large public place as a target. I think that is something he needs to work through with his doctor, who can help him develop some coping mechanisms for public situations. How does your brother do with public places like a sports arena, zoo or park? I'd suggest he start small, rather than trying to tackle WDW head-on first.

    Enjoy your vacation!
     
  6. gap2368

    gap2368 DIS Veteran

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    I would defiantly go to GR about his need,

    The DAS is very good but you still wait in line and it does help with the pre-show which can be very crowded ( I can not do Moster Inck laugh because of the crows So I would come up with come coping strategy for some crowded area ( I know for me nose canceling had pones, playing a game on my phone. a stress ball aromatherapy helps me) Aso I would get a good touring plane make sure you book your FP get there at RD when the parks are less croweded take an afternoon break when crowd leaves pick up and back in the evening. also you might be one over the limit to have on the DAS return time.
     
  7. Mom loves Disney

    Mom loves Disney DIS Veteran

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    I posted my experience on your thread in the family board.
     
  8. cobright

    cobright DIS Veteran

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    Well everyone's different of course, but here's my experience. I was in NYC on 9/11 and had some pretty terrible PTSD and assorted anxiety disorders following that. I've gotten much better, but still deal with anxiety on a daily basis. I'm not trying to compare myself to someone who saw active duty but perhaps my perspective is relatable to one.

    I would never have guessed it, but WDW is one of my few safe-spaces. I can only guess at why; it's got all the normal components of someplace that would otherwise set me off. Crowds. Fairly constant noise of some sort. Lines that pen me into a certain spot for a long time. But at the same time, it's so divorced from reality that mostly I'm able to leave my anxiety behind. To that end, I would council your brother to go in with an open mind.

    Ah man, yeah I know this, this is the sort of things I ponder all the time. On the subject of crowds, I find them easier to take at WDW simply because they are so obviously self-absorbed. It's hard to feel threatened by someone, even thousands of someones who are blatantly just trying to have a vacation. Find a perch in the corner somewhere and watch the people flow by for a bit. The place is full of families paying $500 a day just to be there, they don't care about you. You might never be as socially alone as when you are surrounded by strangers in a WDW park.

    Now, about WDW being a target; something else I have put my mind to. The parks themselves make lousy targets. Security checkpoints going into the park make a multi-person coordinated attack too risky as once one is discovered security will go into overdrive. Even a lone attacker is going to be hard pressed to get any real firepower through the gate. Then there is the security and police presence. A great deal of it is seen at the gates, but there is even more throughout the park; usually where you can't see. I have been present for when both an injury occurred and a guest who had too many drinks crossed the line. The police arrived shockingly fast. Add to that, the design of the park is one that offers a great deal of cover and exit flow, meaning in an attack there are few places to bottle up potential victims. You can run in pretty much any direction and get away.

    Even the guy that ended up shooting the Pulse nightclub up, Omar Mateen, they say he originally planned to attack Disney. Well he didn't attempt to attack one of the parks, he was going to attack the Disney springs area but was deterred by the bag-check security area.

    There's a lot of reasons people choose to stay off site. It's cheaper, especially for large groups. That said, there are some benefits to staying on site that appeal to the anxious traveler. The Extra Magic Hours give you a little more breathing room for an hour or so with regards to crowds. Being able to plan your fast passes an extra month in advance means getting more done with less lines. And if taking off back to your room is a comfort, the WDW transportation network makes this very easy.

    My last bit of advice, your brother should talk to his medical professional about if adjusting his pharmaceutical treatment in anticipation of the increased stress of vacation might be a good idea. Most of the time, people with anxiety seem to prefer trudging through it. I like to get through my days with as little medication as possible. But vacations are not real life. For one thing, they cost more. They also have more opportunities to set us off. When I'm on vacation I have a klonopin in my pocket at all times, something I rarely do the rest of the year. Whatever your brother's normal course of treatment, his doctor may think it fine to just dial him up a little bit as a preventative measure or prescribe something fast acting and portable.
     
    Texans_loyal and mamabunny like this.
  9. BalooFan

    BalooFan Mouseketeer

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    I’m not an expert in anxiety or PTSD, so take this suggestion with a grain of salt. If he begins to feel anxious or overwhelmed, but only needs a break and doesn’t want to return to the house, a trip to a nearby resort might be a good option, especially during the day. The activity picks up at the resorts later, so this might not be a great option in the evening. For example, at MK, he could boat or monorail over to the Grand Floridian which has a lovely lobby. At Epcot or DHS, he would be just a walk or boat ride from The Boardwalk Inn, which has a nice lobby, but also a veranda in the back that overlooks the Boardwalk and the lake. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a nice, peaceful lobby and animal overlooks and is a quick bus ride from AK (though the wait for the bus might not be short). There aren’t any issues with going to a resort where he isn’t staying. He could then return to the park to join the rest of the group when he is ready or drive back to the house if he isn’t up to facing the parks again.
     
  10. Rschall

    Rschall Earning My Ears

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    This is such good information. We will be traveling with my partner’s mother who has a heart condition. But her anxiety can ramp up at times too. I didn’t even think about the resorts as a quick option to exit without going all the way back
     
  11. Patsfan13

    Patsfan13 Earning My Ears

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    My husband is retired Army, and has major PTSD - and my son and I were at the Boston marathon, a few feet from the bombs. So we feel very strongly for your brother in law! My husband does best if we are at the park when it opens, waiting on either side if waiting at the turnstiles (so he has space next to us and can easily stand with his back to a wall if he needs to move away for a bit). Once we enter the park, we immediately go to an area to wait the crowds out if need be - HS and MK we can step right into a store, Epcot there is a lot of open space and quiet areas just past the entrance, and AK we step all the way to the left or right if we don't think we can make it up to the tree without being in a crowd. But typically, if we are there early and it's a slower time, he's ok. We do the parks until around 1, and then leave - go back and swim, relax, have a nap. Then we do an early dinner, and hit the parks again as everyone is leaving. We avoid all live stage shows (MK and HS in particular) that we know have sudden fireworks - HS shot off a firework that we weren't expecting during the Star Wars show, and we had to leave for the day. So ask a CM when you first get into a park, they can advise you if shows or parades will have any sudden noises that he should prepare for. Be fully prepared with quiet spots along your path, so he has a quick escape if need be. So after you do your FPs, sit down with a map and look for QS spots, first aid locations, and even bathrooms that are along the way. That way you have a plan if you need to escape the crowd for a bit - quick service locations in particular, during the off hours, are a great option for a quiet spot. If you stay until park closing, you can wait the crowds out a bit - don't try to leave immediately following a firework display, or right at park closing. Finally, if you do decide to watch the MK parade, there are a few good spots that he can have space and a quick escape - Liberty Square has some areas where the viewing area is small enough that just your family could be there, and then you can duck into the courtyard as the crowd passes; or watch from the very beginning, on one side you can step back to the empty space near Splash, the other side is narrower near the QS restaurant, and he could stand/sit with his back against a wall and be able to duck into the QS when the parade ends to avoid the crowd.
     
  12. JessBadger

    JessBadger Earning My Ears

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    These are GREAT SUGGESTIONS. I have basically created a special map with quiet areas marked all over the parks and will add these suggestions too.
     
  13. FeralCatRogue

    FeralCatRogue DIS Veteran

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    I have GAD and it may help if he talks to his psych, mine gives me extra medication for breakthrough anxiety since he knows its possible on trips. MNSSHP goes on in september that may be a way to get him into the park with less people since those parties are not as busy as a test run for his anxiety.
     
  14. MakiraMarlena

    MakiraMarlena It's a big black fish to you

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    There's been more visibility around the park entrances lately of Orange County sheriff's deputies in uniform with sidearms, sometimes with K-9s. not sure if the possible presence of uniformed deputies would reassure him or freak him out more.
     
  15. wendylovesdisney

    wendylovesdisney DIS Veteran

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    I just want to add my 2 cents. On my last trip, my daughter with anxiety and OCD and also displays PTSD like symptoms, had a bit of an issue with our das and returning to a fast pass line. At times, the cast member would refer us to the regular line stating that their was no wait hardly. Specifically I can remember it’s tough to be a bug, where you stand in a preshow area. I would still ask for the fast pass area because my daughter gets very upset if people touch her, get too close, etc. We are literally only talking about standing on the other side of a rope. The cast member argued with me. And this a problem for two reasons. First, I’m only trying to get accommodated, but second, I can’t stand trying to go into detail what my daughters issues are in public, in front of her. I was the only adult so having her step away wasn’t an option in order to make the cast member understand. And really, I get tired of explaining over and over again anyway. The problem occurred several times. My daughter “looks” normal. Mental health issues are very misunderstood, and I just wanted to have a nice time, not educate multiple people. My end point is that I have a DAS, is it really necessary for someone to keep refusing my request after I actually tell them I prefer to stand in the fast pass line? I’m sure people will jump to the cast member’s defense on this, but I think that more younger kids work Disney now adays and some aren’t very educated on DAS, and disabilities in general. I actually even had cast members act like they had no idea what a DAS even was, and also got directed to wrong areas. My advice is to know what you need and not let a cast member make you feel bad about asking for it. I’m editing this because I just remembered another time. At Kali River Rapids they wanted us to just walk to the boats in the regular line - it was not very crowded. However, walking down to the boat in the fast pass line meant no one was walking next to her, behind her, etc. I know it means nothing to most people, but this can mean the world to us. Like I said, this happened on several rides.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
  16. DisneyOma

    DisneyOma DIS Veteran

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    Sadly, WDW can't really give people all that much space, the space your daughter seems to need. We've seen the FP area at ITTBAB to be just as crowded as the regular area. It really is a small holding space for a very large theater. At Kali, doesn't the FP and standby queues run side by side for most of the way anyways? I'm not sure how they could accommodate that there?

    To the OP - can your brother watch some YouTube videos of WDW so he has an idea what to expect on his vacation? I agree with other posters who stated he should check in with his medical team before he goes.
     
  17. cobright

    cobright DIS Veteran

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    Likely what is happening is that when the standby line wait drops like this they cordon off the FP line and shift the FP line CMs to a different task. The best bet in these situations is to work on creating that comfort bubble with members of your own party as best you can.
     
  18. gap2368

    gap2368 DIS Veteran

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    I have a few lines I have a hard time with and since I go alone and sometimes I cannot talk I use my phone and explain my need to the CM and ask them if there is something they can do to help me, I find most of the time the CM is very understanding and will do there best to accomidate me, there have been a few times they can not. but most lines at the end is where the have standby FP together and this is normally where the holding area is I wonder if you saw the wheelchair line and thought that was the FP line. but I do agree sometimes you have to make your own bubble for someone that does not deal well with crows.
     
  19. yesdnil

    yesdnil #momlife

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    Hello! I'm also a veteran with anxiety/PTSD and a slew of other disabilities. I've traveled through Disney several times before becoming disabled, and 3 trips since. It's a very different experience, but knowing what to expect is a huge help.

    Even though I could probably tell you off the top of my head where 90% of WDW attractions are, I still spent a lot of time studying the maps before my last trip so I felt more confident about where I would be and what my options would be for getting somewhere else. Definitely make very clear plans, use very thorough communication so there are no surprises or misunderstandings, and build in lots of down time or flex time.

    I'd also recommend looking for options where your brother and maybe one other person could get away from crowds whenever they need to while still having a nice time. The hotel lobbies and grounds are a great option. Lots of beautiful open spaces, plenty of fun things to do like restaurants and gift shops, and much fewer people. Get familiar with which resorts are closest and easiest to reach from each park - I.e. Boardwalk and Yacht/Beach Club from Epcot and HS; monorail loop from MK; etc

    Military planning is all about contingency planning - not only backup plans but emergency plans. The less uncertainty about what to do just in case of emergency, the less anxiety.
     
  20. jac1976

    jac1976 Mouseketeer

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    Just something to double check with the fireworks- will he be okay if the explosions are coming from different directions? Our first Disney trip after my husband came home from Afghanistan, we had dinner reservations at Be Our Guest. It didn't occur to me about the fireworks, but as we were leaving BOG, the show began. We were caught behind the castle, and the noises were coming from numerous directions. My husband freaked out. Later when he could talk about it, he said that not knowing where the next explosion was coming from is what made it so bad. So if he needs to know what general direction the noises will be coming from, stay well in front of the castle. Also, just in case, the big connected shop along Main Street carries ear plugs (I think they were located in the baby section.)
     
  21. disneyandme

    disneyandme DIS Veteran

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    I suggest showing him where all the exits are-- not just the main ones, but the emergency ones. Pick a meet up place in the each park, outside the park and a back up if neither is an option. Finally, don't discount the fireworks- even if they don't bother him now. A few years ago I was watching Wishes behind the castle and a man (who looked military) looked to be starting to have a panic attack. I walked over and pointed out several options for moving away from them or going inside-- you can still hear them a bit inside Philharmagic, but it really mutes them. Monsters Laugh Floor too.
     

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