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Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”

spouse partner PTSD

Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”

As a spouse, I remember when I felt those things, I remember saying those words “This isn’t fair”. I remember the endless days of crying, asking who was this person I am married to, I remember complaining about the changes in life as well as our relationship. I remember feeling the deepest darkest place I had ever felt in my lifetime, and thinking there was no way out and no where to run to. I also remember the thoughts of “How do I save him… and us… and how do I save myself?”

I will also be the first to admit that at times SOME of those feelings do return for a brief moment, depending on the situation at hand. Those are all a part of grieving, part of the process that comes with the changes in life, and a part of you yourself changing.

Those things can also cause a person to become “stuck”. Just because you are a spouse/partner or family member does not mean you can’t or won’t experience becoming stuck, just like one with PTSD can experience.

But I learned a lot through those stages that seemed so unbearable. They also made me the person I am today! And that’s not patting myself on the back, because I am only one person, and I am human just like the next person, and I’m sure not perfect.

I was stuck, once. I did not even realize it. I was in such a grieving and dwelling stage due to all of the changes, the unknowns, everything we lost, desperately trying to figure out what changed in Craig and why along with everything else we were experiencing. But then something changed…

Years back now, I had a Vietnam Veteran Spouse get blunt with me. She said in a very blunt way, “Bec, get over your pity party.” Oh I got mad, I was appalled that someone would say that to me with everything we were going through, with the hurt I felt, with how lost I was in what was happening. I thought how could someone be so cold hearted towards me? Then the next thing I knew the anger turned into crying.

I thought to myself, why am I crying? Why aren’t I still mad at her for what she said to me? How she said it to me. Why all of a sudden do I feel different now? Today, I can sit here and tell you why.

Because she told me that out of concern and love! It took another spouse telling me in a blunt way, for me to realize I was stuck. And it was one of the most important things that changed my life, my husband’s life, as well as our family’s lives. I was given a serious push forward, that was needed!

Every single person has the right to cry, to scream, to get mad, to feel that life is unfair. But you cannot allow yourself to get stuck there. You have to feel, grieve, process, but then you have to take steps forward. If you don’t, the days ahead of you are going to become overwhelming and possibly unbearable.

I get asked, literally every day, “Bec, How do you do it? How do you keep going, maintain a positive attitude, and stay healthy even with everything you and Craig continue to go through? How do you take care of everything? How do you balance this life and your family?”

The answer is actually rather simple. I learned how to prevent myself from becoming stuck…

I make the time to process things, I have support people I trust and can vent to when I need to. Notice the term “complain” turned to “vent”? There is an important difference. Complaining brings becoming stuck and brings an unbalance, venting helps you find ways to move forward and also brings forward others that want to help because you are trying instead of complaining, and they can give opinions that may help or may just be an ear to listen.

I cry when I need to and allow myself to experience the feelings or emotions I have at the moment then know to move forward.

I learned and accepted that I am only human and not a superhero that can save the world.

I remember to see the positive things in life, I use humor when appropriate, and I learned to make the best of each day no matter what it contains. Tomorrow is never promised, a very hard fact of life that you cannot forget.

I am feet planted firmly that if there is a “why” to something… I’m going to look for an answer and/or find a solution or what will work best for the situation.

I learned to take care of myself mentally and physically, which is a must do!

I learned coping skills and techniques, and I practice them daily whether they are needed or not, because they help me maintain a personal balance which leads to maintaining a family balance.

I learned that I, like everyone else, do have limits and where to draw the line when those limits come… boundaries are healthy for everyone.

I also learned that if I need help, it’s okay to ask for it!

I also had to learn and accept that nothing happens over night, there is not a quick fix to anything, but patience, trying, learning, and giving things time… can bring huge positive changes.

These things don’t make me or you any less of a person. They make us stronger!

Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”? Sure, every single one of us will feel those things and that way at some point in time, maybe more than once as life changes. This life contains PTSD‬ and everything that comes with it, and no, it’s not fair… to anyone, and it’s sure not fair to the person who has PTSD either. They did not ask for PTSD. It’s not easy, every single day may bring a new challenge or many new ones, some days will make your head spin.

What you do or choose to do, how you choose to view things, those will be what bring changes. I will not sit here and tell anyone to “Get over your pity party”, but I will tell you what can help you, to prevent becoming stuck. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

You asked for photos… so here they are! ;)

 

Morning. 🙂

Well yesterday was for sure a busy day, lol. The teens had fun, I got to see my side of the family for my dad’s birthday for a few hours, and I did manage to get my hair colored before the busy day started. And… for those of you that wanted to see my hair (no, I have not had it cut yet) and those that mentioned that you would like to see or I needed to post an updated photo of me lol, since I’m always the one taking photos around here and avoid the camera haha 😉 these are for you… the face behind the keyboard and writing. 😉 Photos taken yesterday.

Now, let’s get this new day going… with coffee in hand of course. 😉

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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That dreaded comment that cuts the deepest for me… As a Caregiver.

That dreaded comment that cuts the deepest for me… 
As a Caregiver.

So… I’ve been up for awhile now, hours throughout the night actually, coffee already done for the day. I’ve been sitting here just thinking this morning. You know, even after so many years of needing to be a caregiver, the awareness that I provide to others, the personal things regarding our lives that Craig and I share in hopes of helping others, there are still those that I can do nothing but shake my head at. I won’t judge them, but I do hope to educate them.

As much as I would not wish this life on anyone… ever, at times the thought does cross my mind “If only you could spend a few days in either of our shoes.” (NO disrespect towards Craig or anyone else with disabilities intended by any means, with any of the following. I am writing this in hopes of giving others a little insight.) Sometimes I think that would be the only way for some people to understand what life is really like for us. Just come spend some time here and see for yourself, firsthand what our days and lives consist of. Sure the first few days one with PTSD and/or other disabilities may be able to wear a mask, put on a good front, but that mask does come off eventually and real life can be seen.

You know, my husband did not ask for his disabilities and sure not the combination of disabilities he has. I never dreamed that I would ever be in a caregiver role taking care of him, especially not at our ages. We were both working professionals. But it’s the hand in life we were dealt and we do the best we both, and each of us can to make it through each day. Craig will tell you in a heartbeat that I am the only reason he is still alive, and that’s by no means a pat on the back, no one should ever have to say that, but it is what this life brings.

It never fails, every year when the weather starts warming up and I mention I got outside (which I won’t stop mentioning), someone mentions that heart gouging comment “It must be nice to be able to do whatever you want to, whenever you want to, while the rest of us are working”.

I don’t get mad at that comment anymore, it’s simply just a person who does not understand our lives. But, that does not prevent it from cutting deep when it’s said.

The old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, well there you have it, we would love to be the ones ABLE to go to work every day. We would love to be the ones able to take a date night without PTSD‬ and all of the symptoms on constant alert or not making it even possible. We would love to be the ones able to have family gatherings and be able to remain at them the entire time, or throw parties, gatherings of friends, attend events or school functions anytime we wanted to, etc etc etc.

We try hard every single day, just to be able to make it to the next does take a lot, but those things other people in reality take for granted, have not been a part of our lives for a very, very long time… years. It it’s not because we have not tried, and we do continue to work towards those things being a part of life again.

The comment made directly at me really shows a lack of understanding. I am a full time caregiver. That is a 24/7 “job”, without the title to call it “employment”. It does not come with retirement benefits, it does not come with being able to set my own schedule or do my own thing whenever I want to. It does not even come with a regular time to sleep. But it does come with a demanding and rigorous routine of taking care of someone else so they can still exist and function in this world, to try to live at whatever level is possible.

Those that can work, your job relies on you to show up and do your job when you are scheduled to. When your work schedule for the day is done, you are free to do whatever you want to or what you as a family or friends do together, you can go where you want when you want to once your work day is done. As a caregiver, my “job” is another human being relying on me 24/7, and there is not a time clock to punch out on. My “job” does not stop just because the clock hits a certain hour or reached a 40 hour work week. My “job” as a caregiver is here, at home, around the clock. Another person’s life depends on it, on me.

Sure, I could continue working and not be the one taking care of my husband, it is a choice a family has to make per family based on what will be best, and there is a lot involved with making a decision of what is best. But when you weigh the pro’s and con’s what do you come up with? For me, to work away from home I would have to hire someone to come in and take care of him then when I got off work I would still be taking care of him until a hired caregiver came back for me to leave for work again. That would still leave me working around the clock, as well as additional expenses which cannot go dismissed. Or, my husband would have to be placed into a full time assisted living facility, what do you think that would cause him on top of what he already goes through with his disabilities?… He’s only 44 years old now and has a combination of disabilities. I have been taking care of him for 10 years, officially through a newer caregiver program for just over 3 years. At this point in time, a facility is not an option that would be in his best interest, and his doctors back that decision. He is best here at home in a familiar environment, and with his family taking care of him. And I have no issues with that, and am thankful I can be here for him.

But there’s another part to being a caregiver. In order to maintain that “job” of taking care of another person, you HAVE to take care of yourself also. If you don’t, you will become worn out, overwhelmed, start having health issues of your own, and you will eventually fail at being able to help that person who needs you and relies on you.

When I state “I got to soak up some sunshine today”, it is really heartbreaking at the number of people who view that in a negative way. That is approximately one hour, one hour, of my day that I get to myself in order to take care of myself in a way that is good for me, which in return is good for my husband because it helps me maintain my personal balance and health. It’s also an hour that I have to make sure that someone else is here for my husband, that knows how to take care of him while I’m outside for that one hour. That one simple hour comes with a lot more to get it than just walking out my back door and opening my lounge chair to enjoy the sunshine.

Several years back now, that hour was only 10 minutes per day, if I was lucky. I now get one hour per day, most days but not all, and one day per week or every other week “off” when someone else is here. (As a caregiver I am REQUIRED to take a minimum of 30 days per year of respite care/time, which I do.) That is a huge accomplishment to build up to when being a caregiver. And not all caregivers are at that level of “me time”, self-care time yet.

Now, imagine working a job that was 24/7, and the only break you got was 10 minutes per day. I guarantee you, you would not survive for very long, at least not without consequences. I can make that guarantee because I myself was there once and know exactly what it causes, even with my strong will, determined, hardheaded self I am lol, 10 minutes per day is not enough break time for anyone to survive a 24/7 “job”, and remain healthy.

I will take that a little further, why do you think many of these unseen disabilities are even so? I can tell you, because one pushed themselves so hard for so long through whatever they were faced with (including traumas for many), and kept on going, many were in positions where there was not a choice, they did what they had to do, and now many of them have unseen disabilities due to it all.

Those people making the “it must be nice” comments, should be happy for me when I take time to take care of myself, or for any other caregiver or person with disabilities that succeeds in doing things that many take for granted in everyday life. Those what seem to be simple things, are in reality large accomplishments, and also ways and things to take care of themselves.

I do not understand anyone, to be blunt about it, who is jealous of a person who is a caregiver and the life they live, or jealous of one who suffers with disabilities, all because one can’t work. Those who are jealous are simply uneducated to what this life really contains for caregivers, as well as those with disabilities.

Before making comments such as “It must be nice to… while the rest of us have to work”, consideration of what that person’s life actually consists of with or beside one with disabilities really needs to take place. I guarantee you they would rather be in your shoes but are making the best of this life they know how to.

Judging another person’s life, when you in reality don’t know what their life is like unless you are seeing it firsthand beside them 24/7, is just uncalled for, and can be damaging. Don’t do it, have a heart… you would want them to if it were you in their shoes.

I am proud and honored to have the ability to be my husband’s caregiver, to be able to provide him with the care he needs, and to live this life beside him. I do miss working, so does he, but I have NO regrets of the “job” I do now. Life just changed, for both of us.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment

The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment that I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, and was asked to write about.

You know, when life contains PTSD and Depression, one just does not get out of the house as much, at least it’s that way for many, and for Craig.

I was taking Alex out and one of the neighbors was outside at the same time. So we started talking. In the conversation I was asked, “How do you manage to do everything by yourself?” It seemed like a harmless question to me. I responded with, “Well, I just do what I have to do, to the best ability I can.” Then I was told, “You have that property, your house is not the smallest by any means, you have the dogs, and a mom on top of it. I don’t know how you manage everything with your husband no longer around.”

Yes, the woman who is rarely speechless was at a loss for words.

I stood there for a moment to digest what was just said. Then I asked, “What do you mean?” I was curious at this point to hear a response, lol.

Then the neighbor was non-stop, “Well, I’m not sure the situation and did not want to bring it up, or did not know how to ask you. But did you two divorce, I never thought that was it honestly, did your husband pass away? I used to see him outside from time to time and have not seen him in, well, almost a year I guess. Has it been a year? Maybe longer than that? I felt like I needed to come talk to you, but was not sure how to bring it up without making you feel bad or maybe stirring up bad or sad feelings. But you are a great neighbor and you are so alone over here trying to do everything by yourself. I know your son is around, but he works a lot. You are raising that beautiful daughter of your’s all by yourself now. That’s got to be hard. Oh, and she’s just an absolute sweetheart of a child, very polite and well mannered, I see her outside with the dogs quite often. How are your kids taking this? How are you doing? Are you okay? When you all moved in, what 4 or so years ago, your husband was outside more, you two seemed so happy together, then over time I saw less and less of him. He must have been away a lot. This has got to be so hard on you, I figured he passed away, I was told he had some type of health issues. You must really miss him, it’s sad, heartbreaking, but you do a good job keeping everything up and your kids are just great kids. I want you to know that I notice, and you are doing a great job. I could not imagine being your young age and having to handle everything on my own. You are a very strong person, but you must miss him greatly. You are always smiling, how do you do it? I would be a wreck…”

I just let the neighbor talk lol, without interrupting. To say the least it went on for awhile, I just stood there smiling and listening… and I had plenty of time while the neighbor was talking to think about how to answer all of the questions and comments made. 😉

Then finally a break in the one sided conversation. The neighbor said, “Are you doing okay with being alone?”, and waited for an answer.

I then replied, “It is tough at times feeling alone, but I cope very well. I take time to myself, take good care of myself, have my hobbies and dogs, the kids do keep me busy and are doing great. Of course I love doing yard work, so that’s no issue, it gets me outside. And other than that, I’m inside taking care of the house… and my husband.”

You could have heard a pin drop! Silence.

Then finally the silence broke and I heard an “OH! I thought you were single now!” I smiled a little bigger and simple said that my husband does have disabilities and no he does not get out of the house much at all, that I do take care of him full time. But no, he did not die.

The neighbor went right into apologizing. “I am so sorry! I had no clue. Other neighbors thought he had passed away because no one sees him outside anymore, we only see you and the kids from time to time out. Oh that must be hard, you two are so young! Too young to be going through this.”

I simply replied with, “It’s just life, and we live it the best possible. But thank you for your concern, I appreciate it, and all of the compliments.”

So… that was pretty much it, lol. You have to just chuckle at what people think and start saying when they just assume things. So when Craig made his appearance outside when another neighbor got their vehicle stuck, it really meant a lot in many ways other than the obvious of Craig making it outside. And the new neighbors were happy to meet him for the first time. I joked with the neighbor lady (not the neighbor that had that conversation with me) her and I had talked about other neighbors thinking I was single, and I said “See, I do actually have a husband, lol”. We had a good chuckle over it.

I joked with Craig and said maybe the neighbors that don’t know us well will stop thinking you are dead and I am single now! 😉 He just smiled a half grin with a chuckle. Then I said, “See, you need to get outside more before the men start asking me questions!” LOL, he laughed at that.

Oh the things that come about when life contains PTSD and Depression. 😉 You have to just laugh some things off at times.

The moral to this: Before you assume what someone’s life is like, or start telling others what it is like… Just ask! People are more than happy to help educate others about PTSD and what life is REALLY like. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

“I’m off to OZ”… Me time

Morning. Coffee in hand and getting this new day going.
Would you believe it was almost 90 degrees here yesterday? My son was here most of the day so I took a trip to OZ! 😉

Okay, for those of you that have never heard me say that, it’s been my saying for years. I used to mainly use it during times that I knew I had to step away, take a deep breath, and think about things, decompress, before addressing them. Everyone used to tease me when I would say it and say “Clear a path mom is off to OZ” and everyone knew to just let me be while I was outside. It became very well known around here through the really rough days. These days, it’s more like my summertime saying for me time or when I realize I just need that time to cope…

Only Me + Sunshine + Bathing suit + Music through earbuds= “I’m off to OZ”… trust me 😉 it works great!

For this Spring/Summer I have set a goal for myself. Since my knee injury (no it’s not better yet and still in a brace) I have to do strengthening exercises from here on out, the rest of my life. So, with that I decided it was time to just get the whole body back in shape at the same time. With all this working out I am required to do now I started missing the sunshine and my tan, I have set a goal to TRY to get outside one hour per day (weather permitting) when my adult son is home so someone is inside with Craig. Whether it’s playing with the dogs, working in the yard, tinkering with my pond, or visiting OZ for some sunshine. 😉

When I first started taking me time and learning how to properly take care of myself as a caregiver while taking care of someone else, it was hard to find that time. I had to make it and take it. Back then it was 10 minutes per day to myself. That’s a huge improvement to be up to an hour per day now, and of course I take one respite day per week or every other week. But what a change taking just a little time for myself makes, huge positive differences in myself which in return helps Craig. 🙂

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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The Many Faces of a Caregiver

The Many Faces of a Caregiver

Yesterday I posted a collage of photos in a timeline of Craig, it shows the visible changes in him from before disabilities to now. I was asked, “What about the changes in you, as a caregiver?” So this morning I tackled that hard fact of creating a collage of myself.

This one is slightly different than Craig’s, the reason being is caregivers roller coaster, so to speak, on their ups and downs, how they take care of themselves, the faces they wear. They will do everything possible to hold everything together, to get everything done, make sure everyone is taken care of, then they may slide, then they pick themselves back up again to keep going.

It takes a lot of “me time” and making sure you are taking proper care of yourself to find and maintain some sort of personal balance as a caregiver. You really do have to work as hard for yourself as you do for those you are taking care of.

You learn to wear a smiley face when appropriate or needed, you learn when it’s okay to cry, grieve, just let down and feel whatever feelings you are experiencing. You re-learn how to laugh and enjoy life even though it will never be the same as it was before. It becomes your new normal, just as one with PTSD‬, Depression‬, or other disabilities learns to discover a new normal. You learn to recognize when you yourself need to reach for help and support. You learn the “tools” to manage and live this life beside the one you love and are helping through this life with their disabilities.

A caregiver does wear many faces and can easily experience many of the same, in a way, type of stressors or mental health conditions as one with disabilities… such as anxiety, becoming overwhelmed, depression, anger, fatigue, caregivers can even experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts of walking away, and much more.

I also learned that my self-esteem cannot come from others. Something many people do, it’s human nature to want nice compliments and such from others. Let me tell you a part of our story… When Craig and I got back together, I was overweight! I mean almost 100 pounds more than my normal weight. It was a self-esteem issue from my previous marriage. Craig gave me my self-esteem back, with his support and reminding me how beautiful I am and what a good person I am, etc. Within a year I was back down to my normal weight (those first two photos in the collage). When he hit rock bottom with disabilities, I tagged right along behind him, my anxiety increased, I was overwhelmed with the changes, and I felt like I was drowning. One day I looked in the mirror and said “this is NOT me”, that day I realized that I was relying on him for what I should be doing for myself. I started making changes and learned that my self-esteem does not come from what others think or view me as, it comes from how I view myself. I started taking care of myself! I had already seen what I could do after losing weight and getting physically back in shape. Craig did not make me workout, Craig did not tell me what to eat or not eat, I was actually the one who did those things, they were just done with positive support from him. This time, he was in no condition to offer that support with what he was experiencing, but it had already been proven that I could maintain my self-esteem and my balance no matter what, and I recognized that. So I worked on it. I made sure I was also taking care of myself. I found my balance, and I have been able to keep it pretty level ever since, and self-esteem… I’m a very modest personality type of a person not full of myself, reality is I hate talking about myself but as a support to others I force myself to at times because it does help others, I second guess myself at times, but I learned to maintain my self-esteem and step back up to counteract any doubts that come. It all goes back to taking proper care of myself. And ANY of you can do it! It is hard at first, but once you learn a routine things get easier to maintain. Now, anything positive Craig brings is just a special extra. 😉

It so extremely important to make sure you are taking care of yourself as a caregiver!

The saying I myself live by…

“You have to make and take the time to take care of yourself, in order to take care of others.”

If you don’t this life can become overwhelming. PLEASE make sure you don’t forget your “me”. You have to find what works best for you to find and maintain your personal balance.

This collage of photos has a few photos in the top row of before Craig’s disabilities, then the rest are in timeline order over the years with the two newest photos being in the middle.
(This was difficult, normally I’m the one taking photos around here 😉 so there’s not one of me from this new year yet.)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

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Just because you see a smile…

Just because you see a smile…
It does not always mean what you may be thinking…

A smile can be a gift, that others quickly respond to and follow. People like the positive things in life.

A smile can be a message, so others think and feel that no matter what everything will be okay.

A smile can be a shelter, that shows a form of strength and comfort.

A smile can be a safety net, to remind me that I can make it through things.

A smile can be a mask, that hides the pains and anxiety that I don’t want to reveal.

A smile can be a defense mechanism, to keep the hidden tears from becoming waterfalls.

A smile can be a powerful representation of something good, joy in life, and what others want to see…

But what the smile hides is what life is really like, when life includes PTSD‬ and/or other mental health conditions. Those with them as well as those standing beside them.

A person can only carry that smile for so long, through so much, before that smile fades away and the reality of life, or that tough moment in time, appears upon their face. When there is no masking, and the true pain reveals itself. No human being can carry a smile every second of every day. No person can hold onto the positive one hundred percent of their lifetime.

It’s okay to release that smile at times. It’s okay to let others see the true feelings you are experiencing. And it’s okay to allow those tears to fall. We are only human.

That smile is not what makes you stronger, that release is. Talking to someone, being able to truly experience what you feel inside, that is what brings you strength. Then maybe tomorrow, or the next day, a true smile may just appear.

Yesterday I cried, I bawled my eyes out. There was no masking things with a smile any longer. I felt the pain deep inside, I felt the loss of what once was, I felt the disappointment towards others that are suppose to be of help to us, I felt like all of my strength just left me, I felt helpless and hopeless… and that’s okay, I am only human. Today, I take another step forward, with strength.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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The day he/she said, “I cannot win”… PTSD won.

The day he/she said, “I cannot win”… PTSD won.

There’s a lot that comes with life when PTSD is a part of it. Life is no longer normal, or what others view as normal, or even what you yourself viewed as normal. Everything changed… for both sides of the fence… those living with it AND those living beside it.

PTSD is going to give you the largest challenges you have ever faced in your life. It’s going to test you, it’s going to face you head on, it’s going turn your normal world upside down then back again. Then it’s going to hit the repeat button.

PTSD is going to put you down or cause you to put yourself down, it’s going to cause you to think things and feel things that you have never thought possible, never viewed before, especially towards yourself. It will make you question yourself, who you are, and what you are worth… towards yourself or another. It will take hold of you and cause you to doubt who you are, it will break you down, then use lack of self-esteem and self-worth to it’s advantage.

PTSD is going to pull you away and cause you to push others away, mentally and physically, even when feelings are strong. PTSD uses it’s weapons of choice… avoidance, numbness, disconnection, negative changes in thoughts. Playing on each other with rejection, one of the ultimate feelings and emotions it can use. It wants one all to itself.

PTSD is going to wear you down, mentally and physically. It’s going to use the horrors it replays in the night, daring you to try to sleep, whispering to you “come on, just close your eyes so I can come to you”… it will use it against your spouse/partner too. It’s going to use the flashbacks it feeds off of during the daytime, testing you with every trigger.

PTSD is going to cause fear, bringing more alertness along with it, it will cause second guessing to every action, every move, and every word. It will use it’s “what if’s” to capture you and hold you prisoner.

PTSD is going to pick it’s tune with hyper-arousal, unsettling thoughts, conflict, and try to push you into anger and frustration. It likes the game of fight or flight, and what it causes to everyone in it’s path.

PTSD is going to push you to say “I cannot win”…

It is going to use every trick it’s got to persuade you into it’s ultimate game of cards. It’s pushes so hard, so often, then lays the final choice of cards on the table for you to choose one, when it knows it’s broke you down… life or death or leaving. It wants you to give into it, and give up. But PTSD is avoiding something, the other realities of the LIFE with it… You do NOT have to play it’s game!

Yes, PTSD does bring all of these things, those with PTSD know these things well, but the words “I cannot win” does not have to be a part of it! You are going to feel it from time to time, but you do NOT have to give into it! PTSD is a real part of life now, and it will try you, but it does not have to control you. You still have a choice! Life will not be the same as it was before PTSD, I won’t lie to you… life does change, but there IS still life, there CAN be a new normal… you just have to work harder, learn wisely, and never give up the fight.

PTSD will bow down, to a point and at times, and you can re-learn how to live with it being a part of life. Relationships do not in all cases have to end, families do not have to fall apart. There are so many things that can help, ways to learn how to manage symptoms, communication skills can be learned, working together can happen, support is something that each of you do have… you have it in each other, and you have it right here too!

I wrote this because I heard something that just tugged on my heart strings, I could not let it go without saying more, and reminding each of you there IS hope, there is more, and you don’t have to give up just because PTSD has knocked you down at the moment. In a way those words “I cannot win” were a cry for help without the words being spoken. I know what was being felt, I’ve seen it before. Those words do come when one gets lost in what PTSD brings, when they are not sure what path to take next, or question if there is a path.

The words “I cannot win” did not come from one with PTSD, this time… They came from a spouse.

I take that extremely serious, just as I do when they come from one with PTSD. They are not words to dismiss or play around with. Spouses are in a way a lifeline, they can be the support that one needs to help manage this life, they can help bring strength just as you can do for each other… but the spouse/partner also needs support and help on their end. When you are in a relationship, it does take BOTH of you, and there has to be a balance found. If either person comes to the other with things they think may help, or things they want to talk about… listen, talk, then decide together what path to take next.

I know firsthand what PTSD brings, everything written above I wrote, they did not come from Craig even though they are very real things for him and those with PTSD. It is very real that spouses/partners can feel and experience many of the same things one with PTSD does. Those things can and will at times play off of each other. Work together, do NOT allow PTSD to win! YOU BOTH are stronger than PTSD!

“The battle is PTSD, not each other”

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

Interview for Women’s Health: Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Awhile back I had asked everyone on my facebook page to help me pick a photo and I know many were curious what it was for. 😉 So I wanted to share with you an interview I did for the month of November, National Family Caregiver month, regarding PTSD and being a caregiver.

Thank you WomensHealth.gov for the opportunity to share with others a small part of our lives in order to help others who live with or beside PTSD.

An Interview About Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Rebecca McCoy 

~Bec

 

Finding the “New You”

Finding the “New You”

The most difficult part of PTSD, whether you are the one living with PTSD or the one standing beside them, is life changed. Even though you are still you so to speak, there are different ways life is lived now, different things you have to do or maintain in order to live life with or beside PTSD, and your life becomes doing whatever you have to in order to manage the symptoms and everyday life… so life can still exist.

In all of it you may at some point find yourself saying, “Who am I?”
That is a VERY real and truthful question! It also really weighs on you mentally and physically when you are at that point.

I know Craig and I both have faced that question, and in reality we are both still working on it.  It’s not a secret that our lives completely changed when PTSD and other disabilities became a huge part of both of our lives. But, PTSD is a diagnosis not a definition of who EITHER of us are!

When you spend your entire life forming and developing who you are, building your character, building your career, discovering what you love and what brings joy to your life of what makes you, you, then in a matter of one (or more) trauma(s) life changed, everything changed… You in a way lose who you are. With that you become lost within yourself and life, so to speak. In reality, it’s also one of the many reasons people give up on themselves.

Many people will have limitations now. It does not matter if PTSD is on the milder side or to the extent of severe, PTSD still effects how you have to live your life, what you can do or cannot do, and a huge part of you and your energy does go towards managing the symptoms and trying to be the best you can be. In that, sooner or later that same question can come to light, “Who am I?” or even “What can I do now?” because things have changed.

The most difficult part in this… letting go of who you were and finding the new you now. I do not know of anyone that wants to let go of the good parts of their past. I mean reality here, those were good things and the things or who you are that you worked your tail off to create. But at times, there are parts of who you were in the past that no matter what you want, what you try to hold onto, no matter how hard you try, those things are going to be difficult if not impossible to hang onto.

When this happens it can cause so much discontent within yourself, how you view yourself, and even how you are in life now. You may start viewing yourself as a failure or fear you will fail at something new, feel that you let others or yourself down, and the guilt that comes with it… it can be unbearable! Those “what if’s” of PTSD are going to be front and center. When these things weigh in on you, the reality is they are going to hold you back from finding who you are or can be now, as well as what in reality you are capable of.

Taking that step forward, oh no it’s NOT going to be at all easy to do! Reality is, you may be starting from scratch! But I view it this way, if you could do that [whatever that was in the past], then can you even imagine what you can do now? It might be something completely different, it might contain parts of who you were or what you liked before, but you cannot dismiss whatever limitations are at hand now. It does not mean you cannot do anything! It means you just have to find your new you and what your life needs as a part of it, what you are good at, and what you enjoy now.

All fine and dandy right? NOT! How do you do that? Where do you even begin?

Think of it as an adventure. When you take an “adventure” you are going to have lots of trial and error, somethings are going to work out and many may not. You will discover things that you would have never dreamed you would have liked or enjoyed before, then other things you will be quick to discover “oh no way, that’s not for me or who I am”. You will come to roadblocks where you have to turn around and go a different direction. You may come to a mountain you have to scale and it’s a challenge. No matter what comes out of each thing or step you take, with an “adventure” you keep going, you face the challenges, and you keep looking and searching… it’s kind of in a way like a treasure hunt. But in this case the treasure you seek is MUCH greater in value than anything else in life, it’s the “New You”. You are creating and discovering who you are now.

Your “adventure” could include so many different things. We do have to stick to reality and that PTSD is a part of life, so your adventure can include simple things for the tough days, and more elaborate or challenging things for the days you know you have the energy for them. Pace yourself, there is not a rush, you want to find some sort of peace and joy in discovering your new you! You do not want to become overwhelmed, getting to that point will just cause you to become stuck.

So what are some examples?
(And we are talking about reality here, this goes for those with PTSD AS WELL AS the ones standing beside them)

– What kind of music do you like?

Sounds silly doesn’t it? It really is not! You would be shocked at how many people get into the habit of listening to what other people listen to and really do not know their own preference in music anymore. Flip through stations or online and listen to as many different types of music you can. Find which artist or band you like, and which type of music you like.

– Your appearance.

Here’s one that comes with a challenge! One of the largest life changing things that come with life with or beside PTSD is what you see when you look into a mirror. PTSD wears you out, you do not get as much or any good sleep, the negative changes in thoughts set in, you get use to being at home a lot, and the medications… oh the things they can cause, etc. All of those weigh on your self-esteem, and then it rolls over to your appearance. One of those vicious cycles form.

Look in that dreaded mirror. Make a list of things you want to change. Maybe you want a new hair style or color, maybe you want to shave more often, maybe you would like to lose some weight or tone up your body, maybe you notice you don’t wear makeup anymore, maybe it’s as something as simple as you use to wear jewelry and don’t wear it anymore. It could be anything!

Then take that list and use it to work from. When you work on your appearance, it does not matter if you are one that does not ever leave the house or not, you are doing it for YOU, what you see in that mirror, and how you feel about yourself.

– What do you like NOW?

Every single person needs something they enjoy in life! We also know that PTSD causes you to lose joy of things, so we have to work on finding something to fill that void. You may find with this one you have small parts of what you use to like that can play a part in this, or you might start from scratch.

Hobbies. They are the easiest way to find what you like. I will say though, through the trial and error stage of this, be cautious of the expense, some hobbies can become very pricey quickly! If it’s a hobby that does cost a lot but you want to try it, do some research to see how easy it will be to sell leftover materials if you discover it’s not the hobby for you.  If you can manage a class, look to see what local classes, small classes, or even private sessions are offered.

There’s another thing that is very important about finding a hobby you like… It MIGHT lead you to a new business or work that you can and want to do! And ENJOY doing!

– Getting out of the house.

A HUGE challenge for many with PTSD, and also those standing beside them. Home is your safe zone, your safety net, your place where you know you can retreat to. Which is awesome, but… it can become such a comfort zone that you do not challenge yourself to what is in reality outside those walls that you may enjoy or find you are able to go to.

If you know you cannot handle crowds, look up your local parks, nature trails, if you like animals check out local horse farms, rescues, or even shelters, etc. Many places offer private tours, need volunteers, or are places where there are not a lot of people around. Take a drive through the country. Nature can be good for PTSD, and you might find that special spot not far from home that you can visit. It also gives you exercise and outside time which is good for you. Sunshine, get it when you can. It’s a known fact that many with PTSD lack Vitamin D, something you need to help maintain your health. You can also get one of those extra “motions” in with this one (what we talked about yesterday), pack a picnic lunch or take a walk together… you might just make a special someone in your life very happy. Now that can be a two for one deal!

Some of the most relaxing, peaceful places for PTSD, are the ones that you find and are not well known by the public.  Take an adventure outing.

– Watch different types of movies.

Life with PTSD can cause you to lose your “character” so to speak. You may not realize or know now what makes you laugh, chuckle, or even smile. You may have those numb feelings that are hard to break through. You would be shocked at what good things you can discover about yourself from watching different types of movies. (Just be cautious of movies that contain triggers ) Then you can take those funny, smiles, or heartfelt things over to real life. Maybe you discover you like comedy and humor, maybe you find yourself sunk into a romance, maybe you find you have an interest in seeing if you can play an instrument, or you find you have a keen love or enjoyment for animals. It’s all about using a different way to find what you enjoy or may enjoy in real life. I would say stay clear of the fairy tale stories for this “finding the new you” purpose though, you want to head towards reality in life, not away from it lol. 

Okay, those are a few of many examples but you get my point.

Just because PTSD became a part of life, does not mean you do not exist anymore! Whether you are the one with PTSD or the one standing beside them, it’s important to find your “new you”, your individuality, and discover what you like, enjoy in life. And it sure makes life with or beside PTSD much easier! Your old you may be gone, or there may be little parts of it still remaining, either or, life did not end just because PTSD became a huge part of it… it just changed. And with that you changed too. 😉

“PTSD is a diagnosis, but not a definition of who you really are.”

YOU are still a human being, you ARE still important, and YOU can find your new you in this life with or beside PTSD…

Today’s challenge 😉 Start finding something, whether it’s great or tiny, that is a part of your “new you”.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD