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The Unspoken Thoughts of PTSD: Suicidal Thoughts

The Unspoken Thoughts of PTSD: Suicidal Thoughts

I am not writing this to place fear into anyone, but I do want to bring awareness to reality, when life does include ‪‎PTSD‬. I personally do not know of even one person with PTSD that has not had at least a slip through the mind thought of “this world would be a better place without me” or “I just can’t do this anymore”. The thought of suicide is very real.

The number of reported cases of suicide related to PTSD is not a secret. ONLY United States Veteran reported cases of suicide is an unthinkable number of 22 suicides per day. Now, that is only reported cases, that does not include those who have not been diagnosed, were not seeking treatment, the homeless, those wearing other uniforms, civilians, or world wide numbers. I could not even fathom what a true number would be if there were the possibility of a whole, accurate number. I can only state it would be unimaginably high.

Does this reality of suicide numbers reported reflect that everyone with PTSD will lose the battle PTSD brings? Absolutely not! But that does not mean that the thoughts are not real or experienced. It also does not mean the thoughts of suicide should go dismissed.

I believe in order to understand why these thoughts come, you have to understand what PTSD causes one. A person with PTSD has survived some type of life changing, severe trauma, where symptoms last for more than a few months. These symptoms are not ones that a person can just suck up, get over, or forget about. Their trauma has in ways altered the brain, the way it processes or relates to things, people, events, etc. and the way it functions.

If you are one that is unfamiliar with what PTSD is or the symptoms list for PTSD you can find them on my page “A Spouse’s Story PTSD”, or any psychology, neuropsychology, or neuroscience page or website, the information is readily available in many locations world wide.

PTSD comes with re-living their trauma over and over through nightmares or terrors, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts that are or can be triggered by just one reminder of their trauma. PTSD can cause anxiety, fear, fight or flight, avoidance, sleep issues, anger, frustration, disconnection and lack of interest in things/people one used to enjoy, dissociative symptoms, negative changes in thoughts of one’s self, others, or at times the world. PTSD also has many mental and physical health conditions that can co-occur with it. And it does come with suicidal thoughts or acts of. That is a short list of what one with PTSD may experience.

When you really look at what PTSD brings or causes, you can clearly see why one would have the thoughts of suicide.

Those with PTSD live a battle every single day of their lives. They can have better days where they can keep symptoms at bay and they can experience what we call “rock bottom” days where that fight becomes an extremely heavy weight to bear.

It is my personal belief that those with PTSD are some of the strongest people I have ever known or lived beside in my lifetime. Why? Because even after their trauma, and their brain reaching the point it says “Hey you, I’m full, I can’t push through that trauma any longer” and PTSD develops, many do make it to see tomorrow even with everything that PTSD brings to their lives, they fight the battle, and they push themselves to be the best possible people they can be, and they are known for providing support to others even while experiencing their own battle with PTSD. You will never convince me that is not a strong and strong minded person.

The suicidal thoughts are very real with what they battle day in and day out. To add to that, many feel alone in their battle… which are real thoughts even when they have people right beside them, then many do not have a positive support system to help them or listen to them, and even if one does have those things, those thoughts can still come. Many feel that they are now a burden to others, that life is unfair… especially to those that they care about because life changed, they as a person changed due to PTSD. The real symptom of negative changes in thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

How could one not have those thoughts, they are only human.

But there is another part to this. Many only experience the thoughts of suicide, many will not act upon those thoughts, many do or will get professional help, talk to others or ones they can trust, many will look for what can or may help them, they will go through trial and error to find what works best for them and their symptoms, and they will fight those thoughts with every ounce of energy and will power they have.

Which leads me to this…

Suicidal thoughts can not go dismissed. Those thoughts are not ones to brush under a rug or turn your back to. Not every suicide can or will be prevented, there’s just no humanly possible way of preventing all of them, and the numbers of reported cases are evidence of that fact. But that does not mean we can’t try. All of us and each of us.

* If you do not know the signs of suicide, learn them.

Being able to recognize when one is having suicidal thoughts or showing the signs of suicide can help in many cases prevent one from following through and help can be reached for. Unfortunately, there are some cases where there are no signs, so I do not want to dismiss that fact, but majority of people do experience some level of signs. Learn them.

* Do NOT dismiss any signs or words that are spoken of thoughts.

There is nothing more heartbreaking to me personally than hearing after the fact someone say, “I did not think they were serious” or “I did not listen to what they told me/someone else, now they are gone.” It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to suicidal thoughts or signs.

* Be honest with your loved ones.

This is a golden rule for us personally. When the thoughts come they are talked about openly with a support person and/or doctor, and listened to. Many times when one can simply voice their thoughts and have someone honestly and openly listen to them, it can help the one with the thoughts work through them.

* Positive Support.

A support person’s words can in many cases mean everything! Listening and hearing what one is saying, can mean everything. Putting one down or telling them they should not be having those thoughts or telling them to get over them, is NOT positive support, and saying things such as those could very well push one right through those thoughts leading them to actions, those words are basically telling a person what they are experiencing is not real, when in reality it is! No one wants that to happen. If you cannot or are in a position due to your personal or negative thoughts, to where you are not capable of providing positive support, which does happen especially if you do not understand PTSD to some level or are going through your own personal issues, then PLEASE find someone for your loved one that can provide them with positive support.

* Reach for professional help

There is NOTHING wrong with reaching for professional help so the one with PTSD, as well as their loved ones or support people, can learn the tools to manage symptoms the best possible. Staying on top of the symptoms and learning how to manage and cope through them can help decrease or prevent suicidal thoughts. YOU ARE WORTH THAT REACH!

Spouses/partners, that goes for you too! You are only one person and at times in this life beside them, you are not going to be able to tackle everything on your own. This is not the time to try to be a superhero, make sure you have help and positive support for yourself too. It is a fact that spouses/partners can experience becoming overwhelmed, develop depression, anxiety, and/or have suicidal thoughts as well. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and reach for help for yourself and/or both of you. Your PTSD loved one needs you, whether they voice that or not, and they need you healthy, please take care of yourself.

* Personal Space.

I will admit, if I see signs or know suicidal thoughts are at hand, I’m known as a “watchdog”. I do not take suicidal thoughts of any level lightly. However, I don’t and you cannot smother a person. Those with PTSD do require their personal space at times, they need it! There has to be a balance of keeping a watchful eye, being there if one needs to talk or needs help, and providing a person’s personal space when they need it. If you smother one with PTSD or treat them like a child, you have the other symptoms that are or will in many cases step into play, and they will pull away from you, which is not what is needed when one is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

One can experience suicidal thoughts and have absolutely no intention of following through on those thoughts. Over time you can learn the signs and body language which can be in majority of cases pretty accurate to how one is feeling or their symptoms at hand.

This is where communication and honesty HAS to be at hand, by both of you. If you are the one having the thoughts, be honest with your partner/support person, let them know if it is honestly PTSD just giving you a difficult time at the moment and you are overwhelmed causing those thoughts and do not intend on following through with them, or if you honestly need help to get through them.

Speaking as a spouse of one with PTSD, I will tell you right now with all honesty and heart, being honest with your partner about how you are feeling or thoughts you are experiencing is the best thing you can do for them, they would not be there if they did not care about you and want to be with you, and would be lost without you. They choose to be there with you and for you, that is a choice they have made, please allow them to be.

PTSD is going to cause you to think or feel all sorts of negative things that your partner does not view you as or feel about you. Please give them that chance to be there for you and help you through the thoughts in whatever way is needed. PTSD is going to push you to close them out, this is the time to fight that as hard as you can and include them. It can also help prevent overreacting, over worrying, and help the two of you work through this together.

Partners/Support person: A watchful eye, “watchdog” as I call it, where you keep an eye on them, are there for them, but at the same time allow them the space to cope, is possible to do and is helpful for many. When you overreact, over worry, or are up their rear-ends for lack of better wording (and that was being lady like), you chance making whatever their thoughts or symptoms are at that moment, to become worse and their feeling of being a burden to increase. You have to find a healthy balance for both of you. There is nothing wrong with having a watchful eye, but there has to be a balance.

I personal can say up front to Craig, “I love you and can see what you are going through right now. I am here for you and yes I’m in watchdog mode today, but it’s because I do love you and value you as a part of my life and as a person.” Then I will do my little projects or things inside the house to give him space but yet at the same time I am close if needed or he wants to talk. When he wants to talk, I sit, make eye contact, and I listen. Suicidal thoughts that are clearly stated will not be acted upon, are not the times to be telling one what they need to be doing or what they need to be thinking. Sometimes we will watch movies during those times, whatever he is comfortable with or helps him through those times. So, there can be a healthy balance and each person/couple has to find what is best for them when those thoughts come. Learn to work together, I will say it again as I always do, “The battle is PTSD, not each other”.

PTSD comes with suicidal thoughts at times, it is a part of what this life contains. Learn the signs and learn what each of you can do to manage and battle them. This life IS worth living, you keep trying new things, you keep learning how to work together and communicate, you keep reaching for help, and you can re-learn how to live life even with PTSD being a part of it. Yes, life has changed. No, there’s no getting your old life back. But that does not mean you can not turn the page to a new chapter and start living a new life. Fight those suicidal thoughts when they come, you ARE worth that fight.

PTSD does change and takes away or masks parts of yourself and your old life, it changes life. Suicidal thoughts will come at times, but they can also slip away. PTSD does not have to take your life, battle it, don’t allow it to win.

“Facts on the table”

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

“I was a strong person… Before PTSD”

“I was a strong person… Before PTSD”

That is a comment I hear so often, from so many people. I want to tell you all something, that’s PTSD talking to you! It’s what PTSD does. It likes bringing in those negative changes in thoughts and feelings of yourself. A part of PTSD, a symptom, that every single person with PTSD experiences.

But here’s my personal view of things…

PTSD happens to “the best of the best”, the strong ones who have taken everything life has handed them, the traumas that no one should ever have had to experience, and keep on going. The brain just starts saying, “HEY YOU! Slow down, stop, I’m full and I can’t take anymore. Focus on me!”. It goes into a sort of protection mode, and the symptoms are added into it, to you and everyday life.

PTSD does NOT make a strong person weak, it does not mean you are any less of a person than you used to be, it just simply changes life. The road switches paths, the battle changed.

Yes, life has changed since PTSD became a part of it, changes in drastic ways for many. Yes, your focus and the way you do things is different than before. Yes, PTSD is a beast to battle. BUT… YOU are doing it!

To me, seeing firsthand what PTSD does each day and hearing from so many that battle the beast themselves, you are by no means weak or not a strong person anymore. YOU ARE STRONGER!

To battle PTSD every day, to learn how to manage and cope, to teach and learn with others, to at times force a day to be good, to smile when you really don’t want to, to push yourself as far as you can, and make it to the next day… THAT takes a very strong person. You have NOT lost who you were, you have not lost your strength, the battle just changed from what used to be in everyday life.

You know, life is going to change no matter what we do, that’s life and what it brings, there’s no stopping changes. Traumas are difficult to handle no matter what the trauma was experienced, and PTSD just adds a curve ball to the game of life. Don’t ever give up on yourself, don’t ever lose sight of who you really are and what you can do in life… even with PTSD being a part of it.

Always remember… 

“PTSD is a diagnosis, it is not a definition of who you are”

One step forward, two steps back… the PTSD dance, what life now includes… but at least we are still dancing. 😉 You can do this and discover a new normal!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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

PTSD can sure put one’s self-esteem in the gutter!

PTSD can sure put one’s self-esteem in the gutter!

You know, for those with PTSD it’s hard enough managing the symptoms that PTSD brings… The re-experiencing symptoms of nightmares/terrors, flashbacks, and frightening thoughts. The hyperarousal, being easily startled, feeling on edge, and frustration and/or anger. The avoidance, of places, others, anything that is a reminder of their trauma experience, the numbing feelings, guilt, depression, or worry, the loss of interest in things one use to enjoy, the disconnect from loved ones. The anxiety and what if’s it causes. The negative changes in views of one’s self, others, or even the world. Many experience dissociative symptoms, and there’s just so much more that can also be experienced with PTSD.

That is a lot! Add all of that together and battling everything that comes day in and day out, it can really put one’s self-esteem in the gutter! It can make one feel like they can’t do anything right, they may view themselves as a burden, broken, damaged goods. One may start viewing themselves as they are not worth anything, that they are not needed, not wanted, and may at times even feel that others are better off without them.

PTSD in a way blocks, or “masks” as I always say it, them from seeing the true self they are!

Let’s say for conversation sake, I had one wish that would be granted, and that one wish could NOT be PTSD and it’s symptoms not existing… sorry that one is not an option. I would use my wish to grant everyone with PTSD the chance to see themselves through my eyes!

You know, this is what you would see…

You would see yourself as someone who is special, yep even with PTSD.

You would see that when you try, the positive things, words, and actions that DO come from that trying.

You would see yes, a person that gets worn out at times but also a person that knows how to keep going, battling, never giving up, and figuring things and this life out.

You would see the unique characteristics of your own individual that makes you important, special, unique, loved… the things that make you, you.

You would see the accomplishments you have and can make.

You would see that even through PTSD you can love, you can care, and be close to others… even if it’s only from time to time or does not feel constant.

You would see a person that is loved by others, yep even with PTSD.

You would see a person that is and can be beautiful on the outside but also within.

You would see a person who in reality is very strong, intelligent, and well worth the fight.

You would see and feel things so deep within the heart that it would take your breath away.

You would see things and feelings so deep that you would question, “Is that really who I am, what you see in me?” My answer would be, “YES! That is what I see!”

Craig and I were talking last night, and I made the comment that “I wish I could bottle my views of him and the positive things I see in him, as well as what comes from him when he tries. Then him drink and fill himself with what I see.” Figure of speech of course, but you get my point. If I could record every moment that I see him trying and play it back to him, I am pretty sure he would ask who that person is… because he does not see himself the way I see him and the things I see and know he can do or be like. I wish he could use what I see, to help his self-esteem. If he could do that, WOW, there would be no self-esteem issues at all! But, the reality is PTSD masks those views of himself… with it’s negative changes in views and thoughts, and guilt.

The reality is, Craig’s not the only one that struggles with that. It is a battle that every single person who has PTSD battles, or has at some point.

The symptoms are not going away. PTSD is not going away. Life changed. Reality. But, the reality also is YOU ARE STILL YOU! Even if you can’t see it, can’t feel it at the moment, even if your true you is buried deep inside… PTSD is only masking who you really are.

One thing that seems to be very common is with the numb feelings and negative thoughts that PTSD does bring, it can make one feel like life is not real, or when or what you try is “faking” it. Like you are just gliding through the motions. It can also cause you to stop trying because you feel like it’s not getting you anywhere.

Craig and I talked about that last night also. You know what, here’s how I view and see that… It is OKAY if it feels like it’s fake. It will probably feel that way because that is what PTSD causes. I understand PTSD, I understand what it causes. But even if it feels fake, it does not mean it will always feel that way with everything, and to feel that, you are going through some type of motions.

I asked Craig last night, and told him to be completely honest, don’t just give me the answers you think I want to hear. “Do you honestly love me?” Of course he looked at me like I was crazy and it was a trick question lol. His answer was, “YES!” Then I asked, “Do you honestly care about me and how I feel?” Again his answer was, “YES!” I then said, “Were those hard to answer?” He said, “No!” You know what, right there is a start. I was not crazy and those were not trick questions, it was a way of me getting him to realize that even with what PTSD causes, he does still have feelings and he does care about me and how I feel. And he can use that.

Every single person knows their spouse/partner (or even family member or friend) better than anyone else. You would not be with them or around them if you didn’t, PTSD or not and either person. You know what they like, you know their quirks, you know their deepest darkest and lightest feelings, you know how they are going to respond to things, you can probably finish their sentences for them. If you are unsure where motions start, right there is a good guide to take that first step. What is something they like, what makes them happy? You do not have to overwhelm yourself or smother anyone… oh please no smothering… start with something simple.

PTSD loves to make steps seem difficult, it loves to challenge you, but if you think about the simple things, focus on them, the things you know so well, there are some pretty simple motions you can start with. And even though each person has to find their own self-esteem, you can still use each other to help you find it also. You can build each other up instead of allowing PTSD to tear each other down.

When you go through the motions, that means you are trying, and that means more than you could ever imagine! It means you are making the effort NOT to stay stuck. Reality also is that you are probably taking steps that are positive and PTSD is just not allowing you to see them. You have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels odd or fake, it’s a start. And… come on you know I’m going to say it… “Motions lead to Emotions” and that has been proven to be the most valuable and honest statement we have ever been told pertaining to life with or beside PTSD.

And it is not only about relationships, it’s about anything that life actually holds. I used the love and caring questions in our relationship as an example, because it shows and I know that beneath everything that comes with and from PTSD, there is still a positive there, and that positive can outweigh what PTSD causes and motions can build from it.

I also know as a spouse, the reality is I can’t make my husband see what I see. I can be honest with him, I can tell him what I see, how I view him, the positive things I still see in him and from him, even through the worst days of PTSD. Then the rest is up to him. All I can do is hope and put all of my heart and effort into it, that somehow, someway, he will choose to accept my views, and use them to break through what the negative of PTSD brings and causes. And I know for a fact, it has been proven, that he can do that… and you know what, the reality is so can each of you. 

So… now don’t run for the hills on this one.  I promise it does not have to be difficult or overwhelming. But I want to give you a challenge, and kind of sort of really hope you will choose to accept it or even part of it.  If you absolutely cannot do it today because it’s just one of those really bad days, and you try but can’t, come back to it another day… that’s okay! And this is to the ones with PTSD, their spouse/partner, mom/dad, a friend, all of you really no matter what the relationship is.

I want you to really think, focus on, and find ONE thing today that you can use as a “motion”, and do it. And I want you to share ONE positive view you have of your loved one or friend, with them. And if you have a positive view shared with you, no matter what you think or feel about yourself or them, I want you to focus on what they are saying to you, and accept it as it is the honest truth. In a way, view yourself through their positive view of you. 

I get asked all of the time, “How do I get my self-esteem back when PTSD makes me feel the way I do?” asked from both sides of the fence of PTSD. Whether it’s as part of a relationship or just something in everyday life, you have to start somewhere, and I hope this that I have said here will help you find a start.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD: Negative changes in thoughts and mood or feelings

PTSD: Negative changes in thoughts and mood or feelings

Negative changes in thoughts or mood and feelings are one of the hardest parts of PTSD to manage, for either side of the fence. This is the symptom of PTSD that EVERYONE with PTSD experiences in some way. It’s also the toughest part for others to understand, as well as to learn not to take personally.

These negative changes in thoughts or feelings, that come with PTSD can include things such as:

* Not being able to experience positive emotions
* Having negative views of yourself or others
* Feeling emotionally numb
* Experiencing a loss of interest in things you use to enjoy
* Lack or loss of hope for the future
* Having difficulty with or maintaining close relationships
* Memory issues, which can include not remembering parts of the trauma experienced
(Reference: MayoClinic.org)

This can include viewing yourself as bad or a negative change in the way you view yourself compared to the way you use to. One may feel they are not worthy, may have feelings of failure or that they are now a burden to others, may have feelings of guilt or shame.

One with PTSD can also view those around them in negative ways. Instead of feeling love and closeness to others that was experienced before PTSD, one may feel anger, resentment, distrust, etc. or nothing at all. One may feel others are “out to get them or ruin them”, may feel the world is against them or the world is not fair, and/or may feel as if nothing is safe and no one can be trusted.

Whoa! Now that is a lot for the one with PTSD to experience! It was difficult enough experiencing the trauma they went through, and now many of these symptoms may be at hand as well. This is when you stop, take a deep breath, step back, and really start thinking about it. All of these things just listed are NOT done on purpose! They are all or each, a part of what PTSD can or may cause.

All of these changes in thoughts and feelings can bring another part of PTSD, arousal- emotional reactions. One may get angry, irritated, experience verbal outbursts or aggressive behavior, feeling of guilt or shame may increase, one may stay on guard or alert, may experience self-destructive or relationship-destructive behaviors such as drinking too much, drug use, sexual communication or encounters with others they would not have had/done before, or driving too fast or recklessly. One with PTSD may be startled easily, have trouble sleeping, or have issues concentrating.

PTSD is NOT an excuse, unfortunately it is a very real medical condition that many people who have been through a life changing trauma experience when symptoms last for more than three months (time frame of symptoms for diagnosis changed from minimum of one month to three months, referenced from va.gov website).

But do not lose hope! There are things that can help manage these symptoms! Just as with other PTSD symptoms, and with a lot of effort, work, learning, and working together… we can try to manage these thoughts and feelings through learning and using coping skills, therapy, there are even worksheets that can be used to help you view on paper your thoughts, feelings, even fears in comparison to facts. There are many things you can try and do to help manage the thoughts and feelings when they come or are present. Things will not change overnight, just like with anything else, PTSD is not going away, but things can change.

Spouses/partners, family members, and friends…

You have a huge role in this too! I know firsthand that when PTSD throws these things at you or into your life, it’s hard, it can try to emotionally destroy you. It can cause you to feel some of the same things PTSD has caused your loved one to feel or experience. And yes, that goes for experiencing or doing anything listed above. This is when those words I say have to play a role, “PTSD is the battle, NOT each other”. The old saying “fighting fire with fire”, is not going to get you anywhere but more stress, emotional hurt, and possibly two people who really care about each other walking away from each other. You have to work together to find what helps best for you, your loved one, and whatever situation is at hand.

So what are some examples of things we can work on?

(NOTE: I am not a doctor or in any medical field. The things I share are from our personal experiences, knowledge, opinions, and what others have shared with us. For more information or help PLEASE talk to your doctor or contact one.)

Self-esteem and self-worth are the two major things that negative thoughts and feelings effect (and that goes for both the one with PTSD and their spouse/partner). These are things that everyone can work on.

* Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? If the answer is no, then there is something we can work on.  Write down what you do not like seeing. Then set realistic goals in writing for yourself, on how you can change what you do not like seeing. Maybe it’s I’m going to start walking each day for 15 minutes or other exercise, then build from there over time. Maybe it’s I’m going to watch what I eat more closely. Maybe it’s I’m going to shave x number of times per week. Maybe I’m going to have my hair cut once per month. ANYTHING that can help you view yourself in the mirror better than what you are seeing right now.

* Hobbies or projects. These can be challenging! I will not tell you they won’t be. Between the symptoms PTSD brings, then add in any co-occurring conditions, such as depression, or any physical disabilities… yes this can be challenging. BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE! Do not overwhelm yourself or set unrealistic goals. Pace yourself. Choose things to do that bring enjoyment, or are things you use to enjoy doing!

Hobbies and projects, no matter how long they may take to complete or do, show progress. They help with self-esteem and self-worth. Each step taken you are proving to yourself you can still do things and may be very good at something that you had no idea you could do before. 

* Compliments. Oh come on! It does not matter who you are or what you are going through, everyone loves getting compliments! Not only are they nice and make you feel good when you receive one, there is a lot that comes from giving them as well.  A simple compliment given or received can change a day around, bring an unexpected smile, shows someone that you care or notice things. It does not have to be some huge life changing compliment, do not forget that many times it’s the little things that mean the most.

Nothing is negative 100% of the time, no one is wrong 100% of the time… there is always something that can be complimented on, just do not over-do it, make compliments count with meaning.  AND accept them when they are given! Whether you see yourself as the compliment given or not, accept it and realize that people do not give out compliments for no reason, so you must have done something right or something that was in a positive way noticed. 

* “Motions lead to emotions”. Oh you knew I would not leave this one out! PTSD brings all of the symptoms, challenges, and can bring numbness. Numbness is not just going away or decreasing without help. When you go through the steps, you might just find some sparks there in life that you thought were gone. PTSD is good at hiding things or masking one from their true self or feelings. Spouses/partners, you too can experience the distant or numbness, so this is for you as well! Learn how to unmask things by going through the motions. Motions do not have to be only in a physical sense based around relationships and/or sex! It could be anything that you do that can bring back a sense of enjoyment to a relationship or other things that you use to enjoy in life.

* Work on changing the negative to positive. NOT an easy thing to do, but not impossible either!

One of the most common examples I have had come to me lately…
I have had [number of] failed relationships. I will never have a good relationship so why even try.

Okay, so you have had failed relationships, we all go through that in reality. So let’s change the perspective a little and try this, “My last [number of] relationships did not work out. So I am going to work on improving myself, so when that right person for me comes along our relationship will be better than those of my past.” 

And write it down in a note for yourself, place it to where you can see it, as a reminder if you want to! It can help you stick to a more positive mindset when those negative thoughts try to step back in. And you can do that with anything in life!

* Set goals for yourself! Setting simple goals, goals that prove to be a little more challenging, and life goals, all give you things to work towards. By setting goals of different levels they can help when PTSD symptoms are more of a challenge but can be done, it helps you see that even when PTSD challenges you, you can still accomplish things. And when you reach goals of a higher challenge WOW, what a positive change it can bring to you! In all seriousness, setting goals are extremely important. They give you things in life to work towards and are rewarding when accomplished. They help with both self-esteem and self-worth. AND can help you view things around you and in the world differently.

* Oh those negative views of others and how PTSD loves to play with this one! Bring out the pen and paper if you have to on this one! I’m serious! What are the thoughts you are having then put the facts of what has happened or is at hand next to them. Compare them to see if it’s PTSD sticking it’s hand in this to make you think negative about another person ot even other things in life, before placing blame or getting upset at someone (or bringing worry or fear of other things). Many times it’s the negative views that PTSD is bringing and not what another person has actually done. PTSD loves to bring in all of those “what if’s” on this one that you have to be cautious of. Communication is going to be a huge help in this also.

If something seems way off base from what a person would normally be like, talk CALMLY and ask questions. Do not jump to conclusions. Really hear each other out and talk about any concerns and the way you are viewing things. And BOTH people try not to put those defenses up, talk and work through whatever the thoughts are causing and get to the facts. It goes back to the why and letting the facts of why help you get through whatever is at hand.

Okay, these are some examples and what PTSD can cause. Do not lose hope, it is there even if it is masked right now. Keep working on those steps forward to understanding, accepting, and working through what “PTSD negative thoughts and moods or feelings” can bring, and are a very real part of life with PTSD. There are many things each person can work on by themselves, for themselves, as well as with and for others.

And just a personal note from me to you,

I BELIEVE in you! You ARE one of the “best of the best” and CAN make it through this part of PTSD. Do not give up!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD Facebook page

PTSD and Trust

PTSD and Trust 

Trust. One of the largest, heaviest weight carrying words, feelings, there could be in life. Now imagine it being combined with PTSD, and even the trauma that occurred itself!

There are so many different directions that trust issues can be at hand. I hear a lot about trust issues from both sides of the fence of PTSD, so we know it is a real word that can cause serious issues in life with PTSD… But why?

Do you recall my story about Craig’s memory issues and how he would not recall things? It was leading to arguments (NOT like us) and him having great frustration and anger come from it. So I had to find a way around the situation to make things better for us, and for him to understand he was not remembering things? I asked him, “Do you trust me? I mean 110% honest trust me?“, once things had settled down. And he replied with yes. I had him write a note to himself and sign it, then I locked it away so I could use it in only absolute must need situations when nothing else worked to get through to him. That letter to himself had the words “I can trust Bec, she will not misguide me. Listen to her, I can trust her…” within it.

I realized that when memory was behind an issue, his PTSD defenses and fight were escalating. To him, what he remembered or how he thought something happened, were right. But reality was memory was causing his views to be skewed from real situations. I found something that worked for us, a way to open up communication, a way to get his symptoms to decrease, a way to remind him he can trust me.

My point of this example is you have to learn and understand the why in order to find positive things that can help. I had his trust to work with in our case, but you know what? He doubted that trust when it came to memory problems and PTSD symptoms, he was in survival, fight mode. A simple thing as a letter helped us get past that so we could work on positive things to help him.

But what about other things?

PTSD can bring the need of caution to everything, even to the point of one becoming paranoid. Those things cause trust to become an issue as well. One can start questioning what or who they can trust, are they sure they can trust that person, re-questioning themselves over and over. When this is at hand, it can cause one to doubt being able to trust anyone, even and especially those closest to them. They almost become vulnerable to the what if’s PTSD can cause.

The way others respond or react to them, even fight back against them during these times, can cause the situation to become even worse. I discovered a long time ago, if you fight PTSD symptoms instead of finding positive solutions or things to help, you are going to get one hell of a fight back… which will not help anyone! They will start trusting themselves and no one else, they might second guess everything at those heightened times, and withdraw from everyone, then the avoidance comes into it.

Avoidance can cause hurt feelings, anger, resentment, mindsets where if the what and why were understood, and a situation handled differently, would decrease. We all know avoidance is a huge part of PTSD as it is rather it’s people, places, or things. When trust issues are added to that, it’s only common sense that avoidance will become greater. Not something anyone wants or means to happen, but it’s a defense and survival tool of PTSD.

What about the trauma itself? We talk so much about how to get through the here and now of PTSD symptoms, but when it comes to trust, you can not set aside the trauma one experienced. There are MANY traumas that result in trust issues!

Examples:

  • A car accident where one was severely injured, or a life of another was lost, when that person was not the one driving. This can result of them not trusting others to drive. Their mindset can become “If I drive that will not happen again.” Or the opposite, they were the one driving when something severe happened and now no longer trust themselves to drive, it’s still a trust issue rather towards someone else or towards themselves.

 

  • An assault and/or rape. Rather it was an assault from a man or woman, the trust in the sex of the attacker, male or female, can greatly become an issue. The person who experienced the trauma at hand can carry no trust in others that are the same sex as the attacker.

 

  • Military, Police, Work related trauma, etc. What about a trauma that occurred because of a mistake or a situation that was a must do order from your commanding officer or leader/boss? Trust can weigh heavily when it comes to trusting a new leader or even co-workers. What about when someone was suppose to “have your back”, but something occurred and they were not or could not be there? What about a life lost situation where it was not your fault, but you were blamed by others? All of these things are real life situations that can cause trust issues.

 

  • A trauma from a medical procedure. It does happen, a surgery or other procedure gone wrong, did not turn out the way it was suppose to. Or a procedure or health issue that was so overwhelming that PTSD formed (common in cancer and stroke patients). It can cause one to lose trust in doctors or medical staff.

Those are just a few real life traumas that many people do not think about when it comes to trust and PTSD. Those can play a huge role in trusting or not trusting others throughout one’s lifetime. The trauma related to why PTSD formed and trust issues created at that time can weigh heavy on views, actions, and words in the future. All of these things have to be considered when trust becomes an issue so you can find positive ways to cope with it, as well as find ways to step forward.

You knew that word was going to come, cope. I speak highly about coping skills, why? Because they can work for you AND those around you! We use them daily and you know what, they make life with PTSD so much easier to manage.

You can do the old reliable, write things out on paper. What caused you not to trust a person that a conflict is with right now at this moment? Has that person honestly done something to you? Or is PTSD causing the conflict with it’s what if’s and symptoms? As I always say it, facts on the table. Many cases you might find it’s PTSD symptoms taking control of a situation causing you, or the other person, to not trust someone that in reality you can trust! It happens.

Life is going to contain people and things where some can be trusted, then others honestly can not be. You have to find ways, trial and error also, to sort things out through PTSD symptoms and the situation at hand. Being able to learn to face why you or someone else has a trust issue is extremely important, that why will help you find positive ways to get through it and possibly past it with the person there with you now. The past can weigh heavily on one, either person, when it comes to trust. Finding ways to view the here and now, the why or what, with facts on the table, can help you manage through and cope through what the past has caused relate to current situations. Like with PTSD itself, there’s probably not going to be a cure, but it can help you manage and find positive ways through tough situations.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD and how Empathy plays a role…

A subject I have brought up many times on here (for very good reasons) rather the term “empathy” was used or not. I believe it is a huge part of bringing understanding as well as finding solutions or what works best in many situations that arise from PTSD, as well as understanding the person who suffers from it.

My comments of  “put yourself in their shoes“, “no matter which side of the fence you stand on“, “find the ‘why’ in order to find a solution or what helps” (one of my largest, most used comments), etc. All of these are in a way, guides to recognizing that a sense of empathy is needed at times. Now, please note that empathy and sympathy are not the same thing, but often times confused. I found that having a sense of empathy helps me, as a spouse of one with PTSD, understand what my husband experiences which leads me to finding things that help him as well as both of us. It also helps one find a level ground for developing good communication skills!

Another thing that does need to be understood, ones with PTSD many times lack or experience less empathy then ones who do not have PTSD (Apathy. Which is lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern which many times can be regarding important situations.). It’s NOT that they do not want to, it’s that their brain and PTSD does not always allow them to experience empathy, or even sympathy in some cases. This is where many mis-communications, misunderstandings, or feeling that one with PTSD “just does not care”, come into life with PTSD. Some studies have shown that empathy can be developed or re-developed, but it takes practice and effort. (Which in my mind, means patience is needed.  )

There are many studies which have been done, there are many articles on the topic, information is endless. But you have to take the time to understand how empathy can play a huge part in life when PTSD or even other mental disorders/illnesses are involved. I have been working on an article regarding this, but honestly, the more I write the more I think the most helpful way to get to the root is by understanding how and when to use, or even how to develop empathy.

The following is an excerpt from a “Psychology Today” article that I found and thought would be helpful, which I highly recommend reading in it’s entirety which contains the “empathy exercise” example.

“When We Should Use Empathy

Once we have gained practice in using the empathy exercise we could apply it in a variety of situations. Here are just a few of many possible scenarios:

1. Whenever we seek to understand someone better.

2. When we find ourselves arguing unproductively with a spouse or a significant other.

3. When we have trouble connecting emotionally to the plight of a loved one.

4. When we want to calm our tempers and manage our emotions.

5. When figuring out how best to complain effectively.

Empathy comes more naturally to some than it does to others. However, by taking time to truly paint a picture of what it is like for the other person and imagine ourselves in their place, we will gain valuable insights and forge deeper connections to those around us.” Excerpt from: psychologytoday.com, Guy Winch, Ph.D.

I hope this helps bring a little more understanding to how much can really be involved or needs to be taken into consideration, in life as well as life with or beside PTSD. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD vs Society

PTSD vs Society

This was something that was mentioned a few days ago and I wanted to write more about. I’m actually glad it took me a few days to write because yesterday I got an eye opener to another part of this as well and realized there is much more to this topic that needs to be discussed.

The comments were made…

I wish society understood” and
It’s hard when you aren’t in a military area“.

Both VERY honest statements!

You know, I have found that the only way for society to somewhat understand is to be taught. Even though one is not going to totally understand unless they experience PTSD or live with one who has it, they can still learn the basics of it, or any other mental illness. It’s not going to happen over night, there will still be those that refuse to learn or listen, but I have to say I personally have seen changes over the past few years that are positive.

People by nature are curious. I mean think about it, just for an example… you are in a check out line and the clerk talks to you as they are ringing your items through… “Oh what age is your child“, “I heard the weather is changing again“, “I love this product too“, “So what do you do for work?” Whatever they talk about, somewhere in there the door will open to educate.

How about when the one with PTSD is with you out somewhere? They might stand back away from others, be looking around a lot, quiet… As you are checking out you notice the cashier is glancing at them off and on, BINGO! Your door just opened! “Oh it’s okay, his (my) PTSD is just causing him (me) to be a little more alert today.” When you act like it’s not a huge deal, just a part of life, and calmly toss it into conversation, you might be shocked how one’s curiosity takes over and they start asking questions! By your calm response you just took the awkwardness out of the equation of their curiosity and opened the door to educate.

I personally go to pretty much the same stores for shopping or take out. People get to know you. Every single one has opened the door for conversation. You know what I hear now? “Hey, how’s your husband doing?“, “I haven’t seen your husband in awhile, you need to tell him to come in with you and see us.“, “Tell Craig we said hi and miss seeing him.” Once in awhile Craig will venture out for a quick trip with me, when he does people greet him with a smile, ask him how he’s been doing. And they always ask new questions! They don’t treat him differently, don’t treat him like he has the plague, they treat him like they indeed care.

Curiosity is there and over time I have used it to educate without people even realizing it. They don’t carry stigma or judge, and if they did it’s not there now. I had one lady tell me she was so happy I had talked to her about PTSD, because she met someone else that also has it and they are now friends! She said she doesn’t know as much as I do, but it was enough that the term PTSD did not bother her.

I went last week to our local BBQ place for takeout. First thing I heard was, “How’s your husband doing? We haven’t seen you in several months and were concerned about you all.” Stigma is fading and people are caring. And their curiosity causes them to want to learn more.

It’s not about preaching, or lectures, it’s just about being human and sharing small parts of your life. Many times you might be shocked when one says “Really? I have a friend/family member that also has PTSD.” And you can see the almost excitement of them hearing that someone else understands and knows what PTSD is. You just made them realize they are not alone!

I have to be honest with my personal opinion on the military areas. I personally think us not being in a military area has been easier. There’s not, or as much, stigma already placed on PTSD. It’s not a secret that there is stigma with the military, why? Because PTSD can in many cases effect a serious, life or death situation, job. That is pretty much the bottom line for it. That part of stigma is not in civilian society. So to me, it’s been easier for us. I do dearly miss being around military families and the bonds formed, I will never say that is not so. Civilian life is different then military life, but when it comes to PTSD, it just seems easier. Again, people are curious because it’s not something they may hear about every day, or they only hear what is reported and want to learn more from firsthand experiences and opinions of what life with PTSD is like.

Now, I want to talk about something else that really got brought to my attention yesterday regarding society and mental illnesses. I was watching a program and have to admit I was in total shock! It was talking about lack of room for ones with mental illnesses in facilities, which is an honest fact. Now, I will say up front rather quickly, I understand if attempted suicide is involved or situations where one has to be in a facility, so by no means dismissing that. But I heard SO much more in this program. It was like the whole society focus of placing someone in a facility was the only option! There was not any talk about what they try at home, outpatient treatment, therapy, etc. It was all about why there are not more beds available. Personally, that bothered me! I understand the reason for the focus, but it still bothered me.

We are not living in a society like it was 50 years ago or so, where if you had a mental illness you were just locked away! There are SO many things now that help with mental illnesses that people are able to live a somewhat normal life, be out in public, have jobs, be with family, there are medications that help, all sorts of therapy, etc. That program and what was being said made me feel like I was listening to people from decades ago! How UNFAIR! I happened to be sitting with a group of veterans during the program and know I was not the only one thinking this way, I heard a sarcastic comment, “sure just lock everyone up, great solution”. As we watched, we could see the lack of education regarding the illness at hand as well as lack of how to manage it. It was honestly sad. Sure, one may have to have inpatient care, maybe some guidelines need to change for safety reasons of length of stays, and more beds are indeed needed, but that does not always mean a person has to stay there forever!

To listen to one say that they fear a child becoming an adult and there not being laws to where a family member can place them in a facility unless they harm themselves or someone else… I’m sorry, but that bothered me. Why would anyone want them placed in a facility and take away the chance of them living as close to a normal life as they can? In cases where others do need help managing their medical, and cases where the need is there to prevent one from getting to the point of harming themselves or others, why not put legal documentation or guardianship of sorts into place for possible what if times? Wouldn’t that be an easy solution but at the same time allow the person with a mental illness a chance to see what they can do on their own? My personal opinion, it goes back to education and management at home. It’s okay to have the fear of the what if’s, the concern is an honest concern and not dismissed by any means, but you should not let your what if’s run someone else’s life, it’s just not fair to the individual. Goes back to my saying, have a plan and a back up plan, there is no law needed for that.

To say the least this is a subject that I could write about forever, but just a few points I wanted to share.

Society has come a long way from the way it use to be. I am seeing many positive things, even though there is still a lot of work to be done. And the more things reported (rather good or bad) leads to more doors opening for real education. That program yesterday was a prime example, there was a huge conversation which came from it. I see the positive that has happened in our life with our community, negative reports and such have not changed that at all, except at times it brings new conversations with people asking more questions and wanting to learn more from someone that is real life standing in front of them. 😉 That’s not a bad thing.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

“It will be okay. I offer you my hand to bring you up from the knees you sit upon. Stand my friend, keep stepping forward and don’t give up, this too will pass.”

“It will be okay. I offer you my hand to bring you up from the knees you sit upon. Stand my friend, keep stepping forward and don’t give up, this too will pass.”

I have heard some really tough and heartbreaking situations this week. Sadly, I can honestly relate to almost all of them, rather through my own eyes or those of my husband’s. But you know what, I know that things can get better then they may be for you right now… I know this for a fact, because we have been to the same place you may be kneeling right now.

We have walked in the tattered shoes PTSD and other mental illnesses/disabilities can bring, where it wears on you, the holes worn in the bottom of the soles cause scars upon your weary feet. A pain so great that you do not want to take another step.

We have shed many tears, through heartbreak, frustration, anger, and facing the unknown. The words that are spit can be damaging. The mind places tricks upon you like magic, of what is real and what is not.

We have tackled serious relationship issues. The mindset of fantasy, fairy tale stories become a vision of the unknown. Full of questions, heartache, resentment, and disbelief to what is before you and the changes which have occurred. Trying to make sense of what was, compared to the new reality before you now.

We have walked through the darkest of dark places feeling as if we were blind, no guide to help us. We have faced the feelings and thoughts of life, death, or walking away from the pain. Questioning if this PTSD battle is worth the fight.

It does not matter which shoes you wear upon your feet, or which side of the fence of PTSD you are on, those things are very real!

We discovered long ago that sitting upon that fence together, with acceptance, patience, understanding, communication, learning and re-learning who each other is now, all of those dark things can start to heal and many can fade into a memory of the past with time and effort.

It’s not going to be easy, it will take extra help, and PTSD is not just going away. But I can tell you, there is still life with PTSD! There can still be love, good days, smiles, and everything else that one dreams of. Things in life are just different now and a different type of life exists. You can make changes to the future and walk a new path. Never lose sight of who you are, even if you are masked by what happened, you are still you.

PTSD does not have to be the end of life, relationships, or family. Every day we are proving that, with every step forward we make, and even with the steps backwards that do come to teach us more. PTSD is still here, it has not gone away, but we are proof that things can get better then the darkest of places it can bring. Don’t give up, don’t give up on yourself or your loved one. Use the skills and things that can help.

We share our story, our experiences, and our life, in hopes that another will be given a shortcut to the long dark road we walked. And with a small ray of light in there guiding your way. 😉 You are worth this battle, you have the strength, you have the will power, and you have the extra hand and knowledge… use them! YOU are stronger then PTSD!

Right now I wish I could wrap my arms around each and every one of you that are having great struggles, embrace you with a huge (((HUG))) and whisper to you…

“It will be okay. I offer you my hand to bring you up from the knees you sit upon. Stand my friend, keep stepping forward and don’t give up. This dark time will pass, good days do come.” ~Rebecca

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD vs Accomplishing or Completing Things

Do you find some things are difficult to accomplish or complete?

This is something I actually hear a lot about, and have witnessed it myself. But do you know why?

This is actually something huge for many with PTSD. It’s not by any means that they/you do not have the knowledge or even ability to do so, and their/your IQ sure has not dropped by any means, it’s that PTSD seems to step in the way of getting things done.

You know me, I don’t stop until I find the answers to the “why“! 

I use to think in our personal situation that Craig just wasn’t capable of doing certain things anymore. Something I actually accepted after watching him try so hard with certain things and just not being able to do them anymore. (And just to note, I am by no means throwing him under the bus here, just using our real life situation(s) as an example.) And there are in deed things he can just no longer do based around his memory issues, he has memory issues/difficulties as well as “memory blocks” that are just gone. However, it did not stop there. I learned that there is much more to it then only the situations where his memory impairments are the reasons.

The “why” was much greater then I had thought back when I was just accepting memory problems were the problem, period.

Memory issues, let’s start there. Memory issues with PTSD normally come from anxiety or during times of increased anxiety. Unless you have something else effecting your memory also, such as TBI, dementia, or other organic cause.

Many suffer from memory issues and do not even realize it. Good signs that memory issues are at hand are: repeating stories that have already been told, arguing over something that happened but one swears it never happened, not recalling where things are placed when they are in their normal locations, leaving things on that should have been turned off… out of the normal, not recalling special dates or events that were not forgotten before, etc. Dissociative Symptoms are also a part of PTSD, if you do not know what that is, it’s something everyone really needs to learn about since it does many times come with PTSD (and it is treatable!), many times it can answer the “why” to certain issues that are not normal for that person.

When anxiety steps up, it causes you to have a difficult time on focusing, your concentration decreases, your arousal goes up, and you lose sight or partial sight of what you were trying to accomplish or finish. Your brain starts focusing on everything else instead of staying steady on what you are working on.

I do want to add a twist to this part though from the other side of the fence. Spouses… ever have a time when your PTSD loved one is so focused on doing something that they just don’t hear you or respond when you are talking to them? OR they spend hours doing one specific thing and won’t leave it until they are done? I’m sure I am seeing all hands raised lol. Well right there you have it! It’s difficult to focus on multiple things at one time for many with PTSD.

If your PTSD loved one is really trying hard to accomplish something, anything rather small or large, it is difficult at times to get their attention off of what they are doing and onto what you are saying. It’s not that they are ignoring you at all! It’s that their brain may only be able to focus on the task at hand. When their concentration alters from their mission, it’s hard to get back onto it. That is another reason you may see them so diligently working on something, then something else happens or someone starts talking to them, etc. then they just walk away from what they are working on and it just sits there not completed. The focus and concentration were lost or altered.

Now let’s move on to frustration. We all know that PTSD comes with frustration. When one is having difficulties with doing something it turns into the, “I was great at this a year ago or 5 years ago, but now I can’t do it.” or “This use to take me 15 minutes to complete and now it’s taking me hours.” That is more frustrating then anything! You know that this task is something you use to be able to do, complete, and maybe in a timely manner, but now it’s more difficult instead of easy for you. Do you see the vicious circle forming? I do. Frustration, concentration, focus, anxiety, memory… and now self-esteem.

Oh the evil thoughts self-esteem can bring to one! Those negative thoughts of you are not good enough, you are a failure, you can’t do anything right, you are useless, you are such a burden on others, you are not the man/woman you use to be! You throw your hands in the air and walk away. OUCH, that hurts! Fact is, you are NOT a failure, burden, useless, or those other things at all! Come on now  it’s just your PTSD stepping in the way. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Easier said then done, I know.

Then all of these things combined lead to what? “Why do I even try?” Oh boy! This goes back to what I always say… If you don’t try then you will never know what you CAN do or accomplish! No matter how difficult things become, don’t give up on yourself!

PTSD being a part of your life is going to throw you for a loop, to put it nicely. It is going to make things more difficult to do or accomplish at times. How would it not? Look at all of the symptoms that come with PTSD, and the things I mentioned do not even include the more severe and real symptoms of PTSD that also effect you. The nightmares, which leaves you tired, lacking sleep, and just plain worn out… and also effect your focus and concentration. The triggers, which throw you way off balance. The flashbacks, which also throw you off balance until you are able to be grounded from them. The extra anxiety of crowds or others being around. The physical symptoms that co-occur with PTSD. Other things such as depression. The list is endless, but it does NOT mean you are useless or can’t do anything!!! It just means you have to find different ways to do things. 😉

Just to note in here: I am not a doctor of any sort and these are my opinions based on our personal experiences and what we have learned.
So, what can you do?

* You know the first thing I will say is Coping Skills! 

They do help so greatly when battling symptoms when they start. Learn them and use them! The more you practice them the more help they will be.

* Pace yourself!

This has become a golden rule around here. If you get into a rush or have high expectations beyond what is reasonable, then you are going to have issues with everything I mentioned above. Pace yourself, it can help.

* Step away.

I know when you start something you do not want to stop for the fear of not completing it or not being able to get started again. But at times stepping away from something, especially if you get frustrated can lead to having more focus when you can return to it. Don’t be worried about taking breaks when you need them! It also helps keep you from becoming overwhelmed. You can even set an alarm or reminder for yourself. You will take a break for x amount of time, then go back to what you were working on.

* Ask for help.

I know, it’s the hardest thing to do! You want to prove to yourself and/or others that you can do this and you don’t need help. But you know what, at times everyone needs help and there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking. It may be to complete something in a more timely manner, something you just are having difficulties with recalling and could use that extra hand with, or simply to allow someone else to feel good about being included in a project. 😉 It does not mean you can’t do it by yourself, it can mean all sorts of different things, and not negative reasons behind it. You know what? Sometimes when there is another person there it also helps you mentally, it’s a gentle push that can help keep you away from some or all of those negative personal thoughts that can develop when you are doing something alone.

To say the least these are just a few things that you can try that may help. I hope this will give a little better understanding to why things can seem or become so difficult at times for ones with PTSD, and also help those living beside a loved one who suffers from PTSD. No matter what, keep trying and don’t give up on yourself! You are better than PTSD 😉 Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are worth more then that! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD