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PTSD and Cognitive or Memory Issues

PTSD and Cognitive or Memory Issues

I was asked what it is like with cognitive dysfunction and memory issues being a huge part of our everyday lives. So let me explain…

A prime example was a few days ago, Craig looked at me and asked, “So what project are you working on next?” I sat there for a second and realized what type of day it was going to be, not that that is a bad thing, I don’t view it that way anymore, but it told me what was in front of us. It was one of the more severe cognitive days. To Craig, it was just an honest question because to him he did not know.

See, last week we talked in depth, over multiple days about my next projects. We talked about what I wanted with these projects, what he wanted, threw around different ideas of likes and dislikes, how to move things around, where to put things, etc. I am always working on something, so that part seems to stick in his memory, it’s a part of my daily routine to work a little on something. I am also doing some extra Spring cleaning before starting some projects, as well as have a couple of outside projects I am working on getting to. So we had talked about these.

So, I’ve spent the past week preparing, a little each day. But to Craig, it just did not “stick” in his brain what we had talked about. This is something that has been a part of our lives for years now, we are used to it and know how to manage it.

The cognitive problems can lead to repeating things, not understanding that something has taken place, or something was said, the confusion, frustration and/or anger that comes with it, misplacing things, not recognizing the body’s signs of being hungry or not knowing if he has drank fluids or not… or believing he has when he hasn’t, same with showering, brushing teeth, etc, medications have to be given to him not just taken… for safety reasons, not recalling people’s or pets names… that includes my name as well. There are also many safety protocols we have in place.

Movies, something that is no big deal in reality but, 😉 do you know how many times a person with cognitive issues can watch the same movie and not realize it? Not recall any details of the movie? I believe we are up to 13 times for the same movie, for multiple movies watched at home. How do I respond? I just go with it! I don’t mind re-watching movies anyway.

So, those are just a few of the many things that are a part of daily life for us. The best way I can describe it, is he has to have guidance with many things each day, things that he can’t or does not know to do by himself, things that many people don’t even have to think about to accomplish.

I have actually documented things, to see if there is any rhyme or reason behind different things, because with PTSD‬ as well as depression‬, there can be concentration issues and lack of focus due to anxiety, flashbacks take one away from reality while they are occurring, dissociative episodes are the same way, and other things that some things may be related to other than true cognitive or memory issues. There has still not been any rhyme or reason discovered to why some things stick and other things don’t when it comes to true memory or cognitive issues. Some things or bits and pieces of, flow in and out of memory. Then some things are just not there at all any longer.

These things are a part of both of our everyday lives, but there are days that are worse than others, really just like any other symptoms or medical conditions. There are going to be somewhat better days then there will be the really bad ones.

Don’t worry, I’m not by any means throwing Craig to the wolves here lol! Craig likes for me to write about things we go through, with total honesty. He says it helps him. So, I’m just bringing an understanding about how life is different for us, as well as many others. By the way, Craig approves what I write about and many times will ask me to write about things so he has kind of a record of things to look back on. 😉

(Just to note here for Craig… he uses my writings as a guideline to help with cognitive issues and as reminders. 😉 I am working on re-flooring my son’s bedroom, painting inside, forming a ground level stone area to sit the outside fire pit on… so I don’t have to keep moving it to mow or have to weed-eat it, and re-doing the backdoor stones that have shifted.)

I do want to state up front, I am using the term “cognitive” more than “memory” because doctors are honestly not sure what to call what Craig experiences and cannot answer what term fits best. He has multiple diagnoses along with PTSD… overlapping symptoms, and I have basically been told to back off from using the term “memory” as much, which is what doctors have always used as well, until they are able to sort out exactly what ALL he is and has been going through the past 11 years. “Cognitive dysfunction” is a term that has been used since day one no matter what other terms have been additionally used (“memory loss” and “memory impairment, which long term memory has been affected just as short term memory has been), so for now we will stick to “cognitive dysfunction”, which has been described as dementia like symptoms he experiences.

I have been asked, “How do you handle this as the spouse?” and “What is this like for the two of you?”

I think the simple answer is, I handle these days with extreme patience. Back at the beginning though, patience was not something that was understood as needed. It was the quick comments of, “You already said that“, “I don’t understand why we are discussing this again“, “We already talked about this“, “That never happened” or “Why did you do that?“, “You said you would do… but did not.“, “Why did you go here when you said you were going there to take care of…“, etc. It was pretty frustrating, not only for myself, but for both of us, some situations came across as untruthful when in reality to him he was telling the truth, not recalling things lead to arguments.

I guess the best way to describe days like the other day, which was based around conversations and what I have already accomplished around the house and am working on, is they are like deja vu to me. Like the day is replaying itself, which in a sense it is, to me at least. I know we have already gone through this (whatever it may be based around), or something similar, but outcomes are not always the same. The fact is, this is life, this is what it is, and we go with it and make the best of each day.

I do prompt Craig at times, or give some small amount of information, if the situation is correct for it (in other words, as long as safety is not an issue), it’s a way to try to help him and his brain function, work at recalling things or part of things, and at times can help to a certain point. The brain is like a muscle, and it does take exercise, as well as this also helps spark the neurons in the brain. So the prompting is important to do, but there is a limit if higher levels of frustration and PTSD start stepping forward, so there has to be a healthy balance.

I don’t know if you would call it an advantage or disadvantage really (the repeating things). At times it is easier the second or third time around because I kind of know what’s coming, what his thoughts were last time, or where things lead, especially with conversations, so I know how to respond or better yet, how not to respond. But yet on the other hand lol it’s coming again and I know it will be a day of listening and having the same conversations again, having great patience, and understanding/empathy of what he is going through, and just going along with the repeat of the day, which doesn’t really bother me anymore. It took time for me to understand what he goes through in order to know how to respond or to know what I need to do, how to handle what he experiences. I’ll be honest, at times it’s still frustrating, but it’s something I understand and accept so I can also let go of frustration easily if it comes, so I can help him through the day.

But to Craig he does not comprehend that something has already taken place, to him it’s new. I think the toughest part for him is knowing me so well or seeing how other people react to him. There are times that he picks up on my pause to answer… looking for the right words or me already knowing it’s best to just listen and not reply, my/others facial expressions or lack of at times, me sitting too quiet while I listen again, in general my/other’s body language.

See, just because he has cognitive problems does not mean he is any less intelligent. Sure, he has lost part of what he had learned, some things take longer to accomplish, or he has to look up how to do something now, but he is still intelligent. When he picks up on something it’s now an instant “We already talked about this, haven’t we?” or “That already happened, didn’t it?“. He can many times put those pieces together even though whatever it or the situation is, for lack of better words, is gone. Then at times he gets frustrated, irritated, with himself and tries to recall things. That leads to a lot of negative thoughts towards himself which are not good for him… the “Wow did that make me feel stupid“, “They really looked at me like I am crazy“, etc. He can’t help or control his cognitive function, he tries though. I’ll give him a big “good job” on that one, he always tries with everything.

We have a lot of days where we will sit and just talk, he’s learned to state “I am just really lost today”, express to me how he is feeling which in turn helps me up front know how to help manage the day. There are many times where he will ask me to tell him about a photo, an event, what he did yesterday or what he had for dinner the night before, etc. Or, if I mention something and he has that blank look on his face I will just go ahead, second nature, and tell the story to him or what went on based around whatever my comment or his was if i already see lack of recalling is frustrating him. I learned to read his body language too, so I can tell when there is a “blank space” there and it needs something to fill the gap. We learned to talk and communicate, which has made it more manageable for both of us. I don’t view it as we have settled into a routine, I view it as we always try new things and use what works best.

Craig and I really work as a team. We have had doctors state in writing “His wife IS the other half of his memory” (oops there’s that word). We have had doctors state “He can’t make it without your help.”, which I have been his full time “official” caregiver for over three years now. We have heard all sorts of things, honest statements of facts. But even so, there are many that frown on this, they feel it causes him to rely on me too much. Fact is, they just don’t understand, at least not yet, what his disabilities are like and how we do things, our rules/boundaries we have for each other, and that we do what we have to in order for Craig, as well as we as a family, to be able to function. This view and lack of understanding from others is probably one of our toughest battles, but at the same time we have had this as a part of our lives for so long now, that majority of the time we just let things or comments roll off our backs, so to speak. Negativity from others just can’t be a part of life with battling what we do to step forward each day.

I watched Craig fall into the deepest hole there is when cognitive dysfunction, PTSD, etc. became a part his life. It took time to pull him out of it, and honestly it still pays a huge toll on him daily. But we learned how to manage it together the best possible, basically what he could/can not honestly manage alone. We have those who don’t understand that Craig goes through different things now, that if he is going to spend time with you, without me or someone from our home around that understands how to manage things when they come, there are things you need to know, there are ways of doing/saying or not doing/saying things. There is an overlap in symptoms which does cause life to be managed differently, and that cannot be dismissed.

We have been told in the past that we are co-dependent on each other. There have been ones concerned that it was unhealthy. Which is not the complete truth, which was proven, but we still went through the accusations of what comes with this type of disability being at hand. Not to state this in a negative way, but I can function and manage life on my own, independently… which is healthy for me to be able to do. Craig could/can no longer do that. I’m not saying that to sound mean or like I don’t care, it’s just a fact and what comes with this type of disability. We will never lose hope that things can get better for him, he and we will always try, but on the other hand we are not blind to the facts either, it has been 11 years and a lot of professional help. There is a different type of bond that does form, how could there not be? But co-dependent, as in a negative aspect of the term, no that’s not a fitting term in our case.

But, there is also the humorous sense or side that comes with this type of life and disability. Humor is important and healthy in the right situations. Due to the cognitive issues, Craig does not recall what he likes or does not like… especially foods! 😉 If it is on his plate or I fix something, his brain processes it as “I must like that” and he will eat it. He now eats a lot of healthy foods that he did not like or would have never eaten before! Again, those body signs come into play, he will eat something then recognize the grin on my face, it’s hard to hide the grin. Next thing that comes? “Do I like this or is this a new food you gave me?” My response 😉 “Looks like you like it to me”. 🙂

We did also go through the kids playing on dad’s cognitive issues when they were younger, and mom here had to put a foot down to it. If one of them was in trouble, had something taken away, were told they couldn’t do something, etc. they learned rather quickly that they could wait for mom to be out of sight and ask dad if it was okay to do something, etc. Of course dad would say “Sure”. So, there became a lot of “What did mom say?” over time. Now, with the kids, Craig is still included in everything, decision making, and we talk about things regarding the kids. It’s important even with the cognitive issues that he remain involved, it’s important for him, his self-esteem and self-worth, as well as good for the kids. Now, will he recall any of it later? Normally not but that’s OKAY!

Bottom line is, cognitive dysfunction or memory issues, no matter what the reason for it is, it’s tough. There are a lot of things that come with it. I will tell you that, and Craig will tell you that, it’s just a fact. But, there are so many things and ways of learning how to live with it, learning how to manage things differently, and continuing to live and work towards positive things. I still love Craig the same, I still view him the same ways as I did before his disabilities. You never lose hope, you never stop trying, and you remember to still live. Life is just simply different than what others view as normal or what life used to be like for us. And hey, some things you get a second chance to try again. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Sundowning: What is it and do some with PTSD experience it?


Sundowning: What is it and do some with PTSD experience it?

(This is NOT something that everyone with PTSD experiences!)

You know how I like to think outside the box when it comes to finding things that can help Craig, as well as others here? Well one of the things that Craig has the most difficult time with is when the afternoon comes.

By 3:30pm, Craig is wiped out, his anxiety goes up, he paces, gets frustrated or uneasy feelings, and he wants to retreat to the bedroom. Since PTSD came out of it’s box and all of the other diagnoses, this has been his toughest part of each day for him.

So I decided to look into other things and see if I could locate more information on what may be causing this. I got to thinking, if the doctors believe his symptoms are similar to those with dementia/Alzheimer’s, then is it possible what he is experiencing may not only be related to PTSD, but the time of day as well? And maybe others with PTSD experience this too?

Low and behold, I came across “Sundowning”! Which fits these symptoms to a “T”!

**Just to note: I am NOT a doctor or in any medical field. I share our personal experiences and knowledge learned from living with or beside PTSD and Depression. Not everyone with PTSD will experience the same symptoms or extent of symptoms. This is NOT intended to replace professional help. If this is something you experience please talk to your doctor!**

Sundowning is common with some people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Which we have learned dementia/Alzheimer’s may have a relation for SOME people who have PTSD. Sundowning is exactly the way it sounds, it’s the time of day when the sun is starting to set and all of those uneasy feelings and confusion start to flow in, and symptoms increase. Just like what Craig experiences. It can cause one to not sleep well, may cause one to wander, one may become forgetful, anxious, agitated, restless, may feel the need to leave or go somewhere, more yelling may occur, or one can become combative, and it can also cause caregiver burnout if one is not cautious.

It is also said that there is a peak to sundowning in Alzheimer’s during the middle stages, then can lessen as the disease progresses. It makes me wonder if those with PTSD experience the same or similar pattern? We know with PTSD, majority of people hit a really rough patch where symptoms become extremely bad, but then over time things get better, even though PTSD does not go away. Something that I believe comes with learning about PTSD, as well as learning how to manage and cope with the symptoms. But if sundowning is something that one with PTSD can also experience, maybe it has a part in getting over that rough patch as well? Something to sure think about.

I have had quite a few people who have PTSD mention to me that afternoon is the hardest part of the day for them, so it would make sense to me that those with PTSD may also experience sundowning.

According to WebMD,
“Some research suggests that sundowning may be related to changes to the brain’s circadian pacemaker. That’s a cluster of nerve cells that keeps the body on a 24-hour clock.”

“Several things may increase the risk for sundowning. These include:

Severe constipation
Poor nourishment
Being on too many medications
Noisy and disruptive sleeping environment”
(Excerpts:, “Sundowning“)

Well now that brings even more sense to the possibility that some with PTSD may experience sundowning. PTSD brings restless sleep due to nightmares, some may experience irritable bowel syndrome/disease (IB) as a co-occurring condition with PTSD, many with PTSD are on multiple medications, and if one with PTSD has depression or cognitive issues those may very well cause one to not be eating correctly. That seems to be a recipe for sundowning!

So if this is a possibility, what can one with PTSD do to help ease sundowning?

* Exercise the brain

The brain is a muscle and needs exercise just like any other muscle of the body. Brain games, puzzles, board games, andything what can help keep the brain active… which is important for PTSD anyway.

* Physical exercise

Another thing everyone needs anyway. Those with PTSD can benefit when it comes to bedtime if they have done some type of physical exercise during the day which helps them become tired, that and it helps to keep you looking good too which is important when you look in that mirror, self-esteem. 

* Do not take naps 

Skipping naps during the day can also help. This helps leave the sleep time for night time.

* Hobbies 

Another thing we talk about often here. Hobbies are important to have, not only because they give you something to do that you enjoy, but also gives you something that you can see a completed project with, oh look… self-esteem again and self-worth.

* Diet

Proper diet is important. It’s the fuel for your body that helps to keep it going. Also watching what you eat or drink before bedtime is important with PTSD. Less caffeine and light snacks seem to be best.

* Pain and Medication Management 

No one wants to be in pain in the first place and pain management is important for those that do have it. This can also help with the sundowning symptoms. Also, it’s important for medications to be reviewed and changed or discontinued as needed. By learning to manage and learning coping skills, it can help with PTSD and there is the chance you will be able to decrease the amount of medications you have to take. Which in return, can also help with those who experience sundowning.

I find it interesting that all of the things we are taught to do for PTSD, are also what can help with sundowning! I guess that gives us one more reason to do everything we can to be the best we can be, as well as help each other. 

Here is a video I came across on Sundowning that I wanted to pass along to you from “Alzheimer;s and Dementia Weekly” website.

How to care for sundowning“, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly

I hope this will help those of you that experience the increased afternoon symptoms that seems to come to some of those with #PTSD.

So for curiosity sake… What is the hardest part of the day for you or your loved one who has PTSD? A conversation we are having on my FaceBook page.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

PTSD and it’s relation to Dementia.

PTSD and it’s relation to Dementia. 
How do we handle this if it comes?

Yesterday I was asked an extremely important question based around one with PTSD that now also has been diagnosed with early onset of dementia. This is a subject that studies have been taking place on over the years and it has been found in a study of Veterans, those with PTSD are “two-fold” as likely to develop dementia “later in life” over those in the study without PTSD. For those that like to read research, I will add the link to the study at the end of this.

There are many different factors related to #PTSD that can cause cognitive issues, whether dementia may be or has been diagnosed or not. Some with PTSD “MAY” actually have smaller hippocampus volumes of the brain which is related to PTSD and can cause short-term memory difficulties, anxiety can effect focus and cognition, chronic stress also effects memory and learning. Other conditions which can also contribute to it may be depressive disorder, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), or other PTSD co-occurring conditions, as some examples. Even though studies have been done on aging Veterans, we are also seeing cognitive issues/dysfunction in our PTSD community among different age groups, military or civilian. Craig being one that is among the many.

So that is a very basic and short example of things regarding cognition, which may lead to dementia. It has not to my knowledge been found that PTSD causes dementia. From what I have personally researched so far, PTSD may simply bring a higher risk of dementia developing.

So what do we do if these symptoms, cognitive conditions or dysfunction, are present or dementia has actually been diagnosed?

Yesterday I was asked the following… 

“Thank you for your kind words.. life has been tough. We just found out a new bump in our road. Early onset dementia.. his mind is going. I am so angry, sad, hurt and so many other emotions that I can’t name them.. he is so lost and hopeless. He has now sunk into depression. How do you deal with these new feelings? And this new diagnoses.” -Anonymous

The best way I know how to answer this, is by sharing a little of what Craig and I went through when we were told he has/was diagnosed with, cognitive dysfunction and “memory disturbance history considered permanent”. Which actually came before we were told he has PTSD.

Craig and I went through all of the emotions and feelings as the one who asked the question and her partner are going through right now. It was hard! Having to face that life just changed drastically, that all of the things in life and things you have experienced together are in reality fading away from memory, and everything else that comes with.

I will never forget the day one of Craig’s doctors sat down with me to talk. He told me the only way to address the conversation was with directness and honesty. I was told that with Craig’s cognitive dysfunction, there may be a day come that he no longer knows who I am. There was no way of knowing if his memory and cognitive function would continue to worsen over time or if maybe something would come along to help him. Well, it’s been 10 years and in reality, it has continued to get worse as he ages. Just a fact we have faced but we never stop trying new things that may help or at least to manage life with what is at hand.

I went through all of the emotions. I was hurt, I was sad, I felt a loss, and I got angry. I processed and went through every emotion I think there is. Then I realized I just had to face the facts that life was changing for us, and I had to accept that fact.

I think the largest thing that helped me personally, as the spouse, was changing the way I viewed what was happening. I decided instead of allowing all of those negative and “what if” emotions weigh me down and cause me to worry, I was going to set out to make sure that every day that comes, I will cherish with Craig. I will make the best of them. And we will find a way to manage this life. That’s exactly what we have done.

It’s hard watching the person you love fade away, in a sense. I know even though Craig has not at this point been diagnosed with dementia, we still go through a lot that is similar to dementia. His symptoms have been compared to Alzheimer’s. He has okay days and he has really bad ones. And at this point we never know what he will recall and what he will not, there is no rhyme or reason to it.

There are days that he does not remember my name. That’s where that cute nickname “babe” came from that we both use. When he does not recall my name, he calls me babe. I found that it eases him in a way when I use it for him to. He gets names mixed up of family members, I learned to just go with it, I can normally figure out who he is talking about. Even the dogs have nicknames, many of them, the names just do not stick with Craig all of the time. I will say it is amazing the dogs have learned all the different names and will respond to him.

Craig does not relate being hungry to needing to eat. That’s part of my caregiver role to make sure he does, or he will not eat. Another thing that is effected with this, say for example he has cereal. No big deal right? Wrong. If the box is left with him where he sees it, he will keep having bowl after bowl if it is not monitored, until the box is empty. There is not recognition of what he has or has not eaten, so he will continue to eat. That has to be monitored because it can lead to other health issues if he overeats.

Making decisions is something that he has huge issues with, even if given choices he has a difficult time answering or choosing. His brain does not recall things he likes or does not like, which in reality this one we can laugh at because you would be amazed at the foods he will eat now that he hated before. At times both of us making light of the subject actually helps. We do not let it weigh us down, we find ways to work around things.

Safety protocol is huge for us. He has been known to wander, leave things turned on such as grill or stove, leave the refrigerator door open, all sorts of things that one may not think about happening. So we came up with things and ways of doing things to make sure safety is always at hand.

For example, the back yard is fenced in and locks stay locked on all gates. That still allows him to go outside without feeling like he is always with someone or being treated like a child. Even though I will fess, I check on him or look out the windows when he’s out there by himself. One of the largest things when cognitive issues start, is figuring out things that will work and at the same time not take one’s self-esteem away. And if they can do something, let them!

I was told if we started from day one working on finding ways around things, of sorts, finding what works for us, as well as exercising his brain, then if the day comes where his memory does fade to an extreme level, those things will already be in place and there is a chance due to routine he will still follow them or some of them.

Then there is me, facing the fact that one day he may not know who I am any longer, he may not remember our life we have shared together. That is hard for anyone to swallow! I was told the best thing we could do, is work together and make sure no matter what PTSD, depression, and his cognitive dysfunction brings, even if he loses all memory eventually, that bond will be hardwired. Forming trust and a bond now is crucial!

That really stuck with me. Who knows what the future will hold for us, or anyone. Especially when having PTSD may increase the chances of dementia developing in the future, at whatever age. But with having the big picture view of what may in reality happen, it really makes it easier handle things each day. I think being told about cognitive dysfunction before PTSD actually in a weird way helped. Seeing the big picture of what may come, knowing what we have to work on just in case, makes us not sweat the small stuff that PTSD brings.

I was told to view it this way. Will it, whatever it is at that moment, matter in 5 years or 10 years? If the answer is no, then don’t sweat it, figure out how to work through it or let go of it. When the big picture may be in the future the memories are gone for him, a difference of opinion, a day of frustration or anger, a day of working through flashbacks, or a night of no sleep due to nightmares, they are just things we work through and don’t sweat them. They are just another part of what life holds and may in reality be the small things when looking at a lifelong picture.

Another thing that I do, for us. You see those photos at the top of the page? Our kissing photos that I get teased about lol. Those not only hold memories, they also show love and give a sense of trust. Those things are important now, and may be really important in the future. Especially if memories and knowing who people are fades away if dementia develops. Photos tell a story about your life, and they are very important. Craig already has memory issues and cognitive dysfunction, photos, and even being able to sit down and look at photos together, and me tell him the stories to the ones he does not remember already, well, it helps.

I know facing a new diagnosis, especially one like dementia is hard! It’s hard for the spouse, and it’s also very hard for the person with the symptoms. Depression can become very real. You have to take one day at a time, work together, strengthen that bond you have with each other, find the positive things in each day, and do not sweat the small stuff. All of that can help form a more manageable future.

I will believe, and choose to believe what the doctors have told us. Even if the day comes where Craig does not know who I am, or everything fades away for him, the bond we have worked together to form, will still be there. You just have to make the most of each day, right now.

I really do not worry about the future any longer, what we need to do is always a focus. But today is also our focus.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Risk of Dementia among U.S. Veterans

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook

PTSD and Memory causing issues.

PTSD and Memory causing issues.

How do you get someone to recognize they have problems? His memory is really poor… he refuses to accept anything and always blames me. It is so frustrating and hard on the family.” -Anonymous

I have many people asking me questions regarding these things, but I’m going to talk a little more about this than only from the memory issue aspect, I want to also explain the “why” and “what happens” just simply to provide more information. I do have to say I am not a doctor or in any medical field, and my knowledge is based on our experiences and what I have personally learned. IF you have a crisis please contact your doctor or call a crisis hotline.

(This is going to be long, save it to your social media wall, come back to it on my page if you cannot read it all at once, or bookmark it on my blog aka “my journal” page of my website.  I have broken it down into smaller paragraphs for easier reading as well. There is a lot to this topic.)

That first step to recognizing there is in reality a problem, is going to be the most difficult step to take. Especially when memory issues are involved. “Refuses to accept anything and always blames me.” that quote is a reality, that DOES in many cases happen until one does start recognizing AND/OR accepting there is something that is just not right.

At times, it will still happen even after acceptance is there, simply because memory is still at hand. Craig and I went through this also, and memory issues AND cognitive dysfunction are a part of everyday life for us. We have just over 10 years of experience and a lot of trial and error, and finding solutions for this one. So this is a part of everyday life for both of us. 

So let’s talk about this…

The first question at hand is, “Has PTSD, TBI, Depression, Dissociative Symptoms, or another medical condition been diagnosed?” If it has, that right there can help! You have a diagnosis, it’s in writing/print by a doctor and if you don’t have a printed copy of it, get one! This can help when memory issues step into life. I’ll explain why a little later in this. 

Next, taking the step to learn everything you can about what comes with that diagnosis is a must. This can help bring understanding as well as steps for one to start accepting (and that can be either person or family member) there is something causing the changes in a person. Acceptance of a diagnoses AND acceptance that that diagnosis is REALLY, TRULY, a part of life now is always the first step that HAS to take place, then learning about the diagnosis and what comes with it.

Memory issues are VERY real to many that have PTSD! They can scare a person very quickly when a loved one is saying, “That’s not what happened, that’s not what was said, that’s not what I/you did” etc. When this takes place, what is real to one person may not seem real to the one with PTSD, then anxiety increases. PTSD is most likely going to bring on “fight or flight”. It can become a vicious PTSD symptom circle. One symptom is going to set off another symptom and in reality, that memory issue where this “seemed” to have started is going to become worse.

So what are things that can cause memory issues? Just saying memory issues can come with PTSD is NOT enough, you have to learn the “why”? I have found over my years of learning and living beside one with PTSD and Depression, you have to learn about the “why” in order to take steps to finding a solution or things that can help.

Let me start with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), if you or your loved one has a TBI the reality is there may very well be memory issues with the brain injury, the brain has sustained an injury which can effect the memory process and how the brain functions. Many who have PTSD may also have a TBI, depending on their trauma. So I did want to mention that up front in case there are both TBI and PTSD diagnosed.

PTSD comes with anxiety. This is one of the largest reasons behind memory issues with PTSD. When anxiety increases, lack of being able to focus and/or concentrate decreases. The higher anxiety becomes, the worse this can get. So in these cases, it’s not a true “memory loss” as many people believe, it’s that the things or conversations taking place are not able to be focused on in order for the brain to process things to memory.

Focus may be on that car that is passing, that person on the side of the road, that noise being heard but not seeing where it’s coming from, a TV being too loud, a child playing in the background, maybe they are working on something and their focus is staying on that one task so they can complete it (very common)… loss of focus or concentration can come from anything when PTSD is in high alert mode and/or increased anxiety, as well as how many things are happening at one time!

Anxiety can increase with really any other PTSD symptom that steps into play at any given time. This is the main reason why no two people seem to have the exact same level of memory issues. It will depend on the level of each person’s symptoms, how they cope or don’t cope with their symptoms (At this time!), how many “what if’s” come to mind in different situations, as well as any other medical conditions which may also be present.

I state “other medical conditions” because the fact is, there may also be something else occurring and if so it cannot be dismissed. BUT not everyone with PTSD will have other things, leave that to your doctor to figure out! Focus on what you know is at hand.

Like with Craig, he has cognitive dysfunction along with PTSD and Depression. His “case” is considered and worded as “complex or complicated” due to the combination of medical conditions at hand.

We were recently explained (and he said I can share this) that the way his brain works is similar to that of one with Alzheimer (I was relating it to dementia type symptoms, but was told it’s more along the lines of relating to Alzheimer symptoms which did make sense once it was explained, even though he does not have Alzheimer.). It’s like having two power lines or circuit wires/cables in the brain, but they do not touch or cross enough for him to relate one thing belongs with another, they parallel each other instead of working together for the brain to function correctly. He has not only short term memory effected, but has also “lost” blocks of long term memory… but when speaking to him you would rarely notice something is wrong with him unless you are around him a lot, then it becomes very noticeable.

Some things that are a daily part of life, in OUR case, just to give you examples include… He loses track in conversations, may change subject in middle of conversation. Forgets things even important to him things. Becomes overwhelmed with making decisions or planning things and carrying out the steps… example is when asked what he wants to eat, his response normally is “I’m not hunger” when in reality you can hear his stomach making sounds and it’s time to eat, or “Whatever”. He does not connect he needs to eat and won’t eat if not “guided” to. Same with drinking fluids. Has trouble finding his way around even in places he is use to, has been known to wander and get lost (and that one is scary). Has trouble remembering people’s names (YES, even with me, the kids, and the animals! You will notice we use the nickname “babe” a lot  that’s his fallback when my name slips his mind, not just a cute nickname  and to ease what it makes him feel like when it happens, we both use the term now.) Has issues with short and long term memory, some things stick or for take a guess how long, others don’t and has blocks of long term memory of things one would normally remember that seem to be completely gone. Anyway, the list is extremely long. BUT we have learned to still live life with these things at hand. They are a different type of normal to us now.

This combined with PTSD and Depression symptoms causes memory issues. So there is more to it in his case, and the reason so many things that can or do work for others, have not been (as) successful with/for him… but we continue working on them.  My point of sharing this is every person is going to be different depending on what combinations of medical conditions are at hand. Some people may have milder issues, some may have more severe.

So… we have some examples of the “why”. Now, how do we get one to realize there is a problem? And what can we do to manage through the memory issues, for whatever the reason(s) they are there?

* First thing to do… 

DO NOT give up on yourself or your PTSD loved one! If Craig and I can learn a new way to live life with these symptoms being at hand, so can YOU!

* Trial and Error 

These are going to be a real part of life! If one thing does not seem to work, you move on to trying something else. Craig and I have not reached the point we have by sitting back and doing nothing.  If something does not work, take a deep breath and focus on “okay, next time I will try [this].” Have patience! You are not going to learn everything overnight, and not everything is going to work on the first try. Also keep in mind that just because something may not have or have worked before does not mean that won’t change! Re-trying things is a huge part of life with PTSD. Errors are going to happen! Have patience with each other and view it as at least one is trying.

* Proof

I found the key for myself to getting through that memory is an issue was by having Craig write a letter to himself AND signing it when symptoms were low. Then I locked that letter away and only brought it out for him to read when nothing else was working during memory issue times. The letter was based around trust, his trust for me and that I won’t lie to him, he wrote to himself to listen to me that I will not mislead him. DO NOT, if you do this, misuse this or you will be tampering with trust and greater issues than memory will be at hand!

It took a lot of trial and error for him to realize memory issues were at hand! It became apparent at work back then… he can’t work now, that something was wrong with him. Mistakes at work that he would have never done before became real life.

I used bank statements, receipts, letters to himself. Other people pointed things out to him (Caution on this one, too many people at one time can trigger flight easily! In our case other people on their own just talked to him about things they noticed. It was NOT a group type intervention or conversation!) Anything to help him see something with him had changed and he was not remembering things. Unfortunately, rock bottom for him came which really brought him to accepting something was wrong. Trust me on this one, NO ONE wants to reach or see a loved one reach rock bottom! If a loved one is trying to talk to you about what they are seeing, PLEASE listen to them!!!!!

Here’s where that printed diagnosis comes in, at times one may have to read that to realize that memory may be at hand. Learn what symptoms really do come with that diagnosis! These things are important. By having the knowledge you can find what helps. But you have to face the facts and have the “facts on the table” in order to take steps forward. Now you see where my saying “facts on the table” came from that I use so often. 

* Communication!

It is HARD to communicate when memory issues step in. Sit down together, breathe, and have patience! Allow each person to say their view of things, uninterrupted. Write them out on paper if need be as you go through them so you can come back and work on each point together. You HAVE to start communicating somewhere! Accept that your views are NOT going to be the same, how could they if memory issues are a part of things? They won’t be. You have to work to find that middle ground so you can start working through things together instead of against each other.

NO ONE wants to face they may not be remembering things! FACT! To that person, they aren’t! One has to come to terms with this may be a part of whatever problems are taking place. It’s not the time for either person to point fingers or allow anger to step in between you. If PTSD is at hand, BOTH of you have to ask, “What else is coming with this?”, so you can work through things together and not against each other. Listen and really hear what each person is saying. There is nothing wrong with NICELY giving each other examples, so you can find a level of understanding. And I will state right now, I don’t take sides. A spouse/partner is not going to be right 100% of the time. There may just be a simple mis-communication at hand at times or difference in views/opinions. TALK!

* Once memory issues are found/recognized to be at hand.

There are MANY things you can do to manage life through these! MANY! Talk to your doctor, ask what things can be tried to help manage PTSD symptoms, learning coping skills and how to manage symptoms is a great start to helping with memory issues or at least reducing them.

Find things to help in daily schedules and life. Reminders, notes (with their name on them! Or they may think they are someone else’s), alarms, calendars, apps, special hooks or baskets for that person’s things… the list is endless! For more ideas on things to help, refer to “my journal” page on my website. I have written many in depth articles on memory and things to help, that we have personally found useful.

Go to my blog (where you are right now)…

A Spouse’s Story PTSD blog 

In the top right corner use the magnifying glass icon which is the search button and type in “memory” or whatever you are looking for. My journal page is always here to use as a reference and all of my writings are on there. 

I hope this helps bring a little more direction and understanding. This is a huge topic and a serious one, it can bring a lot of frustration and a lot of problems between people. There is no way I can write out all of my knowledge on this here in one posting without writing a complete book.  If what is here helps, pass it on to others or a loved one, anything to help! 

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PTSD and Promises made…

I have had several things come to me about “promises to change”, not changing, then one with PTSD saying they are sorry. So wanted to address this to bring a little more understanding…

This is VERY common with PTSD! They feel bad, sorry for something they did or did not do, the way they acted, for the things they said, etc. They are being very honest when they say they will change, they honestly and truly want to. But see, there is one issue here, they have PTSD! Changes by ALL means can happen, Craig’s managed it, but it’s a constant effort every day to keep things better. It’s not going to happen over night, it is continuous work and does not come naturally like it would to one without PTSD. We say we are going to do something, then we do it, one with PTSD, many times, does not have that easy option.

PTSD is a mental disorder, the brain is effected, in many cases the memory is effected, then add in all of the other symptoms, and those play a huge role in promises made and if they are able to be kept or not. When PTSD has an episode and symptoms arise, their brain focuses on what happened to them, how to survive that moment, not on promises they made or changes they said they would do. They can’t help that. It takes a lot of coping skills, reminders in a nice way, positive communication, and working daily to manage PTSD in order for changes to happen, and even then there are going to be times that they backslide and have to start over or try something different in order to manage and cope.

It’s by no means excusing whatever has happened, but you have to have an understanding to why, so you are not taking everything so personally. With PTSD being a part of life, if everything is taken personally when something is not perfect or the way you believe life should be, there’s going to be a lot of pain, anger, resentment, and heartache involved which will cause you to start acting or speaking the same way PTSD spoke or acted towards you. You will have a very difficult time moving forward and finding solutions or things to help if that happens. It’s a vicious cycle that has to be broken.

There will be a lot of trial and error trying to find what works best for you and your partner, but there are things that can help!

My favorite with Craig having severe memory issues are notes. I have him write notes to himself and sign them. This is how he came to understand he has memory issues, think about it, if there are memory issues how are they going to know? They aren’t, they honestly don’t remember. This especially happens when anxiety is at high levels. The notes are how he can remind himself (with my help) during bad spells that he can indeed trust me and what I say, it’s how he can be reminded of words or actions that he himself wants to work on improving… and the list goes on. I take the notes and literally lock them away. When a time/episode arises and a note is the last resort to helping a situation, then I pull the one that fits out and nicely ask him to read it. There’s no arguing, no fighting, and I don’t take what has happened personally. I put my strength into helping him through whatever the episode is at hand. Those letters are his words, his writing, and his signature… which means it’s a way for him to recognize something he noticed in himself before and might be something to realize is indeed happening at that moment. (Just NEVER misuse letters or use them to or for a personal advantage or they won’t work for long.)

We also have a saying, “I will work on that”. This normally comes at the end of a conversation, communication! When this is said it means an issue or problem is being heard, no promises are made so there’s no hurt from a broken promise later. It’s a simple acknowledgement of what has happened, been discussed, and saying effort will be put into working to make changes or learn to cope better. The hardest part of this one is you have to accept one is going to try and there is no set outcome or resolution at that moment. You also need to understand that many times they are going to need your help, patience, and understanding in order for them to work on things. You can’t throw in their face “you said this or that”, your hurt and anger can not out weigh helping them or encouraging them to try and learn new ways to cope. Guilt can be deadly, you do not want to allow it the chance to come into play.

Those are just a few simple examples of how we manage and have learned to cope with things. That old saying “promises are made to be broken”, well add PTSD to the mix and that saying becomes very real life. We no longer make promises, we agree to find solutions or ways to cope that work without all of the emotional pain promises can bring. Then there are not expectations on him and no broken promises towards me, or vise-versa. We work together and communicate, true communication and listen to each other no matter how serious or hurtful something might sound or feel, we are honest with each other, then we work together to resolve whatever is at hand. It works!

Life has PTSD as part of it now. Things have changed and normal is a different normal now, so with that you have to think outside of the box on how to make things better and work through things. Once you learn how to, it becomes a new normal to life and makes things so much easier. Trial and error, there will be a lot of it, but it’s worth trying. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

What about PTSD and Cognitive Function?

What about PTSD and Cognitive Function?

I read an article the other day while I was waiting for Craig to finish with his appointment. Then I ran across it again. It really made me stop and think. It was a study done by the University of Texas in Dallas (Source: Association for Psychological Science). It was actually on the aging brain and memory/cognitive functioning, even though it was done with an age group of 60-90 years old, it caught my attention. Okay lol, anything associated with memory catches my attention since that’s one of Craig’s medical issues.

The study was based on using photography, then other things that exercise the brain… word puzzles or classical music, less demanding things. Then things such as photography, quilting, or both. Things that use a higher demand of engagement learning a new skill, used long term memory and other higher level of cognitive functioning.

Anyway, the outcome was basically that doing things that use more cognitive processing, learning and engaging in something new, provided more stimulation mentally as well as socially which lead to improvements of memory, over the activities that were done at home. In a comfort zone.

So, you know this got me to thinking. 😉 It sounds rather simple and common sense to the outcome of the study, BUT what about those who suffer from PTSD?

We know that memory and cognitive functions can be difficult with PTSD for many. So would something like the activities used in this study also benefit those with mental illness/disorders? I’m not a doctor to say the least, but I would believe so.

With the combination of learning a new skill, something you find that you enjoy, getting out of your comfort zone in order to do that activity in some cases, and having to learn the new steps or procedures to it (such as the quilting or photography examples), I would think it could help!

It increases the brains activity and like with photography, gives you something new to experience with each click. I know for example, when Craig and I had to attend the wedding recently he stayed behind the camera taking pictures. He could move around as needed, his focus was on what he was taking a photo of through the lens, and even though he still had high anxiety, he was able to manage being at the wedding for majority of the time. It made it a little easier for him to attend the wedding.

There are so many different things that can help with memory and cognitive function… meditation, reading, music, what you eat or drink, word puzzles, walking, exercising, even sex. The list I am sure is endless. I will add in here, watching TV is one of the things that has been found to decrease brain function, just to note that. 😉

But maybe tossing a few more challenging things into the mix can help with more PTSD symptoms, not only memory and cognitive function in general, but other symptoms as well. As I always say, make sure you exercise your brain. 😉

Just something to think about. 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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PTSD and More connections to Memory Issues

PTSD and More connections to Memory Issues

Okay, so we know that many people who suffer from PTSD have memory issues, rather they are severe or mild. Not everyone with PTSD has this, but there are many that do.

Memory issues are not directly listed for PTSD in many places depending on where you are reading or who you talk to, but we see it does exist as a symptom, so why?

Well, as many of you know, this was one of Craig’s first serious signs to his disabilities. It’s something that has left many doctors puzzled and “why” the extent of it is so severe. We have heard it was from when he had West Nile, we have heard Conversion Disorder, then we were told it’s his PTSD chronic and Depressive Disorder which is where it stands today.

Well, you know me, okay you can give me a reason but where’s the why to it?

Recently I had a discussion with a psychiatrist about this. And what I was told made sense! I’m not convinced it’s the total reason or complete “why” in Craig’s case, because there do seem to be blocks of memories that are just completely gone, long and short memory, things that he really knew and were in long term memory but are no longer present… but what I was told seemed like really good information.


Anxiety? Now how could that cause memory issues? So this is basically what I was told. Of course PTSD itself is a form of anxiety. But also the symptoms that come with PTSD are multiple and bring more anxiety from different symptoms.

The “what if’s”…
What if I fail? What if I don’t remember that? What if this happens? What if I mess up? What if I say something wrong? What if they judge me? What if I can’t pay the bills? What if my children become effected by my symptoms? What if, what if, what if!

When anxiety becomes high, what happens? The focus is not on details but on everything else around you. The sights, sounds, smells, people, places, things, the worries and concerns… but not on the here and now of details. So, if the details are not being absorbed because the anxiety focus is on the what if’s, then in reality how are they going to transfer to memory? They are not, or only bits and pieces will. Leading to the memory issues!

In some cases it’s not that there is actually “memory loss”, it’s that the anxiety is keeping the memories from forming. Maybe the brain is so overwhelmed to the “what happened” that it makes little room for “what is happening” other than where PTSD has your focus/attention.

Now to me, and I’m not a doctor by any means, this seems to form a vicious circle. You have a person who is battling anxiety and PTSD but yet having memory issues which are preventing them from coping with the anxiety. Hum, makes you stop and think!

So, you know me 😉 I asked more questions. So how do you manage the anxiety, in order to manage the anxiety effects, and back again? HA, that vicious circle! It rolls back to the “what if’s”. When you focus so much on the what if’s it prevents you from existing in the now, and making memories or full memories in the right now. Ah, we go back to the coping skills.

You have to learn coping skills (sometimes medications are also used) in order to manage the anxiety. To try to put some sort of break in the anxiety, which is extremely hard to do! These breaks that learning and using coping skills can give, in reality help. They can also be the reason some people have a what I call “hit or miss” in what they remember and what they don’t.” Maybe on a good day with less anxiety they recall more, then on rough days they don’t. Makes total sense!

Recognizing when you are having high anxiety, learning to cope with it right then while it is happening, can lead you to being able to hold on to more memories or to making more memories. Even if you have to make notes of what to do or what coping skills help, make a note so you remember you do have something that can help.

Now like Craig’s case, not remembering things that were so sound, solid, and he knew well for many years, seeming to be completely gone from memory now? I just don’t have the answers to, yet.

But, in over all reasoning to memory cases or issues, this anxiety explanation makes total sense to me! So, before you put your what if’s to worrying about what you remember and what you don’t, think of the possibility it’s just your anxiety making things harder, and work on coping with the anxiety and see if it helps. It’s worth a good try. 😉

Again I’m not a doctor or in any medical field so this is just from my personal point of view, what we have experienced, and what I have learned.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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Memory Issues and Food ;)

Memory and Foods

Yesterday Craig and I were getting ready to watch a movie. I grabbed my bag of “Combos” snacks. He looked at me puzzled and asked what I was eating. I showed him the bag and he still looked puzzled.

He said, “I have been married to you for over 10 years (known you for over 24 years) and I don’t remember EVER seeing you eat those!”

I just chuckled. 😉 Fact is, when we were dating years ago I always had a bag of them in my car… and HE even ate them with me. Now I will admit, I have not bought them in a long time, but they were one of my favorites to munch on. When school shopping with my daughter this past week, I saw them at the checkout and was reminded that I do like them, so I bought a bag.

So yes, it’s kind of off topic, but kind of on topic. Memory is a big issue that can come with PTSD, and you never know what things will be remembered or forgotten. 

This was one of those little things that we could chuckle about and the look on his face was priceless. The man that knows me better then anyone was in shock over what I was eating lol.

Now, about foods. There is a flip side to it too.  When memory is an issue, you would be shocked at how one might now like certain foods that they could not stand before.  I have found many things that Craig would not eat before that he now loves… because he doesn’t recall he doesn’t like it! So I never do the “oh he won’t eat that” or “I won’t fix that”, because I never honestly know. So it’s always a “try it” when it comes to foods. So memory issues have an up side to them as well sometimes…. FOOD choices. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Things you can do to help navigate through memory issues.

Things you can do to help navigate through memory issues.
With talking about PTSD and Memory issues today, let’s go over more things that can help!

Memory issues are like anything else that can come with PTSD, they are very real for many people and you have to find ways to manage and find solutions to help when it is an issue.

When memory is an issue, it can cause all sorts of unsettling things to happen. Arguments, issues handling or spending money, managing finances, trust issues, other people may think you are lying during conversations, one could get lost or wander, etc etc. These are just a few examples.

So what can help?

* Post-it notes or Labels.

This is a very popular one. Writing notes can help a person stay on track, as long as they realize the note is for them.  Always put the person’s name on the note or they might think it is for someone else. 

* Email or Text Message reminds.

Email and text message has it’s benefits when it comes to memory. You can set up an email folder on the person’s computer “Things to Remember” for them to drop reminder messages into. Many check their email several times a day, so this can be helpful.

* Alarms.

It can be a clock, a watch, an email reminder, oven times, anything that draws attention to “that alarm means something”. Now, with that alarm you have to have something to remind what it is for also, or there is a good chance it will be turned off and ignored.

* Hand writing.

Notes by the person to themselves is one that we have found the most useful! It’s in their own handwriting therefore they know it is real and that it is something they did for themselves.

These come in extremely handy with trust issues or when they believe someone is lying to them or “that didn’t happen”. Just don’t abuse using these! You want them to keep trust during rough times and to help, not use it to prove you are right! At times you as a partner may not be right, and if you use a note they wrote to themselves when you are wrong, you are tampering with having a larger issue on your hands then memory.

* Puzzles, Board games, etc

The brain is a muscle, and muscles need exercise! Doing things such as puzzles, crossword puzzles, word searches, chess, or other board games help keep the brain active and can help improve the memory in some cases. These things are important to help the brain function.

* Follow something you like.

A sport, news, a DIY show… anything that you take an interest in! It can help the memory by taking an interest in something you like and adding to building the memory by tracking scores, what’s going on, or something you are interested in. It’s another way to exercise the brain.

* Other types of alarms.

My favorite is the refrigerator door alarm! Many come with a buzzer so if the door is left open for a certain length of time it alerts you. Closing the refrigerator my seem simple to many, however to one that suffers from memory issues it may not be. The focus can go to carrying the drink or where they are going with the drink, and not on remembering to close the door, as an example.

Pool window and door alarms (there are also gate alarms for outside). These are really handy rather you have a pool or not! They let you know when a door or window is opened. Many with memory issues wander, this can be really scary if they slip out and you don’t know it. It’s also scary to the person with the memory issue if they make it outside and can’t find their way back or become disorientated. They also allow both people to have a little personal space without always following each other through the house. You want the one who suffers from memory issues to do as much as they can for themselves, again, it helps exercise the brain and also helps keep their self-esteem.

* Wall Calenders.

I personally prefer these over dry-erase or chalk boards because you can look ahead or look back. When memory is an issue, it is very important to the person to be able to see what has happened or what is coming. It helps them keep track of their life easier without always having to rely on someone else to tell them.

* ICE phone numbers.

Something everyone should really do. But very important to someone who has memory issues. This day and age almost everyone carries a cell phone. Having emergency numbers in the phone can help the person if they get somewhere and forget where they are going or how to get somewhere, they call their “in case of emergency” person for assistance. These also help in case one gets confused or lost, emergency workers can look to see if there are contacts in the phone to help them get home.

* Emergency ID.

I will preach this one to you! ID bracelets and medical ID cards! They should be on one that has memory issues at all times. They come in all sorts of different styles and can be extremely handy in case of an emergency!

* His and Her.

Sound silly? It’s not! If you have his or her sinks for example, set one up for him and one up for her! Something many might not think about… until you walk in to your partner using YOUR toothbrush! When memory is an issue, one is going to use things which they “think” are theirs. Dividing things up so it’s noticeable which items belong to them can be a huge help and also help keep frustration down. Ones with memory issues do not like always having to ask about things and will go with what they think is right. If, for example, you have one bathroom and 4 toothbrushes all together in a toothbrush holder, you just put 4 options on the table for the memory issue to battle. Get my point 

You can do this with anything! It’s not something that has to look out of place, it can actually add to the decor of your home but at the same time cutting down on the frustration that comes with not remembering.

Here’s something I did which has been a hit with people who have seen it. We have tons of stemware, but don’t drink much at all anymore. I took a glass beer mug and a wine glass, placed them in mine and Craig’s bathroom. Beer mug at his sink and wine glass at mine… to hold our toothbrushes and toothpaste! I also, just a me thing lol, took a Hersheys candy bag and cleaned it, folded it to where it says “Hers” and placed it in the wine glass. HA, no mistaking which one is my toothbrush!  And it looks neat!

These are just a few things of many you can do to help with memory issues, cut down on frustration, and just make life a little easier with PTSD. Think outside of the box! You might be shocked at what can help!! 

Memory issues are very serious, however you can still manage life with them.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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“PTSD vs Memory”

PTSD vs Memory

What? Memory? No, it can’t be!

Well guess what? It is so! Again, I’m not a doctor of any sort and can not give medical advice, my postings are that of personal experiences, what I have been told, or info from others.

Memory is one of the largest problems Craig suffers from. The main reason he was discharged from the military and before we knew it was PTSD he was fighting.

This is where a lot of your problems can stem from. The “why did you hide or take my stuff?”, “I didn’t do that!”, “I never said that”, “You are crazy! That never happened!”, “You never told me about that!”, “Why would you accuse me of that? I didn’t do or say that!” How about trouble at work, at home, with friends, with family or the community?

Oh boy! You get my point. Fact is, memory is a huge part of PTSD! It can also be linked to dissociative symptoms which can come with PTSD.

How do you battle something that someone doesn’t remember or does not think exists?

This is a very tricky one indeed! Back when Craig’s medical issues started he thought I was crazy. He started arguments with me…something that we never did. This was my first sign that something deeper and darker was going on with him. One day when he came home from the ship we had a conversation, a pretty important one. I could tell he was a little frustrated, I went inside to check on dinner then came back out. Thinking that gave him a chance to cool off for a minute. When I went back out to him I said, “So, what do you think?” He looked at me like I was crazy! “Bec, what are you talking about?” I remember that day like it was yesterday, the day that it all started clicking to me. I relied back to him, “The conversation we just had.” Know what his response was? “What conversation?”.

About 10 minutes I had been away from him, in that 10 minutes he had forgotten we had even talked. I stood there speechless. A simple “never mind”, and I went back inside. I watched Craig from the window as I thought about all of this. It made sense! It made sense to why he was arguing, why he wasn’t doing things he said he would do, why I was having to find things for him, why he kept me on the phone while he drove to work…asking me to look up traffic for him and tell him the best way to work, all of it now made sense! He even started getting in trouble at work, something that was by no means him! One time he was given a direct order, he to this day never remembered it being given. He left work without following it. Wrote up for not following an order and fought that he had never been given it.

Truth is, to him he never was given it, he didn’t remember it! Over time one thing lead to another. I went to his command and told them there was something wrong with him. Their reply to me? You want him out of the military. Actually not at all! I wanted help for him! It took a mess up at a team training ( a team training that he himself use to teach and he was an expert at!), something that could have cost lives if it had been real life, for his command to get in my face and yell at me “What’s wrong with your husband?” Well, exactly what we had been trying to tell them. I went to the Chaplin for help. We all sat in a room together and they had to hear me out. That’s when the military started looking for answers to what was wrong with him. We were first told it was West Nile, which was in his bloodstream. Then we were told it lasted too long to be from the West Nile, it was Conversion Disorder (which he was discharged with). Then the VA finally said oh no it’s PTSD and Depressive Disorder. Then everything started making sense!

I told that part of our story to show you the seriousness of all of this. Memory issues ARE real with PTSD, and the person may not even know they have this issue.

It’s what I call “hit or miss”. You might remember one thing then not remember another, or maybe only part of something. I was told that Craig’s short term memory was not converting to long term memory. Only about 40% of it was being converted. Later I was told by a doctor that the brain is locking up parts of his memory and not letting them out, but the memories “might” still be there, just hidden away. Like electrical cables that are not connected so you don’t get the electrical current unless the wires touch. As time has gone by it has been noticed that his long term memory has been effected also. Things that there are no way he would forget, he does not remember.

The docs have told us all sorts of things to try. From making notes, setting alarms, sending yourself emails, doing puzzles to exercise the brain, games, etc. We have tried it all! Everything his doctors have told us to do. So far nothing has worked long term, not that it might not work for someone else, but Craig’s is so far advanced that I was told this is a life long problem. The important thing is to keep working or challenging the brain, giving it exercise so to speak, so the brain will continue to try to function. I do believe that if someone had helped him sooner it may have never gotten to this point. But we still do not give up!

So, now that you know this part of our story, and no matter which side of this you are on, I have something very important to say. This is when you HAVE to relearn to trust those close to you, you have to have communication, and there has to be a lot of understanding and balance.

I was at my wits end. I was told I was crazy, that I was lying even about the stupidest things that were simple. Well, you know me lol, I’m not one to quit. One day I placed a piece of paper and a pen in front of Craig. Again he looked at me like I was crazy. I said to him, “Do you trust me? 100% do you trust me?. He said, ” Of course I do. You are the one person in this world I know for a fact I can trust”. Guess what I said next? “Then if you do, and you know in your heart without a doubt you do, then write it down”. He thought I was crazy, but he wrote it. Then I said now sign it. Man I should have taken a picture of his face lol! But he signed it. And I said thank you and walked away.

I took that note he wrote and I locked it away. Did not mention it again. The next time something happened, and I could tell it was going to lead to an argument, I did not say a word. I walked to where I had the note locked up, pulled it out, and walked over to him. That PTSD rage was all I could see in his eyes. I knew where this was heading. He tried to pick up the argument with me where it had left off when I walked away. I looked at him and said, “Do you trust me?” Of course the angry PTSD said a bunch of nasty things in return. I calmly asked him again, “Do you trust me?” I got this time “you are lying! How could you say these things to me! I never did that!…” I calmly told him I love you…and I need you to read this. And I handed him the note.

He paused as he read it. Then he looked at me and asked me how I got that, who wrote it, this is a trick. I just looked at him. Is that your handwriting? He said yes. Is that your signature? He again said yes. It’s not a trick or a lie at all, you wrote that to yourself for times just like we are having right now. I would not lie to you, I need you to listen to me and understand that you are not remembering things right now. He stood there, looking at that note for a few silent minutes. Then started crying.

I told him there is no need to cry, you just did not know.

When you are dealing with the memory, or lack of, it’s tricky. I had set out to find a way around it, to where Craig and I could avoid what PTSD throws at us. Now don’t get me wrong lol, no one is perfect and you can’t just use this idea I came up with for every outbreak. If you as the one without PTSD is actually wrong, you have to fess up to it! None of us are perfect and at times we are going to be wrong. It can ONLY be used when the memory is truly the issue…if you misuse it you will lose that trust then you will end up in a worse place then you already are!

I’ll be honest, Craig and I now can joke when I put paper and pen in front of him now. He laughs at me and says you are really going to make me do that aren’t ya? Nope, you have to choose to. I have a whole note pad of notes now lol!

Then you have memory with objects or things. One with PTSD may swear you hid it, put it someplace where they didn’t know about, etc. For this, I put up special hooks just for Craig’s use, next to his desk. This is where hats, keys, sunglasses, and such go. If I see him laying stuff down somewhere else I just simply ask him if he could put them on his hooks to help me keep the house picked up. And if he forgets that’s where he’s heading then I simply repeat myself until they get there. Sometimes he will say, “You already told me that.” And a simple reply of ”I’m sorry, I didn’t know if you remembered or not.” seems to work at keeping the frustration down.

I also have a place for his wallet and things that he can’t hang up. His desk is for his stuff only. Whatever it takes for him to have his space and help through the frustration the memory issues bring.

Then there are the times that something is misplaced. When you can’t find something, it gets frustrating in the first place. Then try being the one with PTSD trying to find it! Not a good thing. I always challenge Craig’s brain, try to let him do as much for himself as he can. But when the frustration really starts and I see there is no way he is going to remember, I simply say, “Let me help you look for that”. Or if I know where it is I’ll say something like, “I think I saw it in such and such room.” Of course if all of that fails then we send a dog to find it for both of us.  But not everyone has that option. Also, take a break from looking. Sit, breathe, relax, and sometimes you might think of where it is, sometimes you won’t. But that break gives you the break from the frustration.

Memory and safety is a huge deal. Something many don’t think about. This is where you as the spouse/partner does have to pay attention. Did they leave the gas grill on? Was the stove turned off? Was the refrigerator left open? How long can one be left watching young children? If they take a walk are they able to find their way back home? Things that the person without PTSD may not think about. But are and can be very real. And you don’t have to point out what you have had to do behind them…my goodness they battle self esteem enough without adding that to it! We actually found the fridge being left open was a biggie. So when we had to get a new one, we got one that has an alarm on it to let us know it was left open. Think outside the box, there are many things available that can help battle memory problems.

I will say on the safety things, BEFORE we knew Craig was having the memory issue, I had the scare of my life! I will say first, PTSD does not always make a person dangerous to a child. They can be as good of a parent or even better then one without PTSD. But, if you have young children and you know there is a memory issue involved, take caution! BEFORE we knew the severity of Craig’s memory issues, I had left to run to the store. I left a 3 year old in Craig’s care. I was only gone about 15 minutes. When I got back, Craig was sitting inside. I asked him where the 3 year old was. He looked at me with huge eyes, “with you!” Craig, no! I ran outside calling her name in a frantic. The office manager called to me and said Becky come here. Come to find out, my 3 year old had wandered up to the swimming pool trying to get into the gated pool area. Luckily the manager had seen her and took her inside until I returned. She was safe! Craig still to this day blames himself that a child that he dearly loves could have had something bad happen to her because of him. He had no clue he was watching her, he had not remembered. Rules changed that day for us to say the least. It wasn’t in reality his fault, his medical was the cause. But we as a family started making new rules.

As much as we all hate having to have safety protocol in place, it is a must. It’s not to be degrading in any way to anyone, it’s just the facts of living with PTSD and what it’s symptoms are. Memory is one of them.

Memory can play a huge part on your life. Adjustments have to be made, but that’s with anything in life. Facing memory issues is tough, especially if you don’t realize you have them, but we have proven it can be done. Don’t give up! Communicate, find ways that help you in your situation, work together, this is one time that trust plays a huge part with PTSD. It will pay off!

A Spouse’s Story…PTSD