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And then the guilt stepped in… PTSD.

And then the guilt stepped in… PTSD.

Many people do not realize how much guilt can be a part of PTSD. The first thing many think of is it comes from whatever trauma was at hand that caused PTSD to develop. Which can very well be the case, but it can go much further than that!

Guilt may not only come from what happened in the past. It can come a little more with each day and depending on how that day was, and how PTSD was for that day.

Guilt can come from nightmares (or even flashbacks)…

Nightmares can cause a spouse/partner to lose sleep. Maybe there is a need to sleep in separate rooms. Maybe the PTSD nightmares are physical and unknowingly to the one with PTSD at the time, physical contact was made on the one they love. Maybe one screams out during their nightmares, which a spouse/partner or other household members hear, which means hearing the details of. Maybe one paces during the night due to nightmares or is restless.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in, and then those PTSD negative changes in thoughts or feelings come. It does not matter how much a spouse/partner understands, and knows these things are not intentional, guilt still seems to step in.

Guilt can come from believing you let someone down…

Life changes when PTSD becomes a part of it. Maybe one cannot not do things the way the use to be able to. Maybe they cannot leave the house or not as often. Maybe they cannot attend large events. Maybe they have trouble attending school functions for children/grand-children. Maybe they have issues joining in for the holidays. Maybe they do not see family or friends like they use to.

All of those things can also cause guilt to step in. It’s not that one does not want to do things or be a part of things, it’s that PTSD tries it’s hardest to hold them back. When this happens, even through the numbness PTSD causes that guilt of one is letting others down can weigh in.

Guilt can come from a loss of a career or change…

When PTSD becomes a part of life, it can in reality effect one’s career. One may lose their career or have to change to a different line of work. Some can work, some have to work less, and some with PTSD cannot work at all. Maybe they try hard to work but have issues at work because of PTSD symptoms. And the lifestyle you were use to living now changes.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in. It has nothing to do with one not wanting to work, not wanting to do their best, or not wanting to provide for others. It’s what PTSD may cause.

Guilt can come from what others go through…

Those with PTSD know what it’s like to live with it, they also know and see what it may cause others around them. Life changes, relationships change, activities change, the way you manage things change, etc etc etc.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in. When one knows or sees that what they are going through does in some way effect another person, it makes it very difficult for guilt to not become a part of it. No one with PTSD asked for it, and they sure do not want it effecting those they care about.

I know guilt plays it’s part in PTSD. But I also know this, even with PTSD as a part of life, even with all of the changes that come, even with having to learn new ways to manage things, life, and symptoms… Your loved one would not be standing beside you if they could not handle this life. They CHOOSE to be there with you! That is really something to think about.

There are so many things that help bring a balance to this life with PTSD… Learning about PTSD, learning what works best to manage symptoms, learning coping skills, getting professional help, talking to and learning from others, even helping others, having a positive support system, trial and error of trying new things to see what works or does not, re-learning how to communicate, etc etc etc. The list is endless!

There’s no changing what happened, unfortunately. But from this point forward, the only guilt that should weigh in, is if you sit back and do nothing. MUCH easier said than done, I know! But it’s something everyone can work on.

Things are going to happen, that’s a part of this life, and you figure out how to work through them together. Things or situations that come from PTSD are not done on purpose, anyone who is educated on PTSD knows that. If your spouse/partner says they understand, it’s okay, can we try this, we will figure out how to get through this… accept it, trust them, and try not to let the guilt of a situation over power you. In reality the situation may be weighing on you much more than it is on them. That’s what PTSD causes, it’s a part of the negative changes in thoughts, views, and feelings. Work together.

Guilt is dangerous. It can effect your thoughts of yourself, your relationship, your family, and your life. Work on trying not to let it weigh too much into what PTSD already brings. I know that’s hard, but it’s not impossible. If you feel guilty about something that has happened, talk to someone. Figure out a way to change things in the future or try a different way of managing things. PTSD brings many challenges as it is, don’t let it and guilt take away from you what could be.

Life can still have a balance, life can still be good, and steps forward can be made. YOU are worth those steps!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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Survivor’s Guilt… Let me tell you a story

Over time you learn how to spot things or what will effect one. It becomes second nature really. Today I want to talk about something with total respect and a heavy heart. I hope this brings some understanding to those who have not learned yet or are new to this life.

Let me tell you a story…

Last night Craig and I watched a show series in the bedroom, and I fell asleep during it… on purpose! I knew Craig would keep watching, that he would stay there with me or in the room, I also knew that I would need some sleep before the night time came… the nightmares.

How did I know this beforehand? Because today, to many, is a holiday. Holidays can bring a lot of different things to many people who have PTSD…

Yesterday was a day of Craig talking about “that” deployment, where his trauma took place. He tried to recall details of that time and names of those he served with. He told me stories of how he met some of the crew he was stationed/deployed with. He came across, or found really, the cruise book online from that time. He scanned through every photo trying to recognize people, he talked to me about places he saw, as well as the good and bad experiences. He got frustrated and upset over pieces he could not remember. At times he would somewhat smile and tell a funny story. I could see every emotion as it came to him, I could see how he would stop at certain photos. I heard him say, “They must have left them out, I don’t see them”. I knew who he was looking for.

And when he reached the last page, he saw the “In Memory Of” page and photos of his friends that did not make it home. He spoke out to me, “There they are!”. I sat with him and listened as he flipped through every page, and when he reached that special page I watched as he touched the screen, how he said each of their names out loud. Then he told me about each of his buddies, the things they use to do, what their personalities were like, how he looked up to them and valued their friendships, how the one friend of the three was the reason he wanted to learn how to fly… become a pilot, and did. I saw the sadness on his face, the loss he was experiencing.

So I just sat and listened, watched, talked and asked appropriate questions when they fit in. I shared with him this experience of remembrance with respect.

See, many who have PTSD also experience survivor’s guilt. Craig is one of those. When holidays approach, you can see it. You can see the changes and increases in symptoms. You can watch them withdraw from those around them. You can see a sort of sadness come over them. You might hear them speak of the families or look for them quietly of those lost, just to see how they are now.

Some people will talk about those who died, others will not or just not yet… have respect to whichever they are comfortable with. Survivor’s guilt is no joke, it’s very real. It can cause some of the darkest days and there needs to be caution with this. If your loved one experiences this, please don’t push them or have too high of expectations of them during these times. They need your support and just someone to be there.

If they can’t manage to do the things planned or what you want of them, don’t hold it against them, don’t take it out on them, don’t talk bad about them… the “You ruined my day”, don’t argue about it, and pep talks are not always the right action. Sometimes they need to experience these feelings so they can move forward, and remember they are important and that it’s important they are here. Just be thankful you have them, that they are alive.

Being understanding of their loss instead of negative helps them more then anything. As well as it can help them before and on the holiday, which can lead to a better day at times. Allow them to grieve if they need to, allow them to talk if they want to, and be there for them through these times.

Yesterday was special. Craig has talked to me many times about his trauma and the loss of his friends, but yesterday, he shared his grieving, loss, and even the chuckles of good memories with me on a much deeper level. We took a part of the day to reflect and give him the one on one time for him to just talk, communicate, and express himself, his emotions, and his memories.

Survivor’s guilt is much like PTSD, one does not just snap out of it or get over it, they re-experience it. It hangs with them, and what you do, the words you use or don’t use, can make a huge difference. When these times come or you see one struggling, use kindness, understanding, compassion, so you can help them through it and move forward in positive ways. Sometimes just being there to listen is all you need to do.

Sometimes there is something I speak to Craig, it seems to help him through the tough days, helps him refocus of sorts, and I speak it from the heart with kindness and understanding. So if you are one struggling today, I want to share this with you. It won’t make those feelings go away, and I respect that and your loss, but maybe it will help you through the day with a slight ease or different point of view to what you are experiencing that is so real… 

Every person who survived, survived for a reason. I don’t know why it was you instead of them, my view is there is a mission of sorts that you have not completed yet. Something that you can bring to others that holds great value and meaning, and I truly believe that. I do not have answers to why so many important, special people were lost. But as I have told Craig before, during some of our in depth talks, those that were lost would be proud of you, they would want you to live your life and keep moving forward, they would want you to do it for yourself, your family, as well as for them. The friendships were special, that brotherly bond was strong, it will always be a part of you and who you are… and they would only wish the best to and for you. Their memory you have brings you strength. I know the loss is great and it weighs on the heart and mind heavily, there’s no getting past that feeling, those emotions, and experiences of something so very real. But I also know that they believed in you and would not want to see you struggle, just as if they had been the ones to survive you would not want to see them struggling. So be kind to yourself, allow yourself to experience those thoughts, feelings, and emotions, grieve when you need to… but at the same time, don’t let it slip from your mind to live, they would want you to. 

From the heart with love, understanding, and compassion… I hope each of you find good in today.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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How did everyone do yesterday?

How did everyone do yesterday?

We had a rough day, I mean really rough. I think Craig experienced every aspect of PTSD and survivor’s guilt there is… all in one day. He woke from nightmares and was also having kidney pain (very happy his surgery is next week so he can get past that part) We talked a lot, laid facts on the table of things in a compassionate way, I think I used every angle of everything I have learned over the years to help him make it through the day (and I’ll do it again next time).

Our day held no expectations and I was perfectly okay with us not going anywhere. He said to me, “But I am keeping you from your family.” I replied back, “Craig, no you are not, but you do need to realize they are your family too. They do not expect us to come, that is totally up to us. They understand.

I watched Alex (my dog I trained to work all of Craig’s symptoms) work his tail off keeping Craig grounded and working his anxiety. It was almost like Alex and I were taking turns getting Craig through everything.

He has been going through so much with his physical medical then combining the mental health to it and the holiday… which only my oldest was around part of the day, this year we are having a delayed holiday so all of the kids are here for it. It just did not feel like a holiday. I said something I never thought I would say to Craig, and really thought awhile before saying it. I had no idea if it would help or make matters worse… if worse were even possible, but he was to the point it was almost a last resort before me making a decision if he needed to go to the hospital or not.

His survivor’s guilt had a serious hold on him and I had to say something compassionately, calmly, and sincere to try to pull him through it. Just to note the details had already come out so this comment did not come out of the blue but came with the conversation we were having in a calm tone with complete compassion. Our communication is beyond excellent and I would not recommend this for others to say if you have conflicts, you might meet the raw side of PTSD if you do. “If your buddies were still here they would be kicking you in the ass telling you to live and not remember them in the way you are doing. If it had been you instead of them, would you want them remembering you by them suffering this way?

I know that sounds harsh, but it worked. I know Craig and his symptoms well, I know details of everything that happened, and we work very well through everything. And that comment worked in our situation. It helped him to stop and think. He went and took a shower, and he pushed himself out the door to go to my parents’ for dinner, a short visit. It did not take all of those thoughts, feelings, or symptoms away, but it helped give him a little push up from the rock bottom he was sitting in.

When we returned home he said it helped him and it was good seeing our nieces open their gifts. To be honest, I got lucky that comment didn’t backfire on me. The more I listened to him the more that comment seemed to be the only thing that fit, that could possibly help a little bit.

Craig had told me that his brain just won’t slow down, too much going on. I knew this low was coming, last week I could tell he was battling it, the joking and picking on me, trying to keep himself from rock bottom, pushing himself to do things, extra coping skills being used. I know the signs, I knew what was coming, and I was ready.

To be honest I don’t know anyone who would not have crashed with all that is going on. Yesterday was a long day, but he did good making it through it. I’m proud of him! My friends, it takes team work many times when the rock bottom comes. I am so very thankful Craig and I have formed that over the years. Even with serious symptoms yesterday, he did good!

Today is a new day, and with it we will make it through whatever may come. I can not preach enough… communication, coping skills, compassion, patience, and working together… those things do make a huge difference in a positive way when it comes to life with PTSD. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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PTSD vs Guilt…

PTSD vs Guilt

That is a very strong word and it carries a ton of weight with it. Guilt can come from many different reasons. But what are some of the reasons that can be related to PTSD?

You know, PTSD is hard enough for one to cope with and the struggles from day to day can be difficult, then there is guilt mixed with it.

Now, I’m not only talking about survivor’s guilt, which many with PTSD do have. That is a beast within itself already. Surviving when someone else didn’t, feeling as if you should have been the one that didn’t make it… it’s a huge weight to carry and you have to work hard to make it through those feelings every day. And to those of you that experience it, and yes my husband is one of them so I do understand what it causes. Don’t give up on yourself! I truly believe there is a reason you are here, rather it is a known reason or not to you right now.

Other common reasons guilt my develop:

* Not being able to work.

This is a tough one for many! You have a person who has worked their entire life, worked hard to succeed in what their line of work was, then they faced a disability that took it all away. They now feel like they have let themselves and others down by not being able to provide as they use to be able to do.

This was a very difficult one in our home. I had to find a way for this to be viewed differently and voice a different way of viewing it to easy that guilt. Craig is a disabled Veteran due to his military career, even though he can no longer work, he does receive financial benefits that he EARNED. To me, that IS indeed providing! 

* Feeling like a burden.

This is very common. A person always took care of themselves as well as others, and now is in a position that those things are not so easy, or not as easy as they use to be. That can weigh on a person.

But let me tell you something, even if you are viewing yourself as a burden to others, you are NOT a burden to that person who loves you. You are in their life for a reason, try to remember that.

* I can’t do the things I use to do.

The old me and who I am now. An extremely hard one to grasp. The I use to do this or that and now it’s hard to even leave the house.

You are still you! Things have just changed, change is a part of life rather we like it or not. On your good days, do what you can and try not to worry about the things you can’t. I know that is way easier said then done, but try to make the best of the now. Find new things to do. You might be shocked at what you can indeed do.

* Not spending a lot of time with children.

This is the hardest one on any parent. Soccer games, school events, crowded places, lots of noise and rowdiness of children. That can be overwhelming to PTSD. You start feeling like if you don’t go or attend everything then you are letting your children down.

I’ve got news for you on this one! No matter what amount of time you spend with children, no matter what you attend or don’t attend, quality is the key. As long as when you are able to you spend quality time with a child that is the largest thing that matters. They just want you to love them and be there for them, it does not mean you have to go everywhere. Children can be the most understanding and forgiving people in this world, so don’t let something that they can overlook and get past continue to weigh on you.

* Date Night.

I personally hate this term lol! You hear it all of the time especially from your friends in the social media. It can weigh on you that you don’t go out like everyone else does, you can feel guilt because it’s something you can’t offer your loved one or not on a regular basis. You feel as if you are keeping them from the rest of the world.

There is something you can do or try.  Even if you are one that your PTSD does not allow you to go out or not much, try some of these…

– Go out during off hours. It does not have to be a Friday night during dinner time outing to be a date night! Go out for lunch or during the week when things aren’t so busy. It is still going to mean just as much!

– Make special dinner plans, a movie, etc at home. There is nothing wrong with having a date night at home! Turn it into something special for the two of you, do something you two don’t normally do, oh jeez and for the ladies add that sissy romance in there lol. Even through numb feelings PTSD can cause, the motions to show you do care can still be used. 

* Not being able to participate in special events/holidays.

Just do what you can and take breaks when you need to! Holidays are overwhelming! Many time just showing face can be enough or making a call to let someone know that you would love to be there but it’s just not a good day. People are either going to take time to understand or they aren’t! Don’t let them weigh on you! You do what you can at your pace and do what is best for your situation.

– Take breaks to leave crowds when you need to.
– Show face even if you can’t stay… IF you are able to make it somewhere.
– Let people know that it does matter to you, even if you can’t make it.
– Do something on another day. A holiday does not always have to be celebrated on that day, anyone that has experienced military life knows this one well! You celebrate when you can.

* Spouses!

Don’t play the guilt trip!!! You will cause a lot of damage if you do. Work with the one with PTSD and find ways to cope and handle things. A guilt trip is just going to bring anger, frustration, the guilt, and your loved one falling into a really dark place. And sure won’t bring them any closer to you! DON’T do this to them!!!

There are MANY things that can bring guilt. Guilt can eat you alive if you allow it to, don’t let it. In many of the situations there are ways around allowing it to happen or take control of you. Don’t just give up. Guilt is a very real feeling and it’s not at all easy to overcome, it will take time and a lot of hard work, but do what you can! By trying to get past some of the guilt, you might just find new things in life you enjoy or can do. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD

PTSD vs Survivors Guilt

I want to touch on something today that many forget about or don’t even consider when it comes to one with PTSD.

PTSD vs Survivors Guilt

This is a topic that I have found effects many with PTSD. It is very apparent in the many Veterans I have spoken to or been in contact with, but does not effect only them, it stretches to anyone that has survived an episode where someone else didn’t.

The questions and statements brought up range widely…
-Why am I alive?
-What could I have done differently that could have saved them?
-Why am I the one that came back and they didn’t?
-I should have saved them.

The list is endless. The fact is, if you are hearing any of these things from a PTSD loved one, most likely you are not only dealing with PTSD but there may very well be survivors guilt there as well.

This is probably one of the most difficult things to cope with. Many Veterans ( I speak from the Veterans side since that is what Craig is, but it does go for anyone.) I know have found that helping others or helping other Veterans is a good way to cope with this. To feel useful, to unwrap some of the burden they feel to at least speak of it, they might do it because their doctor wants them to, and the most sincere… they know it might just save the next life. It’s in reality a form of survival. There are many that do not yet understand what PTSD brings and I know first hand that these very Veterans who shared their stories with me, as well as their guilt of the losses they saw or in some cases caused in the line of duty, brought a new understanding to me that I am very grateful for. Without them opening up the way they have done, it would have been a very difficult road to me understanding my own husband.

It goes back to a story I shared a little while back. Every one of the Veterans thanked me for listening, told me how much it helps them to be able to talk, but in reality they all helped me too! They are the ones I am thankful for. See, if they indeed weren’t the ones to survive, where would the next generations learn from? I believe that there is a reason for everything, I don’t know all of the answers to why lol because we sure don’t wish anything bad on anyone, but there’s a reason.

The ones who suffer from survivors guilt I have found are very hard on themselves. Almost like they are punishing themselves for surviving. And I can’t see through the computer but I bet there are a lot of heads shaking yes right now. My friends, don’t punish yourself, there’s no reason to. Without you and what you can bring to the rest of us, this world would be very incomplete! I know things happened that haunt you and your dreams, but you have a life to live that will change those of the future. I also know that there is nothing I can say that will change the way you feel, but I can say I am still proud of you and proud you are here today. You bring the rest of us wisdom, understanding, compassion, and hope.

To those of you who have a loved one which show the signs of survivors guilt, it’s not something to turn your back on or brush off. It’s real, it comes from real events, real feelings, and you have to make sure you make an extra effort to try to understand the best you can with not experiencing what they have and be there for them with extra love and understanding when these feelings surface. This is the time they will need you the most and also the time they might somewhat pull away. Be cautious of this. They need their space but they also need you! Especially during these times!

~Bec

Comments from those who wrote in on this subject: (with permission given to share)

” Yes, I have not been able to enjoy a holiday or any special occasion without the guilt, thinking of those who never got the chance. I often think why did I make it!”

~John, PTSD Veteran

“Could not have said it better,Bec–you do have a way with words. I was one of three who survived an ambush, out of fourteen, and the only way I found to get over the guilt feelings was to go and contact the families of the fallen, and share what I could with them–the good times, character quirks, stories shared, etc. You know, just about every one of them invited me in, had me stay for dinner, or lunch, and seemed glad to hear about the final hours of their loved ones—it helped me—thanks for your understanding, and your sharing.”

~Larry, PTSD Veteran