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“Invisible Wounds” or “Unseen Disabilities”

“Invisible Wounds” or “Unseen Disabilities”

I have a really heavy heart about posting this, and had NO intention of doing so! I made it for a totally different purpose. But I’m posting it because Craig told me he wanted me to, and I am going to honor that request. He said that “people need to see and understand what invisible/unseen disabilities look like”, such as ‪#‎PTSD‬, Major Depressive Disorder, and with him chronic migraines, “and actually do to a person”. As Craig told me yesterday, “I have seen all of those photos so it’s not like I don’t know what has happened to me, they were me, my life, how I was before and is the reality of what I am like now.”

I made this collage of photos yesterday morning (without the writing on it, I added the writing for the purpose of this posting) to help show someone the differences that our family sees in Craig, the differences that Craig sees in himself and what he himself compares himself to on a daily basis.

People call mental health conditions “invisible wounds” or “unseen disabilities”, I beg to differ to a certain point. No, there are not any scars to see for many, but you can see the wounds, just look at the changes in a person that mental health conditions cause. Look at the change in personality, the symptoms that are present, the change in appearance, the change in their routine and what they can or can not honestly do now. To me, those are all visible signs, and for many they are drastic signs of what and how one is affected by “unseen” disabilities.

Craig is one that tries hard to be the person he was before these disabilities, he pushes everyday to be the best he can be now. He gets regular treatment, he’s on medications to help with symptoms, he uses coping skills, he pushes himself, and I am so very proud of him, he honestly tries! But even with all that he does and we do, these photos really show the real life differences in him. PTSD and ‪#‎depression‬ are not things that one can suck up or brush under a rug and just get over. Every day it takes a lot of effort to be the best possible, to push through each day, and to battle the symptoms that come with these disabilities.

The top and bottom rows of photos are of Craig just before his disabilities became severe during his service time (Craig’s disabilities just happen to be military related, but many that are non-military suffer from the same types of disabilities), the middle photo is of Craig yesterday.

No one can convince me that PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder are unseen.

(Craig I love you dearly and thank you for your strength in showing others what mental health conditions do cause, what can be seen. You are my rock, my soul, the other half of every heartbeat my heart takes… and no disability will ever change that! Love, Bec)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

The unfortunate passing of Robin Williams…

I did not want to address this, but there is no choice.
Too many are struggling right now.

I was planning on letting this pass, a time for silence so to speak, out of respect for the family and friends, and to try to prevent any triggers or other symptoms from rising for those with PTSD and/or Depression, as well as other mental health conditions, but with as many as I am hearing from and of, I think and hope the family and friends would understand me writing this. 

I know that the news of Robin Williams passing has been a devastation for many. People idolize him for the person he was and the talents he shared with all of us.

I know the details of the news is extremely difficult for many. I know there are many comments being made that are way out of line, not everyone understands the struggles that do in reality come with mental health conditions. I do not think it has been taken into consideration what the details of his passing as well as some of the things being said, are doing to others who suffer from depression, as well as PTSD, and other mental health conditions.

Mr. Williams was a wonderful person, a real person, that struggled through things just as many others do. Even though I never had the opportunity to personally meet him, I know many of you have and this has hit you hard. He had a kind heart, he believed in our military and did what he could to be there for them and let them know they were not alone. He also had a heart for animals and helped out making sure animals had a fair chance at life. He helped many in his lifetime. I do not know much about him personally, but I do know that he touched my life and many lives through his role as an actor. As an actor, yes he was in the spot light and his talents were beyond magnificent. But, he was still a real person and that needs to be kept in mind.

We know that suicide is very real with depression, other mental health conditions, as well as with physical disabilities. Not everyone finds that path of surviving even though they work hard every day to make it to the next.

I had a comment come to me that I could not allow to pass. I realized I cannot remain silent, I have to say something.

I heard, “If someone as famous as Robin Williams resorted to suicide (allegedly based on news) , how am I, a nobody, who’s not rich or have unlimited access to things, suppose to make it?” Unfortunately, I have heard that many people are hearing this same type of comment from a loved one.

The only thing that comes from my heart that I can say, is MAYBE Mr. Williams did not have quite the same things in life as you have or there’s more to it than we are being told (NOT implying anything negative about his family, friends, or support system)… Each and every one of us that come together each day to make sure each other does make it to see tomorrow. A place where you can take that “mask” off and talk about real life as well as the struggles it brings, and find ways together to help each other. Maybe he felt like he had to wear that “mask” too often for too many. I really do not know, and none of us will ever know. Robin Williams will never be forgotten. 

What I do know is we have each other! We have the ability to share the good as well as the bad things that life with mental health conditions does bring. We have the ability to share those things with others who understand and may be facing the same struggles. We have the ability to openly talk about life. And, we have the ability to let others know they are not alone. There are many in this world that do suffer from some sort of mental illness or disorder.

When I call this page a “family”, I mean it. That is exactly what this little space on the internet is, it’s a loving and caring family that is world wide. It’s a place that stigma does not exist and we turn to each other and lean on each other.

YOU have something that not everyone with mental health conditions has found yet… others that can relate and do know what this life is like firsthand. Too many out there are still silent and trying to manage things on their own (not saying this is the case with Mr. Williams, just speaking in general), they need to know they don’t have to walk through this life alone.

Through the struggles that you may be having this week, PLEASE remember that you are NOT alone! PLEASE reach for help, use a crisis hotline number if you need someone to help you through this time. PLEASE contact your doctor. PLEASE use your support system and those that are there for you!

We all lost a wonderful person this week that has touched many of our lives in different wonderful ways. Let’s work together to make sure no more wonderful people are lost. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!! And YOU ARE SOMEONE! Someone that does matter!

To those of you who do not understand mental health conditions, I hope you take the time to learn and learn what real life with these conditions are like, to the best as possible. People with mental illnesses or disorders really are not weak. They are the ones that struggle through each day to become a survivor, and work hard to make life the best it can be. YOU can help save a life, just simply by learning and helping reduce stigma, and by just simply being there for others.

Much love to each and every single one of you. And our thoughts go out to Mr. Williams family and all who personally knew him.

Love,
Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

We will see what today holds.

We will see what today holds. 

Yesterday Craig had a migraine… and a doctor’s appointment. So handling those were what our day consisted of. He was physically sick all weekend after over-doing it on Friday, trying to get outside more to tinker on the boat. You know how it goes, one good day step forward then three steps/days back. But that’s okay!! He made great effort and that is what counts!Proud of him. 

You all know the first day we actually get the boat to water I will be posting photos and you will hear the excitement! I think this boat may really help him, and our family, get a sort of small part of life back that we lost so long ago. Small steps we are bound we will get there no matter what it takes!

Well, as of late last night we read there seems to be a new game plan going into place that we actually have not been told about yet. Yeah, nothing like reading doctor notes before the doctors inform you lol. From the sounds of it our boat may actually work well into this plan, we are a few steps ahead of the docs already I think.  I guess that simply means we are already on the right path.

Neurology is working on the migraines in hopes of reducing them some. It’s been so many years of him having 2-4 per week along with additional headaches, and the migraines laying him up, anything would be a great help at this point! Craig tries really hard to be active, but between the multiple migraines then being drained from them, then throw in #PTSD… well it is honestly extremely difficult and a challenge. BUT we will never give up! 

I did get a straight answer yesterday. Not really what I wanted to hear but we don’t always hear what we want to. I asked again if Craig having west nile virus when all of his medical conditions seemed to start, had any hand in his cognitive dysfunction and memory issues. The answer… We will never know. Seems from what I have been told (and Craig said I could share), that because spinal fluids were not taken at the time west nile was discovered in his blood that there is not a way of knowing if it has long term effects on his brain. So, basically it is being assumed that his medical conditions are all psychological related (PTSD, Depression, and anxiety). There’s no real answer. I was told however that west nile was the trigger (or one of, we know the ship was another) which brought PTSD “out of it’s box” Craig had been able to keep it in. So it basically set PTSD symptoms in motion that he could not cope with.

You know, no matter what the doctors say or don’t say, do or don’t do, Craig and I have made great effort to get him to the point he is today with the challenges disabilities have brought to our lives. That effort will never stop. I will never lose hope and we will always continue trying to improve our lives. Craig reading that report last night was really damaging to him, as well as myself. It was kind of in a way from what he read to me, saying this is it, there’s nothing more we can do, work on becoming social again, find some support (I really don’t understand that one with the huge family we have here on this page as well as our family), and we will check back with you at a later date. It just seemed to contain things that lack a huge realistic understanding of us, who and how we are, and what life in reality is like. Today is a new day and I refuse to let someone else’s lack of understanding our reality keep us down… that just would not be us. 😉

SO… here’s to a new day for all of us! Chins up, force that smile, and taking another step forward.  We are so thankful to have all of you as a positive part of our lives!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD and Migraines/Headaches

PTSD and Migraines/Headaches

Since migraines have obviously been a hot topic this week I wanted to address them directly. There are many people who have PTSD that suffer from migraines and/or headaches. But why?

I’m by no means a doctor, but have learned a lot about migraines with Craig having so many of them, so let’s talk.

Anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows that they are extremely painful, they cause you to become nauseous, they interfere with your vision, and can even effect your hearing while experiencing them. Then there are headaches, those annoying, head pounding, throbbing, lingering pain that you just want to go away even though you can function through them majority of the time until they leave.

Now take either of those and imagine suffering from them several times per week or on an almost daily basis. It becomes debilitating! That is exactly what many who suffer from PTSD go through. It sure makes managing PTSD itself difficult when migraines or headaches are hanging around so much.

Migraines or headaches can be caused by many different things…

* Lack of proper sleep.

We all know that with PTSD there also come nightmares/terrors, which lead to lack of sleep or good sleep.

* Proper eating habits.

We also know that with PTSD and/or depression, in many cases you just don’t have the urge to eat. OR, you don’t eat on a proper schedule. You have to remember that eating correctly fuels the body, and with that includes the brain. 

* Caffeine intake.

This is the one that shocks people, it sure did me! Many people, when they start having migraines or headaches back off caffeine intake, but you know what? By backing off you could be causing rebound or more headaches/migraines. It is important to keep your caffeine intake the same each day.

Example given to us this week was coffee. If you normally drink 3 cups of coffee a day, you should make sure you drink 3 cups every day, and in the same time frame you normally would.

It helps to prevent an increase in migraine or headache issues you may already be experiencing. There are even medications used to help with migraines that contain caffeine. Caffeine intake is a huge part of migraines/headaches that many don’t think about the way it should be. In reality, I can even tell if my intake was different each day, and you notice lol, my day always starts with coffee in hand. 

* Exercise.

Lack of exercise can play a role in all of this as well. Even if you only take a short walk each day it can help! And hey, a walk is always good for PTSD in general as well.

* Organic cause… a physical medical issue.

We can’t leave out actual physical reasons for migraines. Something physically going on with the body which can induce migraines or headaches. So it is good to make sure that is ruled out as the reason. And oh my! I have seen with Craig what one with PTSD is like when they fear that something physical could be going on with their brain, it’s not good, and that vicious cycle becomes worse to what they go through.

But you know what?

There’s something else that also comes with PTSD that can be the cause of migraines or headaches developing. Rather you have all of those other things somewhat balanced (which can help greatly) or not, or ruled out, and are still having severe issues, you can almost bet anxiety is at hand! Anxiety, now we have a larger vicious circle that leads to physical pain, migraines and/or headaches and PTSD symptoms!

It really makes sense that anxiety, and even depression for many, are behind much of the cause of migraines. Anxiety causes you to be tense, you worry more, all of those “what if’s” come into play, you may have tremors or twitches with it, and the fear of something being wrong with you can send your anxiety you already experience into overdrive. Additional stress, new things or situations that come up all can add to it. Which can lead to even more migraines and/or headaches. Oh that vicious circle.

So what can you do?

There are many different medications that can help manage migraines, and many doctors do start regimens that can help control migraines. Being in pain is no joking matter, so it’s one of those times that medications or even herbal remedies can help decrease pain. But that is only a part of it. You have to learn to relax. Oh, now that’s a good one, isn’t it! That’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish with PTSD! It is sure easier said then done.

That sends our vicious circle right back to the basics of managing PTSD itself. Coping skills. In order to find any form of relaxation, you have to take the time to learn and use coping skills. You have to set a schedule for yourself on daily needs such as eating and exercising, even just getting out of the house some each day. And you need to find something you enjoy doing! These things can all help with PTSD, with depression, and with anxiety… which in turn can help with managing migraines and headaches. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD and Things you might not think about.

PTSD and Things you might not think about.

We know the text book definition and symptoms of PTSD, but what about the other things? What else can come (co-occur) with PTSD?

* Depression

* Habit forming behaviors (such as checking locks, windows, doors, biting fingernails, shaking of the legs…)

* Cognitive functioning/ Memory problems

* Addiction (such as alcohol, drugs, pornography, video games)

* Physical Health problems. (listed individually)

* Heart disease

* Weight gain

* Heart palpitations

* Diabetes

* Physical Reactions/damage from medications

* Bed wetting

* Low self-esteem/self worth

* Hallucinations

* Trouble finding or keeping a job

* Relationship issues

* Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions

* Upset stomach/Digestive problems

* Headaches

* Tightness in chest

* Rapid breathing

* Feeling jittery/agitated

* Sexual issues (reduced sex drive and/or lack of wanting or enjoying. Both men and women)

* Physical aches/pains

* Guilt, shame, or self-blame

* Feeling hopeless or helpless

* Lack of trusting or feeling betrayal

* Loss of interest in things that use to be important to you

* Isolating one’s self from others, even loved ones

* Sleep Apnea

* Reproductive related problems

* Dissociative symptoms

* Self-harm

* Physical or verbal/mental abuse to others

WOW! And that’s sure not a complete list. There are many things that can come with or from PTSD. Learning what those things are and information about each symptom, physical or mental, one with PTSD can or does have can help you cope better and handle things to the best possible level. Even if one does have one or many of these symptoms, there is hope and things can be done to help.

Getting help for PTSD at early stages can greatly help in preventing many things from happening or starting. If one has already had PTSD for some time, you still need to get help so the days that follow can be better then what you may be experiencing right now.

This is your life! Reach for the help you need, lean on others, use your support system, seek professional help, and know that life IS worth living, even with PTSD! You are the “best of the best”, don’t allow PTSD to take that away from you. 

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”

PTSD vs Energy Levels

PTSD vs Energy Levels

Humm… after taking my daughter to the bus this morning I pulled back into the driveway and looked at my calla lilies that are coming up. Then I looked around and thought to myself, I really need to finish this front garden… the ol’ knee injury stopped me from finishing it last summer so it’s only half done and not many plants yet. This yard could be absolutely gorgeous if I could just find the energy to finish it! The front yard is pretty small, so I’m making it almost all gardens with pathways between them… at least that’s what I’m visioning lol.

Now back to that energy part lol! Sleepless nights equal lack of energy, then there’s only so many hours of sunlight in a day when a nap is really needed. If I could work outside when I’m up at 2 in the morning it would be perfect lolol! But that is not happening! 

There’s one thing, among many, about PTSD… rather you are the one with PTSD or the loved one, sometimes it’s hard to get things completed. You find yourself with a list of things you need to do or want to do but just don’t have the energy to get them done.

Things that can help:

* Sleep!
Even if you have to take that nap during the day, take it so you can get going again.

* Eat right.
We all know that food is a source of energy for the body, make sure you eat and eat correctly.

* Prioritize.
Make a to-do list. One part of the list for things you must get done, another for things you want to do, and get this  and a part for quick and simple to-do’s for those days where you don’t have much energy.

By breaking your list into sections you are more apt to be able to “see” what will fit into your energy level for the day without trying to do too much or feeling like a failure if something does not get completed because it’s out of range for your energy level for that day.

* Ask for Help.
If you have a project that you know someone could help out with, don’t feel bad about asking for help. This is a great way to create family projects, time, and get a job done faster.

If family is not available, contact local churches, youth groups, VFW’s, etc. and ask if they have someone that could assist you.

* Hire Help.
If it’s something you can afford or something you can’t do yourself, find someone who can. Many times certain projects can be done by neighborhood teenagers looking to make that extra gas money. If it needs a professional then look in local “need job” listings to see if there is someone in need of doing that type of work. Many times it will not only help you but can also help someone that is out of work right now.

*Use your energy wisely.
When you have energy, use it wisely and do something. This helps you feel good, feel you accomplished something, and not have that feeling of you wasted another day and didn’t get anything done.

These are just a few things that can help! Life with PTSD has it’s ups and downs, we all know that. When you find the energy let it work for you and help you feel good about yourself in the process.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD

“The PTSD Dance”…

“The PTSD Dance”

It’s that old saying “one step forward two steps back”. Something my good friend at “PTSD and ME” ♥ reminds everyone about quite often. 😉

When one with PTSD puts their energy into something, you can almost bet, and need to keep in mind, that the day(s) following will need to be what I call “down days”, where they can just relax and are not expected to do anything.

This week is a good example. Craig put all of his energy into helping me out with the repairs I needed to do to my pond. He made it out of the house, spent some time in the garage, and helped me get the new filter system into the pond.

See, with his PTSD as well as depression, that was a lot! It’s hard for him to even make it outside, then adding the physical stuff into it, let’s just leave it to that was a big step for him. (Thank you babe!)

However, I also keep in mind that after the effort is made on something like this, it takes a lot out of him, not just physically but emotionally as well. It normally takes approximately 3 days for him to recover from one day like this.

And these are the times that the “no expectation” rules come into play. He did great! Helped out. And now needs time to gather his strength again.

One of the things to keep in mind the most with PTSD is not to expect too much! Trust me, when they can do things they will! But placing expectations/or too many on one can bring a huge weight to them on top of their PTSD, it’s just not worth it. Why put yourself and them both into that situation? There are enough things in life that already bring expectations, and even those things bring a huge weight, do yourself and your loved one a favor and don’t expect any more then what they can handle and trust them when they say they can’t do any more, they know their limits. It will help life be a little easier with PTSD. 😉

It all goes back to the “one step forward two steps back”… so you can dance again. 😉

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”

PTSD Winter Blues…

Okay, time to be blunt about something else… What is up with this crazy weather??? 😉 It’s been in the 80s here in Florida, now we are going back to the low 30s this weekend! This “winter” so it’s called (haha) has bounced from 17 degrees to 80s then back down again… crazy!

Okay, okay… I’m posting about the weather again. But did you know that PTSD can be affected by the weather? Sure can! The winter blues… it’s hard enough to make it out of the house on a nice day, then you mix with it the cold and dampness, and many of you snow! You can keep the snow by the way 😉 I don’t mind visiting it, but I would not want to live in it.

All of these winter storms this year and sure give you the PTSD Blues on top of what you already go through each day. Then, if you add depression with it, oh my!

If you have a nice day take advantage of it. TRY to get outside, even if it’s just walking to the mailbox. Fresh air and sunshine is good for you. Gives you a little more of that vitamin D that you need to help you feel better.

On the bad weather days where going outside is just not an option, find something inside to do. Keeping the brain busy helps keep it sharp. Play chess, put a puzzle together, watch a good movie, do a crossword puzzle, maybe an inside hobby of some sort… anything that can keep the circuits in the brain chugging forward. 😉 These are good things to do with your partner as well!

The picture here is actually a puzzle Craig and I put together years ago… based our our story of meeting and him giving me a lily pad lol! Something we did together and I framed so we can always be reminded that there are good times in all of this. It also gives you a great time to just talk . 😉

I know the winter blues can be difficult, but hang in there and take one day at a time to get through them!

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”