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The Way Things Used To Be… Before PTSD

The Way Things Used To Be… Before PTSD

Super Bowl Sunday, yep it’s this weekend… so I’m being told and see. I talked to an old friend of our’s the other day on the phone, and it really hit me how life has changed by something that was said to me.

I heard, “Wish you were here for the Super Bowl party. I’m fixing wings, etc etc, and everything for the game. I remember all those years of us getting together at your house, wish you guys could be here with us for the game and party.”

Such a simple, kind, comment in reality. It made me feel really good actually and brought back so many great memories. I used to throw a Super Bowl party every year, it was my thing I loved to do! I would fix all of my appetizers… one of my specialties, finger foods and my sausage/cheese dip with chips, lol. I always had something new to make.

We would have friends over, 3-4 families, for the whole weekend, even some from out of town, yes we made a whole weekend of it! It was kind of a rule anyway that if you were drinking you better plan on staying, which everyone enjoyed staying anyway. We would stay up late talking and laughing together. It was always funny to see everyone camped out throughout the house, stepping over people to make my way to the kitchen in the mornings for my coffee. The early birds and I would sit and talk with coffee in hand before getting each day started.

All of the kids would play together… dogs included, the ladies would all gather on the front porch and talk and giggle while the guys were gathered talking about the game and guy stuff, everyone watching over the kids of course, they were younger back then. Then we would all come back together off and on. We would cook throughout the weekend, everyone chipping in to help. It was always a really fun weekend!

But then I got to thinking. Super Bowl Sunday, this weekend, and I honestly did not even know who is playing this year!!! Then my mind really started thinking. We did not even watch one football game this season!

Life sure changed when PTSD stepped into it. I can’t even recall the last time we had a gathering at our place… and we used to be the ones throwing the parties. I guess we can call it a fumble in life, of sorts, lol. It is what it is and we just have to do our best each day.

So, my thinking then went deeper. So we won’t be having that wonderful gathering of friends, the giggles and chuckles, and oh the glasses of wine or drinks lol… like we use to have together, the stepping over people to get to my coffee, or the kids playing football in the yard. So the house will be quiet. So I did not know who was even playing! That’s okay!

But you know what?… I think I WILL make that great sausage/cheese dip and thaw that slab of ribs I have in the freezer and crank up the grill! Come game day I will turn on the tv to the game, and out of the dark pick a team to yell for! I can cheer on a team now, I can get into the game, lol! 😉

Just because PTSD has changed life does not mean life does not exist in some way! 😉 You just alter things a bit!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

I have had a few comments come to me about “balance”, and a few made me realize that there is more to talk about regarding this subject.

I have to add my note here… I am not a doctor of any sort or in any medical field, the information I bring to you is based on our personal experiences, opinions, and what we have learned along the way in this life journey. I am simply a spouse and a caregiver of one with PTSD, depression, and other medical conditions… that brings awareness and support to others through our personal lives.

Balance is a word that I use a lot. Okay, more than a lot, more like all of the time, it’s extremely important to me and more than just a word, it’s a part of life. It’s a word that in reality years ago I did not even think about, and sure had no need to use that word (so I thought), I did not realize that it was even something that existed when it came to “life”… or was needed. When I heard others use the words “balance” and “energy”, was another, I just tossed them to the side, “What? I don’t need those!” I was one of those people just like many others that just loved life, and life was something you just lived. So why does this thing called “balance” need to be a part of it? It was a word, that back then, I myself dismissed.

After PTSD and other medical conditions became a part of our lives, I learned really fast what “unbalance” was! That foot-loose, carefree, just love and live life to it’s fullest person I was, changed! All of a sudden everything in life became serious, things happening brought an urgency, and along with that came worry, anxiety, panic, discomfort, fear, emotional hurt, and the list could keep going. That’s what I myself was experiencing, and I’m not the one with PTSD, Craig is! None of these things were me, they hurt, and I had to find this crazy thing called balance again. Then, take all of those negative things and add what PTSD brings for those who do have it, WOW, that’s overwhelmingly a lot!

It took a life experience, okay we had many experiences to the point it seemed like we were in a life altering bad experience avalanche, for me to realize and start understanding that life does indeed NEED a balance. It does not matter if your life is “good” or in the “trenches of hell”, that term “balance” and putting it to use, can change things.

Let me back up for a second, I used the term “hell”. I do not use or say that word very often. So if you hear it, it’s serious and here’s my view of what that means. It is the deepest, darkest, no view of a way out pit, black hole, that one falls in where no matter what you do, you just seem to keep falling further and lost in what is happening. There’s no light, there’s no hope, and that place will push you to want to give up. A place lacking balance. Okay, that’s “hell” to me, you get my point.

Back to balance. I was recently told, “I’m glad you found and have a balance in your relationship, wish we had that…” I stopped what I was doing when I read that, and I really sat back and thought about it and the way it was used in a paragraph. I did not take it in a negative way by any means, but the way it was said was a little misleading of a thought to what balance is for Craig and I. As well as what it takes and comes with it.

Balance is not something that you get or find, and then it just stays there. Balance takes constant work, a lot of energy and time, effort, it takes a “give and take” when it comes to the relationship, which is difficult with PTSD being a real part of life and what it does bring. And there are times, many times, that balance is not present and we have to work to get it back, or some sort of back that we can manage and live with, for whatever length of time it remains. It’s a constant effort, which we both are human and life does contain PTSD, it will slip at times. That’s when communication on a calm level has to take place so we know how each other feels and we can work at developing a balance again.

Then there is still the fact that I am in a caregiver role, Craig has very real life medical conditions to where i have to help him, which means there is not and will not be an equal balance in our relationship, again we had to find a balance that was comfortable for us, and continue working on balance itself. I had to let go of what was our balance or normal before the medical conditions, and accept that our balance changed when life changed, reality, when Craig changed. His brain and the way it functions, does not allow for an equal balance, at least not as of yet and it’s something we continue to work on. That acceptance is what helps us have a balance, our type of balance.

There’s not high expectations, or an expectation that things will be equal, the only expectations at hand are he is to try and do his best, and we work together. And of course PTSD and everything that comes with it does try us on it. It is a constant effort, as well as neither of us giving up on each other or giving in to PTSD. Balance is not something that comes easy, it does take hard work and effort, as well as keeping in mind that his brain does not fire/spark/function like it use to. Which again, is something that we continue to work on because there is always that chance he can be better than he is today, only time holds the answer to that one.

Then you have personal balance. Now, this one I have pretty much mastered, if there even is such a thing. However, I am human and at times I will lose my self balance for a moment (just like anyone else). That’s when I have to reflect on myself, who or how I truly am, whatever experiences or situations were at hand, use my coping skills, take time to think, then approach and/or talk about what happened… address the situation or why I became unbalanced. I learned that pointing fingers gets you no where good, excuses are not a part of this process it’s about explaining so you can move forward together and understand each other, repair the unbalance, as well as the relationship with whomever is involved. And at times it is just simply me that may have become overwhelmed, lost focus, or just simply having a bad day. Accepting and admitting without dwelling on self blame or with guilt, along with everything else I did, mentioned above, when a human unbalance comes, is how I find my balance again. Again, it takes effort, work, as well as reflecting on yourself… and either person can learn to do this.

“I can’t” to me does not exist when it comes to finding a balance, whether it’s in a relationship with your partner or others (work, family, friends, society), or a personal balance. You just have to learn how to, recognize it is important to have, accept reality of what is at hand, build and learn from your life experiences as well as relationships.

It is going to be more difficult for those with PTSD, because PTSD has in reality brought an unbalance that you are still learning to manage, no matter how long it’s been a part of your life. You also have to include the way each person’s brain works, and realize that you can continue developing it, no matter what age you are. I am a firm believer that there is always something else that can be done, it may take time to find what works or to understand how, but never lose hope, there is something.

We know that PTSD does not just go away, some may be able to place it in a box, but the reality is it is still there and only takes one trigger to bring it back out. Life changed, for each of us. But as I always state, “Life can get better than it may be today.” And finding some sort of new balance or new normal, will help. While remembering that each of us are human, we will become unbalanced at times, but it does not mean balance is gone for good. You just have to work on it. wink emoticon

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Finding the “New You”

Finding the “New You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– What kind of music do you like?

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

– Your appearance.

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

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

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

– What do you like NOW?

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

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

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

– Getting out of the house.

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

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

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

– Watch different types of movies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Life with PTSD and The way you view things.

Life with PTSD and The way you view things.

I discovered a long time ago that the way I/we view things can and does make all of the difference in the world when it comes to battling PTSD, as well as relearning how to live life with #PTSD being a part of it. I thought I would share some things that really has and continues to help in this battle.

* The battle is PTSD, NOT each other.

That is one of the most helpful views we have found! Especially when PTSD symptoms increase, life can easily become a battle between people. The problem is, battling each other does not lead to anywhere good. Majority of the time it will only lead to people pulling away from each other… more than what PTSD MAY already cause, it causes hurt feelings, feeling of loneliness or alone, and the roller coaster ride can become unbearable. Why battle, argue, and fight with someone you love? It’s easier to work together to find what helps so positive changes can come.

* In order to hate a person, you had to love them first.

I know emotions run high when PTSD is a part of life. Your world gets thrown into a tailspin and finding ways to manage it does take time, and a lot of trial and error. Nothing will change overnight, and you have to put a lot of effort into each day as well as relationships. An easy life is not just handed to you when PTSD is a part of it.

A person with PTSD did not ask for it, it is something that happened to them. Would it be fair to say you hate someone because they developed cancer? Nope, I doubt that would ever happen. So why say you hate someone just because they have PTSD? If you want to hate something, hate PTSD and learn to battle it together. But don’t say you hate someone that you actually love just because they have PTSD. There is a difference.

* You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of or help another.

My personal golden rule! Taking care of yourself is not only important for you, and to help maintain your own balance, it helps everyone around you… and you would be shocked at how much it will help a PTSD loved one! You have to take care of yourself physically as well as mentally.

* Things CAN change.

Just because you are going through an extremely difficult time, does not mean it will stay that way. The more you learn, the more you try different things to find what works best for you and your situation, positive things can come. A new normal can come. PTSD symptoms can change and/or the way you learn to manage them can change. PTSD will not go away, but things can get better than what you may be experiencing right now.

* Life has simply changed.

Acceptance is a huge key when PTSD becomes a part of your life. Life changes anyway, there is no stopping that. Life with PTSD is no different, a page in life has simply turned. Just like with anything else, you learn and you make the best of it so you can make those small steps forward.

* That old saying stands true, “Laugh or you will cry”.

Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is one of the most powerful coping skills there is. Okay, so something happened. Many things, not every situation but many, can be turned around if you learn to laugh it off or even laugh at yourself. Life is not perfect, it never will be. One of mine and Craig’s favorites is, “Oh look there’s PTSD, we see you”. Or “Mr PTSD is visiting today, but you won’t get the best of me.” It’s pointing out that we know whatever it is happening, it’s PTSD behind it, and we find ways to tackle it with a little humor. Just use your brain on this one  don’t laugh at someone unless they are laughing with you, you do not want to trigger PTSD. 

* Tomorrow/Today is a new day.

Face it, there are going to be bad days. When you experience one, try not to dwell on it the next day, start the day new. That is one thing that can be done when PTSD is a part of life.  Each day can be different and how you start your day is important. And if the day has started off on the wrong foot, try taking a nap and starting fresh after it… at times this can actually help. In a way, at times, it can help reset the brain, so to speak.

There are many things in life, and in life with PTSD that if you open your mind and take a step back… try viewing it, things, or situations from a different angle, it might just help turn things around. Everything will not be positive or all smiles all of the time, sometimes things need time to be processed, but don’t get stuck in only the negative. Look for a different view.  It might just help.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD Facebook page

PTSD… But what about “Life Goals”?

There is something with PTSD that was really brought to my attention yesterday. In a way it made me sad to start with, then empathy really kicked in… I felt what Craig was experiencing by watching the expressions on his face, watching his body language, listening to his words as he struggled to define answers.

Then, I listened to him laugh as he told about how we first met on the lake, and he handed me a lily pad. I watched him smile as he told about how we use to hike and all of the places we traveled together. How we use to take a solid month each year and just go! Travel anywhere.

Then I continued listening to him speak of how he is just numb. How he just feels nothing, no emotions or feeling, for anything or anyone. Something that is very real with PTSD. So how do you change that? What can you do? It was a question he honestly could not answer. (And just to state this, he does not mind me talking about and sharing this.) “I don’t know.“, he answered.

This struggle I watched, and felt, really made me think. It made sense! Then I realized it may be a huge puzzle piece that is missing for a lot of people who have ‪‎PTSD, or a disability of any sorts, and honestly… even for the spouses/partners. The big picture.

Then it really set in that there is something missing in everything HE does try to accomplish.

PTSD brings a here and now. You work hard to cope, manage the symptoms as they come. You work hard to make it from one day to the next. You work hard at learning as much as you can so you can live this new type of life with the challenges it can bring. You work hard to manage through any physical medical you may also have.

But in this here and now that does exist in life with PTSD, many times the “Life Goals” are missing.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Life Goals. Now that’s a huge topic! But I’m also seeing it may just be a huge puzzle piece that is missing for a lot of people.

Many of you already know our story. Craig and I had our life planned out! It was planned from the day we got back together all the way to the day we said our final “until later” to each other… at hopefully a really old age. 😉 Our goal was he would retire from the military. We had already talked to owners of an RV park we had planned on purchasing around retirement time. I would run a dog park/dog training facility inside the park and he/we would maintain and run the park. We would travel ourselves during the closed (snow season) months of the park. Etc. Etc., We had life goals, a plan, and had our life all worked out to the very last stages of it.

Then life changed, disabilities became a seriously real part of it. Our life goals were unraveled in the living in the here and now of each day. Awhile back I worked out a new plan. I realized that our life goals were still very important for us, and to who we are together as well as individuals. It did not include purchasing an RV park lol, but it did include what we loved… traveling and meeting people. The plan, goal, had just changed and would take much longer to accomplish since we were back to square one. But some of our life goals could still be accomplished.

Then there are my personal life goals. Last year I realized that a huge part of me was missing, that puzzle piece. I buckled down and started setting goals again, and not just the day to day goals of making it through each day. I decided to face my fears and write my book (which I’m still working on). This would also fit in well with our travel goal, but is my personal goal I can accomplish. And extremely important since dog training (what was my career) is something I can no longer do with this new life. My goal of continuing to help others, stands in place. My goals for spending time with my children, our every day talk time, etc. are still in place. Relationship goals… that is a tough one, Craig and I have an awesome relationship, but as with any relationship that involves PTSD, it has changed drastically and getting a part or something back that the disability has stolen or hidden from us, and continuing to build it in new ways, is a goal. I have short term, mid-term, as well as long term goals set… that do fit into the reality of my and our lives. But, I also realized that even my life goals are not complete…yet. 

But what about Craig? What about the many others with PTSD? What about the spouses/partners? I do see that many have lost or misplaced life goals because life changed without warning.

There is so much involved with life now, that life goals get lost or misplaced. This is a part of life that everyone needs! And I will not lie to you, it’s going to be one of the most difficult things to do or set into motion! You have to go back to those baby steps that we talk about all of the time. 

Sit, think, and visualize. What do you want? What do you enjoy? What makes you happy? HAPPY being a strong key word here. Goals need to be something that make you happy, that bring on that smile, that cause the excitement to rush into you. You don’t focus on the how will I accomplish this, that comes later, you focus on the this is what I want to achieve in my lifetime! Think of it as a bucket list of sorts. We all know what a bucket list is, things you want to do before you die. Well, think of this as a list for living! Taking your life back, and having things to work towards. Actually write all of your thoughts down, list them out… you are simply making a visual list of life goals for yourself.

But, there’s a catch I am seeing. That “I don’t know!

No one can move forward if they are unsure of where to start. I think we can safely say that life goals can be a part of the “stuck” that comes with PTSD or living life beside it. The “I feel numb, life has changed, I don’t know what I like or enjoy anymore.” Baby steps, don’t jump ahead of yourself! You start by visualizing what you want your life to be like, and it might include things you know you use to enjoy and things that made you happy. It may be something like going out to eat. Volunteering somewhere. Getting together with other people. Compile a list, just write down anything and everything that you want for your life… it could be of short term, mid-term, as well as long term goals.

You might have to find new things, trial and error, to see what you like now. You might want to try doing something you know you use to enjoy. But that comes later and from your list.  Hey, Craig decided we were buying a boat! That was him taking back something he missed, something he wants to share with our children, and… something he and I use to love doing together. That to me was a huge step, and a little scary for me honestly after us losing so many materialistic things due to the changes in life PTSD/disabilities brought lol, but the step was taken as his goal and there was no way I was going to say no. His next small step is getting the boat clean and ready to take out on the water. You saw the step he made yesterday with the photo I shared! He went to a store he had never been to before to get a polisher to clean with. Then the obvious, taking it out. Which over time will help with getting out of the house, and meeting new people.

The RV even though it is a life goal (which in reality comes with many reasons and goals, not just to own something), was not something that was helping him now, so a smaller step was taken to work on reaching a long term goal.

So, once you have your goal list made, then what? This is a positive, but positive has to have more to it then just talk, now positive steps have to be made to reach those goals. You make a plan.  It does not mean you can’t have down days when needed, it does not mean you have to work constantly every hour of every day, it does not mean one goal is the only thing you do. You have to make a plan that takes those small steps forward to accomplishing, but not forgetting or dismissing reality of every day life either. You find a balance.

You now have a vision of what you want in life and what you want to accomplish, now you work at it, at whatever pace you can. Again, life goals are something you LIKE, ENJOY! When you set goals that bring enjoyment, they are easier to accomplish.  You are building your motivation back that PTSD may have decreased or taken away from you.

Craig and I were able to LAUGH yesterday while talking about life goals! I said, “Hey, I think a goal should be once a month, on a Tuesday, we take the boat out on the lake and eat lunch, off hours, at the little bar and grill on the lake. Because Tuesdays are all you can eat fried shrimp! (My favorite food in life by the way  ).” We did get a good chuckle out of this! BUT, look at the goals that are actually contained in it. Craig is basically agoraphobic these days remember, he only leaves the house for must do things, which is still a chore for him. This one thing I mentioned, look at what it contains in reality… It sets a schedule… which is extremely important and helps the brain work. We get out of the house. We take the boat out and get onto the lake, in nature. We eat out, even if to start with it’s down on the beach area and not in the restaurant around so many people. AND, he has a happy wife because she got all you can eat shrimp!… Relationship building. 😉 And, we laughed talking about this! WOW, it seemed so small of a goal but look at what comes with it!

Goals are important. And before I type you an entire book here, I’m sure you get my meaning.  You have to have something in life to look forward to, without it, you are going to be stuck. PTSD does enough already which changes all of our lives, but it does not mean it has to take life away from you. You have to start somewhere, and that start comes with making a list of things you enjoy and want to accomplish. Even if you HAD life goals that you can no longer accomplish, it does not mean you can not make new ones, or change them around some. But you have to have something in life that you look forward to. Without it, you sit, and we know what sitting without anything does to a person.

Make your list and start taking your life back! Take small steps, don’t over-do it or it won’t be enjoyable and you want these things to be enjoyable, not a task! Work on forming a schedule, which can include anything. Schedules help activate the brain and the body. And you know I have to toss this in… “Motions lead to emotions”, relationship goals, something that has proven to be very true and can help greatly. “Proud”, that word was mentioned yesterday and let me tell you, it stuck big time as the perfect word to me. What so many people are missing after PTSD steps into their lives. Things that can make you proud of yourself. Goals can bring pride, self-esteem, and a part of you back or create a part of you that you did not know you had in you. 😉

Now, here’s my question to all of you…

What is a life goal you have?
There are no wrong answers 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Now that’s some type of self-help therapy now!

WELL!

I’ve heard, “Craig really needs something that he use to love that he can get back, that will help him get out of the house more.” I’ve heard “We only have a couple more years before our teenagers are out doing their own things.” I’ve heard “I want us to be able to enjoy things we use to do as teens, with the kids before it’s not cool to hang with mom and dad anymore.” And I’ve heard… “I feel guilty that you and the kids are so bound to the house because of me.

The guys (Craig and my son) did some online shopping the past few weeks and… Mysteriously this just happens to be sitting beside our house! Seems some people around here decided on an early “Mother’s Day gift”. LOL!!!

Now you all know why Craig took me for the drive around the big lake the other day looking for quiet/not crowded areas. 

I was told my gift is we are going to start taking small steps of getting out of the house more and taking a part of our lives back! The second part of that statement was “with this“. LOL.

Some days you just give in and let them have their way, especially if it could help them!!! I think an RV will be on hold for the time being while smaller steps are being taken. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Life with PTSD and Shame/Being Vulnerable

Life with PTSD and Shame/Being Vulnerable 
***This is NOT one to skip just because of the title*** 😉

There is a topic that many people, rather you have PTSD or you are the one living beside PTSD, is missing. I have people write to me everyday and ask, “How do you and Craig do it? How do you make it through this life with PTSD and other medical conditions the way you do? And have the relationship you do?”

Craig and I, since his medical conditions started, have had a very challenging life. It’s still not easy and both of us will tell you that. Those are very serious and heart felt questions asked. There is a lot that comes with learning about PTSD, life with it, coping skills, professional help, managing daily life and as a family. Then there is the relationship, and learning a new normal.

What’s our secret?

When rubber meets the road, I think it comes down to we both learned to be vulnerable. Which is a very difficult task, but you can do it. We learned that neither one of us are perfect, and with that we cannot expect the other to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes at times, everyone has something in their life they are not proud of, everyone has things that bother them that cause shame or guilt. And everyone experiences not wanting to be vulnerable. All of these things are normal and knowing what they are and how they work in life, helps make life with PTSD better. We learned to communicate on the deepest levels that we know, by being vulnerable. Craig IS my best friend. He’s not just a husband on paper, he’s not just a father, he’s not just a man, he’s not just a person with disabilities. He’s my best friend that I can honestly share anything with and know that I am safe in doing so. This is something that Craig and I have always been able to do, but PTSD did change that for a short time. It took time for him to re-learn this through PTSD effecting him and changing his life, that he could do the same with me again, but he did.

I want to share one more video with you today that i came across. To me, this video pretty much sums it up from both sides of the fence without me typing another book on this topic. 😉 It is WELL worth the time to sit and watch, and really hear the entire video by Brené Brown, Ph.D.. It will bring you a different view on how Craig and I manage things the way we do, it helps us understand each other… it can help you understand yourself as well as others, and I believe it is a huge key to helping life with PTSD. I know PTSD is not easy, I know facing the things that are in this video are not easy… some of you may really need a tissue for this one because even though it carries humor, it IS going to hit home base heart strings for many of you. But at the same time it may bring some much needed understanding. It does not matter if you are the one with PTSD or you are living beside one with PTSD, this really is a must watch. So, with that said, I’ll turn this one over to the following video. 

Brené Brown: Listening to shame: TED Talk: Inspiring: Informative: Ideas

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

“I am human too”

I want to talk about something that is very real, extremely important, and a topic that gets brought to me literally every day. It’s one that sooner or later, every single one of us will experience, and most likely already have.

I do want to start by saying, I am not a doctor or in any medical field, I am just a spouse of one with PTSD… that has been there. This is in NO way meaning to be disrespectful towards either the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner, and there is no finger pointing or blame being placed on either party. It’s simply the facts of life with PTSD… facts on the table, and I hope everyone will take the time to read this entirely and understand this is coming from the heart, with great understanding as well as meaning, and is a topic that there just simply needs to be more understanding to, from both sides of the fence.

“I am human too.”

There are going to be times in this life with PTSD when things become unbalanced. Everyone will experience it sooner or later. Even the most educated, patient, understanding people on this earth can and will experience this from time to time. There are going to be times when treatment might need adjusting or there is actually more going on then you know about at the moment. There are going to be times when coping skills might just simply not be enough or used enough. There are going to be times when your plate is so full, your mind overwhelmed, that the slightest thing or a combination of serious things will cause your world to lose balance, even if just for a short time. There are going to be times that the strongest, most level headed people are going to stumble. My “family”, it’s a part of real life with PTSD, as well as other mental and/or physical disabilities.

When one person becomes unbalanced, it will roll over to the other person. Either person can wear either set of shoes on that one. When there is an unbalance, it has to be corrected. To correct it there has to be communication, and both people have to work together.

It is very common for the one with PTSD to, at times, keep things bottled up within themselves. In reality, how could they not? They know what PTSD feels like, they see what it can do to those around them, and many times they just don’t want it to effect others so they wrap their arms around their full plate and do not share what is on it, so to speak. The spouse can do the same thing.

But, there becomes a huge problem with this. As much as you think you are protecting your loved one, there is no way to hide that you are holding a heavy, full plate. And that full plate turns into increased symptoms, as well as at times viewing things differently then what they may really, in fact, be like. It can cause finger pointing, arguments, hurt feelings, lashing out at others, feelings of no one really cares or understands, and it will cause one to feel alone and at times you may feel like the world is against you. It’s a part of PTSD and very real life.

When a person experiences any of these things there are several things that can also happen.

First, it is going to cause a break in communication. If one is not sharing what they are thinking or experiencing, the other person is only going to see the symptoms, reactions, changes in how one acts… but they are not going to know or understand how to help, what to say, or what the true issue is if they have not been told… then eventually, things are going to be taken personally. Taking things personally can be very damaging to any sort of relationship. And sometimes just a simple, “I need you to just listen” can be all that is needed.

Secondly, whatever is going on causing the unbalance is going to cause, like I said, the other person to become unbalanced or at least off centered sooner or later. When nothing seems to be helping and that person is grasping at straws of what to do, what needs to happen, or just not understanding why there are changes or increased symptoms… that person is going to start acting differently as well. Many times this person is the spouse/partner.

When a spouse/partner becomes off balance, starts acting almost cold, snappy in tone, sarcastic, angry or even as if they are mad at the world… or you, whatever the reaction may be, it is not that these actions are what or how they mean to act, it’s also not always right, it’s that these actions or even words are a human response to a unbalanced situation. It’s not that they are purposely acting this or that way, it’s their defense to the situation. It’s really no different then one with PTSD reacts. Again, not that it is right, it’s just what happens at times.

Then we have that vicious circle. It causes PTSD symptoms or the way one with PTSD responds or acts, to become worse. It drives an extra wedge in-between two people.

The difficult fact is, many times the one with PTSD does not realize how they are responding to their full plate, which rolls over to them not understanding why their spouse/partner is acting/responding the way they are.

With this, there is a great issue that arises. When the one with PTSD is experiencing a rough time, that full plate, they need and many times expect a spouse/partner to be balanced, “perfect” is a commonly used word. When that balance is not there, it many times is taken as “You are always mad at me.”, or “I can’t do anything right.”, “You are never happy with me.”, etc etc etc., the one with PTSD is taking the spouse’s actions personally.

As a spouse/partner, it is just a hard cold fact that we are the ones relied on to keep a balance. We are the support person, we are the one who keeps things managed, many cases the caregiver, we are the ones who are there when no one else may be, we are the ones that are suppose to keep a level head and take everything PTSD brings into our lives and our partner’s life into consideration without holding grudges or resentment, and everything else that comes with it. And honestly, we would not be with our PTSD partner if we did not accept them and want to be with them, period.

But, we are human too. 

Spouses have feelings, emotions, they at times NEED to cry, at times they will become snappy or sarcastic, at times they have that urge to yell or lash back, they can get frustrated, at times they will take things out on people or things that are totally innocent in this, and at times they will not use the right or enough coping skills. Really, they are no different then the one with PTSD, only difference is they are in the other pair of shoes. Spouses are human beings, and there is not a human on this planet that is perfect or that will handle everything the right way all of the time. Even the most strongest, level-headed, rational spouse, can and will stumble at times. They are only human.

When this happens, it’s really no different then everything we learn about regarding how to handle PTSD and how to respond or help the one with it, it’s just the spouse’s turn to need the support and that listening ear. Many times, if the one with PTSD will stop and focus on what a spouse is going through or how they are acting, and don’t take it personal, no different then what we teach the spouses, and really think the words “they are simply human too and this is their human reaction to the situation“, it can help the situation very quickly.

At times it does need to be taken into consideration that the one with PTSD does have a full plate, especially when their symptoms are at high levels, and they may not be able to stop and focus on someone else. These are the times that in some cases a simple, calm talk may be what is needed. A spouse saying and reminding/explaining, “I am human too. I have emotions and feelings just like you or anyone else. I am human and will experience things as well. And I would like to talk to you about how I am feeling, what is weighing on me and causing this, so I can get my balance back and we can work on things together to get our balance back.

This is real life and there are not any super heroes that can handle everything. The roles will reverse from time to time, this is when it is so important for good communication skills to be in place and used, it’s when you help each other through whatever the feelings are or situation at hand, and understand that sometimes when either person is keeping things bottled up… it can become damaging instead of protecting, as well as come out as personal to other people. It’s when you talk CALMLY and truly hear what BOTH of you are saying as well as feeling. Then you take the steps needed to get your balance back instead of taking everything personally. Many times when this cycle of unbalance starts, it’s just two people who’s emotions and situations are playing off of each other, talk and figure out the “why” so you both can move forward and find that balance again.

The fact is with the above example, you can flip that whole thing to either person. Either person can experience either pair of shoes, you BOTH are human and things are going to happen, emotions and feelings are going to be experienced… it’s part of being human. But the only thing that will stop this vicious circle is to recognize when it is happening, then do something.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

A Walk…

I have to share something! This may seem like nothing to many but it’s HUGE to me! Many of you with PTSD will understand, 😉

Yesterday it was a bit cooler here, Craig does well in cooler weather because he now has heat sensitivity and of course anxiety makes him sweat.

Well, yesterday afternoon, now this is after our outing to the doctor, he said, “Want to go for a walk?” Now you know I didn’t pass that one up!!! I put my knee brace on, grabbed a bottle of water, and out the door we went before he changed his mind. 

We walked around the neighborhood. It was quiet and peaceful. And let me tell you, it felt awesome! Craig rarely gets outside, he is now considered agoraphobic and leaving the house for any reason is a chore. So this was HUGE! I’m SO proud of him!

Once we got home I had to know  what sparked this? Well, he had notes he had taken and I noticed him reading them yesterday. He told me, “I want my doctor off my back about walking. Every time I see him he asks me (now this has been 3 years with this doc mind you) if I have been walking and I want to be able to tell him yes.”

Craig and I use to take walks together every evening, it was something we always did even before PTSD became severe. It’s been, oh, maybe 2 years since it was a regular on and off routine. Oh I can not explain how good it felt for us to take one simple walk together!

I know his anxiety was very high, I kept having to remind him I’m in a knee brace and can’t walk that fast. Now let me tell you lol, those long legs of his can move when his anxiety goes up lol. But he did it!!!! We walked then when we got home watched a movie together and just relaxed.

Progress! What great progress! I know that took A LOT for him to do, but he did it!!! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Surviving vs Living… and PTSD

Surviving vs Living… and PTSD

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Craig and I have many conversations, we talk about the old days, we talk about things we have done in this lifetime… so far, we talk about the future. Yesterday, well yesterday we talked about the here and now.

We’ve had this conversation before, many times actually. And every time we have it, I find myself pushing a little harder. We are known for facing reality, our dreams and goals in life have never been so far fetched that we could not reach them, we don’t live in some fantasy world where everything is just a dream. We have always been the type of people that “do” over dreaming.

When I sit and think about it, look at us, look at what we have done so far in this lifetime. At ages 30 and 32 years old (when we got back together 10 years ago), within approximately 3 years, we traveled across this country from coast to coast 10 times not including commercial flights, that was 10 times across country just to travel and see what we could see. That does not include going up both coastlines, east and west, of this country. That does not include all of the shorter travelling trips.

We have watched leaf changing season in Tennessee. We have hiked the Great Smokey Mountains. We have visited wineries from east to west coast. We have visited Florida’s waterfall… “trickling falls” as we call it lol, and of course everywhere else in Florida off the beaten path. We have experienced Dam Sliding in Texas.. now that was a blast! We even found ourselves stuck in San Antonio, TX on the 4th of July another time and having to battle afternoon heat to make it over the mountain range in our small Cessna we had. We have seen the Grand Canyon when it was snowing. We have walked on the Hoover Dam. We have felt the “hairdryer” winds of Arizona, then drove up the same day to the snow on the mountain tops. We have hiked the Yosemite National Park mountains… all the way to each top and I swam in the ice cold waterfalls (word of advise from a FL gal, don’t dive into the top of a waterfall lol, it’s just a little cold).

We always found ourselves as the talk of whatever RV park we stopped at, because people of our age group at that time did not do the things we were doing… we were normally the youngest in the park. We would laugh until we cried seeing the elder RV’ers gathering and pointing in our direction. Then we would make our way over and introduce ourselves. It never failed, there always seemed to be a bet going on about if the RV was our’s or not, what we did for a living, or did we inherit a fortune. LOL, no one ever got it right, we were just two young adults on a budget that made things work so we could live life to it’s fullest, the way we wanted to live. We enjoyed every second we had with every new person we met. And OH the stories! We loved hearing the stories! Just so much laughter and life! With every new face we met, a new friendship formed. We were living!

Those are just a few things we experienced in a few short years.

Yesterday, I heard that same thing I have heard before. The same conversation that my goal is to never have to hear again. It’s not going to happen over night, but with every ounce of being I am it will happen in this lifetime, somehow.

Craig said to me, “People are suppose to live life over surviving life. We are not doing that. We do more surviving then living.”

You know what? Hard truth to swallow is he’s right. PTSD changed our lives. WE lost a part of us in the process of surviving. Every day I hear the honest words of  “I can’t wait for this day to be over.” then when night time comes “I don’t want to go to bed because of what will come.” It’s a vicious circle of surviving. And I’m going to take a wild guess, many of you here probably feel the same way.

Many people do not understand how PTSD drastically changes life. It becomes a life of surviving each day instead of a life of living. People wonder why the #suicide rate is so high for #PTSD, again right there is just a small portion of the answer. Surviving wears a person out, the survival part outweighs the living part, and sadly a lot of people give up the fight.

I see what just stepping out the front door does to Craig. I see how the sweat from anxiety soaks his clothing. I see how the other symptoms of PTSD takes living away from him. But somehow, someway, we are going to fight this battle, with the ultimate goal of living and taking back a part of our lives PTSD stole from us. I am realistic, life won’t be the way it use to be, but we will find life again and I won’t ever allow him to give up looking for it.

So many people in general forget to live life, they get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of life that they are not really living life. Then there are those that living life has been just swiped away from them. Take your life back, find a new way of life, find a way to live!

Set realistic goals and reach for them. It might be something like “I will be outside for 10 minutes today.” That’s a step! Just because PTSD is a part of your life does not mean you stop making goals, it does not mean you can’t take small steps to get to those goals. I know it’s not easy, trust me, I know. But I also know that PTSD does enough to you already, and survival is very real, but it does not mean you can’t find a little life in there also.

When you start missing life and wondering why you are still here, set a new goal for yourself, anything, whatever you want to achieve rather it seems big or small to you. That goal not only can help you survive, it can help you live. Just something to think about. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD