Archive for the Category » Holidays, Gatherings/Events, Outings «

Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Don’t break cupid’s arrows just yet! 😉

I have already had people coming to me regarding Valentines Day approaching. Oh boy, here it comes, that “love” kissy kissy share those feelings of romance day of the year. The day where many, especially spouses/partners, want some type of “normal”, expectations, or at least have the thoughts of! Those with PTSD, at least many, are already cringing and avoidance is on the rise. I’m already seeing and hearing about it from both sides of the fence.

If I had to choose one “holiday” of the year that seems to effect a relationship containing PTSD more than any other, this would be it!

There is no blame or finger pointing at either person. It all boils down to human nature as well as life with PTSD. But, it does not make this day coming any easier to get through.

Even a spouse that has no expectations for Valentines Day can have those feelings of “want” for some type of normal for that day. Especially when you see all of the stores filled with red hearts and romantic things, then your friends on social media posting what their day is like. The natural reaction of the brain is to wish you had some type of normal too.

Then there’s the PTSD side of things. Even if a spouse says nothing about Valentines Day, those with PTSD see the same things regarding that day is approaching, they may even place the expectations upon themselves. Then all of those negative changes in thoughts start rolling in, the numb feelings, avoidance increases, other symptoms may increase right along with it. Then the feelings and thoughts of “I can’t give her/him that” or “I can’t be what she/he wants me to be” slide right in and take over.

Valentines Day is one that Craig and I used to celebrate, not because it was expected but because it was fun! I would cook one of his favorite meals and we would eat dinner at home, we would get each other a little something special. So what if it’s considered a “Hallmark Holiday” and benefits the stores lol, it was fun having a day where we could express in a different than every other day how we feel.

Then PTSD stepped into our lives and everything changed.

It bothered me, in a way, for a few years when the day came around, missing what was our normal, what we had done for years. Then I realized that dwelling was not helping me or him! I had to accept that life is what it is, and anything that does come will just be a delightful surprise. 😉 I could not change me, who I am, or what I like to do just because PTSD had/has changed Craig.

My kids reached their teenage years and I found that I liked setting up Valentines Day stuff for them. Carrying on the day’s tradition in a different way. Craig and I will still have our special meal too though, and I accepted that just having him here with me really was and is enough for me. It goes back to “tomorrow is never promised”, something that really became a strong meaning the first time I experienced him wanting to die, so every day he is a part of my life is special to me no matter what the day brings.

But that’s just my personal thoughts and how I now handle things. There are things that can still be done for those that would like to still experience or try to accomplish some of the expectations or wants that Valentines Day brings… for either of you and you as a couple.

So here are some things that may help:

* Motions lead to Emotions

The largest thing on everyone’s side. 😉 Even through numb feelings and everything that #PTSD does bring to life, even through feeling worn out or overwhelmed (spouses included) you can still experience the motions. Even when the thoughts or feelings seem to be masked by PTSD and what life has held, you can still say that extra “I love you” or write it in a note or make a card, you can still sit together and have a meal, watch a movie at home together, or something out of your daily normal routine without stepping beyond what you CAN do.

Light a few candles at dinner time and turn the lights down or off! 😉 Women like romance lol (now I’m not trying to be gender specific here, there are many men that like romance too, so please don’t take me pointing out to guys personally when I use “her”, it really could go for either person), there’s just no getting around that whether you are having those feeling or not. And anything you do, it does not have to be something far fetched beyond your reach to provide it. Hold her hand during that movie or put your arm around her. Motions can be simple things that bring a lot of power and feelings with them. 😉 And you might be shocked at how good it feels to YOU when you see a smile from your spouse/partner, it can sure help change those negative feelings and thoughts of yourself around. Motions lead to accomplishing things! No matter how great or small things may seem. Which leads to another option…

* Make a special “date night” at home

There is nothing wrong with spending the day at home together! In reality it may make for a better day/night, you can avoid the crowds, extra anxiety, set schedules, and be in your comfortable space. 😉 You might discover you actually enjoy it better than going out, you are doing nothing more than setting your own pace for the day/night, and in a comfort zone.

* Intimacy

Nope can’t leave this one out… it’s the day of “love” lol. Please keep in mind that intimacy does not only mean sex! Intimacy is any form of closeness. I will skip details 😉 and just say “use your imagination”! 😉

* Don’t let expectations outweigh how you really feel about each other!

Expectations bring pressure, pressure brings on stress and anxiety, and those things can lead to a not so good day. Do not push expectations on each other or push yourself beyond your limits, they are no more than forced things that can lead to no where good when PTSD is a part of life.

* If you do go out

Once back home, allow the one with PTSD to relax a little, have a little down or alone time to recover from making it out of the house. Then carry on with your evening after that if you want to.

* Let any recent conflicts go!

Hard one I know, but give yourselves a break! Life does contain PTSD and not every day is going to be happiness and joy. Agree that for this day you are going to just be together and let go of any conflicts for this one day. Reality is 😉 you might realize that those conflicts should not have taken place to begin with, and this can give you a new start.

* Place your focus

Keep in mind your partner’s thoughts and feelings. You will be shocked at what this can do! Tell yourself, “No matter what I am feeling today, I’m going to place my focus on my loved one”. This goes for BOTH of you! Think of what they may like, how they feel, how you feel about them, and roll with it! I mean seriously, you are together for a reason, you care about each other for a reason, don’t dismiss those things. Use them to your advantage, you might just find those things help put PTSD in it’s place and remind both of you how your relationship can be and does actually contain. You might just see that person you have been missing, EITHER one of you! 😉 A little attention focused on each other can go a long way.

Okay, reality is you can use these things in everyday life, but since that “V” day of the year is approaching, these are simply things to think about. And you have a couple of weeks still before that day gets here. 😉 Try to make the day about enjoying each other’s time and HAVE FUN with it! Everyone needs a fun break now and then, and many times that does not just come, you have to make it… put those motions into action. 😉

Face PTSD head on and let it know that this day is not it’s day. It’s YOURS! Well, okay reality, at least give it a try. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

If you will be having a Guest with PTSD at an event/gathering.

I have had a question come to me from a different angle then I normally write about. Normally, I share what one with PTSD can do for themselves, or what a spouse/partner can do to help with symptoms when going to events or gatherings…

But what about when you are not the one with PTSD, but you are having someone over or inviting someone to an event/gathering that does have PTSD? What do you need to know and how can you help make their outing a little more comfortable?

* ASK! Talk to the one with PTSD… BEFORE the day of the event.

Ones with PTSD pretty much know what pre-cautions, of sorts, they need to take when going out of their normal safe sense of environment. They are a person just like you are, they have just been through a trauma that has caused them to respond/react to certain things differently than one who does not have PTSD.

Talk to them and ask them “ahead of time” if there is anything you can do to make their visit a little easier. Emphasize that you would like to help out if possible, so they can stay at the event as long as possible.

You also need to have understanding if while at the event they need to leave or step away from others from time to time. When one steps away off and on, it’s just a way of having space to cope away from others/crowds, noises, etc. It is common for one with PTSD to do this. You do not need to follow them! If they would like for someone to accompany them, they will ask. 

* Seating arrangements will most likely be the largest key to helping!

Ones with PTSD do not normally like others noticing if they must take a break from an event. They also do not like drawing attention to themselves or interrupting an event because they must get up from their seat.

Seating near an exit door seems to be a good choice for many. If there are rows of seats, a seat on the end of the row, closest to the wall or an isle, is normally a preferred choice. If there are tables set up, a table near a wall or where their back can be to a wall can help. It keeps one with PTSD from constantly having to look behind them and helps keep anxiety and hypervigilance down as much as possible. (To the one with PTSD, if you have someone you know at the event and seating is rows of seats, have that person sit behind you. This prevents you from always getting back row seating at events.)

* If there will be loud music playing.

Ask if they would like to be closer or further away from the speaker area. Some with PTSD have an issue with loud sounds, others actual use the loud sounds/music as a means for coping over voices. Each person is going to be different to how things may effect them, just ask.

Some with PTSD may be able to cope just fine anywhere they sit, the best thing to do is ASK them before the day of the event.

* If there will be a buffet food line.

Ask if they would like to go first or last so they are not having to stand in a line with crowds of people or strangers. Majority of the time you will probably hear the answer “last”, so people do not notice them or stare at them while they are getting their food. If serving plates is available, that is also another option.

* If you are in a place where there are extra rooms available.

Offer a room they can retreat to if needed. This allows the one with PTSD a place to use coping skills in a quiet area, and once they are coping better they can return to the event. This can help one stay at events longer, instead of having to leave early in some cases.

Letting one know where a quiet area outside is, can also helpful.

* There are many who have PTSD that do use service dogs.

LEARN service dog laws before the event so there are not any issues to arise due to a dog being present. Let any staff that may be working an event know as well that the service dog is allowed to be there. If it is an event where there is speaking, an introduction, or a toast, here’s an easy way of handling the guests if a service dog is present… Introduce the dog! Not in a way that it would embarrass the one with PTSD, but in a way that it just let’s the guests know that the dog is a service dog and has a job it’s doing. This can help keep other guests from talking or staring, wondering why a dog is there.

Example: “While I am introducing people, I would like to welcome a special guest we have with us tonight. The handsome [breed] you may notice tonight is [dog’s name] which is a service dog and is busy working, so please do not pet him/her so he/she can continue to do his/her job without interruptions. We are happy to see that [name] and [dog’s name] are able to be with us tonight for this event.” Then move on with your introductions or speech.

A service dog handler is responsible for their service dog and it’s needs, as well as it’s behavior while attending. Many people will not even realize a well trained service dog is present unless it happens to walk past them, is sitting beside them, or it is working (such as a “lap up” to help calm anxiety). A well trained service dog should not bring any attention or issues, except for people wondering why it is there. You do NOT have to tell people a person has PTSD or what their disability is. A simple response of “it’s a service dog and is working” is a sufficient response if someone/a guest asks. Just note, people are curious. 

However, if you would like to make them feel a little more at home, you can always have a water bowl and water available for the dog. Or ask it’s handler if there is anything you can do to accommodate the service dog while there. Also, let the handler know where a good area is to use if the service dog needs to relieve itself (go to the bathroom).

* Help with a Plan.

Ones with PTSD are pretty self-sufficient in knowing what to do when they are out in public and how to manage their symptoms. Talking to them and making a “plan”, working with them ahead of time for seating arrangements, exit points, etc. can be a huge help just in itself. It helps prepare them for what the event will be like ahead of time which can ease a lot of the questions PTSD can cause them to start thinking. If you have already made arrangements for them, share the details with them! Then, if anything needs to be changes it can be ahead of time instead of the day of the event.

Bottom line… Simply talking to one with PTSD ahead of time if you are unsure if you can do anything or what you can do to make their appearance more comfortable is really the best thing. Even if there is nothing they will need, simply asking them if you can help in any way shows that you care. 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Looking back on 2013

Recap of 2013… Back at the beginning of the year I announced that this was going to be a very trying year for us. We had a long list of special events mixed in with the usual tough times that come. WOW, was I right! But you know what? We made it through and a new year is getting ready to start!!! Of course the new year already has some serious things coming, like Craig’s surgery this week. BUT, if we could make it through 2013 we will for sure make it through 2014! 😉

In 2013:

My oldest turned 18 AND we made it through his high school Graduation!

My daughter and step-son turning 13! Yes, we accomplished a girl’s birthday party here… with many breaks during it lol 😉

(Craig said I HAD to add this one or he would add it lol) I turned 40!

Craig and I had our 10 year wedding anniversary… we chose to not do anything, being together was enough for us 🙂

We made it out of town for a few hours so I could be in my sister’s wedding on the beach! And Craig did well as a cameraman 

I started writing my book (Thank You to “My Elder” Dean  and ALL of you!!!)

Miss Marble (the cat) came into our family.

AND that emergency bathroom remodel lol… It’s almost done! A great way to start the New Year with that off of my plate! 😉

We did not accomplish everything that was on the list for the year, however we accomplished a lot considering how life is with PTSD and everything else! 

There was one other thing that I personally accomplished this year. Let’s see if I can type this without crying happy tears. Everyone knows that I have struggled with not being able to train dogs anymore, a true love of mine. One of those weights on my shoulders that just always tried to keep a grip on me. HOWEVER, that changed this year! You know how I always say listen to what other’s say? Well, I had a light bulb moment not too long ago from a very special person. I want to say a special Thank You to Beth P. for making me realize that I am actually doing exactly what my original life dream/goal was!

My life goal from an early age was not to train dogs (even though I love it and always have), my life goal was to follow in my mom’s footsteps and help children and young adults with mental disabilities learn that they are valuable no matter what and to teach them how to make it through life with having disabilities. I wanted to teach.

See, I had a trauma happen to me at 18 years old that caused me to alter my life plans, I took a different route in life after it, I avoided my dream. My husband and his mental illnesses and ALL of you changed my avoidance and got me back on the path that originally filled my heart.

My goal might be altered a little, age group, and not as a certified teacher… but I AM living my life dream, helping others! Right here with and beside ALL of you! I hope each of you really, truly understand how much you ARE a family to us! 

I did not fail with dog training or by having to give it up to care for my husband at all. The page in my life had turned, and I accepted that a long time ago. But I was honestly being placed back to where my heart really has been all along and didn’t even realize it! I opened my eyes, heart, and dream to what has always mattered to me. Some how with one short conversation Beth and I had, the weight was gone from my shoulders completely of not being able to train and a huge extra kick was put into my step. I had never really viewed it before as I do now. I have been bringing awareness of PTSD and other mental illnesses to others for over two years, living beside and through mental illnesses with my husband for 10 years. Yes, it’s safe to say I had a light bulb moment this year. 

So, I would have to say even though some things were not accomplished this year, a whole lot of wonderful things were! And you all… you are each SO amazing! Don’t EVER give up on yourself! 😉

Much love and strength to ALL of you as we step forward to a New Year together!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Holiday Gatherings vs PTSD

Holiday Gatherings vs PTSD

This is probably one of the toughest things there is! It’s family, it’s friends, it should not be problem, right? But what about when it’s combined with PTSD?

PTSD does not pick and choose who to be around and who not to, or when. Even if it is family and friends, it still brings a gathering, a crowd, expectations, anxiety levels may go up, things out of a normal daily routine, etc. etc. It has nothing to do with “who it is”, it has to do with the symptoms of and PTSD itself. This can be very hard for people who know you or knew you before PTSD to grasp.

This also brings times of meeting new people, or being around ones you are not use to being around on a regular basis. That can cause symptoms to increase as well.

SO… What are things we can do to still be able to TRY to manage through gatherings and the holidays?

* TRY! That is a key word to PTSD. 

See, PTSD brings a massive symptom of avoidance. When you give in completely to avoidance… don’t go, don’t make it out of the house, don’t at least attempt… you really don’t know honestly what you can manage through and what you can’t. That’s not being fair to yourself!  You might just find a break in the day where you can actually enjoy seeing friends and/or family members. Even if it is only for a short time, give yourself a chance to see what you can actually accomplish. In order to do that, we have to know a little more about how. 

* Gatherings at your own home

We have personally found these are the easiest! If there is such a word as easy. But this is real life and everything in life is not going to take place in your own home, there’s a huge world out there for you. But, if the gathering is at your home, there are things you can do to help your day run as smoothly as possible.

If you need a break from everyone, take it! Go to a room where you feel more at ease in and use your coping skills. It’s okay to step away from others for a little while when need be, then when you are ready to, go back and join them.

Walk outside. This is something else that can help greatly! Get your mind off what is going on inside by taking in everything that is going on outside… the sounds, the sights, hopefully a little peace. Once anxiety comes back down or other symptoms, then go back inside with the others. You might have to tell someone “I just need to step outside by myself for a few minutes”, so others don’t follow you, and again that’s okay!

Use your coping skills!!! I can not say that one enough. If you have not learned any as of now, then start learning before the holidays get here so you know how to use them correctly, so you are use to using them, and can notice when to use them. In honesty, everyone should learn coping skills rather they have PTSD or not.

* Gatherings at another person’s home

You can still use the same things that you would use at your own home! Just ask ahead of time or have the person you are going with ask if there is a room in the house you can go to or use if needed while there. It’s a simple “Sometimes [name] has a little anxiety with people he/she is not around a lot. Can they use one of the rooms if need be?” You can still ask without it being overly obvious if they do not know you suffer from PTSD.

You can use the bathroom to step away to also. Great place for coping skills and giving you a few minutes to gather yourself… well, until someone else knocks on the door. But it will still give you a little time to yourself.

Step outside. Normally on holidays people are in and out of a house anyway. So this will not always be extremely noticeable. If you have someone there that you are comfortable with, ask them if they want to take a short walk with you. That person can help you with coping and taking your mind off the gathering of people, or simply give you someone to talk things through with before returning.

* Gatherings in public

Make that plan! My other posting went over this one. There are many things you can do to make it through a public gathering, or at least try to for a little while. And the bathroom “escape route” for coping works better in public then in a home. 

* Time to leave

If you need to leave early before others do, that is okay! Don’t be hard on yourself or try to keep up with others. If you get to the point where you have tried and coping skills, meds., etc. are not helping enough and it’s just time to leave, that is okay! The fact is, if you went to a gathering, were able to make it out the front door and go, that is an accomplishment! You did something and put the effort into doing it and that is what counts!!! PTSD brings a lot of symptoms to battle and if you tried then you did NOT fail even if it comes time for you to leave early. The length of time you are somewhere is not what matters most, the fact that you made it there and tired IS! 

* Those that can not make it out

There are still going to be those who can not make it out to gatherings. PTSD does not have a schedule, just a fact. You do not know when the good days or bad ones are going to come. If you are one that can not, even with trying, make it away from home, do not allow others to guilt trip you! Many times this will happen without the one saying the words even realizing what they are doing. Not everyone is going to understand PTSD or what comes with it. It’s just a hard fact that many still have not learned or may not care to learn. Do not allow those people to bring you down.

The one thing that Craig and I have found works best is, “We would love to come and will try to make it, IF we can.” Simple phrases like this one shows you care, shows you do want to attend, but at the same time holds no promises. This also cuts down on your expectations, not only for or by others, but also on yourself! At times when expectations are removed or lessened, it helps reduce the “what if’s” and anxiety, which in turn gives more of a chance of being able to attend or at least try when that day comes.

These are just a few things that may help with the holidays or any special event. One day at a time, one step at a time… and don’t give up if you have a day that you can not manage getting out, tomorrow might be different. Always TRY! 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

So are you ready? PTSD and The Holiday Season

So are you ready?

Ready? Ready for what?  The toughest time of year for many who suffer from PTSD.

Think about it… Are you seeing more symptoms or worse symptoms of PTSD right now? Are more conflicts starting? Is your loved one seeming to be more focused on themselves then those around them? Are they not wanting to leave the house compared to what they normally do? Are they having more difficulty with plans made? Etc. etc. etc.

As many are shaking their heads yes! Step back, bite your tongue for a second, and think about it. The holiday season has started! And there are also many that are going through their PTSD anniversary time.

Symptoms become greater around these times. The expectations, crowds, holiday hustle and bustle, parties or gatherings are coming, people dropping by, phones ringing more, finances oh let’s not leave those out… money becomes more tight then normal as people try to maintain a normal holiday season of expectations. And one of the largest ones to take and keep into consideration… survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt weighs heavily during the holiday season.

Mix all of these things together and shove them into one brain with all of the other PTSD symptoms they suffer from daily combined in there. Then shift all of that into high gear nonstop thoughts. In all seriousness, what do you think is going to occur?

I am seeing many right now giving in to the bickering or outright fighting, blaming the one with PTSD or pointing fingers, and everything that we have spent so much time learning about and understanding was thrown to the back burner and the “this isn’t fair to me” has come back up.

You are right, it’s not fair… but it’s sure not fair to the one with PTSD either! Just because it’s the holiday season does not mean PTSD can just be set to the side, it is still a daily battle, holiday or not. What you do to help yourself or another person through this increased symptoms time of the year will make all the difference in the world to how the season will be for you. You have to continue working together and helping each other. There are many who lose the focus of what really is at hand when the holidays come around. You have to maintain focus, you have to maintain positive support, and you can’t just expect anyone to shift into a holiday mindset when so many other things are still at hand.

Find the balance. You can still have a joyful time even with PTSD, but you have to find a balance with it. Don’t forget the basics of PTSD and how each person responds to different things. Don’t push so hard for a normal that you end up back stepping and having to start all over again. There are enough dance steps that already come with PTSD without more being added to it because someone is forgetting the facts of life as it is now.

With what I am already hearing from many right now, it’s pretty serious that if you don’t start getting a handle on some situations now, I dread what will come once December gets here. Keep in mind what I always say, “If something is happening out of the everyday normal of your’s, WHY?” Find the why and things just seem to go a little smoother because you can work on finding what can help with each situation.  😉

It’s so easy for ones without PTSD to get sidetracked with all of the holiday things going on or coming, please try to keep in mind that this is a time when PTSD causes more difficult struggles, it’s the time that everything you have learned to this point comes in handy, and you have to still stay on track. It’s what’s best for everyone.

* Be cautious of too many expectations.

* Except if schedules get altered some. Keep in mind it doesn’t mean things won’t happen, it may just be a little more difficult to stay on a schedule. This can be frustrating, however work on a solution or rescheduling, and don’t allow harshness to take over.

* Don’t become negative about the other person. Negative feelings lead to worse PTSD symptoms.

* Communicate. Be honest with each other! Even if you are afraid of letting a person down because you are not up for something at that time, it’s better to be honest up front and you work through it and find a solution or reschedule, then it ending up in a huge blow up later.

* If Survivor’s Guilt is a part of your or your loved one’s life, please keep that in mind!!! I can not emphasize this one enough! This is one of the most difficult times of year for this and we want to keep positive thoughts of why life is worth living still, not the focus on what someone did not do right.

* Pace yourself. Allow yourself or your partner down days where there are no expectations and they have time to rest for an event that may be coming. We have a golden rule here, a couple of days before and a couple of days after… and that many times helps us to be able to participate in things along with putting a plan in place.

* Include the one with PTSD in decision making. This can be difficult for some with PTSD, however there are still many that would like to be included or at least included to what they feel they can do. So always leave it an open option for them to help.

* Don’t forget coping skills. Everyone can use coping skills, PTSD or not! And trust me 😉 they come in handy!

* Non-PTSD folks… Keep in mind that just because one with PTSD seems to be ignoring you or off in their own world does NOT mean they don’t care about you! It may simply mean they are having to cope more then normal.

* DON’T take things personally!!!

* Stay on schedule with doctor appointments, medications, therapy, etc. Keeping your normal schedule can help. And if you need an extra appointment contact your doctor.

There are MANY things you can do that help through the holiday season, patience and understanding need to be a huge part of them. Everything in life is not going to run perfectly, it’s just a fact of life, PTSD or not. Find things to help you, your family, and your situation. Work together!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

When it comes to weekends or Leaving the house…

It’s Friday, the jump for joy weekend is here! Oh wait, the weekend?

More people are off of work, stores and other places are more crowded with people getting things done they did not do during the week. People out enjoying activities, movies, ball games, having date night (oh that term I no longer like lol), and families out together.

It’s just things that don’t always mix well with PTSD. Many with PTSD, not all, but many have a difficult time when weekends roll around. It can bring increase in all of the PTSD symptoms.

I have found that more and more people who suffer from PTSD, stay home during the weekend. I raise my hand, we fit into that category. There’s no other term for it, it falls under the avoidance symptom.

Many with PTSD have rearranged their schedule of doing things to help keep PTSD symptoms down. They shop during the week when stores are not crowded, and in the off hours. Many dine out early or late to avoid the crowds… or avoid dining out all together. Take out becomes a huge part of life over a sit down dinner out. Many find places off the beaten path to be able to still accomplish outings the best possible with less stress or anxiety.

Then there are those that have extreme difficulty making it out their front door. This is pretty much where we sit… right now at least. And this by no means is meant in a negative, disrespectful, or in a finger pointing way, it’s just the facts of life. You do not realize how much PTSD can effect someone until you see a person who before PTSD could not wait to leave the house to do things, then PTSD takes much of that want and need to get out away.

It’s by no means because a person does not want to go out! That has nothing to do with it, in fact they would want nothing more then to be able to. It becomes an inner struggle of mixed emotions and thoughts. The “I use to this” or “I want to go there” then PTSD gets that grip on them and just won’t allow them to just go. The “what if’s” set in. Do you know what that leads to? Guilt. Pure and simple. They start feeling guilty that their life has changed, and even more it’s changed the lives of those around them.

Let me give you an example…

Craig was recently asked if he likes food. Kind of an odd question, don’t you think? But oh there was a lot of in depth meaning behind it. He really couldn’t answer the question. It boiled down to “It’s just something I do because Bec makes sure I eat.” He had not ever thought about that. Later he was asked if we go out to eat. Nope, we haven’t been out to eat in a very long time. Then another question, “what are your favorite foods?“. He couldn’t answer that one either. It ended up being something along the lines of, “I just eat whatever is cooked or placed in front of me, it really doesn’t matter.

Then came the kicker of a question, “Did you use to go out to eat?” Wow he jumped all over that one, eyes lighting up! “Oh yes, Bec and I had our favorite places to eat, each place we would go to because of the certain favorites we had at each place. We would go to [name] for steak, we would go to [name] for seafood, we would go to [name] for Mexican… We use to eat out at sit down meals at least once a week if not more depending on what we were in the mood for. It’s something we enjoyed doing.”

(And thank you Craig for letting me use this example, love ya babe!!! )

Do you see what happened? There is a much larger picture here and that example shows it clearly!

It’s not only the anxiety, what if’s, and everything else that comes with PTSD. It’s the fact that battling all of those symptoms leads to a loss of interest, and many times depression. It’s not that a husband doesn’t WANT to take his wife out on a date night, it’s that everything that comes with battling that date night has just simply resulted in a lack of interest in doing things. PTSD wears a person out, there are no other words to describe it. It’s not lack of love, it’s not lack of wanting family time, it’s NOT PERSONAL towards other people. It’s what has happened to them.

Back to the example of Craig, if he did not want to go out to eat, then why was he so excited to tell about what we use to do and where we use to go, the favorite meals we ate at each place? He even told about how we use to go and just sit on a bench and have coffee, people watching lol. If he didn’t want to do these things there would not have been any excitement in his tone when he said those things. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

I will give another example. The one thing the doctors keep pointing out to Craig and I, is PTSD has taken travelling away from us. I call it “my golden key to beating PTSD” at this point. It won’t make PTSD go away, but it can sure give something back! I know if I can manage to get another RV sooner or later, I could help change not only Craig’s life, but our lives. Give something back that we lost. And you know why I strongly believe this? Because since it had been brought up, I see Craig every day looking at RVs online. Sooner or later that will lead to him saying “hey let’s go look at one.” Sooner or later it will lead to getting another one (when we can financially afford it of course). And that will lead to him going out the front door and finding a peace of his and our life again, meaning, and interest… with still maintaining a comfort zone. Patience, time, and baby steps. We have set a goal of travelling again, and meeting people from this very page. It’s a goal with meaning and life to it.

No, I’m not going to end this without saying something directly to spouses/partners or family of those with PTSD. I know first hand what life with PTSD is like. But I also know if you are holding things over your PTSD loved one’s head, blaming them for things you can not do or do less of, getting upset with them when they don’t want to do something or CAN’T, and you are taking things personally as an ‘attack’ against you… then you are not helping with that step forward. Most likely you are causing them to crawl into a deeper hole that it’s going to be difficult to get them out of. I know it’s hard to not take the things that come from PTSD personally, but you have to try, and learn to understand so you can get to a better place then where you may be right now. Positive support and communication, those are huge for baby steps to happen!

None of this means PTSD will keep you locked inside your home forever and always. It doesn’t mean the day won’t come where you can have a date night or a weekend day out with your family. It does not mean the day won’t come that you can actually enjoy something over the PTSD symptoms. It doesn’t mean baby steps can’t be taken to get some of what you think you have lost back. It just simply means you have to learn and understand the “why’s” to PTSD in order to move forward.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

No one will ever forget…

I want to say something… How are you doing?

I sat here yesterday (September 11, 2013) with something written with respect. And as I sat here making sure every detail was perfect to what I wanted to say I noticed how Craig was doing.

I watched how he went from page to page and news to news, trying to find something, anything, that was not a reminder that he could read. I watched how he got frustrated, I watched him leave his computer and lay on the bed with his arms crossed and a saddened look on his face. Then I watched him try again. I watched him pace the house or simply sit in his chair. I listened to the very few words he spoke yesterday, it wasn’t Craig, he was “lost” and everything out there was not allowing him to settle. This went on the whole day yesterday.

I did not post my writing, “certain” photos, etc. yesterday, not because I was being disrespectful, but because I was offering TOTAL respect to each and every single one of you.

As I watched how everything was effecting Craig, I also knew that this is a PTSD page, my “family”, and every single person here has struggles they try to get through each and every day as it is. The fact is, no one will ever forget. And I felt it was best to give you a place without extra reminders, graphic photos, and there just needed to be a “safe place” for you.

I saw one photo the whole day yesterday that made complete, and the most sense to me. It was our military in formation of letters that spelled out “We Remember”. That was perfectly done and said, because we don’t need reminders, none of us will ever forget.

So yesterday I left one simple note and photo of what my daughter did for Craig. Something to remind you there is life and there are people who love and care about those who suffer. And there was no greater gift to prove life yesterday then from the words, actions, and love from a child that “gets it”.

I hope each and every single one of you made it through yesterday okay. I hope triggers and flashbacks stay at bay today and you are able to find some peace.

Love to you!

“A Spouse’s Story PTSD”

September brings an increase in PTSD symptoms for many…

I hate to bring this up, but I know there are A LOT of people having serious PTSD symptoms right now. And it’s not just military, but civilians, first responders, medical staff, etc. etc.

Folks, we are within PTSD’s time range of a serious anniversary in this country. So if you are seeing increased symptoms in PTSD… nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, anxiety… keep in mind one of the most serious anniversaries of this country is within range.

September 11th is an anniversary date none of us will ever forget.

So please have extra patience, use more coping skills, see your doctor/therapist more if need be, and just all be here for each other through this time. Remember to lean on each other and don’t allow PTSD to come between couples or families.

PTSD anniversary dates can cause increased symptoms up to (more or less) a month prior to a month after an anniversary date of a trauma.

Then we have the holidays right behind this. September through New Years can be rough for many. This is the time we must really buckle down and use everything we have learned, so we ALL can make it through.

Many were lost, many suffer, but no one will EVER be forgotten. Please remember you are NOT alone!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Making a Plan and PTSD

Making a Plan and PTSD

I have talked about this one a little in the past, but want to go over it more. Getting out of the house and going places can be a real chore for many with PTSD. Over the years I have found when you make a plan of action it seems to help greatly.

Now before I get into making a plan, I will not dismiss the last minute things that come up… they are going to happen at times! That’s when you have something happen, or something unexpected comes up and you really don’t have time to think about what needs to be done.

This actually happened to us over the weekend. Craig’s computer bit the dust, it died. Now I know he spends quite a bit of time on his computer, it’s his way of keeping up with things going on in the world at his discretion of what he’s comfortable with, chats with people that are a form of support for him personally (they don’t live in the same area as we do, sometimes he video chats with a couple of old buddies, he keeps up with his treatment… and the computer gives him the ability to look at the same things as many times as needed to try to remember things, so it exercises his brain.

So I knew the importance of a computer to him as well as his health. When it died on him I knew this was not a good thing, I saw the frustration while he tried to figure out what was wrong with it and try to fix it. That computer was 8 years old… there was no fixing it lol. So, I looked at him and asked him to change clothes and we are leaving to get another computer. I did not give him time to think about the “what if’s” to be honest. It was a mad dash out the door we went.

Now, I knew what was coming lol  It was the weekend and no tax back to school shopping was going on. I knew we would be facing crowds and wait times. And I already had everything laid out in my head what needed to happen to make it through this outing even though it was last minute. Oh look, even with a last minute outing, I still had a plan. 

Anxiety was through the roof by the time we made to the store then into the store, but we made it through and he’s back online now.

So what do you do to make a plan? 

It’s become something that is normal to us/me to have a plan, and even a backup plan when outings take place or are needed.

If you know an event/outing is scheduled:

* Know your surroundings you will be in. 

This way you can choose your seating, know where the exits are in case you need them, if other people are attending that you know… you can have them near you so there are not as many issues with strangers too close if you are not comfortable with that. You are just able to know the environment before getting there so you can have a plan of action in case you need it.

If the event is in your own home, have a room you can retreat to away from everyone and thing when needed so you can cope then return back once you have PTSD symptoms more under control.

* Down time.

Down time is what we call it when you take about 2 days of no expectations before a large event. That keeps one with PTSD from being worn out or not having energy for the event. We also normally take a few days afterwards for the same down time to recoup from the anxiety that comes from attending the event. And this does not always have to be an event away from home, this could even be for a family gathering in your own home, which can bring the same PTSD symptoms as going out.

For any outing:

* If you are out in public.

Have someone you trust watch your back. This is something we have done for many years now. I actually follow behind Craig in crowded areas so no one comes up behind him. Then when space opens I walk a half a step behind him to his side so he can see me but there is still a block between him and others. I actually keep my hand on the small of his back to middle back (builds great arm muscles by the way 😉 ). This allows him to know that I am still right there while giving him his personal space from others.

Now if we happen to end up in a crowd, I follow close behind him and actually place my arms flat against the outside of his arms. This helps to keep people from bumping into him from the back and sides. Of course I’m sure by the looks that one sometimes bring, some people may think I have a sight problem lol, but that’s okay.

And if you are the one with a person with PTSD, STAY CALM! Do not over react to things or you can very easily set off their anxiety more then it already is.

* Time.

Sometimes some with PTSD do not have a person that can go places with them, even though this one can work for everyone. This is when timing can play a huge role.

You may find that doing things on “off hours” when stores or places to eat are not busy makes it easier to cope with going out. Have an early dinner, late lunch, or brunch. Shop during the week before normal work hours are up or later at night. Whatever you are comfortable with. This can go for anything… shopping, eating out, movies, anything!

We have actually found that if we need to go out, Monday- Wednesday is the best time of week to do so. Not that that always happens on those days lol. But those are the days when places are not so crowded because majority of people do things on the weekend or late week getting ready for the weekend.

* Make a list.

Many with PTSD “seem” as if they are on a mission when an outing takes place. It’s that hurry out get what you need and head back for safety… home.

Writing down places you need to go and even what you need when you get there can be of huge help. And sure sure helps you remember what you needed so you don’t forget anything. See when anxiety gets high, your focus can slip away from what you are needing or where you need to go, so lists can be of huge help.

If you are out and find you are having an okay day, go ahead and add one more thing or make an extra stop just to enjoy being out  Don’t limit yourself to the list if it’s a better day for you!

* Pace yourself.

If you have several things you need to do, trying to get everything done in one day can be trying! Break it down to a couple of days, space things out some. Try skipping a day in between outings so you don’t become overwhelmed. Trying to pack everything into one day is hard enough many times for a person without PTSD, so if you are one with PTSD, don’t over do it! It’s okay to take extra time to get things done. Pace yourself!

* If you get triggered or overwhelmed.

Retreat. There is nothing wrong with retreating even when you are out in public. If you are eating, let the staff know you need to step to the restroom so please do not clear your table or if you are eating with someone just tell them you will be back in a few minutes. If you are in a store, same idea, leave the shopping cart outside the restroom and head to the bathroom. Stalls in restrooms give you a private space to use coping skills. 😉 Or even step outside the store, just let a staff member know you will be returning for your shopping cart so please hold it for you.

Stepping outside, to a restroom, or heading for an empty isle are all options to give yourself a few minutes to cope so you can continue with what you were doing.

If you have had enough and can’t stay out any longer, then head for home. It’s okay if part of your list needs to be pushed to another day. Don’t look down on yourself if you can’t complete what you set out to do, look at it as you are taking care of yourself by knowing your limits when they are reached.

These are just a few ideas that we have found work for us. There are so many things you can try. The point is, by making a plan it helps you to be able to still do things that PTSD can try really hard to keep you from doing. Find what works best for you. PTSD does not have to “run” your life 😉 find ways around it to still do things you need to or want to do. Make a plan! 🙂

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Coping and Making a Plan for Important Events…

Important Events

Here’s what we did to battle the ol’ PTSD 

1. We took “down days” for 2 days before the event. That means no expectations those days and just relax.

2. We talked to the school about Craig having PTSD and found out about seating and details beforehand. So when we got there we knew exactly what to expect, where the exits were, how the seating was.

3. We made a plan! We timed anxiety medications before going.
We took an isle seating arrangement with myself sitting behind Craig, my dad sitting next to Craig, and my mom beside me, with Craig against the isle so if he needed to exit we could do it quickly without disturbing other people or making a scene.

4. Anytime I saw someone coming down the bleachers I would put my hand on the outside of Craig’s arm to let him know someone was coming from behind him and kept it there until they passed by us to where he could see them.

5. During the event when I saw his anxiety rising I would rub his shoulders or neck until he would ease off to a manageable level.

6. On the way out I had his back. I literally had my arms outside of his arms with my hands on his shoulders and with me behind him so if someone bumped into him they bumped my arms instead of him which gave him space.

7. Patience in the parking lot on getting out of there.

8. Rest with no expectations for the next 2-3 days 

Mission accomplished! If you have an event that you want or need to attend, make that plan ahead of time! It can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to PTSD! 

A Spouse’s Story…PTSD