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PTSD and Anesthesia (Surgical Procedures)

PTSD and Anesthesia (Surgical Procedures)

This is a topic that I find is rarely discussed, and it really is one that everyone needs to understand more about when life includes PTSD‬… Anesthesia. Craig even told me last night while we were talking, he was processing what he went through yesterday, that he wanted me to write about this today.

I have to add my note in here, I am not a doctor or in any medical field, so not speaking from a medical point of view, but as a spouse/caregiver of one with PTSD. The following is from our personal experiences.

Anesthesia is so commonly used these days, especially for many types of surgery, but what about when the one having surgery or procedure also has PTSD? Have you thought about that?

Let me explain…

One with PTSD stays on guard, so to speak, pretty much all of the time. They most likely use more coping skills than you realize in day to day life living with PTSD. They are able to manage symptoms, in a way they have some level or sort of grip on those symptoms.

When one has to have anesthesia, their guard is going to be down when they are coming out of it. Some may handle this well, but others may not. You do not know what recovery after a procedure will be like until you are there. Each time may be different, it could depend on how symptoms have been recently, it could depend on how anxiety was right before the procedure, it could depend on how the staff manages things as you are coming to, there are many factors involved.

(Craig gave permission to use him as an example and asked that I talk about this because it is serious and people need to understand what can take place.)

Before his surgery, we made sure the entire staff knew that Craig has PTSD. One of Craig’s traumas was violent and we know he has physical nightmares etc. from that trauma, so there could be the chance when coming out of anesthesia and disoriented that his PTSD could affect him, especially with guard being down. I was told “he did not have any issues noted from his last surgery so we don’t expect any this time”, which was true, he did not have any issues last time. I was quick to explain that it is PTSD, and it can change from how he responded last time when coming to, that we honestly don’t know how he will be each time. That he has had increased symptoms for several months now and that needs to be taken into consideration. Which they did, they listened to me. I also told them that if they needed me to come get me, I do know how to manage his symptoms.

Craig said that when they took him back he told them again not to get close to him when he starts coming to, and we had already explained to everyone not to touch him when he’s coming to, to stand back and talk to him for a moment so he knows who is there and they can get him focused on them (how to ground him), to tell him what they are going to do or where they have to touch him before they do so it does not catch him off guard, so they can continue with what they need to do for him without triggering PTSD.

If you do not know how the steps of surgery work, once through surgery they take you to post-op, then from there they take you to recovery this is when they will allow another person to come in with the patient. At post-op I received a call. “Rebecca we need you back here, we are sending someone to get you right now. Craig has stated four times he needs his wife, asking where is my wife? We need to bring you back.” I said, “No problem come get me”. I knew right then something was not okay because they never take me back at that stage.

When I went back I remained calm and focused. I saw Craig as I crossed the room, he was sitting up contious, but what I saw, well let’s say I am thankful they took me back. Craig was obviously having flashbacks. He was disoriented, “lost” was what he worded it as, he had no clue where he was, why he was there, or that he had just come out of surgery or even needed surgery, and he kept repeating the same things and questions over and over.

His eyes were widened and he was scanning the room, which was a sign of a flashback starting. I knew exactly what was at hand and started talking to him as I approached him. He needed to be grounded. I got him to focus on me, eye contact, and started feeding him information of where he was, why he was there, telling him he just came to from anesthesia, etc etc. It was only a few minutes later and he started scanning the room again, flashback, and I went straight into grounding him again. He kept going in and out of flashbacks.

Every time he would get grounded he was concerned he had hit someone, was convinced he had hit someone even though he did not which was sending him into more confusion and worry. The nurse was quick to tell me that she would step back from him and followed what I had told them to do, but that Craig never tried to touch anyone, but they knew they needed me back there with the confusion he was having. The flashbacks went on for nearly an hour as we pushed fluids, the staff brought him out of the anesthesia, and I kept grounding him from flashbacks. Everything worked out okay and no major episodes that could not be managed, and no he never swung on anyone but to him due to the flashbacks he was convinced he had and it worried him.

Craig experienced so many flashbacks yesterday after surgery that once home last night he did not recall that hour or many details of the long day. He remembered some details from before surgery, then remembered me coming into the room carrying coffee for him, he said he remembered he felt relief when he saw me. Last night he mentioned how much he truly trusts me and that he felt that yesterday and was so thankful I was there. I can not even state how many times last night he thanked me for being here and for being there for him yesterday. PTSD really had a grip on him yesterday, but the steps we took and plan we put in place helped tremendously. And the entire medical team was just awesome.

So here is what we want you to know and the serious reason for talking about this…

* Anesthesia can cause a person’s guard to be down and they may not be able to cope as well as they normally can with PTSD symptoms. You cannot know ahead of time how PTSD will be affected or triggered. Never assume each time will be the same as last time.

* It is urgent that you let medical staff know one has PTSD ahead of time, for the well being and safety of the one with PTSD and everyone involved. Give them any information that could be useful ahead of time as well as right before a procedure so it’s fresh in their minds. Such as how anxiety levels have been over the past 24 hours, how to approach one, what things can be said such as you are at [place], you just had [procedure] done, etc.

* Make sure the staff knows how to ground one! And make sure someone that is used to grounding that person, that the one with PTSD responds to, is present in case they are needed by staff. Let the staff know if that person is needed they are there and the staff can get them if need be. Make sure they have your name and phone number, which they should get anyway. Not everyone with PTSD grounds the same way, so make sure the medical team and staff are educated on the individual and what works for them.

* Never assume that just because they are medical staff that they understand or know how to manage symptoms for each individual. Many have worked with many PTSD patients and are great with them and with helping them through symptoms, however every patient is still different.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook Page

PTSD and the doctor you choose

I have to tell you a story and share something with you…
I won’t share details of Craig’s appointments, those are private of course, but there was something that occurred yesterday that, well, shocked me! (And he said I could share that part).

You know, I always say it’s very important to make sure you have the right doctor for you. That sounds simple, but the reality is that not every doctor is going to be a match for every person. I know we have switched some of Craig’s doctors before because he just could not understand them, or they did not seem to understand him, etc. So finding one that is a benefit to helping you, especially when it comes to mental health, by being the right match, I guess you could word it as, is extremely important.

I’ll be honest, when it came to the point of Craig needing a different psychologist, I went to bat as his caregiver/advocate. I know what he’s already been through, and I know what he needs so he can make progress of some sort. I talked in depth with his psychiatrist, who I trust and has been Craig’s doc for quite a few years now, so knows Craig well. I told him I wanted him to choose a psychologist that he thought was compatible with Craig, and one that will work well together with the other doctors, as well as me… since Craig does have severe memory issues so my input is needed, as well as takes good notes because it’s the only way, other than relying on me, that Craig can keep up with what goes on in sessions… he rereads the doc notes, and one that won’t give up on him or just feed him through a textbook type of program but can alter to Craig’s needs.

So his psychiatrist chose one, after discussing Craig’s case with her and also sharing with her my role in Craig’s care and treatment. I took a deep breath, and asked him “are you sure?” when he told us her name. He knew there was a reason behind my question, yes he knew me well too by this point. I told him I know her, I have seen her one time. She wasn’t bad by any means, but that one appointment of mine (which was totally different) made me question if she would be right for Craig or not, she was extremely direct and didn’t feel I needed to be there. Doc told us he would find someone else if I did not think Craig would be comfortable with her. I thought about it, thought about why I saw her and the circumstances at hand. Craig and I talked about it.

Craig said to me, “You know me and how I am better than anyone, what is your honest opinion?” I was honest, I told him that if his psychiatrist feels she is the doc that can be beneficial to him, especially with me laying out what I personally wanted to see for him, then I think we would be doing Craig an injustice not to at least give her a try. I mean what’s the worst case scenario in reality? Another doc that repeats things we already know or have tried? So we told doc yes, Craig will see her. And I went in with a completely open mind.

The very first appointment everything was laid out on the table, we were straight forward and so was the doc. It was made very clear that if it ever came to the point that she could not help Craig any further, or Craig is not capable of doing the things that she can offer which is a reality with his cognitive dysfunction included in this, another doctor that could be more beneficial to him would be found or we would all be honest if this is all that can be done for him and we just continue doing what we have been. It was also cleared up why my appointment was short and to the point, reality is it was a mental health well check and she did not feel I needed it and was already doing everything possible to take care of myself, so that now made sense.

It’s been approximately a year now that Craig has been seeing her, and I have to say that I am very thankful for her! She is awesome, with Craig, with me, and working as a team, including with the other doctors. She is very good at explaining things, in detail, and answering questions to all of my “why’s” or her and I explaining things together to where Craig can grasp them. She’s extremely intelligent but can explain things to Craig to where he can grasp a good portion of them. Which is very important. She also does things one at a time, so Craig does not become overwhelmed from too much information or things to do at one time. I have to admit, I have been VERY happy with her and thankful we made the decision we did.

But, the point to telling this goes much deeper than that. Yesterday was Craig’s appointment, and I witnessed something I have NEVER seen before in the 11 years that he has been seeing doctors! The three of us were talking and all of a sudden there was no holding back a huge smile for me, during a serious part of the conversation of course. She caught it, looked at me, and we stopped where we were. I told her, “I am sorry but I have to point this out. Look at Craig!” She looked at him then back at me. I then said, “Look at the way he is sitting.” Craig was sitting leaned forward in the chair, towards her, with his elbows on his knees and chin on his folded hands, listening to what she was telling him/us. I then said, “He has never, I mean never, been that comfortable with a doctor before. He relaxes like that with very few people.” And the tears of joy rolled up in my eyes. We talked for a brief moment, then got back on topic.

THAT my friends was a breakthrough!!!

The moral to this is simple…
Even though switching doctors can be frustrating or almost unbearable for many with PTSD, finding the right one for you IS worth it!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

“How do I convince him/her that he/she needs help?”

Reach for help for PTSD

“It’s no big deal, I have PTSD in it’s box!” or 
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”

I have MANY very worried and concerned family members coming to me and the question I am hearing the most is…

“How do I convince him/her that he/she needs help?”

A spouse/partner, family member, or friend can beg, you can plead, you can fight… but it’s very doubtful any of those things will help until one realizes they NEED help. Unfortunately, by the time realization comes around, someone has hit rock bottom. “Someone” could be the one with PTSD, AND/OR the spouse/partner!

I want to tell each and every single one of you, rock bottom is NOT a place you EVER want to see with  #PTSD! Craig has seen it up close and personal, and I saw what he went through, and then what myself as his spouse went through. I am being very serious as I write this, and I hope everyone will take the time to read this in full, let your loved one read it, and really think about it, and by all means pass this along to someone it may help. 

I don’t know any other way to get a person to understand how important help is, except by telling our story. If we can experience this, unfortunately so can YOU and your family! The, “That won’t happen to us/me” does not apply with PTSD.

When Craig’s first trauma happened which caused PTSD, it was October 1996. He had a job to do, he could not stop what he was doing to process what he had experienced. Yep, you guessed it, he sucked it up and kept pushing forward, he had no choice. Without going into details being respectful to Craig here, that first trauma lead to a second trauma. He kept his mouth shut and kept sucking up what he went through.

I knew what happened, well part of it, I know much more now. He had called me and talked to me about it. We were friends back then. When we got back together 11-1/2 years ago, he again reminded me that he was not the same person he use to be. I understood to a certain point, I saw changes in him but nothing I thought we could not handle. But we had no clue it was PTSD he was battling. All of those years he kept pushing forward, pushing to be the best… what I believe was proving something to himself that what happened was not going to effect him, and yep… he kept sucking it up, and he was not about to let others know, him chance losing rank or his career, or people think he was crazy. Nope not Craig! He kept what we now know as PTSD, in a box, on a shelf, tucked away.

He still had nightmares from time to time, several times a week, I learned to avoid those rather quickly! He was emotionally distant compared to the Craig I knew when we were younger, I chalked it up to he had been through two marriages before me. He had these weird mood flips that I had never seen before from him. But those things seemed minor and nothing we could not handle on our own and work through.

In 2003 Craig and I agreed that taking orders back to a ship so he could get more sea time in and move up in rank was what we needed to do. And was what happened. We had no clue that going back to a ship of triggers would open PTSD’s box Craig had shelved so well.

When PTSD came out of it’s box in early 2004, it brought a vengeance with it! I mean a flip our world upside down and keep flipping it! He was doing things WAY out of his character, and had no idea what he was doing, and would fight to the end “that never happened”. His memory was severely effected which lead to issues at work, AND arguments, and a very uneven shaky ground between us, and much more. Throttle in hand (literally… airplane, sports cars, etc.) speed was his ultimate addiction that he had to have, and it scared the mess out of me. It was way beyond what I had ever seen from him. His drinking increased, which that part we were able to get a grip on, thank goodness! Dissociative symptoms had come to life which brought huge challenges with them… we will leave that part as such, it was REALLY horrible.

In a nutshell, PTSD had come to full life after all of those years of being for the most part, in it’s box.

He had no choice at that point but to reach for help. But you know what? We hit a roadblock there! It was the, “There’s nothing wrong with him!“. Until he messed up at work, then they realized all of the asking, begging for help from both of us was real. Thank you to a Chaplin that took the time to listen to me and talk with us to Craig’s command! I will be forever grateful to him. Craig started receiving help.

Craig was honorably discharged in late 2005 with conversion disorder, cognitive dysfunction with permanent memory impairment, and headaches/migraines, along with a few other things… they could not figure out what was wrong with him, he still did not want to lose his career and did not open up fully to the doctors, and due to the fact he had West Nile virus the focus had remained mainly on that.

We had not seen anything yet! Not long after discharge he hit rock bottom, and I mean hit it hard! He withdrew from everyone and everything, my social butterfly was not there anymore, and all he wanted to do was die. And he had it planned out… throttle in hand.

The Craig I knew so well all of those years would have NEVER considered suicide! But you know what? PTSD does not care who a person is, what position you hold or career you are in, if you are a civilian or not, or how they were before, those thoughts become VERY real life even to those who would have never thought of them before.

I am still thankful to this day that seven years ago I was able to see the signs. I took all of the keys, did not go to work, and stayed with him… sitting with my back against the door to the bathroom so he could not leave. You do not know the reality at it’s fullest of what PTSD can bring, until you have thoughts of or have talked someone out of  #suicide. It is not something anyone should have to face, but is very real. I do not know of anyone with PTSD, that if they are honest, has not at least had the thought of suicide at some point in time. Craig will tell you, he’s very open about it these days, if I had not made the choices I did that day, saw the signs, and talked him out of it, he would not be here today.

We were finally able to get him seen for more help. In 2008 was the first time anyone had said the term “PTSD” to us. In 2009 he was officially diagnosed by the VA with PTSD chronic and Major Depressive Disorder, and has remained in treatment.

It’s not a secret, Craig and I both share the facts in hopes of helping others. The largest question he asks to this day is, “If I had asked for help at the beginning, that first trauma, would I be the way I am today?” He’s pretty certain that if he had reached for help back then, today he would be leading a more normal life. That he would have had the tools, coping skills, and professional help to help prevent seeing the rock bottom he saw, and life would have been different, more normal.

You never want to be in the position sometime later in life, to find yourself asking that same question. Trust me, it comes with regrets and a lot of questioning yourself.

Today, he does require a full time caregiver, reality is most likely always will, but each day we work hard to get him to the best he can possibly be, we never stop trying… and in reality even though he is still severe, we have both come a long way from those rock bottom days. It’s been over 10 years since PTSD came out of it’s box, neither one of us or our relationship in reality should have survived what we both went through… but we did!

We survived and everyday we are re-learning how to live this new normal of a life with PTSD. Our relationship has grown and strengthened to a different type of level, something many people that don’t understand this life with PTSD, will never understand.

WE reached for help, the consequences where hard, I will not lie to you, but they were worth Craig being here today and our family finding a healthy balance. WE never stop learning or trying new things. We faced the fact our lives have changed, they will never be the same again, but life does not have to end just because PTSD is a part of it!

The reach for help is worth it, you are worth it, your family is worth it.
Don’t place PTSD in a box, on a shelf, allowing it to collect dust for a rock bottom appearance later. Take control of it, learn how to manage it, and LIVE with it!

 Love, Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook page

No Visitors… WHAT?

No Visitors… WHAT?

Something that is common at times with  #PTSD. You just don’t want to hear that knock on the door or the doorbell ringing. I am known around here (and get laughed at a lot, lol) for my silly signs I post on our front door.

But you know what… Laugh away  because if it’s a rough PTSD day that silly sign can help! Especially with door to door sales people, etc. I have made signs for deliveries only, no visitors, catch ya later, etc. with all sorts of sayings. Oh, yes the pizza delivery guy got a kick out of it the first time he saw one. But you know what? He learned about PTSD that day 

I view it this way…

If someone ignores the sign or asks me why it’s there, that is a door that just opened for educating others! Especially those that ignore it, I LOVE those! Even though Craig does not.  I will listen to whatever they have to say or sales pitch then I say, “Okay, I listened to your pitch now I would like you to listen to mine…”.

Then I hand them a PTSD awareness card for my website and this page, and tell them all about PTSD. You know what… it works! I have never had anyone walk away when I do that. The signs become respected on our door AND if there is not a sign on the door, some people will stop and just ask how we are doing when they are in the area.

It’s amazing how you can have a quiet day when needed but can also take a bite out of stigma and educate others at the same time. 

So… the sign for the day  We are expecting a visitor today so this is what today’s sign at the top of the posting. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

Motions lead to Emotions… the meaning behind this

I need to take a step backwards for a moment 😉

The other day I posted about “motions lead to emotions”. Many people took this as an intimacy or sex thing/saying, which it can be, but it’s MUCH more than that. Let me explain what it actually means.

Many times with PTSD, people develop numbness. This is VERY common and is a symptom of PTSD. When numbness comes it causes one to not feel love or closeness to anyone (avoidance can also join in with this), which can also cause one to believe they no longer love or care about someone they really care about. It can cause the spark to go out in relationships, emotionally as well as physically. It can cause you to lose interest in things you use to love to do, things like hobbies, sports or activities, being around friends or family. It brings an emotional divide between you and, in reality, living life. It brings kind of a “If I have no feelings then why bother doing it”.

It can cause one to feel very lonely or alone.

Not a place anyone should be. So in order to try to help take some of the PTSD numbness away or fight it, you go through the motions… of living life.

A “motion” can be anything that includes physical movement of the body or an action. It could be setting one on one time with your spouse/partner to talk. It could be a date night/time. It could be spending a certain time of day with your kids/grandchildren. It could be going outside the house. It could be a weekly trip to the store. It could be helping someone with a chore or doing one. It could be walking the dog. It could be working on a hobby etc that you use to like to do. It could be giving a person a hug or telling someone you love them. And yes, it can include intimacy, at whatever level. 

A motion can be anything that leads you from one physical place or action to another. Those “dance steps” in life.

The motion is something you tell yourself you are going to do AND you force yourself to do it, or at least try, whether you have the feeling to want to do it or not.

By going through the “motions” it can lead you to the “emotions”. In other words, taking the physical steps can, with practice, lead you to creating new or jump starting old emotions and feelings… unmask them.

You HAVE to practice! One time trying something may not be enough, most likely won’t be enough. When numbness takes over, it is going to take effort to get back what PTSD has caused to you or masked from you, but it is possible.

I can give a great example! Using my dearest Craig.  The boat. Craig use to LOVE going boating and was very active in water sports. Yep, he owns that one, he was REALLY good at water sports! I mean the man LOVED it and could not wait back then to get off work to hit the lake or ocean! PTSD numbness took that love away from him. He had absolutely no interest. He had become numb literally to everything in life, literally.

We took a chance on buying the boat, hoping to spark something, anything within him by bringing back or giving him something he use to love doing. (Now I’m NOT saying go out and buy a boat lol! That’s just one example here.) It took time, but it did! He was excited the day we got the boat… excitement, an emotion and feeling. But it took about 5-6 weeks to actually build up to taking it out. Then a goal had to be set to try to take it out once per week. Goals are very important! (We are also battling a level of agoraphobia that developed with all of the PTSD symptoms and depression). We used his “wanted to do things with his kids” over the summer to help push the motions. And he did it, it was NOT easy, but we managed to take the boat out once per week while all of the kids were here for half the summer.

Now that his PTSD anniversary time is approaching, it has been more difficult. All of the increased PTSD symptoms are already here. We have not been out on the lake since the kids left almost a month ago. So at times there will be back steps also, accept that fact and don’t allow it to stop you, you keep trying and practicing. The boat needed a new prop. Guess what arrived yesterday?  It’s another jump-start to working on pushing forward again.  But the boat over all has spark his feelings, his emotions… and let me tell you  when he’s enjoyed a day on the lake, even with all of the anxiety and other PTSD symptoms that come with it AND after it, I see my Craig that I know so well through the PTSD. It has helped with the numbness, it’s helped him break through it at least a little at a time.

Motions lead to Emotions“… it’s taking the actions and steps of living life, to help bring back the feelings and emotions of living again.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or in any medical field, and cannot give medical advice or recommendations regarding medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding medications PLEASE talk to your doctor.

“Could you talk a little bit about trialing new medications and adjusting doses of established meds. Effects and reasoning?”

But I can give personal opinions and a little information regarding this question.

Let’s start with some basic background information…

The first thing to understand is that NO two people are going to respond to the same medications the same way. That’s why I don’t discuss direct names of medications on here, that is something for each doctor to handle per person. Each person may have a different combination of medications, depending on which symptoms they are having. Many people may choose or be able to manage symptoms without the use of medications.

When medications are given for PTSD, really they are given to help manage the symptoms. PTSD comes with a wide range of symptoms and not every person has every symptom, not every symptom is exactly the same for each person, so medications when given, are given accordingly. As of right now to my knowledge, there is no one medication “for” PTSD. Medications for other medical conditions are many times given to help manage PTSD symptoms.

With that being said, there are many different medications being used to help manage the symptoms. You will notice I keep using the term “manage”, that is because there is not a pill cure all. Medications will not make symptoms “go away”, they are used to decrease and manage symptoms. Some people may not notice their symptoms any longer with certain meds, but that does not mean that symptom is gone, the med is simply working for you very well… if that is you, SMILE because you are one lucky person!  It is very important to understand that medications=management!

I call medications “band-aides”. They are not a permanent fix. They can in many cases help one get to a “place” where they can focus better on learning how to cope with they symptoms. Personally, I believe, and have seen, it takes much more than only medications, coping skills and learning self-help techniques to manage symptoms are very much needed.

New medications.

Like with many medications, you have to give a new medication time to see if it is going to help or not. Many of the medications given to those with PTSD take a good 4-6 weeks to really see if it will help, and before seeing the real results. Others may not take as long. Some may seem to help immediately but then seem to stop or decrease helping, especially during the adjustment period, this is normal and does not mean the med is not working, it simply means your body is adjusting to it. Your doctor will be the one to decide based on your symptoms, if a med will be the right one for you or not and if adjustments need to be made.

During that time it is important to monitor for any side effects or reactions, notify your doctor if you have any. Many non-major side effects will decrease or go away once you adjust to the medication.

There are several blood pressure medications, for a good example, that are commonly used to help manage PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares and migraines, even though the person may have normal bp. If you are given one or more of these, it is extremely important to understand how that medication works and to keep your bp monitored. It is also important to know that with these meds, you cannot just jump out of bed and go! Especially when it’s a new med. one needs to slow down and pay attention to how your body responds. (Examples are: When waking up. When moving to a standing position. Use caution when/if driving.) It’s a blood pressure med and lowers your bp, so until your body adjusts to it, your physical body may be off balance. This normally levels out once your body adjusts to the medication.

Keep in mind what each medication is actually used for so you can monitor your or your loved one’s response to the medication. My golden rule is to keep in mind: [Symptom] is what is is bring given for, but [Medical condition] is what the medication is actually used for.

New medications can not be expected to give a quick fix or a fix all cure. It takes time to see how your body will respond. Have patience.

Adjusting and Changing Medications…

This is VERY common! Go ahead right now and set that thought in your brain because meds ARE going to change or be adjusted! Again, medications are to help with the symptoms. As your symptoms change, increase or decrease, so will your medications. How often, how many, etc. all depend on the symptoms at each given time.

Over time your body may get use to a medication and it may need to be adjusted, discontinued, OR changed. It is normal to start on a lower dose then your doctor will decide what needs to be done from there. If adjustment is needed, this is normally done in small steps.

Another thing to keep in mind with medications used to manage PTSD symptoms is many of them you cannot stop cold turkey! Due to what these meds are and what they are meant to do, many require weaning one off of them, unless their is a severe reaction or interaction then a doctor needs to tell you how to handle that accordingly. If you have a reaction, feel like a zombie even after the adjustment time to a medication, TALK to your doctor! They are only a phone call or email away! DO NOT adjust or discontinue medications on your own!!!

It is extremely important to keep up with your doctor! Be honest! What you need or don’t need will depend on your symptoms and you being honest about what you are experiencing, since there is not one specific medication to treat PTSD.

Speaking of the zombie feeling…

I want to make something very clear. If you are feeling like the medication(s) you are on are keeping you from functioning, you feel like a zombie, talk to your doctor! DO NOT sit back and think that is how you should feel. When medications are used for PTSD symptoms, they are to help you manage the symptoms so you can function. They should not make you feel doped up! You may experience that feeling during adjustment times or when starting a new medication, but other than that you should not feel like a zombie. If you feel this way talk to your doctor so they can work on adjusting your med.

And last but not least…

Medications do NOT have to be a lifetime thing. I know some medications will be, but not all have to be! Many people will not use or even try medications because they don’t want to be doped up the rest of their life. It does not and should not be that way. When a person starts on medications, if that’s what needs to be done, one may have many medications to begin with, some doses may be high at times, but over time AND the more you learn to manage the symptoms (those coping skills  ) meds can decrease and at times they can be discontinued.

PLEASE do not avoid meds simply because you don’t want to be doped up the rest of your life. It should not and does not have to be that way! (Yes, I repeated that.) Craig is a prime example of this one! At the beginning he was on 12 different medications, the docs are gradually working him off of as many as possible. Over half of those medications are not needed anymore! And the docs are still working on decreasing. His symptoms have NOT by any means gone away, but we have learned over time how to manage them using other things such as coping skills and techniques. The reason I call medications “band-aides”  They help but may not always be needed… only time will answer that one. 

Just please keep in mind that each person will be different when it comes to use or non-use of medications. As well as things will change as you do 

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Separation, spoken by a doctor?

Separation, spoken by a doctor?

I recently asked a question looking for input, on my FaceBook page

“Has your doctor/therapist (either side of the fence on this one) advised you or your partner that you should separate, take a break from your relationship, or live separately when or for the times PTSD is not being coped with well?

I am NOT asking about separation due to physical abuse situations or situations of divorce (un-resolvable situations), I am talking about relationships where there seems there is hope and a couple is trying to manage through life with PTSD, but a doctor has advised you to separate and for whatever time frame.”

I have to be honest, my first reaction/opinion, to myself, after reading the many things I have received over the past week was, “How on earth could a doctor say those things when these two people have gone to him/her for help?“. It could be so damaging, add stress, make one or the couple question their relationship, it could tear a relationship apart which otherwise may have survived the odds, etc.

It is hard for one to reach for help in the first place when they have PTSD, it’s hard for them to include their spouse/partner into that help, and it’s hard as a couple to sit there week after week talking and telling what life is like, and what the other person is like… with them sitting right there in the room. It takes many small steps to move forward.

Doing so is that couple putting in effort, it’s trying on many different levels to find solutions and ways to cope, manage and learn how to live this life with PTSD as part of it.

In my mind, as I thought about everything Craig and I have been through over the years, I thought about everything then applied to it, “What if we were told to separate?“, at any point in time of those years or years to come. Honestly, I’m kind of shocked no one ever told us that, at least at the beginning of us learning. Then I thought, “Sure we went through hell and back many times. We almost lost our relationship along the way. BUT, look at where we are now because we did not give up.” I still could not accept a doctor saying that to anyone that is trying, and I sure could not have accepted it IF it had been said to us personally. I still stand on solid ground to my personal opinions, because I do know how much we have been through to get to the point we are now.

I also had to keep in mind that there are many, many different situations and circumstances, way too many to list, and at times a separation will happen to a couple, so I did not go into this topic with blinders on as I thought about it, I do face reality with facts on the table. But I still did not understand the “why” to a doctor saying this to a couple that is trying and wanting their relationship to work. And you know me, I’m by no means a doctor but if I don’t understand the why, I look for it.

I read articles and did my research. Finding things directly linked to PTSD was difficult so I widened my search to relationships which contained mental health conditions and separation, to give myself a broader comparison that could or might pertain to a relationship with PTSD. Honestly, it boiled down to science and the chemical balances in the brain, then taking those things and applying them to relationships. And the largest part, acceptance of the facts and what one chooses to do with them.

I read articles by anthropologist Helen Fisher (And if you have never read her work it’s well worth your time!), I read National Geographic article “Scientists say that the brain chemistry of infatuation is akin to mental illness—which gives new meaning to “madly in love.” By Lauren Slater, I read Psychology Today article “Sex, Love, and SSRIs” written By Orli Van Mourik. As well as many others. It was a part in this that with placing facts on the table, I had to include.

Without going too in depth of what I discovered, because I could write a book on the things I read and I want to stay on topic, I found I had to include the other things that do indeed effect relationships… sex (specifically orgasm), love, medications, the change in levels of the brain, the mental illness itself and symptoms combined with these things.

One excerpt I do what to add to give you extra information…
“Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, for one, believes SSRIs are wreaking havoc on human courtship. SSRIs alleviate depression by upping the levels of serotonin in the brain and curbing the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Unfortunately, dopamine is also responsible for the feelings of elation and ecstasy that accompany falling in love. By suppressing dopamine, Fisher argues, drugs like Prozac block your ability to have these feelings, thus making it harder to fall in love and stay in love.” (“Sex, Love, and SSRIs” written by By Orli Van Mourik)

All of the articles I read in my search for answers did not give me the answer to why a doctor would tell a couple to separate directly, they do not give the many different situations or circumstances of each personal relationship either. However it did open up to different reasons that MAY be included in the why, that doctors may not be explaining. And just to note, since I did use an example of medications for purposes of showing levels in the brain being a part of relationships, none of the articles stated one should discontinue medications due to them effecting your relationship. There are still many ways to have a solid relationship even though the relationship will be different then what one may view as “normal” type of  “love life”.

Many doctors have different opinions based on their personal knowledge of science and psychology. Some may feel that relationships that have a vast amount of chemical factors missing or changed, for lack of better words, are impossible. Other doctors may view the relationship as it may lack certain parts but the relationship can adjust. Other factors will include what each partner is capable of or not, as well as if they as a team can work through those things, or if the relationship is one sided. Others do take into consideration “What will the couple’s future be?“. Many times their opinions are based on science and psychological findings.

Does this make them right or wrong in their statement of separate? I don’t believe there is an answer to that. I believe it is up to each couple as well as individual in that couple to decide what is best for them and their personal situation/relationship with including the science and psychology within it.

I do have to add in here something else that has been brought to me several times, I do not understand (unless there is physical harm involved) a doctor telling a couple to separate into two homes and one come and go as they please. To me, that is feeding avoidance which is a symptom that ones with PTSD work hard to get through in the first place. I feel without legit circumstances, this creates or can create a larger issue within a relationship or can lead to a relationship dissolving completely, can lead to trust issues, increased feelings of being or feeling alone, adds to breaks in communication, feeds fight or flight symptoms, and can very much lead to extra damage in a relationship when other options are available without physically separating homes. A simple less damaging solution in my eyes, is to have a room within the home one can retreat to when needed, include safety protocol, as I word it, without separating a family physically to two separate dwellings.

We are each human beings, as human beings we can not predict the future or what a relationship will be like tomorrow, 5, 10, or 20 years from right now. The only basis one can go on is history and science, and even evolution, keeping in mind that each day things do change. Even with all of the evidence laid before someone, there are situations that will beat the odds and go a different path then one may predict, or even what one may want.

I believe one’s future will depend on themselves and them as a couple in many cases, not stating all cases due to the fact of science is included in the equation. I believe that in order to beat the odds or at least have a chance to do so, one needs to know the facts involved that could effect the relationship. It goes back to my “You have to find the why in order to find a solution or what will best work for you.” And even with that, you have to know and accept that we do not know what our future will hold. Even with years in a good relationship, there is no promise that relationship will last forever. It’s a part of life and each person and as a couple has to decide if their relationship is worth the effort and trying.

If we are given or find the facts that could be a part of it, it gives you the knowledge and information to work from… and in a lot of cases gives you the tools to beat the odds. I do not believe any one person has the right to tell someone what to do when it comes to separating or not. I do believe if a doctor tells a couple to separate, it is the right of that person being told, to have the facts that that OPINION is based from. Get the “why“, then YOU decide from those opinions and use that why in your own equation and what you believe. No one person can tell you your future, they can only give you their opinions to why, what you do with it from there is up to you and you as a couple.

My personal opinions in all of this, do go back to IF Craig and I had been told to separate. If we had been told that, and if we listened to one person’s opinion and took their word as a must do, we would not be here right now sharing with you the things that have worked for us, the things that have made us stronger as individuals as well as a couple. There would not have been the chance taken for communication skills to develop, for coping skills to be learned, or for our relationship to build in strength. Sure, our relationship does lack some of the things science and psychology suggests are must haves for a good relationship, facts on the table, but those things are also things Craig and I together chose were not as important as we are as a whole. We chose that our relationship is stronger then the odds against us, and each day that comes we are proving it.

Your relationship or future relationship, in many cases is up to you as a couple, what you choose to do or not do. There will or may be things missing or lacking, again, science does have it’s hand in this as well as the future, but it’s up to you to decide your future, not up to someone else. PTSD already in reality, takes a lot of things away OR masks them with it’s many symptoms, I refuse to allow one person to determine what our future will be, that’s one thing nothing and no one individual can take away from us… and science, there are too many things in this modern age of medical and technology that can help beat those odds as well. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Stop, Think, and Breathe!

Stop, Think, and Breathe!

Are you getting so tied up in what is happening right now, that you are forgetting how or what to do to make it through it?

I am seeing MANY people lately that have some serious issues or situations going on. Then I’m seeing the results and how lost they are becoming because of what is going on, as well as how the one with PTSD is responding. The situation has become unbalanced. Not good.

Are you forgetting that PTSD and the symptoms are also involved? Are you forgetting to use coping skills? Are you forgetting to look for the “why” in order to find what works best for managing situations, as well as PTSD? Many, if honest with yourself are going to answer, “Yes, yes I am forgetting“.

I know it is tough to focus on what you need to do or need to remember when serious situations arise! The brain of one without PTSD wants to resort back to how you would handle things in a “normal” situation or resorts back to viewing things through “normal” eyes. My friends, if PTSD is involved, handling or viewing things with a “normal” response is not in many cases going to get you very far, and you might just be causing a serious matter to become worse.

I am seeing many that are so upset either with a current situation or with something that has happened regarding one with PTSD, that they (or you) are allowing their emotions to take over to the point they are now the one having issues. (And when you have issues, you can bet your bottom it will cause the one with PTSD to have issues!) The pointing fingers has started again at the one with PTSD. Communication is breaking down. And the coping skills of how to handle reality has leaped out the window. The positive ways to find solutions or what is best has been set to the side and you are stuck in the negative. STOP! Step back, and take a good look, think… and for goodness sake breathe! 

If you do not take a step back to look at the big picture and figure out the what and why to it, you are going to over react, your world will fall into chaos mode, and you are going to become very unbalanced… which can lead to all of those around you becoming unbalanced.

Life throws curve balls all of the time, it’s life! It happens to every single one of us, but how you handle it can make all of the difference in the world. It’s like I always say, make a plan and make sure you have a back up plan. But in order to make a plan you have to slow down and take a good look at things in order to move forward.

Keep in mind:

* PTSD is involved.

You have to keep in mind what one with PTSD goes through each day and that they also have coping they have to focus on. Keep in mind their symptoms, and the “why” to things that happen. Those “why’s” will and can help you find solutions or what can help best with a situation or symptom. You can NOT dismiss that PTSD is a part of life now.

* Coping Skills 

Don’t forget YOUR coping skills! Coping skills need to be used every single day rather you feel you need to use them or not. The more you practice them, the better they can work for you when a tough situation arises. They become your new normal for handling stress, frustration, anger, sadness, and any other emotion or feeling that can come with intense situations. USE THEM!

* Make a Plan 

It does not matter what the situation is, you can take a few minutes to think it out and make a plan, and a back-up plan! If this happens we handle it this way, if that does not work we try this. Plans are easy, you can come up with one at any point in time. But you have to stop and think…

* Slow down.

You have to slow down! If you allow yourself to go full speed in a tough situation, you are not allowing yourself to look at the big picture and figure out how to handle it best. Many not so good decisions and overreactions can happen, or even worse situations can come if you do not slow down to think rationally and take in everything involved, so you can find what the best course is or you think will be. Even if you take 5 minutes to stop, slow down, and think, it can be a huge help!

* Don’t Overreact 

Overreacting is one of the largest mistakes when it comes to life involving PTSD. Think of the symptoms, think of the why’s, and try to figure things out, and communicate before you allow an overreacting nature take control of you. Again, life has changed now that PTSD is a part of it! What made sense before might not be the normal now. You can still find ways to work through things and find a balance, but you have to work on it.

* Balance 

The golden key to life with PTSD and life in general. You HAVE to find a balance! A balance in emotions, feelings, responses, coping, managing, communication, etc etc! Even though life can change from one day to the next, or one situation to the next, you can still find a balance. But it’s sure not going to be handed to you, you have to DO things in order for it to happen.

These are just a few very important reminders that I have found extremely helpful. Life with PTSD is different from the normal, but you know what? A new normal can be found if you work on it. Stop, think, and don’t forget to breathe! Those things can sure help make life a little easier, as well as make it more balanced.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Something to help with coping with PTSD

I want to introduce something to you, that many may not know about. Craig and I do use this ourselves after it was brought to our attention about a year ago I guess. Wow, did my life change and I found myself being able to manage things better! Including what PTSD can bring. This can be used by anyone! It’s easy, once you learn how to do it 😉 It might take you a little time to learn it because living life with PTSD or caring for one with PTSD does or can keep your brain in high gear much if not all of the time. So this is something that can slow that down.

It not only has been proven to help psychologically, but also can help with the physical body. I have mentioned this before on here, but this time I am sharing an article on it that is very good at describing how it can be beneficial to you. And what am I talking about? Mindfulness. This is not something to overlook, scroll past, or say “that won’t work for me”. If you really try this it can help!

“The Many Benefits of Mindfulness”

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

How to get someone with PTSD to reach for help.

How to get someone with PTSD to reach for help.

I have had many come to me and ask how I managed to get Craig to reach for help. It was NOT easy!!! From day one I heard “But they will think I am crazy and I will lose my career.” And trust me, he LOVED his job and those were fighting words.

The arguments got worse, and we NEVER fought before, fighting was not us or normal! His memory was getting worse, and it was like his whole life was crumbling right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

I tried everything. Talking to him just lead to fights or hurt feelings. To him, it was a minor problem and not one that he was going to let interfere with everything he worked so hard for.

Going to his command was useless. They just thought I was a wife that wanted him out of the military, which was so far from the truth it was sickening.

Talking to his parents didn’t do any good, I really think they thought I was over reacting.

Craig knew something was happening to him, but he did like many and sucked it up so he could continue to do the job he loved and serve this country.

And I will be honest, the more he held it in and sucked it up, the worse he became.

I was one that did say “I have no clue who I’m married to”, “I have no clue what I have gotten myself into”, and my own emotional battle within myself, roller coaster, began. I was the one being viewed as crazy and “you don’t know what you are talking about”, when in reality I could see very clearly the changes in him. But no one would hear me.

I will be honest, I no longer knew up from down. Every day brought more arguing, less and less communication, a husband acting like a stranger, and he did many things that were totally out of his nature or character. I was literally watching him slip away and there was absolutely nothing I could do to bring him back.

All I knew to do, was to hold on to him for dear life and however I could. And with the things going on back then, and trust me they were the worst things you could imagine, I wasn’t even sure my trying to hold on was helping. There were times it did cross my mind to just let go and let him have his life without me being a part of it. But, I just couldn’t find a place inside of me to do that. After 10 years of us being apart, and then back together, there was no way I was going to let whatever was happening to him take us away from each other. I fought, I fought to hold onto Craig. I knew somewhere in this out of control person, Craig had to be in there fighting to find his way back to the surface. He was a fighter, a leader, and this person standing before me was not the Craig I knew.

Then the day came, and when he hit rock bottom, he hit it hard! We didn’t know it was PTSD back then, we didn’t know what we were fighting. And without knowing, it made the battle that much harder.

When he hit rock bottom, I was then faced with this person that wasn’t only out of control of themselves, but now this A personality person was relying on every word I said, turning to me to guide him through life because he could no longer guide himself, but fighting me at the same time. Craig was lost, lost within himself. There were many very uncomfortable situations that came with it, I had no clue how our relationship was going to survive, let alone he survive himself.

When he hit rock bottom, there was no choice left. It was getting help or it was losing his life. And I was not going to let his life vanish! I screamed from the highest mountain until someone heard my cries. And that person to my shock, was a Chaplain. He forced command to hear me out, and you know what? They started the path to finding out what was wrong with Craig.

I watched a man who was always a social butterfly and center of attention, so full of life, and love, and laughter, fall into this dark place where nothing and no one mattered anymore. I watched him go through just wanting life to end because the pain of whatever this was inside of him, was just too much to battle. I watched his entire world turn upside down to the point it did not seem worth living. That was not my Craig!

Through everything, there was just something there that told me and kept telling me “do not give up on him”. I was faced with not only fighting for myself, but fighting for him, and our family. Because whatever this was, was not allowing him to fight for himself any longer.

It was about 3 years later when we were finally told all of this was PTSD, and now chronic. It wasn’t from all of the things we were told, it was PTSD, and now it was severe because it had gone so long untreated.

To this very day Craig wishes he had looked for help sooner, he honestly feels that if he had, he would be better then he is. And I will be honest, with everything I have seen and heard since then, I also believe the same thing.

I do not know an answer to how to make someone reach for help, the only thing I know to do is share what we have been through and hopefully the ones with PTSD will read this and realize that they do NOT have to be on the same destructive path we were, they just have to reach for help. That reach, and doing it as soon as possible, NOW, may turn your world upside down for a little while, but you know what? It will give you what you need to continue to live, it will give you the coping skills and help you need to not hit that rock bottom place as hard as we did. And it will give you some sense of your life back, even if it is now different. There is nothing out there that is worth more then your own life! The sooner you get help, the better chances you have of continuing what you love to do, saving your family, saving your relationship, and most of all… saving YOURSELF!

PTSD is not just going away. Don’t be hard headed and try to battle it on your own, you won’t like the outcome if you do, and I can guarantee those words… we’ve been there already and we live with the results of waiting every single day of our lives.

There are so many different things now that are known, and can help manage PTSD. But you have to start by listening to your loved ones (and know that that are caring about you when they say something) and facing the fact that something is not right, then reach for help. There is no need for a battle between people, when in fact the battle is actually with PTSD.

Rock bottom is not when you want to start fighting PTSD, do something right now! YOU are worth it! Reach for help so you can live your life better then where PTSD is going to put you if you choose to do nothing. There is no joking bone in my body on that one.

It’s been a long hard path for Craig and I, and we still battle it every day, but reaching for help was the best thing we ever did for him, us, and our family. Don’t wait, do something now.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD