Archive for » April, 2014 «

A GOOD day…

I have to share something that happened here yesterday…

My parents called and told me they were coming over, if it was okay. My wonderful, loving aunt who I just admire recently moved and had a picnic table that she would no longer be using and thought we would like to have it, so my parents brought it back with them from their visit with her.

So while I was waiting for them to come over I was doing my pond maintenance, then getting the back yard ready to mow.

But do you have any idea what I saw while I was out there? CRAIG!!!

I know that may sound odd to some people, but many of you will get what I am saying.  I looked up and Craig was standing outside watching me!

I was so happy and excited to see him out of the house. I said, “Wow hey there! Oh this is so nice you coming out here with me!” You would have thought Santa Clause just came with how excited I was lol!

But, that wasn’t all! Once my parents got here and the picnic table was in the backyard, under my beautiful oak tree by the way  we all sat at the table talking for a little while, Craig stood near the table didn’t sit down but joined in to the conversation! My dad was cracking jokes about when I was a kid and yes, making my turn beet red lol. We talked about family stuff, you know, the good things. Craig stayed out there and joined in the conversation and I swear I even heard him chuckle and saw him smile when my dad was teasing me!  🙂

For those of you that may not understand my excitement… THAT was a good day! See, Craig use to be one that you could not get inside the house… he loved being outside. Since PTSD etc. became severe he is basically considered agoraphobic. He rarely goes outside and if he does it’s for short amounts of time, normally only for must do things, like leaving the house for doctor appointments, an occasional quick trip to the store with me or must do thing, and his daily check the mail.

Every day I nicely ask him if he would like to walk out back with me, and I get a “no not now”. So for him to come out back without anyone saying anything to him about doing so is HUGE! Then he stayed outside for oh maybe a half an hour or so! HUGE! It absolutely made my day!! 🙂

So this morning I want to start with a serious “Way to go Craig! I am SO SO SO proud of you!! Love ya babe!

Wow, I’m still excited! Yesterday was for sure a GOOD day here on the lakefront! I HAD to share! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Fresh Guacamole

 

 

Homemade Guacamole

~By my daughter

2 ripe Avocados

1/2 teaspoon cracked Sea Salt

Dash cracked Black Pepper

1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice

1/4 Onion minced

1/2 Tomato chopped- remove pulp and seeds

Other spices can be added to your taste if you like spicy. Blend all ingredients together and serve with chips.

My daughter told me, “Hey mom, while you are at the store would you pick up 2 avocados for me? I want to make guacamole.” I looked at her and said, “Um, okay. Need anything else?” She said no. So I picked up what she wanted and to the kitchen she went. All fresh ingredients, no packets or anything like that.

I fess, I have never really liked guacamole very much, honestly. But when she was done she said, “Here mom you have to try it.” Okay lol, guess I have to, I thought to myself. 😉

You know what? It’s REALLY good!  She did a good job and her and I added it to the family recipe book. 

This pic is a little plate she made for Craig.  He likes it lol! 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

 

 

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I was asked what it is like with cognitive dysfunction being a huge part of our lives…

I was asked what it is like with cognitive dysfunction being a huge part of our lives. So let me explain…

A prime example was yesterday. Craig looked at me yesterday and asked, “So what project are you working on next?” I sat there for a second and realized what type of day it was going to be, not that that is a bad thing but it told me what was in front of us. It was one of the more severe cognitive days. To Craig, it was just an honest question.

See, last week we talked in depth, over multiple days about my next project. We talked about what I wanted with this project, what he wanted, threw around different ideas of likes and dislikes, how to move things around, where to put things, etc. It’s a rather easy project, it’s come time to repaint our master bedroom and I want to build my bay window bed for those rough nights when I can’t sleep in bed with him. I am also doing some extra Spring cleaning before starting this project. 

I’ve spent the past week preparing for it, a little each day. But to Craig, it did not “stick”. This is something that has been a part of our lives for years now, we are use to it and know how to manage it. The cognitive problems which lead to repeating things, not understanding that something has taken place, or something was said, the confusion, frustration that comes with it, etc.

Don’t worry, I’m not by any means throwing Craig to the wolves here lol! Craig likes for me to write about things we go through, with total honesty. He says it helps him. So, I’m just bringing an understanding about how life is different for us, as well as many others.

I do want to state up front, I am using the term “cognitive” because right now as of recently, doctors are honestly not sure what to call what Craig experiences and cannot answer what term fits best. He has multiple diagnoses along with PTSD… which they are now looking into an additional one (possible TBI), overlapping symptoms, and I have basically been told to stop using the term “memory” which is what doctors have always used as well, until they are able to sort out exactly what ALL he is and has been going through the past 10 years. “Cognitive dysfunction” is a term that has been used since day one no matter what other terms have been additionally used, so for now we will stick to that. 

Carrying on, These things are a part of both of our everyday lives, but there are days that are worse then others, really just like any other symptoms or medical condition. Yesterday just happened to be one of those days.

I have been asked, “How do you handle this as the spouse?” and “What is this like for the two of you?

I think the simple answer is, I handle these days with extreme patience. Back at the beginning though, patience was not something that was understood as needed. It was the quick comments of, “You already said that“, “I don’t understand why we are discussing this again“, “We already talked about this“, “That never happened” or “Why did you do that?“, “You said you would do… but did not.“, “Why did you go here when you said you were going there to take care of…“, etc. It was pretty frustrating, not only for myself, but for both of us!

I guess the best way to describe days like yesterday, which was based around conversations and what I have already accomplished around the house, is they are like deja vu to me. Like the day is replaying itself, which in a sense it is. I know we have already gone through this (whatever it may be based around), or something similar, but outcomes are not always the same. The fact is, this is life, this is what it is, and we go with it and make the best of each day. I don’t know if you would call it an advantage or disadvantage really (the repeating things). At times it is easier the second or third time around because I kind of know what’s coming, or what his thoughts were last time, especially with conversations so know how to respond or better yet, how not to respond.  But yet on the other hand lol it’s coming again and I know it will be a day of listening and having the same conversations again, having great patience, and understanding/empathy of what he is going through, which is understandable. It took time for me to understand what he goes through in order to know how to respond or what I needed to do, how to handle what he experiences. I’ll be honest, at times it’s still frustrating, but it’s something I understand and accept so I can also let go of frustration easily if it comes.

But to Craig he does not comprehend that something has already taken place, to him it’s new I guess you could say. I think the toughest part for him is knowing me so well or seeing how other people react to him. There are times that he picks up on my pause to answer… looking for the right words or me already knowing it’s best to not reply, my/others facial expressions or lack of really, me sitting too quiet while I listen again, in general my/other’s body language. See, just because he has cognitive problems does not mean he is any less intelligent. When he picks up on something it’s an instant “We already talked about this, haven’t we?” or “That already happened, didn’t it?“. He can many times put those pieces together. Then he gets frustrated, irritated, with himself and tries to recall things. That leads to a lot of negative thoughts towards himself which are not good for him… the “Wow did that make me feel stupid“, “They really looked at me like I am crazy“, etc. He can’t help or control his cognitive function, he tries though. I’ll give him a big “good job” on that one, he always tries with everything.

We have a lot of days where we will sit and just talk. Where he will ask me to tell him about a photo, an event, etc. or if I mention something and he has that blank look on his face I will just go ahead, second nature, and tell the story to him or what went on based around whatever my comment or his was. I learned to read his body language too, so I can tell when there is a blank space there and it needs something to fill the gap. We learned to talk and communicate, which has made it more manageable for both of us. I don’t view it as we have settled into a routine, I view it as we always try new things and use what works best.

Craig and I really work as a team. We have had doctors state in writing “His wife IS the other half of his memory” (oops there’s that word). We have had doctors state “He can’t make it without your help.”. We have heard all sorts of things, honest statements of facts. But even so, there are many that frown on this, they feel it causes him to rely on me too much. Fact is, they just don’t understand, at least not yet, how we do things, our rules we have for each other, and that we do what we have to in order for Craig, as well as we as a family, to function. This view and lack of understanding from others is probably one of our toughest battles.

I watched Craig fall into the deepest hole there is when cognitive dysfunction, PTSD, etc. became a part his life. It took time to pull him out of it, and honestly it still pays a huge toll on him daily. But we learned how to manage it together, basically what he could/can not honestly manage alone. We have ones that don’t understand that Craig goes through different things now, that if he is going to spend time with you without me or someone from our home around that understands how to manage things when they come, there are things you need to know, there are ways of doing or not doing things… unless you want to trigger him, which trust me no one wants. There is an overlap in symptoms which does cause life to be handled differently at times, and those things cannot be dismissed.

We have been told in the past that we are co-dependent on each other. There have been ones concerned that it was unhealthy. Which is not the complete truth, which was proven, but we still went through the accusations of what comes with this type of disability being at hand. I can function and manage life on my own, independently. Craig could/can no longer do that. I’m not saying that to sound mean or like I don’t care, it’s just a fact and what comes with this type of disability. We will never lose hope that things can get better for him, he and we will always try, but on the other hand we are not blind to the facts either, it has been 10 years. There is a different type of bond that does form, how could there not be? But co-dependent, no that’s not a fitting term in our case.

Bottom line is, cognitive dysfunction, no matter what the reason for it is, it’s tough. There are a lot of things that come with it. I will tell you that and Craig will tell you that, it’s just a fact. But, there are so many things and ways of learning how to live with it, learning how to manage things differently, and continuing to live and work towards positive things. I still love Craig the same, I still view him the same ways as I did before his disabilities. You never lose hope, you never stop trying, and you remember to still live. Life is just simply different then what others view as normal or what life use to be like for us.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Caregiver/Family Survival Guide… In other words, my “tool box”

Caregiver/Family Survival Guide… In other words, my “tool box” 😉

There are MANY things that caregivers, spouses, and family members can do for themselves. You know I’m going to say it again…

“You have to make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to take care of others.”

Too many are forgetting to use their “tool box”! I will preach this until it sinks in, you HAVE to make and take the time to take care of yourself. And if you don’t, well you might as well pull a seat up right next to PTSD and Depression because you are going to start experiencing some of the same symptoms or other symptoms of your own that are not positive to or for anyone… if you are not already there!

Many people get so stuck in their routine, the overwhelming things/symptoms that come, the hustle and bustle of every day, that they forget OR set to the side and ignore themselves.

When this happens YOU are not going to maintain a healthy balance, mentally or physically. YOU are going to be the one that has snappy tone with others… become angry or frustrated, you are the one that will become overwhelmed, you are the one that will experience anxiety, you are the one that will honestly feel like you are falling apart! When this happens and you don’t do something to manage it and keep a self-balance, the rest of your world is going to fall apart around you.

So once again I am going to open up and share my toolbox with you…

1. MAKE and TAKE time for yourself!

By doing this you are better able to maintain your own self-balance mentally and physically. When you do this it gives you what you need to make it from today to tomorrow and still have life within it. This helps YOU and it helps your FAMILY!

Start a hobby, go window shopping, have lunch with a friend, something, anything that you enjoy doing and that gives you time to maintain your self-balance.

2. Coping Skills!

We talk here about coping skills all of the time. There is a VERY important reason for that, coping skills help you when the most challenging times come, they help you prepare for them and they help you manage through them, they help you keep your personal balance. There are MANY, MANY different forms and techniques of coping…

LEARN them, PRACTICE them, and USE them!

3. Get Outside!

Many caregivers and/or family members are inside a lot, way more then normal. When disabilities are at hand it does become challenging to get outside for a healthy amount of time. You HAVE to! If you don’t you are cutting yourself off from the world, you are cutting yourself off from maintaining a healthy environment, and you could cause it to happen to others in your home as well.

4. Respite Care!

Make sure you have someone that can provide back-up care. This allows you to do the things you need to do. It allows you to take a break (even though we love and choose to be the one to take care of another, you still need breaks!). It allows you to have some time to make sure you are taking care of yourself and maintaining a healthy self-balance.

There are MANY places that can help with providing back-up care!
Family members, friends, neighbors… If those are not available, there are professional companies, if you can not afford those then check with local churches, organizations, VFW’s can provide info if not some back-up care time themselves. There are many things available, use the phone or do the leg work and find them! You NEED back-up and help, do NOT dismiss that fact!

5. Eat!

Many times caregivers are so busy taking care of everyone else that when it comes to themselves, they simply just do not eat, do not eat right, or are too tired to eat. This is NOT healthy! Your body is like a car, it needs fuel in order to function, food is the body’s fuel. Make sure you have the fuel your body needs or you will find yourself on empty!

Keep prepared veggies, fruits, healthy snack bars, etc on hand. These are quick and easy snacks for the whole family throughout each day. Keep a schedule for meals. If you are tired when it comes to meal time, take a few minutes to just sit, relax, use those coping skills  so you feel like eating. And make sure you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day! Staying hydrated helps keep you healthy!

6. Exercise!

It does not matter what type of exercise you do, do something! Don’t think you have time for it? Well try this  So your partner likes watching movies (a common one for those with PTSD), do yoga while you are watching the movie! Now that’s a two for one.  There are a lot of two for ones that can happen… Walk or play outside with the dog or kids, take a walk with your partner, you BOTH get exercise. While cleaning house put on your favorite music and sing/dance that broom away! Anything physical can be exercise, and you can make it fun at the same time.  You don’t need expensive gym memberships or equipment to exercise.

7. Write, Journal, Talk!

It’s NOT healthy to keep things bottled up inside! Come on let’s face the facts, not everyday is going to be butterflies and flowers. You NEED an outlet! Even if you write it out then shred it (what my 14 year old actual does), get it out! Talk to someone you can trust or a therapist! Even a conversation with a stranger in a grocery line, no matter what the topic is, can make a world of difference!

8. Talk/Communicate with children/grand-children

There is one thing many dismiss. If you are a parent or grandparent, if you notice children not doing well, YOU are not going to do well! It’s a fact about being a parent! Take the time to just talk with the children in your life! This not only helps them, it teaches them how to communicate, it helps you know when something is wrong or not quite right, or bothering them, and you can get to the root of things quickly before something becomes a large issue. It makes them feel important! Many time caregivers are so overwhelmed with their daily caregiver rolls and helping that person, that the kids are just there, so to speak. There HAS to be a balance!

I have seen it go the other way in many families also, many times sadly. The non-disability spouse pays more attention to the kids then the one with disabilities. It’s like a protection of sorts, and it can be harmful to the family structure! Some end up with children resenting the parent with disabilities, some end up with marriages/relationships on the rocks or failing, because all of the attention is on the kids. There HAS to be a balance so the entire family as well as your relationship maintains a balance!

9. Which leads to One on One Time!

Everyone needs one on one time! Children need it from both parents/grandparents and relationships need it! Family time is important but don’t forget that one on one time is equally important! You know I’m going to say it… It helps keep and maintain a healthy balance!

10. Unplug!

There is NOTHING wrong with stepping away from that computer or putting that phone down! You have to live real life even though those things help you stay connected to others. Spending too much time sitting in front of a screen is NOT healthy and it takes you away from the real world you need to be living in. It can also become an addiction to where important things in your life take a side seat, folks, that’s not good!

This is a rule I live by! Even though I blog and LOVE communicating with everyone, even though I am in the process of writing a book, even though I enjoy my new phone, I still make sure I step away from them each day. When Craig and I are talking, or I am talking with my kids, you won’t find a phone in my hand etc. My attention is solely on them. I am a wife, a caregiver, a mom… those things come first. It helps maintain a balance, as well as respect, it’s important to you as well as those around you.

No number needed on this one… Respect Yourself!

Have respect for yourself. You are not a superhero, you are a human being and every human being has their limits. Don’t push yourself too far, don’t expect yourself to be perfect all of the time, allow yourself down days to re-group, allow yourself to be you! Don’t lose yourself in taking care of someone else. Sure things have changed, what you can do or not do has changed, your roles have changed, but that does not mean you have to lose who you are in all of it. YOU are important too! Don’t lose sight and respect for yourself… it helps keep a healthy balance. 

Being a caregiver or a family member that helps out another, is a big job, it can and will weigh you down if you do not do the things you need to, YOU can find and maintain a balance that not only is healthy for you, but also healthy for all of those around you. Don’t forget to make the time, take the times, and most of all… Don’t ever forget to use your toolbox.

If you know someone that this information could help, as with all of my postings, you are more then welcome to “share” it. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Are you “stuck”?

Are you “stuck”?

Stuck is a very difficult place to be! It is very common and extremely real for one with PTSD, depression, anxiety, or as a family member to find themselves in this place.

It feels like your feet are stuck in concrete, you want to move but you can’t… you struggle, you fight it, you sit there, and you hate it! It’s like the world is spinning around you at high speed and you are in a trance of watching it, but can’t move. Time is passing you by, things are not being accomplished, age is creeping up on you, then all of those thoughts pour in.

Look at what I have missed. Look at what did not happen. Look what I did not do. Look at how I’m aging. Look at how things have changed. But yet I sit here stuck, feeling as if I am unable to move, unable to change things, unable to find motivation, unable to find the energy to fight this horrible feeling. I seem to be paralyzed by “stuck”. Then the thoughts flow in, “Life is passing me by.”

That stuck comes from many reasons. Maybe you are worn out mentally and/or physically. Maybe it’s lack of sleep. Maybe it’s a lack of direction due to all of the changes. Maybe it’s the what if’s. Maybe it’s the lack of confidence or feeling you may not do something right, feeling like you may fail, feeling that you are not good enough, feeling you are overwhelmed with too many things to do, feeling others would be better off without you being a part in something, feeling that something is just missing?

Something missing? Yes, a balance. When stuck comes it strips you of self balance, self worth, self confidence, and the ability to move forward. It paralyzes you.

I do not know of any person with PTSD, or their partner, that has not been in this place! It happens! And if you have not experienced it yet, sadly you will at some point in time. It’s that hands thrown in the air screaming “What do I do? Why do I feel this way? Why can’t I move? I don’t want to do anything!“. That’s called being stuck.

There is only one major thing I have personally found to change this. Mind set, and anyone can do it. You tell yourself, “Okay, I know I am tired, I know I have no motivation, I know there’s a chance I may not complete something, I know that I am overwhelmed, but I also know I HAVE to stand up. I have to put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps. I have to walk to another room, I have to walk outside, I have to pick something up with my hands, I have to touch something, I have to do something, anything!” You have to re-learn how to live. Baby steps, and they can be tiny! You force yourself to physically and mentally move no matter how large or tiny the steps may be, you are accomplishing something that will lead to greater steps.

When medical and/or life changes weigh you down, and your feet feel the hardness of the concrete forming around them, you are the only one who can break the concrete! Others can hold onto your hands and help balance or guide you, but you have to make the choice and take those baby steps to put your feet back on land, and step out of that concrete.

It will NOT be easy!!! There is a lot of weight there causing you to be unbalanced. You are going to stumble at times. You are going to fall at times. But the more baby steps you force yourself to take, the less stuck you are going to feel. It takes time, but you CAN do it!

Some of you may be shaking your head, thinking no way, thinking I have lost my mind right now by saying this!  I promise you I haven’t. 😉

So, what are baby steps? They might be…

I put my glass in the dishwasher. I walked through the house. I went to the mailbox. I waved to a neighbor. I took a shower. I put on fresh clothing. I made a sandwich. I talked to my children/grand-children today. I looked outside, standing at the window. I hung a new photo. I took the dog out. I went to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store. I raked a small pile of leaves. I called a family member or friend. Today I forced myself to laugh, or forced myself to smile. 😉

It does not matter how large or small those steps are, those are steps! You are stronger then the what if’s or what should be’s… you take those tiny steps.

I mentioned “re-learning”. That is basically what you are doing. When you become stuck it is like starting over from square one, which is okay! Do not think or try to do everything in one day, don’t overwhelm yourself. Which, becoming overwhelmed, trying to do too much at one time, is one of the largest reasons to one becoming stuck.

Set a goal… “Today I am going to…“. One thing if need be, one thing is okay! That one thing today may lead to two things tomorrow or next week. Don’t make a to-do list or goal list that is long. Looking at many things at one time will overwhelm you! Set reasonable goals/to-do’s. By setting reasonable goals you are more likely to be able to achieve them, then when tomorrow comes you can start rebuilding from there. You now have the mindset of “Hey, I did this yesterday, today I am going to do this…“. You are taking small steps to rebuilding yourself from that stuck position, you are not overwhelming yourself, you are taking small steps to accomplish becoming unstuck!

There are going to be times that you find yourself back in the stuck position. It’s going to happen, it’s a part of this life and being human, it’s a part of life with disabilities or as a caregiver to another! When that time comes, you start over and you try again… one small step at a time. And don’t ever forget, there is no such thing as “failing” as long as you try! 😉 You will accomplish something, and anything IS an accomplishment!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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Survivor’s Guilt… Let me tell you a story

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

Let me tell you a story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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SAFETY! Which comes in many forms…

What would normally seem like the obvious, isn’t always obvious…

My daughter came home last night and she was just not her happy go lucky self. This morning same thing, so I talked to her. Over the weekend she found out that a friend of her’s was in a serious car accident and is in a comma, and if this friend comes out of the comma will need complete facial reconstruction. I won’t go into any more detail then that, but this brings to light some things that I think EVERYONE should always keep in mind.

I know this page is about PTSD and other mental disabilities/injuries, but this is something for every person out there, mental illness or not!

SAFETY! Which comes in many forms…

* If you are frustrated/angry, having an argument, overly tired, etc. DO NOT drive or even grab the keys to! It’s NOT SAFE! When in that state of mind you can not cognitively make good choices.

* If you know or someone tells you that you are not acting yourself, LISTEN, THINK, and take a break. Use your coping skills to get a self balance back!

* If you know you are angry/frustrated go to a room away from others until you are able to cope with what you are experiencing. This prevents your anger/frustration from coming out on others and at the same time allows you the time you need to manage your feelings/emotions.

* Rather your symptoms are mild or severe, which could be the one with PTSD, mental illness or not, and others in the home, have a safety protocol in place for your family. Basically, “If this happens we do this…” etc. Symptoms can change, increase or decrease, be prepared for when that happens. That goes for anyone. We are all human and experience these emotions no mater what level they may be.

* BE HONEST about how you are feeling with those around you. I’m feeling angry, I’m feeling frustrated, I’m feeling lost, I’m feeling depressed, I’m feeling sad, I’m feeling overwhelmed…. This helps those around you know how to respond, and/or give space, and/or know how to help. It also helps others know not to take things personally.

* Teach children/grand-children safety protocol. It is no different then teaching them anything else in life, and the skills you teach them can help keep a balance in your family AND a balance in the child’s mental health. It also helps to avoid triggering a person. Simple rules, that is all they are. Adults, you need them also! MAKE them and use them!

Example: “Don’t jump on mom/dad’s back without them knowing you are going to do it.” Then give an age appropriate reason so they understand why. “When you do that it startles/can scare him/her, like if someone jumps from a hiding spot and scares you. You don’t like that so we have to be careful not to do that to others.”

* Be cautious to little ears as well as others. Choose appropriate settings to have conversations, especially if there is a disagreement at hand.

* COMMUNICATE!!! No matter who you are, learning how to properly communicate and talk to others can help in many, many life situations. MAKE time for it!

* And pay attention! I know this is a busy world we live in, but learn to slow down and pay attention to others around you, pay attention to yourself, just learning and forcing yourself to slow down at times can make a huge positive difference in life.

These are just a FEW examples of things to think about. It does not matter if someone in your home has a mental disorder or not, SAFETY is important! Do not dismiss things that should be so obvious or that you may think are common sense. TALK about them and make sure everyone in your home understands them.

People are going to make mistakes, they are going to make bad choices at times, at times things will or can be out of their control, but what you do ahead of time and the plan you have in place can make a huge difference… And not only to your family, but to everyone around you or for those that know you!

Anyone can find a balance, anyone can use safety first, now it’s up to you to choose to. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Category: Life with PTSD: Symptoms, Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,  Comments off

What do you value most…

Okay, my turn! 😉 Yesterday I shared a question

“What do you value the most: free time, recognition, or money? And why?” –Psychcentral.com

And I want to thank everyone who joined in. It was really just for fun and actually questions like that are what I call “brain games” which are awesome for working/exercising the brain. The brain is like a large muscle and needs exercise also, when you exercise your brain it helps with cognitive function, which is important to everyone but very important to those with PTSD, depression, and other mental and/or physical brain disabilities/injuries. 

So, my answer…

I personally would have to answer with “free time”.

1. Without it, it will be hard, many times impossible, to find enough or any self balance in order to accomplish the other two choices. Time has to be made and taken in order to take care of yourself mentally and physically first, which will lead to the balance, concentration, energy, and ability to succeed in other areas.

2. Time is something that once it is gone/passes, you cannot get it back. The events of time, once time has passed, become thoughts or memories, rather good or bad obviously. But you cannot step back in time to change things. You can only learn from what you have already experienced, and use those things to move forward in positive ways with what you choose to do next or what comes next and how to handle/manage it. It goes back to that old saying, “Use your time wisely”  Time equals knowledge.

The other two options to this question were recognition and money…

I did not choose money, because money is something that can disappear at any point in time, it can fluctuate, it’s value can go up or down… Even though it is important “this day and age”, you can accomplish and have the knowledge of how to live without it. Now lol, I’m not saying that would be as comfortable or easy by any means, but is possible. Money is also something that if you do not have it, you can work towards building it. But there again, you have to have the time to build/learn the knowledge to get there.

I did not choose recognition, because if you take the time to build your balance, your self-worth, recognition will become something that on a personal level you can have recognition within yourself and not feel as great of a need for it to come from others. Sure, it’s nice to be recognized, for others to notice, which also helps build self-esteem, but the inner balance makes that outside recognition from others not as important as time. If recognition is something that is important to you, it still takes time to accomplish it.

Without money in this day and age, you are going to stress. Without recognition you are going to stress that you are not good enough. But if you take, make, and use your time… you can accomplish anything starting with the self balance you form which in return helps remove the stress. Just my personal opinion. 

Thank you again to everyone that joined in! It was just a fun game and there is no set right or wrong answers, but it gives you something to think about, and most of all it exercises the brain. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Traumas in life… PTSD or Not

I want to talk about something from a different angle… 

Many people have experienced a trauma in their lifetime, rather they have developed PTSD or not. Craig and I had a very odd thing happen a couple of nights ago and it really made me start thinking. There are some topics that we have never discussed on here and this mishap that happened made me realize that this is something that everyone really needs to think about… and talk about. 

Craig was actually picking on me in what he thought was a funny way of waking me up, and he was using humor to help with anxiety. He honestly meant no harm in it, and had no idea what was going to happen by what he did. We had been watching a show late that night, and I fell asleep. Well, sometimes those with PTSD just want someone awake with them. Rather it’s comfort just knowing someone is awake with them, they need to talk, or they just don’t want to feel alone at that moment… and I’m sure many other reasons. So he woke me up.

Something he picked up during his career, and I guess it was a way of waking people in a joking manner (no harm intended) when they would not wake up, was by pinching their nose shut for a few seconds. Yep, it works, brings one right out of sleep quickly and it did just that to me… and I DON’T recommend doing it! 

See, Craig’s focus was on whatever he was feeling and therefore wanting me awake. But in focusing on what he was feeling, he was not focusing on the big picture… and probably could not in all honesty. To state this up front, I’m not upset with him at all and we did have a talk about this after the fact, so everything is okay.

But… what about that big picture?

In his focus, what was Craig not picturing? Why was this such a huge deal to me? It never crossed Craig’s mind in his focus that I had a trauma in my past. (I’m not upset with him by the way, but felt this example could help others) Many of you know my story somewhat, ***trigger warning to those that have been assaulted, you might want to skip to the next paragraph now*** I had a stalker for several months that tormented me daily, this person left evidence that this person had been there, even became friends with my dog I had at that time (and the main reason my dogs are never outside by themselves or left alone) but I never saw this person until I was attacked by that person inside my home, and I was left unconscious, and they left out the front door in the middle of the day like no big deal. (Yes, this person was caught eventually)

I was stalked and attacked. Now picture me in a deep sleep and someone pinching my nose closed, even though it was meant to be harmless. NOT a good combination and it took me right back to that attack and me fighting the person off, for a very brief moment.

I have handled what I went through extremely well. I do have anxiety during certain episodes/situations, am a little more cautious then the normal person, but I have coped with what happened well. But that one small harmless act with my nose, did effect me, for a brief moment I panicked.

My point in sharing this is… So many that live with a person who has PTSD focus on the PTSD and the other person’s symptoms. At times they do not talk about their own traumas… their own triggers or what could be possible triggers. On the other hand, the ones with PTSD have to focus so much on themselves, that sometimes what another person went through is in a way blocked from their thoughts, during their own coping and/or what they are experiencing at that moment.

I had no clue that waking me in such a manner would cause me to react the way I did. It was not something Craig would have thought about, he’s never had an issue waking me before. No real fault from either of us, but something we learned. Craig and I were dating at the time of what I went through, we have talked about it a lot, but I have never talked about what could possibly be my own triggers besides the obvious. Craig knows I’ve coped with the trauma well, I do not have PTSD from it, but I do have some triggers. It was just a mishap the other night that neither of us would have ever thought about.

Communication and thinking before acting. Take time to talk to each other. Even if a person does not have PTSD, if they have experienced a trauma don’t dismiss the facts… neither of you or yourself. Listen and talk to each other so you have an idea of things that could be or become triggers… for either person.

Rather you have PTSD or not, if you have experienced a trauma, talk about it so mishaps like we experienced the other night can be avoided.

It really is a two way street when any trauma has been experienced, by either person. Don’t dismiss that fact. Talk and make sure you are hearing each other, and talk about possible triggers and/or what you know effects you… so you are on the same page.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Answers to a few questions I was asked…

I have had a few questions brought to me…

I feel like I’m drowning over here. Did you ever feel like leaving everything and looking for peace?” -Anonymous

You and Craig have such a connection and able to handle his PTSD, has there ever been a time it was not that way? My relationship is struggling and I’m not sure what to do or if this will ever change.” -Anonymous

Before I start with a response, I want to state that none of this is in any way disrespectful towards Craig, and today we are okay, it’s just simply a part of real life that we experienced in the past that I think will help answer several questions that have come to me, as well as help you understand why I “get it”.

My short answer, yes! But there is no way to answer this with a short response. I think it’s important with these questions to tell a bit of mine and Craig’s story, and the seriousness of it.

It was many years ago now it seems, almost 8 years ago to be exact and before we were able to get treatment for Craig, before we knew it was even PTSD at hand. I was drowning. What Craig was experiencing and the way it was coming out, then add into that everything I was juggling in life and trying to keep us going, well, it just about did me in. I had no clue how to cope or what coping even was when it came to what we were experiencing.

I was having panic attacks several times per day, my anxiety was extreme, the heart palpitations caused me severe pain, and the emotional side of things was just unbearable. All of these things lead me to passing out at times. Basically, my body could not take the extreme emotional trauma I was experiencing and it would shut down. Which did lead to me to being injured one time, I passed out and with the way I fell my head went into a sheet rock wall. Literally. I sustained a diagnosed concussion and had amnesia for several weeks. It was not until about 6 months later I recalled what had happened that day, what lead to me to such high anxiety that I passed out. During that time I do recall screaming out loud “I just want to die!” and I was lucky that my inner strength was stronger then that thought and those words. I knew with situations at hand at that time, I could NOT die, and that was what saved me. I did not have a choice, I was needed.

Then I thought, “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take one more day of this, maybe I should leave.” I thought I would be better off alone then in the situation I was in. I stood that day in front of the mirror and just looked at myself. I did not recognize that person in the mirror, it was not me. I stared at the healing gash on my forehead, I looked at every detail of my face, I thought “Where did my smile go? I never laugh anymore, all I do is cry or get angry”, I looked at my hair, the way I was dressed… This person of an outer shell appearance was not me, and the thoughts inside severely were not me!

I knew that day as I stared into the mirror that I had a serious choice to make. I am either all in or I am all out of this relationship. I had been like the monkey in the middle, and that was a dangerous place to be. I loved Craig more then words could ever be spoken, but at the same time I had to learn to love and take care of myself again. I had truly lost me in the roller coaster ride.

I thought about the 10 years that Craig and I were just friends, something always felt like a part of me was missing. I thought about where we stood right there that day. Then I thought, weighed the pro’s and con’s, and no matter how much I convinced myself I needed to walk away I could not bring myself to do it, I loved him too much, I knew the true him, he and I had a connection that many people only dream about, and I could not let go of that even with feeling like I was married to a stranger.

So, if that was also not an option, what now? I can’t die and take the easy way out, not me at all and no way I would ever do that even though that thought was real. I can’t walk away. So I had to be the one to make a change and there is no more playing the monkey in the middle of what to do. That day I made the choice… I was all in.

I had to start with me! I built a “concrete wall” between all of the negative thoughts I had been having and started building positive ones. That concrete wall included Craig’s symptoms and actions/words being on the opposite side of where I was standing until I found some type of balance within myself so I could then figure out how to help him. That “wall” was something that by this point Craig had shown me well how to build, with his illnesses he had one of his own, an emotional barrier. I hated that barrier but I needed it while I figured out how to save myself, then save us.

I went and got my hair done, I put on makeup, I put on clothing that fit and was not baggy, and I started relearning how to pick myself back up. I took time by myself outside every day, took time with my dogs and children, talked with my neighbors. I started building my self-esteem back and watched it form by looking into that same mirror and recognizing what I was feeling inside myself. I basically forced myself to believe I was stronger then whatever this was we were going through.

I was still taking care of Craig, but I was rebuilding myself. Craig was not receiving treatment yet, there was no help, and I had to start somewhere and hope he followed suit. I took my focus off of the negative we were experiencing the best I could, and placed my focus on “We are going to get through this and I will find the answers.” By changing my mindset from should I stay or go, and placing it onto “I’m here, we are here, I CAN do this, now how do I make things better”, it just made things easier and gave me the ability to seek answers and the why. I found direction and let go of being that monkey in the middle.

At that point, nothing with Craig had changed, actually his symptoms were becoming worse. But I had changed. With taking care of myself and knowing the direction I was working towards, I was able to learn how to handle things and situations differently. I learned to listen instead of fighting back. I was able to step outside of the box so to speak and look at the big picture before making any decisions or placing judgement.

The more I learned and the more things I watched/paid attention to and tried to find the why to, the more I figured out what helped not only myself but us, and Craig. My anxiety decreased, it’s never gone away completely, but I learned to manage it. I learned coping skills of my own and I was taking care of myself again.

Craig’s rock bottom was bad, and I mean really bad! He would bounce from anger and arguing to total numbness, he would be close one second then completely distant the next, he would be laughing and on this dangerous “tempt life” high, everything was fast and by the seat of his pants so to speak, then next thing I knew he would hit rock bottom of wanting to die and he would cry. There were so many nightmares and flashbacks, dissociation was a huge part of things also which made it really tough. He had anxiety, which I had never seen him experience before. Then there was depression. PTSD has the nick name “roller coaster” for very good reasons. That is exactly what it seems like when the symptoms are not managed.

It was several years of this before we could get Craig treatment and found out it was PTSD causing all of this. Once I had a term put to it, it was easier to learn more and find an understanding. Those things lead to me learning how to help him cope and manage his symptoms. As well as how to better help myself and our family.

All of the symptoms are still here today, nope, they have not gone away. BUT, we have learned to manage them and understand what to do when they come out. Treatment is ongoing, and I am sure always will be, but that’s okay, it helps provide a balance. Our life is completely different then it use to be before PTSD, but it’s a new normal to us and we work together every day to make it the best it can be.

I believe rock bottom for both of us was so difficult because I did not understand what he was experiencing or the difference in him, and he has such serious memory issues and at that time did not understand himself or what and why he was experiencing the symptoms, basically we were both lost and it caused a serious break in communication as well as life itself. When there’s not good communication, things are going to fall apart or at least make it difficult to move forward. What you do and how you relearn to do things is a huge part of what can hold things together.

I had to be the one to make changes, to learn how to view things or approach things differently then what others see as normal. I had to be the one to pick myself up first and say “Hey, this is not me or us and I’m going to find what will get us back”, Craig sure could not do it while experiencing out of control symptoms. It took myself hitting a rock bottom to recognize and learn how to manage and live this life with PTSD… and learn how to pick us back up.

We still have rough patches from time to time, how could we not? PTSD is a real part of our lives. But things have changed. We have learned how to handle things, what to do when symptoms come, how to communicate… and that includes if he is not understanding me, me rewording things until he does. We both use coping skills… and if he is not in a state of using them I will do them with him or guide him through doing them and remind him. Me time, aka “OZ”, is a must do in order to keep my own balance and to keep myself from seeing that darkness ever again. We take time to talk and really listen to each other and are very open to each other with what we feel and/or think, without judgement. We take one on one time, just the two of us, which helps our relationship. We have taught our children on their age levels about PTSD, symptoms, and how to handle things as well as how to use coping skills themselves, which I have shared many stories on here, so you know that has done wonders for a balance in children and as a family. And the list goes on, endlessly.

So, to the questions asked…

Yes, I know what it is like to feel as if I am drowning. Yes, there was a time that I wanted to run for the hills, and walk away to find peace. Yes, there was a time that Craig and I had little if any connection left. But most of all… YES things can change and become better!

I chose “ALL IN”! It was the step that changed things and the beginning of our path that lead to things becoming better then our rock bottom. I accepted that PTSD was a real part of our lives and instead of Craig and I fighting each other, we learned the tools to fight PTSD, together.

PTSD has not changed for him, we learned how to change us. We became stronger.

If you are at that rock bottom place, reach for help! I cannot say that enough. Don’t allow PTSD to own you, you are stronger then it is no matter what or how severe the symptoms are. Things can get better then what they may be right now. Life will not be the way it use to be before PTSD, but that does not mean there is not life. Not everyone will have the ability to step outside that box or recognize what I did within myself or know what to do to make things better, that’s NORMAL when things are so tough or out of balance, get help! Don’t EVER give up on yourself, you are worth more then that and can find a balance again. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD