Archive for » July, 2014 «

Where’s the We, He/She, and I?

Where’s the We, He/She, and I?
Do you feel like you have lost those?

I talk all of the time about relationships, things that we have personally found through this life with PTSD that help us manage it a little bit better. I talk about Craig and what he experiences. I talk about myself, as the spouse and caregiver and things I experience. I even talk about our children and their experiences. In all of this I try to bring forth that big picture so others may find some sort of shortcut that Craig, myself, we as a couple and family, just did not have.

Sometimes to bring that big picture, well… you just have to be a little more blunt about it. I’m not a doctor or in any medical field, and as I always state, I just provide the personal experiences and information but what you choose to do with it will solely be up to you. I am not one to push things on another person. I may stand my ground on my beliefs or personal opinions like anyone else does, but it still goes back to it’s really up to you what you choose to take in or try, and what you don’t.

There is a very serious topic I want to discuss. I have been writing about life with PTSD for just over three years now. There is one thing that I keep seeing over and over again, and honestly, it’s crippling relationships and families. And it may very well be crippling you as an individual. It’s in reality more then only PTSD!

Just to save myself some typing here, anyplace I say “him/he” referring to in general statements in this, it can be replaced with “her/she”, whichever fits in your relationship or family structure.

Some of the largest, most powerful observations…of sorts, I hear/see that come to me on a daily basis go something like this…

“I don’t know who I am anymore since his PTSD symptoms have become so bad.”

“I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells around him.”

“I am afraid if I say that he will get mad or upset at me.”

“I have to do that or it won’t get done. So I just go ahead and do it.”

“I don’t want the conflict so I just keep quiet.”

“I just give in to whatever makes him happy. It’s easier that way.”

“Our life revolves around him and his PTSD.”

“He drinks too much (or any sort of addiction) and won’t see what it’s doing.”

“He won’t listen to me and realize I am right.”

“If I say how I feel it will start a conflict or make him feel bad/guilty.”

“I have to put him first because of his PTSD and everything he goes through.”

“I have to make sure he’s not triggered.”

” I’m just not strong enough or good enough for him”

Then there are the other statements… That other side of the fence as I call it 

“She complains about everything, I can’t do anything right.”

“She tries to control my life! I’m sick of it!”

“She treats me like a child.”

“She’s so over-protective of me. I feel smothered.”

“I can’t do anything on my own, she’s always right there.”

“I just need my space.”

“She checks or looks at EVERYTHING I do.”

That’s a very short list by the way, but you get my point.

I am sure that at some point in time, everyone that lives with or beside PTSD has said some of these if not all of them. But, has it become a vicious cycle? Do you find yourself saying these same things (or things similar) over and over again? BE HONEST with yourself! Even if you don’t say it, or don’t tell anyone else, be honest with yourself when you answer that question.

If you answered yes, there is a very good chance you honestly do not realize why. Unfortunately, PTSD and Codependent (or traits of) seem to go hand in hand. They have that natural attraction to each other, so to speak. And please don’t stop reading here!!! There is help available through therapists and support groups that can help break this cycle! Most of all, what YOU do for yourself can help! It could save your relationship, your family, your children’s future, and it can save YOU!

NOT everyone is a codependent, just to clarify that. There are views that one will step into and out of the traits of codependency as life circumstances change. Which is also very common. But you do need to do something if you find yourself experiencing such behaviors.

When one says or hears the term codependent, many times they instantly think of an alcoholic situation. An alcoholic is the dependent, the spouse or family become codependents. Codependency goes much deeper then that, it can and very often does occur when a mental illness or disorder is at hand.

The term is very misleading to many. Many people will instantly say “That’s not me”… the reason I asked you to be honest with yourself and keep reading.

Is someone else’s problem your problem? If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent.” (Excerpt: Codependent No More, Author Melody Beattie)

“So what is Codependency and who really has it? There are many definitions, but basically, Codependents are people who let the feelings and actions of another person affect them to the point that they feel like they have lost control of their own lives.”

“Common characteristics of Codependents include:

* Excessive Care-taking:

Codependents feel responsible for others’ actions, feelings, choices and emotional well-being. They try to anticipate loved one’s needs and often wonder why others do not do the same for them.

*Low self-esteem:

Codependents are people who need to be needed. They will only feel important and valuable when they are helping others, and blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.

*Denial:

Codependents typically ignore, minimize or rationalize problems in the relationship, believing that “things will get better when….” They stay busy to avoid thinking about their feelings.

*Fear of anger:

Codependents are afraid of both their own and their loved one’s anger, because they fear it will destroy the relationship.

*Health problems:

The stress of Codependency can lead to headaches, ulcers, asthma and high blood pressure.

*Addictive behavior:

Codependents may themselves develop addictions in an attempt to deal with their pain and frustration”

(Quoted Excerpts from: The Latest Definition of Codependency, interventiontreatmentrecovery.org)

On the flip side, what about the dependent?

A dependent relies on someone else. Now, mind you, there are honest reasons and medical situations where this is just going to be a part of life due to a medical condition.

But, at times, in some cases, even without knowledge one is doing so, dependents or one with dependent traits may cause one to feel guilty about succeeding or taking care of themselves, rely on one when they could do something for themselves, be manipulative, etc. Many that have an addiction and/or a mental illness/disorder can become a dependent at some level, however it takes strong symptoms for this to become an actual diagnoses. It can be more of traits then diagnoses.

Okay, now that we got some of the details out of the way of what codependency is, let’s take this to a more personal level. Only fair when I’m asking you to take a real look at yourself and your situation.

Let me tell you a story…

Awhile back now, I mentioned that one of Craig’s new doctors asked me if I “controlled him”, said to me the term “codependent”. I was very quick to respond “NO! You do not know me or understand me at all.” And I continued to explain to this doctor who I am, what I believe, and how I/we do things. To gave the doctor an understanding/examples that she was placing me in a category I did not belong in.

It REALLY bothered me, I mean REALLY bothered me that someone would say those things to me upon first meeting me. I did not understand it or why it made me so angry. But you know me, when I don’t know the answer to something I look for it, and sure enough I found it!

I was upset with that doctor because in reality I had once been controlled by a codependent, after that I also fell into the vicious cycle and had somewhat become one myself for a short period of time. I had already taken personal steps and broke the cycle, but yet I was being accused of being exactly what I despised, had already worked hard to change, and stepped past.

I was once trapped in a vicious circle of codependency. I was in a relationship for 9-1/2 years, with a person who had spent their life in the dependent/codependent cycle. Before that relationship I was one that knew exactly what I wanted in life, I stood on my own two feet, I took very good care of myself, I had everything going for me. Mine did not relate to childhood like many cases do. Long story short, the next thing I knew, that relationship turned into not a relationship but a controlled everything. I allowed someone else to control me. I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted in life, I did as I was told, and my world was turned upside down with anger, guilt, resentment, and the most unsettling feelings one could imagine. We clashed in serious ways when I started finding myself again! The outcome of that? I eventually found my footing and started taking ME back, and I ran for the hills away from that person!

The story does not end there though. Codependency, or traits of, can be a vicious circle, it is a behavior that can pass from one person to another, and that is exactly what it did without me being aware of it at the time. When Craig hit rock bottom and was acting WAY out of his character, I feared I was losing him. I feared I was heading right back into the type of relationship I fled from. I feared everything! He was what made me feel good about myself, he was what kept me going, he was where my self-esteem came from, he was what made me happy. I was not relying on myself. I had not broken the cycle of my past completely like I thought I had, and when PTSD stepped in it was a slap across my face of reality. Craig was no longer placing me on that pedestal, he was battling PTSD, and I was lost. I in return tried to grab hold and hang on for dear life to him… in many of the wrong ways. The same exact behavior I myself had run from. When PTSD caused him to hit rock bottom, codependency traits caused me to hit rock bottom too.

So not only were we battling this new thing called PTSD and what it was doing to us, we were battling ME! The more I tried to hang on, the further away he was pulling. Craig and I both had always had a well balanced relationship in the past (we dated for 4 years as teens/early adulthood), and when that rock bottom hit, well everything changed and both of our pasts stepped in full force.

Then that day came, still during the rock bottom of PTSD time that I just could not do it anymore, trust me it did not take long! I could not stand the person who had taken over my life… myself in reality, and who I saw in the mirror. My anxiety was through the roof to the point I was passing out. I was constantly watching him and everything he did. Trying to save him from himself. Trying to hold us together. And the list goes on. PTSD was not the only thing running and changing our lives, I was… and that had to stop quickly!

You know what I did next? I let go! I did not leave, I did not stop supporting him in positive ways, but I did face myself and what I was turning into. I started working on saving myself. I still took care of what Craig NEEDED, not what he wanted me to do but things that he honestly could not do for himself. I started taking care of myself, I started wearing makeup and doing my hair again, I started taking time to myself, I started doing things I ENJOYED doing, I started buying myself flowers,  I set boundaries not only for myself but also for our relationship, I started telling him how I felt and sharing my needs with him, I started taking ME back and caring about me! And I let go of the vicious cycle of codependency/traits. It did not happen overnight, but I did it.

I found a healthy balance within myself, which lead to a healthy balance in our relationship and our family. I own that, I did that, and that’s why that doctor upset me and honestly hurt me so greatly when I was called codependent. That is what I experienced in my past, it is who I became in my past, but it does not define who I am now.

It is very easy when PTSD is a part of your life to fall into the cycle of dependent and codependent. As a codependent you feel like what you are doing is to save someone. There are healthy levels to being a caregiver and/or a spouse, you HAVE to find and define those! Thinking you can save someone or “fix” someone is not one of them. You can help prevent someone from committing suicide, but you can not save someone from themselves or “fix” them. The only person you can control, a very strong word that is very real, is yourself.

PTSD is not just going away. It’s a part of life now. But it does not define who we are. Each person is responsible for defining themselves. We do not “own” each other, we should not try to control each other, we are each individuals with our own feelings, and responsible for ourselves, our own feelings, our own actions, as well as our own consequences rather good or bad. Rather you find yourself as having dependency traits or codependency traits, those are behaviors. Behaviors can change! You just have to face them and work on them. 

I talk all of the time about finding a balance, taking care of yourself so you can be able to help someone else, finding something you enjoy doing, taking “ME time”… get where that term came from now? 😉  YOU are responsible for your own self-esteem, your own happiness, who you are. When you find and build those qualities within yourself, you will discover that a balance enters your life. No one should be defined by another person. This is a two way street, it’s give and take, relationships are about two people who chose to live their lives together, not about controlling each other or defining who another person is.

Do not become an enabler. If you find that you already are, change it! You can be supportive, you can be a caregiver/carer, you can be a best friend and a spouse, but over-caring so to speak could cause a huge imbalance not only in your relationship, but in yourself and your family as well.

Life is trial and error, learn from all of it, build positive things from it. Make sure you are taking care of yourself so you can, in a healthy way, be there for and take care of others.

So, now that I’ve wrote a book and could still type more lol 😉  Bottom lines are what I mention to you every single day, for very good reasons. Educate yourself, learn good communication skills, set goals and boundaries, make sure you are taking care of yourself, seek professional help, and work together in positive ways. These are the things that have helped Craig and I together, as well as each of us as individuals, make the progress and positive steps we have.

“In a good relationship you do not define each other, you compliment each other.”

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook Page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

References:
1. Codependency/Being Codenpendent No More, Diane England, Ph.D.
2. GoodTherapy.org
3. WebMD.com: Are you in a Codependent Relationship? Eric Metcalf, MPH
4. Basics of Codependency, echo.me.uk

PTSD and the Reality of it…

PTSD and the Reality of it…

This is one of the most crucial and critical topics we can discuss! Unfortunately, it is a topic and conversation that many people put off. Many people get into a mindset of…

Oh their PTSD is not THAT bad for us to have to do that.” or
Oh they cope just fine…

There is nothing worse than a crisis starting, or has already happened, and hearing “HELP! I don’t know what to do, this is what is happening…” or “If only I had done this…” or “I had no clue what was/is happening or what to do…“.

Folks, let’s face reality… we are talking about PTSD! 

PTSD is NOT something people should be fearful of! Just to state that upfront in a very serious way! It is however something you need to have knowledge about! Knowledge to know what to do, when to do it, how to respond in different situations, and how to manage things BEFORE something serious happens, etc. And the knowledge to understand that no matter how mild or severe you think one’s PTSD is, you never dismiss PTSD is in reality at hand, at all times.

PTSD can come with many different types of symptoms… flashbacks, nightmares/night terrors, frightening thoughts, anger, frustration, dissociative symptoms, concentration issues, cognitive dysfunction or memory issues, hyper arousal/being startled easily or feeling on edge, high alert, anxiety, avoidance, numbing feelings, loss of interest in things one enjoyed, depression, isolation, guilt, survivor’s guilt, suicidal thoughts/tendencies, etc. etc. etc.

Now, is this something that you just blow off or sweep under a rug? NOT on your LIFE or their’s! LITERALLY!!!

Spouses/Partners, keep in mind I am saying this with love and because I care about EVERY single one of you! But I have a bone to pick with many of you that I hope you take to heart, someone HAS to say it! So I’ll be the bad guy on this one and hopefully you will be thankful I said this later…

Many of you just simply have not been around PTSD enough to have the knowledge yet, you are still learning, so this will hopefully be of help. Then there are some others, well, you are tossing to the side reality. Whatever the reason or where you stand, I hope this helps! 

YOU need to, have to, step up to the plate when PTSD symptoms escalate! For yourself AND your partner’s BEST interest. (Family members or friends this could go for you too) There is nothing worse to me then hearing about a crisis at hand and a spouse saying, “But he/she will get mad at me.” REALLY??? Reality check, they have PTSD, most likely they are going to get upset or mad anyway if their symptoms are escalated, that’s a part of PTSD. BUT isn’t them getting mad or upset at you better then someone getting hurt OR you having a funeral to plan! REALITY! Fact is, they may get mad or upset up front but I can pretty much guarantee they will thank you for helping, later when symptoms decrease.

When a person is experiencing escalated symptoms, most likely they are not going to be able to think rationally, they are not always going to know what they need to do for themselves, and if they are in a flashback… well that brings a whole new ballgame, they may be physically there but in their mind they are completely somewhere else, and to them you may be someone else! They are right back to that trauma. If you sit back and do nothing, well, sooner or later it’s not going to play out as a pretty picture.

YOU are their spouse/partner! YOU are their support person, they rely on YOU rather you realize it or not, rather they say it to you or not, when PTSD causes them not to be able to rely on themselves. PTSD is NO joke! They did not ask for this, they do not do these things or act these ways on purpose, they are NOT out to purposely harm anyone or hurt someone’s feelings. PTSD is what happened to them! Even a person who has milder symptoms and/or has learned to cope very well can backslide into severe symptoms from time to time, and at any point in time! It only takes one trigger.

As a spouse/partner AND/OR as the one with PTSD… you need a plan for the worst case scenarios that could happen! Again, don’t say “that won’t happen“, if that’s what you are doing you are being blind to reality, have not truly accepted PTSD is a part of your life yet, or simply have not learned enough yet.

Oh yes, before I go any further here… I did not say exactly what this conversation is about, because many of you would have skipped right by this if I had said this up front.  It’s about safety! Safety protocol… as Craig, myself, and our family calls it. Putting a plan together, and knowing in advance how to handle situations when they do come. It’s PTSD, situations will come sooner or later. With every ounce of love, heart, and caring bone in my body I have to offer… THIS is a reality check!

Now that that is out of the way and hopefully I have your attention… 

What are things you can do in advance to help everyone when PTSD symptoms escalate?

* Emergency contacts

Do NOT wait until there is a crisis at hand to dig for phone numbers or ask people who you should contact! Make a list of emergency and crisis line phone numbers, addresses, even print out maps of how to get there!

When a crisis comes, you are NOT going to be able to focus clearly or may not have the time to dig for information. Make that list NOW! Hang it where everyone can get to it or see it in your home. Save info to your phone, carry a print out with you at all times.

* Medications/Weapons

This is urgent! PTSD as well as depression and survivor’s guilt DO in reality come with thoughts of suicide. Even if you have never heard a person say they have thought about it, reality is I personally have never come across a person with PTSD that the thought has not at least slipped quickly through their mind at some point in time.

PLEASE, I will beg you on this one! Use safety in your home! Lock those things up!

Weapons: I am NOT saying a person cannot own weapons or have a means to protect themselves, so please do NOT even start that debate here or it will be deleted, I believe in rights. But I also believe in being responsible and using safety precautions when owning weapons. I mean let’s be serious here, many with PTSD were or are military, law enforcement, or grew up knowing and understanding weapon safety… if anyone knows about weapon safety it’s THEM! Many others have experienced a personal attack and do have the right to protect themselves. So I am simply stating to have safety in place so when PTSD symptoms escalate no accidents happen.

Another thing I have actually heard of several cases of, and do want to bring to your attention are nightmares/terrors and weapons. When one is having a nightmare they are back to the time and reality of their trauma. Weapons under a pillow or beside the bed can be a safety issue during nightmares. It needs to be taken seriously! Even a person that is more than safe while awake, may experience things out of their normal during nightmares/terrors. I have heard of one confirmed case where a person committed suicide during a nightmare. PLEASE be cautious to reality.

Medications: Lock them up! It is an overall safety precaution for ANYONE that enters your home! Many people have children and/or grandchildren, friends with children that visit, even pets in the home. It also keeps PTSD from turning to medications as a way out when those suicidal thoughts come AND/OR accidentally overdosing when memory and/or concentration are at hand.

* Abuse

Unfortunately abuse can happen. It can come with anger and flashbacks with PTSD. PLEASE have a plan in place. No one purposely abuses another when PTSD symptoms are at hand, but it can happen. Make a plan together! “If a symptom escalates to this, we will do this…”. Spouses/partners, IF you have to leave a home due to abuse taking place, safety does come first… but for everyone!

PLEASE do not leave your PTSD partner alone! Have someone that the two of you AND the designated person have agreed upon go and stay with your partner! At least to just have someone present on or just off of the property until the symptoms decrease. Many times once a spouse/partner leaves, the one with PTSD can experience many different thoughts that could lead to self harm. No one wants this situations to happen! Make a plan ahead of time!!!

DO NOT be one to cry wolf! We all know where that gets a person and you won’t be taken seriously when something may indeed happen. There are many ways to talk one down from or manage anger or VERBAL outbursts. (See my postings regarding anger and outbursts and PTSD and Anger… some things to try which may help BOTH people and by all means talk to your doctors!) If you are being yelled at when PTSD symptoms have escalated, that is NOT physical abuse! There are many things one can learn to help manage verbal outbursts.

I know verbal abuse is very real, I know it can be very scary, as well as cause mental harm. Learn what to do for these situations even if it’s something as simple as saying “I’m going to another room so you can cope with your anger. If you need me I am here.” and remove yourself from the situation. Calling law enforcement every time one with PTSD (only) yells at you will eventually be taken as a non-serious situation. You do not want this to happen.

* Emergency Situations

If emergency responders are needed, contact them! It’s not the time to say “oh he/she will get mad at me”. TALK about this ahead of time! IF you have to call law enforcement or medical help, PLEASE tell them the person has PTSD AND how to approach them correctly so symptoms do not escalate even more than they already will, as well as you are not putting the one with PTSD OR the emergency crews in any unknown to them harms way, especially during flashbacks. Do NOT allow someone to walk into a home blind to what is happening! You can save a lot of extra stress and heartache by keeping everyone properly informed. And I will tell you right now, law enforcement is sent in as “get the situation under control”, it’s their job. ANY and ALL info you can give them BEFORE they get there will be of help to both them as well as the one with PTSD!

* Children 

I have written several articles regarding teaching children and safety. The largest mistake, in my opinion I see, is a parent who causes children to fear a PTSD parent. Many times a parent will allow their own fears or opinions roll over to their children. Many times conversations happen in front of children that are NOT for little ears. This is mentally damaging to a child, their personal development, as well as their relationship with BOTH of their parents.

TEACH children on their age levels what to do in different situations, TEACH them about PTSD on their age level of learning, TEACH them coping skills they can also use. You want your family to form and maintain a healthy balance. That balance only comes when everyone knows safety protocol and learn about life with PTSD. Children are still learning, they have not developed stigma yet, YOU can make a huge difference in their lives as well as others by simply teaching them about PTSD and how to live life with it, just as you would teach them anything else in life they need to learn.

* Focus 

Many people lose focus in escalated situation. BREATHE! As a spouse/partner these are the times that your focus is needed the most! Do not over react to the situation, focus on how to help or what needs to take place to get things back to a manageable level. These are the times that you have to focus so you can use everything you have learned and the things that could help BOTH of you. What you do, how you say things, even your body language will matter.

      
From time to time I do have to get serious about certain topics, this is one of those times that it is urgent and serious. These are just a few things of MANY that can be of great help when symptoms escalate. PLEASE do something now. Use this basic information to build a plan for you and your family. Don’t wait until things are out of hand to try to figure out how to handle a situation. I know you won’t always have the answers for every situations, no one will every time, but what you do now can sure help you and your entire family when situations do come. Please don’t dismiss the reality, embrace it and use it to your advantage so you are prepared. Again, PTSD is not something to fear, knowledge brings balance. 😉

Much love to ALL of you! You’ve got this, you CAN do this, it’s simply communicating and making a plan. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook Page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Let’s talk about PTSD and Anger…

Let’s talk about PTSD and Anger…

Anger is a huge topic with PTSD… in other words you have been warned this will be a long posting. I am breaking it up for easier reading. 

One who has PTSD can be seemingly doing okay, then what seems like out of nowhere BAM! There’s that anger or high frustration. When this happens most likely something has triggered PTSD and/or possibly one has become overwhelmed.

Anger, frustration, and outbursts ARE symptoms of or do come with PTSD. They are very real and majority of the time do get taken out on those closest to them or whomever is right there at that time. It’s not done on purpose, anger is a response of what PTSD causes.

This is one of the most difficult things for a spouse/partner to handle, or to comprehend it’s not actually personal towards them, even when words spoken makes it seem as if it is. It leads to the arguments, fights, unsettled feelings, and also many times gives PTSD that fight it’s looking for. The “fight or flight” which also comes with PTSD. You guessed it, that one trigger sends a vicious cycle into motion.

I learned a long time ago arguing with someone who has been triggered or in heightened levels of symptoms, or anyone that’s angry for that matter… is just not worth it. They are not going to always view things as rational… how could they? They are now in a high alert, high anxiety, hyper arousal mode. Many times, survival mode! When one does give into the fight, normally later it’s nothing but tears and hurt feelings towards each other.

After the fact, the one with PTSD many times is truly sorry, feels guilty, or may not even recall what took place. Ever have an argument or disagreement then notice the one with PTSD later acts normal like nothing ever happened? Bingo, right there is why. It’s not that they are pushing what happened to the side, it’s that the state of mind PTSD caused was at hand.

When anxiety and other PTSD symptoms go up, including stress, concentration and the brain processing things can go down. This can prevent things that happen from making it into long term memory. Memory issues, cognitive issues, and concentration are not directly stated symptoms of PTSD, but they are VERY real with PTSD, and anxiety itself.

Okay, so we get the why now. But what can we do?

Without learning how to manage the arguing, fighting, or the stress and conflict that comes with it, sooner or later it will mentally effect both people, and sure does not help relationships. This is when that good ol’ trial and error comes into play. You have to try something!

A few days ago I shared an old posting of mine “Anger and Outbursts” which shared several different ways of learning how to cope with anger. Yes, there are ways to manage anger, it’s not going to make anger go away, anger is a PTSD symptom, but it can be managed better. It does not mean the same thing will work every time for every single situation, trial and error.  And you keep trying.

Craig has always best described anger as “floating anger”. As he says it, “It is right there, all of the time, laying under the surface just waiting to come out.” It’s one of the symptoms he has learned to manage pretty well. Sometimes it takes more effort then other times, sometimes I will step in and calmly prompt that a situation is becoming too much, overwhelming or stressful, time to step away from a situation so he can focus on coping.

The largest thing I personally found that helps as a spouse, is simply listening AND watching how I respond or word things, as well as when I respond can help. It does not mean I just sit back and take it! I don’t. But my choice of wording etc. can help anger be managed, and find ways to calmly help in order to allow the feeling to be managed.

Many times when symptoms are high, one does not realize how they sound, how things come across to another person. Many times it’s a build up of trying to hold everything in and it vents out, other times it’s triggered.

Now, just to note here, flashbacks are a totally different subject! One needs to be grounded if in a flashback. We will talk more about those another time. This is not relating to flashbacks… only anger, frustration, and outbursts.

Over time, Craig and I found that body language really breaks through PTSD more then words, even though I learned how to word things and those work also with him. All I have to do now when I see he is becoming frustrated or angry is sit back, raise my eye brows a little, and give him that “okay, I’m listening” female look.  Even if he does not realize how PTSD is causing him to act, that look cues him coping skills are needed NOW. Arguing is really a thing of the past with us, but the PTSD symptoms have not gone away, we have just learned how to manage them. 

So, other than body language, what are some of the things we have come up with that help?

You start with tone. Speaking when anger is present, your tone is everything! If you are snappy, bitter, have a raised voice, or toss anger OR hurt feelings back, you will most likely get the “fight” with the anger. It takes a calm tone in my opinion, to break through what PTSD is causing at that moment. As I say it  (figure of speech), this is when you really have to “bite your tongue” and do not lash out, back towards one. You focus on your tone, your wording, and your own coping skills.

I found that even telling myself, “This is PTSD. This is not him.” helps me keep focus, keeps things from being taken personally, and allows me to look for what will get through to him. It keeps over reactions down as well. In reality, it’s in a way forcing a sort of dissociation in order to be able to cope and help him through an anger state. I’m right there, I’m listening, but at the same time I’m maintaining my own balance so I can help him.

I get asked quite often, “What do you say when anger comes?

Now, keep in mind, every person may respond differently! It is trial and error to find the words that work best for each individual. I will say that over the years I have learned to notice anger very quickly and we have learned how to get it managed before it escalates. Craig has also learned to notice the symptom and feeling of anger when it starts to increase, and manages it very well with coping skills. But it was not always that way.

NOTE: I am not a doctor of any sort, these are things from our personal experiences that have simply helped us. I am NOT giving medical advice and if you are unsure how to handle a situation or what is best for your situation please contact your doctor or local crisis hotline.

How I, or we, word things for different situations…

Personal Situations/ One on One:

“I notice you seem angry. Do you need some time to yourself to use your coping skills?”

This one addresses what I am noticing in a caring, concerned tone. At the same time it is presenting an option or prompt that coping skills are needed.

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“You seem frustrated. Do you want to talk about it?”

If talking is an option this is where listening and not over talking or giving too many personal views as a spouse takes place. You don’t want to add static noise when you are addressing anger and frustration. That could lead to “fight”. You are simply allowing one the option to vent and communicate.

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“You seem like you need some down time to unwind. I’ll be in the next room if you need me.”

Again, it’s prompting that you notice a symptom is escalating. It’s allowing personal space to cope. But at the same time it opens communication in case one is wanting that, it’s not just one walking away.

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“What’s on your mind right now? Is there anything I can do?”

Straight forward in a calm tone. Prompts one that you are noticing something is bothering them and opens up a line of communication.

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What became the golden line for us in the past…

“I know this is PTSD talking this way, you do not talk to me like that.”
Followed by, “I am simply listening to you.”

VERY calm and level tone! That line was our original breakthrough. It was the first thing that ever worked for us to break through the anger and arguing. I would wait until he said “Why aren’t you saying anything!” or something along those lines, you know… PTSD looking for the fight. It was a pause and I used my response to break through to Craig through his PTSD. I always waited for that break/pause in the anger before I would speak. No arguing back! It’s not something that happens the first time, it takes time and you keep trying, repeating it, but this worked for us.

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Outside Negative Influences:

There are times in high stress situations where anger will rise and I will step in to help manage it if in the situation Craig cannot focus to recognize it. Normally these times are based around outside negative influences such as… Someone brings on high stress even when told not to or “that’s enough”. Someone tries to start an argument or becomes verbally out of control themselves first. Or someone stepping beyond personal boundaries such as the stealing from us episode we experienced a few days back.

There are many outside negative influences that can trigger PTSD anger.

I have become rather quick to tell others when they are bringing on too much stress or triggering anger. Some of the following things Craig uses also. High stress can lead to anger. Unfortunately, some people love to push a person to see if they can set PTSD off. Many times these are the people who are not happy within themselves or with their own lives and they take things out on others or cause conflict… those with PTSD seem to become almost like targets for these types of people. Other times they dismiss the fact one has PTSD or they don’t understand it. So you have to be the one to take control of your boundaries when these situations are at hand.

Unfortunately, many times if there is a conflict the one with PTSD gets blamed simply because they have PTSD. It’s not always PTSD that starts things! Anyone can cause conflict, and anyone can have anger. Learning what to do for your best interest in these situations to manage/cope with your anger and the situation can help prevent blame as well.

This is when “flight” comes in handy.  WALK AWAY if possible! If someone is bringing on too much stress or triggering anger, or is angry themselves… there is nothing wrong with walking away from them and the situation in order to help control your anger or frustration. Even if it’s simply walking to another room until everyone calms down. Learn your boundaries.

Here are some things we have used for these situations:

“You are causing too much stress right now. This needs to be discussed at a later time.”

You are addressing what they are causing, prompting the conversation ends for now… in other words you are leaving the situation, but at the same time not dismissing that something needs to be discussed.

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“We need to be heading home”

Quick out without anything else needing to be said.

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“You are angry, we do not need to talk while you are this way. Let’s talk later”

This can be used by anyone really. One with PTSD can point out when it’s actually someone else that is angry. The one with PTSD is NOT always the instigator or “bad guy”. You are addressing it and at the same time avoiding you being the one who uses anger back. Then you allow the conversation to end there! Your points can be made at a later time when anger is down in both people. Very seldom do any conflicts get solved when two people are angry.

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There’s another thing that we learned years back that also helps greatly, especially if it is a situation where important information is included, needs to be remembered (keep in mind remembering things in any stressful situation and if anger is up, with PTSD, can be difficult!), but yet it’s a situation that could bring conflict, anger, or fight between people…

It’s called EMAIL! 

A form of communication where face to face conflicts, telephone/verbal conflicts, and anger can be avoided! You can type it out, save it to review later when your coping has been used and you can think without so much anger, proof read it, all before you hit the send button. Just keep in mind, once you hit send there’s no taking it back.  Email and saving emails can be a way of maintaining communication as well as remembering the important things… just use it wisely.

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There are many coping skills that can help with anger, there are many different ways to address or say things to help keep anger low or help manage anger. Learning to communicate correctly can help greatly! The things I mentioned are just a few of MANY!

Anger can be triggered in many different situations for many different reasons, hard fact is, life brings stress and conflict anyway. But, what you do, how you learn to cope and manage anger, can make a huge difference in positive ways. It’s not something that you learn to do over night, it takes time, patience, and a lot of learning but it’s well worth it!

Anger is not just going away. It does come with PTSD. But everyone can do their part to help manage it. I don’t miss the arguments and conflicts, it’s a part of PTSD that we learned to manage and things have become much better for us since we learned what works for us and how to properly communicate. Don’t ever give up on yourself, and don’t ever stop trying. And don’t forget, you are better and stronger than PTSD  Find what works for you, your partner, and your situation.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook Page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Product Review: “LectroFan” white noise machine

I have to tell you something I decided we needed to try at home…

A couple of days ago I ordered a “LectroFan”, personal fan and white noise machine. It’s a pretty neat little machine.

Those little white noise machines work so well at the doctor offices, I thought we would give it a try at home. Well! I am very happy with it so far!

I played with the settings last night for using outside our door, for you know, those conversations adults have that little ears don’t need to hear. It worked great!

Last night Craig had a REALLY rough night and was sick… yes he over did it yesterday. So this morning I put the machine inside our bedroom and set it to a soothing fan sound, just to see if it would allow him to sleep a little more through the kids playing and laughing in the house. It works great!

I’m going to try it through the night also, just to see if it helps his ‪#‎PTSD‬symptoms during sleep. I’ll let you know how that works and if it helps any or not. 😉 But for right now, I’m very happy with this small investment that may help make life a little easier.

Does anyone else use one? If so, what are your opinions of using white noise machines at home?

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

UPDATE June 28, 2016:

Well it’s been almost 2 years and let me tell you! We LOVE the LectroFan! It runs almost 24/7 and still running strong, majority of the time outside our bedroom door (bedroom is the retreat space for PTSD). Even our kids have become so used to it that if it’s turned off they say it’s “weird” not hearing it, that it’s relaxing. At times we use it in the bedroom and it does help some with sleep. We like the white noise sound, but the fan sounds are relaxing as well, play with the many easy to use settings to find which ones you like best. This is a must have in my personal opinion! It has made life a little bit easier and a lot more relaxing.