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There is a difference between “Caring For” vs “Controlling”

There is a difference between “Caring For” vs “Controlling”.

This is a topic that gets brought to me quite often, normally from the ones who have PTSD and/or other disabilities. At times I do hear from spouses/partners on this topic as well… “He/She thinks I’m a control freak! He/She does not see what I see!

So let’s talk about it a little more…

I must be honest, you know me… “facts on the table”. The first thing I have to ask a spouse/partner is, “Well, are you?“. Then I ask, “Can you give me examples of why he/she thinks you are a control freak?” It’s not being nasty or discrediting how they are or what they do, it’s simply giving them a stop sign to stop and really think, and viewing what is happening to find out if they have actually slipped into the control seat which they may not even realize, OR are they doing what MUST be done? It’s that taking a good look in the mirror I talk about often. You have to look for the “why” to get to the root of how one is feeling, what’s causing it, and in order to find a solution. 

Before I go any further, let me define the terms “enabler and enabling” in the sense I am using here. These terms can be used in a positive or negative way. I am speaking of the negative way in this posting. An enabler (or enabling) is when one tries to control a dependent person or in the reference of PTSD we are talking about, controls what one with a disability CAN actually do for themselves. One may treat a dependent person as if they are a child. Avoiding problems/conversations to prevent conflict is common, and one may keep their feelings to themselves to try to maintain peace which can cause one to think that avoiding a conflict can solve a problem. An enabler may feel superior over another person and at times take over that person’s responsibilities (when that person can in reality do something on their own).

This will be one of the toughest areas to find a healthy balance to! It is very easy for a spouse/partner to become controlling when PTSD or other disabilities are at hand and sends your world into a tailspin. You HAVE to make sure this does NOT happen and you do not slide into the control seat! When or if you do, you can actually become an enabler instead of one who is trying to do their best to “help” your PTSD loved one.

With everything that PTSD and other disabilities do in reality bring, which may also include physical disabilities for many, you have to define what care or help is absolutely needed and what one can do on their own. If they can do something for themselves, you HAVE to let them! It keeps you from becoming an enabler over a carer.  It’s also healthy for them, as well as their own self-esteem, to be able to do things for themselves.

I can give a GREAT example to this!

Craig has cognitive dysfunction and memory issues. It is one of the largest challenges we BOTH face with his disabilities, and can be a real safety issue in certain situations. But we have learned to manage them over time and have found solutions TOGETHER. Craig has been known to wander. By that I mean leave and then not know where he has been and had issues finding his way home. Some things he remembers, or for any given amount of time, and some things he does not recall at all. Short and long term memory, and his brain functions differently.

You can just imagine my reaction when this first happened with wandering! It scared the mess out of me (really scared him also) which sent me straight into a control mode “to protect him”. It did not take long for me to realize I was not protecting him at all (unless it was a real safety concern at hand)! I was at times enabling him! I fell into that control seat and felt like to care for him I had to be right next to him at all times. I saw what him wandering did and caused for both of us. Well, I’m sure you can take a wild guess how well that went over lol! It didn’t!

It was causing him to become frustrated, on top of already being frustrated with not remembering things, and it was causing me to become WAY off balanced. My actions were not me at all. The sticking right beside each other all of the time was not us at all. We were sent into that tailspin.

So I stepped back and took a good look in that mirror. This was obviously not working, neither one of us was getting any alone personal time/space, but there were very real and possibly safety issues at hand. WE had to come up with a balance and a solution that was healthy for BOTH of us, and so I would not keep him from things he could actually do for himself. It took us a lot of trial and error, as well as re-learning what he can or cannot honestly do on his own with his disabilities.

An example of one of many solutions we came up with was our property. We loved, I mean loved not having a fence here on the lakefront. But by not having a fence it placed me in the position of having to constantly be right there so we did not have a repeat of the wandering, getting lost, or a safety issue. So we put up a fence, all gates have locks in them which remain locked unless we are using them right then and there, then they are locked again.

It allowed Craig to be able to go out the back door into the yard without me being right beside him. It also allowed me the piece of mind that he’s okay out there and can have time to himself. Sure I’m guilty of looking out the windows from time to time to check on him, mainly to make sure he is not getting overheated because he is heat sensitive now. But I don’t have to go out there with him unless he asks me to or if I need to take him water. We also agreed that he will wear a medical ID bracelet, so if for some chance he does get past all of our safety precautions we have in place, there is still a precaution in place that is always on him.

One fence and a little brainstorming helped change enabling back into caring for. It makes him happy and brought balance back to both of us… and our relationship. 

Even with all sorts of disabilities at hand, you can find ways for a person to still be able to do things without being controlled or them feeling as if they are being treated as a child. You just have to work together, be honest with each other about what one can or cannot do for themselves, and find solutions or things that work for both of you.

Of course there’s the flip side to this. That other side of the fence that I will not leave out. 

It is very real with PTSD and other disabilities that one may not notice or recognize areas where they really do need help. Reality is, PTSD comes with a long list of symptoms which does include times where one may not recognize their actions or that they are having difficulties with certain things, and could use some assistance.

These are not the times to “man up” so to speak (male or female). This is the time that communication and talking about things HAS to come into play. One with PTSD may not like what a loved one tells them, they may not want to believe something is real or may not recognize it is real, that’s very common. With some things, acceptance really has to be a part of things so you can work on finding things to help instead of hinder. And this is by no means, meaning that one person is always right or wrong! It simply means communication needs to take place so you can work through things and get to the bottom of what is taking place, how both people are viewing things, so you can find solutions or figure out what “caring for” steps do need to be put into place IF needed.

Listen to your loved one and their concerns so the two of you can talk about the concerns and find a way to work through them, and find solutions that are in the best and healthiest interest of everyone.

These conversations and facing things can be frustrating. Don’t forget your coping skills and remember it’s okay to say “I need to take a break for a few minutes, then we can come back to this.” But total avoidance of a concern has to stay at bay on this one. Communication IS needed so you can take steps forward and figure out what’s in your best interest, especially if it also includes not only health related, but safety concerns.

It’s the same thing for those with disabilities as it is with the spouses/partners, “Have you taken a good look at yourself? And, what is causing them to have this concern or act this way?

You locate the “why” then you work on finding the solutions, what will help, or be the best options. And these solutions, so to speak, CAN change as symptoms change! It is okay to readdress things as needed!

Every single person IS their own individual, and has a right to that. No one needs to be in a position of controlling another human being, and no one needs to be in the position of being or feeling controlled. Those things do not bring any healthy balance to either person, or a relationship! 😉

You have to work together, communicate, face facts, and find a healthy balance. Many people do require another person to help take care of them now that disabilities are a part of life, but that does not mean another person has to, in all cases, do everything for them. There are huge differences between “caring for” and “controlling”, make sure you understand them. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

Do you have a “care manual”?

I have been working on updating my “care manual” and it got me to thinking, I’m not sure it’s something I have ever written about in depth. But NEED to!

With being a caregiver, I have a small book that has a monthly calendar, daily notes calendar, notes area, a “daytimer” basically that I keep track of everything in regarding Craig’s health. my own, and schedules. It’s the easiest way to remember more then what the brain has room to hold at times. It also is helpful when someone else may come to help out. It helps life stay organized lol! 

I am curious to see how many others have one of these as well? Or is it anything you ever even thought of doing? BE HONEST! 

I thought I would share what mine contains AND why…

* Monthly Calendar

A given must have. The quick view of everything. It contains doctor appointments, respite dates, my respite care person’s schedule, special events, birthdays, anniversaries, school/child schedules, symptoms… yep I track migraines and symptoms when they are high, etc etc etc. Each color coded of course 

* Note section per day

This is where I document anything pertaining to health: changes, increases, decreases, new symptoms, how meds are or are not working, changes in meds, migraines, sleep patterns, nightmares, anything that will be of importance to remember or report to the doctors.

* Emergency Contacts

A list in order of people to contact in case of emergency AND/OR back up help is needed. Phone numbers and addresses, including any other contact information and how each person is related.

* Medication List AND Instructions

This may seem like a given, just read the bottle, right? WRONG! As one that manages or helps manage medications you learn so much more than only what the bottle or medication info. tells. To start, you know what meds are taken. Many people do lock meds up and a person coming in to help take care of someone may not know what meds are taken or need to be given. You learn how far apart each medication should be or what is to be taken together. You learn which meds need to be taken at what times. You learn how your loved one responds to meds, if food or fluids are needed with each or not. You learn how your loved one reacts to meds, like blood pressure meds and not getting up too quickly after taking them, or waking up after taking them. You learn what non-prescription meds can or cannot be taken with prescriptions. What meds cannot be taken at all and are not to be given. ETC ETC ETC

* Daily Schedule

From wake time to the moment their head lays back down on their pillow at bedtime, and throughout the night. Anything that is a part of the daily schedule so they can maintain some type of normal to their daily routine while/if someone else is helping out. This is VERY important when PTSD is a part of life!!!

* Daily Care Instructions

This is the HUGE one! If you were not able to be there to take care of or help your loved one, would someone else know what to do? It is very easy for a spouse/caregiver to get so use to everyday life helping another person, that it may slip your mind to what would happen if someone else had to step in for you.

Have you sat down and really written out step by step instructions for someone else to have if you cannot be there or during times that you may be sick or need extra help? From a point of view that a person coming knows nothing about what your loved one needs or experiences each day.

This can include:

– Each symptom and how to manage that symptom. The “what to do or how to handle” each symptom if it comes. Anxiety, Flashbacks, Triggers, Nightmares, Dissociative symptoms, Migraines, Memory, Anger, Frustration, “Fight or Flight”, etc etc etc… AND any physical conditions and detailed instructions.

How to ground a person is VERY important to include… a tip for this one, a speaker phone and a familiar voice on speed dial  If your loved one is not use to the person stepping in to help it can be very helpful to have that voice they are use to just a quick phone call away. Just make sure that person does understand what needs to be said to ground a loved one.

– Coping skills and medications which can be used, when to or not to use them.

– TV, Movies, Music, or News. Which are okay or not okay during different symptoms.

– Anything one may need help or assistance with doing.

– A list of things your loved one likes to do! VERY important! Hobbies, reading, card games, board games, walks, exercise, social media, anything they like to do.

– A list of “Don’t do” things or things that could trigger or increase symptoms.

– Habits. Leg shaking, nail biting, checking locks on doors and windows, pacing… Anything that would allow another person to understand that this is something that is normal for your loved one, so they don’t over react, say something out of line, etc. and so they have instructions on how to manage these or just let them be.

– Food and snacks. Likes and dislikes. When someone different comes in, so do their own likes and dislikes. You want to make sure your loved one maintains correct eating habits and having a list will be handy to help with this.

Okay, I could add examples forever. 😉 You get my point. Basically it needs to be documented in writing every step of a day and any/all information that could be helpful for if or when another person comes in to help out. Life does take those twists and turns at times and it’s always best to be prepared ahead of time for them. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

PTSD “moods” effecting the Spouse/Partner

PTSD “moods”. 

I have a question from my mailbox today so let’s talk about it…

Hello! Thanks for doing what you are doing with this page! It is quite helpful for both me and my ptsd afflicted loved one! I do wonder if you could give me some advice. How do you not let your PTSD loved one’s moods not effect those of your own when you are home together? And how do you bring it up without them being defensive? Thanks for your time!” -Anonymous

This is a VERY good question! Many start finding themselves tip-toeing or walking on eggshells around those with PTSD when different “moods” or symptoms surface. There may also be more than PTSD at hand adding to mood changes such as depression, dissociative symptoms, or other co-occurring mental or physical health conditions.

A spouse/partner can experience so many different emotions when PTSD switches through symptoms and it can cause you to let go of your own or “good” mood at times… it can change to one experiencing sympathy, empathy, feeling of helplessness or lack of control, feelings of must do everything or do things the way PTSD will be happy with (worded that way for a good reason  ), feeling of loss. They can experience stress, frustration, anger, resentment, etc. A partner in reality can experience a roller coaster ride of their own when the one they love experiences different “moods” with symptoms. Add it all together, and yes it can start effecting you and can change your own mood.

So what do we do and what are ways to handle these things to prevent them from effecting, in reality everyone, so greatly? It CAN become a vicious circle and one person’s “mood” rolls over to the other and then back again.

The largest thing that personally helped myself with Craig and I being together pretty much 24/7 besides my “me time” or respite time, is I keep in mind that “I do not own PTSD or what comes with it. He does.” That sounds harsh doesn’t it? It’s a fact though. I had to truly accept a long time ago that PTSD and depression are a part of OUR lives, but he is the one who has them. They will effect him in many different ways. They will cause his mood to change depending on the symptoms at hand at any given time. I have to make sure I do not allow myself to take claim, so to speak, to what is not mine, he owns them. I truly accepted that PTSD and Depression were a part of life, and what comes with them is a new normal. By accepting we learn how to take steps forward to improving this life AND learning how to manage the symptoms.

It does not mean I love him any less, oh my… I love him more than any words could ever be spoken! It does not mean I can’t be there for him and beside him, it does not mean I cannot still do everything in my power to help him. It simply means I divide myself from his symptoms so those symptoms and moods do not roll over to me experiencing the same. I make sure I take care of myself through everything!

This is NOT easy to do when one first starts this process of learning! It takes practice and a lot of learning! When you learn to relate the symptoms to PTSD and not to the person they truly are, it helps. It’s almost like a mental divide, dividing PTSD from the person you know and love. I am “bad” about mentioning “Mr PTSD”. That’s a mental divide I came up with which helps me always keep in mind that Craig is not PTSD. PTSD is what happened to him and what he experiences from his trauma(s).

PTSD does not define who he is, PTSD is the diagnosis he has. With making that mental divide it allows me the mindset of it’s PTSD and the moods or symptoms that are present are just what comes with PTSD… and I don’t allow them to define me, as the spouse. It gives me the ability to help manage the symptoms instead of taking the symptoms on as my own.

Say for example, Craig is depressed, really down in the dumps. That’s PTSD and his depression. I in a way tell myself, “Okay, PTSD or depression has a grip on him right now. I can not fix this, but I can accept PTSD is at hand in this. I can only give my support and give him space if it’s needed. But I will not allow his symptoms to consume me.”

When the “moods” come, I learned to focus on something that I like to do, something that is peaceful to me, even playing relaxing music can help, or working on my pond, playing with the dogs, meditation, etc. You as a spouse/partner are not going to be able to take what they are experiencing away, they are going to experience these symptoms. But you CAN use coping skills during these rougher times or when the “moods” come, you can also in a nice way guide them or remind them to use them.

Everyone owns their own “moods”. Everyone has a right to their own feelings. It is hard to maintain that when PTSD does in reality bring so many different things to life. One of the largest things I have learned is, if I hold onto my “good mood”, my smile, my joy or happiness… it actually helps him see and at times feel the same way. It also takes the burden and guilt off of him or at least helps reduce them, it keeps him from feeling he is bringing me down with him… it breaks the cycle.

At times PTSD will cause one to resent a good mood, that’s because right at that time, it’s something they are not, or not able to, experience. That will happen, but it does not mean you let go of what you own at that moment. That resentment they may have can very well turn to their mood changing and being guided by your good mood. You, no matter how much you love or care about a person, are each still your own individuals, and with that you will experience your individual moods and feelings that are your’s to own. You do not have to allow good moods to vanish just because one may not be in the same mood, at that moment, as you are.

As far as confronting one when you see PTSD stepping in…

Wording and tone is everything! I learned the best and easiest way for us, so it’s not taken the wrong way and keeps him from becoming defensive, is empathy (not to be mistaken for sympathy, they are two different things). I am one who knows empathy well, I can relate to what others experience and almost feel it as if it were my own. (Cat is out of the bag on that one, so to speak, it’s how I am able to relate to both sides of the fence of PTSD, besides my personal experiences of course.)

BUT, I also had to learn how to control empathy and bring a healthy balance to it, so it does not place me in a situation of completely taking on his symptoms or moods as my own. Yes, research empathy, it can consume you if you allow it to, or it can help. Many who start experiencing the same moods as their PTSD loved one, MAY have some level of empathy behind why it is happening (or they may be so lost in what is happening or changes that they are just overwhelmed which also leads to PTSD symptoms effecting one). Empathy is something that you can find a balance to, control it, as well as one who does not have it can learn how to experience empathy. This is honestly another whole topic in itself.  Becoming overwhelmed is also something you can learn to manage, simply be learning and remembering to take care of yourself.

I learned that the easiest thing to say to Craig when I see symptoms is, “I have noticed [symptom or PTSD] has a firm grip on you today. Is there anything I can do?” It’s not pointing fingers, it’s not over-powering what he is experiencing with what I am feeling, it’s not sounding harsh. It opens the door to allowing him to talk IF he wants to, many times it points out to him what he may not see for himself or he may not be able to put a finger on what he is feeling, and it just simply lets him know I notice he is struggling with something in a nice, calm toned way. Oh, and his answer to “Is there anything I can do (to help)?” Is normally “No.” That question is just simply to let him know I am here for him, that I care. That phrase has been a golden key for us personally, and it keeps his defenses down. It also in a way opens a door to him recognizing my feelings, simply because I noticed and took the time to address his. 

I don’t have to directly say “Hey I’m happy today.” or “I’m so excited about [whatever].” I can guarantee you not only he, but everyone sees it! If there is something I want to share with him, I just say it. “Hey, I just have to tell you about this, can you just listen for a few minutes?” And I accept whatever his response is. Sometimes he will say sure, sometimes he will start telling me how he is feeling instead, sometimes his response will make it “seem” like he could care less… I keep in mind he has his own battle at hand right now and don’t take it personally.  At times I save it for later and just enjoy the feeling from whatever it is, kind of by and to myself, or talk to someone else about it.

Whatever communication comes from it whether it’s spoken or not, it is still seen by your own mood and how you carry yourself. You own your own mood, and whatever mood or symptom a PTSD loved one is experiencing at the moment, it’s PTSD, it’s what PTSD causes, it is going to pass sooner or later at some level, you do not have to be stuck in their mood with them. And it’s better for BOTH of you if you learn how not to be stuck too. Many times your mood does open a new or different door for whatever PTSD mood is present. Do not let go of a good door you may be opening for them, not only for yourself to experience.

One last thing I want to touch on. You cannot ever expect a person with PTSD to always be jolly or happy. There is not a human being on this earth that will be happy 100% of the time. We all go through different emotions and feelings, we each have individual battles at hand which bring different feelings, and we do have the right to experience those. They are going through very real symptoms each day, they do at times have to experience and process what they are going through in order to take a positive step forward. That’s just something to keep in mind. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Motions lead to Emotions… the meaning behind this

I need to take a step backwards for a moment 😉

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

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

It can cause one to feel very lonely or alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Awkward Intimacy story…

A husband and wife were watching a movie in their bedroom. The wife was laying across the bed, under a blanket (not in bed). The husband looks across the room at her and asks, “Are you wearing a top?” The wife answers, “Yes.” The husband then says, “Are you sure?” Wife pulls down the blanket some and shows him, then says with a chuckle, “I’m wearing pants too, but can take them off if you want me to.” slight pause then proceeds to cover back up with her blanket and smile, leaving clothing on. They return to watching the movie. Wife then says, “You could join me over here if you want to.” Husband responds, “I already took my meds.” Wife chuckles and responds with a smile still on her face, “I know that, what do meds have to do with you joining me under a blanket?” And then there was silence.

Okay, it was funny in a way, but what does that example really show?

It shows curiosity which quickly changed by one comment to the “what if’s” and “what am I expected to do” followed by avoidance… PTSD and what it really does. When in reality there were no expectations at all. 😉

When bedtime came after the movie, the husband wrapped his arm around his wife and told her he loves her.

Even in what seems to be awkward situations, it can still all work out. PTSD at times just simply processes things differently.

“Motions lead to Emotions”… no expectations needed  😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Words are everything…

Words are everything…

There is one thing that I learned a long time ago with PTSD, and the reality is, in life itself… your wording is and means everything!

I’ve spoken to a few people recently and those conversations really made me realize I needed to share this, and this REALLY comes from the heart.

PTSD can bring a lot of things with it. At times it can bring out some of the most nastiest sounding and hurtful things one has ever heard or felt, but NOT only from the one with PTSD, but from a loved one as well.

PTSD is going to try you, both of you, all of you! It will try to push every button you have. It will look for that fight when symptoms are increased… fight or flight is very real with PTSD. It at times will cause or try to cause emotional pain. It is a human reaction that comes out when a person is hurting emotionally, any person.

NO ONE purposely does this!!! PTSD and responses to it are what does this. Emotions are what causes this.

There is no long write-up on this one  No long in depth conversation like I am known for. This is simple.

If you do not ever learn anything else from this page/me (which I hope will NEVER be the case! There’s a lot to learn and share!) I want you to really think about and learn this…

This is real life. With it, we are never promised tomorrow, we are not even promised another hour or minute. When this life brings those harsh words, misunderstanding, emotional hurt, and struggles… find ways to correct it! We know words and feelings cannot always be avoided, we know at times they come out wrong or in harshness. We know this life can get thrown into chaos at times and then it comes again. NO MATTER what happens, who it is to or from… step back, take a deep breath, and work through it TOGETHER!

Live each day as if there may not be another. That is one thing in this life that you own, it is your’s, and nothing or no one can take that away from you! Learning to live as such will rarely leave any regrets for later.

Today, take a moment no matter how good or bad things are right now… and share a smile, share a hug, share an “I’m sorry” or “We will be okay”.

Words can be and mean everything, please make sure you find the positive ones in there too. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD loved ones pulling away…

PTSD loved ones Pulling Away…

I am getting MANY messages about PTSD loved one’s pulling away from those who care about them the most. I’m seeing MANY souses/partners struggling with this. I’m seeing MANY with PTSD really feeling like they are alone right now, feeling numb to everything, OR feeling as if others just cannot understand what they are experiencing.

“This is ALL normal with PTSD”.

Not that that helps besides letting you know you are NOT alone!

I have been writing a lot lately about increases in PTSD symptoms, I have been doing extra things to try to spread more awareness and let others know we are here for them too… all with very good reasons. It’s a rough patch for many right now, that’s what I am hearing from SO many people, we go through it too, we all do at times. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, haha, but I do want to get it across that there are a lot of people having some very serious struggles right now, and what you do or don’t do each and every day can make a difference. Even if it’s something as simple as just letting one know you are there for them.

I’m also hearing from spouses/partners things such as “Bec, I’m just not you! I’m lost!” No, you aren’t me, you never will be me, BUT “you are you” and you can find that same place within yourself that I found within myself. I did not get, and we did not get where we are now overnight. It took a lot of time, a lot of learning, and a hell of a lot of trial and big time errors. Just because you have not yet learned every tip and trick in the book yet, and in reality that “book” will be endless, does not mean you won’t! As well as create your own along the way. There is not a quick fix answer, and when you find what works or helps in each situation that comes up it’s still going to take time to get somewhat of the results you are aiming for.

Right now, for this moment, this is what I want you to do…

I want you to stop, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and remember to believe in yourself! Just because you, right now at this moment feel worn out, worn down, emotionally drained, and feel like you are just lost and rushing to find the answers… does not mean that is a place you will always be!

Slow down. You HAVE to! You have to start with YOU! PTSD has it’s own path it takes, but I will tell you right now one is also going to follow your path when their symptoms become overwhelming for them. As a spouse/partner, caregiver, or family member… If you are not taking care of yourself it’s going to be very difficult to take care of or help someone else. Self care is something that you cannot put off, it’s something that you HAVE to MAKE the time to do… and DO it! It’s what is best for you, and it’s what is best for your PTSD loved one!

When one with PTSD sees their loved one struggling, in all reality they are going to struggle more than what they already have at hand. They view it as they are pulling you down with them, that it’s their fault, they are to blame, and the guilt and hurt that brings them can become unbearable. PTSD and life with it is not suppose to be a finger pointing game, life is suppose to be something that you work together through. Right now there are a lot of people with PTSD that are pointing their fingers at themselves, this has to stop. There are a lot of fingers being pointed from or at the spouse/partner, this has to stop. This life was not meant to be against each other, it’s meant to be lived together!

I have already been down every path imaginable as a spouse of one with PTSD. I can tell you with every ounce of love I have to offer, that me taking care of me is the largest thing I can do for my husband. I see Craig’s slight grin when I come back in from working on my pond. I see how he watches me when I do my little house projects. I see how he stares at me when I change my crazy nail polish or he makes a sarcastic comment. All of those small things that seem so small make a huge difference to one with PTSD. When they see you living and pushing forward, taking care of yourself, you are actually showing them how and the reasons why THEY need to live. You change their path when you change their view of themselves and how they view they are or are not effecting you. You cannot forget the reality of the negative changes in thoughts/moods that PTSD brings to one. You take a weight and stress off of their shoulders simply by taking care of yourself.

I know PTSD is tough! I know you have to be one tough cookie to manage this different type of life, you also have to be a caring person. It is different, it’s not those made up fairy tale stories where everything is suppose to be perfect.

“Perfect” is in the eyes of the beholder and what you choose to view perfect as. 

I have people every day tell me how they don’t know how I live this life. How they don’t know how I deal with the symptoms (notice I said symptoms and NOT my husband, wording is everything). How there’s no way they could do it or can’t do it any longer. It’s all in what you make out of it and how you choose to view it and work together. That’s really the bottom line to it.

We have been at this for so long now, that this is our normal. I accepted that PTSD is a part of our lives a long time ago. But that does not mean life is bad! It’s not, it’s just different than what others view as normal. And I would not trade my husband for the world. Even with PTSD he’s still Craig. I might not get to see the true him as much as I used to, I might miss that masked part of him at times, but that’s okay, I will take what I can get and love him just the same either way. He’s still my Craig, he’s just simply masked by this thing called PTSD. As I always say, “PTSD is a diagnosis not a definition of who a person is.”, either of you!

It’s very easy to get so caught up in what PTSD brings, that you forget the important things.

I am hearing from so many of you right now about your PTSD loved one pulling away or how communication has changed. When PTSD symptoms go up, these things are VERY normal! Craig does it. We can be sitting in the same exact room but he is miles away. When that happens, I know it’s just PTSD. It in reality has nothing to do with me at all. It’s him focusing on himself, coping with what he is feeling, trying to manage the symptoms so they do not get taken out on anyone else. This is all normal! You have to give them the personal space and time to work on themselves at times, and not take it personal through this process. You cannot push one with PTSD to be who you want them to be or be who they used to be, PTSD is still there. You have to be supportive, you have to care, you have to learn, but that space is also a part of it… those things will help.

I know you will worry, I know you will want to constantly talk to them, keep communicating, be there with them, etc. Those are normal human reactions and wants, especially when you know a loved one is having a difficult time. But there’s an old saying that really fits well here, “Too much of a good thing, can be bad”.  You have to respect their space when they get quiet. (As long as they are NOT suicidal, that is. That’s a different ball game!) They are not purposely pushing you away, they are not purposely ignoring you. Most likely they are handling PTSD the way they best know how. And in a way, they view it as “protecting” you at the same time from what PTSD is known to bring. Just as you have to work on yourself, they have to be able to work on themselves too.

They will talk and communicate when they are ready to. Don’t push, you have to find a healthy balance. When you push there’s a good chance you are going to hear or see PTSD’s side of things.  And that can land you and your feelings in a very hard place. Many times what they are going through has nothing to do with you at all… that’s really something to think about and learn to accept.

To those of you with PTSD,

There’s no way I could write this and not say something to you. Just like there are things a spouse/partner needs to keep in mind and do, there’s things for you as well.  The largest thing you can do, remember there is someone that cares about you and wants to help. If it’s your pull away quiet time, let them know that’s what you are going through. It can be kept simple and short. They really do worry about you, they really are there for you, sometimes it takes a lot to allow a person to step into your world that you experience, I know that. But letting them in even if it’s just a little can really help both of you.

You do not have to journey this path and life with PTSD alone, even though alone is a very real feeling. Don’t cut your partner short of what they can be, they are probably much stronger than you might think and that extra strength they have can sure help in some way. They are not going to learn everything overnight, give them a chance to learn, and understand there will be a lot of errors in there as well. If they are trying, work on accepting “they are trying”. No, they will never completely understand, but if you let them try they can sure get pretty close on understanding the now. 

If they reach out to you (which hopefully isn’t TOO much too often), just let them know “I have to focus on me right now and managing my PTSD. It’s nothing to do with you or against you.”, something short, something simple, just simply to let them know your focus does have to be on yourself at the moment and so they know you are “okay” so to speak. Silence when two people are in the same location or not, can cause the brain to think all sorts of bad things. Don’t allow that to happen, it causes way more problems than what it’s worth. A simple text can help or a few simple words. When you can, talk to them if they do not understand how space is something that is needed at times. Send them here, we will explain it if you have difficulties finding the right words.  It happens! And that’s okay! Whatever it takes for them to start learning. 

Those numb feelings, don’t forget the “motions lead to emotions”. Numbness is VERY real with PTSD, but it can be worked on. 

———————————————–

This is a life which includes PTSD. Things are going to be different and it’s important for people to be on the same page and learn the most they can. It’s important to know that just because one person may be doing better than another at any given time, does not mean they are a better person then you are, it just means maybe they have traveled further down a path than you have at this point or are simply at a different point. There’s this thing we call the PTSD dance, one step forward two steps back, it happens to all of us. The important thing, we are dancing.  😉

A lot of the things I am hearing are simply based around expectations or taking things personally. Take that deep breath, make sure you are taking care of yourself. And try not to worry so much, you are just learning a different way of life that may be a little scary to start with until you learn more and find that new normal. 

You’ve got this! Give yourself and your loved one a chance! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

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

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

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

Let’s start with some basic background information…

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

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

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

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

New medications.

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

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

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

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

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

Adjusting and Changing Medications…

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

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

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

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

Speaking of the zombie feeling…

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

And last but not least…

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Dear August, September, October…

Dear August, September, October…

You all are the hardest months of the year, as well as a few that follow you. You are the PTSD anniversary time frames for so many people and this year you have come with a vengeance!

August, 

You played it sneaky this year and tip-toed in, but I want to let you know you have been seen! This was not nice of you and all of us will be happy to see you pass soon. You have given us a challenge this year, as you have PTSD symptoms stirring a little earlier than normal and added all of the new challenges and triggers you have brought with you this year. I know there are no rules to this challenge and survival, but if there is a thing called cheating, you have accomplished it with your early arrival of symptoms! But, you will soon be gone and we have survived you! So no, you have not won and next year there will be caution to what you may bring. So to you, we will be happy to say “bye-bye” until next year!

September, 

You are the most dreaded month of the year for MANY, MANY people around the world! We don’t like you and we don’t like what you bring! You are the month that tortured so many lives in the past, and the results haunt so many each year as PTSD anniversaries arrive. I just want to warn you, there’s a different game being played this year! WE ALL are standing together to battle you, to survive you, and we WILL live! We are leaning on each other, we are helping each other, and we are learning from each other! You may bring a massive challenge with you, you may bring us to our knees, but we are stronger then you will ever be! We see you approaching, and we are ready for you! We will see to it that no one will be standing alone while you are here!

October,

You are the aftermath of September for many, and the PTSD anniversary beginning for many others. You bring a combination of things with you as you approach. You are also the beginning of the holiday seasons which has always proven to be another challenge. What was said to September, pay attention closely, because we will handle you the same way! We have formed many ways of handling and managing you and what you bring. So you might want to play by our rules and not your own… we will fight back TOGETHER if you give us a battle. So please take it easy this year so people can make it through you with a little peace. You are the month we will no longer remain on our knees September may bring us briefly to.

To all of the months,

We know the challenges and discontent you bring is very real. We know you and what you bring cannot be avoided. We know that you bring so much pain and suffering during your visit to those with PTSD, as well as their loved ones. But, WE are changing the rules on you! We are letting others know they are not alone in battling you, we are letting them know there are others out here for them and with them. And no matter how many times you cause people to fall upon their knees while you are here, we will offer our hands to help them back up to their feet!

PTSD may never go away, certain time frames are going to be worse then others. But we are learning how to manage it and make it through the rough times, months, and anniversaries that it brings.

We will not only survive you, we will relearn how to LIVE!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD and Driving

PTSD and Driving

We had a very good question come to us this morning and I wanted to talk about this in depth.

“Question; does anyone here see a difference in their loved one’s driving? My son has had an accident with every car he’s driven since coming back from Iraq. He speeds and appears to be paying more attention to what’s going on everywhere else except for the important things like speed limits, brake lights etc. He notices the person coming out of the store but not the stop sign he just blew through. He honestly scares me when he drives. I spend my time saying things like “red light, stop sign, watch the guy at your 3 o’clock…” -Pat

I want to start by saying, the thing I hear most from those with PTSD regarding driving is, “I fear they will take my driver’s license away.

That is a very valid fear. PTSD does change so many things in life, as well as how one has to manage things, that one just does not want to lose one more thing especially since driving is a form of freedom and self reliance, helps with self-esteem, as well as self worth. It brings independence.

However, many do notice changes in the way their loved one drives once PTSD becomes a part of life. The examples given with the above question are very real life examples. And I’m sure many are raising their hands or nodding their heads yes right now. In a way, many times the passenger becomes the co-pilot.

Those of you with PTSD, don’t worry,  I’m not going to throw you under the bus on this one! (figure of speech)

So why do these changes in driving happen? Let’s start there.

First off, just because a person has PTSD does NOT mean in all cases they can no longer drive. There are many that have no issues with driving. Then there are others that have issues at times. Then there are those that driving is just no longer a possibility. Each case will be different even though so many may have things in common.

This is not only military or first responder related, even though we do hear of many who do have driving changes that are/were military or a first responder. Other examples of ones that may also have changes in driving skills may include those that have been in car accidents, witnessed a severe car accident, lost a loved one due to an accident, or any trauma where a vehicle relates to the trauma one experienced. Those that have PTSD from a personal attack or stalker related trauma may also experience changes in driving. And then there is just plain and simple, PTSD itself and what it brings.

It all goes back to the symptoms. PTSD can cause anxiety to increase when one leaves their “safe” environment or home. The “what if’s” or questions that can go through one’s mind can increase. Hyper-arousal can increase. Looking for an attacker/enemy or trauma related objects, can increase. PTSD triggers can be experienced. And even flashbacks can occur.

When any of these symptoms step into play when one is behind the wheel it causes or can cause concentration to decrease, which can lead to one not noticing the things a driver would normally watch for or pay attention to. Instead the concentration goes towards watching for that trigger and/or being alert to or looking for anything that is related to their PTSD trauma. Many may not even realize they are doing this, or to the extent they are doing it.

So, now we know the “why”. Now what do we do?

First and foremost, we want to make sure everyone stays safe! That means the one driving, the passengers, as well as those also out and about. Here are some examples of things that may help…

* From the start. If you know PTSD symptoms are high, avoid driving for the time being. If you HAVE to go somewhere, ask someone if they could drive for you. If you don’t HAVE to go somewhere, waiting a little while for the symptoms to calm down is okay!

* If you know, or someone else mentions they notice, PTSD symptoms are increasing while one is driving, be honest about it! There is nothing wrong with saying “Hey can you drive for a little while?” and allow someone else to take the wheel. What’s the worse case scenario? You get a chauffeur for part of the day.  There’s nothing wrong with that!

* Pull over. 

If symptoms are increasing you can always pull off the road and use your coping skills. Once you are feeling less overwhelmed, then continue your travels. Take a break when you need to.

* Talk to yourself. 

Nope, you are not crazy if you do this! Talk out loud or to yourself, tell yourself  “I’ve got this, I can do this, focus on that light coming up. I’m in my town [or a place, even a destination you are going to] and nothing is going to [whatever the fear is].” By doing something along these lines, you are forcing yourself to stay grounded.  Time, place, and to people who are with you. Tell yourself for example, “There is a light coming, if it turns yellow I need to start breaking.” You can do this with anything! All you are doing is maintaining your focus on driving and taking it away from those symptoms and what if’s. This works great to keep triggers from flowing into full flashbacks and also helps you stay focused on those things you need to pay attention to while driving. 

* Road Rage.

It happens! PTSD at times will look for that fight or be triggered into one, especially when another driver could have harmed you and/or your loved ones. Those out there with poor driving skills will become PTSD’s target. DON’T allow them to mess up your day! If something happens, do NOT chase them down. Unfortunately if something happens many times PTSD gets the blame and that is not going to lead you to a good day when you were actually the victim, of sorts. Pull over and take a deep breath, use those coping skills. And if another driver out there is being careless to the point they could hurt someone with the way they are driving, it’s okay for you to call their tag and location in to your local authorities. Allow yourself to release from the rage and let the authorities handle it, that makes you the good guy that may have saved a life. 

* Co-pilots. Yep that’s all of you that raised your hands at the beginning of this 

Sorry folks co-pilots or side-seat drivers are going to be there. And many act like they have an invisible break pedal on their side of the vehicle. Just love them for caring about you and making sure everyone stays safe! And try not to become snappy at them if they point things out. If you need to say something about their co-piloting, try to use a calm tone. “Would you like to drive?” is what Craig uses as his code phrase with me  And at times the answer is YES! Other times he tells me “thank you” when he may honestly not have noticed something. Whatever works, communicate so the drive is a decent one.

Now Co-pilots (yep I’m one of them  ), you have to make sure you do NOT over tell things or talk too much, it just becomes static noise to one with PTSD that is trying to focus. It is okay to direct or point things out when NEED be, just be cautious to not over-do it or it is going to spark PTSD frustration which could make the situation even worse. It is very common for co-piloting to become a bad habit, make sure you give the one with PTSD a chance and only say things when they are NEEDED.

* Navigation Systems

Oh these are awesome! There are many different types of GPS systems as well as apps available that can be used. My absolute favorite is a phone app! It “talks” to the driver so no looking at the phone is needed AND it tells you or alerts you not only to directions, lights, stop signs, but to your speed as well… if you are going over or under the speed limit for the location you are at and as you travel. I LOVE it! No more saying “Watch your speed”, I can sit back and relax with a little chuckle now.  There are many different systems or apps available, research them and see which ones can help.

Speeding is common with PTSD. When anxiety levels and other symptoms go up that gas pedal seems to go down. It’s almost like a “hurry up let’s get there” that takes place. Focus can go to destination instead of those dash gauges.

* Come up with an agreement ahead of time! 

Craig and I actually have this in place. It helps keep anger or frustration down while driving… for BOTH of us. If his symptoms are high, he does not drive, period! If we are out and symptoms increase, we switch drivers. If he needs to pull over, then we pull over. If I start needing to co-pilot too much, then I drive. If he’s having a good day, no questions asked, he can drive. Whatever agreement and plan you come up with, just make a plan of action. By already having this in place it can save a lot of pulling your hair out (so to speak) for either person.

These are a few things that seem to work well, and that work well for us personally. Feel free to add things that you may have come up with that helps when you or your loved one is driving.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website