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Wording, Communication, and Understanding there can be different views: PTSD

PTSD and walking on eggshells communication

Wording, Communication, and Understanding there can be different views…

ARE very serious things when it comes to PTSD!

There are TWO sides to this!

From a spouse/partner’s side of things…
Many know it as “walking on eggshells”, or as I worded it  stepping on a bee no matter how carefully you tip-toed. Where you feel like you have to be careful with every word you speak, even topic you bring up or talk about. You may feel like nothing you say is right, or you may fear talking about certain things or sharing your feelings, which you feel may trigger PTSD.

From the PTSD side of things…
Views may just simply be different, one may have a difficult time explaining things or wording things the way they are meant. You may feel misunderstood, or like no matter what you say you are always viewed as wrong. You also cannot leave out whatever symptoms are at hand at that moment and what they may be causing.

Bottom line no matter what feelings or views are at hand, this brings stress as well as can bring a wall blocking communication! NOT a good thing for EITHER person, or you together!

It’s just a fact of life that no one, no matter how close you are, will agree on everything all of the time. No one will have the same feelings or views all of the time. No one will understand another person all of the time. When you look at the basics of what are already facts about life, life with PTSD is not really much different. It just comes with needing more communication as well as understanding, and taking into consideration each other!

So what are things that can help?

* Do not jump to conclusions!

This is one of the most important things to keep in mind! When you take two sides and bring them together, then add PTSD symptoms to it AND maybe anxiety or that tip-toeing on the other side of it, it can be a recipe for disaster if you jump to conclusions. It can also bring on that “fight” side of things.

* STOP and take time to listen!

It is very easy to spit words out quickly, especially if you have a set opinion on something or set in the way you are viewing things, or are feeling on edge about something. Then add in what each of you are feeling at that moment. Take a deep breath and hear each other out. Do not interrupt each other! When you stop and really hear each other it’s easier to notice when there is a misunderstanding, a break in communication, or simply you have a difference of opinions. No one will be right or wrong every time, and at times you are just not going to agree on things. But taking the time to listen to each other CAN help greatly!

* Reword things!

Accept if things need to be reworded! This is one that is extremely difficult for many. Once something is said you cannot take it back… IF you stay stuck in that mindset there is a good chance you are going to experience a lot of conflict. When symptoms are high, hurt feelings, difference of opinions, etc. Many things may be said that are not actually meant the way they came out. You have to allow space because errors are going to happen and they need room to be corrected.

Other times once you listen and really hear what each other has to say, your view or opinion may change. It is important to allow change to take place so you can work through things.

Misunderstandings DO take place! One, either person, may not understand exactly what you are trying to say or take what you said the wrong way.

There is NOTHING wrong with saying, “I do not think you understood what I was trying to say.” or “I think you took that differently than I was meaning”, “Let me reword it so we can better understand each other.” Then the other person, let them reword it! This has been an ultimate help for Craig and I personally!

Allowing each other to clarify or reword things can also help build trust! Because you are working together to make sure you understand each other clearly. Trust is VERY important.

* Do not dismiss another person’s view.

It is really easy to get into a mindset that your view is the right view, unfortunately it goes back to no one is perfect all of the time. Just because one has PTSD does NOT mean they are wrong all of the time! Many times they may be seeing something that is in reality taking place that their partner may not be seeing. This happens a lot when a spouse/partner is walking on eggshells, having a rough day, or not coping well themselves. It goes back to listening to each other, and remembering that neither person will be right or wrong all of the time. Work together!

* Ask questions!!!

This could save so many conflicts or hurt feelings from happening! If one says something and it really seems odd for them to say that or view something in that way, ask them to explain what they mean. BEFORE jumping to conclusions or taking something personally!!! That is another one Craig and I use. Many times it goes back to something just came out wrong or maybe they are viewing things differently at that moment and it’s something that you need to simply talk about.

Maybe one is just having a rough day, maybe they view something you have not, maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe it just came out wrong OR not a full thought. There are many things that could be cleared up by just asking questions or asking why they view it that way.

* Accept that you will not always agree.

It is just a part of life, no one will agree 100% of the time! Accepting when you just simply have a difference of opinion or view on something is okay! Craig and I have phrases that we came up with for these times that really help…

“I/We will work on that”
“Can we come back to this later? I’m not dismissing it but just cannot focus on that topic right now.”
“Can we address this later when my anxiety is lower? I want us to talk about it, but right now is not a good time to.”

Those little phrases not only shows that you care what the other person is saying, it also helps the other person understand if a symptom may be causing a conflict or one to not be able to focus, which is very common for either side of the conversation. If it’s something that there will not be a result to right now, you just simply agree whatever it is will be worked on, then you work on it.

* Do not be afraid to share your feelings!

Both sides can be guilty of not sharing how they feel! It is okay to share your feelings, what you are going through, what your day was like, etc. You own them, they are your’s. For the other person, sometimes just someone listening is a help. You do not own what another person feels, you do not have to feel guilty about it or feel as if you are a burden or to blame… easier said then done I know.

A good example of this is when a spouse/partner feels lonely. Do not kid yourself, this is life with PTSD and everyone will experience it sooner or later, in reality from either side of the fence. But for example purposes we will use the spouse.

How is your partner going to know how you are feeling, that you feel lonely, if you do not say something? They won’t and nothing will change! It does not mean the one with PTSD is at fault for anything! Maybe the spouse feels lonely because symptoms have been high, or one has had to focus on themselves more so symptoms do not roll over to others. Maybe the two of you have not been talking enough. Maybe one just did not realize how things were effecting the spouse or was not viewing it the same way… thought everything was okay. The point is, blaming or taking blame does not get you anywhere! Neither does remaining silent. By talking about it, the door opens to work on changes, so those feelings decrease and things can get better.

No matter what it is about, sharing how you feel or what you are going through helps the two of you understand each other better, helps you work on things together when need be, and opens that door to communicating.

So these are just a few of many things that you can try. EITHER person can experience all of these things, the feelings, the emotions, taking things personally, jumping to conclusions, misunderstanding the other person, etc etc etc. Take and make the time to talk and really hear what BOTH of you are saying.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

What do I do or don’t do, when he/she has PTSD?

How do I act around one with PTSD?

What do I do or don’t do, when he/she has PTSD?

So you know someone with PTSD, or maybe you don’t and you are just curious about learning.

What can I do? How do I act around them? What do I talk about or don’t talk about?

There are many questions that come up, especially if you are not familiar with #PTSD. Many people who suffer from PTSD lose their friends, many times family, all because others do not understand these very things.

A person with PTSD is no different then you or I, they have just been through something traumatic which caused them to develop PTSD. They are still human, they still have feelings, and they still put clothes on just like the next person.

So here are some of many tips that are good to know:

1. Treat them just like you would anyone else! One of the worst things you could do to a person who suffers from PTSD is to treat them like they have a plague!

2. Don’t ask insensitive questions! Like “Did you kill someone?”. One, who really wants to talk about that in the first place, would you? No! Two, you may be opening a huge can of worms that really irritates them or makes them feel bad. Why? Because maybe they were NOT military or law enforcement. Civilians can have PTSD too and traumas include a wide range of what different people have experienced which lead to PTSD.

If they want to share their story with you, they will. Leave that up to them. Majority of the time they would rather talk about the same everyday things that the next person would.

3. Repeating themselves. Many with PTSD and/or TBI have some type of memory issues. If they do repeat something just go with it. No need to state “you’ve already told me that.” When you say things like that it makes them feel belittled and they are going to get really quiet on you.

4. Give them space. They my not always be able to keep a schedule, on rough days they will want to stay home. Those with PTSD do not like others seeing the rough side or what they battle that comes with it. Be respectful of that and something that might not happen today can always be rescheduled for another day.

5. Don’t make “fun” of anyone with a disability. One, It’s not nice or respectful in the first place. Two, You never know who it could effect or even someone else they might know.

6. Never judge them. You don’t know or understand what they have been through that lead them to PTSD so don’t judge them on something you don’t understand.

7. Have respect for personal space. PTSD can be caused by many different types of traumas. Many times a person needs their personal physical space from others. Avoid approaching them from behind without them knowing. Even touching them in a friendly manner sometimes can lead to a trigger. Read their body language, if they are joking with you and tapping your shoulder then it’s probably okay to do it back. Use your brain. 

8. Don’t put them down! One with PTSD has a hard enough time maintaining their self-esteem and sure does not need outside influence which could cause it to become worse! You wouldn’t want someone putting you down or talking bad about you, so don’t do it to them. Point out the good things don’t focus on the negative.

Would you walk up behind an elderly woman and put your hand on her shoulder? You might but if you do you stand a good chance of being waled on by her handbag! So no, don’t do things like that to one with PTSD either. 

9. Learn about PTSD! Even if you don’t think you know someone that has it, odds are you actually do! PTSD can affect anyone, it’s not only military related. It can be caused by a car accident, a rape or attack, a natural disaster, even from being in a hospital! It can be from anything that caused a trauma in a person’s life where symptoms last for more than a month. And many times you are not going to know about a sensitive matter.

10. Use your brain before your mouth. If it is something that you would not want said to you, then why say it to someone else. Every person can think before they speak 

A person with PTSD is still a person, a human being. They can throw a great cook-out, they can be a great friend, a great father or mother, a wonderful part of a family or workplace. They just have an unseen disability that causes them to react and/or view things differently but makes them no less of a person. Some of the most kindest, caring, and sensible people you will ever meet have PTSD… it makes them appreciate life more than the average person that takes life for granted. 

Take the time to educate yourself, and unfortunately… you never know when it might be you in their very shoes. Traumas can happen to anyone. What PTSD causes does bring changes to a person’s life, but you can make a positive change! LEARN now and you could change the life of someone else… or maybe even help save one!

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

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

Reach for help for PTSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you refill your emotional cup when it needs it?

How do you refill your emotional cup when it needs it?

From my mailbox is a question that is one of the hardest things many people struggle with…

How do you get your emotional cup refilled when you are down and your partner doesn’t have the capacity to give you what you need but what you need can only come from him/her?” -Anonymous

To be fair here, this question could come from many different directions so I want to talk about different things that could be related to this, why, as well as things one can do or try…. from my and Craig’s personal experiences as well as what I have learned over the years of life with  #PTSD.

The empty cup feeling is very real, and can be real for not only the spouse/partner, but also for the one with PTSD.

Feeling of loss…

One of the most emotional draining things one may experience is the feeling of loss. Your life has changed, your partner has changed… in a sense, your relationship has changed, your roles in life may have changed, the way you handle or manage things has changed, maybe you lost a job, maybe someone you care deeply about lost their life… the list is endless.

You grieve… 

It’s only human nature to grieve when you experience any type of loss in your life. Grieving is how we process our feelings, what has happened, what has changed, and is needed to take steps forward. Many people do get stuck (a well known term for a spouse or one with PTSD) and you have to be cautious of this.

The facts are…

There are going to be losses in life of whatever extent, there will be grieving, and PTSD became or is a part of your life, no matter which side of the fence you are standing on. Which can bring an emotional and/or physical divide… which can BOTH weigh heavily on that emotional cup.

PTSD can bring so many symptoms… the lack of sleep due to nightmares, the flashbacks, the anxiety, the numbness, the triggers, whatever physical conditions or other mental conditions which may co-occur with PTSD, and list goes on. All of these things take a lot for the one with PTSD to battle and manage each day, and with that… their focus has to be on themselves quite often in order to manage those symptoms. Many times they feel lost within themselves or as Craig says it, “Sometimes I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

Add all of that together and how could that emotional divide not be there? BUT, it is something that can be worked on.  We will get to that in a minute.

When one is battling all of these things and trying to do their best, it can leave a spouse/partner feeling lonely or as if they cannot place anything else on their PTSD loved one’s shoulders by sharing what they themselves are going through or feeling. A spouse may be overwhelmed with everything life now holds, trying to learn everything, manage everything, and the changing roles do weigh in. The changes in relationship add a lot to it… you may feel like “I just want my husband/wife back!” You will experience all of that sooner or later.

That emotional cup empties. In reality, the one with PTSD most likely feels empty too. Yep, it’s one of those vicious cycles that can form.

The hardest lessons in life that have to be learned…

You cannot rely on another person to make you happy. 

That is a very difficult lesson when you were use to your relationship being a certain way, then PTSD stepped in and changed things, changed life. The emotional closeness may have changed, the physical closeness may have changed, and what use to seem like an easy relationship now has to be worked at to maintain.

But you know what? That’s okay! The more you work at it, the stronger your relationship can become. It can grow in ways that you never dreamed imaginable. It will be different, but that does not mean it has to be a bad relationship. It’s just changed.

This is where communication is important… you HAVE to talk AND really hear what each other is saying. And you know what, even with everything one with PTSD battles they can still be good listeners.  It is okay and important for BOTH people to share their feelings with each other. Each person owns their own feelings, they are your’s, and the other person does not have to feel guilty, or feel like they have to fix what another person feels. A simply “Hey, I know you are struggling with [symptom, feeling, etc] right now, but I really need to talk. Can you just listen and maybe help me or us come up with something to help with this.” And you agree to work on it if it’s needed or you simply listen.

“Motions lead to emotions”, my old reliable! Best thing Craig and I were ever told about! PTSD does bring numbness and emotional divide. It can cause it for either person, with what everyday life can bring. Spouses can experience that numb feeling just as one with PTSD does. Which can then weigh in a physical divide. Sometimes you just have to go through the physical steps. NO, this does not mean only sex! This could be anything, taking a walk together, making one on one time, going on a “date”, watching a movie together, find a hobby to do together, just talking about how each of you feel… anything!

When you put motions into action, they can spark those feelings over time. Don’t expect a miracle overnight, and PTSD is still there so things may still go back and forth. But this can help the emotions surface again. Emotions are not just going to mysteriously come back, you have to do something to get there. It’s like when you first start dating someone, it’s someone new, it’s exciting, you are learning about each other, this is no different! You are just now learning about each other since PTSD has changed things. That’s okay!

You cannot lose your “ME” to PTSD! 

If you do not work at it, it can happen to either one of you! This is where you learn what makes yourself happy! You learn what you like, what makes you smile, what makes you laugh, etc.

Sure PTSD is NOT fun and it’s changed life, but you can still find and hold onto your “me”. Me time and taking care of yourself are extremely important! As I always say it, “You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of or help another.” You have to find and learn how to maintain your own personal balance.

You can discover a new hobby, start taking walks or exercise, visit or call an old friend, go have lunch, window shopping, get outside and just enjoy the things you see around you, it could be anything that you enjoy! And for goodness sake, everyone needs to learn coping skills and techniques! They are life savers! All of those things do help fill that cup without having to rely on someone else to fill it for you. 

When you find your personal balance, you do not NEED the other person to build you up or be the reason you have self-esteem. You have done it for yourself… and that other person  they just became a nice addition with anything they can offer or add! You want your partner to be an addition to who you are as a person, not be who makes you, you. When you find your personal balance, you may be shocked at how it effects your partner in positive ways too!

Everyone will slide from time to time. Everyone may re-experience the feelings of loss or grieving stage. That’s normal and it is part of being a human being, PTSD or not. What you do to prevent yourself from becoming stuck, what you do to build yourself back up, can make a huge difference… as well as refill that emotional cup. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook

No Visitors… WHAT?

No Visitors… WHAT?

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

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

I view it this way…

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

“You can have and deserve a better life than the one you have with me.” …

“You can have and deserve a better life than the one you have with me.” 
-Spoken by those with PTSD

I am hearing from many people that have either heard this recently OR are the ones who have said it to their loved one, in some variation of the phrase. With so many asking me questions about this, we need to talk about this more in depth… from both sides of the fence.

This is a phrase that is spoken by those with #PTSD with all honesty, their opinion based on what they see, and what they think and feel. But, it’s also the one that hurts and can cut the deepest to a spouse/partner.

When one with PTSD says something along these lines of “You would be better off without me”, you can take a good guess they are seeing their spouse/partner struggling in some way. Other times it may be said because they know the struggle they themselves are having or can already tell what is coming with increased symptoms.

But, please do not dismiss that at times it’s actually the spouse/partner, NOT the one with PTSD that says this phrase. Normally spoken when a spouse is lost and just does not know what else they can do to help or it’s just not a life they can handle. They feel the one with PTSD deserves more than what they can offer.

It could be from many different angles or reasons… 

The Spouse/Partner:

– Maybe a spouse misses working, if they are at home now.
– Maybe a spouse talks a lot about how life use to be.
– Maybe a spouse talks a lot about how “this life is not fair”.
– Maybe a spouse misses seeing their family or friends as much as they use to and/or those people have walked away because of PTSD instead of learning about it.
– Maybe a spouse is not coping well with living life beside PTSD.
– Maybe a spouse is not learning or not willing to, and is fighting against what PTSD does, in real life bring. Negative being allowed to outweigh the positive.
– Maybe the spouse has or is developing their own mental health conditions.
– Maybe a spouse is not taking care of themselves through this new life.

The one with PTSD:

– Maybe the one with PTSD does not feel they can love or show the affection and/or attention they use to.
– Maybe the one with PTSD feels they cannot offer the type of relationship or normal life their spouse deserves.
– Maybe the one with PTSD feels like a burden and is holding their spouse back in life.
– Maybe the one with PTSD hates what their spouse has to go through living beside PTSD.
– Maybe the one with PTSD feels guilty.

In General: 
Unfortunately these cannot be dismissed.

– Maybe there is just no getting through to one or the other and communication is not happening.
– Maybe one or the other has just given up on the relationship.
– Maybe two people have struggled for so long, that the relationship has shifted to someone else or someone new.
– Maybe the relationship happened too quickly or for the wrong reasons, and unfortunately may not last in the first place. Ouch, I know, but it does happen.

Those are just a few of many examples that are real life from both sides of the fence. But, there are also other views that no one needs to leave out!

I know, I myself have heard Craig say a thousand times or more, “You deserve more”, “You deserve a better life than what I can offer.”, “You would be better off without me.”, “I wish you could have a normal life.”, “I wish our life had turned out like we had planned.”

Those are very real statements and feelings. They hold a lot of guilt, and even through the numbness PTSD does bring, these things still “shine” through. When you read between the lines they also state much more than the words/phrases themselves, they show that even through PTSD he CARES! Thus the word “shine”.

My view of things when he says these things to me…
“I could not imagine my life without you.”, “So life is not the way we planned, so what. We are together and working on taking steps forward, that is good enough for me.”, “It’s my choice to stay. I have no interest in a different life or being with someone else. PTSD or no PTSD, I’m not going anywhere.”

When I add my view, but without dismissing his, I normally hear a “Thank you” from him. It gives a larger picture and allows both of us to really hear each other.

It’s important to hear and know the point of view from BOTH of you, and take those into consideration. What one with PTSD feels and views is very real, but so is the spouse/partner’s view. Don’t allow PTSD to step in the way of what you might really have together. At times, it’s just a little reassurance is needed.

All of these things that PTSD can cause one to view and feel can and will cause one with PTSD to pull away at times. How could they not? It’s a part of PTSD’s avoidance. This is when how you respond, what you say, giving some space when needed, and how you communicate will be of the utmost importance. There has to be a healthy balance.

“Can you explain to me why you feel that way?” 

It’s not bringing on a fight, it’s not dismissing what they have said, it’s not taking it personally, or at face value. It is a simple question that can help you get to the root of why something was said. They already opened the door for communication, you know something is on their mind by whatever statement is at hand, now it’s your choice what to do with it from there.

The largest mistake, in my personal opinion, that spouses/partners make is taking things personally, at times those with PTSD will do the same. A comment is made and you allow it to hurt you before understanding why it was said. You have to stop this! Life with PTSD is not what others view as normal, PTSD comes with a lot of things and symptoms that cannot be taken at face value, so to speak, because things may not be actually the way they sound. Many times there will be something lying under the surface causing these statements.

You have to look for the why and you have to communicate. Maybe the one with PTSD is frustrate because they cannot explain something or find the right words to explain the way they view it… or even what they are feeling or experiencing at that moment. Maybe they are going through an anger state. Maybe they are not coping well. Maybe you as the spouse have not accepted PTSD. Maybe you as the spouse refuses to understand life has in deed changed or are stuck in the “it’s not fair”. Maybe your PTSD loved one is actually experiencing thoughts of suicide.

There could be MANY why’s to it. Isn’t it only fair, to both of you, to try to communicate and discover the why’s before jumping to “it’s the end of the world” conclusions? This life is not one sided, no matter which side of PTSD you are standing on. You have to learn how to work together and communicate. If you do not, it’s going to be very difficult for a relationship to survive as well as prosper.

Take that deep breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. And take the time to talk.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

Trying to be perfect for PTSD…

Trying to be perfect for PTSD…

A message from my mailbox, which I did edit a little since I have the same questions coming in regarding both men and women and from both men and women. 

Hey Becky. Just wanted to pick your brain on something… It seems like a lot here lately my [PTSD partner] is constantly pointing out things I do wrong. Little things like putting clothes in the dryer [he/she] doesn’t want dried, forgetting to do something [he/she] asked me to do. Just seems like that’s all I hear from my [PTSD partner] lately. Is this something you have dealt with? This have anything to do with the PTSD?

I try so hard to make everything perfect for [him/her] to ease [his/her] stress, but I’m starting to feel like nothing is good enough.

Not that I need a pat on the back for what I do… I do those things because I love [him/her]. But I almost feel beat down because I’m always doing something wrong.” -Anonymous

I am getting a lot of questions along the same lines as these, so I wanted to go over these in general.

The first thing that I found personally helped me was asking myself, “Is this the way he/she was before PTSD?” If the answer is “no”, then you can take a guess that something is causing these changes, and it’s most likely linked to some symptoms of PTSD.

If you did not know your partner before PTSD, you will have to think a little deeper to find the answer. Has anyone else ever seen these things in my partner that knew him/her before PTSD? Has symptoms changed/increased recently? Do they seem more on edge with more than just you?

With some people it is going to be PTSD and what it is causing, with others it may just be a part of their personality, or even a combination of both PTSD and their personality. I do find this is very common with PTSD though.

So now we have to ask why?

To be on the fair side here, many times when the “nit-picking”, pointing out all of the wrong things that occur, the one with PTSD does not even realize they are doing it. These things can happen when symptoms are increasing or one is not coping well, or not coping in a good way. They may be frustrated, angry, feel lost within themselves, feel guilt, confusion, a sense of loss, really anything that goes along with or comes from PTSD symptoms. It is common for these things to come out on the ones closest to them.

So what can be done that might help?

Spouses/Partners have a tendency to “let things slide” in order to avoid a confrontation, or because they feel bad/sad for their PTSD loved one with seeing what they already go through, and just simply do not want to make matters worse by speaking up and talking about things.

Communication. When a spouse/partner continues to walk on eggshells and tries to make and keep everything perfect, really all you are going to accomplish is becoming overwhelmed, mentally and physically drained, and you could start having your own mental health problems form, such as depression. Trying to keep everything perfect is not in the long run going to benefit anyone. There’s also a good chance that the issues will increase if not discussed, which will start effecting your relationship AND how you as the spouse/partner personally view your PTSD loved one.

This is where wording is of utmost importance! Blaming, pointing fingers, arguing, etc. will just give PTSD the fight. NOT what you want to happen. Those things just lead to more anger, frustration, things said that in reality are not meant, and hurt feelings… for BOTH of you.

There is no person that will be right or wrong 100% of the time. You are BOTH human, and humans are not perfect. So why try to be perfect just because your loved one has PTSD? You can’t, and you won’t be.

Your PTSD loved one is still human. Just because they now have PTSD does not mean or make them helpless. You have to make sure, as the spouse/partner, that you are not doing too much! Which is very common. You have to make sure there is a healthy balance for BOTH of you.

When a spouse/partner “takes over” doing everything, what in reality is that doing? It may cause a lack of self-esteem and self-worth in your PTSD loved one. It may cause them to view themselves as helpless. They need to be able to do things for themselves. IF they are capable of doing something for themselves, let them. It actually helps them!

When PTSD enters your lives, many times roles change or alter from what was normal. Many times one with PTSD is home more, or all of the time now. Some cannot work, or work has decreased or changed. When these things do in reality happen they can lose a sense of who they are and what they can in reality still do. There may be changes which cause normal roles of each partner to change. The “old school” roles of man or woman duties has changed in today’s society, especially with more women working. Those things are OKAY! In reality, it can be healthy.

There are many husbands that are at home now. The role has changed from going to work every day to being at home. Some have discovered they are awesome at cooking, some found a love for gardening… and wow do some of them have a green thumb! Some find hobbies that they enjoy, that before there was never time for. And the ones who were military, let me tell you they can clean and iron like no one I have ever seen! It was part of what they were taught, and many times those things are very helpful at home. It does not make one any less of a man or woman to do the things they in reality are STILL good at. And it sure helps out and helps keep a new type of balance. 

The example in the question is a great one. If a PTSD loved one can point out what they want or don’t want dried, then maybe next time ask them nicely to help you sort the clothes so things are done the way they would like them to be done.

By simply asking them to help, that takes the blaming away, the frustration and conflict away, and it also shows them that they can still do things or help with things. It also gives them something to do which in reality gives their brain something to focus on other than the “what if’s” that PTSD does bring.

I’ll give a personal example. Craig use to be the one who did all of the yard work. Now, he is very heat sensitive and can’t do it because it will effect his health. So I do the yard work… which I get teased about because I LOVE it! It’s actually healthy for me, I view it as my “me time”. I put my ear-buds in my ears and listen to my music, and ride that mower with the breeze blowing across my face, enjoying being outside in the sunshine. It’s peaceful to me and it’s healthy. Roles simply changed, it did not make things bad.

The other example in the question, “Forgetting to do things”. Very common for EITHER person. Memory issues can come with PTSD and anxiety in many cases, but an overwhelmed spouse/partner is going to forget things too! Dividing things up that need to be done or one doing things for themselves, can help with this as well. Making lists for each person can also help. Figure out what works best for your situation. One person is not going to be able to manage everything or remember too. It goes right back to roles may have changed, at least some, and one with PTSD can help out with things also. Create a healthy balance.

Now to the symptoms…

If a spouse notices their PTSD loved one is unsettled, frustrated, etc. especially when the “nit picking” starts. Why? This is where that wording comes in.

I noticed you seem frustrated today. Is there anything you would like to talk about?

I noticed PTSD has a grip on you today. Do you want to just take an easy day and relax?

Wording and tone are everything. By these examples, “I noticed…” you are pointing out that you notice something is effecting them, but you are not blaming them or causing a conflict. You are also opening the door for IF they want to talk, one with PTSD will not always open the conversation. The door is also opened for if maybe that day the plans need to be altered.

Many times if high expectations are decreased or put to the side for the moment, it can help decrease symptoms and allow one the time to cope with what they are experiencing. You do have to be cautious of avoidance though, which is very real with PTSD. Some things cannot be avoided forever and do have to take place. It also points out in a nice, caring way, things they may not realize or see they are experiencing. These simple to do things have been life savers for Craig and I and work very well for us!

Bottom lines are…

You have to find a balance. Communicating will have to take place and you have to work together to find what the balance is for BOTH of you. We don’t want those with PTSD viewing them in any more of a negative way then what PTSD already causes, but at the same time we don’t want spouses/partners becoming overwhelmed with trying to be perfect… PTSD is going to be there whether you try to be perfect or not. You have to get to the root of things and figure out what will work best for BOTH of you. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

PTSD and Memory causing issues.

PTSD and Memory causing issues.

How do you get someone to recognize they have problems? His memory is really poor… he refuses to accept anything and always blames me. It is so frustrating and hard on the family.” -Anonymous

I have many people asking me questions regarding these things, but I’m going to talk a little more about this than only from the memory issue aspect, I want to also explain the “why” and “what happens” just simply to provide more information. I do have to say I am not a doctor or in any medical field, and my knowledge is based on our experiences and what I have personally learned. IF you have a crisis please contact your doctor or call a crisis hotline.

(This is going to be long, save it to your social media wall, come back to it on my page if you cannot read it all at once, or bookmark it on my blog aka “my journal” page of my website.  I have broken it down into smaller paragraphs for easier reading as well. There is a lot to this topic.)

That first step to recognizing there is in reality a problem, is going to be the most difficult step to take. Especially when memory issues are involved. “Refuses to accept anything and always blames me.” that quote is a reality, that DOES in many cases happen until one does start recognizing AND/OR accepting there is something that is just not right.

At times, it will still happen even after acceptance is there, simply because memory is still at hand. Craig and I went through this also, and memory issues AND cognitive dysfunction are a part of everyday life for us. We have just over 10 years of experience and a lot of trial and error, and finding solutions for this one. So this is a part of everyday life for both of us. 

So let’s talk about this…

The first question at hand is, “Has PTSD, TBI, Depression, Dissociative Symptoms, or another medical condition been diagnosed?” If it has, that right there can help! You have a diagnosis, it’s in writing/print by a doctor and if you don’t have a printed copy of it, get one! This can help when memory issues step into life. I’ll explain why a little later in this. 

Next, taking the step to learn everything you can about what comes with that diagnosis is a must. This can help bring understanding as well as steps for one to start accepting (and that can be either person or family member) there is something causing the changes in a person. Acceptance of a diagnoses AND acceptance that that diagnosis is REALLY, TRULY, a part of life now is always the first step that HAS to take place, then learning about the diagnosis and what comes with it.

Memory issues are VERY real to many that have PTSD! They can scare a person very quickly when a loved one is saying, “That’s not what happened, that’s not what was said, that’s not what I/you did” etc. When this takes place, what is real to one person may not seem real to the one with PTSD, then anxiety increases. PTSD is most likely going to bring on “fight or flight”. It can become a vicious PTSD symptom circle. One symptom is going to set off another symptom and in reality, that memory issue where this “seemed” to have started is going to become worse.

So what are things that can cause memory issues? Just saying memory issues can come with PTSD is NOT enough, you have to learn the “why”? I have found over my years of learning and living beside one with PTSD and Depression, you have to learn about the “why” in order to take steps to finding a solution or things that can help.

Let me start with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), if you or your loved one has a TBI the reality is there may very well be memory issues with the brain injury, the brain has sustained an injury which can effect the memory process and how the brain functions. Many who have PTSD may also have a TBI, depending on their trauma. So I did want to mention that up front in case there are both TBI and PTSD diagnosed.

PTSD comes with anxiety. This is one of the largest reasons behind memory issues with PTSD. When anxiety increases, lack of being able to focus and/or concentrate decreases. The higher anxiety becomes, the worse this can get. So in these cases, it’s not a true “memory loss” as many people believe, it’s that the things or conversations taking place are not able to be focused on in order for the brain to process things to memory.

Focus may be on that car that is passing, that person on the side of the road, that noise being heard but not seeing where it’s coming from, a TV being too loud, a child playing in the background, maybe they are working on something and their focus is staying on that one task so they can complete it (very common)… loss of focus or concentration can come from anything when PTSD is in high alert mode and/or increased anxiety, as well as how many things are happening at one time!

Anxiety can increase with really any other PTSD symptom that steps into play at any given time. This is the main reason why no two people seem to have the exact same level of memory issues. It will depend on the level of each person’s symptoms, how they cope or don’t cope with their symptoms (At this time!), how many “what if’s” come to mind in different situations, as well as any other medical conditions which may also be present.

I state “other medical conditions” because the fact is, there may also be something else occurring and if so it cannot be dismissed. BUT not everyone with PTSD will have other things, leave that to your doctor to figure out! Focus on what you know is at hand.

Like with Craig, he has cognitive dysfunction along with PTSD and Depression. His “case” is considered and worded as “complex or complicated” due to the combination of medical conditions at hand.

We were recently explained (and he said I can share this) that the way his brain works is similar to that of one with Alzheimer (I was relating it to dementia type symptoms, but was told it’s more along the lines of relating to Alzheimer symptoms which did make sense once it was explained, even though he does not have Alzheimer.). It’s like having two power lines or circuit wires/cables in the brain, but they do not touch or cross enough for him to relate one thing belongs with another, they parallel each other instead of working together for the brain to function correctly. He has not only short term memory effected, but has also “lost” blocks of long term memory… but when speaking to him you would rarely notice something is wrong with him unless you are around him a lot, then it becomes very noticeable.

Some things that are a daily part of life, in OUR case, just to give you examples include… He loses track in conversations, may change subject in middle of conversation. Forgets things even important to him things. Becomes overwhelmed with making decisions or planning things and carrying out the steps… example is when asked what he wants to eat, his response normally is “I’m not hunger” when in reality you can hear his stomach making sounds and it’s time to eat, or “Whatever”. He does not connect he needs to eat and won’t eat if not “guided” to. Same with drinking fluids. Has trouble finding his way around even in places he is use to, has been known to wander and get lost (and that one is scary). Has trouble remembering people’s names (YES, even with me, the kids, and the animals! You will notice we use the nickname “babe” a lot  that’s his fallback when my name slips his mind, not just a cute nickname  and to ease what it makes him feel like when it happens, we both use the term now.) Has issues with short and long term memory, some things stick or for take a guess how long, others don’t and has blocks of long term memory of things one would normally remember that seem to be completely gone. Anyway, the list is extremely long. BUT we have learned to still live life with these things at hand. They are a different type of normal to us now.

This combined with PTSD and Depression symptoms causes memory issues. So there is more to it in his case, and the reason so many things that can or do work for others, have not been (as) successful with/for him… but we continue working on them.  My point of sharing this is every person is going to be different depending on what combinations of medical conditions are at hand. Some people may have milder issues, some may have more severe.

So… we have some examples of the “why”. Now, how do we get one to realize there is a problem? And what can we do to manage through the memory issues, for whatever the reason(s) they are there?

* First thing to do… 

DO NOT give up on yourself or your PTSD loved one! If Craig and I can learn a new way to live life with these symptoms being at hand, so can YOU!

* Trial and Error 

These are going to be a real part of life! If one thing does not seem to work, you move on to trying something else. Craig and I have not reached the point we have by sitting back and doing nothing.  If something does not work, take a deep breath and focus on “okay, next time I will try [this].” Have patience! You are not going to learn everything overnight, and not everything is going to work on the first try. Also keep in mind that just because something may not have or have worked before does not mean that won’t change! Re-trying things is a huge part of life with PTSD. Errors are going to happen! Have patience with each other and view it as at least one is trying.

* Proof

I found the key for myself to getting through that memory is an issue was by having Craig write a letter to himself AND signing it when symptoms were low. Then I locked that letter away and only brought it out for him to read when nothing else was working during memory issue times. The letter was based around trust, his trust for me and that I won’t lie to him, he wrote to himself to listen to me that I will not mislead him. DO NOT, if you do this, misuse this or you will be tampering with trust and greater issues than memory will be at hand!

It took a lot of trial and error for him to realize memory issues were at hand! It became apparent at work back then… he can’t work now, that something was wrong with him. Mistakes at work that he would have never done before became real life.

I used bank statements, receipts, letters to himself. Other people pointed things out to him (Caution on this one, too many people at one time can trigger flight easily! In our case other people on their own just talked to him about things they noticed. It was NOT a group type intervention or conversation!) Anything to help him see something with him had changed and he was not remembering things. Unfortunately, rock bottom for him came which really brought him to accepting something was wrong. Trust me on this one, NO ONE wants to reach or see a loved one reach rock bottom! If a loved one is trying to talk to you about what they are seeing, PLEASE listen to them!!!!!

Here’s where that printed diagnosis comes in, at times one may have to read that to realize that memory may be at hand. Learn what symptoms really do come with that diagnosis! These things are important. By having the knowledge you can find what helps. But you have to face the facts and have the “facts on the table” in order to take steps forward. Now you see where my saying “facts on the table” came from that I use so often. 

* Communication!

It is HARD to communicate when memory issues step in. Sit down together, breathe, and have patience! Allow each person to say their view of things, uninterrupted. Write them out on paper if need be as you go through them so you can come back and work on each point together. You HAVE to start communicating somewhere! Accept that your views are NOT going to be the same, how could they if memory issues are a part of things? They won’t be. You have to work to find that middle ground so you can start working through things together instead of against each other.

NO ONE wants to face they may not be remembering things! FACT! To that person, they aren’t! One has to come to terms with this may be a part of whatever problems are taking place. It’s not the time for either person to point fingers or allow anger to step in between you. If PTSD is at hand, BOTH of you have to ask, “What else is coming with this?”, so you can work through things together and not against each other. Listen and really hear what each person is saying. There is nothing wrong with NICELY giving each other examples, so you can find a level of understanding. And I will state right now, I don’t take sides. A spouse/partner is not going to be right 100% of the time. There may just be a simple mis-communication at hand at times or difference in views/opinions. TALK!

* Once memory issues are found/recognized to be at hand.

There are MANY things you can do to manage life through these! MANY! Talk to your doctor, ask what things can be tried to help manage PTSD symptoms, learning coping skills and how to manage symptoms is a great start to helping with memory issues or at least reducing them.

Find things to help in daily schedules and life. Reminders, notes (with their name on them! Or they may think they are someone else’s), alarms, calendars, apps, special hooks or baskets for that person’s things… the list is endless! For more ideas on things to help, refer to “my journal” page on my website. I have written many in depth articles on memory and things to help, that we have personally found useful.

Go to my blog (where you are right now)…

A Spouse’s Story PTSD blog 

In the top right corner use the magnifying glass icon which is the search button and type in “memory” or whatever you are looking for. My journal page is always here to use as a reference and all of my writings are on there. 

I hope this helps bring a little more direction and understanding. This is a huge topic and a serious one, it can bring a lot of frustration and a lot of problems between people. There is no way I can write out all of my knowledge on this here in one posting without writing a complete book.  If what is here helps, pass it on to others or a loved one, anything to help! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

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