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“I was a strong person… Before PTSD”

“I was a strong person… Before PTSD”

That is a comment I hear so often, from so many people. I want to tell you all something, that’s PTSD talking to you! It’s what PTSD does. It likes bringing in those negative changes in thoughts and feelings of yourself. A part of PTSD, a symptom, that every single person with PTSD experiences.

But here’s my personal view of things…

PTSD happens to “the best of the best”, the strong ones who have taken everything life has handed them, the traumas that no one should ever have had to experience, and keep on going. The brain just starts saying, “HEY YOU! Slow down, stop, I’m full and I can’t take anymore. Focus on me!”. It goes into a sort of protection mode, and the symptoms are added into it, to you and everyday life.

PTSD does NOT make a strong person weak, it does not mean you are any less of a person than you used to be, it just simply changes life. The road switches paths, the battle changed.

Yes, life has changed since PTSD became a part of it, changes in drastic ways for many. Yes, your focus and the way you do things is different than before. Yes, PTSD is a beast to battle. BUT… YOU are doing it!

To me, seeing firsthand what PTSD does each day and hearing from so many that battle the beast themselves, you are by no means weak or not a strong person anymore. YOU ARE STRONGER!

To battle PTSD every day, to learn how to manage and cope, to teach and learn with others, to at times force a day to be good, to smile when you really don’t want to, to push yourself as far as you can, and make it to the next day… THAT takes a very strong person. You have NOT lost who you were, you have not lost your strength, the battle just changed from what used to be in everyday life.

You know, life is going to change no matter what we do, that’s life and what it brings, there’s no stopping changes. Traumas are difficult to handle no matter what the trauma was experienced, and PTSD just adds a curve ball to the game of life. Don’t ever give up on yourself, don’t ever lose sight of who you really are and what you can do in life… even with PTSD being a part of it.

Always remember… 

“PTSD is a diagnosis, it is not a definition of who you are”

One step forward, two steps back… the PTSD dance, what life now includes… but at least we are still dancing. 😉 You can do this and discover a new normal!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

The Way Things Used To Be… Before PTSD

The Way Things Used To Be… Before PTSD

Super Bowl Sunday, yep it’s this weekend… so I’m being told and see. I talked to an old friend of our’s the other day on the phone, and it really hit me how life has changed by something that was said to me.

I heard, “Wish you were here for the Super Bowl party. I’m fixing wings, etc etc, and everything for the game. I remember all those years of us getting together at your house, wish you guys could be here with us for the game and party.”

Such a simple, kind, comment in reality. It made me feel really good actually and brought back so many great memories. I used to throw a Super Bowl party every year, it was my thing I loved to do! I would fix all of my appetizers… one of my specialties, finger foods and my sausage/cheese dip with chips, lol. I always had something new to make.

We would have friends over, 3-4 families, for the whole weekend, even some from out of town, yes we made a whole weekend of it! It was kind of a rule anyway that if you were drinking you better plan on staying, which everyone enjoyed staying anyway. We would stay up late talking and laughing together. It was always funny to see everyone camped out throughout the house, stepping over people to make my way to the kitchen in the mornings for my coffee. The early birds and I would sit and talk with coffee in hand before getting each day started.

All of the kids would play together… dogs included, the ladies would all gather on the front porch and talk and giggle while the guys were gathered talking about the game and guy stuff, everyone watching over the kids of course, they were younger back then. Then we would all come back together off and on. We would cook throughout the weekend, everyone chipping in to help. It was always a really fun weekend!

But then I got to thinking. Super Bowl Sunday, this weekend, and I honestly did not even know who is playing this year!!! Then my mind really started thinking. We did not even watch one football game this season!

Life sure changed when PTSD stepped into it. I can’t even recall the last time we had a gathering at our place… and we used to be the ones throwing the parties. I guess we can call it a fumble in life, of sorts, lol. It is what it is and we just have to do our best each day.

So, my thinking then went deeper. So we won’t be having that wonderful gathering of friends, the giggles and chuckles, and oh the glasses of wine or drinks lol… like we use to have together, the stepping over people to get to my coffee, or the kids playing football in the yard. So the house will be quiet. So I did not know who was even playing! That’s okay!

But you know what?… I think I WILL make that great sausage/cheese dip and thaw that slab of ribs I have in the freezer and crank up the grill! Come game day I will turn on the tv to the game, and out of the dark pick a team to yell for! I can cheer on a team now, I can get into the game, lol! 😉

Just because PTSD has changed life does not mean life does not exist in some way! 😉 You just alter things a bit!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Don’t break cupid’s arrows just yet! 😉

I have already had people coming to me regarding Valentines Day approaching. Oh boy, here it comes, that “love” kissy kissy share those feelings of romance day of the year. The day where many, especially spouses/partners, want some type of “normal”, expectations, or at least have the thoughts of! Those with PTSD, at least many, are already cringing and avoidance is on the rise. I’m already seeing and hearing about it from both sides of the fence.

If I had to choose one “holiday” of the year that seems to effect a relationship containing PTSD more than any other, this would be it!

There is no blame or finger pointing at either person. It all boils down to human nature as well as life with PTSD. But, it does not make this day coming any easier to get through.

Even a spouse that has no expectations for Valentines Day can have those feelings of “want” for some type of normal for that day. Especially when you see all of the stores filled with red hearts and romantic things, then your friends on social media posting what their day is like. The natural reaction of the brain is to wish you had some type of normal too.

Then there’s the PTSD side of things. Even if a spouse says nothing about Valentines Day, those with PTSD see the same things regarding that day is approaching, they may even place the expectations upon themselves. Then all of those negative changes in thoughts start rolling in, the numb feelings, avoidance increases, other symptoms may increase right along with it. Then the feelings and thoughts of “I can’t give her/him that” or “I can’t be what she/he wants me to be” slide right in and take over.

Valentines Day is one that Craig and I used to celebrate, not because it was expected but because it was fun! I would cook one of his favorite meals and we would eat dinner at home, we would get each other a little something special. So what if it’s considered a “Hallmark Holiday” and benefits the stores lol, it was fun having a day where we could express in a different than every other day how we feel.

Then PTSD stepped into our lives and everything changed.

It bothered me, in a way, for a few years when the day came around, missing what was our normal, what we had done for years. Then I realized that dwelling was not helping me or him! I had to accept that life is what it is, and anything that does come will just be a delightful surprise. 😉 I could not change me, who I am, or what I like to do just because PTSD had/has changed Craig.

My kids reached their teenage years and I found that I liked setting up Valentines Day stuff for them. Carrying on the day’s tradition in a different way. Craig and I will still have our special meal too though, and I accepted that just having him here with me really was and is enough for me. It goes back to “tomorrow is never promised”, something that really became a strong meaning the first time I experienced him wanting to die, so every day he is a part of my life is special to me no matter what the day brings.

But that’s just my personal thoughts and how I now handle things. There are things that can still be done for those that would like to still experience or try to accomplish some of the expectations or wants that Valentines Day brings… for either of you and you as a couple.

So here are some things that may help:

* Motions lead to Emotions

The largest thing on everyone’s side. 😉 Even through numb feelings and everything that #PTSD does bring to life, even through feeling worn out or overwhelmed (spouses included) you can still experience the motions. Even when the thoughts or feelings seem to be masked by PTSD and what life has held, you can still say that extra “I love you” or write it in a note or make a card, you can still sit together and have a meal, watch a movie at home together, or something out of your daily normal routine without stepping beyond what you CAN do.

Light a few candles at dinner time and turn the lights down or off! 😉 Women like romance lol (now I’m not trying to be gender specific here, there are many men that like romance too, so please don’t take me pointing out to guys personally when I use “her”, it really could go for either person), there’s just no getting around that whether you are having those feeling or not. And anything you do, it does not have to be something far fetched beyond your reach to provide it. Hold her hand during that movie or put your arm around her. Motions can be simple things that bring a lot of power and feelings with them. 😉 And you might be shocked at how good it feels to YOU when you see a smile from your spouse/partner, it can sure help change those negative feelings and thoughts of yourself around. Motions lead to accomplishing things! No matter how great or small things may seem. Which leads to another option…

* Make a special “date night” at home

There is nothing wrong with spending the day at home together! In reality it may make for a better day/night, you can avoid the crowds, extra anxiety, set schedules, and be in your comfortable space. 😉 You might discover you actually enjoy it better than going out, you are doing nothing more than setting your own pace for the day/night, and in a comfort zone.

* Intimacy

Nope can’t leave this one out… it’s the day of “love” lol. Please keep in mind that intimacy does not only mean sex! Intimacy is any form of closeness. I will skip details 😉 and just say “use your imagination”! 😉

* Don’t let expectations outweigh how you really feel about each other!

Expectations bring pressure, pressure brings on stress and anxiety, and those things can lead to a not so good day. Do not push expectations on each other or push yourself beyond your limits, they are no more than forced things that can lead to no where good when PTSD is a part of life.

* If you do go out

Once back home, allow the one with PTSD to relax a little, have a little down or alone time to recover from making it out of the house. Then carry on with your evening after that if you want to.

* Let any recent conflicts go!

Hard one I know, but give yourselves a break! Life does contain PTSD and not every day is going to be happiness and joy. Agree that for this day you are going to just be together and let go of any conflicts for this one day. Reality is 😉 you might realize that those conflicts should not have taken place to begin with, and this can give you a new start.

* Place your focus

Keep in mind your partner’s thoughts and feelings. You will be shocked at what this can do! Tell yourself, “No matter what I am feeling today, I’m going to place my focus on my loved one”. This goes for BOTH of you! Think of what they may like, how they feel, how you feel about them, and roll with it! I mean seriously, you are together for a reason, you care about each other for a reason, don’t dismiss those things. Use them to your advantage, you might just find those things help put PTSD in it’s place and remind both of you how your relationship can be and does actually contain. You might just see that person you have been missing, EITHER one of you! 😉 A little attention focused on each other can go a long way.

Okay, reality is you can use these things in everyday life, but since that “V” day of the year is approaching, these are simply things to think about. And you have a couple of weeks still before that day gets here. 😉 Try to make the day about enjoying each other’s time and HAVE FUN with it! Everyone needs a fun break now and then, and many times that does not just come, you have to make it… put those motions into action. 😉

Face PTSD head on and let it know that this day is not it’s day. It’s YOURS! Well, okay reality, at least give it a try. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Stress and PTSD

Stress and PTSD

Well, that’s a given isn’t it!

Stress is one of the things that Craig and I have been told time and time again that he needs to avoid in every way possible, which I know many others have been told the same thing. Think about it. That’s in reality a very difficult thing to do. We are talking about life, everyday life in general, and then disabilities themselves mixed in there.

Just with PTSD alone think of what the symptoms are and what they bring. Nightmares, bring stress. Lack of sleep, brings stress. Avoidance, brings stress. Anxiety, brings stress. Triggers and flashbacks, bring stress. Negative changes in thoughts, feelings, emotions of one’s self or others or the world itself at times, bring stress. Guilt and/or Survivor’s guilt, bring stress. The trauma(s) itself, brings stress. And the list goes on. PTSD… “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Oh look, there’s that term “stress”.

Then take all of the symptoms and add them to everyday life and trying to manage it, trying to be the best you can be, trying to function as normal as possible, trying to maintain relationships with family, friends, people in general. The mind can become easily unsettled, even overwhelmed, by simple things. So you can imagine what more important things, issues, or must handle situations can bring to one? It can cause one to shut down, become stuck, and not be able to function.

To those of you that understand PTSD and what it is, you are probably thinking “What is Bec writing? Of course PTSD is all about trauma and stress.” 😉

But what about those that do not understand, or brush off what stress does to someone with PTSD?

It becomes an additional battlefield for the one with PTSD, as well as their spouse/partner… and in many cases their advocate. Stress is the one thing that is always there, but at the same time stress has to be managed, and many situations even avoided. Because it’s what is in the best interest of the one with PTSD. You have to maintain a healthy balance and environment.

Some people look at the suicide rates linked to PTSD alone, they are in awe over the high numbers. But yet what is being done to help? What is each person doing or not doing? What can help make life better? What can help a person get to the best point they can get physically and mentally?

Many spouses/partners are in the shoes of, well, playing referee. Many do see and know what external stress can bring to their loved one with PTSD. They know what it also adds to their own life, as well as their family. When stressful events occur or even the “what if’s” of what may be coming, for one with PTSD, symptoms are going to increase. Then the vicious cycle of managing those symptoms continues.

Many people wonder why many of those with PTSD have difficulties leaving the house, many cannot work or are limited, many have a “safe room” that they can retreat to when needed. Many are disconnected from others. Avoidance is a very real part of life with PTSD, and a symptom.

Those with PTSD do try! They really do not want to be a hermit closed off from society or that stays locked away in a room. They WANT to be and feel normal, like they used to. But PTSD does bring a serious challenge, much of the time.

When PTSD becomes a part of someone’s life, life changes, it’s the reality of life with PTSD. You learn different ways of wording things, you have to tune the communication skills, you have to learn how to manage the symptoms and learn coping skills, you learn safety protocol… as we call it here, you learn signs of depression and suicide, as well as what to do when or if they come, and much more.

The “normal” you knew for that person cannot be expected from them any longer. It does not mean they can’t do anything or are helpless, it just means life has changed and does have to be handled and managed differently. You will still get glimpses from time to time of the person you knew before PTSD, enjoy those times when they come, but you cannot expect them to remain that way all of the time. You can not dismiss that PTSD has become a part of life, and with that a new normal forms.

Which brings us back to stress. When one cannot accept that PTSD is a part of a person’s life now, and that life has changed, it is going to bring additional stress. Why? Because the expectations you hold are going to be too high for one to accomplish or if they can it will not be permanent. Another reason if you see one with PTSD, and you are not living with them, I can pretty much guarantee you are seeing them on a “good” day, because they do not like you seeing their rough days.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times over the years I have seen external, as in outside our home, stressful situations brought on where they lead Craig to “shutting down” or pushed towards that and I had to step in for the best interest of his health. Which of course I don’t mind doing if need be. But the fact is if people would just think once in awhile and take the time to learn, and face the facts, there are many situations that could be avoided all together to where a certain amount of stress is deleted.

Craig and I had a situation recently, well reality is it’s been an on going battle off and on over the years but came up again and this time came to a head. His docs had already said he won’t be able to handle this type of stress so in the best interest of his health, it was put off again. Our focus HAS to be on his health. He gave up, shut down, became completely numb, and just could not handle the stress of fighting for what was right anymore, several months back, again.

Recently I noticed it weighing on him again. There it was, like this demon haunting him. This was a fight that he wanted to try to do himself, but it became too much. He shut down again. I also saw that at times he would try to push himself hard but would feel like a failure when he could not manage getting things done. Honestly, shutting down is probably the best thing for him at this point, but he can’t stay there, something had to be done. This cycle had to stop!

So as his advocate it was time for me to really step in heavy on this from a different angle than we had tried before, because those ways obviously got us nowhere good, and not just help out but to see if I could get this done, so this burden on him could be done and over with. I thought about it carefully, talked to several people, weighed the options to what the best and less stressful path would be on Craig, and I took it this past week.

I know that this “battle” we will call it without stating details, has to end, it’s been going on way too long (off and on as we could face it and dependent on Craig’s health, what he could or could not handle at the moment) and there has to be an outcome. If it was completely avoided and left alone, just let go, I have already seen the stress and guilt it has been causing Craig or how it leads him to completely shutting down, so I can only imagine what more would come to him by just letting it go completely. I can’t let that happen. Our focus HAS to be on his health.

I took my leap on Thursday with fingers and toes crossed that someone would hear my voice and my cry for help with this “battle” of Craig’s. To my total shock I was heard, the very same day I asked for help, after years of trying someone listened. I heard back from another person on Friday. We don’t have an outcome yet, but something is actually taking place and it’s not a stagnant situation of “what if’s” or “failure” or “ok we need to handle that again” anymore. No matter what the outcome is, it’s going to finally be over, at least that’s the hope.

This is one of those situations that in reality should have never existed, but this is life and things happen. My point of telling this is life with PTSD does and will come with stress of many different forms.

If you are not the one with PTSD, please keep in mind that what you do, how you act or react, and taking the time to learn will matter. Do not place additional stress on others, especially if they have a life large battle they are already having to manage. Please take the time to learn so you can form good relations instead of causing undue stress on another. If you are the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner, you have to figure out what is the best way to handle things, what is going to be in the best interest of your health, and always know that if you can’t seem to find what works best… ASK FOR HELP! 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

PTSD and Dissociation (Dissociative Symptoms)

PTSD and Dissociation (Dissociative Symptoms)

It was brought to my attention yesterday after my dissociation or sleepwalking and PTSD question that many do not know what dissociation or dissociative symptoms are. These are important terms to understand when it comes to PTSD, because it “may” explain some of the unexplained for many.

I will be right up front on this one, if your loved one with PTSD does experience these symptoms, this is going to be the hardest part of PTSD to wrap your head around! You NEED to learn about this.

The DSM-5 has included “dissociative symptoms” to PTSD.

I want to start by saying right up front, dissociation/symptoms does not mean a person experiences the symptoms of it ALL of the time. It does NOT mean they are a bad person. It means there is indeed a “why” to things which may be happening.

Many times with PTSD people act in ways that “are not themselves” AT TIMES. Things that don’t add up from the basic symptoms of PTSD. This is one of the hardest things to get your head around, so to speak. Especially when you knew that person before PTSD and what they were like, how they acted or didn’t act, their morals, etc. in comparison to now. AGAIN, this is not something that is experienced 24/7, this can happen to the most loving, caring, respected people there are, and can happen from a trigger or when they are overwhelmed, rhyme and reasons to when this may happen do not always fit with this so to speak.. it seems to normally happen during high stress situations but not limited to those times.

In all my years being around PTSD, I have heard the term “dissociated” used once in awhile and even seen it in medical reports, “dissociative symptoms”, however it’s never been explained to us and never pointed out as something to really think about or look into, it’s been one of those “just another term” used.

So I started doing more research into it. I’m by no means an expert on the topic, and sure not a doctor wink emoticon , but found it may bring a lot of understanding to others by having/knowing this information. If it was not explained to us, I’m sure there are many others that might be in the same boat.

Now, mind you, there is a lot to this and many different levels, also not everyone with PTSD may experience this as well. But it might be a huge light bulb to many. Dissociation is a very difficult condition to understand or wrap your head around! It does take research, talking to your doctors, and learning how to accept that it may be a part of what one with PTSD experiences. The good news is, in many cases dissociation can be treated with psychotherapy and at times medications, and symptoms can decrease or change as different coping skills are learned.

The most commonly known types of PTSD which dissociative disorders are seen, are “chronic PTSD” (which is actually what Craig has) and “complex PTSD”. The highest numbers to develop dissociative disorders are those of child abuse, long-term sexual and/or emotional abuse. However, anyone with PTSD or one who has experienced a trauma may experience dissociation…war, natural disaster, assault, car accident, etc and can be an adult or child when developing the symptoms. There are also other mental health conditions which dissociation can also co-occur.

Again, I’m not a doctor or in any medical field… I’m just another spouse of one with PTSD. So I do advise you to do your research and talk with your doctor on this subject if you or a loved one feels this might be something you may be experiencing.

Let’s start with what “dissociation” is.

“Your sense of reality and who you are depend on your feelings, thoughts, sensations, perceptions and memories. If these become ‘disconnected’ from each other, or don’t register in your conscious mind, your sense of identity, your memories, and the way you see things around you will change. This is what happens during dissociation.”mind.org.uk

Everyone can experience a “normal” range of dissociation to one extreme or another. It could be something as simple as getting “lost” within a movie where you feel you are there experiencing it yourself for example, daydreaming, while driving a common route not realizing how far you have gone or what was along the way to where you are now. So this is common with everyone to some extent.

However there are more serious cases which involve one who has suffered a trauma rather it’s child abuse, a natural disaster, combat, assault, etc. All the traumas linked to PTSD.

Dissociation is a psychological term used when one suffers a mental absence from reality. Even though dissociation is not considered a mental disorder in every case, ones with PTSD as well as acute stress disorder, and conversion disorder (what Craig was originally diagnosed with) can have the symptoms of dissociation.

The human brain stores traumatic events/memories in a different way then normal memories in some cases. With dissociation, the memories are what they refer to as “split off” and can surface from time to time or triggered into consciousness without warning. Over time there are two sets of memories, normal and trauma, which parallel each other without coming together, and the person does not have control over them or when they surface. In extreme dissociation cases it can lead to multiple personalities (DID: Dissociative Identity Disorder), however again, there are different levels of dissociation and not all are to that extreme even though this seems to be very commonly related to traumatic events. And, just to note, dissociation does not mean you are crazy! It means your brain is handling things in a different way. In a way that it is “protecting” you.

Now I will say, a lot of research has been based off of childhood development (some type of trauma that happened normally before the age of 9 years old) however, there have been newer studies (2012) showing that dissociation can very well form as an adult not related to the development stage of one’s youth, due to a trauma as an adult such as combat.

So, What are Dissociative Disorders?

To accurately explain, I am using excerpts from the Mayo Clinic website and PsychCentral website… the professionals.

“Someone with a dissociative disorder escapes reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy. The person with a dissociative disorder experiences a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity.

The symptoms of dissociative disorders — ranging from amnesia to alternate identities — depend in part on the type you have. Symptoms usually develop as a reaction to trauma and help keep difficult memories at bay. Times of stress can temporarily worsen symptoms, making them more obvious. Dissociative disorders cause problems with functioning in everyday life.

Treatment for dissociative disorders may include talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication. Although treating dissociative disorders can be difficult, many people learn new ways of coping and lead healthy, productive lives.” (Excerpt from Mayo Clinic staff, mayoclinic.org)

What are the different types of Dissociative Disorders?

“There are three major dissociative disorders defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association:

Dissociative amnesia. 

The main symptom of this disorder is memory loss that’s more severe than normal forgetfulness and that can’t be explained by a medical condition. You can’t recall information about yourself or events and people in your life, especially from a traumatic time. Dissociative amnesia can be specific to events in a certain time, such as intense combat, or more rarely, can involve complete loss of memory about yourself. It may sometimes involve travel or confused wandering away from your life (dissociative fugue). An episode of amnesia may last minutes, hours, or, rarely, months or years.

Dissociative identity disorder. (DID)

This disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by “switching” to alternate identities. You may feel the presence of one or more other people talking or living inside your head, and you may feel as though you’re possessed by other identities. Each of these identities may have a unique name, personal history and characteristics, including obvious differences in voice, gender, mannerisms and even such physical qualities as the need for eyeglasses. There also are differences in how familiar each identity is with the others. People with dissociative identity disorder typically also have dissociative amnesia and often have dissociative fugue.

Depersonalization-derealization disorder. 

This disorder involves an ongoing or episodic sense of detachment or being outside yourself — observing your actions, feelings, thoughts and self from a distance as though watching a movie (depersonalization). Other people and things around you may feel detached and foggy or dreamlike, and the world may seem unreal (derealization). You may experience depersonalization, derealization or both. Symptoms, which can be profoundly distressing, may last only a few moments or come and go over many years.” (Excerpt frommayoclinic.org)

The other two are…

“Dissociative Fugue

Like dissociative amnesia, dissociative, fugue also is characterized by sudden onset resulting from a single severe traumatic event. Unlike dissociative amnesia, however, dissociative fugue may involve the creation of a new, either partial or complete, identity to replace the personal details that are lost in response to the trauma. A person with this disorder will remain alert and oriented, yet be unconnected to the former identity. Dissociative fugue may also be characterized by sudden, unplanned wandering from home or work. Typically, the condition consists of a single episode without recurrence, and recovery is often spontaneous and rapid.

Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) is an inclusive category for classifying dissociative syndromes that do not meet the full criteria of any of the other dissociative disorders. A person diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) typically displays characteristics very similar to some of the previously discussed dissociative disorders, but not severe enough to receive their diagnoses. DDNOS includes variants of Dissociative Identity Disorder in which personality “states” may take over consciousness and behavior but are not sufficiently distinct, and variants of Dissociative identity disorder in which there is no amnesia for personal information. Other forms of DDNOS include possession and trance states, Ganser’s syndrome, derealization unaccompanied by depersonalization, dissociated states in people who have undergone intense coercive persuasion (e.g., brainwashing, kidnapping), and loss of consciousness not attributed to a medical condition.” (Excerpt from: psychcentral.com, In-Depth: Understanding Dissociative Disorders By MARLENE STEINBERG, M.D.)

Now that we know a little more based on professional information, dissociative disorders and/or symptoms are very real, and when they accompany PTSD, well, it will throw you for a loop and then some whether you are the one with PTSD or the spouse/partner… until you learn about them, understand them the best possible, and learn better alternatives of coping.

Craig and I know these symptoms, if you think back to some of the personal stories I have written, then compare them to the symptoms and definitions, you will see the connections. Yes, he did things and acted in ways that were completely out of his character. Yes, he would wander and later have no knowledge of it or not know where he had been. Yes, he has “lost” memory or gaps. There are a lot of things that fit that he has experienced, without going into all of them.

Those “out of control PTSD” days, as I call them… yes dissociation had it’s hand in them in ways that in reality should have torn us apart! But you know what? We did not allow that to happen. When Craig started receiving treatment for PTSD, and they started him on medications and put him through (ongoing) therapy, I’ve noticed a huge change in dissociative symptoms, they have decreased as he has learned healthy coping skills.

Let’s jump to some of the largest subjects I see and to examples of dissociation. You know when you say “he/she isn’t acting like themselves” or “why did they do that, they would have never done that”…

One thing I hear from others a lot… “He/She’s a pathological liar”

Oh there’s one of the largest misconceptions with PTSD! Which could in a lot of cases, not every case due to other symptoms or personality traits, but many may be linked to dissociation. I commonly refer to it as “filling in the blanks” when one with PTSD does not recall the truth or what really happened. So, many times will “fill in the blanks” with what they believe is real or facts. Again, this does NOT happen all of the time, it only occurs when dissociation occurs which can be random or triggered by something.

Here is what actually happens.

The difference between one that lies, because we all know there are ones that do just lie out there, and one that dissociates, is ones that dissociate believe what they are saying as the truth, the “lies” are emotionally accurate to them based on what they are feeling rather there are accurate facts involved or not.

The one that dissociates sometimes believe feelings over the actual facts, what they feel at that very moment becomes facts to them. Then when their mood changes they might very well rearrange facts to be more consistent with the way they feel. Thus leading to others viewing them as “the liar who’s story changed.”

One that truly lies, knows they lied, they know and understand what actually happened or why they lied. See the difference now?

Then comes the confrontation! When one that dissociates is faced with hard evidence of what actually took place. This relates to my saying “they will fight to their death they didn’t lie.” In truth, because to them, they didn’t! Their “truth” is based on their feelings of what they feel is real, and not always to the hard facts.

However, there is hope in these situations. If the hard evidence is enough, one can adjust their opinions and views to see the facts before them. I hate to say, with PTSD this can very well bring on the fight or flight, so watch how this is handled and handle it as calmly as possible IF it’s something that needs to be addressed, remember to them, their reality is it never happened.

An example of the “twisted truth” could be money they spent and swear they didn’t spend it. But in fact there are bank or credit cards records to prove the hard facts, but in their true belief they did not spend a dime. In this example the hard evidence might or might not appear as facts to them. If not, save it for later, if one is experiencing a dissociative state you need to wait to address important things. A dissociative episode will pass once their brain has handled whatever stress was at hand.

I hate to say, dissociation can be very destructive to those who suffer from it as well as those close to them. Dissociation goes beyond the common errors, self-indulgent denial, or fantasy. It can be very pervasive without a logical explanation or conclusion and can harm your quality of life in many ways. Dissociation can make one appear very irrational, illogical, and cause them to shrug off important things as if they don’t exist as well as have a false reality to things that don’t exist. False memories can form, be altered, or even rearranged at any given time, dissociation also comes with memory lapses or gaps in the memory forming a sense of memory issues to appear and they can also have amnesia where nothing is remembered at all.

Some examples include:

* Telling a story multiple times, but the facts in the story changes.

* They might mirror someone’s else’s story or experience as if that story were their own.

* Opposite, they might view their own story or experience as if it were someone else’s.

* When confronted with facts they may ignore them or swear they are not true or real. (Such as spending money)

* They might commit an immoral or unethical act and refuse to believe they did it. (Such as cheating) When in fact it is not something in their character to do.

* They might not remember an important event which happened or other times recall/speak of something that didn’t really take place.

This all can be very frustrating or frightening to someone who lives with a person who dissociates… can you imagine how the one who does experience it feels??? I can imagine the word “lost” comes to mind.

When one is dissociating, it is hard for a loved one to have a logical debate or argument, persuasion and reasoning will very rarely come into play. And it’s not something that they are going to just “snap out of”, just like with PTSD itself. If you refer to your loved one with the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” theory, you might just have a little more then PTSD at hand. So it’s something to really think about and look into, because it is very real. In other words, they are not making this up!

Dissociation can also be a part of why people walk away from you or your loved one. It goes back to one believing you are telling lies. Stories can change and people can start not trusting what you say. They normally won’t confront you on things, they just simply stop coming around. One of the hardest things in life when in reality you both need a support system. If dissociation does come along with your PTSD, it might be best to explain it to others so your support system stays in place. It is something very difficult to understand, but very much a need to know situation.

One important thing to keep in mind. Remember that the person who experiences dissociation does not realize what they are doing when these episodes happen. As a loved one, don’t try to get back at them for what they did or said, when they are in this state don’t argue with them… agree to disagree and talk about it another time. It goes back to what we are taught… will that effect me 5 years from now, 10 years from now, is there really an urgency to discuss it right now this moment when they are not going to be able to be rational about the conversation? Sometimes you are going to be better off to address a topic later when they are not dissociative, or if it’s not urgent, just let it go!

You may also struggle with memory lapses or fragmented memory. This can play a huge toll on everyday life, work, school, and relationships. You might forget something you studied, a learned skill, appointments, etc. and also leads and adds to feelings of being disconnected form others. It can bring that feeling of floating outside of yourself wondering who that person is you are looking at, the “this is not reality” feeling. It can cause you to be confused, and can even cause you to become unsure about boundaries between yourself and others.

Like I said there is a lot more that goes with this then I could possibly write here, but this will give you a bases to start learning from and let you know that this might be a possibility in your situation. There are many different levels of dissociation from minor, even normal, to severe, and many more details.

Now, there is something different here then with PTSD itself, there have been reports showing that dissociation is or can be “curable” in many cases. So if this is something that you feel has become or MAY be a part of your life, PLEASE contact your doctor and see what they feel/think or what they feel will help.

The whole key to me writing this boils down to “Don’t jump to conclusions”! If your loved one is not acting like themselves, the person you know, other than the “normal” symptoms of PTSD itself, then find out why! PTSD is caused by a trauma and affects one in many ways, but with that trauma might come other things as well. Dissociation is a form of “guarding” one’s self, survival so to speak, which is not controlled by them, and may very well come with PTSD.

Dissociation or symptoms of are NOT excuses, they are or can be ones brain’s self-preservation reality from extreme stress or trauma related triggers.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

PTSD: Sleepwalking or Dissociative like episodes with Night Terrors

PTSD: Sleepwalking or Dissociative like episodes with Night Terrors 

This is a topic we actually got on in another posting regarding binge eating at night, unknowingly, when awakened from nightmares/night terrors.

This is something that I am actually very familiar with and “seems” to be what Craig has been experiencing since his PTSD anniversary time back in October, when PTSD and Depression symptoms were higher than everyday normal.

We could not figure why Craig was experiencing weight gain, especially when I am the one that monitors his eating, and makes sure he eats. His cognitive dysfunction does not allow his brain to relate feeling/being hungry to the need to eat. For awhile we thought it was medication related and lack of exercise, which reality is part may be related, however not to this extent.

Then it happened. He was found in the kitchen at night after being awoken we will say, from a nightmare/terror. He was eating all sorts of things, and had no recollection of even getting out of bed, and sure did not know he was up eating. It was not like normal sleepwalking. He was fully alert… and sure could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich… one right after the other.

So we kept a close eye on him throughout the nights to follow after discovering this. This is part of the reasoning behind us taking shifts sleeping, when I sleep he stays near me and does not leave so I can get sleep, when he sleeps I’m awake. Physical nightmares are the other reason behind this “for now” sleep shifts pattern, which we are working on changing and getting back to a better normal.

Sure enough, I noticed he would be having a physical nightmare, terror I believe would be the correct term for it, very stressed, then he would come up out of the bed and head to the kitchen.

For awhile I could not understand why when I woke in the mornings, there would be food out on the counters, bread left open, and there were those pb&j containers sitting there, along with other things. I honestly thought one of the kids were getting up at night, until we discovered it was actually Craig. But, he had absolutely no memory of it, to him he never got out of bed and had slept the entire night.

So we spoke to the doctors regarding it. It still has not been defined as dissociative episodes or sleepwalking and night terrors. However, since PTSD symptoms have decreased some, and we are past the PTSD anniversary time frame, this binge eating unknowingly at night has eased off as well.

After hearing that someone else has witnessed something similar from their PTSD loved one, I thought this was a good topic to touch on. You know how it is, if one person experiences it, there are probably more that do as well… and may think they are alone in what they are experiencing.

I located a study this morning that I wanted to pass along to those interested in reading it. I found it quite interesting and relates to this topic. The examples are civilian, but I have a feeling it really does not make a difference of trauma type a person experienced. Now, I do know that Craig’s has nothing to do with any childhood trauma, his traumas were all military related (respectfully, without going into details of his traumas, because there are traumas he has not told publicly.)

“Is there a dissociative process in sleepwalking and night terrors?”
D Hartman, A H Crisp, P Sedgwick, S Borrow
Postgraduate Medical Journal

It will be interesting to see if others with PTSD experience night terrors and sleepwalking. Also, are dissociative episodes common during the day as well or not, if you experience this.

(To see comments by others please visit my facebook page for this posting)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Habits and PTSD

Habits and PTSD

We got on this subject this morning and I thought it was something different to talk about regarding PTSD. What about the “habits” that form once PTSD is a part of life?

We know the common ones… checking locks on doors and windows, looking out the window at every different sound, pacing, to name a few. But what about other things?

I mentioned that Craig picks at or bites his finger nails when anxiety starts to increase or he becomes unsettled, to the point he does not have nails. You know, as a spouse you can only say “Please stop biting your nails” so much before it becomes irritating to PTSD, or “Remember your coping skills”. So it’s important to find other ways of addressing habits as well.

I had noticed that when Craig’s anxiety starts to increase or he feels unsettled, before he goes for the nails, he messes with his medical ID bracelet but it does not hold his attention for very long. But it did give me another idea. That watch I just bought him. wink emoticon It might hold his attention a little longer since it does have moving parts he could focus on etc. We will see if it can be a combo with his coping skills to help. wink emoticon

Another thing that is common is the leg shaking. I can spot someone with PTSD and/or anxiety a mile away by that leg that is on the move. It is a common occurrence for many when symptoms increase and one is feeling on edge.

So… Here’s a couple of questions for you…

What are so called “habits” that you have noticed have formed since PTSD became a part of life? And, How do you handle or manage them?

Those questions can be for EITHER the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner. Oh yes, spouses can form different habits too from their normal.

Thank you for your input and for letting others know they are not alone! (Please visit my facebook page for comments by others)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Category: Anxiey/Hyperarousal, Uncategorized  Tags: ,  Comments off

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

I have had a few comments come to me about “balance”, and a few made me realize that there is more to talk about regarding this subject.

I have to add my note here… I am not a doctor of any sort or in any medical field, the information I bring to you is based on our personal experiences, opinions, and what we have learned along the way in this life journey. I am simply a spouse and a caregiver of one with PTSD, depression, and other medical conditions… that brings awareness and support to others through our personal lives.

Balance is a word that I use a lot. Okay, more than a lot, more like all of the time, it’s extremely important to me and more than just a word, it’s a part of life. It’s a word that in reality years ago I did not even think about, and sure had no need to use that word (so I thought), I did not realize that it was even something that existed when it came to “life”… or was needed. When I heard others use the words “balance” and “energy”, was another, I just tossed them to the side, “What? I don’t need those!” I was one of those people just like many others that just loved life, and life was something you just lived. So why does this thing called “balance” need to be a part of it? It was a word, that back then, I myself dismissed.

After PTSD and other medical conditions became a part of our lives, I learned really fast what “unbalance” was! That foot-loose, carefree, just love and live life to it’s fullest person I was, changed! All of a sudden everything in life became serious, things happening brought an urgency, and along with that came worry, anxiety, panic, discomfort, fear, emotional hurt, and the list could keep going. That’s what I myself was experiencing, and I’m not the one with PTSD, Craig is! None of these things were me, they hurt, and I had to find this crazy thing called balance again. Then, take all of those negative things and add what PTSD brings for those who do have it, WOW, that’s overwhelmingly a lot!

It took a life experience, okay we had many experiences to the point it seemed like we were in a life altering bad experience avalanche, for me to realize and start understanding that life does indeed NEED a balance. It does not matter if your life is “good” or in the “trenches of hell”, that term “balance” and putting it to use, can change things.

Let me back up for a second, I used the term “hell”. I do not use or say that word very often. So if you hear it, it’s serious and here’s my view of what that means. It is the deepest, darkest, no view of a way out pit, black hole, that one falls in where no matter what you do, you just seem to keep falling further and lost in what is happening. There’s no light, there’s no hope, and that place will push you to want to give up. A place lacking balance. Okay, that’s “hell” to me, you get my point.

Back to balance. I was recently told, “I’m glad you found and have a balance in your relationship, wish we had that…” I stopped what I was doing when I read that, and I really sat back and thought about it and the way it was used in a paragraph. I did not take it in a negative way by any means, but the way it was said was a little misleading of a thought to what balance is for Craig and I. As well as what it takes and comes with it.

Balance is not something that you get or find, and then it just stays there. Balance takes constant work, a lot of energy and time, effort, it takes a “give and take” when it comes to the relationship, which is difficult with PTSD being a real part of life and what it does bring. And there are times, many times, that balance is not present and we have to work to get it back, or some sort of back that we can manage and live with, for whatever length of time it remains. It’s a constant effort, which we both are human and life does contain PTSD, it will slip at times. That’s when communication on a calm level has to take place so we know how each other feels and we can work at developing a balance again.

Then there is still the fact that I am in a caregiver role, Craig has very real life medical conditions to where i have to help him, which means there is not and will not be an equal balance in our relationship, again we had to find a balance that was comfortable for us, and continue working on balance itself. I had to let go of what was our balance or normal before the medical conditions, and accept that our balance changed when life changed, reality, when Craig changed. His brain and the way it functions, does not allow for an equal balance, at least not as of yet and it’s something we continue to work on. That acceptance is what helps us have a balance, our type of balance.

There’s not high expectations, or an expectation that things will be equal, the only expectations at hand are he is to try and do his best, and we work together. And of course PTSD and everything that comes with it does try us on it. It is a constant effort, as well as neither of us giving up on each other or giving in to PTSD. Balance is not something that comes easy, it does take hard work and effort, as well as keeping in mind that his brain does not fire/spark/function like it use to. Which again, is something that we continue to work on because there is always that chance he can be better than he is today, only time holds the answer to that one.

Then you have personal balance. Now, this one I have pretty much mastered, if there even is such a thing. However, I am human and at times I will lose my self balance for a moment (just like anyone else). That’s when I have to reflect on myself, who or how I truly am, whatever experiences or situations were at hand, use my coping skills, take time to think, then approach and/or talk about what happened… address the situation or why I became unbalanced. I learned that pointing fingers gets you no where good, excuses are not a part of this process it’s about explaining so you can move forward together and understand each other, repair the unbalance, as well as the relationship with whomever is involved. And at times it is just simply me that may have become overwhelmed, lost focus, or just simply having a bad day. Accepting and admitting without dwelling on self blame or with guilt, along with everything else I did, mentioned above, when a human unbalance comes, is how I find my balance again. Again, it takes effort, work, as well as reflecting on yourself… and either person can learn to do this.

“I can’t” to me does not exist when it comes to finding a balance, whether it’s in a relationship with your partner or others (work, family, friends, society), or a personal balance. You just have to learn how to, recognize it is important to have, accept reality of what is at hand, build and learn from your life experiences as well as relationships.

It is going to be more difficult for those with PTSD, because PTSD has in reality brought an unbalance that you are still learning to manage, no matter how long it’s been a part of your life. You also have to include the way each person’s brain works, and realize that you can continue developing it, no matter what age you are. I am a firm believer that there is always something else that can be done, it may take time to find what works or to understand how, but never lose hope, there is something.

We know that PTSD does not just go away, some may be able to place it in a box, but the reality is it is still there and only takes one trigger to bring it back out. Life changed, for each of us. But as I always state, “Life can get better than it may be today.” And finding some sort of new balance or new normal, will help. While remembering that each of us are human, we will become unbalanced at times, but it does not mean balance is gone for good. You just have to work on it. wink emoticon

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Book Review: “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation” by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Book Review: 
“Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation” 
by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Okay I really wanted to wait until I had read the entire book to write my personal review, which I have only at this point read the introductory and I am only part way through the book. However, by what I have read thus far and if the book continues on the path it has already taken (which I am sure it will), this is a book that I will be highly recommending, for everyone! When Isay everyone, that is literal… whether you are a spouse/partner, parent, one with PTSD, TBI, Depression, etc. It is not limited to one category of person, medical condition, or illness/disorder.

Yesterday I received the book I ordered, and I can’t put it down! It is very accurate to the point I am saying “I get it! Dr. Dan Siegel gets it!”. The story examples I have read so far have me sitting here saying, “WOW, that’s Craig! That’s exactly what he is like, how he acts, the way he thinks!” Then saying, “WOW! That’s what I have felt before!”

“Mindsight” pulls the mind, brain, and relationships together. It explains the different parts of the brain, how they work, as well as what functions they pertain to whether bodily, emotional, relationships with others, as well as one’s self, and it even covers symptoms we know well with PTSD. It also includes easy to follow examples and visual aids. It takes you through the process of reconnecting the brain and body, forming a connection with others, right down to making sense of yourself, your partner, or others, and much much more… on a real life platform that you are going to relate to. I know I have.

As of right now, I’m going to go ahead and state that I think that this book can bring a great understanding to many of the things that we talk about regarding life with PTSD, from either side of the fence. It will also further your understanding to how the brain works which is a huge part of this when learning and finding an understanding, and what you can work on to start taking your life back to whatever point is possible.

I have even started making a list of other books of Dr. Siegel’s that I plan on ordering when I can. I’m hooked! He knows how to make sense of things that many people are unsure how to make sense of or even explain to others. I am very thankful that Craig’s psychologist recommended this book.

So as of now, I still have to finish reading it, but… It is getting a big thumbs up from me.

UPDATE: I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone!!!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

PTSD and the doctor you choose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT my friends was a breakthrough!!!

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page