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The “What If’s” of PTSD: explained

The “What If’s” of PTSD

This is a topic that many may just not understand, unless they are standing in the shoes of PTSD‬ or one that stands beside them. I had someone mention to me how they do not understand how something that should be not a huge deal, is huge to someone with PTSD. I have also discovered some new views that may help others with or standing beside one with PTSD. So I wanted to see if I can explain this so it makes more sense to others.

You know, everyone experiences something in their life sooner or later that changes the way they view things. It may be something simple such as, let’s say for example you got food poisoning. Something that unfortunately is common and many can relate to. So what happens then? You will most likely never eat at the place that food came from again, you may even avoid eating that certain food from there forward. You start relating that specific food to what you felt and experienced, getting sick. You see this happen all of the time. You experienced something that was bad or unpleasant, so you avoid it. You get those thoughts of “If I eat that, what if I get so sick again?” You just did a “what if”.

This relation is something that is human nature, even animals experience it, it’s the way the brain works. There is the relation of bad followed by avoidance because you have already experienced something unpleasant and don’t what to repeat that experience.

Now, take that to a severe, life changing experience… a trauma. Think about what traumas may consist of, a life may have been in danger or even life lost, fear is involved. When this happens those “what if’s” become more up front, thought about, in-bedded in the brain “I can’t go through that again”. The feelings become extremely strong. It can start effecting majority if not all of the decisions you make in life. It becomes a survival skill.

Those what if’s can start running your life, which is not a good thing as we all know, and people who experience this on high levels do not like the feeling or what it does to them. It’s not something that they purposely do, it’s in a way how the brain and mind reprograms itself so bad experiences can be avoided. And it’s why avoidance is a huge part of life with PTSD.

It takes a lot for a person who has experienced a trauma to push themselves through the what if’s as they come. It effects things related to or that remind them of their trauma, but it can also effect every aspect of their life. What if’s can start forming around anything, large or small in other people’s eyes.

We had something that had to be done this week (without going into details of what it was). It was something that Craig and I chose to let go of several months back (his decision which I agreed with for the best interest of his health), but not long after that decision Craig started second guessing himself, it started weighing on him, it lead to him feeling like a failure for not pursuing or completing what he felt like he should, which lead to guilt. I have watched this cycle happen time after time around this same “situation”, we will call it. So I knew something had to be done so he could find some sort of peace regarding this situation, so there would not be any more guessing of “what if’s”. There had to be some type of resolution, an outcome, done had to be done so this does not weigh on him any longer, which also means weighing on his health.

When Craig set in his mind “I have failed and I really need something to be done about this”, he and I talked. We had to find some way to relieve this stress, guilt, and his negative thoughts of himself that kept returning. So with help from one of my support ladies who understands this type of situation, we came up with a plan. I discussed it with Craig and he agreed with this plan, he would give this a try one last time. The plan included me doing what I can so to relieve him from as much stress as possible, so he could make it through this. Any level of stress effects him greatly, so this was an urgent part that had to be managed.

See, stress and those what if’s go hand and hand. They play off of each other in huge ways. It’s not situations where one can just say “Oh no big deal, I’ll just handle it”, because those what if’s are there that bring those negative thoughts of “What if I go through the same thing again?” or “What if the outcome is not good?” or “What if I fail?”. Those are huge worrisome thoughts, especially for one with PTSD and/or depression!

Over the month that this “situation” has been worked on, even with me handling as much of things as possible, Craig’s not blind and he is very intelligent. He knows what is at hand, the importance of it to him personally, and he obviously sees me working on it. His symptoms have increased, those what if’s have increased, but he also knows this is something that had to be taken care of for the best interest of his health and so his focus can remain on his health. So this is seriously important to remove it from his plate, so to speak. In other words all of the what if’s have to be faced and there has to be an outcome.

I was already prepared for what Craig’s PTSD and depression may do to him, which it has done to him, this is something that again we have faced before. So my plan had to include more to make sure Craig could make it through this. I informed the important people involved in this of what it is causing for Craig as well as my concerns regarding his health, I talked to his doctors so they could do their part in helping him make it through this, we have put every precaution in place here at home, and we have a serious support system on call… for BOTH of us.

Yesterday was Craig’s largest hurdle in this, his part of this that I could not do for him and he had to face. The people involved and his doctors that I informed really pulled through for him. He made it through yesterday, he’s still exhausted from it, and knowing him and his disabilities I know he will need a few days down, but he made it through it! And I am so proud of him!!! Now we wait for the outcome.

The what if’s are still here, but the hard parts are now over. His doctor said something that I felt was extremely important. He was told that no matter what the outcome is, he has to choose a final decision, will he accept the outcome or will he continue to pursue it if it’s not the outcome he feels is fair? He has to define what fair is to him and decide where acceptance is for himself so this can finally be over and stops weighing on him.

It’s not a failure if you define where your personal acceptance is. That’s a huge thought! It makes sense. It can also help you change those negative thoughts of yourself that do come.

There are certain things or situations in your life that do come, some things just cannot be avoided because avoidance at times can haunt you. There are things that you have to decide how far you will, can or can not push, set a goal, and there is no right or wrong to that goal as long as you define and set in your mind that this is where acceptance within myself lies. Then you make a plan and make sure that every aspect that is in the best interest of your health and limits is in place, as well as anyone who can be a positive help to you.

The past month has contained many what if’s here, but one step at a time we together are getting through them, and we reached for help to do it.

What if’s can become so damaging, they will weigh on you. But we have learned that it is possible to take control or at least the best possible, of many situations. Choosing what things need to be faced and what may not need to be if not of great importance, setting those goals, defining where acceptance is for you personally, and then when you reach it allowing that to be it, you reached your personal goal… it can take some of those what if’s away or allow them to be done so they do not keep returning, an outcome that you define is your acceptable point. It can lead to taking those steps, small or big, forward.

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PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

In this life we live with or beside PTSD‬, many times things get misunderstood, not spoken, lashed out, dismissed, etc. It can bring conflict of a different level, misunderstanding of the true feelings of a person, and it can be for the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner.

There is a difference between anger and emotionally hurting. One can actually stem from the other in many cases. This is something that often times becomes viewed incorrectly. When one is angry themselves, it can become an instant response when there is a conflict, disagreement, or even different views on something to where a person who carries anger thinks the other person is angry. When reality is they are emotionally hurting, not angry.

It is often a fact that what one views in themselves is also how they may view others, what one feels may be what they think others feel as well. In many cases views and feelings become a self reflection. When this becomes so, it can be dangerous to a relationship, especially when life contains PTSD as well. PTSD does bring those negative changes in thoughts, moods, feelings, and how one views themselves and/or others.

One may start feeling and thinking things about another person that in reality are not so. One may feel or think another views them in harsh or negative ways, when in truth that other person cares deeply about them. One may lash out with words towards another, when in reality the views are skewed from what is actually before them. The responses or reactions are stemming from their own internal pain. That can be for either person.

It is so important in this life to form open and honest communication, even if you do not hear what you want to all of the time. Which you won’t. Honest, true communication will at times contain things that you do not want to face or believe even exists. It’s simply the hard facts of life.

When you listen to the thoughts and feelings of another, take your partner’s feelings and thoughts into consideration, it gives you something to work on, to build from, and work towards forming a stronger relationship. Allowing PTSD, depression, or even self doubt or disbelief those feeling are real, to turn how a person really feels around, to use their words and true feelings against them, can end a relationship that otherwise would or could be a very strong and secure one. A person can only take so much for so long when rejection or disbelief of their true feelings continues to be at hand, listen to them PLEASE before it gets to that point! We know that not all relationships will survive this type of life, the divorce and separation rates have already proven that. But what you choose to do, not do, and how you choose or do not choose to recognize what your partner feels or thinks can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Each person owns their own feelings and thoughts. They are real, no one is going to make up something to voice just to cause a conflict. When one opens up to you and tries to talk to you about these things, I guarantee you there is a great concern and true feelings involved, never dismiss them. When one opens up and tries to communicate that is a huge step. It’s not always easy to talk about things, to bring up things that one knows could start a conflict, but things surface because they need to be addressed. It’s not about putting another person down, it’s not about pointing out problems or issues that may be at hand, it’s about communicating so you can work through these things together. It’s about building your relationship, not about tearing it or another person down.

This life with or beside PTSD and/or depression is not an easy life. But when you are in a relationship it’s not only about one person, a relationship consists of two people. Those two people have to work together. There will be changes, there will be those give or take situations, there will be things that are accepted and things that just can’t be, and you will have to work hard to find a balance and then maintain it.

There has to be effort. Both people have a role and responsibility in a relationship. One person cannot form a healthy relationship or carry the relationship alone. Even with the disabilities this life brings and consists of, even with the changes in life from your normal, relationships can survive and prosper, but it takes both of you.

There are many simple things in life, that in reality do not carry high expectations or unrealistic goals, that can help strengthen a relationship. You just have to recognize them and use them.

* Communicate honestly.

Being open with each other and talking about how each of you feel can help strengthen your relationship. It is a must do, especially with what PTSD brings with it. If there is something that is honestly causing hurt and emotional pain in your relationship, and it’s causing damage to the relationship, you need to talk about it so you can work through those thoughts and feelings TOGETHER!

* Listen to what your partner tells you and really hear what they are saying.

When you stop listening, choose to be on defense instead of facing issues that may come up, arguments are going to start, feelings are going to be hurt, things are going to be said out of context, and guilt will set in. These can be prevented majority of the time if two people will simply listen to each other, then talk.

* Ask questions if you are unsure about something or about why one is feeling or thinking what they are.

Sometimes questions do need to be asked, and further explanations given. You are not in each other’s heads, you don’t have the same thoughts or feelings. You cannot just assume what another person is thinking or feeling.

* Acceptance.

Do not dismiss the thoughts and feelings of another, each person has a right to and owns their own feelings. When you accept these at face value truth, you can learn more about each other and learn how to work together to form a better relationship.

* Both people have to provide effort.

A relationship is not about only one person, it consists of two people and both people have to count and put effort into the relationship. You are going to get out of your relationship what you put into it, and that means either and both of you. It cannot be a one way street of only one person trying. Period!

* Balance.

A very serious and important part of and to any relationship. There is not a relationship on this earth that will survive in a healthy way without some form of balance to it. It will not always be easy to find, it will take a lot of work and effort, as well as trial and error. It will mean that at times not every person will get everything exactly the way/what they want, the key is to always remember to take your partner’s thoughts and feelings into consideration and come to a reasonable agreement or compromise that works for BOTH of you. If you don’t, you stand a good chance of more issues rising or continuing, and a chance that your relationship will not only struggle but may take a serious fall, and fall apart.

Bottom line:

Just because PTSD and/or any other disability is a part of life, whether you are the one with it or the one standing beside them, you CAN have a good relationship. Do not doubt yourself or allow PTSD to take over on that one! It may not be what others view as normal, it’s up to you what normal is and what you form together. But you have to put into a relationship, you have to take your partner’s feelings and thoughts into consideration, you have to work together to find a healthy balance so your relationship strengthens. When you don’t there is a high possibility that your relationship will not survive this type of life… and no one wants to see that happen or experience it. When two people work together and put in the effort, you CAN succeed in anything you set your mind to… and your hearts.

Each person that lives this life with or beside PTSD needs positive support from their partner, consideration, recognition, acknowledgement, and a lot of love and caring. You can carry each other through and find that good balanced relationship together, you just have to work at it. <3

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