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That dreaded comment that cuts the deepest for me… As a Caregiver.

That dreaded comment that cuts the deepest for me… 
As a Caregiver.

So… I’ve been up for awhile now, hours throughout the night actually, coffee already done for the day. I’ve been sitting here just thinking this morning. You know, even after so many years of needing to be a caregiver, the awareness that I provide to others, the personal things regarding our lives that Craig and I share in hopes of helping others, there are still those that I can do nothing but shake my head at. I won’t judge them, but I do hope to educate them.

As much as I would not wish this life on anyone… ever, at times the thought does cross my mind “If only you could spend a few days in either of our shoes.” (NO disrespect towards Craig or anyone else with disabilities intended by any means, with any of the following. I am writing this in hopes of giving others a little insight.) Sometimes I think that would be the only way for some people to understand what life is really like for us. Just come spend some time here and see for yourself, firsthand what our days and lives consist of. Sure the first few days one with PTSD and/or other disabilities may be able to wear a mask, put on a good front, but that mask does come off eventually and real life can be seen.

You know, my husband did not ask for his disabilities and sure not the combination of disabilities he has. I never dreamed that I would ever be in a caregiver role taking care of him, especially not at our ages. We were both working professionals. But it’s the hand in life we were dealt and we do the best we both, and each of us can to make it through each day. Craig will tell you in a heartbeat that I am the only reason he is still alive, and that’s by no means a pat on the back, no one should ever have to say that, but it is what this life brings.

It never fails, every year when the weather starts warming up and I mention I got outside (which I won’t stop mentioning), someone mentions that heart gouging comment “It must be nice to be able to do whatever you want to, whenever you want to, while the rest of us are working”.

I don’t get mad at that comment anymore, it’s simply just a person who does not understand our lives. But, that does not prevent it from cutting deep when it’s said.

The old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, well there you have it, we would love to be the ones ABLE to go to work every day. We would love to be the ones able to take a date night without PTSD‬ and all of the symptoms on constant alert or not making it even possible. We would love to be the ones able to have family gatherings and be able to remain at them the entire time, or throw parties, gatherings of friends, attend events or school functions anytime we wanted to, etc etc etc.

We try hard every single day, just to be able to make it to the next does take a lot, but those things other people in reality take for granted, have not been a part of our lives for a very, very long time… years. It it’s not because we have not tried, and we do continue to work towards those things being a part of life again.

The comment made directly at me really shows a lack of understanding. I am a full time caregiver. That is a 24/7 “job”, without the title to call it “employment”. It does not come with retirement benefits, it does not come with being able to set my own schedule or do my own thing whenever I want to. It does not even come with a regular time to sleep. But it does come with a demanding and rigorous routine of taking care of someone else so they can still exist and function in this world, to try to live at whatever level is possible.

Those that can work, your job relies on you to show up and do your job when you are scheduled to. When your work schedule for the day is done, you are free to do whatever you want to or what you as a family or friends do together, you can go where you want when you want to once your work day is done. As a caregiver, my “job” is another human being relying on me 24/7, and there is not a time clock to punch out on. My “job” does not stop just because the clock hits a certain hour or reached a 40 hour work week. My “job” as a caregiver is here, at home, around the clock. Another person’s life depends on it, on me.

Sure, I could continue working and not be the one taking care of my husband, it is a choice a family has to make per family based on what will be best, and there is a lot involved with making a decision of what is best. But when you weigh the pro’s and con’s what do you come up with? For me, to work away from home I would have to hire someone to come in and take care of him then when I got off work I would still be taking care of him until a hired caregiver came back for me to leave for work again. That would still leave me working around the clock, as well as additional expenses which cannot go dismissed. Or, my husband would have to be placed into a full time assisted living facility, what do you think that would cause him on top of what he already goes through with his disabilities?… He’s only 44 years old now and has a combination of disabilities. I have been taking care of him for 10 years, officially through a newer caregiver program for just over 3 years. At this point in time, a facility is not an option that would be in his best interest, and his doctors back that decision. He is best here at home in a familiar environment, and with his family taking care of him. And I have no issues with that, and am thankful I can be here for him.

But there’s another part to being a caregiver. In order to maintain that “job” of taking care of another person, you HAVE to take care of yourself also. If you don’t, you will become worn out, overwhelmed, start having health issues of your own, and you will eventually fail at being able to help that person who needs you and relies on you.

When I state “I got to soak up some sunshine today”, it is really heartbreaking at the number of people who view that in a negative way. That is approximately one hour, one hour, of my day that I get to myself in order to take care of myself in a way that is good for me, which in return is good for my husband because it helps me maintain my personal balance and health. It’s also an hour that I have to make sure that someone else is here for my husband, that knows how to take care of him while I’m outside for that one hour. That one simple hour comes with a lot more to get it than just walking out my back door and opening my lounge chair to enjoy the sunshine.

Several years back now, that hour was only 10 minutes per day, if I was lucky. I now get one hour per day, most days but not all, and one day per week or every other week “off” when someone else is here. (As a caregiver I am REQUIRED to take a minimum of 30 days per year of respite care/time, which I do.) That is a huge accomplishment to build up to when being a caregiver. And not all caregivers are at that level of “me time”, self-care time yet.

Now, imagine working a job that was 24/7, and the only break you got was 10 minutes per day. I guarantee you, you would not survive for very long, at least not without consequences. I can make that guarantee because I myself was there once and know exactly what it causes, even with my strong will, determined, hardheaded self I am lol, 10 minutes per day is not enough break time for anyone to survive a 24/7 “job”, and remain healthy.

I will take that a little further, why do you think many of these unseen disabilities are even so? I can tell you, because one pushed themselves so hard for so long through whatever they were faced with (including traumas for many), and kept on going, many were in positions where there was not a choice, they did what they had to do, and now many of them have unseen disabilities due to it all.

Those people making the “it must be nice” comments, should be happy for me when I take time to take care of myself, or for any other caregiver or person with disabilities that succeeds in doing things that many take for granted in everyday life. Those what seem to be simple things, are in reality large accomplishments, and also ways and things to take care of themselves.

I do not understand anyone, to be blunt about it, who is jealous of a person who is a caregiver and the life they live, or jealous of one who suffers with disabilities, all because one can’t work. Those who are jealous are simply uneducated to what this life really contains for caregivers, as well as those with disabilities.

Before making comments such as “It must be nice to… while the rest of us have to work”, consideration of what that person’s life actually consists of with or beside one with disabilities really needs to take place. I guarantee you they would rather be in your shoes but are making the best of this life they know how to.

Judging another person’s life, when you in reality don’t know what their life is like unless you are seeing it firsthand beside them 24/7, is just uncalled for, and can be damaging. Don’t do it, have a heart… you would want them to if it were you in their shoes.

I am proud and honored to have the ability to be my husband’s caregiver, to be able to provide him with the care he needs, and to live this life beside him. I do miss working, so does he, but I have NO regrets of the “job” I do now. Life just changed, for both of us.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment

The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment that I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, and was asked to write about.

You know, when life contains PTSD and Depression, one just does not get out of the house as much, at least it’s that way for many, and for Craig.

I was taking Alex out and one of the neighbors was outside at the same time. So we started talking. In the conversation I was asked, “How do you manage to do everything by yourself?” It seemed like a harmless question to me. I responded with, “Well, I just do what I have to do, to the best ability I can.” Then I was told, “You have that property, your house is not the smallest by any means, you have the dogs, and a mom on top of it. I don’t know how you manage everything with your husband no longer around.”

Yes, the woman who is rarely speechless was at a loss for words.

I stood there for a moment to digest what was just said. Then I asked, “What do you mean?” I was curious at this point to hear a response, lol.

Then the neighbor was non-stop, “Well, I’m not sure the situation and did not want to bring it up, or did not know how to ask you. But did you two divorce, I never thought that was it honestly, did your husband pass away? I used to see him outside from time to time and have not seen him in, well, almost a year I guess. Has it been a year? Maybe longer than that? I felt like I needed to come talk to you, but was not sure how to bring it up without making you feel bad or maybe stirring up bad or sad feelings. But you are a great neighbor and you are so alone over here trying to do everything by yourself. I know your son is around, but he works a lot. You are raising that beautiful daughter of your’s all by yourself now. That’s got to be hard. Oh, and she’s just an absolute sweetheart of a child, very polite and well mannered, I see her outside with the dogs quite often. How are your kids taking this? How are you doing? Are you okay? When you all moved in, what 4 or so years ago, your husband was outside more, you two seemed so happy together, then over time I saw less and less of him. He must have been away a lot. This has got to be so hard on you, I figured he passed away, I was told he had some type of health issues. You must really miss him, it’s sad, heartbreaking, but you do a good job keeping everything up and your kids are just great kids. I want you to know that I notice, and you are doing a great job. I could not imagine being your young age and having to handle everything on my own. You are a very strong person, but you must miss him greatly. You are always smiling, how do you do it? I would be a wreck…”

I just let the neighbor talk lol, without interrupting. To say the least it went on for awhile, I just stood there smiling and listening… and I had plenty of time while the neighbor was talking to think about how to answer all of the questions and comments made. 😉

Then finally a break in the one sided conversation. The neighbor said, “Are you doing okay with being alone?”, and waited for an answer.

I then replied, “It is tough at times feeling alone, but I cope very well. I take time to myself, take good care of myself, have my hobbies and dogs, the kids do keep me busy and are doing great. Of course I love doing yard work, so that’s no issue, it gets me outside. And other than that, I’m inside taking care of the house… and my husband.”

You could have heard a pin drop! Silence.

Then finally the silence broke and I heard an “OH! I thought you were single now!” I smiled a little bigger and simple said that my husband does have disabilities and no he does not get out of the house much at all, that I do take care of him full time. But no, he did not die.

The neighbor went right into apologizing. “I am so sorry! I had no clue. Other neighbors thought he had passed away because no one sees him outside anymore, we only see you and the kids from time to time out. Oh that must be hard, you two are so young! Too young to be going through this.”

I simply replied with, “It’s just life, and we live it the best possible. But thank you for your concern, I appreciate it, and all of the compliments.”

So… that was pretty much it, lol. You have to just chuckle at what people think and start saying when they just assume things. So when Craig made his appearance outside when another neighbor got their vehicle stuck, it really meant a lot in many ways other than the obvious of Craig making it outside. And the new neighbors were happy to meet him for the first time. I joked with the neighbor lady (not the neighbor that had that conversation with me) her and I had talked about other neighbors thinking I was single, and I said “See, I do actually have a husband, lol”. We had a good chuckle over it.

I joked with Craig and said maybe the neighbors that don’t know us well will stop thinking you are dead and I am single now! 😉 He just smiled a half grin with a chuckle. Then I said, “See, you need to get outside more before the men start asking me questions!” LOL, he laughed at that.

Oh the things that come about when life contains PTSD and Depression. 😉 You have to just laugh some things off at times.

The moral to this: Before you assume what someone’s life is like, or start telling others what it is like… Just ask! People are more than happy to help educate others about PTSD and what life is REALLY like. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Our neighbor’s got stuck… but LOOK at what it lead to!!!

our neighbor's got stuck

Morning 🙂
Yesterday is what I am going to call a “good day”! After months upon months of PTSD giving us it’s challenge, then other medical issues on top of it, I think it’s safe to say I saw a small glimpse of my husband yesterday.‪ PTSD‬ was by no means gone or at bay, but I saw Craig fight it with everything he had! I heard my husband laugh a little, and I was able to get him outside!!! It took some serious doings but it happened.

I sat here looking out the window yesterday, watching our neighbors try to get a boat on a trailer into the lake, with a vehicle that is not a 4×4. Now, our lake which you can tell by the many photos I post, is not a well used lake, it’s overgrown and wildlife is plentiful. The water level has finally after several years come back up. But it also means around the lake is muck. 😉 I know you can see where this is going.

YEP, they got stuck! Long story short, I watched another truck come in to try to pull it out, it got stuck too. Well, after awhile Craig woke up and asked me what I was looking at? I said with a chuckle, “The neighbors. Seems the guys decided to try to get the boat into the water with a Trail Blazer”. Craig got curious of course and started watching as well. And I heard a chuckle from him. He then said, “Didn’t you tell them about this lake?” I said, “Yep, sure did”.

So after awhile of watching, I told Craig I really think they need some help, there’s no way they are getting that vehicle out of there. Thinking he would budge. Nope, he didn’t. So I then said I was going outside to see if the neighbor lady (I called her by name) was outside, which I figured she was not missing all of this lol. Her and I have talked a lot since they moved in and I would say it’s on the path of forming a friendship. I let my son know I was going outside, he was home yesterday so it was actually a respite day for me. My plan was to soak up some sunshine lol.

Sure enough the neighbor lady came out when she saw me come to the fence. Her and I talked and laughed! She said the guys were determined to go fishing. After a little while, and the neighbor man and his best friend laughing as well, he came up from the lake and said they were not getting it out of there and needed a tow truck.

They called around, have any idea how much a tow truck costs on a Saturday, when you have a vehicle and trailer stuck in a lake? Let’s just say A LOT! I said, well let me see if I can get Craig to come out and bring the Tahoe down, it’s a 4×4, we can give it a try even though it may not do the job with me still having street tires on it, I haven’t put off road/all terrain tires on it yet.

I went back into the house and told Craig that they are really stuck, can we take the Tahoe down to see if we can help them? This was actually my second trip back into the house, the first was to get my snatch strap, so Craig knew what was going on. I told him what the tow truck was going to cost them and said it was ridiculous. I then said, “You really should come out. They have not even met you yet and have been here for a couple of months now. They are great people and I want you to meet them. That and it would really do you some good to get outside, it’s such a beautiful day out there.” It also would help considering some of our neighbors have started to think I am single! Because Craig is never seen. Oh my, that’s a whole ‘nother story within itself lol.

Craig finally gave in. No, the Tahoe could not do the job lol, not with the tires on it and we discovered the vehicle was frame bottomed out, back tires were just spinning in the water not touching anything. But Craig met the neighbors for the first time. PTSD was still there by all means (and wanted to retreat back into the house), anxiety was high, he had to step away at times and walk over to our property away from everyone, but no one minded! I talked with the ladies, and we laughed at the guys, lol, actually with them. Craig was back and forth to where the guys were, and they went with it without questions every time Craig had to step away, and let him without saying a word then would pick right back up when he would go back over to them.

Get this, ALL of them understand and know about PTSD!!! 😉 All of the new neighbors we got on our street a couple of months back are in the medical field and there has not been any stigma at all from any of them! They were just ALL awesome yesterday!!!

So, did the vehicle get pulled out of the lake? Yep, it sure did lol… I called my Dad! 😉 When all else fails, always call daddy and he can get the job done. 🙂 His 4×4 set up for off road and has a solid hitch, was able to snatch it out of there after a few tries. So I got to see my parents yesterday too for a little while.

Once it was all over Craig quickly shook hands with the guys, then retreated to the bedroom for the rest of the day/night, which was okay! That was a serious type of outside time for him with how he’s been for months now, but he did it!!! WE spent some time outside with the neighbors yesterday!!! I have to say that was one of the most awesome feelings I have felt in a very, very long time.

So what does Craig tell me last night? “Ya know Bec, they are really nice people, and funny.” That was enough for me to know that a small glimpse of Craig shined through yesterday. 😉 Oh, and everyone got to see that I do actually have a husband, LOL! 😉

Those are the type of days you hold onto, cherish them, let them bring you strength… because they are many times few and far in between coming and you never know what tomorrow will hold. But today… Coffee in hand and getting this new day going… with a smile 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Many people just do not realize how PTSD affects your life.

Many people just do not realize how PTSD affects your life.

Last night Craig looked at me and said, “I wish I could have just one morning where when I wake up you are still asleep next to me. I miss that.”

The only thing I could respond with was, “I know. I wish the same thing. One of these days it will happen again.”

Those were the last words spoken last night. And here I sit across the room from him, with coffee in hand, listening and watching PTSD nightmares.

The things that so many people take for granted, simple things, at times are just purely impossible when PTSD is a part of life. Even though we never give up on trying.

I was asked, “You always stay on a positive note, even when things are bad or rough. But, besides the obvious, what other things have changed in life since ‪‎PTSD‬ became a part of it? The negatives.”

That’s a hard one for me to answer, but I will. I do like to focus on the positive things, and positive ways of managing this life. We have to or PTSD will take over our lives more than what it already has.

Here are a few things that changed due to PTSD:

***To state up front, none of this is in any way being disrespectful towards my husband or what he goes through (love ya babe), it’s simply the realities of what has changed in life.***

* Having to learn and accept that our lives have changed, the way our lives were is gone, and accepting that disabilities are a part of life now. We work hard every single day to make each day the best they can be, but that does not bring back the life we had.

* The example I gave. Nightmares/terrors do not allow us to sleep together or only for a limited amount of time each night. Safety has to come first, which takes away being able to wake up together. It takes away that closeness.

* Personal Connection. We do love each other dearly, but the personal connection has greatly been affected, mentally, emotionally, and physically. PTSD brings with it a disconnection, numbness to feelings and emotions, avoidance, and more, they do weigh heavily on a relationship, even the strongest relationships.

* Personalities. Oh yes they do change. The photo collage I posted of Craig not too long ago bluntly shows the changes in him. I as the spouse/caregiver, well, I had to take on a more serious role. Life is not just foot loose and fancy free, do what you want to when you want to. Life now contains much more responsibility. For both people it’s like having the person you were, the person people used to see, trapped inside of you and that old you just can’t come out, or not nearly as often.

* Roles change. That was a huge change for us. We each used to have our certain roles, what each of us did or were responsible for. Craig does what he can, but majority of things are up to me to accomplish or make sure things are taken care of. Disabilities do bring a lot of role changes, it’s no longer the old mindset of the man does this and the woman takes care of this, that cannot be a mindset in this life.

* Being able to sit in a restaurant, or any type of “date night”, and when we have in the past PTSD is always scanning and watching everything and everyone to the point it is not enjoyable. IF we do leave the house it’s pretty much for must do appointments or during off hours to when other people would not be out and about.

* Being able to watch movies away from home, not happening. The 12 years Craig and I have been back together we have not seen even one movie in a theater, something we used to enjoy doing. Dark room, crowds, strangers, not happening.

* Traveling. We were known for traveling much more than our age group at the time normally did (We were in our early 30s back then). If we were not working, we were traveling. We loved it! Without having an RV, where he has his space, his things, and a familiar place to retreat to, traveling has not been possible. Hotels are not an option, we have tried and PTSD is on high alert and he can’t sleep in unfamiliar places, especially with hotels having strangers walking by or out and about so often, and strange noises.

* Social Circles. The once social butterflies became wrapped back up in a cocoon. We have many social media “friends”, some being old friends from our past (love you all!), but friends as in get together and do things with, hang out, get the families together… there are not any. The last friend to visit us was a dear friend from my high school days which came from out of state with another friend and they stayed a weekend with us, that was two years ago this July.

With PTSD and depression, it makes it difficult to make plans, keep schedules, or do things away from our own home, which makes friendships difficult. People do have busy lives and things with their own families to do, work, etc. and hearing “Not today” or “We can’t make it” only lasts so long before people just stop calling or wanting to be around. Some could not handle how PTSD is, and the changes it has caused, and simply walked away. We don’t blame anyone or hold grudges because of it, it’s just what does happen when life includes PTSD.

As the spouse, my social circle is our neighbors, when I am outside and they happen to be too.

* Our children. We have four between the two of us, now ages 20, 15, 14, and 13. I have to say we have honestly gotten lucky with them. I say lucky because not all children are able to have or form the relationship and understanding that our’s have. Children can be greatly affected by PTSD, many are. So yes, we are lucky.

They are social, well adapted, do great in school, and are your typical funny and enjoy life teenagers. But making sure they have and had a healthy balance in life, emotionally balanced, did/does take much more than what a family without disabilities has to do. They have to be taught differently on top of normal parenting.

We have educated them from very young ages, on age appropriate levels of learning, about PTSD. It has for sure paid off! They love dad dearly, they do not view him in any negative way and do not hold any grudges or discontent towards him. They do understand that he is always here for them, that he loves them and they are the world to him, but at the same time there is a lack of physically being in the same room much of the time or having a lot of time with him. They know to enjoy the time they get with him. Quality vs Quantity, quality of time is what means the most. It has to, because PTSD does take time away. But when he spends time with them, he gives it everything he’s got, every ounce of energy possible, to be a great dad.

My 20 year old is actually my respite care person, so I get breaks to take care of myself. He knows every aspect of how to take care of dad (step-dad) and understands PTSD and Depression, what to do or needs to be done, better than anyone who does not live with us. When growing up with a parent with disabilities, children mature much quicker than kids normally do, because life and rules are different. But, in a way it has formed a closer but different type of bond, they would not give their dad up for any other dad or the world! He is the world to them, all four of them.

* Work. We would both love to be able to say we “are heading to work, see you later”. We were both work-a-holics before PTSD and other disabilities. We miss it. Not everyone with PTSD is unable to work, however my husband can’t due to the conditions that come with his disabilities, and he requires a full time caregiver, 24/7. I am lucky in the way that I can be his caregiver, however neither of us are able to work due to his disabilities, life drastically changed for both of us. When we see people complaining about having to go to work, we see it differently, nothing against them of course, but we wish we were the ones able and capable of heading out that door each morning… like we used to do.

* Life goals. We had our lives planned out, lol. I mean planned, budgeted, right down to every t crossed and i dotted. I was a dog trainer and he was an air traffic controller by career and private pilot. He was going to complete his 20 years in the military, then he wanted to work airport management, and we were going to purchase this little RV park in Tennessee, run it during RV season then during off season I would work Search and Rescue dogs and he would be our pilot to get us to where we needed to be. Our two professions and loves in life went very well together. Those things are just not possible now.

Life goals changed, now we just hope that one day we will be able to purchase another RV and he will be able to travel again to some extent, to get him out of the house and to be able to take back a small part of our lives that meant so much to us. What was once a mission to do SAR, to help people, now is a different mission of sorts, I am hoping that it will be a book signing tour, still with the goal of helping people, just in a different way than what we had planned. It’s a life goal we have set even though we know it’s going to be a hard reach.

So those are just a few of many examples of how life changed when PTSD and other disabilities became a part of it. The one thing I/we have learned in this life among many, many things, is you can’t focus on the negatives or all of the time, or this life will swallow you and there won’t be any sort of life. You take life one day at a time, one step at a time, and you give it all you’ve got. You have to!

I will close with this,
“PTSD is a diagnosis, it’s not a definition of who a person is, or who either of you are.” Sure life changed, drastically changed, but life still continues, it’s just different now.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

The Unspoken Thoughts of PTSD: Suicidal Thoughts

The Unspoken Thoughts of PTSD: Suicidal Thoughts

I am not writing this to place fear into anyone, but I do want to bring awareness to reality, when life does include ‪‎PTSD‬. I personally do not know of even one person with PTSD that has not had at least a slip through the mind thought of “this world would be a better place without me” or “I just can’t do this anymore”. The thought of suicide is very real.

The number of reported cases of suicide related to PTSD is not a secret. ONLY United States Veteran reported cases of suicide is an unthinkable number of 22 suicides per day. Now, that is only reported cases, that does not include those who have not been diagnosed, were not seeking treatment, the homeless, those wearing other uniforms, civilians, or world wide numbers. I could not even fathom what a true number would be if there were the possibility of a whole, accurate number. I can only state it would be unimaginably high.

Does this reality of suicide numbers reported reflect that everyone with PTSD will lose the battle PTSD brings? Absolutely not! But that does not mean that the thoughts are not real or experienced. It also does not mean the thoughts of suicide should go dismissed.

I believe in order to understand why these thoughts come, you have to understand what PTSD causes one. A person with PTSD has survived some type of life changing, severe trauma, where symptoms last for more than a few months. These symptoms are not ones that a person can just suck up, get over, or forget about. Their trauma has in ways altered the brain, the way it processes or relates to things, people, events, etc. and the way it functions.

If you are one that is unfamiliar with what PTSD is or the symptoms list for PTSD you can find them on my page “A Spouse’s Story PTSD”, or any psychology, neuropsychology, or neuroscience page or website, the information is readily available in many locations world wide.

PTSD comes with re-living their trauma over and over through nightmares or terrors, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts that are or can be triggered by just one reminder of their trauma. PTSD can cause anxiety, fear, fight or flight, avoidance, sleep issues, anger, frustration, disconnection and lack of interest in things/people one used to enjoy, dissociative symptoms, negative changes in thoughts of one’s self, others, or at times the world. PTSD also has many mental and physical health conditions that can co-occur with it. And it does come with suicidal thoughts or acts of. That is a short list of what one with PTSD may experience.

When you really look at what PTSD brings or causes, you can clearly see why one would have the thoughts of suicide.

Those with PTSD live a battle every single day of their lives. They can have better days where they can keep symptoms at bay and they can experience what we call “rock bottom” days where that fight becomes an extremely heavy weight to bear.

It is my personal belief that those with PTSD are some of the strongest people I have ever known or lived beside in my lifetime. Why? Because even after their trauma, and their brain reaching the point it says “Hey you, I’m full, I can’t push through that trauma any longer” and PTSD develops, many do make it to see tomorrow even with everything that PTSD brings to their lives, they fight the battle, and they push themselves to be the best possible people they can be, and they are known for providing support to others even while experiencing their own battle with PTSD. You will never convince me that is not a strong and strong minded person.

The suicidal thoughts are very real with what they battle day in and day out. To add to that, many feel alone in their battle… which are real thoughts even when they have people right beside them, then many do not have a positive support system to help them or listen to them, and even if one does have those things, those thoughts can still come. Many feel that they are now a burden to others, that life is unfair… especially to those that they care about because life changed, they as a person changed due to PTSD. The real symptom of negative changes in thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

How could one not have those thoughts, they are only human.

But there is another part to this. Many only experience the thoughts of suicide, many will not act upon those thoughts, many do or will get professional help, talk to others or ones they can trust, many will look for what can or may help them, they will go through trial and error to find what works best for them and their symptoms, and they will fight those thoughts with every ounce of energy and will power they have.

Which leads me to this…

Suicidal thoughts can not go dismissed. Those thoughts are not ones to brush under a rug or turn your back to. Not every suicide can or will be prevented, there’s just no humanly possible way of preventing all of them, and the numbers of reported cases are evidence of that fact. But that does not mean we can’t try. All of us and each of us.

* If you do not know the signs of suicide, learn them.

Being able to recognize when one is having suicidal thoughts or showing the signs of suicide can help in many cases prevent one from following through and help can be reached for. Unfortunately, there are some cases where there are no signs, so I do not want to dismiss that fact, but majority of people do experience some level of signs. Learn them.

* Do NOT dismiss any signs or words that are spoken of thoughts.

There is nothing more heartbreaking to me personally than hearing after the fact someone say, “I did not think they were serious” or “I did not listen to what they told me/someone else, now they are gone.” It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to suicidal thoughts or signs.

* Be honest with your loved ones.

This is a golden rule for us personally. When the thoughts come they are talked about openly with a support person and/or doctor, and listened to. Many times when one can simply voice their thoughts and have someone honestly and openly listen to them, it can help the one with the thoughts work through them.

* Positive Support.

A support person’s words can in many cases mean everything! Listening and hearing what one is saying, can mean everything. Putting one down or telling them they should not be having those thoughts or telling them to get over them, is NOT positive support, and saying things such as those could very well push one right through those thoughts leading them to actions, those words are basically telling a person what they are experiencing is not real, when in reality it is! No one wants that to happen. If you cannot or are in a position due to your personal or negative thoughts, to where you are not capable of providing positive support, which does happen especially if you do not understand PTSD to some level or are going through your own personal issues, then PLEASE find someone for your loved one that can provide them with positive support.

* Reach for professional help

There is NOTHING wrong with reaching for professional help so the one with PTSD, as well as their loved ones or support people, can learn the tools to manage symptoms the best possible. Staying on top of the symptoms and learning how to manage and cope through them can help decrease or prevent suicidal thoughts. YOU ARE WORTH THAT REACH!

Spouses/partners, that goes for you too! You are only one person and at times in this life beside them, you are not going to be able to tackle everything on your own. This is not the time to try to be a superhero, make sure you have help and positive support for yourself too. It is a fact that spouses/partners can experience becoming overwhelmed, develop depression, anxiety, and/or have suicidal thoughts as well. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and reach for help for yourself and/or both of you. Your PTSD loved one needs you, whether they voice that or not, and they need you healthy, please take care of yourself.

* Personal Space.

I will admit, if I see signs or know suicidal thoughts are at hand, I’m known as a “watchdog”. I do not take suicidal thoughts of any level lightly. However, I don’t and you cannot smother a person. Those with PTSD do require their personal space at times, they need it! There has to be a balance of keeping a watchful eye, being there if one needs to talk or needs help, and providing a person’s personal space when they need it. If you smother one with PTSD or treat them like a child, you have the other symptoms that are or will in many cases step into play, and they will pull away from you, which is not what is needed when one is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

One can experience suicidal thoughts and have absolutely no intention of following through on those thoughts. Over time you can learn the signs and body language which can be in majority of cases pretty accurate to how one is feeling or their symptoms at hand.

This is where communication and honesty HAS to be at hand, by both of you. If you are the one having the thoughts, be honest with your partner/support person, let them know if it is honestly PTSD just giving you a difficult time at the moment and you are overwhelmed causing those thoughts and do not intend on following through with them, or if you honestly need help to get through them.

Speaking as a spouse of one with PTSD, I will tell you right now with all honesty and heart, being honest with your partner about how you are feeling or thoughts you are experiencing is the best thing you can do for them, they would not be there if they did not care about you and want to be with you, and would be lost without you. They choose to be there with you and for you, that is a choice they have made, please allow them to be.

PTSD is going to cause you to think or feel all sorts of negative things that your partner does not view you as or feel about you. Please give them that chance to be there for you and help you through the thoughts in whatever way is needed. PTSD is going to push you to close them out, this is the time to fight that as hard as you can and include them. It can also help prevent overreacting, over worrying, and help the two of you work through this together.

Partners/Support person: A watchful eye, “watchdog” as I call it, where you keep an eye on them, are there for them, but at the same time allow them the space to cope, is possible to do and is helpful for many. When you overreact, over worry, or are up their rear-ends for lack of better wording (and that was being lady like), you chance making whatever their thoughts or symptoms are at that moment, to become worse and their feeling of being a burden to increase. You have to find a healthy balance for both of you. There is nothing wrong with having a watchful eye, but there has to be a balance.

I personal can say up front to Craig, “I love you and can see what you are going through right now. I am here for you and yes I’m in watchdog mode today, but it’s because I do love you and value you as a part of my life and as a person.” Then I will do my little projects or things inside the house to give him space but yet at the same time I am close if needed or he wants to talk. When he wants to talk, I sit, make eye contact, and I listen. Suicidal thoughts that are clearly stated will not be acted upon, are not the times to be telling one what they need to be doing or what they need to be thinking. Sometimes we will watch movies during those times, whatever he is comfortable with or helps him through those times. So, there can be a healthy balance and each person/couple has to find what is best for them when those thoughts come. Learn to work together, I will say it again as I always do, “The battle is PTSD, not each other”.

PTSD comes with suicidal thoughts at times, it is a part of what this life contains. Learn the signs and learn what each of you can do to manage and battle them. This life IS worth living, you keep trying new things, you keep learning how to work together and communicate, you keep reaching for help, and you can re-learn how to live life even with PTSD being a part of it. Yes, life has changed. No, there’s no getting your old life back. But that does not mean you can not turn the page to a new chapter and start living a new life. Fight those suicidal thoughts when they come, you ARE worth that fight.

PTSD does change and takes away or masks parts of yourself and your old life, it changes life. Suicidal thoughts will come at times, but they can also slip away. PTSD does not have to take your life, battle it, don’t allow it to win.

“Facts on the table”

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

PTSD and Anesthesia (Surgical Procedures)

PTSD and Anesthesia (Surgical Procedures)

This is a topic that I find is rarely discussed, and it really is one that everyone needs to understand more about when life includes PTSD‬… Anesthesia. Craig even told me last night while we were talking, he was processing what he went through yesterday, that he wanted me to write about this today.

I have to add my note in here, I am not a doctor or in any medical field, so not speaking from a medical point of view, but as a spouse/caregiver of one with PTSD. The following is from our personal experiences.

Anesthesia is so commonly used these days, especially for many types of surgery, but what about when the one having surgery or procedure also has PTSD? Have you thought about that?

Let me explain…

One with PTSD stays on guard, so to speak, pretty much all of the time. They most likely use more coping skills than you realize in day to day life living with PTSD. They are able to manage symptoms, in a way they have some level or sort of grip on those symptoms.

When one has to have anesthesia, their guard is going to be down when they are coming out of it. Some may handle this well, but others may not. You do not know what recovery after a procedure will be like until you are there. Each time may be different, it could depend on how symptoms have been recently, it could depend on how anxiety was right before the procedure, it could depend on how the staff manages things as you are coming to, there are many factors involved.

(Craig gave permission to use him as an example and asked that I talk about this because it is serious and people need to understand what can take place.)

Before his surgery, we made sure the entire staff knew that Craig has PTSD. One of Craig’s traumas was violent and we know he has physical nightmares etc. from that trauma, so there could be the chance when coming out of anesthesia and disoriented that his PTSD could affect him, especially with guard being down. I was told “he did not have any issues noted from his last surgery so we don’t expect any this time”, which was true, he did not have any issues last time. I was quick to explain that it is PTSD, and it can change from how he responded last time when coming to, that we honestly don’t know how he will be each time. That he has had increased symptoms for several months now and that needs to be taken into consideration. Which they did, they listened to me. I also told them that if they needed me to come get me, I do know how to manage his symptoms.

Craig said that when they took him back he told them again not to get close to him when he starts coming to, and we had already explained to everyone not to touch him when he’s coming to, to stand back and talk to him for a moment so he knows who is there and they can get him focused on them (how to ground him), to tell him what they are going to do or where they have to touch him before they do so it does not catch him off guard, so they can continue with what they need to do for him without triggering PTSD.

If you do not know how the steps of surgery work, once through surgery they take you to post-op, then from there they take you to recovery this is when they will allow another person to come in with the patient. At post-op I received a call. “Rebecca we need you back here, we are sending someone to get you right now. Craig has stated four times he needs his wife, asking where is my wife? We need to bring you back.” I said, “No problem come get me”. I knew right then something was not okay because they never take me back at that stage.

When I went back I remained calm and focused. I saw Craig as I crossed the room, he was sitting up contious, but what I saw, well let’s say I am thankful they took me back. Craig was obviously having flashbacks. He was disoriented, “lost” was what he worded it as, he had no clue where he was, why he was there, or that he had just come out of surgery or even needed surgery, and he kept repeating the same things and questions over and over.

His eyes were widened and he was scanning the room, which was a sign of a flashback starting. I knew exactly what was at hand and started talking to him as I approached him. He needed to be grounded. I got him to focus on me, eye contact, and started feeding him information of where he was, why he was there, telling him he just came to from anesthesia, etc etc. It was only a few minutes later and he started scanning the room again, flashback, and I went straight into grounding him again. He kept going in and out of flashbacks.

Every time he would get grounded he was concerned he had hit someone, was convinced he had hit someone even though he did not which was sending him into more confusion and worry. The nurse was quick to tell me that she would step back from him and followed what I had told them to do, but that Craig never tried to touch anyone, but they knew they needed me back there with the confusion he was having. The flashbacks went on for nearly an hour as we pushed fluids, the staff brought him out of the anesthesia, and I kept grounding him from flashbacks. Everything worked out okay and no major episodes that could not be managed, and no he never swung on anyone but to him due to the flashbacks he was convinced he had and it worried him.

Craig experienced so many flashbacks yesterday after surgery that once home last night he did not recall that hour or many details of the long day. He remembered some details from before surgery, then remembered me coming into the room carrying coffee for him, he said he remembered he felt relief when he saw me. Last night he mentioned how much he truly trusts me and that he felt that yesterday and was so thankful I was there. I can not even state how many times last night he thanked me for being here and for being there for him yesterday. PTSD really had a grip on him yesterday, but the steps we took and plan we put in place helped tremendously. And the entire medical team was just awesome.

So here is what we want you to know and the serious reason for talking about this…

* Anesthesia can cause a person’s guard to be down and they may not be able to cope as well as they normally can with PTSD symptoms. You cannot know ahead of time how PTSD will be affected or triggered. Never assume each time will be the same as last time.

* It is urgent that you let medical staff know one has PTSD ahead of time, for the well being and safety of the one with PTSD and everyone involved. Give them any information that could be useful ahead of time as well as right before a procedure so it’s fresh in their minds. Such as how anxiety levels have been over the past 24 hours, how to approach one, what things can be said such as you are at [place], you just had [procedure] done, etc.

* Make sure the staff knows how to ground one! And make sure someone that is used to grounding that person, that the one with PTSD responds to, is present in case they are needed by staff. Let the staff know if that person is needed they are there and the staff can get them if need be. Make sure they have your name and phone number, which they should get anyway. Not everyone with PTSD grounds the same way, so make sure the medical team and staff are educated on the individual and what works for them.

* Never assume that just because they are medical staff that they understand or know how to manage symptoms for each individual. Many have worked with many PTSD patients and are great with them and with helping them through symptoms, however every patient is still different.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook Page

“I’m off to OZ”… Me time

Morning. Coffee in hand and getting this new day going.
Would you believe it was almost 90 degrees here yesterday? My son was here most of the day so I took a trip to OZ! 😉

Okay, for those of you that have never heard me say that, it’s been my saying for years. I used to mainly use it during times that I knew I had to step away, take a deep breath, and think about things, decompress, before addressing them. Everyone used to tease me when I would say it and say “Clear a path mom is off to OZ” and everyone knew to just let me be while I was outside. It became very well known around here through the really rough days. These days, it’s more like my summertime saying for me time or when I realize I just need that time to cope…

Only Me + Sunshine + Bathing suit + Music through earbuds= “I’m off to OZ”… trust me 😉 it works great!

For this Spring/Summer I have set a goal for myself. Since my knee injury (no it’s not better yet and still in a brace) I have to do strengthening exercises from here on out, the rest of my life. So, with that I decided it was time to just get the whole body back in shape at the same time. With all this working out I am required to do now I started missing the sunshine and my tan, I have set a goal to TRY to get outside one hour per day (weather permitting) when my adult son is home so someone is inside with Craig. Whether it’s playing with the dogs, working in the yard, tinkering with my pond, or visiting OZ for some sunshine. 😉

When I first started taking me time and learning how to properly take care of myself as a caregiver while taking care of someone else, it was hard to find that time. I had to make it and take it. Back then it was 10 minutes per day to myself. That’s a huge improvement to be up to an hour per day now, and of course I take one respite day per week or every other week. But what a change taking just a little time for myself makes, huge positive differences in myself which in return helps Craig. 🙂

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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PTSD and Disconnection From Others

PTSD and Disconnection From Others

You know, we live this life with or beside PTSD‬ and/or depression‬ day in and day out. It does become our new normal. What we do now, how we handle or manage things as well as symptoms, how we support each other and help each other. We learn the tricks of how to make it from one day to the next, and keep on making it.

Craig and I have been battling this life and forming a new normal for 11 years now. This morning while I was looking for one of my older articles for someone, I came across one that I wrote almost 2 years ago regarding PTSD and numbness. Unfortunately it made me realize that in reality Craig has become more disconnected, much more, than he was two years ago.

Disconnection is the one part of PTSD that has been a battle for so long and no matter what I try or come up with for him or us to try, it just does not seem to help him, or us. Every symptom with PTSD and depression that he and we battle, I have been able to find something, no matter how great or small, to help it be battled, but the disconnection? It’s the one that gives me a run for my money, so to speak. And I say that with no disrespect towards him, it’s just a part of the battle at hand that is real life.

I’m one that will not stop for anything to research, read, try new things, find new ways of doing things, I send Craig links to articles that I think may be of positive help to him and us, as a couple. Things to think about or that give different views that may help him battle what he feels (or doesn’t) and that may help in some small way. I try to enjoy each day we have together and just live in the now, and make the best of each day. I accept him for who he is and the disabilities he has.

I mean I love Craig. I will never give up on him or us. I’ll never stop researching, reading, and trying new things in the hopes that something helps. I will never stop trying to make the most of each day. But the disconnection that comes with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder makes things and life extremely difficult. It’s just a hard fact that comes with this life.

This life beside PTSD can be extremely lonely which in turn brings a lot of guilt to those with PTSD, they don’t want or mean for their spouse/partner to go through that or feel that way, they know or view it as it’s not fair, and in return it causes them to pull away even further. Another vicious circle in this life with PTSD and/or depression.

I was asked, “How do I keep my partner from being or feeling so disconnected from me? I know I’m loved, I’m told I’m loved, but it ends there. I know their disconnection from me and even others is really strong, I know PTSD causes this. What can I as the partner do to help?”

In that older article I wrote, there were two quotes that really hit me hard.

The first one was a quote from the movie “The Vow”, a true life story about a wife that has TBI, that Craig and I can really relate to due to the memory issues involved…

I wrote: The husband in the movie told his friends, “She fell in love with me once, so I won’t lose hope she will fall in love with me again.” -Quote from the movie “The Vow”

The second thing I wrote in that article that hit me was…

“Sometimes one with PTSD needs a guide so to speak through the numb feelings. Craig told me last week he needed help through the numbness, he’s not sure how to get through the numbness to feel the love he knows he has for me, how to find the motions or what they even are.”

(I’ll add the link to that full article at the end of this for anyone that would like to read it.)

The only way I know how to answer that difficult question that came to me is this…

Don’t lose hope, don’t stop trying, don’t stop showing your love for and to your PTSD partner. And make sure you are taking care of yourself through this life, that is one thing that you are capable of no matter what.

A spouse/partner is not a cure, you cannot make PTSD and Depression or their symptoms go away… so don’t put that on yourself. All you can do is be your best, be patient, supportive, learn, find new things to try, and do what you are capable of doing and be there for them. The rest is not up to you, one person can only do so much, not everything. There are many things one with PTSD and/or Depression can work on even with the symptoms they do experience, some things can change… at least to some level, one can at least give things a try to see what helps and what doesn’t. Other things may never change and there will have to come a point in time where you just accept this is the way they are now. And I cannot answer, which will be which or what will be what. Each person will be different and have different circumstances.

Disconnection and avoidance are very real life symptoms of PTSD, as well as depression. Too many are faced with having to let go or are let go of, the disconnection PTSD brings is normally a huge factor in that. PTSD and depression can cause life to feel or become very lonely, for both the one with PTSD as well as the one standing beside them. Don’t lose hope, don’t stop learning and trying new things, don’t stop believing in each other, and don’t lose that grip of each other’s hand. You, your partner, and your relationship are worth it, hang onto each other.

I myself will not lose the hope I hold onto, that Craig and I will someday have that connection again like we used to have between us. It was the most amazing feeling two people could experience together, full of love, passion, excitement, mental and physical closeness. It was a connection that people envied and were jealous of, they wanted what we had together. I will not give up on finding that personal connection again that we had, even some small part of it… even with PTSD and Depression being a part of our lives now.

As I am known for stating and believing,
“The battle is PTSD, not each other”

April 4, 2013: “PTSD vs Numbness

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook Page

“PTSD? How can that be? It’s been years since my trauma! I thought I was fine.”

“PTSD? How can that be? It’s been years since my trauma! I thought I was fine.”

I want to discuss something a little different about PTSD that many are not aware of. I have people ask me quite often if it is normal or possible forPTSD‬ to show up after the fact, as in years after a trauma occurred.

The answer is ABSOLUTELY!

Many that have experienced a trauma(s) do manage to keep PTSD and it’s symptoms “in it’s box”, as I have always referred to it as, many times for years before it becomes severe or more noticeable. My own husband did it, he is one of the many numbers of people this happens to.

This can happen for many different reasons, but I want to talk about a few of the most common possibilities to why this happens…

A trauma such as child abuse, rape, or an assault for example purposes. Many that experienced traumas such as these or other traumas, lock those memories away. They don’t want to talk about them, many times those traumas bring guilt, embarrassment, the feeling of shame, and most of all fear, which cause one to avoid talking to others about the trauma.

Then there is the brain and mind itself. The brain/mind itself can lock portions of or at times full memories away of the trauma experienced. It can be a way of the mind protecting you that is not done on purpose or a way of you yourself trying to forget about what you experienced so you can move forward in life. It can be for many almost like a “it’s done, it’s over, I can’t change what happened” and it gets locked away in a box.

No time to process what happened. This really affects those that are in a line of work or duty to where there is no time to process or think about what they experienced, duty calls and they are expected to be there and they are. They push through what happened and keep going, they had to and were expected to. Once pushing on they later get almost a false sense of “hey that did not bother me, I’m okay”. That is the end of the thought or conversation, the trauma is placed into a box.

Workaholics. This is very common! This happens quite often when one that has experienced a trauma and the next thing you know they indulge, or over indulge, themselves into their work or a new career. They stay busy. They want to feel normal, honestly believe they are okay, and many may not realize why they like staying so busy with constant work. They avoid talking about what they went through and just push forward with everyday life as if nothing ever happened. Many times this is something that is forced due to providing for their family, they have no choice and must work and the trauma gets set to the side, so to speak. So that trauma gets placed into that box as they carry on with life and what they must do.

When examples like these situations occur, one may go years without any symptoms of PTSD, others may show milder signs of symptoms but they are mistaken as personality traits or as if one is just having a bad day. There are many that mask or numb themselves from their traumas with alcohol or other substances, so that bottle or other form of self-medicating gets blamed when the root of it is actually that trauma and PTSD… why they do those things. It numbs the pain of what that trauma has in reality caused them.

When I say years, some studies have shown that PTSD can remain in it’s box for up to 60+ years before it gets triggered. Our beloved Vietnam Veterans (and this does happen to civilians as well) are a prime example of delayed onset of PTSD for 40+ years or it not being recognized as PTSD until years later. (And I love and respect every single one of you and we would be lost without you! You all are a huge part of the reason my husband is alive today!)

So if PTSD can sit in it’s box, on a shelf, for years upon years, then why all of a sudden does it come out of that box?

It only takes one trigger or reminder of a person’s trauma for PTSD to come out from hiding. When it does it is normally severe levels. One can go years without being faced with a trigger before one appears. It could be a movie, it could be a ceremony, it could be seeing a person who reminds you of someone from your trauma, it could be another natural disaster, it could be a reminder at the same time frame as a trauma anniversary and the combination sets everything into motion. One trigger can also unlock the memories that the brain has locked away for years.

Do you know what else may cause PTSD to come out of it’s box?

Retirement! For those that pushed through the years working, staying busy, and never processed or were unable to process what they experienced for whatever reason, stigma is a part of it for many, that change in routine can very well set PTSD free. This is extremely common for those that have reached or are getting ready to reach retirement age.

When you hear our elders, your elders (Had to use the term elders, love ya Dean! “My elder”… there’s a story behind that 😉 ) say “Reach for help”, take them seriously! Traumas and processing them as soon as possible, getting help for them, are nothing to “man up” about whether you think they have affected you or not. Trust me, it is better to be safe than sorry years down the road. There is nothing wrong or shameful about reaching for help right now.

In fact, if you do there is a very high chance you will learn now how to manage and cope with the symptoms when or if they come and what you experienced, before PTSD tries to consume your life, and can avoid a lot of pain and suffering later on in life. Many people years ago were not given that option of reaching for help that is available now. I personally do not believe PTSD will go away, but I do believe if you take the right steps in getting correct help you can learn to manage it, but you need the tools to do so. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it so you can live the most fullest life possible.

Traumas are not a joke, they are not things to brush under a rug until later. There are many people that did not have the choices and resources that are available today. What you do now can make a huge difference, positive difference in your future. Delayed onset of PTSD or it coming out of it’s box years down the road seemingly out of nowhere, is not a fun roller coaster for you or your family.

I do not know of even one person from the Vietnam era and that age range civilians, or even my own husband, that would not tell you they wished they had the help and knowledge at the beginning that is available today, and wished they had known to reach for help sooner. Listen to them, they are already living in the shoes of what may come later.

I will also say to those that are in that “years later” of symptoms showing up, reach for help if you have not, keep reaching for help until you find what is best for you, the help is available to you now. YOU ARE IMPORTANT! None of us can change the past or what you went through, but we can stand together now, help each other, and learn from each other.

Here is a great article from a few years ago from “Stars and Stripes” regarding PTSD and retirement for those that may be interested… (May contain triggers for some but does not tell detailed traumas)

Stars and Stripes “Retirement might unleash PTSD Symptoms in Vietnam Veterans

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook Page

The Many Faces of a Caregiver

The Many Faces of a Caregiver

Yesterday I posted a collage of photos in a timeline of Craig, it shows the visible changes in him from before disabilities to now. I was asked, “What about the changes in you, as a caregiver?” So this morning I tackled that hard fact of creating a collage of myself.

This one is slightly different than Craig’s, the reason being is caregivers roller coaster, so to speak, on their ups and downs, how they take care of themselves, the faces they wear. They will do everything possible to hold everything together, to get everything done, make sure everyone is taken care of, then they may slide, then they pick themselves back up again to keep going.

It takes a lot of “me time” and making sure you are taking proper care of yourself to find and maintain some sort of personal balance as a caregiver. You really do have to work as hard for yourself as you do for those you are taking care of.

You learn to wear a smiley face when appropriate or needed, you learn when it’s okay to cry, grieve, just let down and feel whatever feelings you are experiencing. You re-learn how to laugh and enjoy life even though it will never be the same as it was before. It becomes your new normal, just as one with PTSD‬, Depression‬, or other disabilities learns to discover a new normal. You learn to recognize when you yourself need to reach for help and support. You learn the “tools” to manage and live this life beside the one you love and are helping through this life with their disabilities.

A caregiver does wear many faces and can easily experience many of the same, in a way, type of stressors or mental health conditions as one with disabilities… such as anxiety, becoming overwhelmed, depression, anger, fatigue, caregivers can even experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts of walking away, and much more.

I also learned that my self-esteem cannot come from others. Something many people do, it’s human nature to want nice compliments and such from others. Let me tell you a part of our story… When Craig and I got back together, I was overweight! I mean almost 100 pounds more than my normal weight. It was a self-esteem issue from my previous marriage. Craig gave me my self-esteem back, with his support and reminding me how beautiful I am and what a good person I am, etc. Within a year I was back down to my normal weight (those first two photos in the collage). When he hit rock bottom with disabilities, I tagged right along behind him, my anxiety increased, I was overwhelmed with the changes, and I felt like I was drowning. One day I looked in the mirror and said “this is NOT me”, that day I realized that I was relying on him for what I should be doing for myself. I started making changes and learned that my self-esteem does not come from what others think or view me as, it comes from how I view myself. I started taking care of myself! I had already seen what I could do after losing weight and getting physically back in shape. Craig did not make me workout, Craig did not tell me what to eat or not eat, I was actually the one who did those things, they were just done with positive support from him. This time, he was in no condition to offer that support with what he was experiencing, but it had already been proven that I could maintain my self-esteem and my balance no matter what, and I recognized that. So I worked on it. I made sure I was also taking care of myself. I found my balance, and I have been able to keep it pretty level ever since, and self-esteem… I’m a very modest personality type of a person not full of myself, reality is I hate talking about myself but as a support to others I force myself to at times because it does help others, I second guess myself at times, but I learned to maintain my self-esteem and step back up to counteract any doubts that come. It all goes back to taking proper care of myself. And ANY of you can do it! It is hard at first, but once you learn a routine things get easier to maintain. Now, anything positive Craig brings is just a special extra. 😉

It so extremely important to make sure you are taking care of yourself as a caregiver!

The saying I myself live by…

“You have to make and take the time to take care of yourself, in order to take care of others.”

If you don’t this life can become overwhelming. PLEASE make sure you don’t forget your “me”. You have to find what works best for you to find and maintain your personal balance.

This collage of photos has a few photos in the top row of before Craig’s disabilities, then the rest are in timeline order over the years with the two newest photos being in the middle.
(This was difficult, normally I’m the one taking photos around here 😉 so there’s not one of me from this new year yet.)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

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