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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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“Invisible Wounds” or “Unseen Disabilities”

“Invisible Wounds” or “Unseen Disabilities”

I have a really heavy heart about posting this, and had NO intention of doing so! I made it for a totally different purpose. But I’m posting it because Craig told me he wanted me to, and I am going to honor that request. He said that “people need to see and understand what invisible/unseen disabilities look like”, such as ‪#‎PTSD‬, Major Depressive Disorder, and with him chronic migraines, “and actually do to a person”. As Craig told me yesterday, “I have seen all of those photos so it’s not like I don’t know what has happened to me, they were me, my life, how I was before and is the reality of what I am like now.”

I made this collage of photos yesterday morning (without the writing on it, I added the writing for the purpose of this posting) to help show someone the differences that our family sees in Craig, the differences that Craig sees in himself and what he himself compares himself to on a daily basis.

People call mental health conditions “invisible wounds” or “unseen disabilities”, I beg to differ to a certain point. No, there are not any scars to see for many, but you can see the wounds, just look at the changes in a person that mental health conditions cause. Look at the change in personality, the symptoms that are present, the change in appearance, the change in their routine and what they can or can not honestly do now. To me, those are all visible signs, and for many they are drastic signs of what and how one is affected by “unseen” disabilities.

Craig is one that tries hard to be the person he was before these disabilities, he pushes everyday to be the best he can be now. He gets regular treatment, he’s on medications to help with symptoms, he uses coping skills, he pushes himself, and I am so very proud of him, he honestly tries! But even with all that he does and we do, these photos really show the real life differences in him. PTSD and ‪#‎depression‬ are not things that one can suck up or brush under a rug and just get over. Every day it takes a lot of effort to be the best possible, to push through each day, and to battle the symptoms that come with these disabilities.

The top and bottom rows of photos are of Craig just before his disabilities became severe during his service time (Craig’s disabilities just happen to be military related, but many that are non-military suffer from the same types of disabilities), the middle photo is of Craig yesterday.

No one can convince me that PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder are unseen.

(Craig I love you dearly and thank you for your strength in showing others what mental health conditions do cause, what can be seen. You are my rock, my soul, the other half of every heartbeat my heart takes… and no disability will ever change that! Love, Bec)

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

Just because you see a smile…

Just because you see a smile…
It does not always mean what you may be thinking…

A smile can be a gift, that others quickly respond to and follow. People like the positive things in life.

A smile can be a message, so others think and feel that no matter what everything will be okay.

A smile can be a shelter, that shows a form of strength and comfort.

A smile can be a safety net, to remind me that I can make it through things.

A smile can be a mask, that hides the pains and anxiety that I don’t want to reveal.

A smile can be a defense mechanism, to keep the hidden tears from becoming waterfalls.

A smile can be a powerful representation of something good, joy in life, and what others want to see…

But what the smile hides is what life is really like, when life includes PTSD‬ and/or other mental health conditions. Those with them as well as those standing beside them.

A person can only carry that smile for so long, through so much, before that smile fades away and the reality of life, or that tough moment in time, appears upon their face. When there is no masking, and the true pain reveals itself. No human being can carry a smile every second of every day. No person can hold onto the positive one hundred percent of their lifetime.

It’s okay to release that smile at times. It’s okay to let others see the true feelings you are experiencing. And it’s okay to allow those tears to fall. We are only human.

That smile is not what makes you stronger, that release is. Talking to someone, being able to truly experience what you feel inside, that is what brings you strength. Then maybe tomorrow, or the next day, a true smile may just appear.

Yesterday I cried, I bawled my eyes out. There was no masking things with a smile any longer. I felt the pain deep inside, I felt the loss of what once was, I felt the disappointment towards others that are suppose to be of help to us, I felt like all of my strength just left me, I felt helpless and hopeless… and that’s okay, I am only human. Today, I take another step forward, with strength.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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PTSD: Memories and Triggers

PTSD: Memories and Triggers

Let me tell you a short story…

The other day Craig and I were sitting in the room, it was quiet just the two of us, then out of nowhere he said, “Are you going to make some of those bead things like you used to work on all of the time?”

I looked at him in dead silence for a moment, then asked “What exactly are you talking about?” He replied with, “You know, those bead anklets that you used to make tons of each year when the weather started warming up. You know, you used to sit in the front of the RV with your feet on the dash and make them while I would be driving. Everyday you would wear a different one, whatever matched your clothes or swimsuit.”

I sat there speechless again for a moment. The thoughts ran quickly through my head. Where did that come from? He remembered that? That was around 11 years ago! His memories are so fragmented and some completely gone, that this caught me completely off guard.

I told him, “You know, I think I should make some of those, I did love making them and wearing them. He said, “You should, you always seemed happy when you were working on them.”

I was still puzzled by this conversation that “seemed” to come out of nowhere. But I went along with it, and he was right. Then I realized he had the phone in his hand. I asked him what he was looking at? You know what? He was looking at the weather and how it is suppose to be warming up again!

It is amazing to me how at times something so simple can trigger a memory, especially when it was one that was thought to be simple or even forgotten. I just smiled at the fact of the conversation, it meant the world to me that he was able to recall something so simple but yet had such a huge meaning behind it.

This was a good memory for Craig. But you know what? Just like him looking at the weather brought that memory of me making anklets to thought/mind, that is the same way things happen to those with PTSD‬. It only takes one simple or seemingly simple to others thing related to one’s trauma, for PTSD to be triggered or a person’s trauma to be brought back to their mind. Those memories are not something that a person can just get over or brush under a rug, they can come when you least expect them. Please do not dismiss what those with PTSD actually experience.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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