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PTSD and Memory causing issues.

PTSD and Memory causing issues.

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s talk about this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* First thing to do… 

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

* Trial and Error 

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

* Proof

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

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

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

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

* Communication!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Spouse’s Story PTSD blog 

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

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“Walking on Eggshells”…

“Walking on Eggshells”…

This is a very common phrase to those who live with someone who has PTSD. It can also be one of those vicious circles as well… PTSD symptoms are up, the spouse feels like they are walking on eggshells, then that feeling or actions roll over to the one with PTSD, and back around again.

Anxiety, that is really what this phrase boils down to. It is a mind set of what words/actions need to take place in order to keep peace and calm environment to help PTSD symptoms settle down, and doing them. Which can in many cases lead to one developing anxiety.

Walking on eggshells is the phrase used when one watches closely what they do, how they say things, how they act, used when they are trying not to cause frustration or anger in another person. They are just simply trying to keep things calm, not rock the boat, so to speak. Things that have to be done but in doing so, many times they leave out the balance needed by themselves and instead, allow the walking on eggshells feeling consume them. You then feel on edge all of the time, you lose your self balance.

There is a problem with this. There is not a single person on this earth that can manage and do everything perfect. You are expecting yourself to be a super hero with super powers… folks, that is too high of expectations of yourself! Then add to that, we are talking about PTSD being a part of our lives, and with that come the symptoms. It goes back to what I always say, you have to find a balance and you have to know what to do and how to take care of yourself in order to help someone else.

I know the “walking on eggshells”. I am no different then anyone else, as a spouse of one with PTSD I’ve experienced it. It is the most horrible, draining, heart aching feeling that hits your gut a spouse can experience. And you want it to go away quickly when it appears. And yes, I myself have anxiety, much of what came from the walking on eggshells, and I’ll be the first to admit it, but I learned to control it instead of allowing it to control me. 

See, when PTSD symptoms rise it is normal for a spouse/partner to feel the eggshells. You think “what’s coming next” or “when is the other shoe going to fall”, “how will we make it through this time”, “will the things that worked last time work again?” or a simple throw your hands in the air and scream “What do I do!”… etc etc etc. This brings anxiety in the spouse/partner. You start watching everything you say, every action you take, anything to keep things calm. The spouse is experiencing something very similar as one with PTSD does, they start thinking about the “what if’s” and those what if’s can take over. They can also experience the feeling of just being lost in everything happening and not know how or what to do… which leads to anxiety.

So, what do you do?

You face it! I don’t know any other direct way to word it. I learned that when I say to myself AND out loud  “My anxiety is up right now” or even at times “I know your PTSD has you on edge and I feel on edge too, so please just understand that.”, it helps. Then I redirect to what I know I have to do for myself as well as my husband to help him through.

Some examples of things that work for me/us:

* Communication

Both of us learned to tell the other what or how we are feeling. This helps both of us understand the other. It does not mean we can “fix” each other, it simply means we are on the same page so if words or actions seem off, we understand why and don’t take it personally.

* We don’t point fingers at each other.

“This is how I feel…”, “This is how I took what you said, can you explain…so I can better understand…” which can be based from the other person’s words or actions, however we don’t accuse or place blame, we explain this is why and I need us to work on this together or time to get a grip on what I am feeling or what happened. We work together to find a solution and/or allow the other person time to work out what they are feeling. NO blame! No guilt trips! And it’s all in the wording.

You have to allow a person to feel and experience their emotions and thoughts. It’s their feelings, their emotions, and rather they seem totally off base or not allow them to express themselves so you can work through those feelings and emotions. You also have to keep in mind “It’s their’s, they own it” that means you can address it, except it, help support and talk through things, but you don’t have to own that feeling or emotion if it’s not your’s to do so with.

* Redirect yourself.

If I feel the eggshells coming or anxiety rising, I find something to do to help calm it. It could be doing something that makes me feel good, working on a hobby or just getting outside, it could be using coping skills, etc. Self-help, the strongest, most powerful tool you have! You are NOT going to be in control of every situation that comes up, but you are in control of what you do and do for yourself when it does. 

* Don’t feel guilty.

Again, this is life with PTSD. You can not control everything and things are going to happen, especially when PTSD symptoms are high. At times you will need to take me time, at times you might not know exactly what to do… if there is even anything you can do. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the answer or solution. That does take time to figure out, and there’s no guarantee when you do find something that helps that it will work every time. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty, basically about being human. You can still be there as support, to help, to listen, to talk, etc. but that does not mean you will have all of the solutions or answers.

Many spouses are known for saying or feeling… “Well if I had done this…” or “If I had said that…”. You are laying a guilt trip on yourself by doing this. Change your mind set! “Okay, next time I know I can try this… or I can word it like…”. Use what you have learned and allow it to work for you next time. Do not land yourself in guilt and cause you not to look forward. You are human and with being human you are not going to be perfect every single time or situation, no human is.

These are just a few things of many. Bottom line is, walking on eggshells is a very real feeling. It will happen sooner or later, but find ways and things to help you lessen that feeling. Even with taking caution to words and actions in order to help one with PTSD, you can still find a self balance to help keep yourself from becoming too overwhelmed. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

A new little rosemary bush… brought way more then just rosemary

So I slipped away for a little “me time” this morning, actually haha grocery shopping and just walking through the store looking at everything… but it was still me time. 

I decided this month instead of my self-help buy myself flowers,which I do once a month, I would buy a new rosemary bush! My other one did not survive the winter sadly. And I can’t allow our little family tradition of rosemary for dad to be interrupted.  😉

So, when I got back home my step-daughter asked me why I bought a rosemary plant. I explained that the old one died and I had to get a new one… she does not live with us full time so when she is here she is still learning.  I explained what her step-sister does for dad and why. (For those of you that do not know the story, you can find it here.)

You know what a small conversation about this new plant brought?

Craig’s daughter learning about breathing exercises (coping skills) and how this new little plant can be a big part in it and all of the good things it can help with. We even did them together so I could show her how to do them correctly. She was SO excited and said this was “really cool“. I explained to her that anyone can use breathing exercises and how it can help you calm down when you feel nervous, anxious, worried… you know 😉 when you experience anxiety.

We talked about how the oils and fragrance of the plant has a relaxing effect (by the way, if you can’t be around rosemary, lavender is my other favorite). How you can just brush your hand across the leaves or pinch them off and place them in a little bowel then rub them in your hands when you feel you need extra help to relax. We talked about how the oils transfer to your hands then you just hold your hands up to your face as you breathe. We talked about how combining the rosemary scent with the breathing exercises helps you relax more.

She loved this! She thought this was something she could do to help her when she fidgets and just can’t seem to slow down. She said she has a rosemary bush at home but thought it was only good for cooking. That now she knows another way to use it.

The catch to all of this?

She was just taught something that she can use throughout her lifetime, but did not realize this is a “coping skill”… she viewed it as something fun and new that she learned. 😉

Children can learn about PTSD and things that can help at any age level. Teach them on their age appropriate level and make the learning fun! And look at what one little rosemary bush just taught a child. 🙂 You know what else? How much do you want to bet she teaches this to someone else? 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

The Lake Path…

The story behind this new photo…

Yesterday, Craig took Maya, his dog, outside and he came back in and said, “Bec! There’s a guy down in our path to the lake clearing it, it looks like.” I asked him if he spoke to him, he replied no. So good ol’ Alex and I went outside. I watched for a few minutes and sure enough, there were actually 2 men down there and they were coming up our path… which was VERY overgrown, about 10 feet tall. So you know me, I had to find out why they were there and at the same time ease Craig’s mind to these strangers being on “our part” of the lake property.

I walked out the fence and down to the lake. I spoke loudly to the one closest to our property, startled him actually. Instantly I apologized for startling him and he said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, hang on let me come up there.” He said, “Um, I assume this is not so and so’s property?” I chuckled and said, “no it isn’t they live next door, but wow at the work you have done. Can I pay you for it?“. He was talking a mile a minute, almost a tremor in him as he talked, but that was okay, I’m use to that from Craig when his anxiety is high. And refused to accept anything.

The two men said they would finish clearing our path to the lake, I offered to pay them again, but they refused to take anything… but a drink I offered. I told the one which I talked to the most that my husband and I have been needing to clear this and it was on my to-do list this coming week before Spring Break starts and all of the kids are here. I offered again to pay them, still got a no.

We talked for a little while longer about the lake and area, in the conversation I mentioned that my husband is a disabled Veteran who has PTSD. Then I started to say PTSD is post… and he already knew exactly what I was talking about and said “REALLY?“. I said yes and he does not get outside much, so I had not worked on the path since last spring. This was awesome that they were doing this even though it was actually a mistake on which property was which. They said they did not mind at all and would finish it for us.

So, I thanked them again and walked back to the house to get them some drinks. I knocked on the window where Craig was. I told him they are actually neighbors from around the lake and he should come meet them. To my total shock!!! Craig walked back down to the lake with me! (By the way, Craig and I, neither one are the jealous type so the talking to a guy thing was not an issue and had nothing to do with Craig coming out.)

Come to find out, one of the guys lost his dad a few months back… and his dad was a Veteran as well. He and Craig talked for a few minutes and seemed to have a lot in common. 

Craig actually told them to come by sometime, and the guys told us where they lived and we could stop by anytime. One of them is married with a baby on the way, so I said I would love to meet his wife. Also has two dogs and he is working on training them, so he and I talked about that as well.

The guys told us they would be back tomorrow to finish the neighbor’s path, and just wanted to let us know they would be back down there, then went back to clearing.

Isn’t it interesting how paths cross sometimes? 😉 Yesterday was just simply amazing! These two men we had never met, even after discovering a location mistake actually, were kind enough to finish clearing our path so we could get back out on the lake, a huge task off my shoulders… and refused to take a penny for it. The whole event actually pulled Craig out of the house and he had a good conversation with them. And, it really seems we all have a lot in common! 😉

Even though it was a day with high PTSD symptoms and anxiety, it was an amazing day and what a great small step forward! I just had to share! 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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

My coffee and things to think about…

Okay 😉 I have a confession…

Last Monday I had my check-up, and you know my doc told me I HAD to decrease my coffee intake. Those of you that know me well, know I LOVE my coffee! Since I was a teen I have drank 3-4 cups per day, then water the rest of the day. Doc said I HAVE to decrease to 2 cups per day and then I can have 1 decaf cup. WOW that was a hard one for me lol!

The reason for the decrease is because I am very healthy, but I do have anxiety. Her words were she would hate to see someone as healthy as I am have a stroke because of the combination of my anxiety/heart palpitations and high intake of coffee. She was pretty darn serious with me about it.

SO, I listened and have been following doctor’s orders. I wasn’t too thrilled with this, but did what she said I needed to. I have only had 2 cups per day, one day I did have a cup of decaf as my third cup but that, haha, that was not for me.

I have to confess, the doc was right! It’s been five days and I can tell a huge change for the better in the way I feel/my heart feels! I have drank high quantities of coffee for so long that I never thought coffee would actually effect me, or my anxiety! Boy was I wrong! I feel better and you know what? My coping skills for my anxiety are working even better for me then what they already were!

There are many foods, drinks, and other things that can effect the way you feel, effect things such as anxiety, PTSD, in general health, etc. This small example of what I had to change, shows that you do need to be watching what you do, as well as how those things are honestly affecting you! I never, in my wildest dreams, would have thought my coffee intake was adding to my issue or could cause the problems it could potentially cause with the combination of my anxiety.

If your doc says to change something, trust me 😉 don’t put it to the side and think a change will not work, your doc might just be right!  😉

SO, my 2 cups of coffee per day is perfectly okay with me!  I can feel the change and it feels good!! 🙂

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

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A Walk…

I have to share something! This may seem like nothing to many but it’s HUGE to me! Many of you with PTSD will understand, 😉

Yesterday it was a bit cooler here, Craig does well in cooler weather because he now has heat sensitivity and of course anxiety makes him sweat.

Well, yesterday afternoon, now this is after our outing to the doctor, he said, “Want to go for a walk?” Now you know I didn’t pass that one up!!! I put my knee brace on, grabbed a bottle of water, and out the door we went before he changed his mind. 

We walked around the neighborhood. It was quiet and peaceful. And let me tell you, it felt awesome! Craig rarely gets outside, he is now considered agoraphobic and leaving the house for any reason is a chore. So this was HUGE! I’m SO proud of him!

Once we got home I had to know  what sparked this? Well, he had notes he had taken and I noticed him reading them yesterday. He told me, “I want my doctor off my back about walking. Every time I see him he asks me (now this has been 3 years with this doc mind you) if I have been walking and I want to be able to tell him yes.”

Craig and I use to take walks together every evening, it was something we always did even before PTSD became severe. It’s been, oh, maybe 2 years since it was a regular on and off routine. Oh I can not explain how good it felt for us to take one simple walk together!

I know his anxiety was very high, I kept having to remind him I’m in a knee brace and can’t walk that fast. Now let me tell you lol, those long legs of his can move when his anxiety goes up lol. But he did it!!!! We walked then when we got home watched a movie together and just relaxed.

Progress! What great progress! I know that took A LOT for him to do, but he did it!!! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

When it comes to weekends or Leaving the house…

It’s Friday, the jump for joy weekend is here! Oh wait, the weekend?

More people are off of work, stores and other places are more crowded with people getting things done they did not do during the week. People out enjoying activities, movies, ball games, having date night (oh that term I no longer like lol), and families out together.

It’s just things that don’t always mix well with PTSD. Many with PTSD, not all, but many have a difficult time when weekends roll around. It can bring increase in all of the PTSD symptoms.

I have found that more and more people who suffer from PTSD, stay home during the weekend. I raise my hand, we fit into that category. There’s no other term for it, it falls under the avoidance symptom.

Many with PTSD have rearranged their schedule of doing things to help keep PTSD symptoms down. They shop during the week when stores are not crowded, and in the off hours. Many dine out early or late to avoid the crowds… or avoid dining out all together. Take out becomes a huge part of life over a sit down dinner out. Many find places off the beaten path to be able to still accomplish outings the best possible with less stress or anxiety.

Then there are those that have extreme difficulty making it out their front door. This is pretty much where we sit… right now at least. And this by no means is meant in a negative, disrespectful, or in a finger pointing way, it’s just the facts of life. You do not realize how much PTSD can effect someone until you see a person who before PTSD could not wait to leave the house to do things, then PTSD takes much of that want and need to get out away.

It’s by no means because a person does not want to go out! That has nothing to do with it, in fact they would want nothing more then to be able to. It becomes an inner struggle of mixed emotions and thoughts. The “I use to this” or “I want to go there” then PTSD gets that grip on them and just won’t allow them to just go. The “what if’s” set in. Do you know what that leads to? Guilt. Pure and simple. They start feeling guilty that their life has changed, and even more it’s changed the lives of those around them.

Let me give you an example…

Craig was recently asked if he likes food. Kind of an odd question, don’t you think? But oh there was a lot of in depth meaning behind it. He really couldn’t answer the question. It boiled down to “It’s just something I do because Bec makes sure I eat.” He had not ever thought about that. Later he was asked if we go out to eat. Nope, we haven’t been out to eat in a very long time. Then another question, “what are your favorite foods?“. He couldn’t answer that one either. It ended up being something along the lines of, “I just eat whatever is cooked or placed in front of me, it really doesn’t matter.

Then came the kicker of a question, “Did you use to go out to eat?” Wow he jumped all over that one, eyes lighting up! “Oh yes, Bec and I had our favorite places to eat, each place we would go to because of the certain favorites we had at each place. We would go to [name] for steak, we would go to [name] for seafood, we would go to [name] for Mexican… We use to eat out at sit down meals at least once a week if not more depending on what we were in the mood for. It’s something we enjoyed doing.”

(And thank you Craig for letting me use this example, love ya babe!!! )

Do you see what happened? There is a much larger picture here and that example shows it clearly!

It’s not only the anxiety, what if’s, and everything else that comes with PTSD. It’s the fact that battling all of those symptoms leads to a loss of interest, and many times depression. It’s not that a husband doesn’t WANT to take his wife out on a date night, it’s that everything that comes with battling that date night has just simply resulted in a lack of interest in doing things. PTSD wears a person out, there are no other words to describe it. It’s not lack of love, it’s not lack of wanting family time, it’s NOT PERSONAL towards other people. It’s what has happened to them.

Back to the example of Craig, if he did not want to go out to eat, then why was he so excited to tell about what we use to do and where we use to go, the favorite meals we ate at each place? He even told about how we use to go and just sit on a bench and have coffee, people watching lol. If he didn’t want to do these things there would not have been any excitement in his tone when he said those things. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

I will give another example. The one thing the doctors keep pointing out to Craig and I, is PTSD has taken travelling away from us. I call it “my golden key to beating PTSD” at this point. It won’t make PTSD go away, but it can sure give something back! I know if I can manage to get another RV sooner or later, I could help change not only Craig’s life, but our lives. Give something back that we lost. And you know why I strongly believe this? Because since it had been brought up, I see Craig every day looking at RVs online. Sooner or later that will lead to him saying “hey let’s go look at one.” Sooner or later it will lead to getting another one (when we can financially afford it of course). And that will lead to him going out the front door and finding a peace of his and our life again, meaning, and interest… with still maintaining a comfort zone. Patience, time, and baby steps. We have set a goal of travelling again, and meeting people from this very page. It’s a goal with meaning and life to it.

No, I’m not going to end this without saying something directly to spouses/partners or family of those with PTSD. I know first hand what life with PTSD is like. But I also know if you are holding things over your PTSD loved one’s head, blaming them for things you can not do or do less of, getting upset with them when they don’t want to do something or CAN’T, and you are taking things personally as an ‘attack’ against you… then you are not helping with that step forward. Most likely you are causing them to crawl into a deeper hole that it’s going to be difficult to get them out of. I know it’s hard to not take the things that come from PTSD personally, but you have to try, and learn to understand so you can get to a better place then where you may be right now. Positive support and communication, those are huge for baby steps to happen!

None of this means PTSD will keep you locked inside your home forever and always. It doesn’t mean the day won’t come where you can have a date night or a weekend day out with your family. It does not mean the day won’t come that you can actually enjoy something over the PTSD symptoms. It doesn’t mean baby steps can’t be taken to get some of what you think you have lost back. It just simply means you have to learn and understand the “why’s” to PTSD in order to move forward.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Fight, Flight… or FREEZE?

Fight, Flight… or FREEZE?

We have discussed fight or flight before, but what about freeze? Many people do not know the term freeze when it comes with PTSD, but guess what! Freeze can be a part of your response as well.

So what is freeze when talking about PTSD? Freeze takes place when you are in a situation where you can’t fight and you can’t take flight… you simply freeze. Motionless and can’t respond when danger, or the fear of, is there.

Freeze is a natural response to panic and fear of the ultimate level. It is when nothing else can happen and you have no choice but to face the fear you are confronted with by dissociating… oh wait! Dissociate, a word we are more familiar with. Freezing is another term/form of Dissociation.

When a person experiences a freeze response, they may hold their breathe, have a long or spontaneous sigh, you go motionless when danger is presented.

We all know the association of freeze to animals, humans are no different. Like with animals, the deer in the headlights… does the deer run when car headlights are approaching? Does it stand and battle the car? Nope, sure doesn’t, it freezes in place, doesn’t move, and stands there still so the danger will go away, but most likely in that case will be hit by the danger. It’s simple the way the nervous system is hardwired for when fight or fight is not an option. It’s also a survival mechanism… what does an animal do when a predator approaches? They freeze! That natural instinct of don’t move, won’t be harmed, predator will go away.

Freezing is linked to the nervous system of the brain. It’s a non-conscious response to an overwhelming threat. Many people who experience this response feel guilt or shame for not responding or the outcome of not being able to respond, once or after it has occurred.

It’s also a way the nervous system handles arousal during moments of high stress. This is also what causes many to develop trauma symptoms long after the threat or danger has passed. You may have gone into the freeze mode and not be aware that you did.

Let me add some info on this part from Dr. Suzanne LaCombe to explain it…

“During an traumatic event an enormous amount of energy is released by our neuroendocrine system. This enables us to fight or flee. However, fight or flight is not always an optimal strategy in modern life.

For example, if my boss infuriates me I don’t really want to punch his lights out (i.e. fight). If my car is about to collide with another there is usually little advantage to jumping out of the car (ie. flight)–even if I had time to do so.

However, if there is sufficient resiliency in your nervous system you will be able to discharge this energy without being traumatized. For many people however this life-threatening experience sets the stage for dysregulation. The energy mobilized by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system when we go into freeze.

In these situations you may not even realize that you went into freeze, yet several months later you can still be reeling from the effects of an accident. One theory is that the nervous system has not yet discharged the energy that was mobilized for fight or flight.
This freeze response sometimes reveals itself when you breathe. Holding your breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on it’s oxygen intake.” (from myshrink.com)

Traumas locked away from freezing, that’s something Craig has heard recently. He was told that when his trauma occurred (and out of respect for him I will not write details) and there was absolutely nothing else he could do to prevent the event from happening, it was something totally out of his control, he froze briefly then went back to work. He basically put his traumatic event in a box and sat that box on a shelf, for years, and managed through what he had experienced the best he could on his own. When you have a duty at hand, there’s no handling your emotions and feelings right then, you have a job to do and are expected to do it, and that’s what Craig did… and I’m sure many others are/were in the same shoes. Then he was triggered. That box opened up full force and here we are now… #PTSD chronic,#anxiety#depressive disorder…

Now you see why I said so many suffer from guilt or shame. Even that “what if” after the fact. That freezing can cause all sorts of thoughts and emotions to form. But you know what, that freezing can not be stopped, it’s a natural defense to trauma that your nervous system/brain does that you have no control over.

Freezing can happen anytime danger or threat are involved. It’s just another response that comes when fight or flight are not options. However, research is being done to see if the freeze response can actually be beneficial to regulating the nervous system, and with that PTSD symptoms.

And just to add it in here, anxiety symptoms and/or depression by definition are a dysregulation of the nervous system. For more information on self regulation click here.

Bottom line, get help. There are so many different things now that can help with PTSD. I won’t say it’s going away, but it can be better then it may be right now. And the sooner you reach for help, the better things can be for you.

With the conversation yesterday regarding motionless body function, I thought this was a good topic to touch on considering it does come with PTSD. I myself am still learning about the freeze response, so as I learn I will pass it on to you. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD and Migraines/Headaches

PTSD and Migraines/Headaches

Since migraines have obviously been a hot topic this week I wanted to address them directly. There are many people who have PTSD that suffer from migraines and/or headaches. But why?

I’m by no means a doctor, but have learned a lot about migraines with Craig having so many of them, so let’s talk.

Anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows that they are extremely painful, they cause you to become nauseous, they interfere with your vision, and can even effect your hearing while experiencing them. Then there are headaches, those annoying, head pounding, throbbing, lingering pain that you just want to go away even though you can function through them majority of the time until they leave.

Now take either of those and imagine suffering from them several times per week or on an almost daily basis. It becomes debilitating! That is exactly what many who suffer from PTSD go through. It sure makes managing PTSD itself difficult when migraines or headaches are hanging around so much.

Migraines or headaches can be caused by many different things…

* Lack of proper sleep.

We all know that with PTSD there also come nightmares/terrors, which lead to lack of sleep or good sleep.

* Proper eating habits.

We also know that with PTSD and/or depression, in many cases you just don’t have the urge to eat. OR, you don’t eat on a proper schedule. You have to remember that eating correctly fuels the body, and with that includes the brain. 

* Caffeine intake.

This is the one that shocks people, it sure did me! Many people, when they start having migraines or headaches back off caffeine intake, but you know what? By backing off you could be causing rebound or more headaches/migraines. It is important to keep your caffeine intake the same each day.

Example given to us this week was coffee. If you normally drink 3 cups of coffee a day, you should make sure you drink 3 cups every day, and in the same time frame you normally would.

It helps to prevent an increase in migraine or headache issues you may already be experiencing. There are even medications used to help with migraines that contain caffeine. Caffeine intake is a huge part of migraines/headaches that many don’t think about the way it should be. In reality, I can even tell if my intake was different each day, and you notice lol, my day always starts with coffee in hand. 

* Exercise.

Lack of exercise can play a role in all of this as well. Even if you only take a short walk each day it can help! And hey, a walk is always good for PTSD in general as well.

* Organic cause… a physical medical issue.

We can’t leave out actual physical reasons for migraines. Something physically going on with the body which can induce migraines or headaches. So it is good to make sure that is ruled out as the reason. And oh my! I have seen with Craig what one with PTSD is like when they fear that something physical could be going on with their brain, it’s not good, and that vicious cycle becomes worse to what they go through.

But you know what?

There’s something else that also comes with PTSD that can be the cause of migraines or headaches developing. Rather you have all of those other things somewhat balanced (which can help greatly) or not, or ruled out, and are still having severe issues, you can almost bet anxiety is at hand! Anxiety, now we have a larger vicious circle that leads to physical pain, migraines and/or headaches and PTSD symptoms!

It really makes sense that anxiety, and even depression for many, are behind much of the cause of migraines. Anxiety causes you to be tense, you worry more, all of those “what if’s” come into play, you may have tremors or twitches with it, and the fear of something being wrong with you can send your anxiety you already experience into overdrive. Additional stress, new things or situations that come up all can add to it. Which can lead to even more migraines and/or headaches. Oh that vicious circle.

So what can you do?

There are many different medications that can help manage migraines, and many doctors do start regimens that can help control migraines. Being in pain is no joking matter, so it’s one of those times that medications or even herbal remedies can help decrease pain. But that is only a part of it. You have to learn to relax. Oh, now that’s a good one, isn’t it! That’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish with PTSD! It is sure easier said then done.

That sends our vicious circle right back to the basics of managing PTSD itself. Coping skills. In order to find any form of relaxation, you have to take the time to learn and use coping skills. You have to set a schedule for yourself on daily needs such as eating and exercising, even just getting out of the house some each day. And you need to find something you enjoy doing! These things can all help with PTSD, with depression, and with anxiety… which in turn can help with managing migraines and headaches. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Anxiety, Flashbacks, Triggers, Panic Attacks…Oh MY!

Just when you thought lions, and tigers, and bears were something else…

Anxiety or Panic Attacks, Flashbacks, Memories, …OH MY!

I mention coping skills all of the time. But what are they? How do they help? When do you use them? Let’s see if we can talk about these things and make the term “coping skills” make a little more sense.  Again, I’m not a doctor so this is from my personal observations and/or experiences.

Anxiety or Panic Attacks.

This is when you feel your heart pounding, heart palpitations, your adrenaline is rushing, you feel like you are having a heart attack which many times can lead to more panic and fear. I myself suffer from these so I can speak from a very personal point of view on this one.

When I first experienced one I thought for sure I was going to die! Over time I learned to control them when they come though. I don’t get them nearly as often now… why? I use methods of coping when I feel one starting.

Breathe! This is one of the things that can work the best for you! I use the same exact things that Craig was taught to use for his PTSD.  It’s a rather simple exercise and improves with practice.

– First you have to breathe through your abdomen (the correct way to breathe in the first place which many do not do), not your chest.
– Take a deep breath i through your nose 2-3-4, hold it 2-3-4, then let it out through your mouth 2-3-4.

What you are doing is slowing down your breathing by counting which slows down the panic. You are focusing on the breathing and counting and not what the “what if” of your heart pounding or whatever thought had caused the panic attack to begin with.

Flashbacks

A flashback is when you believe the trauma you experienced is happening all over again. The intrusive thoughts, feelings, and emotions of that very trauma. But in reality of real time, the right now, the trauma is not happening even though to you it is very real.

When these happen or you feel them starting…

– Focus on something near you. It could be an animal, a car, a tree, anything that can help keep you grounded to the current place you are actually at.

– Don’t close your eyes! When you close your eyes you are allowing your brain and thoughts to take over and take you back to the trauma. By keeping your eyes open you can help manage the flashback.

– Talk to someone or them talk to you. This can also help you from going further into the flashback. Talk about what is happening right then, where you are, what the date is, who is there with you… if you are the other person there say your name to the one having the flashback. This helps keep the person focused on who they are with and can help prevent them from thinking you are someone that was there when the trauma occurred.

– Walk around, pace, keep your body moving. This can also help keep you grounded.

– Drink or eat something. Seriously! Focus on every swallow you take. What you are doing is refocusing off of the trauma that happened and onto the present time and what you are doing right now.

– Remind yourself (or the one that is having the flashback) that this is a normal response to the trauma. Flashbacks do happen and are a normal response. By accepting that these do or can happen can help you (them) get through them and help ground them from the flashback.

Memories

Memories include not only memories but also the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and images of the trauma.

Here’s the largest key to handling these… They are just that, memories. Remind yourself that even though they seem by all means real and they are based off of something that did really happen, right now, this moment, they are a memory and not really happening again right now.

It might help talking to someone about them, someone you trust or a doctor. In many cases, talking about the memories can lesson the impact they have on you. I won’t say they will go away, they are still a memory, but what they do to you could lessen over time with talking and learning to cope with them correctly.

To say the least if I added in every symptom PTSD brings, you would be reading all day  So here are a few more coping skills that can be used for other PTSD symptoms as well:

* Focusing on present time and place.
* Get outside and enjoy nature.
* Exercise, any type of exercise.
* Talk to someone you trust.
* Find something you enjoy doing.
* Write! Get those feelings out on paper! 
* Give yourself a “cooling off” time when angry or irritable. Keep in mind that staying angry is not useful to moving forward.
* Listen to soothing music.
* Slow down! Don’t allow anxiety to push you into high speed.
* Make “to-do” lists by priority and don’t overwhelm yourself.
* If you have an outburst towards a family member or friend, once you have calmed down talk to them. Don’t just let it go!
* Trauma can bring you down, try to remember and think of positive things to help yourself recover from the down.
* Remember to tell loved ones you do love them. We all know PTSD can bring some very rough times, don’t forget to let your support team know you are glad they are there.
*Meditation. There are many different types, learn which ones could work for you and try them!

It boils down to an extremely long list. Just remember to do what you can to help yourself cope or to help the one you love.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD