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Interview for Women’s Health: Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Awhile back I had asked everyone on my facebook page to help me pick a photo and I know many were curious what it was for. 😉 So I wanted to share with you an interview I did for the month of November, National Family Caregiver month, regarding PTSD and being a caregiver.

Thank you WomensHealth.gov for the opportunity to share with others a small part of our lives in order to help others who live with or beside PTSD.

An Interview About Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Rebecca McCoy 

~Bec

 

A Christmas Dog Story: Updated

A Christmas Dog Story

(DON’T CRY or you will have me in tears! 😉 There’s a good ending to this… and it is about life with PTSD)

Okay, it’s that time of year again that I start flipping through my photos and putting up decorations. I cannot go without telling this story and how it is a huge part of my life living beside one with PTSD. We have been having huge discussions about a new pup for me… to join our family sometime this next year. I do still shed a tear every Christmas when I add Toby’s ornament to our tree (I’m looking at it lol, it will go on most likely today), but it wouldn’t be a tree without it. 

Please don’t cry over this story…or you will make me cry.  But you all are family and I want to share something with you that is beyond dear to my heart. For those who don’t understand what and how a dog can make a difference to your life or why they are so important to me, maybe this story will help you with that understanding.

“Toby”, also called “Toby-son” by myself, came into my life just before Christmas, now many years ago. He was a German Shepherd Dog/Husky mix who’s litter was placed in a cardboard box and left next to a dumpster in a nearby town at about a month old. I had been visiting the shelter every day, 3 times a day, for weeks looking for the right match to ME. Not as a service dog, but as my special pet, eventually my work partner.

A shelter worker, actually who I still contact to this day regarding abuse cases etc. talked to me one day and said “I need you here today at such and such time. We have a litter coming out and I think you will find what you are looking for.” Well, that day I was there and Karen helped me through the crowd of people when the pups came out and let me have first pick. OH there was no deciding! I pointed at Toby and said let’s take that one to the play-pen for testing. Sure enough Toby ended up being my match! That day I adopted a 10 week old puppy that changed my life and heart forever! (Dang it lol, I can’t write this without that tear. Oh my heart dog.)

Toby was different than other dogs of my past, he was a true handful lol! As a pup he challenged me every step of the way! I decided to socialize him through classes with other dogs…which ended up being our “escape” from reality so to speak. I put my everything into him, and he did the same for me. See, I ended up going through a nasty divorce (no worries he and I are on good terms now  ) back before Craig and I got back together… Toby was my rock, my strength, my everything. He was the one that kept me solid on my feet and taught me how to be strong. See, dogs don’t judge, they love! The emotional stress I had gone through was overwhelming…but there Toby was, always faithfully by my side wagging that tail looking at me like “Mom what next?”.

Then Craig came back into my life  Yes, there were strict grounds lol. To accept me, I come with baggage that must be accepted too! He thought I was talking about my kiddos hehe. I told him, “No silly, my dog! I know you accept my kids.” I think he was kind of shocked lol! But to say the least we got back together…which meant he accepted Toby. 

Toby brought a whole new meaning regarding dogs to Craig. Craig was not really a dog person before Toby, and dog hair haha drove him crazy! But he fell in love with Toby. Everyone loved Toby…how could they not! He was a well rounded, all around type of dog from obedience, manners, tasks, tracking, games with the kids, oh the tricks lol, and most of all…watching after me. We NEVER had a problem finding a pet sitter either lol, everyone loved staying with Toby and all of the cool tricks he could do. Favorite party trick was “Toby, get me a beer” lol of course! Or the “Bang! Dead dog” Toby would drop to the floor but keep his tail wagging. Then I would place my hands on my hips and say, “Dead dogs don’t wag their tails.” His tail would drop to the floor and never even flinch. Then he would wait for the “Good boy” command and jump into my arms lol!

When Craig became a disabled Veteran we headed back to Florida where we grew up. I started my dog pet training business up again since we were finally able to plant some roots, so we thought (but that’s another story for another day). I became involved with some rescues and local people, so rescues in and out of the home became a new part of life, hard at times to let go and some stayed, but a part of life. And I started working with and training service dogs.

See, Toby was still around when Craig’s medical became REALLY bad. My anxiety at one time was so bad that I had passed out and during the fall my head went through the sheet-rock of the wall. I sustained a concussion and had amnesia for several weeks. I didn’t recall it at the time but after the fact once the memories start coming back to me, I remembered that when I came to, who do you think was there licking my face? You guessed it, my Toby-Son. Over time as I learned about what was happening with Craig, and that this was not just him but PTSD and other disabilities, I was able to get a firm grip on myself. My therapy through the rough years? My dog! 

Again, Toby was not a service dog of any sorts but he was the best therapy a person could have. He really was what saved me during the rough years. He and I spent hours every day together working on his training and keeping his skills up, he was my lead dog for my training business, we took long walks, and you would always find him laying at my feet just waiting for whatever came next. He traveled from one coast to the other, and back again by my side…yes we stopped at every state sign and took pictures too. 

Anyway, at almost 10 years old my dear Toby fell ill. Mysteriously, right after Craig started getting treatment for PTSD, I swear to this day Toby knew I would be okay at that point. Test after test was done, he was on IV drips at home, and was having seizures extremely bad. He was like a light switch…one second he was on the ground and couldn’t get up, the next he seemed fine and sitting by me waiting for a command, then it would change again. One day he was extreme, I called his vet and she came rushing to our home. Toby passed away that day laying in my lap. (Yup, there’s a tear).

My dearest friend was gone. I never had an animal so close to me as he was. My heart and soul shattered. I took a long break from training and was also having to take care of Craig. My rescues were never the same after that day, they mourned him as much as I did. I still get choked up every year as I place his ornament on the tree…I actually get teased in a loving way now…they say “Everyone leave the room, mom has Toby’s ornament in her hand.” Lol. Yes, today I can smile along with that random tear.

See, I believe that Toby IS my Angel with four legs and wings that looks after me, just as he always did. Several years ago now Craig and I found this little shelter dog that we adopted to be Craig’s service dog (which I trained him for the job but Craig only uses him at home). Well, Alex is the spitting image of my Toby…just a different color and a little extra spunk in his step! Alex somehow has filled a deep gap, space, in my heart and some of the footsteps Toby once stood in… even though Alex is in reality Craig’s dog and bonded to him.

This Christmas season I do not weep as I have in the past, I smile and thank Toby for the path he lead me down, the self-help he taught me, the love and bond he brought to my heart, and for bringing Alex into our lives! But, even more than that, this is the first time since Toby’s passing seven years ago, that I myself have been ready for MY own dog again. I have ENJOYED looking at different breeds, figuring out what I want next (which I’m pretty sure will be a German Shepherd Dog), and have that lit fire back in my heart, eager for an addition to our family to come this next year… And training “him”! In a way, this new pup to come is me taking a part of my life back, with a step forward.

You know, sometimes it does take a long time to mend, so to speak, from what you have been through, it does not mean you will ever forget, it does not mean those feelings and thoughts will go away, but it also does not mean that there’s not a step forward. Those steps forward are there, embrace them when they come, work towards them, and never give up.

 Love, Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Finding the “New You”

Finding the “New You”

The most difficult part of PTSD, whether you are the one living with PTSD or the one standing beside them, is life changed. Even though you are still you so to speak, there are different ways life is lived now, different things you have to do or maintain in order to live life with or beside PTSD, and your life becomes doing whatever you have to in order to manage the symptoms and everyday life… so life can still exist.

In all of it you may at some point find yourself saying, “Who am I?”
That is a VERY real and truthful question! It also really weighs on you mentally and physically when you are at that point.

I know Craig and I both have faced that question, and in reality we are both still working on it.  It’s not a secret that our lives completely changed when PTSD and other disabilities became a huge part of both of our lives. But, PTSD is a diagnosis not a definition of who EITHER of us are!

When you spend your entire life forming and developing who you are, building your character, building your career, discovering what you love and what brings joy to your life of what makes you, you, then in a matter of one (or more) trauma(s) life changed, everything changed… You in a way lose who you are. With that you become lost within yourself and life, so to speak. In reality, it’s also one of the many reasons people give up on themselves.

Many people will have limitations now. It does not matter if PTSD is on the milder side or to the extent of severe, PTSD still effects how you have to live your life, what you can do or cannot do, and a huge part of you and your energy does go towards managing the symptoms and trying to be the best you can be. In that, sooner or later that same question can come to light, “Who am I?” or even “What can I do now?” because things have changed.

The most difficult part in this… letting go of who you were and finding the new you now. I do not know of anyone that wants to let go of the good parts of their past. I mean reality here, those were good things and the things or who you are that you worked your tail off to create. But at times, there are parts of who you were in the past that no matter what you want, what you try to hold onto, no matter how hard you try, those things are going to be difficult if not impossible to hang onto.

When this happens it can cause so much discontent within yourself, how you view yourself, and even how you are in life now. You may start viewing yourself as a failure or fear you will fail at something new, feel that you let others or yourself down, and the guilt that comes with it… it can be unbearable! Those “what if’s” of PTSD are going to be front and center. When these things weigh in on you, the reality is they are going to hold you back from finding who you are or can be now, as well as what in reality you are capable of.

Taking that step forward, oh no it’s NOT going to be at all easy to do! Reality is, you may be starting from scratch! But I view it this way, if you could do that [whatever that was in the past], then can you even imagine what you can do now? It might be something completely different, it might contain parts of who you were or what you liked before, but you cannot dismiss whatever limitations are at hand now. It does not mean you cannot do anything! It means you just have to find your new you and what your life needs as a part of it, what you are good at, and what you enjoy now.

All fine and dandy right? NOT! How do you do that? Where do you even begin?

Think of it as an adventure. When you take an “adventure” you are going to have lots of trial and error, somethings are going to work out and many may not. You will discover things that you would have never dreamed you would have liked or enjoyed before, then other things you will be quick to discover “oh no way, that’s not for me or who I am”. You will come to roadblocks where you have to turn around and go a different direction. You may come to a mountain you have to scale and it’s a challenge. No matter what comes out of each thing or step you take, with an “adventure” you keep going, you face the challenges, and you keep looking and searching… it’s kind of in a way like a treasure hunt. But in this case the treasure you seek is MUCH greater in value than anything else in life, it’s the “New You”. You are creating and discovering who you are now.

Your “adventure” could include so many different things. We do have to stick to reality and that PTSD is a part of life, so your adventure can include simple things for the tough days, and more elaborate or challenging things for the days you know you have the energy for them. Pace yourself, there is not a rush, you want to find some sort of peace and joy in discovering your new you! You do not want to become overwhelmed, getting to that point will just cause you to become stuck.

So what are some examples?
(And we are talking about reality here, this goes for those with PTSD AS WELL AS the ones standing beside them)

– What kind of music do you like?

Sounds silly doesn’t it? It really is not! You would be shocked at how many people get into the habit of listening to what other people listen to and really do not know their own preference in music anymore. Flip through stations or online and listen to as many different types of music you can. Find which artist or band you like, and which type of music you like.

– Your appearance.

Here’s one that comes with a challenge! One of the largest life changing things that come with life with or beside PTSD is what you see when you look into a mirror. PTSD wears you out, you do not get as much or any good sleep, the negative changes in thoughts set in, you get use to being at home a lot, and the medications… oh the things they can cause, etc. All of those weigh on your self-esteem, and then it rolls over to your appearance. One of those vicious cycles form.

Look in that dreaded mirror. Make a list of things you want to change. Maybe you want a new hair style or color, maybe you want to shave more often, maybe you would like to lose some weight or tone up your body, maybe you notice you don’t wear makeup anymore, maybe it’s as something as simple as you use to wear jewelry and don’t wear it anymore. It could be anything!

Then take that list and use it to work from. When you work on your appearance, it does not matter if you are one that does not ever leave the house or not, you are doing it for YOU, what you see in that mirror, and how you feel about yourself.

– What do you like NOW?

Every single person needs something they enjoy in life! We also know that PTSD causes you to lose joy of things, so we have to work on finding something to fill that void. You may find with this one you have small parts of what you use to like that can play a part in this, or you might start from scratch.

Hobbies. They are the easiest way to find what you like. I will say though, through the trial and error stage of this, be cautious of the expense, some hobbies can become very pricey quickly! If it’s a hobby that does cost a lot but you want to try it, do some research to see how easy it will be to sell leftover materials if you discover it’s not the hobby for you.  If you can manage a class, look to see what local classes, small classes, or even private sessions are offered.

There’s another thing that is very important about finding a hobby you like… It MIGHT lead you to a new business or work that you can and want to do! And ENJOY doing!

– Getting out of the house.

A HUGE challenge for many with PTSD, and also those standing beside them. Home is your safe zone, your safety net, your place where you know you can retreat to. Which is awesome, but… it can become such a comfort zone that you do not challenge yourself to what is in reality outside those walls that you may enjoy or find you are able to go to.

If you know you cannot handle crowds, look up your local parks, nature trails, if you like animals check out local horse farms, rescues, or even shelters, etc. Many places offer private tours, need volunteers, or are places where there are not a lot of people around. Take a drive through the country. Nature can be good for PTSD, and you might find that special spot not far from home that you can visit. It also gives you exercise and outside time which is good for you. Sunshine, get it when you can. It’s a known fact that many with PTSD lack Vitamin D, something you need to help maintain your health. You can also get one of those extra “motions” in with this one (what we talked about yesterday), pack a picnic lunch or take a walk together… you might just make a special someone in your life very happy. Now that can be a two for one deal!

Some of the most relaxing, peaceful places for PTSD, are the ones that you find and are not well known by the public.  Take an adventure outing.

– Watch different types of movies.

Life with PTSD can cause you to lose your “character” so to speak. You may not realize or know now what makes you laugh, chuckle, or even smile. You may have those numb feelings that are hard to break through. You would be shocked at what good things you can discover about yourself from watching different types of movies. (Just be cautious of movies that contain triggers ) Then you can take those funny, smiles, or heartfelt things over to real life. Maybe you discover you like comedy and humor, maybe you find yourself sunk into a romance, maybe you find you have an interest in seeing if you can play an instrument, or you find you have a keen love or enjoyment for animals. It’s all about using a different way to find what you enjoy or may enjoy in real life. I would say stay clear of the fairy tale stories for this “finding the new you” purpose though, you want to head towards reality in life, not away from it lol. 

Okay, those are a few of many examples but you get my point.

Just because PTSD became a part of life, does not mean you do not exist anymore! Whether you are the one with PTSD or the one standing beside them, it’s important to find your “new you”, your individuality, and discover what you like, enjoy in life. And it sure makes life with or beside PTSD much easier! Your old you may be gone, or there may be little parts of it still remaining, either or, life did not end just because PTSD became a huge part of it… it just changed. And with that you changed too. 😉

“PTSD is a diagnosis, but not a definition of who you really are.”

YOU are still a human being, you ARE still important, and YOU can find your new you in this life with or beside PTSD…

Today’s challenge 😉 Start finding something, whether it’s great or tiny, that is a part of your “new you”.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD can sure put one’s self-esteem in the gutter!

PTSD can sure put one’s self-esteem in the gutter!

You know, for those with PTSD it’s hard enough managing the symptoms that PTSD brings… The re-experiencing symptoms of nightmares/terrors, flashbacks, and frightening thoughts. The hyperarousal, being easily startled, feeling on edge, and frustration and/or anger. The avoidance, of places, others, anything that is a reminder of their trauma experience, the numbing feelings, guilt, depression, or worry, the loss of interest in things one use to enjoy, the disconnect from loved ones. The anxiety and what if’s it causes. The negative changes in views of one’s self, others, or even the world. Many experience dissociative symptoms, and there’s just so much more that can also be experienced with PTSD.

That is a lot! Add all of that together and battling everything that comes day in and day out, it can really put one’s self-esteem in the gutter! It can make one feel like they can’t do anything right, they may view themselves as a burden, broken, damaged goods. One may start viewing themselves as they are not worth anything, that they are not needed, not wanted, and may at times even feel that others are better off without them.

PTSD in a way blocks, or “masks” as I always say it, them from seeing the true self they are!

Let’s say for conversation sake, I had one wish that would be granted, and that one wish could NOT be PTSD and it’s symptoms not existing… sorry that one is not an option. I would use my wish to grant everyone with PTSD the chance to see themselves through my eyes!

You know, this is what you would see…

You would see yourself as someone who is special, yep even with PTSD.

You would see that when you try, the positive things, words, and actions that DO come from that trying.

You would see yes, a person that gets worn out at times but also a person that knows how to keep going, battling, never giving up, and figuring things and this life out.

You would see the unique characteristics of your own individual that makes you important, special, unique, loved… the things that make you, you.

You would see the accomplishments you have and can make.

You would see that even through PTSD you can love, you can care, and be close to others… even if it’s only from time to time or does not feel constant.

You would see a person that is loved by others, yep even with PTSD.

You would see a person that is and can be beautiful on the outside but also within.

You would see a person who in reality is very strong, intelligent, and well worth the fight.

You would see and feel things so deep within the heart that it would take your breath away.

You would see things and feelings so deep that you would question, “Is that really who I am, what you see in me?” My answer would be, “YES! That is what I see!”

Craig and I were talking last night, and I made the comment that “I wish I could bottle my views of him and the positive things I see in him, as well as what comes from him when he tries. Then him drink and fill himself with what I see.” Figure of speech of course, but you get my point. If I could record every moment that I see him trying and play it back to him, I am pretty sure he would ask who that person is… because he does not see himself the way I see him and the things I see and know he can do or be like. I wish he could use what I see, to help his self-esteem. If he could do that, WOW, there would be no self-esteem issues at all! But, the reality is PTSD masks those views of himself… with it’s negative changes in views and thoughts, and guilt.

The reality is, Craig’s not the only one that struggles with that. It is a battle that every single person who has PTSD battles, or has at some point.

The symptoms are not going away. PTSD is not going away. Life changed. Reality. But, the reality also is YOU ARE STILL YOU! Even if you can’t see it, can’t feel it at the moment, even if your true you is buried deep inside… PTSD is only masking who you really are.

One thing that seems to be very common is with the numb feelings and negative thoughts that PTSD does bring, it can make one feel like life is not real, or when or what you try is “faking” it. Like you are just gliding through the motions. It can also cause you to stop trying because you feel like it’s not getting you anywhere.

Craig and I talked about that last night also. You know what, here’s how I view and see that… It is OKAY if it feels like it’s fake. It will probably feel that way because that is what PTSD causes. I understand PTSD, I understand what it causes. But even if it feels fake, it does not mean it will always feel that way with everything, and to feel that, you are going through some type of motions.

I asked Craig last night, and told him to be completely honest, don’t just give me the answers you think I want to hear. “Do you honestly love me?” Of course he looked at me like I was crazy and it was a trick question lol. His answer was, “YES!” Then I asked, “Do you honestly care about me and how I feel?” Again his answer was, “YES!” I then said, “Were those hard to answer?” He said, “No!” You know what, right there is a start. I was not crazy and those were not trick questions, it was a way of me getting him to realize that even with what PTSD causes, he does still have feelings and he does care about me and how I feel. And he can use that.

Every single person knows their spouse/partner (or even family member or friend) better than anyone else. You would not be with them or around them if you didn’t, PTSD or not and either person. You know what they like, you know their quirks, you know their deepest darkest and lightest feelings, you know how they are going to respond to things, you can probably finish their sentences for them. If you are unsure where motions start, right there is a good guide to take that first step. What is something they like, what makes them happy? You do not have to overwhelm yourself or smother anyone… oh please no smothering… start with something simple.

PTSD loves to make steps seem difficult, it loves to challenge you, but if you think about the simple things, focus on them, the things you know so well, there are some pretty simple motions you can start with. And even though each person has to find their own self-esteem, you can still use each other to help you find it also. You can build each other up instead of allowing PTSD to tear each other down.

When you go through the motions, that means you are trying, and that means more than you could ever imagine! It means you are making the effort NOT to stay stuck. Reality also is that you are probably taking steps that are positive and PTSD is just not allowing you to see them. You have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels odd or fake, it’s a start. And… come on you know I’m going to say it… “Motions lead to Emotions” and that has been proven to be the most valuable and honest statement we have ever been told pertaining to life with or beside PTSD.

And it is not only about relationships, it’s about anything that life actually holds. I used the love and caring questions in our relationship as an example, because it shows and I know that beneath everything that comes with and from PTSD, there is still a positive there, and that positive can outweigh what PTSD causes and motions can build from it.

I also know as a spouse, the reality is I can’t make my husband see what I see. I can be honest with him, I can tell him what I see, how I view him, the positive things I still see in him and from him, even through the worst days of PTSD. Then the rest is up to him. All I can do is hope and put all of my heart and effort into it, that somehow, someway, he will choose to accept my views, and use them to break through what the negative of PTSD brings and causes. And I know for a fact, it has been proven, that he can do that… and you know what, the reality is so can each of you. 

So… now don’t run for the hills on this one.  I promise it does not have to be difficult or overwhelming. But I want to give you a challenge, and kind of sort of really hope you will choose to accept it or even part of it.  If you absolutely cannot do it today because it’s just one of those really bad days, and you try but can’t, come back to it another day… that’s okay! And this is to the ones with PTSD, their spouse/partner, mom/dad, a friend, all of you really no matter what the relationship is.

I want you to really think, focus on, and find ONE thing today that you can use as a “motion”, and do it. And I want you to share ONE positive view you have of your loved one or friend, with them. And if you have a positive view shared with you, no matter what you think or feel about yourself or them, I want you to focus on what they are saying to you, and accept it as it is the honest truth. In a way, view yourself through their positive view of you. 

I get asked all of the time, “How do I get my self-esteem back when PTSD makes me feel the way I do?” asked from both sides of the fence of PTSD. Whether it’s as part of a relationship or just something in everyday life, you have to start somewhere, and I hope this that I have said here will help you find a start.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

November is “National Family Caregiver Month”…

November is “National Family Caregiver Month”…

 Thank You to ALL of the family caregivers for the love you offer and the job you do for your loved one! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Facebook page

Caregiver/Family Guide… In other words, my “tool box”

Caregiver/Family Guide… In other words, my “tool box” 

Over the past few weeks of Craig’s PTSD showing us it’s for sure “that” time of year (PTSD anniversary), I have had many come to me concerned about how I am doing through this… and Thank You for caring!

I admit, this has been one of the roughest anniversaries we have experienced at this point. BUT, I have been and am honestly doing A-Okay.  I’m not at all stressed, I’m not walking on eggshells, my anxiety is not up,and I’ve just tackled PTSD as it comes at us step by step. NO problem.

Over the years I have learned and filled my toolbox with so many valuable tools that help not only Craig, but me! My toolbox is how I can avoid all of those negative things that as a spouse and caregiver I use to experience, what many experience. I know how and what I have to do to keep my personal balance through what life holds and PTSD and Depression throw our way.

There are MANY things that caregivers, spouses, and family members can do for themselves. You know I’m going to say it…

“You have to make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to help or take care of others.”

Too many are forgetting to use their “tool box”! I will preach this until it sinks in, but only you can take that step for yourself…you HAVE to make and take the time to take care of yourself. And if you don’t, well you might as well pull a seat up right next to PTSD and Depression because you are going to start experiencing some of the same symptoms as your loved one, or other symptoms of your own that are not positive to or for anyone… if you are not already there!

Many people get so stuck in their routine, the overwhelming things/symptoms that come, walking on eggshells, the hustle and bustle of every day, that they forget OR set to the side and ignore themselves, what they personally need.

When this happens YOU are not going to maintain a healthy balance, mentally or physically. YOU are going to be the one that has snappy tone with others… become angry or frustrated, you are the one that will become overwhelmed, you are the one that will experience anxiety or even depression, you are the one that will honestly feel like you are falling apart! When this happens and you don’t do something to manage it and keep a self-balance, the rest of your world is going to join you or fall apart around you. It’s not a pleasant experience.

So, I am going to open up and share a few things from my toolbox with you. These are things I maintain, not things only used when life gets rough. By these things becoming a part of my everyday life, they help keep a consistent self balance.

1. MAKE and TAKE time for yourself!

By doing this you are better able to maintain your own self-balance mentally and physically. When you do this it gives you what you need to make it from today to tomorrow and still have life within it. This helps YOU and it helps your FAMILY!

Start a hobby, go window shopping, have lunch with a friend, something, anything that you enjoy doing and that gives you time to maintain yourself.

2. Coping Skills!

We talk here about coping skills all of the time. There is a VERY important reason for that, coping skills help you when the most challenging times come, they help you prepare for them and they help you manage through them, they help you keep your personal balance. There are MANY, MANY different forms and techniques of coping…

LEARN them, PRACTICE them, and USE them!

By practicing coping skills daily, when the time comes you need them they are already mastered and can be used correctly with no hesitation. If you have children, teach them coping skills too! You don’t have to directly tell them that’s what they are unless they are old enough to have that conversation, but by teaching children how to cope with what they experience in the life of a child, it helps them maintain their balance, and they can learn from a young age. 

3. Get Outside!

Many caregivers and/or family members are inside a lot, way more than normal. When disabilities are at hand it does become challenging to get outside for a healthy amount of time. You HAVE to! If you don’t you are cutting yourself off from the world, you are cutting yourself off from maintaining a healthy environment, and you could cause it to happen to others in your home as well.

4. Respite Care!

Make sure you have someone that can provide back-up care. This allows you to do the things you need to do. It allows you to take a break (even though we love and choose to be the one to take care of another, you still need breaks!). It allows you to have some time to make sure you are taking care of yourself and maintaining a healthy self-balance. It is a part of helping prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

There are MANY places that can help with providing back-up care!
Family members, friends, neighbors… If those are not available, there are professional companies, if you can not afford those then check with local churches, organizations, VFW’s can provide info if not some back-up care time themselves. There are many things available, use the phone or do the leg work and find them! You NEED back-up and help, do NOT dismiss that fact!

5. Eat!

Many times caregivers are so busy taking care of everyone else that when it comes to themselves, they simply just do not eat, do not eat right, or are too tired to eat. This is NOT healthy! Your body is like a car, it needs fuel in order to function, food is the body’s fuel. Make sure you have the fuel your body needs or you will find yourself on empty!

Keep prepared veggies, fruits, healthy snack bars, etc on hand. These are quick and easy snacks for the whole family throughout each day. Keep a schedule for meals. If you are tired when it comes to meal time, take a few minutes to just sit, relax, use those coping skills so you feel like eating. And make sure you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day! Staying hydrated helps keep you healthy!

6. Exercise!

It does not matter what type of exercise you do, do something! Don’t think you have time for it? Well try this So your partner likes watching movies (a common one for those with PTSD), do yoga or floor exercises while you are watching the movie! Now that’s a two for one. There are a lot of two for ones that can happen… Walk or play outside with the dog or kids, take a walk with your partner, you BOTH get exercise. While cleaning house put on your favorite music and sing/dance that broom away! Anything physical can be exercise, and you can make it fun at the same time. You don’t need expensive gym memberships or equipment to exercise.

7. Write, Journal, Talk!

It’s NOT healthy to keep things bottled up inside! Come on let’s face the facts, not everyday is going to be butterflies and flowers. You NEED an outlet! Even if you write it out then shred it (what my 14 year old actual does at times), get it out! Talk to someone you can trust or a therapist! Even a conversation with a stranger in a grocery line, no matter what the topic is, can make a world of difference!

8. Talk/Communicate with children/grand-children

There is one thing many dismiss. If you are a parent or grandparent, if you notice children not doing well, YOU are not going to do well! It’s a fact about being a parent! Take the time to just talk with the children in your life! This not only helps them, it teaches them how to communicate, it helps you know when something is wrong or not quite right, or bothering them, and you can get to the root of things quickly before something becomes a large issue. It makes them feel important and let’s them know that you care! Many times, caregivers are so overwhelmed with their daily caregiver rolls and helping another person, that the kids are just there, so to speak. There HAS to be a balance!

I have seen it go the other way in many families also, many times sadly. The non-disability spouse pays more attention to the kids then the one with disabilities. It’s like a protection of sorts, and it can be harmful to the family structure! Some end up with children resenting the parent with disabilities, some end up resenting the parent that was “protecting” them, some couples end up with marriages/relationships on the rocks or failing, because all of the attention is on the kids. There HAS to be a balance so the entire family as well as your relationship maintains a healthy balance!

9. Which leads to One on One Time!

Everyone needs one on one time! Children need it from both parents/grandparents and relationships need it! Family time is important but don’t forget that one on one time is equally important! You know I’m going to say it… It helps maintain a healthy balance!

10. Unplug!

There is NOTHING wrong with stepping away from that computer, video game, or putting that phone down! You have to live real life even though those things help you stay connected to others. Spending too much time sitting in front of a screen is NOT healthy and it takes you away from the real world you need to be living in. It can also become an addiction to where important things in your life take a side seat, folks, that’s not good!

This is a rule I live by! Even though I blog and LOVE communicating with everyone, even though I am in the process of writing a book, even though I enjoy my new phone, I still make sure I step away from them each day. As a caregiver, I can’t stay on them constantly. When Craig and I are talking, or I am talking with my kids, you won’t find a phone in my hand or my attention focused on my computer, etc. My attention is solely on them. I am a wife, a caregiver, a mom… those things come first. It helps maintain a balance, as well as respect, it’s important to you as well as those around you. It also teaches children that it’s okay to step away from those things, in this technology world we live in, many kids stay stuck to a screen and are missing what there actually is in real life out there.

No number needed on this one… Respect Yourself!

Have respect for yourself. You are not a superhero, you are a human being and every human being has their limits. Don’t push yourself too far, don’t expect yourself to be perfect all of the time, allow yourself down days to re-group, allow yourself to be you! Don’t lose yourself in taking care of someone else. Sure things have changed, what you can do or not do has changed, your roles have changed, but that does not mean you have to lose who you are in all of it. YOU are important too! Don’t lose sight and respect for yourself… it helps keep a healthy balance.

Being a caregiver or a family member that helps out another, is a big job, it can and will weigh you down if you do not do the things you need to. YOU can find and maintain a balance that not only is healthy for you, but also healthy for all of those around you. Don’t forget to make the time, take the time, and most of all… Don’t ever forget to use your toolbox.

The best feeling in the world when life contains PTSD or other disabilities, is knowing when the tough and rough times come, I do have a personal balance, am prepared, and can handle anything that comes my way, I am A-Okay! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Facebook page

What are things you can do to help prevent becoming overwhelmed?

What are things you can do to help prevent becoming overwhelmed?

The fact is, when PTSD and/or other disabilities enter your life, whether you are the one with PTSD or the spouse/partner, life changes. Which leads to you changing how you do or handle other things.

I use to be one that cleaned the entire house on Mondays. Did all of my paperwork on Tuesdays. All the laundry on Fridays… etc, you get the point.  Each day had something assigned to it. But when all of the new normal stages of this life stepped in I found that it was not always possible to stick to the schedule I had always done before. I found myself becoming overwhelmed or not having enough energy to complete everything in one day, like I use to do.

What does that lead to? Things that needed to be done not getting done! Everything started piling up. As that pile grew, it at times became overwhelming and just not possible to complete. The larger that to-do list became, the harder it was to complete it and even look at or think about. So things had to change. 

* To-do lists

These are awesome to have, however can cause you to feel overwhelmed, exactly what we are trying to avoid! I found that if you are one that really needs a to-do list, breaking it down into sections helps greatly!

You can break it down into lists of must do priority, then everything else by the amount of time you believe it will take… Important must do, Quick list, Time consuming, and Full day projects. Then each day pick things to do by the amount of energy you have and time available, around appointments, must do schedules, and how PTSD or other disabilities are that day.

* MAKE and TAKE a day off!

How often do you see a job that works a person 24/7? It’s not healthy! No matter what you do, whether you work, are a caregiver, a stay-at-home parent/grandparent, etc, you NEED a day off.

By making a day that you can place everything to the side for that day, it helps you keep your balance, have focus and energy, and helps you from becoming overwhelmed. It’s healthy and in everyone’s best interest, especially for yourself. Taking one day a week to just be, relax, do something you enjoy… can make a huge difference in positive ways!

* Mix each day up

This is what I have personally found works best for me. At the beginning of each day, I choose which chores/things I need to do each day based on the energy I have. I make time to go outside, “me time”. I have my must-do things. I choose something I enjoy and want to do or work on. Etc.

I have found by doing this, it helps me maintain a healthy balance. I get a little bit of everything accomplished but do not become overwhelmed. And, that is with taking care of Craig full time… it IS doable!

* Ask for Help 

There is nothing wrong with asking others for help! No one person can do everything by themselves without feeling overwhelmed or worn out. You would also be surprised at how asking someone else to help you can bring a positive self-esteem to another person at the same time.  Now that is a 2 for 1 deal!

If you have children around, let them help! Not only does this help you out, it teaches them as well. It also helps build their own self-esteem and creates a bond between people! Things that are very important for children when PTSD is a part of their lives as well.

* Accept when things are not perfect

I have noticed over the years of this life including PTSD and from those that I communicate with, it’s very easy for a person (normally the spouse/partner) to try to make everything perfect. In reality, OCD type symptoms may form due to this. Life is not perfect, and it’s very easy for you to overwhelm yourself with trying to make or keep everything perfect. Give yourself a break! It does not mean just let everything go, it simply means to accept that no one is going to do or be perfect all of the time.

* Preparing Meals- What can be one of the largest challenges.

You HAVE to eat!!! Preparing meals can become tricky to accomplish if you are so overwhelmed each day with the things you are trying to accomplish. By the time dinner comes, you are worn out, “spoons” are all used up, and then you face that dreaded question, “Oh my, what are we going to have for dinner?”

A huge help…LEFTOVERS!
When I cook, I make sure I cook enough for leftovers and/or enough to freeze for another time! Of course I’m not one that seems to be able to cook for only one meal anyway lol.  By cooking larger amounts when you do cook, you have the option of getting a day off tomorrow from cooking, and/or the option of freezing prepared meals to have on the busier days or days there is just no energy to cook.

Freezing prepared meals is a favorite around here. They are also handy when there are picky eaters or different likes of foods in the house. Each person can choose the meal they want and you know they are still getting a healthy, home cooked meal.

Crock-pot meals are also good! The recipes that are available now are endless, and you start it then can move on to whatever you have to do during the day and know you will have dinner ready when it’s time for it.

Another option if you are not one that cooks or need that break from cooking, are fresh or frozen prepared meals or easy fix meals. The frozen ones may not be quite as healthy as a fresh or home cooked meal, but you have to eat and there are many out there that are really good and a balanced diet. We use these as well and I catch them when they are on sale, honestly you can not cook for the price of these at times. So these can help if you are on a tight budget also. Most grocery stores also offer hot cooked meals that are also another option.

Another thing you can do is toss in a take-out night. These are handy when you were planning on cooking and it just did not seem to happen.  That last minute decision for take-out can save the day! Just be cautious to the cost, it can become quite expensive if you do this too much. I actually budget in a few nights of take-out each month from my grocery budget. Come on! Who doesn’t like pizza night! 

* Coping Skills

Oh you knew this one would be in here.  Coping skills can help everyone! Craig uses them, I use them, even our children have been taught and use them. They help bring a balance and can keep you from becoming overwhelmed!

* Positive support

A must have for everyone! Do not try to go through this life alone. Talking to someone you trust can really help you! Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a professional, talk to someone! At times even talking to a complete stranger or someone that understands PTSD can bring a positive type of support. Keeping everything bottled up inside can be extremely damaging and cause you to become overwhelmed. It’s healthy to just let things out at times!

So these are a few things that I/we have found help prevent us from becoming overwhelmed. Find what works best for you, the key is find and do something! Being overwhelmed is one of the worse feelings you can experience, it can easily cause you to become stuck… NOT a good place to be, and it can really play negatively on your health as well as your relationships with others. Find ways and things that bring you balance. 

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Sundowning: What is it and do some with PTSD experience it?

 

Sundowning: What is it and do some with PTSD experience it?

(This is NOT something that everyone with PTSD experiences!)

You know how I like to think outside the box when it comes to finding things that can help Craig, as well as others here? Well one of the things that Craig has the most difficult time with is when the afternoon comes.

By 3:30pm, Craig is wiped out, his anxiety goes up, he paces, gets frustrated or uneasy feelings, and he wants to retreat to the bedroom. Since PTSD came out of it’s box and all of the other diagnoses, this has been his toughest part of each day for him.

So I decided to look into other things and see if I could locate more information on what may be causing this. I got to thinking, if the doctors believe his symptoms are similar to those with dementia/Alzheimer’s, then is it possible what he is experiencing may not only be related to PTSD, but the time of day as well? And maybe others with PTSD experience this too?

Low and behold, I came across “Sundowning”! Which fits these symptoms to a “T”!

**Just to note: I am NOT a doctor or in any medical field. I share our personal experiences and knowledge learned from living with or beside PTSD and Depression. Not everyone with PTSD will experience the same symptoms or extent of symptoms. This is NOT intended to replace professional help. If this is something you experience please talk to your doctor!**

Sundowning is common with some people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Which we have learned dementia/Alzheimer’s may have a relation for SOME people who have PTSD. Sundowning is exactly the way it sounds, it’s the time of day when the sun is starting to set and all of those uneasy feelings and confusion start to flow in, and symptoms increase. Just like what Craig experiences. It can cause one to not sleep well, may cause one to wander, one may become forgetful, anxious, agitated, restless, may feel the need to leave or go somewhere, more yelling may occur, or one can become combative, and it can also cause caregiver burnout if one is not cautious.

It is also said that there is a peak to sundowning in Alzheimer’s during the middle stages, then can lessen as the disease progresses. It makes me wonder if those with PTSD experience the same or similar pattern? We know with PTSD, majority of people hit a really rough patch where symptoms become extremely bad, but then over time things get better, even though PTSD does not go away. Something that I believe comes with learning about PTSD, as well as learning how to manage and cope with the symptoms. But if sundowning is something that one with PTSD can also experience, maybe it has a part in getting over that rough patch as well? Something to sure think about.

I have had quite a few people who have PTSD mention to me that afternoon is the hardest part of the day for them, so it would make sense to me that those with PTSD may also experience sundowning.

According to WebMD,
“Some research suggests that sundowning may be related to changes to the brain’s circadian pacemaker. That’s a cluster of nerve cells that keeps the body on a 24-hour clock.”

“Several things may increase the risk for sundowning. These include:

Pain
Severe constipation
Poor nourishment
Being on too many medications
Infection
Noisy and disruptive sleeping environment”
(Excerpts: webMD.com, “Sundowning“)

Well now that brings even more sense to the possibility that some with PTSD may experience sundowning. PTSD brings restless sleep due to nightmares, some may experience irritable bowel syndrome/disease (IB) as a co-occurring condition with PTSD, many with PTSD are on multiple medications, and if one with PTSD has depression or cognitive issues those may very well cause one to not be eating correctly. That seems to be a recipe for sundowning!

So if this is a possibility, what can one with PTSD do to help ease sundowning?

* Exercise the brain

The brain is a muscle and needs exercise just like any other muscle of the body. Brain games, puzzles, board games, andything what can help keep the brain active… which is important for PTSD anyway.

* Physical exercise

Another thing everyone needs anyway. Those with PTSD can benefit when it comes to bedtime if they have done some type of physical exercise during the day which helps them become tired, that and it helps to keep you looking good too which is important when you look in that mirror, self-esteem. 

* Do not take naps 

Skipping naps during the day can also help. This helps leave the sleep time for night time.

* Hobbies 

Another thing we talk about often here. Hobbies are important to have, not only because they give you something to do that you enjoy, but also gives you something that you can see a completed project with, oh look… self-esteem again and self-worth.

* Diet

Proper diet is important. It’s the fuel for your body that helps to keep it going. Also watching what you eat or drink before bedtime is important with PTSD. Less caffeine and light snacks seem to be best.

* Pain and Medication Management 

No one wants to be in pain in the first place and pain management is important for those that do have it. This can also help with the sundowning symptoms. Also, it’s important for medications to be reviewed and changed or discontinued as needed. By learning to manage and learning coping skills, it can help with PTSD and there is the chance you will be able to decrease the amount of medications you have to take. Which in return, can also help with those who experience sundowning.

I find it interesting that all of the things we are taught to do for PTSD, are also what can help with sundowning! I guess that gives us one more reason to do everything we can to be the best we can be, as well as help each other. 

Here is a video I came across on Sundowning that I wanted to pass along to you from “Alzheimer;s and Dementia Weekly” website.

How to care for sundowning“, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly

I hope this will help those of you that experience the increased afternoon symptoms that seems to come to some of those with #PTSD.

So for curiosity sake… What is the hardest part of the day for you or your loved one who has PTSD? A conversation we are having on my FaceBook page.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

Dear Spouse/Partner of one with PTSD,

Dear Spouse/Partner of one with PTSD,

(I am writing this to the spouses/partners, but it really is for everyone to read. It may be your spouse/partner that needs this, or maybe even you.)

I am seeing so many of you struggling right now. I have read through all of the comments posted lately, I have read all of my messages (even though I have not had a chance to respond to all of them yet), and I can just feel what many of you are going through at the moment.

I wish it were possible to sit down in front of you, look you in the eyes, and tell you, “It will be okay!” Of course you know me and I have a lot more to say than only that. 

I can feel what you are going though, I feel though your words the pain, the hurt, the fear, the loss, the helplessness, and the feeling that your life is just out of control and you do not know what to do. I feel it because I have been in those same shoes before! We all have at some point or another, whether PTSD is brand new to your life, or maybe you recently found out PTSD is a part of your life, or maybe that rough patch has just come around the bend again.

When I see the spouses/partners struggling, I also see a larger picture. If you are struggling, that is pretty much a guarantee that your PTSD loved one is struggling too! It can and will roll downhill, not that your PTSD loved one ever means for that to happen, sometimes it just does. It tells me that BOTH of you need an extra hand.

When PTSD became a part of mine and Craig’s lives, our lives were turned to chaos. There was no type of balance left. He was out of control to word it nicely and had no clue what was happening to him. To say the least, my world tagged right along with his, trying to hang on to my husband and the man I knew so well. Every aspect of our lives and relationship were thrown into a tailspin. We went through five years of not knowing it was PTSD at hand, that was five years of chaos, and that’s just until we found out it was PTSD, not including all the steps we had to take from there forward. And it was five plus years with all of those feeling you are having right now!

In reality, our relationship should not have survived what we went through. But it did, and we did!

I will not sit here and tell you life beside PTSD is going to be easy, because it won’t be. It’s not easy for the one who has it either. I will not tell you that when you have a row of good days where you feel your PTSD loved one is back to the way they were, that it will stay that way. Because it won’t. I will not tell you that you as the spouse/partner will not hit a low from time to time, because it will happen. PTSD has the nickname “roller coaster” for very good reasons, there are going to be ups, there are going to be downs, and there are going to be turns that throw you around (hopefully not literally).

But things CAN change, things CAN get better, and a new normal CAN be found. You just have to have the knowledge and tools to get there. And the knowledge and tools to find a balance. A balance in yourself, in your family, and in life in general.

I feel the desperation and hear the cries for help through your words.
Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix. You will not be able to learn and use everything right away. And nothing will change overnight.

I wish I could tell you, “Do this and life will get right back to the way it was.” But that is not reality. Life will never be the way it was. The page turned when PTSD became a part of life. Life changes, PTSD or not, it’s just a fact of life. But what you do each day can bring changes, you can build a new normal, and life get back on a new track, and find a balance. If Craig and I can do it, you can too.

It will take a lot of tools that are used differently than the way life used to be. It’s going to take communication, working together, self-education, taking care of yourself, learning coping skills and techniques, and sometimes it will take guiding your PTSD loved one and not lashing out at them or blaming them for life’s changes. Those battles between two people who love each other, they are not going to get you anywhere. Your battle is PTSD, not each other.

The largest tool of all and the place to start, is acceptance. And it will not be an easy one to swallow, especially if you are new to what PTSD is. Until you accept PTSD is now a part of your life, not just the term but really accept it and what it is, it’s going to be difficult to make those positive steps forward, where that balance is. Acceptance will not happen overnight either, but you can work on it. It will take learning about PTSD so you can understand what PTSD is, what may come with it, and step forward to what things you or both of you can try that may help.

I am hearing a lot of spouses/partners say, “I just have to sit back and take it.” That is a very honest statement when you are new to PTSD, and you have not had the time yet to learn and work on things, or have not found any direction to this new life. But, there is no balance to either of you if that is the way it is being viewed. PTSD is not something that you just sit back and take, things are not going to just fall into place without a lot of effort and work in this life.

If you just sit back and let whatever happen, happen, you both may see the very dark places PTSD can take you, and there’s a good chance you will lose your relationship in the process. NOT a place either of you want to see. PTSD and how to live life with it is something that you learn about, you go through the many trials and errors, so you can find solutions or things that will help when issues arise, you learn what it takes to manage what comes with each day, many times before things get to a bad point, and ways to bring a balance to life. It’s not something that will just be handed to you, it’s not something that will just happen, and there is not a quick fix answer.

Craig and I have been battling PTSD for years now, PTSD came out of it’s box 10 years ago. It’s only been 6 years since we were told this was PTSD. When I started this page three and a half years ago, that was two and a half years after learning it was PTSD and trying to battle it on our own and we made the choice to reach out to others publicly. I was the one looking for answers, I was the one trying to find out if there were others going through the same crazy life we were, I was the one that felt like we were on one hell of a roller coaster and not sure if we would make it through it, and I was the one that missed my husband and desperately wanted him back!

Look where we are now! Back then, I never dreamed that we would be the ones helping others and sharing everything we have learned. I never dreamed that each morning I could wake up with a smile on my face again and know it’s a new day, and we start fresh no matter what yesterday held. I never dreamed that we would find a new type of balance in our lives and our relationship. I never dreamed that one day my panic attacks and anxiety I was having due to life’s changes would be controllable. I never dreamed that I would get to see glimpses of my husband again and those days bring me the strength that they do bring. But all of those things HAVE happened, and with each day that comes they grow stronger. PTSD has not gone away, and it sure has not decreased. We just learned how to manage it better.

Whatever your crisis or feelings are right now, they are not going to be solved overnight. I cannot say that enough. Take a deep breath, pause for a moment. I know many of you cannot view it this way YET, but in reality, this is only PTSD. You ARE stronger than it is!

You will never get your old life back. But there is a new one that does hold positive things waiting for you. You just have to work for it and reach for it, it is there. Life has just simply changed from what you knew as “normal”.

I have been writing about this life with or beside PTSD for just over 3-1/2 years now. If there is a topic about PTSD from either side of the fence, and anything related to it, I have most likely written something about it at least once, and I am sure once will never be the end of the subject because with each day that comes, we do learn more to add to it. All of my writings are on my page, as well as on “My Journal” page, aka blog, of my website for you. PLEASE use them as a resource and know they are here for you, as well as your PTSD loved one and family.

Craig and I both do not want anyone thinking they are alone in this life with PTSD. We know alone, and it’s a dark place to be. We also know that YOU are stronger than PTSD! You just have to breathe, take the time to learn, and have the tools to battle it. And this page and all of YOU, the “family” members we have here, by all means bring support to each other that we ALL need!

I know it’s hard right now, but keep in mind things CAN change!

 Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook page

There is a difference between “Caring For” vs “Controlling”

There is a difference between “Caring For” vs “Controlling”.

This is a topic that gets brought to me quite often, normally from the ones who have PTSD and/or other disabilities. At times I do hear from spouses/partners on this topic as well… “He/She thinks I’m a control freak! He/She does not see what I see!

So let’s talk about it a little more…

I must be honest, you know me… “facts on the table”. The first thing I have to ask a spouse/partner is, “Well, are you?“. Then I ask, “Can you give me examples of why he/she thinks you are a control freak?” It’s not being nasty or discrediting how they are or what they do, it’s simply giving them a stop sign to stop and really think, and viewing what is happening to find out if they have actually slipped into the control seat which they may not even realize, OR are they doing what MUST be done? It’s that taking a good look in the mirror I talk about often. You have to look for the “why” to get to the root of how one is feeling, what’s causing it, and in order to find a solution. 

Before I go any further, let me define the terms “enabler and enabling” in the sense I am using here. These terms can be used in a positive or negative way. I am speaking of the negative way in this posting. An enabler (or enabling) is when one tries to control a dependent person or in the reference of PTSD we are talking about, controls what one with a disability CAN actually do for themselves. One may treat a dependent person as if they are a child. Avoiding problems/conversations to prevent conflict is common, and one may keep their feelings to themselves to try to maintain peace which can cause one to think that avoiding a conflict can solve a problem. An enabler may feel superior over another person and at times take over that person’s responsibilities (when that person can in reality do something on their own).

This will be one of the toughest areas to find a healthy balance to! It is very easy for a spouse/partner to become controlling when PTSD or other disabilities are at hand and sends your world into a tailspin. You HAVE to make sure this does NOT happen and you do not slide into the control seat! When or if you do, you can actually become an enabler instead of one who is trying to do their best to “help” your PTSD loved one.

With everything that PTSD and other disabilities do in reality bring, which may also include physical disabilities for many, you have to define what care or help is absolutely needed and what one can do on their own. If they can do something for themselves, you HAVE to let them! It keeps you from becoming an enabler over a carer.  It’s also healthy for them, as well as their own self-esteem, to be able to do things for themselves.

I can give a GREAT example to this!

Craig has cognitive dysfunction and memory issues. It is one of the largest challenges we BOTH face with his disabilities, and can be a real safety issue in certain situations. But we have learned to manage them over time and have found solutions TOGETHER. Craig has been known to wander. By that I mean leave and then not know where he has been and had issues finding his way home. Some things he remembers, or for any given amount of time, and some things he does not recall at all. Short and long term memory, and his brain functions differently.

You can just imagine my reaction when this first happened with wandering! It scared the mess out of me (really scared him also) which sent me straight into a control mode “to protect him”. It did not take long for me to realize I was not protecting him at all (unless it was a real safety concern at hand)! I was at times enabling him! I fell into that control seat and felt like to care for him I had to be right next to him at all times. I saw what him wandering did and caused for both of us. Well, I’m sure you can take a wild guess how well that went over lol! It didn’t!

It was causing him to become frustrated, on top of already being frustrated with not remembering things, and it was causing me to become WAY off balanced. My actions were not me at all. The sticking right beside each other all of the time was not us at all. We were sent into that tailspin.

So I stepped back and took a good look in that mirror. This was obviously not working, neither one of us was getting any alone personal time/space, but there were very real and possibly safety issues at hand. WE had to come up with a balance and a solution that was healthy for BOTH of us, and so I would not keep him from things he could actually do for himself. It took us a lot of trial and error, as well as re-learning what he can or cannot honestly do on his own with his disabilities.

An example of one of many solutions we came up with was our property. We loved, I mean loved not having a fence here on the lakefront. But by not having a fence it placed me in the position of having to constantly be right there so we did not have a repeat of the wandering, getting lost, or a safety issue. So we put up a fence, all gates have locks in them which remain locked unless we are using them right then and there, then they are locked again.

It allowed Craig to be able to go out the back door into the yard without me being right beside him. It also allowed me the piece of mind that he’s okay out there and can have time to himself. Sure I’m guilty of looking out the windows from time to time to check on him, mainly to make sure he is not getting overheated because he is heat sensitive now. But I don’t have to go out there with him unless he asks me to or if I need to take him water. We also agreed that he will wear a medical ID bracelet, so if for some chance he does get past all of our safety precautions we have in place, there is still a precaution in place that is always on him.

One fence and a little brainstorming helped change enabling back into caring for. It makes him happy and brought balance back to both of us… and our relationship. 

Even with all sorts of disabilities at hand, you can find ways for a person to still be able to do things without being controlled or them feeling as if they are being treated as a child. You just have to work together, be honest with each other about what one can or cannot do for themselves, and find solutions or things that work for both of you.

Of course there’s the flip side to this. That other side of the fence that I will not leave out. 

It is very real with PTSD and other disabilities that one may not notice or recognize areas where they really do need help. Reality is, PTSD comes with a long list of symptoms which does include times where one may not recognize their actions or that they are having difficulties with certain things, and could use some assistance.

These are not the times to “man up” so to speak (male or female). This is the time that communication and talking about things HAS to come into play. One with PTSD may not like what a loved one tells them, they may not want to believe something is real or may not recognize it is real, that’s very common. With some things, acceptance really has to be a part of things so you can work on finding things to help instead of hinder. And this is by no means, meaning that one person is always right or wrong! It simply means communication needs to take place so you can work through things and get to the bottom of what is taking place, how both people are viewing things, so you can find solutions or figure out what “caring for” steps do need to be put into place IF needed.

Listen to your loved one and their concerns so the two of you can talk about the concerns and find a way to work through them, and find solutions that are in the best and healthiest interest of everyone.

These conversations and facing things can be frustrating. Don’t forget your coping skills and remember it’s okay to say “I need to take a break for a few minutes, then we can come back to this.” But total avoidance of a concern has to stay at bay on this one. Communication IS needed so you can take steps forward and figure out what’s in your best interest, especially if it also includes not only health related, but safety concerns.

It’s the same thing for those with disabilities as it is with the spouses/partners, “Have you taken a good look at yourself? And, what is causing them to have this concern or act this way?

You locate the “why” then you work on finding the solutions, what will help, or be the best options. And these solutions, so to speak, CAN change as symptoms change! It is okay to readdress things as needed!

Every single person IS their own individual, and has a right to that. No one needs to be in a position of controlling another human being, and no one needs to be in the position of being or feeling controlled. Those things do not bring any healthy balance to either person, or a relationship! 😉

You have to work together, communicate, face facts, and find a healthy balance. Many people do require another person to help take care of them now that disabilities are a part of life, but that does not mean another person has to, in all cases, do everything for them. There are huge differences between “caring for” and “controlling”, make sure you understand them. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website