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And then the guilt stepped in… PTSD.

And then the guilt stepped in… PTSD.

Many people do not realize how much guilt can be a part of PTSD. The first thing many think of is it comes from whatever trauma was at hand that caused PTSD to develop. Which can very well be the case, but it can go much further than that!

Guilt may not only come from what happened in the past. It can come a little more with each day and depending on how that day was, and how PTSD was for that day.

Guilt can come from nightmares (or even flashbacks)…

Nightmares can cause a spouse/partner to lose sleep. Maybe there is a need to sleep in separate rooms. Maybe the PTSD nightmares are physical and unknowingly to the one with PTSD at the time, physical contact was made on the one they love. Maybe one screams out during their nightmares, which a spouse/partner or other household members hear, which means hearing the details of. Maybe one paces during the night due to nightmares or is restless.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in, and then those PTSD negative changes in thoughts or feelings come. It does not matter how much a spouse/partner understands, and knows these things are not intentional, guilt still seems to step in.

Guilt can come from believing you let someone down…

Life changes when PTSD becomes a part of it. Maybe one cannot not do things the way the use to be able to. Maybe they cannot leave the house or not as often. Maybe they cannot attend large events. Maybe they have trouble attending school functions for children/grand-children. Maybe they have issues joining in for the holidays. Maybe they do not see family or friends like they use to.

All of those things can also cause guilt to step in. It’s not that one does not want to do things or be a part of things, it’s that PTSD tries it’s hardest to hold them back. When this happens, even through the numbness PTSD causes that guilt of one is letting others down can weigh in.

Guilt can come from a loss of a career or change…

When PTSD becomes a part of life, it can in reality effect one’s career. One may lose their career or have to change to a different line of work. Some can work, some have to work less, and some with PTSD cannot work at all. Maybe they try hard to work but have issues at work because of PTSD symptoms. And the lifestyle you were use to living now changes.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in. It has nothing to do with one not wanting to work, not wanting to do their best, or not wanting to provide for others. It’s what PTSD may cause.

Guilt can come from what others go through…

Those with PTSD know what it’s like to live with it, they also know and see what it may cause others around them. Life changes, relationships change, activities change, the way you manage things change, etc etc etc.

All of those things can cause guilt to step in. When one knows or sees that what they are going through does in some way effect another person, it makes it very difficult for guilt to not become a part of it. No one with PTSD asked for it, and they sure do not want it effecting those they care about.

I know guilt plays it’s part in PTSD. But I also know this, even with PTSD as a part of life, even with all of the changes that come, even with having to learn new ways to manage things, life, and symptoms… Your loved one would not be standing beside you if they could not handle this life. They CHOOSE to be there with you! That is really something to think about.

There are so many things that help bring a balance to this life with PTSD… Learning about PTSD, learning what works best to manage symptoms, learning coping skills, getting professional help, talking to and learning from others, even helping others, having a positive support system, trial and error of trying new things to see what works or does not, re-learning how to communicate, etc etc etc. The list is endless!

There’s no changing what happened, unfortunately. But from this point forward, the only guilt that should weigh in, is if you sit back and do nothing. MUCH easier said than done, I know! But it’s something everyone can work on.

Things are going to happen, that’s a part of this life, and you figure out how to work through them together. Things or situations that come from PTSD are not done on purpose, anyone who is educated on PTSD knows that. If your spouse/partner says they understand, it’s okay, can we try this, we will figure out how to get through this… accept it, trust them, and try not to let the guilt of a situation over power you. In reality the situation may be weighing on you much more than it is on them. That’s what PTSD causes, it’s a part of the negative changes in thoughts, views, and feelings. Work together.

Guilt is dangerous. It can effect your thoughts of yourself, your relationship, your family, and your life. Work on trying not to let it weigh too much into what PTSD already brings. I know that’s hard, but it’s not impossible. If you feel guilty about something that has happened, talk to someone. Figure out a way to change things in the future or try a different way of managing things. PTSD brings many challenges as it is, don’t let it and guilt take away from you what could be.

Life can still have a balance, life can still be good, and steps forward can be made. YOU are worth those steps!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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PTSD and it’s relation to Dementia.

PTSD and it’s relation to Dementia. 
How do we handle this if it comes?

Yesterday I was asked an extremely important question based around one with PTSD that now also has been diagnosed with early onset of dementia. This is a subject that studies have been taking place on over the years and it has been found in a study of Veterans, those with PTSD are “two-fold” as likely to develop dementia “later in life” over those in the study without PTSD. For those that like to read research, I will add the link to the study at the end of this.

There are many different factors related to #PTSD that can cause cognitive issues, whether dementia may be or has been diagnosed or not. Some with PTSD “MAY” actually have smaller hippocampus volumes of the brain which is related to PTSD and can cause short-term memory difficulties, anxiety can effect focus and cognition, chronic stress also effects memory and learning. Other conditions which can also contribute to it may be depressive disorder, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), or other PTSD co-occurring conditions, as some examples. Even though studies have been done on aging Veterans, we are also seeing cognitive issues/dysfunction in our PTSD community among different age groups, military or civilian. Craig being one that is among the many.

So that is a very basic and short example of things regarding cognition, which may lead to dementia. It has not to my knowledge been found that PTSD causes dementia. From what I have personally researched so far, PTSD may simply bring a higher risk of dementia developing.

So what do we do if these symptoms, cognitive conditions or dysfunction, are present or dementia has actually been diagnosed?

Yesterday I was asked the following… 

“Thank you for your kind words.. life has been tough. We just found out a new bump in our road. Early onset dementia.. his mind is going. I am so angry, sad, hurt and so many other emotions that I can’t name them.. he is so lost and hopeless. He has now sunk into depression. How do you deal with these new feelings? And this new diagnoses.” -Anonymous

The best way I know how to answer this, is by sharing a little of what Craig and I went through when we were told he has/was diagnosed with, cognitive dysfunction and “memory disturbance history considered permanent”. Which actually came before we were told he has PTSD.

Craig and I went through all of the emotions and feelings as the one who asked the question and her partner are going through right now. It was hard! Having to face that life just changed drastically, that all of the things in life and things you have experienced together are in reality fading away from memory, and everything else that comes with.

I will never forget the day one of Craig’s doctors sat down with me to talk. He told me the only way to address the conversation was with directness and honesty. I was told that with Craig’s cognitive dysfunction, there may be a day come that he no longer knows who I am. There was no way of knowing if his memory and cognitive function would continue to worsen over time or if maybe something would come along to help him. Well, it’s been 10 years and in reality, it has continued to get worse as he ages. Just a fact we have faced but we never stop trying new things that may help or at least to manage life with what is at hand.

I went through all of the emotions. I was hurt, I was sad, I felt a loss, and I got angry. I processed and went through every emotion I think there is. Then I realized I just had to face the facts that life was changing for us, and I had to accept that fact.

I think the largest thing that helped me personally, as the spouse, was changing the way I viewed what was happening. I decided instead of allowing all of those negative and “what if” emotions weigh me down and cause me to worry, I was going to set out to make sure that every day that comes, I will cherish with Craig. I will make the best of them. And we will find a way to manage this life. That’s exactly what we have done.

It’s hard watching the person you love fade away, in a sense. I know even though Craig has not at this point been diagnosed with dementia, we still go through a lot that is similar to dementia. His symptoms have been compared to Alzheimer’s. He has okay days and he has really bad ones. And at this point we never know what he will recall and what he will not, there is no rhyme or reason to it.

There are days that he does not remember my name. That’s where that cute nickname “babe” came from that we both use. When he does not recall my name, he calls me babe. I found that it eases him in a way when I use it for him to. He gets names mixed up of family members, I learned to just go with it, I can normally figure out who he is talking about. Even the dogs have nicknames, many of them, the names just do not stick with Craig all of the time. I will say it is amazing the dogs have learned all the different names and will respond to him.

Craig does not relate being hungry to needing to eat. That’s part of my caregiver role to make sure he does, or he will not eat. Another thing that is effected with this, say for example he has cereal. No big deal right? Wrong. If the box is left with him where he sees it, he will keep having bowl after bowl if it is not monitored, until the box is empty. There is not recognition of what he has or has not eaten, so he will continue to eat. That has to be monitored because it can lead to other health issues if he overeats.

Making decisions is something that he has huge issues with, even if given choices he has a difficult time answering or choosing. His brain does not recall things he likes or does not like, which in reality this one we can laugh at because you would be amazed at the foods he will eat now that he hated before. At times both of us making light of the subject actually helps. We do not let it weigh us down, we find ways to work around things.

Safety protocol is huge for us. He has been known to wander, leave things turned on such as grill or stove, leave the refrigerator door open, all sorts of things that one may not think about happening. So we came up with things and ways of doing things to make sure safety is always at hand.

For example, the back yard is fenced in and locks stay locked on all gates. That still allows him to go outside without feeling like he is always with someone or being treated like a child. Even though I will fess, I check on him or look out the windows when he’s out there by himself. One of the largest things when cognitive issues start, is figuring out things that will work and at the same time not take one’s self-esteem away. And if they can do something, let them!

I was told if we started from day one working on finding ways around things, of sorts, finding what works for us, as well as exercising his brain, then if the day comes where his memory does fade to an extreme level, those things will already be in place and there is a chance due to routine he will still follow them or some of them.

Then there is me, facing the fact that one day he may not know who I am any longer, he may not remember our life we have shared together. That is hard for anyone to swallow! I was told the best thing we could do, is work together and make sure no matter what PTSD, depression, and his cognitive dysfunction brings, even if he loses all memory eventually, that bond will be hardwired. Forming trust and a bond now is crucial!

That really stuck with me. Who knows what the future will hold for us, or anyone. Especially when having PTSD may increase the chances of dementia developing in the future, at whatever age. But with having the big picture view of what may in reality happen, it really makes it easier handle things each day. I think being told about cognitive dysfunction before PTSD actually in a weird way helped. Seeing the big picture of what may come, knowing what we have to work on just in case, makes us not sweat the small stuff that PTSD brings.

I was told to view it this way. Will it, whatever it is at that moment, matter in 5 years or 10 years? If the answer is no, then don’t sweat it, figure out how to work through it or let go of it. When the big picture may be in the future the memories are gone for him, a difference of opinion, a day of frustration or anger, a day of working through flashbacks, or a night of no sleep due to nightmares, they are just things we work through and don’t sweat them. They are just another part of what life holds and may in reality be the small things when looking at a lifelong picture.

Another thing that I do, for us. You see those photos at the top of the page? Our kissing photos that I get teased about lol. Those not only hold memories, they also show love and give a sense of trust. Those things are important now, and may be really important in the future. Especially if memories and knowing who people are fades away if dementia develops. Photos tell a story about your life, and they are very important. Craig already has memory issues and cognitive dysfunction, photos, and even being able to sit down and look at photos together, and me tell him the stories to the ones he does not remember already, well, it helps.

I know facing a new diagnosis, especially one like dementia is hard! It’s hard for the spouse, and it’s also very hard for the person with the symptoms. Depression can become very real. You have to take one day at a time, work together, strengthen that bond you have with each other, find the positive things in each day, and do not sweat the small stuff. All of that can help form a more manageable future.

I will believe, and choose to believe what the doctors have told us. Even if the day comes where Craig does not know who I am, or everything fades away for him, the bond we have worked together to form, will still be there. You just have to make the most of each day, right now.

I really do not worry about the future any longer, what we need to do is always a focus. But today is also our focus.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Risk of Dementia among U.S. Veterans

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook

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!

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook page

Trying to be perfect for PTSD…

Trying to be perfect for PTSD…

A message from my mailbox, which I did edit a little since I have the same questions coming in regarding both men and women and from both men and women. 

Hey Becky. Just wanted to pick your brain on something… It seems like a lot here lately my [PTSD partner] is constantly pointing out things I do wrong. Little things like putting clothes in the dryer [he/she] doesn’t want dried, forgetting to do something [he/she] asked me to do. Just seems like that’s all I hear from my [PTSD partner] lately. Is this something you have dealt with? This have anything to do with the PTSD?

I try so hard to make everything perfect for [him/her] to ease [his/her] stress, but I’m starting to feel like nothing is good enough.

Not that I need a pat on the back for what I do… I do those things because I love [him/her]. But I almost feel beat down because I’m always doing something wrong.” -Anonymous

I am getting a lot of questions along the same lines as these, so I wanted to go over these in general.

The first thing that I found personally helped me was asking myself, “Is this the way he/she was before PTSD?” If the answer is “no”, then you can take a guess that something is causing these changes, and it’s most likely linked to some symptoms of PTSD.

If you did not know your partner before PTSD, you will have to think a little deeper to find the answer. Has anyone else ever seen these things in my partner that knew him/her before PTSD? Has symptoms changed/increased recently? Do they seem more on edge with more than just you?

With some people it is going to be PTSD and what it is causing, with others it may just be a part of their personality, or even a combination of both PTSD and their personality. I do find this is very common with PTSD though.

So now we have to ask why?

To be on the fair side here, many times when the “nit-picking”, pointing out all of the wrong things that occur, the one with PTSD does not even realize they are doing it. These things can happen when symptoms are increasing or one is not coping well, or not coping in a good way. They may be frustrated, angry, feel lost within themselves, feel guilt, confusion, a sense of loss, really anything that goes along with or comes from PTSD symptoms. It is common for these things to come out on the ones closest to them.

So what can be done that might help?

Spouses/Partners have a tendency to “let things slide” in order to avoid a confrontation, or because they feel bad/sad for their PTSD loved one with seeing what they already go through, and just simply do not want to make matters worse by speaking up and talking about things.

Communication. When a spouse/partner continues to walk on eggshells and tries to make and keep everything perfect, really all you are going to accomplish is becoming overwhelmed, mentally and physically drained, and you could start having your own mental health problems form, such as depression. Trying to keep everything perfect is not in the long run going to benefit anyone. There’s also a good chance that the issues will increase if not discussed, which will start effecting your relationship AND how you as the spouse/partner personally view your PTSD loved one.

This is where wording is of utmost importance! Blaming, pointing fingers, arguing, etc. will just give PTSD the fight. NOT what you want to happen. Those things just lead to more anger, frustration, things said that in reality are not meant, and hurt feelings… for BOTH of you.

There is no person that will be right or wrong 100% of the time. You are BOTH human, and humans are not perfect. So why try to be perfect just because your loved one has PTSD? You can’t, and you won’t be.

Your PTSD loved one is still human. Just because they now have PTSD does not mean or make them helpless. You have to make sure, as the spouse/partner, that you are not doing too much! Which is very common. You have to make sure there is a healthy balance for BOTH of you.

When a spouse/partner “takes over” doing everything, what in reality is that doing? It may cause a lack of self-esteem and self-worth in your PTSD loved one. It may cause them to view themselves as helpless. They need to be able to do things for themselves. IF they are capable of doing something for themselves, let them. It actually helps them!

When PTSD enters your lives, many times roles change or alter from what was normal. Many times one with PTSD is home more, or all of the time now. Some cannot work, or work has decreased or changed. When these things do in reality happen they can lose a sense of who they are and what they can in reality still do. There may be changes which cause normal roles of each partner to change. The “old school” roles of man or woman duties has changed in today’s society, especially with more women working. Those things are OKAY! In reality, it can be healthy.

There are many husbands that are at home now. The role has changed from going to work every day to being at home. Some have discovered they are awesome at cooking, some found a love for gardening… and wow do some of them have a green thumb! Some find hobbies that they enjoy, that before there was never time for. And the ones who were military, let me tell you they can clean and iron like no one I have ever seen! It was part of what they were taught, and many times those things are very helpful at home. It does not make one any less of a man or woman to do the things they in reality are STILL good at. And it sure helps out and helps keep a new type of balance. 

The example in the question is a great one. If a PTSD loved one can point out what they want or don’t want dried, then maybe next time ask them nicely to help you sort the clothes so things are done the way they would like them to be done.

By simply asking them to help, that takes the blaming away, the frustration and conflict away, and it also shows them that they can still do things or help with things. It also gives them something to do which in reality gives their brain something to focus on other than the “what if’s” that PTSD does bring.

I’ll give a personal example. Craig use to be the one who did all of the yard work. Now, he is very heat sensitive and can’t do it because it will effect his health. So I do the yard work… which I get teased about because I LOVE it! It’s actually healthy for me, I view it as my “me time”. I put my ear-buds in my ears and listen to my music, and ride that mower with the breeze blowing across my face, enjoying being outside in the sunshine. It’s peaceful to me and it’s healthy. Roles simply changed, it did not make things bad.

The other example in the question, “Forgetting to do things”. Very common for EITHER person. Memory issues can come with PTSD and anxiety in many cases, but an overwhelmed spouse/partner is going to forget things too! Dividing things up that need to be done or one doing things for themselves, can help with this as well. Making lists for each person can also help. Figure out what works best for your situation. One person is not going to be able to manage everything or remember too. It goes right back to roles may have changed, at least some, and one with PTSD can help out with things also. Create a healthy balance.

Now to the symptoms…

If a spouse notices their PTSD loved one is unsettled, frustrated, etc. especially when the “nit picking” starts. Why? This is where that wording comes in.

I noticed you seem frustrated today. Is there anything you would like to talk about?

I noticed PTSD has a grip on you today. Do you want to just take an easy day and relax?

Wording and tone are everything. By these examples, “I noticed…” you are pointing out that you notice something is effecting them, but you are not blaming them or causing a conflict. You are also opening the door for IF they want to talk, one with PTSD will not always open the conversation. The door is also opened for if maybe that day the plans need to be altered.

Many times if high expectations are decreased or put to the side for the moment, it can help decrease symptoms and allow one the time to cope with what they are experiencing. You do have to be cautious of avoidance though, which is very real with PTSD. Some things cannot be avoided forever and do have to take place. It also points out in a nice, caring way, things they may not realize or see they are experiencing. These simple to do things have been life savers for Craig and I and work very well for us!

Bottom lines are…

You have to find a balance. Communicating will have to take place and you have to work together to find what the balance is for BOTH of you. We don’t want those with PTSD viewing them in any more of a negative way then what PTSD already causes, but at the same time we don’t want spouses/partners becoming overwhelmed with trying to be perfect… PTSD is going to be there whether you try to be perfect or not. You have to get to the root of things and figure out what will work best for BOTH of you. 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Website

Words are everything…

Words are everything…

There is one thing that I learned a long time ago with PTSD, and the reality is, in life itself… your wording is and means everything!

I’ve spoken to a few people recently and those conversations really made me realize I needed to share this, and this REALLY comes from the heart.

PTSD can bring a lot of things with it. At times it can bring out some of the most nastiest sounding and hurtful things one has ever heard or felt, but NOT only from the one with PTSD, but from a loved one as well.

PTSD is going to try you, both of you, all of you! It will try to push every button you have. It will look for that fight when symptoms are increased… fight or flight is very real with PTSD. It at times will cause or try to cause emotional pain. It is a human reaction that comes out when a person is hurting emotionally, any person.

NO ONE purposely does this!!! PTSD and responses to it are what does this. Emotions are what causes this.

There is no long write-up on this one  No long in depth conversation like I am known for. This is simple.

If you do not ever learn anything else from this page/me (which I hope will NEVER be the case! There’s a lot to learn and share!) I want you to really think about and learn this…

This is real life. With it, we are never promised tomorrow, we are not even promised another hour or minute. When this life brings those harsh words, misunderstanding, emotional hurt, and struggles… find ways to correct it! We know words and feelings cannot always be avoided, we know at times they come out wrong or in harshness. We know this life can get thrown into chaos at times and then it comes again. NO MATTER what happens, who it is to or from… step back, take a deep breath, and work through it TOGETHER!

Live each day as if there may not be another. That is one thing in this life that you own, it is your’s, and nothing or no one can take that away from you! Learning to live as such will rarely leave any regrets for later.

Today, take a moment no matter how good or bad things are right now… and share a smile, share a hug, share an “I’m sorry” or “We will be okay”.

Words can be and mean everything, please make sure you find the positive ones in there too. 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD loved ones pulling away…

PTSD loved ones Pulling Away…

I am getting MANY messages about PTSD loved one’s pulling away from those who care about them the most. I’m seeing MANY souses/partners struggling with this. I’m seeing MANY with PTSD really feeling like they are alone right now, feeling numb to everything, OR feeling as if others just cannot understand what they are experiencing.

“This is ALL normal with PTSD”.

Not that that helps besides letting you know you are NOT alone!

I have been writing a lot lately about increases in PTSD symptoms, I have been doing extra things to try to spread more awareness and let others know we are here for them too… all with very good reasons. It’s a rough patch for many right now, that’s what I am hearing from SO many people, we go through it too, we all do at times. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, haha, but I do want to get it across that there are a lot of people having some very serious struggles right now, and what you do or don’t do each and every day can make a difference. Even if it’s something as simple as just letting one know you are there for them.

I’m also hearing from spouses/partners things such as “Bec, I’m just not you! I’m lost!” No, you aren’t me, you never will be me, BUT “you are you” and you can find that same place within yourself that I found within myself. I did not get, and we did not get where we are now overnight. It took a lot of time, a lot of learning, and a hell of a lot of trial and big time errors. Just because you have not yet learned every tip and trick in the book yet, and in reality that “book” will be endless, does not mean you won’t! As well as create your own along the way. There is not a quick fix answer, and when you find what works or helps in each situation that comes up it’s still going to take time to get somewhat of the results you are aiming for.

Right now, for this moment, this is what I want you to do…

I want you to stop, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and remember to believe in yourself! Just because you, right now at this moment feel worn out, worn down, emotionally drained, and feel like you are just lost and rushing to find the answers… does not mean that is a place you will always be!

Slow down. You HAVE to! You have to start with YOU! PTSD has it’s own path it takes, but I will tell you right now one is also going to follow your path when their symptoms become overwhelming for them. As a spouse/partner, caregiver, or family member… If you are not taking care of yourself it’s going to be very difficult to take care of or help someone else. Self care is something that you cannot put off, it’s something that you HAVE to MAKE the time to do… and DO it! It’s what is best for you, and it’s what is best for your PTSD loved one!

When one with PTSD sees their loved one struggling, in all reality they are going to struggle more than what they already have at hand. They view it as they are pulling you down with them, that it’s their fault, they are to blame, and the guilt and hurt that brings them can become unbearable. PTSD and life with it is not suppose to be a finger pointing game, life is suppose to be something that you work together through. Right now there are a lot of people with PTSD that are pointing their fingers at themselves, this has to stop. There are a lot of fingers being pointed from or at the spouse/partner, this has to stop. This life was not meant to be against each other, it’s meant to be lived together!

I have already been down every path imaginable as a spouse of one with PTSD. I can tell you with every ounce of love I have to offer, that me taking care of me is the largest thing I can do for my husband. I see Craig’s slight grin when I come back in from working on my pond. I see how he watches me when I do my little house projects. I see how he stares at me when I change my crazy nail polish or he makes a sarcastic comment. All of those small things that seem so small make a huge difference to one with PTSD. When they see you living and pushing forward, taking care of yourself, you are actually showing them how and the reasons why THEY need to live. You change their path when you change their view of themselves and how they view they are or are not effecting you. You cannot forget the reality of the negative changes in thoughts/moods that PTSD brings to one. You take a weight and stress off of their shoulders simply by taking care of yourself.

I know PTSD is tough! I know you have to be one tough cookie to manage this different type of life, you also have to be a caring person. It is different, it’s not those made up fairy tale stories where everything is suppose to be perfect.

“Perfect” is in the eyes of the beholder and what you choose to view perfect as. 

I have people every day tell me how they don’t know how I live this life. How they don’t know how I deal with the symptoms (notice I said symptoms and NOT my husband, wording is everything). How there’s no way they could do it or can’t do it any longer. It’s all in what you make out of it and how you choose to view it and work together. That’s really the bottom line to it.

We have been at this for so long now, that this is our normal. I accepted that PTSD is a part of our lives a long time ago. But that does not mean life is bad! It’s not, it’s just different than what others view as normal. And I would not trade my husband for the world. Even with PTSD he’s still Craig. I might not get to see the true him as much as I used to, I might miss that masked part of him at times, but that’s okay, I will take what I can get and love him just the same either way. He’s still my Craig, he’s just simply masked by this thing called PTSD. As I always say, “PTSD is a diagnosis not a definition of who a person is.”, either of you!

It’s very easy to get so caught up in what PTSD brings, that you forget the important things.

I am hearing from so many of you right now about your PTSD loved one pulling away or how communication has changed. When PTSD symptoms go up, these things are VERY normal! Craig does it. We can be sitting in the same exact room but he is miles away. When that happens, I know it’s just PTSD. It in reality has nothing to do with me at all. It’s him focusing on himself, coping with what he is feeling, trying to manage the symptoms so they do not get taken out on anyone else. This is all normal! You have to give them the personal space and time to work on themselves at times, and not take it personal through this process. You cannot push one with PTSD to be who you want them to be or be who they used to be, PTSD is still there. You have to be supportive, you have to care, you have to learn, but that space is also a part of it… those things will help.

I know you will worry, I know you will want to constantly talk to them, keep communicating, be there with them, etc. Those are normal human reactions and wants, especially when you know a loved one is having a difficult time. But there’s an old saying that really fits well here, “Too much of a good thing, can be bad”.  You have to respect their space when they get quiet. (As long as they are NOT suicidal, that is. That’s a different ball game!) They are not purposely pushing you away, they are not purposely ignoring you. Most likely they are handling PTSD the way they best know how. And in a way, they view it as “protecting” you at the same time from what PTSD is known to bring. Just as you have to work on yourself, they have to be able to work on themselves too.

They will talk and communicate when they are ready to. Don’t push, you have to find a healthy balance. When you push there’s a good chance you are going to hear or see PTSD’s side of things.  And that can land you and your feelings in a very hard place. Many times what they are going through has nothing to do with you at all… that’s really something to think about and learn to accept.

To those of you with PTSD,

There’s no way I could write this and not say something to you. Just like there are things a spouse/partner needs to keep in mind and do, there’s things for you as well.  The largest thing you can do, remember there is someone that cares about you and wants to help. If it’s your pull away quiet time, let them know that’s what you are going through. It can be kept simple and short. They really do worry about you, they really are there for you, sometimes it takes a lot to allow a person to step into your world that you experience, I know that. But letting them in even if it’s just a little can really help both of you.

You do not have to journey this path and life with PTSD alone, even though alone is a very real feeling. Don’t cut your partner short of what they can be, they are probably much stronger than you might think and that extra strength they have can sure help in some way. They are not going to learn everything overnight, give them a chance to learn, and understand there will be a lot of errors in there as well. If they are trying, work on accepting “they are trying”. No, they will never completely understand, but if you let them try they can sure get pretty close on understanding the now. 

If they reach out to you (which hopefully isn’t TOO much too often), just let them know “I have to focus on me right now and managing my PTSD. It’s nothing to do with you or against you.”, something short, something simple, just simply to let them know your focus does have to be on yourself at the moment and so they know you are “okay” so to speak. Silence when two people are in the same location or not, can cause the brain to think all sorts of bad things. Don’t allow that to happen, it causes way more problems than what it’s worth. A simple text can help or a few simple words. When you can, talk to them if they do not understand how space is something that is needed at times. Send them here, we will explain it if you have difficulties finding the right words.  It happens! And that’s okay! Whatever it takes for them to start learning. 

Those numb feelings, don’t forget the “motions lead to emotions”. Numbness is VERY real with PTSD, but it can be worked on. 


This is a life which includes PTSD. Things are going to be different and it’s important for people to be on the same page and learn the most they can. It’s important to know that just because one person may be doing better than another at any given time, does not mean they are a better person then you are, it just means maybe they have traveled further down a path than you have at this point or are simply at a different point. There’s this thing we call the PTSD dance, one step forward two steps back, it happens to all of us. The important thing, we are dancing.  😉

A lot of the things I am hearing are simply based around expectations or taking things personally. Take that deep breath, make sure you are taking care of yourself. And try not to worry so much, you are just learning a different way of life that may be a little scary to start with until you learn more and find that new normal. 

You’ve got this! Give yourself and your loved one a chance! 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

I had a question come to me regarding medications…

NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or in any medical field, and cannot give medical advice or recommendations regarding medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding medications PLEASE talk to your doctor.

“Could you talk a little bit about trialing new medications and adjusting doses of established meds. Effects and reasoning?”

But I can give personal opinions and a little information regarding this question.

Let’s start with some basic background information…

The first thing to understand is that NO two people are going to respond to the same medications the same way. That’s why I don’t discuss direct names of medications on here, that is something for each doctor to handle per person. Each person may have a different combination of medications, depending on which symptoms they are having. Many people may choose or be able to manage symptoms without the use of medications.

When medications are given for PTSD, really they are given to help manage the symptoms. PTSD comes with a wide range of symptoms and not every person has every symptom, not every symptom is exactly the same for each person, so medications when given, are given accordingly. As of right now to my knowledge, there is no one medication “for” PTSD. Medications for other medical conditions are many times given to help manage PTSD symptoms.

With that being said, there are many different medications being used to help manage the symptoms. You will notice I keep using the term “manage”, that is because there is not a pill cure all. Medications will not make symptoms “go away”, they are used to decrease and manage symptoms. Some people may not notice their symptoms any longer with certain meds, but that does not mean that symptom is gone, the med is simply working for you very well… if that is you, SMILE because you are one lucky person!  It is very important to understand that medications=management!

I call medications “band-aides”. They are not a permanent fix. They can in many cases help one get to a “place” where they can focus better on learning how to cope with they symptoms. Personally, I believe, and have seen, it takes much more than only medications, coping skills and learning self-help techniques to manage symptoms are very much needed.

New medications.

Like with many medications, you have to give a new medication time to see if it is going to help or not. Many of the medications given to those with PTSD take a good 4-6 weeks to really see if it will help, and before seeing the real results. Others may not take as long. Some may seem to help immediately but then seem to stop or decrease helping, especially during the adjustment period, this is normal and does not mean the med is not working, it simply means your body is adjusting to it. Your doctor will be the one to decide based on your symptoms, if a med will be the right one for you or not and if adjustments need to be made.

During that time it is important to monitor for any side effects or reactions, notify your doctor if you have any. Many non-major side effects will decrease or go away once you adjust to the medication.

There are several blood pressure medications, for a good example, that are commonly used to help manage PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares and migraines, even though the person may have normal bp. If you are given one or more of these, it is extremely important to understand how that medication works and to keep your bp monitored. It is also important to know that with these meds, you cannot just jump out of bed and go! Especially when it’s a new med. one needs to slow down and pay attention to how your body responds. (Examples are: When waking up. When moving to a standing position. Use caution when/if driving.) It’s a blood pressure med and lowers your bp, so until your body adjusts to it, your physical body may be off balance. This normally levels out once your body adjusts to the medication.

Keep in mind what each medication is actually used for so you can monitor your or your loved one’s response to the medication. My golden rule is to keep in mind: [Symptom] is what is is bring given for, but [Medical condition] is what the medication is actually used for.

New medications can not be expected to give a quick fix or a fix all cure. It takes time to see how your body will respond. Have patience.

Adjusting and Changing Medications…

This is VERY common! Go ahead right now and set that thought in your brain because meds ARE going to change or be adjusted! Again, medications are to help with the symptoms. As your symptoms change, increase or decrease, so will your medications. How often, how many, etc. all depend on the symptoms at each given time.

Over time your body may get use to a medication and it may need to be adjusted, discontinued, OR changed. It is normal to start on a lower dose then your doctor will decide what needs to be done from there. If adjustment is needed, this is normally done in small steps.

Another thing to keep in mind with medications used to manage PTSD symptoms is many of them you cannot stop cold turkey! Due to what these meds are and what they are meant to do, many require weaning one off of them, unless their is a severe reaction or interaction then a doctor needs to tell you how to handle that accordingly. If you have a reaction, feel like a zombie even after the adjustment time to a medication, TALK to your doctor! They are only a phone call or email away! DO NOT adjust or discontinue medications on your own!!!

It is extremely important to keep up with your doctor! Be honest! What you need or don’t need will depend on your symptoms and you being honest about what you are experiencing, since there is not one specific medication to treat PTSD.

Speaking of the zombie feeling…

I want to make something very clear. If you are feeling like the medication(s) you are on are keeping you from functioning, you feel like a zombie, talk to your doctor! DO NOT sit back and think that is how you should feel. When medications are used for PTSD symptoms, they are to help you manage the symptoms so you can function. They should not make you feel doped up! You may experience that feeling during adjustment times or when starting a new medication, but other than that you should not feel like a zombie. If you feel this way talk to your doctor so they can work on adjusting your med.

And last but not least…

Medications do NOT have to be a lifetime thing. I know some medications will be, but not all have to be! Many people will not use or even try medications because they don’t want to be doped up the rest of their life. It does not and should not be that way. When a person starts on medications, if that’s what needs to be done, one may have many medications to begin with, some doses may be high at times, but over time AND the more you learn to manage the symptoms (those coping skills  ) meds can decrease and at times they can be discontinued.

PLEASE do not avoid meds simply because you don’t want to be doped up the rest of your life. It should not and does not have to be that way! (Yes, I repeated that.) Craig is a prime example of this one! At the beginning he was on 12 different medications, the docs are gradually working him off of as many as possible. Over half of those medications are not needed anymore! And the docs are still working on decreasing. His symptoms have NOT by any means gone away, but we have learned over time how to manage them using other things such as coping skills and techniques. The reason I call medications “band-aides”  They help but may not always be needed… only time will answer that one. 

Just please keep in mind that each person will be different when it comes to use or non-use of medications. As well as things will change as you do 

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD and Driving

PTSD and Driving

We had a very good question come to us this morning and I wanted to talk about this in depth.

“Question; does anyone here see a difference in their loved one’s driving? My son has had an accident with every car he’s driven since coming back from Iraq. He speeds and appears to be paying more attention to what’s going on everywhere else except for the important things like speed limits, brake lights etc. He notices the person coming out of the store but not the stop sign he just blew through. He honestly scares me when he drives. I spend my time saying things like “red light, stop sign, watch the guy at your 3 o’clock…” -Pat

I want to start by saying, the thing I hear most from those with PTSD regarding driving is, “I fear they will take my driver’s license away.

That is a very valid fear. PTSD does change so many things in life, as well as how one has to manage things, that one just does not want to lose one more thing especially since driving is a form of freedom and self reliance, helps with self-esteem, as well as self worth. It brings independence.

However, many do notice changes in the way their loved one drives once PTSD becomes a part of life. The examples given with the above question are very real life examples. And I’m sure many are raising their hands or nodding their heads yes right now. In a way, many times the passenger becomes the co-pilot.

Those of you with PTSD, don’t worry,  I’m not going to throw you under the bus on this one! (figure of speech)

So why do these changes in driving happen? Let’s start there.

First off, just because a person has PTSD does NOT mean in all cases they can no longer drive. There are many that have no issues with driving. Then there are others that have issues at times. Then there are those that driving is just no longer a possibility. Each case will be different even though so many may have things in common.

This is not only military or first responder related, even though we do hear of many who do have driving changes that are/were military or a first responder. Other examples of ones that may also have changes in driving skills may include those that have been in car accidents, witnessed a severe car accident, lost a loved one due to an accident, or any trauma where a vehicle relates to the trauma one experienced. Those that have PTSD from a personal attack or stalker related trauma may also experience changes in driving. And then there is just plain and simple, PTSD itself and what it brings.

It all goes back to the symptoms. PTSD can cause anxiety to increase when one leaves their “safe” environment or home. The “what if’s” or questions that can go through one’s mind can increase. Hyper-arousal can increase. Looking for an attacker/enemy or trauma related objects, can increase. PTSD triggers can be experienced. And even flashbacks can occur.

When any of these symptoms step into play when one is behind the wheel it causes or can cause concentration to decrease, which can lead to one not noticing the things a driver would normally watch for or pay attention to. Instead the concentration goes towards watching for that trigger and/or being alert to or looking for anything that is related to their PTSD trauma. Many may not even realize they are doing this, or to the extent they are doing it.

So, now we know the “why”. Now what do we do?

First and foremost, we want to make sure everyone stays safe! That means the one driving, the passengers, as well as those also out and about. Here are some examples of things that may help…

* From the start. If you know PTSD symptoms are high, avoid driving for the time being. If you HAVE to go somewhere, ask someone if they could drive for you. If you don’t HAVE to go somewhere, waiting a little while for the symptoms to calm down is okay!

* If you know, or someone else mentions they notice, PTSD symptoms are increasing while one is driving, be honest about it! There is nothing wrong with saying “Hey can you drive for a little while?” and allow someone else to take the wheel. What’s the worse case scenario? You get a chauffeur for part of the day.  There’s nothing wrong with that!

* Pull over. 

If symptoms are increasing you can always pull off the road and use your coping skills. Once you are feeling less overwhelmed, then continue your travels. Take a break when you need to.

* Talk to yourself. 

Nope, you are not crazy if you do this! Talk out loud or to yourself, tell yourself  “I’ve got this, I can do this, focus on that light coming up. I’m in my town [or a place, even a destination you are going to] and nothing is going to [whatever the fear is].” By doing something along these lines, you are forcing yourself to stay grounded.  Time, place, and to people who are with you. Tell yourself for example, “There is a light coming, if it turns yellow I need to start breaking.” You can do this with anything! All you are doing is maintaining your focus on driving and taking it away from those symptoms and what if’s. This works great to keep triggers from flowing into full flashbacks and also helps you stay focused on those things you need to pay attention to while driving. 

* Road Rage.

It happens! PTSD at times will look for that fight or be triggered into one, especially when another driver could have harmed you and/or your loved ones. Those out there with poor driving skills will become PTSD’s target. DON’T allow them to mess up your day! If something happens, do NOT chase them down. Unfortunately if something happens many times PTSD gets the blame and that is not going to lead you to a good day when you were actually the victim, of sorts. Pull over and take a deep breath, use those coping skills. And if another driver out there is being careless to the point they could hurt someone with the way they are driving, it’s okay for you to call their tag and location in to your local authorities. Allow yourself to release from the rage and let the authorities handle it, that makes you the good guy that may have saved a life. 

* Co-pilots. Yep that’s all of you that raised your hands at the beginning of this 

Sorry folks co-pilots or side-seat drivers are going to be there. And many act like they have an invisible break pedal on their side of the vehicle. Just love them for caring about you and making sure everyone stays safe! And try not to become snappy at them if they point things out. If you need to say something about their co-piloting, try to use a calm tone. “Would you like to drive?” is what Craig uses as his code phrase with me  And at times the answer is YES! Other times he tells me “thank you” when he may honestly not have noticed something. Whatever works, communicate so the drive is a decent one.

Now Co-pilots (yep I’m one of them  ), you have to make sure you do NOT over tell things or talk too much, it just becomes static noise to one with PTSD that is trying to focus. It is okay to direct or point things out when NEED be, just be cautious to not over-do it or it is going to spark PTSD frustration which could make the situation even worse. It is very common for co-piloting to become a bad habit, make sure you give the one with PTSD a chance and only say things when they are NEEDED.

* Navigation Systems

Oh these are awesome! There are many different types of GPS systems as well as apps available that can be used. My absolute favorite is a phone app! It “talks” to the driver so no looking at the phone is needed AND it tells you or alerts you not only to directions, lights, stop signs, but to your speed as well… if you are going over or under the speed limit for the location you are at and as you travel. I LOVE it! No more saying “Watch your speed”, I can sit back and relax with a little chuckle now.  There are many different systems or apps available, research them and see which ones can help.

Speeding is common with PTSD. When anxiety levels and other symptoms go up that gas pedal seems to go down. It’s almost like a “hurry up let’s get there” that takes place. Focus can go to destination instead of those dash gauges.

* Come up with an agreement ahead of time! 

Craig and I actually have this in place. It helps keep anger or frustration down while driving… for BOTH of us. If his symptoms are high, he does not drive, period! If we are out and symptoms increase, we switch drivers. If he needs to pull over, then we pull over. If I start needing to co-pilot too much, then I drive. If he’s having a good day, no questions asked, he can drive. Whatever agreement and plan you come up with, just make a plan of action. By already having this in place it can save a lot of pulling your hair out (so to speak) for either person.

These are a few things that seem to work well, and that work well for us personally. Feel free to add things that you may have come up with that helps when you or your loved one is driving.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Anger and Frustration… they are PTSD symptoms.

Anger and Frustration… they are PTSD symptoms.

I asked Craig a long time ago to explain to me what the anger feels like to him. It’s something that is really hard to explain to others but I think Craig found a way to explain what anger and frustration with PTSD are like, that is the best explanation I have ever heard…

“It’s like the anger and frustration are just sitting right there, under the surface, at all times, just waiting to come up for air” -Craig

Anger is another one of the hardest things for others to understand. A person can be, or “seem” in reality, okay then what seems like out of nowhere… there’s the anger exploding out of the water for air.

The reality is the anger was there all along. The one with PTSD was just being able to manage it or keep it at bay… was able to cope with it. For many with PTSD, the battle with controlling and managing the anger and frustration is a constant fight within themselves, for others it may come and go as it builds then decreases some.

When anger surfaces, it most likely seems directed at a person or an object. This is NOT something that is purposely done. It’s not a contious thought of “I’m mad, I’m going to throw this glass against the wall”, for example. Most likely that glass just happened to be what was there when anger could not be managed any longer. The outburst, release of anger, is a reaction to the symptom.

Anger can be triggered. A trigger is something… a place, smell, touch, sound, vibration, ANYTHING that pertains to any of the body’s senses that brings back the thoughts of and relates to the person’s trauma. Even the weather can be a trigger if it relates to the way it was at the time of the trauma. Anger can surface right away when a trigger presents itself, or it can build then come to the surface with an outburst.

Anger is a real symptom of PTSD. It’s going to come sooner or later, and each person may experience it in different ways.

So what can be done when it does? MANY THINGS!

The FIRST thing always, make sure safety protocol of some type is in place. For the one with PTSD as well as others. No one wants anyone to get hurt!!! But the reality is, it can happen.

Anger that comes with PTSD is not the same, so to speak, as a person who is an abuser, even though if nothing is done that is exactly what one may become until they get help. Abuse unfortunately is very real and it can be in the form of physical or mental abuse. Anger with PTSD CAN be managed so abuse does not happen, or stops happening!

Learn and use coping skills! I will preach this one to you because I have seen with my own eyes how well coping skills and techniques CAN work if you practice and use them on a regular basis.

Craig himself use to have outbursts of anger. He would never touch another person (thank you survivor’s guilt and the true person he has always been!) But he could sure throw things or hit things, and he could sure throw some nasty tones and words. Anger has never gone away for him, it’s still right there just waiting to come to the surface, but he learned what works for him and how to manage it.

Yesterday was an anger day for him. I as his spouse have learned the signs of when anger surfaces, and I have learned how to respond or NOT respond. We both have to do our part when anger symptoms come.

I could tell by his body language, his quietness then when he spoke the tone that was obvious he was fighting to control. I watched the frustration throughout the day, how he would sit in a chair, then lay on the bed, then go out to the boat and tinker on it, then repeat. How unsettled he was, like his skin was just crawling and he could not get comfortable. I saw that PTSD glare when he did not want to do something, like eat. Simple things that are a part of daily routines. I heard him complain about having to take medications. Patience was not something the day consisted of for him. Those are all cues that anger is trying to break the surface.

It was a day that his personal space was needed and the only conversations were ones he started. I sat here and worked on writing, did my stuff around the house, spent one on one time with my daughter, and just gave him space. I could see what he was battling, I could see him working hard to cope with what was obvious he was feeling. So I just kept things calm around the house all day, and did not push any expectations onto him. With him working so hard to cope, coping is where his focus needed to be. Late last night he finally said to me, “I have been so angry all day.” I simply responded, “I know. I love you.” Then he replied, “I love you too.” Then he opened up and talked about how he was feeling. And I listened.

And we made it through the day without any outbursts or negative words.

It took us a long time to understand what works for us. It does take time to figure out what works best for each person. With Craig it’s taking a nap if all else fails. But he does pretty good these days with using coping skills and preoccupying himself with something that keeps him busy. He also avoids other people when anger comes, it’s just a precaution so harsh words do not surface that he will regret later, avoidance… another very real PTSD symptom that can also work to your advantage at times.

For me as the spouse, seeing the signs that anger is surfacing and knowing his limits during those times have been the keys. Giving him his personal space to cope, even if we are sitting in the same room. Avoiding deep or heavy topic conversations that could give PTSD the debate or fight it wants, is a huge help. Not pushing for expectations during those times, helps. Not over talking to the point is causes him to be overwhelmed with static noise, as I call it. I just simply allow him to focus on himself.

We do have code words/phrases of sorts also, for times he does not recognize his symptoms are increasing. It does not take much, just a simple, “I can see you are struggling today with [symptom]”. No deep conversation, no pointing out everything he’s done or doing. Just a simple bringing his attention to a symptom I notice. That’s worked well for us.

These things have made life with PTSD SO much easier. When he’s ready to talk, he will. Just like last night, he opened conversation with telling me his struggles of the day. And I don’t take those types of days personal. I use them to do things for me, things I like to do, things he would not normally do with me. It gives a balance and keeps him from feeling like he needs to be doing something else. It leaves his focus on coping, as well as opens myself for a little me time and self care.

It does take time, lots of trial and errors, a ton of patience, but anger is something that can be managed. Don’t expect it to go away, but work on managing it and learning ways to cope through the symptoms. You just have to find what works best for you and your loved ones. Don’t give up on yourself or your loved one, even if things are really rough right now… it can change and get better then where things may be at this moment.

Now, take a deep breath, yesterday is behind us and today is a new day. Try something new. 😉

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The unfortunate passing of Robin Williams…

I did not want to address this, but there is no choice.
Too many are struggling right now.

I was planning on letting this pass, a time for silence so to speak, out of respect for the family and friends, and to try to prevent any triggers or other symptoms from rising for those with PTSD and/or Depression, as well as other mental health conditions, but with as many as I am hearing from and of, I think and hope the family and friends would understand me writing this. 

I know that the news of Robin Williams passing has been a devastation for many. People idolize him for the person he was and the talents he shared with all of us.

I know the details of the news is extremely difficult for many. I know there are many comments being made that are way out of line, not everyone understands the struggles that do in reality come with mental health conditions. I do not think it has been taken into consideration what the details of his passing as well as some of the things being said, are doing to others who suffer from depression, as well as PTSD, and other mental health conditions.

Mr. Williams was a wonderful person, a real person, that struggled through things just as many others do. Even though I never had the opportunity to personally meet him, I know many of you have and this has hit you hard. He had a kind heart, he believed in our military and did what he could to be there for them and let them know they were not alone. He also had a heart for animals and helped out making sure animals had a fair chance at life. He helped many in his lifetime. I do not know much about him personally, but I do know that he touched my life and many lives through his role as an actor. As an actor, yes he was in the spot light and his talents were beyond magnificent. But, he was still a real person and that needs to be kept in mind.

We know that suicide is very real with depression, other mental health conditions, as well as with physical disabilities. Not everyone finds that path of surviving even though they work hard every day to make it to the next.

I had a comment come to me that I could not allow to pass. I realized I cannot remain silent, I have to say something.

I heard, “If someone as famous as Robin Williams resorted to suicide (allegedly based on news) , how am I, a nobody, who’s not rich or have unlimited access to things, suppose to make it?” Unfortunately, I have heard that many people are hearing this same type of comment from a loved one.

The only thing that comes from my heart that I can say, is MAYBE Mr. Williams did not have quite the same things in life as you have or there’s more to it than we are being told (NOT implying anything negative about his family, friends, or support system)… Each and every one of us that come together each day to make sure each other does make it to see tomorrow. A place where you can take that “mask” off and talk about real life as well as the struggles it brings, and find ways together to help each other. Maybe he felt like he had to wear that “mask” too often for too many. I really do not know, and none of us will ever know. Robin Williams will never be forgotten. 

What I do know is we have each other! We have the ability to share the good as well as the bad things that life with mental health conditions does bring. We have the ability to share those things with others who understand and may be facing the same struggles. We have the ability to openly talk about life. And, we have the ability to let others know they are not alone. There are many in this world that do suffer from some sort of mental illness or disorder.

When I call this page a “family”, I mean it. That is exactly what this little space on the internet is, it’s a loving and caring family that is world wide. It’s a place that stigma does not exist and we turn to each other and lean on each other.

YOU have something that not everyone with mental health conditions has found yet… others that can relate and do know what this life is like firsthand. Too many out there are still silent and trying to manage things on their own (not saying this is the case with Mr. Williams, just speaking in general), they need to know they don’t have to walk through this life alone.

Through the struggles that you may be having this week, PLEASE remember that you are NOT alone! PLEASE reach for help, use a crisis hotline number if you need someone to help you through this time. PLEASE contact your doctor. PLEASE use your support system and those that are there for you!

We all lost a wonderful person this week that has touched many of our lives in different wonderful ways. Let’s work together to make sure no more wonderful people are lost. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!! And YOU ARE SOMEONE! Someone that does matter!

To those of you who do not understand mental health conditions, I hope you take the time to learn and learn what real life with these conditions are like, to the best as possible. People with mental illnesses or disorders really are not weak. They are the ones that struggle through each day to become a survivor, and work hard to make life the best it can be. YOU can help save a life, just simply by learning and helping reduce stigma, and by just simply being there for others.

Much love to each and every single one of you. And our thoughts go out to Mr. Williams family and all who personally knew him.

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