Tag-Archive for » Nightmares «

“Stop, Drop, and Roll” in PTSD Terms… “Roll, Drop, and Move”

“Stop, Drop, and Roll” in PTSD Terms… “Roll, Drop, and Move”

You know, as a child many people learn “stop, drop, and roll” for when there is a fire involved… it’s a safety protocol. For some reason that safety guideline really sticks with me when#PTSD nightmares come. It just fits so very well when you have to leave the bed quickly to make sure you are out of the way of physical actions which may come with nightmares.

I heard “Leave” shouted, no other twitching or warning they were coming, which was odd actually, and I was out of bed! No hesitations.  (Leave me alone… being the first noticeable sign of the nightmare) I’m not sure who responded first to this one, Alex was coming up between us and I was rolling out of bed.

By the way, Alex is my trusty sidekick dog who I trained to get me out of bed when Craig’s nightmares start so I’m not in the way of the physical actions that come with them.  This also allows Craig and I to still go to bed together for at least part of each night and safety still be in place.

There are many that do experience physical aspects with their nightmares. And let me tell you, it makes them feel awful as well as guilty. Especially if they unknowingly make contact with their loved one during them. It can also scare their spouse/partner and cause relationship and/or fear issues to start. The hardest part is understanding that what happens during nightmares is not intentional, however some type of safety does have to be put into place if you are going to remain sleeping together in the same bed.

There are many that can no longer sleep at night with their PTSD partner because of nightmares, rather it’s due to the physical actions, the talking out during them, and/or lack of sleep the partner gets. If this is the case, you have to make sure the two of you are still taking your one on one time together before you part to separate beds or sleep areas. It helps maintain the personal relationship.

For me, the “stop, drop, and roll”… which is actually “roll, drop, and move”… has been one of the largest things to help, besides Alex of course. 😉 It allows me to roll out of bed safely which keeps me away from swinging arms or kicking feet. It puts me out of reach because I am not sitting up in bed to get out of it or in a position to be grabbed. It puts distance between me and the nightmares, and allows me the room to move to a safer location. It’s not a human response during a nightmare to reach down beside a bed. 😉

I do have to say something though, even if your PTSD partner does not have active nightmares, PLEASE do not ever get into the mindset that they won’t. I have had some spouses come to me and state that after 20+ years of no activity during nightmares, their partner has now started having physical nightmares. So it’s something to be cautious or aware of, that can happen. Same as with touching one through nightmares, take caution and make sure you make wise choices. No way you will ever catch me touching Craig during a nightmare lol, no way not happening, already experienced that rodeo years ago. 

Just because you have always received a positive response to touching one through them, does not always mean you will… it’s still a nightmare and they can not control it. That is another thing some have come to me with because the actions or response to them has changed over time. It only takes one time of one of these things happening and it can change your life (either one of you) and/or your relationship, and there is no need for that when there can be safety protocol in place to begin with.

There is one thing about PTSD that is no fault of anyone… you don’t know what’s coming next, no matter how well you know your partner and their symptoms. I personally can tell you what the night will be like before it even comes, I can tell you what body language or words (and lack of) will lead to what reaction or symptom, I can tell you if it’s going to be a good day or a rough one, I know the triggers… but no matter what, it’s still PTSD and you are not going to know everything, every time, no one can. Having some sort of plan, safety protocol, in place no matter how minor or major it seems, saves a lot of hurt feelings and/or physical mishaps. And safety can sure help cut down on the guilt one with PTSD can have, compared to if something out of their control happens and nothing was in place to help prevent it.

There are many things you can try or put into place, rather it’s for nightmares, triggers, flashbacks, children, and the list goes on…

Caution, safety, and awareness can help prevent fear, mishaps, and/or broken relationships, and they can sure help prevent some of the guilt from forming. Do not dismiss that.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Survivor’s Guilt… Let me tell you a story

Over time you learn how to spot things or what will effect one. It becomes second nature really. Today I want to talk about something with total respect and a heavy heart. I hope this brings some understanding to those who have not learned yet or are new to this life.

Let me tell you a story…

Last night Craig and I watched a show series in the bedroom, and I fell asleep during it… on purpose! I knew Craig would keep watching, that he would stay there with me or in the room, I also knew that I would need some sleep before the night time came… the nightmares.

How did I know this beforehand? Because today, to many, is a holiday. Holidays can bring a lot of different things to many people who have PTSD…

Yesterday was a day of Craig talking about “that” deployment, where his trauma took place. He tried to recall details of that time and names of those he served with. He told me stories of how he met some of the crew he was stationed/deployed with. He came across, or found really, the cruise book online from that time. He scanned through every photo trying to recognize people, he talked to me about places he saw, as well as the good and bad experiences. He got frustrated and upset over pieces he could not remember. At times he would somewhat smile and tell a funny story. I could see every emotion as it came to him, I could see how he would stop at certain photos. I heard him say, “They must have left them out, I don’t see them”. I knew who he was looking for.

And when he reached the last page, he saw the “In Memory Of” page and photos of his friends that did not make it home. He spoke out to me, “There they are!”. I sat with him and listened as he flipped through every page, and when he reached that special page I watched as he touched the screen, how he said each of their names out loud. Then he told me about each of his buddies, the things they use to do, what their personalities were like, how he looked up to them and valued their friendships, how the one friend of the three was the reason he wanted to learn how to fly… become a pilot, and did. I saw the sadness on his face, the loss he was experiencing.

So I just sat and listened, watched, talked and asked appropriate questions when they fit in. I shared with him this experience of remembrance with respect.

See, many who have PTSD also experience survivor’s guilt. Craig is one of those. When holidays approach, you can see it. You can see the changes and increases in symptoms. You can watch them withdraw from those around them. You can see a sort of sadness come over them. You might hear them speak of the families or look for them quietly of those lost, just to see how they are now.

Some people will talk about those who died, others will not or just not yet… have respect to whichever they are comfortable with. Survivor’s guilt is no joke, it’s very real. It can cause some of the darkest days and there needs to be caution with this. If your loved one experiences this, please don’t push them or have too high of expectations of them during these times. They need your support and just someone to be there.

If they can’t manage to do the things planned or what you want of them, don’t hold it against them, don’t take it out on them, don’t talk bad about them… the “You ruined my day”, don’t argue about it, and pep talks are not always the right action. Sometimes they need to experience these feelings so they can move forward, and remember they are important and that it’s important they are here. Just be thankful you have them, that they are alive.

Being understanding of their loss instead of negative helps them more then anything. As well as it can help them before and on the holiday, which can lead to a better day at times. Allow them to grieve if they need to, allow them to talk if they want to, and be there for them through these times.

Yesterday was special. Craig has talked to me many times about his trauma and the loss of his friends, but yesterday, he shared his grieving, loss, and even the chuckles of good memories with me on a much deeper level. We took a part of the day to reflect and give him the one on one time for him to just talk, communicate, and express himself, his emotions, and his memories.

Survivor’s guilt is much like PTSD, one does not just snap out of it or get over it, they re-experience it. It hangs with them, and what you do, the words you use or don’t use, can make a huge difference. When these times come or you see one struggling, use kindness, understanding, compassion, so you can help them through it and move forward in positive ways. Sometimes just being there to listen is all you need to do.

Sometimes there is something I speak to Craig, it seems to help him through the tough days, helps him refocus of sorts, and I speak it from the heart with kindness and understanding. So if you are one struggling today, I want to share this with you. It won’t make those feelings go away, and I respect that and your loss, but maybe it will help you through the day with a slight ease or different point of view to what you are experiencing that is so real… 

Every person who survived, survived for a reason. I don’t know why it was you instead of them, my view is there is a mission of sorts that you have not completed yet. Something that you can bring to others that holds great value and meaning, and I truly believe that. I do not have answers to why so many important, special people were lost. But as I have told Craig before, during some of our in depth talks, those that were lost would be proud of you, they would want you to live your life and keep moving forward, they would want you to do it for yourself, your family, as well as for them. The friendships were special, that brotherly bond was strong, it will always be a part of you and who you are… and they would only wish the best to and for you. Their memory you have brings you strength. I know the loss is great and it weighs on the heart and mind heavily, there’s no getting past that feeling, those emotions, and experiences of something so very real. But I also know that they believed in you and would not want to see you struggle, just as if they had been the ones to survive you would not want to see them struggling. So be kind to yourself, allow yourself to experience those thoughts, feelings, and emotions, grieve when you need to… but at the same time, don’t let it slip from your mind to live, they would want you to. 

From the heart with love, understanding, and compassion… I hope each of you find good in today.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

FaceBook Page

 

“I don’t want to go to bed!”

“I don’t want to go to bed!”

Many have probably said that very thing, or heard it. It is very common with PTSD! Or one will just avoid going to bed all together. I have heard everything from “I don’t want to go to bed.” to “Oh, I just like watching you sleep.“, and many other things in between.

This can cause spouses/partners to become frustrated, feel like they are not wanted or not good enough, distance is put between two people, etc. Many things that are taken personally, when in reality should not be!

But what is the real reason for it?

Nightmares and/or night terrors! A simple answer, but it comes with SO much behind it. For anyone that experiences nightmares or terrors on a regular basis, making it into bed at night is tough, it’s a hard chore to be honest. All of the thoughts come rushing in as the sun sets and that bedtime approaches. “Will the nightmares come tonight?“, “I’m tired of seeing those images over and over again, they haunt me.“, “Will I swing on my loved one in my sleep?“, “Will I scream out and cause others to panic or become scared of me?”, “Will I know where I am when I wake from them?“, “Will I keep my loved one awake? I feel so guilty they don’t get much sleep.“. Will I, will I, will I… what if!

PTSD nightmares bring intense, real life images of their trauma experienced right back to them, night after night in many cases. Others may experience more nightmares around anniversary dates of their trauma or when high expectations arise and anxiety increases.

Many delay going to bed as long as possible. Others will avoid going to bed all together. Nightmares bring avoidance, and all of those what if’s.

We know that everyone needs sleep! Even if it is not solid restful sleep, sleep is still needed in order to be able to function mentally as well as physically. Lack of sleep can cause symptoms to increase, cause one to be frustrated or grumpy during the day… moody, and many other things. Sleep is urgent!

So what can you do?

There are many things you can try that may help. TRY being that key word there.

  •  Pay attention to what you eat or drink when bedtime is approaching. Don’t eat or drink things that are known for keeping you awake.

 

  •  Limit the content… what you watch or read before bedtime. You don’t want to set yourself up for increased anxiety right before bed. The things you watch or read before bed can set the pace for what your night will be like. Be cautious of those things.

 

  •  Intense conversations. This is a huge one! Majority of people with PTSD already have increased anxiety about going to bed and it causes their mind to focus on serious subjects. Many times intense conversation about important subjects towards bedtime can set you up for increased nightmares.

 

  •  Coping skills. I am telling you, coping skills can help! Breathing exercises, different forms of meditation such as mindfulness and body relaxation techniques can be of great help in settling the mind and body before bedtime. Try them and practice them! Coping skills take practice and one time of trying them will not cut it.

 

  •  Soothing music or sounds. These things and allowing yourself to just experience the soothing sounds you are hearing can help ease the mind and thoughts. I like the sound of water or certain types of music personally. There are also different types of sound machines that can be of great help.

 

  •  Mind set. If you focus on the what if or “I know I won’t sleep tonight” or “I know I will have nightmares.“, what are the chances you will get sleep? Very slim if any. Change your focus to “Hey! I AM going to get some sleep tonight.” or “You know what, it’s just a nightmare and I am still going to get some sleep.” Changing your view of going to bed can help. It’s like you playing a trick on your own brain.  It can work at times. It does not mean you won’t still have a nightmare, but it does mean you might get more sleep then you normally do.

As always, there is an endless list of things you can try! What you are basically doing is taking your thoughts away from the what if’s that can come, and things that can cause sleep issues, and teaching yourself to focus on the positive things that can help and allow you to get at least some sleep. And when you do have a rough night, don’t view it as a failure! Catch a nap during the day and say “Okay, I had another one of those nights but I will try again tonight.”  It might just work. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Have you thought about the effects of Nightmares? Other than the obvious…

Has anyone ever thought about the effects of nightmares?

The most obvious is your sleep schedule and the effects of having the nightmare/terror in the first place.

I want to talk about the not so obvious effects of them. We have some huge ones going on here, and finding a way around them has not been so easy.

Just to note, Craig has nightmares every night, I honestly can not recall a night he hasn’t had at least one, many nights they come over and over again. He’s on medications for them, he uses coping skills and relaxation techniques, he watches what he does and even what he eats/drinks before bed, we watch that no conversations that could be intense happen before bedtime, we make sure everything is calm and relaxed environment… we do everything that we have been taught or learned on our own to do.

But there are still nightmares, and they are bringing different issues that ones may not always think about.

These are some of the things I hear a lot of each week, some daily:

“Why aren’t you in bed?” or “Why are you up?”

The obvious answer is because he is restless during #nightmares and I have to leave our bed. It’s a touch one! There’s more that comes with that then you may think.

Do you have any idea how difficult it becomes to tell one with PTSD that you are not in bed with them because they were having nightmares? It wasn’t difficult at first. But when you start hearing the same question every morning, then you see what the answer does to them, it becomes really hard to answer.

I have actually tried saying things such as, “I doesn’t really matter, how are you doing this morning?“. And even avoiding the question by moving into conversation “Hey are you ready for coffee” or “Hey I read this….“.

I’ve even looked at him and kindly stated, “Craig, do you really need to ask that question?“, in a loving tone. But you know what, it doesn’t matter, he has to hear the answer even if it’s the same thing over and over again. It’s like it’s a cycle of need to know that can’t be broken. He has to know if I am out of the bed because of him. And don’t even say it, there is no making up a reason, I have to be truthful or trust will be tampered with. And his IQ hasn’t dropped lol, he would know if I didn’t give him the correct answer. He knows if the sheets are are messed up and pulled off the bed, he knows how the dog is responding to him, he knows if there is sweat on the bed… there’s no altering the truth.

There are occasions that I do just wake up early, how could I not? LOL. My time clock has changed because of him having so many nightmares. You would have never caught me awake at 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning before. And that leads to the next issue…

“I never get to wake up to you in bed with me.”

See, before Craig’s PTSD became so severe, we woke up together. Most morning, apart from occasional nightmares, we woke to seeing each other’s faces right there beside on another. We would lay in bed and talk, just snuggle. It was a fresh start to every morning.

It’s very rare for us to be able to do that now. Craig states it very clearly, “I ran you out of bed again.” When he wakes up now, he instantly looks towards my desk. He knows that if I’m not beside him in bed then most likely I am across the room in my safety zone.

I use to leave the room when I had to get up, but that wasn’t working out too well for him, or me. He would wake up with a migraine and need me there, or not grounded and then once becoming grounded would not know where I was and panic, even though I was in the same place every time. So we were told the best thing for us, was for me to stay in the room to ground him or be there to help him if he woke with a migraine. So I am, it’s the best thing for both of us.

But back to the statement, “I never get to wake up to you in bed with me.” That’s a difficult one to get around. I see the damage it does to him, I see the look on his face, the guilt he feels… and it’s not good.

It’s something that has changed our relationship because of PTSD. It sounds so simple and small, but in reality it is something very large.

I have even tried going back to bed once a nightmare passes. But guess what happens? Yes, another one just follows and I’m out of the bed again. These are things he can’t control, there’s no reason for him to feel bad or guilty, it’s just a part of how life has changed with PTSD being a part of it. But you know what, it doesn’t make a difference to how it makes him feel, and in return how it makes me feel when I see the look on his face and know what he is thinking.

I have even explained to him that I don’t mind being up early. The house is quiet, I sit here and write before the day gets started. I always say no big deal I can take a nap during the day to make sure I am getting sleep. But you know what, it still does not make a difference in the way he feels. It makes him feel as if he is a burden and that I deserve better then what PTSD causes me to go through.

I accept PTSD, I understand it, and I sure don’t put him down or hold it against him, and I have adapted to what comes with it and how to handle it when it does. That early morning up gives me some “me” time to write, I actually love that. Sure I would much rather be in bed with my husband, but that’s just not possible during parts of many nights. I’m there when I can be there. But it still doesn’t change how it effects him.

When he wakes up, the first feeling he has I am sure I can describe it as he feels alone. PTSD causes that in the first place, but when you have a relationship like we have had, that waking up with your partner not beside you does effect you greatly. There’s no just getting over it, letting it go, or accepting the facts it’s okay. It’s right there, in your face, with waking each morning that PTSD is indeed a real part of your life, and it hasn’t just gone away.

That’s tough! Something that seems like it should be so simple but yet carries such great meaning and emotional pain.

I don’t know the answer to these. All I know is I keep trying new things, new ways of saying things, reassuring that it’s okay and I still love him just the same… and hope one day the effects PTSD change, at least some.

Moral to me sharing this…

Don’t dismiss the things that seem so simple. PTSD effects people in ways you may not realize, and differently then things may effect you. Always take all things into consideration and never give up on trying to find ways that work and finding things to ease what comes with #PTSD.

And to Craig,

I love ya babe! And even though I may have to be across the room when you wake, I’m still here. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD vs. Non-PTSD Nightmares

I have had several people mention that other people don’t understand their nightmares and the impacts the nightmares have. I guess it would be difficult to understand if you do not understand PTSD, or don’t understand it very well.

PTSD nightmares get compared to non-PTSD nightmares. The “Oh I have nightmares too but I don’t let them bother me” or “I have nightmares to, get over them”. It’s something that is really easy to think and get in the mind set of just get over it, IF you don’t suffer from PTSD. 

However, to one with PTSD there is no “just get over it, it was just a nightmare and not real.” There are key words there being misunderstood… “not real”. See to one with PTSD, their nightmares are not like others, those nightmares are indeed very real. No, the event of the nightmare is not really happening… but it’s of a real event that did happen!

One with PTSD relives the trauma that happened to them, over and over and over… it’s what their nightmares are of. They can not wake up, say “oh I just had a bad dream” and go on about their day. They just relived their trauma through a dream, so when they wake up from it, it’s like that trauma really happened all over again. It brought all of those feelings, thoughts, visions, etc. of their trauma right back to them.

Many times when they do wake up they may be disoriented and have to be “grounded”… Brought back to the actual time and place of the present. To them, they are still there and it is still happening, and it is very real based around a real event which they went through that changed their life.

Ones with PTSD relive their trauma psychologically, it’s not something they can just get over, suck up, or move past. It was a very real event that was severe, and nightmares are one of the things that effect them.

So please have consideration when voicing about nightmares. One with PTSD does have different nightmares then a person without PTSD, their nightmares are real life events of severe trauma(s) that keep replaying themselves. Those nightmares/terrors can not be compared to your average nightmare of psychologically “made up” bad dreams of things that did not happen or won’t happen, they are based around real life traumas that were experienced.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

What is PTSD?

What is PTSD?

Sometimes we need to get back to the basics of what PTSD is, especially for those of you that are just starting to learn or have not heard of PTSD before.

PTSD is the abbreviation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Majority of the time you will not see it spelled out and “PTSD” or “PTS” are commonly used.

PTSD is a psychological reaction to a highly stressful event(s)/trauma(s) which is/was outside of normal human range of experience. It is caused by experiencing or witnessing life threatening harm to oneself or that of another person. PTSD can effect anyone who has experienced a severe trauma where the symptoms last more then a month. Many believe it is only military related, which is untrue. Civilians can develop PTSD the same as one who had a military experience. The trauma experienced may be different, but the symptoms from “what happened” are much the same no matter what the trauma was that one experienced.

Some examples which could lead to PTSD developing:

* Military, Law Enforcement, Emergency personnel, Prison Guards, Doctors, Nurses, etc. related event(s).
* Car accident.
* Personal physical attack.
* Rape/Sexual Assault.
* Home invasion.
* Child abuse.
* Natural disaster.
* Witnessing a death of one close to you.
* Abuse (adult)
* Major surgery (such as breast cancer and stroke patients)
* Kidnapping or Torture.
* Mugging or Robbery.

Virtually any trauma that is life-threatening and damages the physical and/or emotional state or well being of an individual or causes intense fear.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  •  Reoccurring thoughts/re-experience of what happened.

Nightmares of the event.  Flashbacks.

  •  Dissociative symptoms.

Can include memory issues. If you have not heard of this one, please research it! This can in many cases explain things that do not seem to be PTSD related symptoms.

  •  Avoidance of people, places, or things that remind one of their trauma they experienced.
  •  Increased Arousal. Feeling keyed up.
  •  Sleep problems.
  •  Anger, Frustration, Irritability.
  •  Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.

May include guilt, fear, shame, lack of self-worth.

  •  Self destructive behavior. Such as alcohol or drug abuse.
  •  Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  •  Physical symptoms can co-occur with PTSD.

Such as heart disease, digestive issues, upset stomach, high blood pressure, diabetes, and others.

  •  Other mental illnesses can co-occur with PTSD.

Such as depression, survivor’s guilt, dissociation, and others.

These are a few of the most commonly seem symptoms of PTSD.

Developing PTSD does not mean a person is weak, which is a huge misunderstanding by many. It means the person has experienced something beyond what is normal. Many people who develop PTSD may have experienced more then one trauma, compiling the traumas. Again, anyone could develop PTSD after a life threatening trauma, it is not based on being weak or weak minded.

There are many different treatments and therapies to help manage PTSD. It is highly recommended to seek help as soon as possible! The sooner you seek professional help, the sooner you can learn to develop ways of coping and managing the symptoms, as well as being able to maintain a more normal lifestyle.

Having a support system of some form, rather it is family, friends, support groups, online support, etc is urgent. These things are needed not only for the one who suffers from PTSD, but for family members as well. It is in your and your loved one’s best interest to take time to learn as much as you can about PTSD, the better educated you and your loved ones are, the stronger you will be to “battle” and cope with PTSD symptoms, as well as what can come with living life with or beside PTSD.

PTSD is not new. PTSD has been around for many, many years… just known as other names such as shell shock, battle fatigue, and soldier’s heart. With the technology in today’s society, PTSD has become a more known name due to the many forms of awareness and ones speaking out to the public in hopes of helping others and reducing stigma. Past generations suffered alone in many cases due to the stigma which does come with PTSD and the lack of information provided. Thus in the past, majority of known cases were related to military and other cases were unreported.

These are some of the basics of PTSD. There is a lot that can be learned as well as taught regarding PTSD. Rather you believe you know someone who suffers or not, the hard fact is, you probably already do or sooner or later you most likely will know or meet someone who does suffer from PTSD. Learning about PTSD could very well help save lives. PTSD is a very real disorder and has touched many, many, people’s lives. It is not something that one can just snap out of, get over, or forget about. When PTSD affects one’s life, they relive the trauma they experienced each and every day, it is not just going away. Ones with PTSD are very strong individuals who fight every day to make it to the next the best they possible can and to be there for their family/loved ones, have a heart, please take the time to educate yourself.

One who suffers from PTSD is no different then you or I, they have just experienced something we may have not.

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD” :Website

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

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

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

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

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

Anxiety or Panic Attacks.

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

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

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

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

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

Flashbacks

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

When these happen or you feel them starting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD

The Basics of PTSD…

I think it’s always important to come back to the basics of PTSD and what is is from time to time. Many people are just starting to learn and this info is extremely helpful to know.

Yesterday, Staci shared this with us and I wanted to make sure everyone saw it…

So with that said, What is PTSD and how does it effect a person?

From Staci:

” How many people are afflicted with PTSD?

Approximately 8 million Americans will have PTSD symptoms at some time in their lives, and women are twice as likely to be afflicted with the disorder as men. It is estimated that 30 percent of men and women who serve in wars and have been subjected to activity in war zones will have some form of PTSD.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

A person who is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may exhibit a variety of symptoms, and they fall into three distinct categories:

Reliving the event (“Re-experiencing”)
• Flashbacks will occur, where the person will relive certain parts of the event over and over again.
• Anything that reminds the person of the stressful event will elicit a very strong reaction.
• Nightmares may be a part of PTSD, with difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep.

Avoidance
• There will be avoidance of anything that reminds the person of the stressful event, including people, places, objects, and situations.
• The PTSD sufferer may show a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
• The individual may report a numb, detached feeling, as though nothing matters or is worth caring about. He or she may also feel cut off from others on an emotional level, which creates feelings of isolation.
• Certain aspects of the traumatic event may be blocked from the memory.
• Moods may be muted or blunted to the point where the individual will not have the same emotions as were experienced before the traumatic event took place.
• The person may feel that there is no future for him or her.

Arousal
• A person suffering with PTSD will have a hard time concentrating and keeping his or her mind on one thing.
• PTSD sufferers may also experience hypervigilance, where they are much more aware of what is happening in their environment.
• The person will startle very easily and have a strong response to anything that does startle him or her.
• Irritability will occur in this category, and the individual will be prone to bursts of anger.
• There might be feelings of guilt concerning the event. One form of guilt, known as survivor guilt, occurs when someone has come through an incident where other lives were lost.
• The individual may have a hard time getting along with family members, friends and coworkers.
• There may be an anxious fear that something bad is going to happen or that danger is always around the corner.
• Symptoms of anxiety may also occur, such as an awareness of a heartbeat, dizziness, agitation, fainting and headaches. There may be bouts of nausea and diarrhea, and the person may also experience higher blood pressure. Breathing can become rapid and muscles can tense.

When symptoms are experienced, they may occur on a sporadic basis, or they may become persistent and enduring. Each individual who is afflicted with PTSD is unique and is going to have different symptoms and a different capacity for healing. With proper treatment, the quality of life can be greatly improved, in many cases to the point where a normal lifestyle can be resumed.”

“PTSD vs Nightmares”

“PTSD vs Nightmares”

Oh the one we all know so well! One of the true signs of PTSD. Even though it’s the one symptom that we all are use to being there, they are also something that are just chalked up to PTSD and accept are there without really talking in depth about them, and what comes with them.

Craig can have anywhere from 2-12 nightmares in one night. Something we have adapted to over the years. He can come “to” and fall back asleep and 10 minutes later here comes another one. To be honest, I have learned a lot about what caused his PTSD because of these nightmares, even before he could tell me everything that he experienced, and some he still has locked away…but I hear them in his sleep. Those I refer to as the missing puzzle pieces for him.

Many doctors do give medications to “help” with these, which Craig is on. Do they stop them, no, not really. But they do help to the point that he’s not always up pacing the floor all night anymore, and he can fall back to sleep after having one.So, we all know nightmares exist with this. But what do you do? How do you cope? What all comes from this happening? There is a lot more to it then someone just having a nightmare.Nightmares are associated directly with the event(s) which caused PTSD in the first place. Reliving it over and over in your sleep. We personally have had doctors tell us different things on how to handle these. What’s the right way? Got me! LOL! We’ve tried it all!One doctor said to wake him up when they start. Well, now that can be a tricky one for many. It sounds like something easy to do, but it’s really not that easy. Not a doctor here, as I always remind you, so can’t and am not giving medical advise. Just telling what we have gone through. You have to always keep in mind that the person with PTSD is having a nightmare, that means they are not coherent to the present time, when they are waken they are not grounded to real time or place. You can’t just grab their should and say hey wake up. That in some cases, and many military related cases, end up with someone getting hurt unknowingly to the one with PTSD so not on purpose. When the doctors told me to wake him during these, I looked at them like they were crazy! I think originally my words were something along the lines of “why don’t you come wake him up.” LOL! So, me knowing that touching him to wake him was completely out of the question, I tried different things. I found that sitting across the room, at an angle, which means out of reach or possible quick reach, was the easiest way. And just talking to him and calling his name along with telling him he is at home with me and everything is okay, was the easiest way to bring him out of them. That left safety at hand for myself.

Another doctor recently told me to let him dream through them. Oh that’s a fun one. I was told that the nightmares are the brains way of processing what he experienced, it’s when all of the brain’s defenses are down. We’ve tried this and I don’t see it helping at all in his case. It seems to lead to rough days even when this has been tried over a long period of time. This also leaves it to where he is extremely worn out and tired the next day…and so am I. But we’ve tried what we were told to do.

The other thing, and one that everyone does not have the opportunity for and some do not need, and I have my reasons for wording it that way so bare with this. I have trained Alex, my dog, to tend to Craig through the nightmares. It goes back to that animal human relationship. Alex can pull Craig through the nightmares and ground him when he does wake up, which in many cases is easier and the response from a human is different to an animal then if a human woke them or touched them. (Just to note, this posting is not about service dog conversation, that will be for another time because it is quite lengthy and I want to focus on nightmares here. 😉 ) Alex has seemed to be the best source for getting through the nightmares as of this time.

So, that is a simple covering of that part. But there is so much more to it. What about the spouse if there is one? I remembered as a child never understanding why there were two beds in older people’s bedroom. Or why you would find an elderly couple’s house set up with him in one room and her in another. That was a huge puzzle to me lol! No one ever explained why. Well, live with PTSD and you can kind of figure it out now. 😉 My first guess would be nightmares.

Craig and I were told by a doctor once that I needed to sleep in a separate bedroom. I looked at the doctor and asked what the other choices were? They didn’t know how to answer me. Then I explained that I personally have an issue with that arrangement. For several reasons. One, I have to be and was told by the doctor that I need to be there for Craig when he wakes to ground him back to the time and place we really are in. Two, I’m not elderly and like sleeping with my husband, I don’t think fondly of a room mate living arrangement, which in some cases is needed, but I’m not ready to do that. Of course the doctor was thinking of my safety, and that has to be addressed up front in all cases and never taken lightly. So I addressed it. I made ways that Craig and I could remain in the same room. Alex has been taught to wake me, if I don’t wake myself, at the first sign of any movement of Craig waking or a nightmare starting. I did not train him to go to Craig first, but to me, so I can get out of the bed safely and out of possible reach. There are many nights I have spent in my chair, across the room and at an angle, so I am there but out of reach. Then at times I make a thick pillow pallet on the floor so I can get some extra sleep…until I get that bay window bed built. 😉 I always go to bed with Craig and if it comes time for me to leave the bed, then I do. But I stay in the room for when he needs me.

Now what able when you are sleeping together? First and foremost, I will tell you that it weighs heavily on the person that has PTSD to know that because of “them” the spouse is losing sleep at night. It makes them feel guilty and like they are a burden. And nothing you say will change that feeling. However, I view it differently, if they can not control, which they can’t, their nightmares, then how is it their fault? They are not purposely keeping you from sleeping. It’s PTSD, and a part of what comes with it. They are NOT to blame! I’ll admit, sleep positions do change when PTSD is there. Craig and I use to always sleep with one of us wrapped around the other. That is not something that can be done anymore. It took time for me to adjust to that, but when you keep in mind it’s not their fault, you can adjust. The easiest, and safest sleep position? With our backs to each other. Out of Craig’s guilt he was feeling of actions coming from nightmares and such, he started sleeping with his back to me. I still believe in the kiss goodnight and I love you, sometimes he will put an arm around me but when he starts to fall asleep he rolls over. This is something that you can’t take personal! It’s not a lack of love, it’s a sign of caring about you and your safety. Once you can grasp that concept, it makes things a lot easier on your relationship. Be grateful that you still get at least some night time in the same bed, many don’t.

So, you had a rough night and there wasn’t much sleep. Everyone needs sleep. In our case, even though the doctors don’t like the idea but we found that it works for us, we take a nap while the kids are at school. There is something about napping during the day that is different in our case. Very rarely does Craig have nightmares during that time. I believe it’s linked to the actual clock time being different then when the original episodes causing PTSD occurred. During the day we can actually spoon on the couch, sometimes on the bed, without nightmares coming. I thought it was linked to napping on the couch, a different area, but that’s not it. (Just to note on that, doctors sometimes will say to avoid naps because they can interfere with night time sleep, but in our case they have allowed sleep and not made a difference.) You can so to speak, set your clock to his nightmares. Same time every night they start. Doesn’t matter what time we go to bed. Anyway, naps are of great help to us. They don’t change the time we go to bed, he’s still exhausted by that time, but allows us to get needed sleep.

Talking about your nightmares. This is something that is rarely done. But at times in our case, Craig will open up right after a nightmare and tell me some of it. Talking does help, that’s proven by doctors or there wouldn’t be talk therapy. 😉 I don’t know if helping right after they happen helps any or not at this point, but it’s something that we are trying. Craig does talk in his sleep, so I already know much of what he experienced. And i have been told that talking or screaming during nightmares is normal. I think it gives the spouse an insight that can actually help you understand as well as find ways or things that can help them.

*Also, if you have children in the home. Safety protocol should be in place. Children have to be taught not to wake a parent with PTSD, even taught that if the parent nods off or falls asleep to go to another room until they wake. A rule of no children in the master bedroom unless invited is a good one to have in place as well. If they need a parent, a knock on the door without opening it is a good rule. It gives the PTSD parent time to wake and ground themselves before going to the child.Always keep in mind that these are not just “bad dreams”, they are actually reliving a traumatic event over and over. Work on finding ways to adjust and cope as well as being supportive, it will pay off.
~Bec