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Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”

spouse partner PTSD

Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”

As a spouse, I remember when I felt those things, I remember saying those words “This isn’t fair”. I remember the endless days of crying, asking who was this person I am married to, I remember complaining about the changes in life as well as our relationship. I remember feeling the deepest darkest place I had ever felt in my lifetime, and thinking there was no way out and no where to run to. I also remember the thoughts of “How do I save him… and us… and how do I save myself?”

I will also be the first to admit that at times SOME of those feelings do return for a brief moment, depending on the situation at hand. Those are all a part of grieving, part of the process that comes with the changes in life, and a part of you yourself changing.

Those things can also cause a person to become “stuck”. Just because you are a spouse/partner or family member does not mean you can’t or won’t experience becoming stuck, just like one with PTSD can experience.

But I learned a lot through those stages that seemed so unbearable. They also made me the person I am today! And that’s not patting myself on the back, because I am only one person, and I am human just like the next person, and I’m sure not perfect.

I was stuck, once. I did not even realize it. I was in such a grieving and dwelling stage due to all of the changes, the unknowns, everything we lost, desperately trying to figure out what changed in Craig and why along with everything else we were experiencing. But then something changed…

Years back now, I had a Vietnam Veteran Spouse get blunt with me. She said in a very blunt way, “Bec, get over your pity party.” Oh I got mad, I was appalled that someone would say that to me with everything we were going through, with the hurt I felt, with how lost I was in what was happening. I thought how could someone be so cold hearted towards me? Then the next thing I knew the anger turned into crying.

I thought to myself, why am I crying? Why aren’t I still mad at her for what she said to me? How she said it to me. Why all of a sudden do I feel different now? Today, I can sit here and tell you why.

Because she told me that out of concern and love! It took another spouse telling me in a blunt way, for me to realize I was stuck. And it was one of the most important things that changed my life, my husband’s life, as well as our family’s lives. I was given a serious push forward, that was needed!

Every single person has the right to cry, to scream, to get mad, to feel that life is unfair. But you cannot allow yourself to get stuck there. You have to feel, grieve, process, but then you have to take steps forward. If you don’t, the days ahead of you are going to become overwhelming and possibly unbearable.

I get asked, literally every day, “Bec, How do you do it? How do you keep going, maintain a positive attitude, and stay healthy even with everything you and Craig continue to go through? How do you take care of everything? How do you balance this life and your family?”

The answer is actually rather simple. I learned how to prevent myself from becoming stuck…

I make the time to process things, I have support people I trust and can vent to when I need to. Notice the term “complain” turned to “vent”? There is an important difference. Complaining brings becoming stuck and brings an unbalance, venting helps you find ways to move forward and also brings forward others that want to help because you are trying instead of complaining, and they can give opinions that may help or may just be an ear to listen.

I cry when I need to and allow myself to experience the feelings or emotions I have at the moment then know to move forward.

I learned and accepted that I am only human and not a superhero that can save the world.

I remember to see the positive things in life, I use humor when appropriate, and I learned to make the best of each day no matter what it contains. Tomorrow is never promised, a very hard fact of life that you cannot forget.

I am feet planted firmly that if there is a “why” to something… I’m going to look for an answer and/or find a solution or what will work best for the situation.

I learned to take care of myself mentally and physically, which is a must do!

I learned coping skills and techniques, and I practice them daily whether they are needed or not, because they help me maintain a personal balance which leads to maintaining a family balance.

I learned that I, like everyone else, do have limits and where to draw the line when those limits come… boundaries are healthy for everyone.

I also learned that if I need help, it’s okay to ask for it!

I also had to learn and accept that nothing happens over night, there is not a quick fix to anything, but patience, trying, learning, and giving things time… can bring huge positive changes.

These things don’t make me or you any less of a person. They make us stronger!

Helpless, Hopeless, and “This isn’t fair”? Sure, every single one of us will feel those things and that way at some point in time, maybe more than once as life changes. This life contains PTSD‬ and everything that comes with it, and no, it’s not fair… to anyone, and it’s sure not fair to the person who has PTSD either. They did not ask for PTSD. It’s not easy, every single day may bring a new challenge or many new ones, some days will make your head spin.

What you do or choose to do, how you choose to view things, those will be what bring changes. I will not sit here and tell anyone to “Get over your pity party”, but I will tell you what can help you, to prevent becoming stuck. 😉

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Wording, Communication, and Understanding there can be different views: PTSD

PTSD and walking on eggshells communication

Wording, Communication, and Understanding there can be different views…

ARE very serious things when it comes to PTSD!

There are TWO sides to this!

From a spouse/partner’s side of things…
Many know it as “walking on eggshells”, or as I worded it  stepping on a bee no matter how carefully you tip-toed. Where you feel like you have to be careful with every word you speak, even topic you bring up or talk about. You may feel like nothing you say is right, or you may fear talking about certain things or sharing your feelings, which you feel may trigger PTSD.

From the PTSD side of things…
Views may just simply be different, one may have a difficult time explaining things or wording things the way they are meant. You may feel misunderstood, or like no matter what you say you are always viewed as wrong. You also cannot leave out whatever symptoms are at hand at that moment and what they may be causing.

Bottom line no matter what feelings or views are at hand, this brings stress as well as can bring a wall blocking communication! NOT a good thing for EITHER person, or you together!

It’s just a fact of life that no one, no matter how close you are, will agree on everything all of the time. No one will have the same feelings or views all of the time. No one will understand another person all of the time. When you look at the basics of what are already facts about life, life with PTSD is not really much different. It just comes with needing more communication as well as understanding, and taking into consideration each other!

So what are things that can help?

* Do not jump to conclusions!

This is one of the most important things to keep in mind! When you take two sides and bring them together, then add PTSD symptoms to it AND maybe anxiety or that tip-toeing on the other side of it, it can be a recipe for disaster if you jump to conclusions. It can also bring on that “fight” side of things.

* STOP and take time to listen!

It is very easy to spit words out quickly, especially if you have a set opinion on something or set in the way you are viewing things, or are feeling on edge about something. Then add in what each of you are feeling at that moment. Take a deep breath and hear each other out. Do not interrupt each other! When you stop and really hear each other it’s easier to notice when there is a misunderstanding, a break in communication, or simply you have a difference of opinions. No one will be right or wrong every time, and at times you are just not going to agree on things. But taking the time to listen to each other CAN help greatly!

* Reword things!

Accept if things need to be reworded! This is one that is extremely difficult for many. Once something is said you cannot take it back… IF you stay stuck in that mindset there is a good chance you are going to experience a lot of conflict. When symptoms are high, hurt feelings, difference of opinions, etc. Many things may be said that are not actually meant the way they came out. You have to allow space because errors are going to happen and they need room to be corrected.

Other times once you listen and really hear what each other has to say, your view or opinion may change. It is important to allow change to take place so you can work through things.

Misunderstandings DO take place! One, either person, may not understand exactly what you are trying to say or take what you said the wrong way.

There is NOTHING wrong with saying, “I do not think you understood what I was trying to say.” or “I think you took that differently than I was meaning”, “Let me reword it so we can better understand each other.” Then the other person, let them reword it! This has been an ultimate help for Craig and I personally!

Allowing each other to clarify or reword things can also help build trust! Because you are working together to make sure you understand each other clearly. Trust is VERY important.

* Do not dismiss another person’s view.

It is really easy to get into a mindset that your view is the right view, unfortunately it goes back to no one is perfect all of the time. Just because one has PTSD does NOT mean they are wrong all of the time! Many times they may be seeing something that is in reality taking place that their partner may not be seeing. This happens a lot when a spouse/partner is walking on eggshells, having a rough day, or not coping well themselves. It goes back to listening to each other, and remembering that neither person will be right or wrong all of the time. Work together!

* Ask questions!!!

This could save so many conflicts or hurt feelings from happening! If one says something and it really seems odd for them to say that or view something in that way, ask them to explain what they mean. BEFORE jumping to conclusions or taking something personally!!! That is another one Craig and I use. Many times it goes back to something just came out wrong or maybe they are viewing things differently at that moment and it’s something that you need to simply talk about.

Maybe one is just having a rough day, maybe they view something you have not, maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe it just came out wrong OR not a full thought. There are many things that could be cleared up by just asking questions or asking why they view it that way.

* Accept that you will not always agree.

It is just a part of life, no one will agree 100% of the time! Accepting when you just simply have a difference of opinion or view on something is okay! Craig and I have phrases that we came up with for these times that really help…

“I/We will work on that”
“Can we come back to this later? I’m not dismissing it but just cannot focus on that topic right now.”
“Can we address this later when my anxiety is lower? I want us to talk about it, but right now is not a good time to.”

Those little phrases not only shows that you care what the other person is saying, it also helps the other person understand if a symptom may be causing a conflict or one to not be able to focus, which is very common for either side of the conversation. If it’s something that there will not be a result to right now, you just simply agree whatever it is will be worked on, then you work on it.

* Do not be afraid to share your feelings!

Both sides can be guilty of not sharing how they feel! It is okay to share your feelings, what you are going through, what your day was like, etc. You own them, they are your’s. For the other person, sometimes just someone listening is a help. You do not own what another person feels, you do not have to feel guilty about it or feel as if you are a burden or to blame… easier said then done I know.

A good example of this is when a spouse/partner feels lonely. Do not kid yourself, this is life with PTSD and everyone will experience it sooner or later, in reality from either side of the fence. But for example purposes we will use the spouse.

How is your partner going to know how you are feeling, that you feel lonely, if you do not say something? They won’t and nothing will change! It does not mean the one with PTSD is at fault for anything! Maybe the spouse feels lonely because symptoms have been high, or one has had to focus on themselves more so symptoms do not roll over to others. Maybe the two of you have not been talking enough. Maybe one just did not realize how things were effecting the spouse or was not viewing it the same way… thought everything was okay. The point is, blaming or taking blame does not get you anywhere! Neither does remaining silent. By talking about it, the door opens to work on changes, so those feelings decrease and things can get better.

No matter what it is about, sharing how you feel or what you are going through helps the two of you understand each other better, helps you work on things together when need be, and opens that door to communicating.

So these are just a few of many things that you can try. EITHER person can experience all of these things, the feelings, the emotions, taking things personally, jumping to conclusions, misunderstanding the other person, etc etc etc. Take and make the time to talk and really hear what BOTH of you are saying.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page