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PTSD and Disconnection From Others

PTSD and Disconnection From Others

You know, we live this life with or beside PTSD‬ and/or depression‬ day in and day out. It does become our new normal. What we do now, how we handle or manage things as well as symptoms, how we support each other and help each other. We learn the tricks of how to make it from one day to the next, and keep on making it.

Craig and I have been battling this life and forming a new normal for 11 years now. This morning while I was looking for one of my older articles for someone, I came across one that I wrote almost 2 years ago regarding PTSD and numbness. Unfortunately it made me realize that in reality Craig has become more disconnected, much more, than he was two years ago.

Disconnection is the one part of PTSD that has been a battle for so long and no matter what I try or come up with for him or us to try, it just does not seem to help him, or us. Every symptom with PTSD and depression that he and we battle, I have been able to find something, no matter how great or small, to help it be battled, but the disconnection? It’s the one that gives me a run for my money, so to speak. And I say that with no disrespect towards him, it’s just a part of the battle at hand that is real life.

I’m one that will not stop for anything to research, read, try new things, find new ways of doing things, I send Craig links to articles that I think may be of positive help to him and us, as a couple. Things to think about or that give different views that may help him battle what he feels (or doesn’t) and that may help in some small way. I try to enjoy each day we have together and just live in the now, and make the best of each day. I accept him for who he is and the disabilities he has.

I mean I love Craig. I will never give up on him or us. I’ll never stop researching, reading, and trying new things in the hopes that something helps. I will never stop trying to make the most of each day. But the disconnection that comes with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder makes things and life extremely difficult. It’s just a hard fact that comes with this life.

This life beside PTSD can be extremely lonely which in turn brings a lot of guilt to those with PTSD, they don’t want or mean for their spouse/partner to go through that or feel that way, they know or view it as it’s not fair, and in return it causes them to pull away even further. Another vicious circle in this life with PTSD and/or depression.

I was asked, “How do I keep my partner from being or feeling so disconnected from me? I know I’m loved, I’m told I’m loved, but it ends there. I know their disconnection from me and even others is really strong, I know PTSD causes this. What can I as the partner do to help?”

In that older article I wrote, there were two quotes that really hit me hard.

The first one was a quote from the movie “The Vow”, a true life story about a wife that has TBI, that Craig and I can really relate to due to the memory issues involved…

I wrote: The husband in the movie told his friends, “She fell in love with me once, so I won’t lose hope she will fall in love with me again.” -Quote from the movie “The Vow”

The second thing I wrote in that article that hit me was…

“Sometimes one with PTSD needs a guide so to speak through the numb feelings. Craig told me last week he needed help through the numbness, he’s not sure how to get through the numbness to feel the love he knows he has for me, how to find the motions or what they even are.”

(I’ll add the link to that full article at the end of this for anyone that would like to read it.)

The only way I know how to answer that difficult question that came to me is this…

Don’t lose hope, don’t stop trying, don’t stop showing your love for and to your PTSD partner. And make sure you are taking care of yourself through this life, that is one thing that you are capable of no matter what.

A spouse/partner is not a cure, you cannot make PTSD and Depression or their symptoms go away… so don’t put that on yourself. All you can do is be your best, be patient, supportive, learn, find new things to try, and do what you are capable of doing and be there for them. The rest is not up to you, one person can only do so much, not everything. There are many things one with PTSD and/or Depression can work on even with the symptoms they do experience, some things can change… at least to some level, one can at least give things a try to see what helps and what doesn’t. Other things may never change and there will have to come a point in time where you just accept this is the way they are now. And I cannot answer, which will be which or what will be what. Each person will be different and have different circumstances.

Disconnection and avoidance are very real life symptoms of PTSD, as well as depression. Too many are faced with having to let go or are let go of, the disconnection PTSD brings is normally a huge factor in that. PTSD and depression can cause life to feel or become very lonely, for both the one with PTSD as well as the one standing beside them. Don’t lose hope, don’t stop learning and trying new things, don’t stop believing in each other, and don’t lose that grip of each other’s hand. You, your partner, and your relationship are worth it, hang onto each other.

I myself will not lose the hope I hold onto, that Craig and I will someday have that connection again like we used to have between us. It was the most amazing feeling two people could experience together, full of love, passion, excitement, mental and physical closeness. It was a connection that people envied and were jealous of, they wanted what we had together. I will not give up on finding that personal connection again that we had, even some small part of it… even with PTSD and Depression being a part of our lives now.

As I am known for stating and believing,
“The battle is PTSD, not each other”

April 4, 2013: “PTSD vs Numbness

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook Page

PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

In this life we live with or beside PTSD‬, many times things get misunderstood, not spoken, lashed out, dismissed, etc. It can bring conflict of a different level, misunderstanding of the true feelings of a person, and it can be for the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner.

There is a difference between anger and emotionally hurting. One can actually stem from the other in many cases. This is something that often times becomes viewed incorrectly. When one is angry themselves, it can become an instant response when there is a conflict, disagreement, or even different views on something to where a person who carries anger thinks the other person is angry. When reality is they are emotionally hurting, not angry.

It is often a fact that what one views in themselves is also how they may view others, what one feels may be what they think others feel as well. In many cases views and feelings become a self reflection. When this becomes so, it can be dangerous to a relationship, especially when life contains PTSD as well. PTSD does bring those negative changes in thoughts, moods, feelings, and how one views themselves and/or others.

One may start feeling and thinking things about another person that in reality are not so. One may feel or think another views them in harsh or negative ways, when in truth that other person cares deeply about them. One may lash out with words towards another, when in reality the views are skewed from what is actually before them. The responses or reactions are stemming from their own internal pain. That can be for either person.

It is so important in this life to form open and honest communication, even if you do not hear what you want to all of the time. Which you won’t. Honest, true communication will at times contain things that you do not want to face or believe even exists. It’s simply the hard facts of life.

When you listen to the thoughts and feelings of another, take your partner’s feelings and thoughts into consideration, it gives you something to work on, to build from, and work towards forming a stronger relationship. Allowing PTSD, depression, or even self doubt or disbelief those feeling are real, to turn how a person really feels around, to use their words and true feelings against them, can end a relationship that otherwise would or could be a very strong and secure one. A person can only take so much for so long when rejection or disbelief of their true feelings continues to be at hand, listen to them PLEASE before it gets to that point! We know that not all relationships will survive this type of life, the divorce and separation rates have already proven that. But what you choose to do, not do, and how you choose or do not choose to recognize what your partner feels or thinks can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Each person owns their own feelings and thoughts. They are real, no one is going to make up something to voice just to cause a conflict. When one opens up to you and tries to talk to you about these things, I guarantee you there is a great concern and true feelings involved, never dismiss them. When one opens up and tries to communicate that is a huge step. It’s not always easy to talk about things, to bring up things that one knows could start a conflict, but things surface because they need to be addressed. It’s not about putting another person down, it’s not about pointing out problems or issues that may be at hand, it’s about communicating so you can work through these things together. It’s about building your relationship, not about tearing it or another person down.

This life with or beside PTSD and/or depression is not an easy life. But when you are in a relationship it’s not only about one person, a relationship consists of two people. Those two people have to work together. There will be changes, there will be those give or take situations, there will be things that are accepted and things that just can’t be, and you will have to work hard to find a balance and then maintain it.

There has to be effort. Both people have a role and responsibility in a relationship. One person cannot form a healthy relationship or carry the relationship alone. Even with the disabilities this life brings and consists of, even with the changes in life from your normal, relationships can survive and prosper, but it takes both of you.

There are many simple things in life, that in reality do not carry high expectations or unrealistic goals, that can help strengthen a relationship. You just have to recognize them and use them.

* Communicate honestly.

Being open with each other and talking about how each of you feel can help strengthen your relationship. It is a must do, especially with what PTSD brings with it. If there is something that is honestly causing hurt and emotional pain in your relationship, and it’s causing damage to the relationship, you need to talk about it so you can work through those thoughts and feelings TOGETHER!

* Listen to what your partner tells you and really hear what they are saying.

When you stop listening, choose to be on defense instead of facing issues that may come up, arguments are going to start, feelings are going to be hurt, things are going to be said out of context, and guilt will set in. These can be prevented majority of the time if two people will simply listen to each other, then talk.

* Ask questions if you are unsure about something or about why one is feeling or thinking what they are.

Sometimes questions do need to be asked, and further explanations given. You are not in each other’s heads, you don’t have the same thoughts or feelings. You cannot just assume what another person is thinking or feeling.

* Acceptance.

Do not dismiss the thoughts and feelings of another, each person has a right to and owns their own feelings. When you accept these at face value truth, you can learn more about each other and learn how to work together to form a better relationship.

* Both people have to provide effort.

A relationship is not about only one person, it consists of two people and both people have to count and put effort into the relationship. You are going to get out of your relationship what you put into it, and that means either and both of you. It cannot be a one way street of only one person trying. Period!

* Balance.

A very serious and important part of and to any relationship. There is not a relationship on this earth that will survive in a healthy way without some form of balance to it. It will not always be easy to find, it will take a lot of work and effort, as well as trial and error. It will mean that at times not every person will get everything exactly the way/what they want, the key is to always remember to take your partner’s thoughts and feelings into consideration and come to a reasonable agreement or compromise that works for BOTH of you. If you don’t, you stand a good chance of more issues rising or continuing, and a chance that your relationship will not only struggle but may take a serious fall, and fall apart.

Bottom line:

Just because PTSD and/or any other disability is a part of life, whether you are the one with it or the one standing beside them, you CAN have a good relationship. Do not doubt yourself or allow PTSD to take over on that one! It may not be what others view as normal, it’s up to you what normal is and what you form together. But you have to put into a relationship, you have to take your partner’s feelings and thoughts into consideration, you have to work together to find a healthy balance so your relationship strengthens. When you don’t there is a high possibility that your relationship will not survive this type of life… and no one wants to see that happen or experience it. When two people work together and put in the effort, you CAN succeed in anything you set your mind to… and your hearts.

Each person that lives this life with or beside PTSD needs positive support from their partner, consideration, recognition, acknowledgement, and a lot of love and caring. You can carry each other through and find that good balanced relationship together, you just have to work at it. <3

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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“I miss the man/woman I use to know.” : PTSD

“I miss the man/woman I use to know.” : PTSD

That is one of the things I hear, a lot. It’s also a reality that I know very well. It is one simple, short, sentence or comment and feeling that carries meaning deeper than many people understand. Unless you live with or beside PTSD, it will be a difficult one to understand.

I personally have heard, “But you two are together ALL of the time, you are so lucky.” What is not understood by those speaking things such as this, is just because we are physically together does not mean my husband is not thousands of miles away… where PTSD takes him.

I had my wording from my recent interview brought to me, and questions asked. So I want to use that as an example.

“How has Craig’s diagnosis affected your relationship? 

A: The million-dollar question. I will not say our relationship is bad, because it’s not. It just changed when PTSD became a part of our lives. The close emotional and physical relationship we used to have did change. In ways it faded, even though we love each other dearly. 

I think the hardest part of PTSD that changed our relationship is the view of what a relationship itself is. PTSD makes it very hard for someone to have a connection with or feel close to another person. That can cause both people in a marriage to feel lonely sometimes. For somebody with PTSD, emotions and feelings become something that requires effort and not something that just happens. You really have to make one-on-one time for each other, even if the feelings may not be there at the moment. As a doctor once told us, and we found it to be true, “Motions lead to emotions.” Motions mean not only in a physical sense, but any type of emotional connection in a relationship.”

PTSD can cause both people in a relationship to feel lonely, it’s actually very common. It takes a lot of effort on both of their parts to battle that part of PTSD. Many times the one with PTSD does have to focus so much on themselves and managing their symptoms, that focusing on a relationship is difficult. It does not mean they can’t, it just means there is a lot more to it than others may realize.

There is also a sense of grieving, it is a part of the process or life with or beside PTSD. It can also come at any time when one starts feeling lonely. It’s not like normal grieving, where you grieve then it’s over. Any time that distance comes between two people that grieving or missing the man/woman they once knew, can happen again.

One can miss the past, how one was before PTSD or when symptoms were not at a high level, and even the things you did together. See, PTSD does not stay at an even level, it can fluctuate at different times of year, due to triggers, how sleep was the night before, etc. So one may see the “person they knew before” at times, then in a way PTSD takes them away again.

I guess a good way to describe it is it’s like having everything in a person that one wants… the spark, the humor, the passion, the romance… “the connection”, the reason the two people are together and attracted to each other, whatever that includes. Then the symptoms step back in and that or parts of that get masked. You don’t get to see the parts of that person that you just love… and you don’t know when those characteristics or things will come back. This is probably one of the hardest things for both people in a relationship when PTSD is also a part of life. It leads to missing the person you know so well, at least for a period of time, even though you are both physically right there.

There’s also another part to the “missing the man/woman you use to know”, the physical side. Physical aspects of the relationship change. It does not mean the relationship is “bad”, but it also does not mean there are not changes. Many times the physical side of the relationship becomes altered from what you knew as normal, other forms of physical relationship may become a part or larger part of the relationship.

For example, take two people who just have that ultimate connection, and physical connection as well. To the point that when they are physically connected it’s ecstasy and passion that many only dream about. Then mix PTSD symptoms to that.

The negative changes in thoughts, feelings, mood that weighs on one’s self-esteem, self-worth, or even how they start viewing others. It can cause one to feel like they are a burden, or even not good enough for their partner, they can feel that they have let themselves or others down because of PTSD or the limitations that may come with it.

Then in some cases, you have to include medications, they can play a role in this as well… weight gain (a common part) and again how they view themselves, lack of interest in being physically involved or not able to, etc. Medications can change the levels in one’s body which leads to no interest or even ability to be physical with their partner. (If this happens, please talk to your doctor. There may be things that can be changed to help.)

These symptoms are like a boulder rolling down a hill and taking out everything in it’s path! They can play ping-pong off of each other, mentally and physically. Which can lead to a feeling of absence in a relationship. There is already the real symptoms of avoidance, numbness, and such at hand, you don’t want to add to those.

But there’s more. It’s not only the one with PTSD in this. Emotionally and physically their partner can experience things too. A partner starts, in a sense, missing the person they knew so well, and the type of relationship they were use to, the things they use to enjoy together, the way they were treated, which in turn leads to themselves pulling away or distancing themselves mentally as well as physically. In a way it’s a form of protecting themselves emotionally from what in real life is happening. Now, you have a vicious circle forming.

The next thing you both know, the roommate syndrome can form. Basically you feel like you are living with a roommate, sharing the same space, because the relationship part has become absent, absent for too long, or masked at times. This is not good for any relationship.

You have to both work at finding a healthy balance, and before it’s too late. It is not a secret that PTSD relationships do have a very high divorce rate, for very real reasons. Not every relationship is going to survive it, but what you do, both of you, can possibly make a difference to if you become a part of those statistics or not.

Is a relationship worth all of this that both people go through? Absolutely! But, you BOTH have to do your part to keep your relationship alive and healthy, or it can fade away. It does take more time, effort, learning different things or ways of doing things, making one-on-one time for each other, and trying… but a relationship CAN survive and prosper, even with PTSD being a part of it and both of your lives.

The definition of a relationship does change when PTSD is a part of life, it’s not what many would consider as “normal”. You will at some point miss the man/woman you knew so well, you will go through spells of grieving, and you will even miss your true self at times… both of you. But all of that does not mean there cannot be a healthy relationship and a balance to it. Relationships just change when PTSD is a part of them, it’s up to each of you and you as a couple, what you do to make changes to find a new normal.

The “absence” in a relationship that includes PTSD is really not about loving or not loving someone, something that many people jump to thinking. It’s about how PTSD changes things, life, or one’s views. Learning to manage PTSD as well as understand it together, communicating, trying, and understanding that at times it’s just PTSD masking what is in reality still there, can help a relationship.

It’s okay to miss the person you care so deeply about, or even miss the person you were, but don’t lose hope, keep taking those steps forward… for yourself as well as your relationship.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

“I can’t make him/her try or do that. I give up.”

“I can’t make him/her try or do that. I give up.”

This week I have heard this comment more then I ever imagined I would hear it. I think there comes great misunderstandings, conflicts, loneliness, grief, feeling of loss, and uncertainty… especially when emotions are high and things are unbalanced. Kind of that hands thrown in the air “What do you want me to do? I’m drowning and he/she won’t listen to me!”

I wrote, oh… a couple years back now I guess it was, about sitting on the fence (an expression that I have heard several times this week actually), sitting in the middle, and not standing on one side or the other, you are just there. I told my story about how when Craig was heading to rock bottom, he was not the only one drowning, I was! How I wanted to walk out that door so badly with everything being the way it was during that time. I stood in front of the mirror one day and told myself this sitting on the fence is killing me. I had to make a decision, I’m all in or I’m out. Sitting on that fence was doing no one any good and I was just as lost in everything as he was!

It was not a decision anyone else could make for me. I could not allow other people’s opinions of what they thought I should do sway me one way or the other. It was my life and my choice. To say the least I chose all in, even though I had no clue where that would take me, I chose to try whether he had the ability to or not. But all in meant I had to make changes, and those changes started with me. I started taking care of myself and stopped sitting on that fence in that “poor me, this is not fair, there’s nothing else I can do” mode.

So what does that have to do with him trying? EVERYTHING!

Of course I will go ahead and say it, every relationship and situation may be different, and not everything I share will help everyone or every time. Some will refuse to even open their minds to this, that’s just a part of what an unbalance can cause and it boils down to it really is up to you. But I hope this gives you other options to try or at least a different point of view to think about before making such drastic life changes like leaving a person you honestly love.

See, when a spouse loses themselves, so to speak, in everything that is going on with PTSD, you lose your self balance. It’s going to be hard to think straight, it’s going to be hard to know what to do or not do, it’s going to be difficult to be there for others or even want to be there for others… you go into a self preservation mode. The scary part? All of those things ARE on you. You are the only one that can decide which direction your life is going, and even then there is no guarantee you are going to make the best decisions.

I would love to be able to sit here and say every relationship will make it. But that would not be truthful. Life with PTSD is not an easy life to live and not everyone is going to be cut out for it and in some situations (such as physical abuse) there just is not a choice. That doesn’t make anyone a bad person if they are in a position they must leave, it makes them no less of a person then another, it’s just a fact.

If you sit back, on that fence in the middle, and do nothing, nothing is going to change, nothing is going to happen… except maybe both of you find a worse place then where you may already be.

With Craig and I, it was all on me, for quite a few years actually. PTSD and depression were not allowing him to understand what he needed or what to do for himself. We both honestly believe now, that if I had chosen to leave when things became so greatly bad, that he would not be on this earth right now, and that’s in no way meant to make anyone feel guilty, it’s just the fact of our story.

When I was not balanced in my life, there was no stability there to help him find a balance. He could not see and did not know he needed help, not until rock bottom and even then he was worried about what getting help would cause and could not see the real picture of what he was experiencing. PTSD honestly causes one to lose sight, all they see is they want the symptoms to stop. But finding the steps to help with symptoms are difficult and it will, in many cases, take outside help.

It took ME relearning how to take care of myself. The more I did for myself, the stronger I became and my focus came back, my balance came back, which lead to me being able to help him.

It took ME, not telling him what to do… you cannot control another person, especially those who are strong willed and hard headed.  And you can pretty much guarantee with the symptoms that come with PTSD, trying to force, demand, or control someone is not going to make for a very pretty outcome. I did not do those things, but I guided him! Without having to say much at all.

Majority of people, when they see someone else doing something for themselves, it’s almost like a challenge. It makes them want to be better. Human nature works to the advantage. Sure to start with he was resentful of the things I was doing for myself, wondering why all of a sudden I changed, but it lead to him trying for himself.

I did not tell him what to do. I did not tell him I would leave if he didn’t do what I said… ultimatums and PTSD don’t get along well by the way.  Ultimatums also bring a huge issue with trust, which comes with PTSD in the first place. PTSD sees those as “fight or flight”. All I did was start taking care of myself again, right there in front of him, which lead to him following suit eventually. No, it did not happen over night! It took awhile, but it happened.

It’s like the story I have told about breathing exercises. Craig and PTSD did not want anything to do with those, “Those won’t work for me!” and he would not even try them. Okay, don’t try them, but I will, I said to myself. And I did! The next time there was a PTSD blowup I sat there quietly doing breathing exercises. Eventually he asked me, “What are you doing?” I calmly replied, “Breathing“. “Well why are you doing that?“, he asked. “Your doctors said this will work for your anxiety and to calm down, so I figured I would try them for myself.” He lashed back, “Well how’s that working for ya?” I smiled and said, “Good actually. I feel calm right now even with the way PTSD is talking to me.” And he stomped off to the bedroom. It was only a couple of days later I noticed him doing the breathing techniques.

I did not tell him to follow doctors orders. I did not tell him he had to do them. I simply started with me! And it worked.

I know what it feels like to lose self balance. I know what it feels like to feel lonely and the feeling of loss one experiences when PTSD steps into your life. I know the worst of the worst experiences PTSD can bring. But, I also know and have proven that if you start looking for solutions, ways to do things or handle things differently, and start taking care of yourself… things can change. All of those things won’t make PTSD go away, but they can help you, your PTSD loved one, your family, as well as your relationship.

In my personal opinion, based on our personal experiences as well as what has helped others, it really does come down to how you view things, or really change your view of things, and the approach you choose to take. I can also tell you, if one sits on that fence for too long, it won’t be you making the decision to stay or go, your PTSD loved one may make that decision for you. Flight is very real with PTSD.

It all goes back to what I always say…

“You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of another.”

That really is a statement that has proven itself.

One last thing before I bring this to a close. Please do not compare your relationship or yourself to where Craig and/or I are now. It has taken us many years (working on 11 years to be more exact) to get to this point. But things have changed. It did not happen over night, and it won’t happen over night for anyone. It does take a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and a major amount of trial and error. We are no different than the next person or couple. Trust me, PTSD is still here and we still battle it every day of our lives! We just may have already been through what you may be experiencing right now.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD Spouse/Partner Crash Course… before YOU crash!

PTSD Spouse/Partner Crash Course… before YOU crash!

I have many questions coming to me regarding how do I manage the rough times PTSD can bring? How do I keep from taking things personally? How do I keep from becoming overwhelmed? Etc.

Just my note up front… I’m NOT a doctor or in any medical field, I’m just a spouse. The following are simply things I found work for me/us and I’m passing them along to you.

* Truly ACCEPT that PTSD is at hand

I’m not saying you have to like it, no one does. But in order to move forward in positive ways, you have to truly accept that your life does now contain PTSD.

* Learn the symptoms and what comes with them.

If you do not learn what the symptoms are and what those symptoms bring, you are going to be lost in what you are experiencing! PTSD is not something you can just say “okay, he/she has PTSD” and let it go, you HAVE to take and make the time to learn so you as the spouse/partner know how to respond or not respond, and when. And most importantly, to understand what BOTH of you are experiencing.

* DO NOT live in a fairy tale wonderland!

Wake up! Life changed the day PTSD stepped into it. If you stay in the mindset that fairy tale stories are what life should be like, it’s going to be difficult for your relationship to survive PTSD. I can guarantee you that is not where your PTSD loved one is living in! There are and can be good, healthy, balanced relationships with PTSD being a part of life! BUT your expectations need to be real ones, not what you think life should be like or that life should be perfect. The sooner you face reality the easier things become and the less conflict there will be. PTSD brings enough frustration and conflict without your magical views of what life should be like adding to it which can cause things to become worse.

Too high of life expectations will cause the one with PTSD to feel guilty, have low self-esteem, feel like they will never be good enough for you, cause one to fall into a deeper depression… they are going to physically and emotionally pull away more than what PTSD already causes in majority of cases. All of those things can increase from what PTSD already brings if you hold too high of expectations for another person or your life together. It’s okay to have dreams and goals by ALL means, everyone NEEDS those, but be real about them.

* Taking things personally

This goes back to the things I have already stated. When you truly face that PTSD is at hand AND the symptoms that come with it, it becomes easier to not take things personally. Ask yourself, “Would he/she have said or acted this way towards me before?” If the answer is no, then it’s most likely something you should not be taking personally, but instead should be asking yourself “why” did this symptom surface.

When you look past the personal and you place your focus on what caused this and/or what do I need to do or not do right now, things become much easier to get through.

PTSD can cause nasty things to be said, it comes with the symptoms and takes time for one with PTSD to learn how to manage and cope so those things stop happening or stop happening as often. If you continuously take everything personally, I can guarantee you right now you are going to be traveling a very long rocky road.

* Becoming Overwhelmed

Every spouse/partner I know has been there at least once! Including myself. The key is, what are you doing about it? What do you do to prevent it from happening again and again?

You CANNOT wait until you are feeling it, to decide you need to do something! You need to form a daily balance for yourself.

All of the above is a great place to start. You also have to make sure you are taking care of YOURSELF! If you do not take care of yourself, and make time in order to have a break, you are going to become overwhelmed.

And when you become overwhelmed it just rolls downhill to everyone around you, your whole life will become unbalanced and all of those around you. Especially the one with PTSD!

Take breaks, find something you enjoy doing, treat yourself once in awhile… I buy myself flowers, nothing expensive, once a month, eat right… make sure you eat!, exercise, for goodness sake get a baby sitter once in awhile if you have young children, etc. There are MANY things you can do to take care of yourself even if you are caring for another full time. MAKE the time, TAKE the time, DO IT!

If you have already become overwhelmed and cannot seem to break the feeling, PLEASE get professional help for yourself! There is NOTHING wrong with a spouse/partner also seeking mental health help! Honestly, many times just that will also help one with PTSD know they can reach for help also.

* Communicate and Work Together 

I’m sorry, but I will not accept from anyone that communication and working together is impossible! Not in this lifetime after seeing and experiencing the challenges Craig and I have come through and continue to go through. Even with severe memory/cognitive dysfunction at hand, and it was only me trying for a very long time because PTSD and Depression had him in a place where he honestly could not make it a two way street… we still learned how to communicate and work together, so if we can do it so can you!

PTSD does cause a break in communication. It thrives on that break in communication! DON’T allow it to! It is going to be serious trial and error to figure out what will work and re-learn different ways of communicating. Keep trying, keep working at it, find what works.

PTSD is going to try to cause battles between you. It’s a way the frustration and anger vents itself. Each other is NOT the battle at hand, PTSD is! Re-learn how to work together! I know each person is their own individual, and you need to be. BUT, you are also a team, you need each other, and working together. learning who each other is now, learning ways to manage the symptoms, learning when each other needs space (even if it’s just simply going to a different room), learning how to notice when talking is just static noise and a conversation needs to be saved for another time. Etc etc etc. Learn to work together!

* Coping Skills

You knew I was going to say it.  Every single person needs to learn and know how to cope. When PTSD is a part of life you need those skills even more. Coping skills and techniques help maintain a balance, help manage anxiety (in either person), and help in more ways then can possibly be listed.

You have to practice them! These need to be done daily even if you don’t feel you need them certain days. When you practice them, they become second nature to use and easier to turn to when things do get stressful. When I say “breathe”, I mean it literally! Something as simple as correct breathing skills can change your life! There are endless numbers of coping skills out there, try them, see what works for you, and use them! They will make life a lot easier to handle.

* Love, Patience, Understanding, and even Empathy

Just because PTSD came into your life and turned it upside down does not mean you toss to the side the basics of life. Through the hurt, stress, anger, resentment, loss, grief, and all of those other feelings and emotions that may slip in… don’t forget why you fell in love with a person, why you are with them in the first place.

Yes, PTSD changes a lot of things in life, it puts you through more trials and errors then one should ever have to experience, but that person you love is still there, there are many out there that do not have their loved one anymore, unfortunately. Do not allow PTSD to win, take back your relationship and your life, even if it’s in small steps. Don’t forget to still love, have patience as you both learn how to manage this new life, you are partners for a reason, don’t let go of that.

PTSD may mask how one truly feels about you, they may not be able to express themselves in the same ways they use to, but that does not mean they don’t care about you. It simply means they have a battle at hand that covers up who they really are, they have to focus on themselves more then they use to, they may be lost in what they are experiencing. They really do need you. Don’t be blind to the ways they do show they care, those things may be expressed in different ways now, may not be as direct, PTSD numbness may be at hand, keep all things in mind.

Motions lead to emotions“… it has to start somewhere.

These are just a few of the basic things that can help you, at least they helped me, and us. You have to start somewhere, you have to do something, or you will crash. Don’t allow that to happen, make a change today, try something new, start a different routine or way of doing things, and don’t forget to take care of yourself through the process, I cannot say that one loud enough. YOU CAN do this!

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Arguing and PTSD

Arguing and PTSD

Arguing, this is a topic I get many, many questions about. I also get asked how much Craig and I personally argue. So let’s talk about this…

First thing I want to say… If you are experiencing this, it CAN change! Don’t give up on a relationship because you feel the arguing will never stop!

It takes time to figure out what will or will not work, just like with anything else that comes with life with PTSD. I am not a doctor of any sort, and can only give my personal opinions and experiences on this based on what we have been through and what helped us.

Back at the beginning of us trying to figure out what was going on with Craig, we fought! He was not acting like the person I knew, picking fights, saying mean, hurtful things, just pure mean with an I don’t care attitude. And I was fighting back, I am a very strong and level headed southern lady who knows how to stand on my own two feet, and I was not going to stand for this attitude coming at me. I fought back trying to make him see the changes in himself. I mean the arguments were just heartbreaking, hurtful, and so damaging beyond words… which was totally out of character for us and our relationship.

There did come a time right around the time we were told he has PTSD, that I was struggling. I was worn out, I was tired of the picking and arguing, my anxiety level was so high I was passing out and having panic attacks, this strong southern lady had met her match and I so badly wanted to walk away at times, but just could not! I knew Craig and I knew this was not the true him, that’s when I started learning and looking for anything and everything that could help me understand and help us. I knew I had to be the one to make that step and move past the stuck arguing position and find a solution. Arguing with him sure was not working, it just brought a larger fight.

It goes back to what I always say, stop, listen, and really hear what is being said. When I started listening to his words, feeling where this anger was coming from, it in a way gave me a direction for finding answers, and with answers came things to help.

See, to me, my opinion, PTSD causes them to “look for the fight”. PTSD causes anger, frustration, numbness, they don’t sleep well, they experience flashbacks, and all of the other symptoms that come with it along with the fact that their life has changed. When all of those symptoms are being experienced it can cause them to just be angry, and many times not understand why. Craig actually now calls it “floating anger”, it’s anger that is always there, underneath the surface, just waiting to come out. Which leads to them lashing out at others, normally towards those they are closest to.

Once I realized this is exactly what was happening, I had the tools to make a change and break this arguing cycle. Again, I was the one who had to, because Craig could not, there was no real balance within himself for him to. Now lol, I won’t say it was easy, it took time, patience, listening, not taking things personally but recognizing it was PTSD causing this, and then holding my ground in a gentle caring way, not visible headstrong way. This new approach for me was all we really had left to try to break the cycle, and I added in coping skills to my side of it. 

I stopped fighting and arguing “with PTSD”. And I am sure I literally bit my tongue at times, but I stood solid I was not going to feed his anger and frustration. I sat and I listened. Sooner or later he would yell, “Well aren’t you going to say something?” And I would softly reply, “I love you and care about what you are going through, so I am just listening.” Craig has never been one to purposely lay his hands on another person, so I assumed that would not be an issue, which I was right. His anger when I started this did get worse, he would hit objects or throw things. He would yell at me “Get away from the door so I can leave.” Fight or flight was coming into play. I would calmly say “leaving won’t fix this and I will sit here so we can talk.”, but he never touched me.

***Just to note, if you are in a situation where a person will lay their hands on another, DO NOT do this! Safety first.***

Craig would eventually max out on the anger, then the “I am so sorry, I did not mean that” stepped in, then we could talk. Not to sound funny or disrespectful here, but it was kind of like breaking a horse. It’s still psychology. They fight until they wear out then you can ride them and teach them, you just have to hold on tight until you get to that point of settling down and learning. That’s in a way what I was doing to PTSD. No human can yell forever, there will be a break in it sooner or later. And that is exactly what happened, the break came and there was my Craig again, and we calmly talked.

I was holding the reins, but WE were learning together how to “break” PTSD. 

Then coping skills came into it. The next time he lashed out, I sat on the bathroom floor and used the breathing exercises the doctors had taught him. I mean hey, if they will work for him then they should work for me too. He yelled “What are you doing?” I calmly said breathing exercises. He asked why and I told him. He stomped off to another room mad. But you know what? It was not long before I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and HE was using them! 

Nothing happened overnight, it did take some time. The more he saw how I had changed the way I was handling things, the more changes started showing in him. He started using different coping skills to keep the anger from coming out on others. Things like the breathing, listening to music, sitting quietly and doing different meditation techniques, and even laying down and trying to sleep if the anger is beyond everything else.

His PTSD and symptoms are just as bad as they were when we were arguing all of the time, but what we do to manage them changed.

He still has times of lashing out verbally, but he and I can quickly get it under control again. He has issues still with getting frustrated with people outside our family, and I help him through those times. But us arguing? I honestly can not tell you the last time we had an argument, we talk and communicate now, we don’t argue.

We understand that we will not always agree on everything, no human will in reality. We understand that at times one of us will have to give in and other times it will go the other direction. We lay facts on the table and both accept looking at the facts to decide together what the best outcome or solution is. We remind each other when coping is needed, if it’s not noticed as being needed. We don’t take it personally when one of us points out something to the other… such as “you seem anger”, “you really need a break”, “you seem off balance today”, etc. All of those things provide a platform for us to work together now, helping each other, and arguing just isn’t a part of it anymore.

So, don’t think arguing is a permanent part of life with PTSD. It does not have to be. It does take work, but it is a part of PTSD that can change so to speak. It’s all in how you handle it, manage it, what you actually put into place and use, and finding what helps you get past the arguing. Each person might need a different approach on what works for you, look for it and find what works for you.

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Relationships… Simple things that can help…

Okay let’s hit this page running this morning. I’m seeing HUGE issues going on in the PTSD world right now, and I believe there are some simple things we can do to prevent them! On BOTH sides of the fence.

Let’s face the facts. Relationships are falling apart! With PTSD being involved there are extra steps that have to happen in relationships to make sure they survive. These things take extra self-control that is beyond normal. It takes stepping out of the box as I say it and looking back in. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes even for a brief moment to take a look at where you stand, what you are doing, and what you could do to make things better. And that goes for everyone.

Having PTSD or living beside it does not bring the “normal” relationship! And you can’t expect it to! I’ll be honest, as a child majority of us had our heads filled with fairy tale stories of the happily ever after and the house with the white picket fence, children running around happy, and a dog named Spot. It’s a mind set that every little girl grows up believing in, it’s every boy’s vision of being the knight in shining armor. Think about it, many will agree.

But the fact is, none of those visions of what life is suppose to be like include sickness of any sort, and especially not PTSD. So you have to reset your thoughts. It’s called the facts of life. I’m not saying you can’t have a happy life or be that knight, what I’m saying is you have to reach that type of life in a different way. It’s not just handed to you, you can’t just expect it to happen.

With any relationship it takes work! Then you mix PTSD, as well as other disabilities or illnesses with it and that happy life and relationship are not going to just fall into your hands.

Let me touch on these separately…

Look at yourself. Look at how you act, how you respond to things. Are you keeping in mind that PTSD is real and does exist? Be honest with yourself.

I know that living with a partner that has PTSD gets lonely. That’s a fact about it. But at the same time you can’t rely on someone else to make you happy. It goes back to doing things for yourself to bring happiness. If you don’t know how to make yourself happy, how would you be happy in a relationship? Especially mixed with PTSD.

This goes back to one of the things I do for myself, I buy myself flowers once a month, or something that I want for myself that will bring me a different sense of happy. This month and last I didn’t buy flowers, I put the money aside to buy Alex a new training collar that I’ve really been wanting for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, many budgets are tight and buying things for yourself isn’t always the answer, you can do something for yourself, whatever it might be that brings a smile to your face. Something that you can see that reminds you that you did it for yourself.

Self-help therapy! A huge key to living a balanced life when living with PTSD. No, it doesn’t take the loneliness away, but it helps you keep your self esteem which is extremely important and easily lost with everything that goes on.

Look at how you treat your partner. Many times I hear “but look at how I’m being treated!”
Well, the truth is, if you don’t like the way you are being treated, then don’t treat them that way because you are hurting or feelings are hurt. Two wrongs don’t make a right… at all!

Sometimes when a person with PTSD sees their partner smile, laugh, still live life, it doesn’t mean you are going on with life without them, it means you have a chance to lift them up from those dark places PTSD brings them to.

As long as they are seeing you sad or upset, even angry what do you think is going to be the response? I can answer this, they are going to feel like a burden, that you deserve a better life, that they are just bringing you down, that you would be better off without them and it fuels the PTSD anger. That’s not quite the outcome or response you want now is it. NO!

Your feelings are going to show rather you want them to or not, but you can work on making yourself feel better which in turn leads to them not worrying as much. You always have to keep in mind PTSD consumes them, and they can’t help this, it’s a part of what comes with PTSD.

Oh I hear you saying it now! “But he doesn’t want me to be happy! He doesn’t want me to feel good because he can’t!”

Well guess what, sure you are absolutely right. This does happen. But how about adding something simple to this? How about “I’m trying to be happy and accomplish things because it will help US be happy”. It will help take the burden off of their shoulders of bringing you down too. It’s hard for one with PTSD, normally they have lost most everything to this and in reality have jealousy that you can succeed in something but they can’t. It takes time for you to get through to them that things you do are to help both of you. You have to be able to stand on your own two feet so both of you can be better. I’m already hearing the “but” in this, don’t worry, the PTSD side of this is coming also. It takes working together, not against each other!

Being in a relationship with PTSD is hard, extremely hard… but it’s not impossible! You as the spouse have to remember that it’s PTSD NOT your partner! Come on, would you have ever been with them in the first place if all they were was “bad”? Absolutely not! You saw something in them, something that you loved. That something is still there, it’s just harder to see, but it’s there. Think of the good things, find a way that brings those good things back to life… it’s possible. “Look for the good” I say it on here all of the time, there’s a reason for it. 😉

Stop being at war with your partner and start working together to find solutions, they are there, you just have to find them!

The one with PTSD:
Nope, not leaving you out of this. 😉 We know you still love and care about your partner, it’s just hard to show it much of the time. PTSD takes so much time and energy just to feel some sense of normal.

I know you are a good person! If you weren’t your partner would not be there for you! They found the good in you that they love and attracted them to you in the first place.

It’s time to start unmasking that good so they still see it. I know this is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. PTSD does not like the good and hides it so to speak. I truly believe that PTSD affects “the best of the best” and I will keep saying that until you believe it again yourself!

PTSD breaks you down, it brings you to your knees, and it’s a battle that is very tiring on the mind and the body. I understand that completely, BUT, yes there’s that word you hate hearing me say. 😉 But YOU are still there! YOU can override some simple things so that good part in you shines through. I know it’s not easy, but you CAN do it!

A partner of PTSD feeling “lonely” is the largest thing I hear, and also feel many times. I want to explain this feeling to you so you can understand it from a spouse’s view and can help change this.

You don’t have to be physically apart from each other to feel lonely. You can be in the same place even 24/7 and still feel it. It comes when you are focusing on yourself and fighting PTSD within yourself and all of the focus is on that and little on your partner. I know you don’t mean to do this, it’s hard enough coping with PTSD. But this is exactly what is happening. Then the anger of the fight comes and rolls over to your partner, no one means for this to happen but it does. Your focus remains on yourself, not because you are selfish by any means, but because you are trying to survive!

But in this surviving you are forgetting one huge, major tool you have on your side to use! Your partner! I know it seems like so much work, added stress and worry, the thoughts of I can’t please her/him. But I have something very important to help you in this, and it’s simple.

Loneliness comes from an emotional as well as physical distance, a wall put up between the two of you. And I’m saying loneliness because this seems to be the largest battle a partner has being with someone who suffers from PTSD. We all have feelings, even when there is numbness. You are human! And you do deserve feelings, you deserve happiness, and it does not matter what or where PTSD has you, there is something you can do.

As difficult as it is to take the feeling of lonely away, there are things that you can do to help prevent it. And they are rather simple but get lost in the trying to make yourself better.

Let’s start with the more easy ones, even though I know nothing that comes with PTSD is easy. 😉

A hug. A kiss. An “I do love you and glad you are here.”. Sitting on the couch while watching a tv show and putting your arm around your partner or holding their hand. Look at them, think of why YOU chose them, there’s a good reason and it’s still there. Focus on that person for a second and think about who they are, the things you like about them, the things they do and many times do for you. Don’t let guilt that PTSD brings overlook these things, don’t think about the bad or how they would be better off without you, think about why they chose you and why you those them. It brings a sense of a happy time and place. That time and place are not lost, they are just set to the side. Use those good times to help in your relationship. No, you can’t go back, but you can move forward, and moving forward creates new senses of happy. PTSD causes you to feel stuck, things as simple as what I’ve said here can help you get unstuck… and with help from your partner.

Here’s something else that seems silly and unimportant. But it plays a huge roll in all of this life with PTSD. PTSD puts you in a place where you rely on that other person, sometimes too much but might not notice that. Things like duties around the house, fixing meals, taking care of majority of things for you. It goes back to that stuck place PTSD puts you. Let’s help you get unstuck. 😉

Simple things like picking up your clothes from the floor and putting them in the hamper. How about when you fix yourself a drink, asking your partner if they would like one. Asking what you could help with so things get done and you have more “couple time” without your partner being worn out. The little things as I call them. Just anything that could help, show you are thinking about them, shows you do care about how they feel. I know many, especially men, are use to the wife/woman doing many of these things… their role so to speak. But you have to remember, especially for those of you who are home all of the time now or most of the time, things have changed. Life with PTSD does not separate his and her roles anymore. Another mind set that many of us were raised with. You have to learn to work together on things so there is balance.

This also helps you! It helps you from being stuck, it helps you from feeling unworthy, and it will sure help your relationship. And wow… it battles PTSD on a new playing field that will be to your advantage! 😉

Anger. Oh a huge thing that PTSD has on it’s side. When you feel that anger starting, tell your partner. Make them aware that you are feeling this way. And focus on not letting the anger control you. When both of you are aware of this feeling happening you can work together to get through it. Use your coping skills! Breathing exercises. Talking about it. Anger comes out during some of the worst times PTSD gives you and it takes a lot of self control to make it through it, but you can! Say out loud “I’m angry right now but I don’t want to take it out on you.” You might have to have a break of just quietness during this time, let your partner know that and you need this quiet time to get a grip on it because you love them and don’t want it released on them. Try this! It works! Verbal abuse is one of the most damaging things PTSD brings, and I know that none of you mean to do this, but it does happen. And when it does it really puts a wall up in a relationship, just as you use a wall to cope through things, your partner will do the same thing, it’s a defense mechanism. You both have to watch out for this, it can be dangerous to a relationship and very hard to tear down. Be open and honest with your partner, communication is a huge key that is on your side.

SO… all of this is something to really think about. None of you want to feel lonely no matter which side of the fence you are on in this. Take back your relationship, work together, you can speak honestly and calmly with the goal of making changes for the better. Avoid the fighting PTSD brings. Fighting it, for either of you, is feeding the PTSD. YOU can control this and strengthen your relationship at the same time. Try these things. Start new, start now! Work on rebuilding your relationship and letting the past hurt go so you can move forward together. And always keep in mind that when it comes to PTSD, the simple things in life are going to be the things that bring the most meaning and change for the better.

Don’t let PTSD take your relationship from you! Because it will if you allow it to. Work together, communicate, “look for the good”… it’s still there!

And to add my legal note to all of this, I’m not a doctor or in any sort of medical field. I’m simply a spouse that’s been there and these are my personal opinions and points of views. If you have an emergency situation please contact your local help hotline.

Love to you all ♥

“A Spouse’s Story PTSD”