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PTSD and Building a Stronger Relationship: Part 4 PTSD and the “Roommate” feelings.

PTSD and Building a Stronger Relationship: Part 4
PTSD and the “Roommate” feelings.

After receiving so many comments a few days ago regarding people feeling like roommates to their partners, I felt we needed to talk about this. It is a VERY real feeling that can come or exist when PTSD is a part of a relationship.

PTSD and the symptoms that it brings…feeling of distance, the feeling of alone, the avoidance, the numbness, the negative changes in views of one’s self, others, or the world in general… can be really tough at times, and very real. Those things are real even when two people know they love each other, and are sitting in the same room together or together all of the time. These are symptoms that do effect both people in some way.

Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say this isn’t us and take that time to just be with each other to try to find even a small part of what PTSD snatches away from you. Anyone that states love, closeness, feelings and emotions should not be “forced” but should just happen… has never lived with PTSD in their lives. It takes a lot of extra time and effort to hold a relationship together when PTSD is a part of it. And the sooner those who have PTSD in their lives realize that, the better the outcome is going to be.

Relationships are not carried on a silver platter when PTSD is a part of life. It takes patience, communication, understanding, working together, and “going through the motions to find the emotions”. “ A relationship consists of much more than only love. It has to, because you have to learn how to break through what PTSD causes to the ones who have it, as well as what the effects of PTSD causes the partner/spouse.

That said a lot within itself, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Relationships are hard with PTSD being a part of them. It does not mean by any means that there can not be relationships or good ones, it just means you have to work extra hard at them, for them to work. You have to except that PTSD is a part of life now, and with that what use to be viewed as a “normal” relationship has changed.

Craig and I are no different than anyone else going through this. We are very lucky, in my opinion, that we had a strong relationship before PTSD became a huge part of our lives.

And I will get to that in a minute. But, I will be honest… sometimes the fact of knowing the person before PTSD became a part of life can also have it’s down side. I did know Craig before, I know what he was like, the things he loved in life, the funny character he was, how he could so easily make me laugh, how goofy he was, how he loved the spur of the moment let’s do this or let’s go there. I watched him excel through life with his head high, no fear in the world, and a person who would take on the world without thinking twice about doing so. He would go out of his way to help anyone. He loved life and everything he could possible experience in it.

He loved teaching our kids as well as others about airplanes through the EAA Young Eagles program that we were a part of. He loved flying, being outdoors, and he dearly loved his job as an air traffic controller with the military. He/We loved travelling and being able to see the country and meeting new people. He loved teasing me (in a good way) about my love for dogs and animals in general (which at times he still does  ). He loved family gatherings, loved having cookouts with friends, he loved going out and to large events, he just loved life to it’s fullest. All of the things he loved and person he was brought a larger sense to us and who we are as individuals as well as a couple. If you do not believe in the term soul mates, you should, because if there is any belief in that word, Craig and I are living proof of it.

I would be untruthful if I said I did not miss many of those things in him. He is right here but yet it seems like he is so far away much of the time. I do get to see a glimpse of him from time to time, and I hold onto it when it comes, but for the most part PTSD keeps the true him hidden, PTSD changed his life, and our lives. But I would not trade living life with him for the world!

I am very thankful for knowing Craig before PTSD, and being able to have the memories and have enjoyed that part of life with him. I would not change things at all and value every step of life we have experienced together, and will continue to. But at the same time, I see the changes PTSD has caused. I love Craig with every ounce of my being, and I love him as he is now and accept that our path has changed, and I sure don’t hold any of it against him, none of this is his fault, and I do hate seeing the guilt he carries caused by PTSD.

But it doesn’t take away the fact and feelings of missing who he was, the part of him I knew before PTSD. It is only normal to have those feelings from time to time, it’s part of being human and it’s a part of the grieving process that does come when life changes in such drastic ways and with that so does the person you know so well. They are real feelings, not meant to be hurtful in any way, but at times they do exist, for BOTH people.

I also know that that part of him is not gone, it’s still there, it’s who he truly is, it’s just masked by what happened to him and by PTSD. So knowing how he was before PTSD also helps me understand what we have to work towards, who he is, and through PTSD. It gives myself and him hope.

I also face the fact that I have changed. How could I not? It’s just a fact that comes with PTSD being a part of our life. My career changed, my/our dream life changed, my way of handling and viewing things changed, life has changed. I know I don’t laugh as much as I use to, even though I have learned to find humor in much more these days. I know some days it’s hard to find an extra smile. I know I am in a position that I have to handle things more seriously then I use to, there is a lot more to manage. I also know what it takes for me, myself, to maintain my own balance.

PTSD has changed me too. How could it not also change a spouse? I accept that though and still push to move forward each day and put more effort in making sure there is positive in our life. I know I have to find that smile and hold on to myself through this “different than it was” life, and I’m okay with that. I accept it and I never lose hope, I make the best of each day that comes. I would not have it any other way!

But not everyone has been in our exact shoes. Many relationships form after PTSD has become a part of life. You don’t know what they were like or who they really were. You accept them for the now. Which this is still life, and things can still change.

It’s okay to in a way grieve over the feeling of loss of who a person was, it’s okay to miss them or who you were, and it’s okay to wonder who they were or what they were like before you met them or before PTSD became a part of life. You own those feelings and they are very real. But you cannot get stuck in the grieving process, or it will bring BOTH of you down and that distance between you will become greater.

And to the ones who suffer from PTSD, please do not pull away further or leave because your partner may go through this from time to time. I know it can effect you greatly. I know it causes hurt because you do not want them feeling these things. But it’s also a process to move forward and to a better future. When this happens take every strength you have and hold on to them, it’s really what they need so they can move past this.

You as the one feeling the loss or distance, either person, cannot stay stuck dwelling on it. Own it, feel it, go through the emotions that come with it, then use it to move forward and make things better for both of you.

And don’t get me wrong here, it’s not only the ones living beside PTSD that feel this way. These are very real feeling for the one with PTSD as well! They feel the loss, the distance, etc. and it weighs on them greatly. You have to work through these feelings and also guilt they may bring together!

I have had many people ask me which is easier, knowing them before PTSD or not? I can’t answer that. It’s really a catch 22. There are good and bad with both, like with anything else in life. But I do know it’s what you do today that will make a difference. And accepting PTSD is where you start.

PTSD comes with so many things. The flat-line effect or roommate feeling is very real. And it’s not just the one with PTSD that can experience this, the partner can too. It’s where you feel numb, feel disconnected from others, when you know you love but can’t find the feeling to go with it. It’s that feeling of being there but yet it doesn’t seem real, it just seems distant… you are just there. Things get so wrapped up in trying to get better, trying to find and manage a new normal, that the real life right in front of you gets put to the side. Then you add in other PTSD symptoms and effects, avoidance, anxiety, the what if’s, the worry etc. it all just added to it… from both sides.

The closeness becomes distant, the intimacy energy shifts to battling symptoms and life or each other which trust me that part can and needs to change, the negatives from changes form walls between two people, and the next thing you know, the two people who knew each other better than anyone else, start feeling like roommates.

It’s so easy for relationships to get sidetracked when PTSD is a part of the relationship. There is so much involved in helping yourself or the other person, then finances, work, children/grandchildren, then throw life itself into the mix, relationships are where the suffering occurs.

This is when you have to plant your feet in concrete, as Craig and I say it. You have to take a time out to focus on you as a couple. Even with everything in life being thrown at you and all of the symptoms still there with PTSD, you can still maintain a good relationship. It’s not going to be easy, Craig and I both will tell you that. It comes with many feelings, emotions, and also lack of both. It is very easy to end up in that flat-line or roommate feeling of a relationship, where you are just there. You are both right there but the relationship feeling is lacking, and by either or both people, it’s more like a feeling you are roommates sharing a space in this world, than a couple.

So what do you do if you are sitting in that position right now?

“Motions lead to Emotions”

Those are the strongest words there are when it comes to a relationship that has PTSD as a part of it. Emotions are not going to form or come back if you don’t do anything to make them. Even if you are numb and feel nothing at all, don’t lose hope, don’t sit there stagnant and allow it to continue. It will only get worse if you don’t do something.

Follow through on motions, it could be a simple smile, wink, hug, holding pinky fingers, laying on the couch together to watch a movie, gently touching one’s face or kissing them on the forehead. Take a walk, even around the yard, sit and eat a meal together and talk about things you enjoy together or use to enjoy… not about the news or what’s going on with someone else… but about “us”. Leave a nice note or send a text or email, give a compliment, start exercising together, do coping skills together, learn meditation…

And for those that have never heard of tantra (no matter what religion or non-religious beliefs you hold), investigate it, try it, it might help bring a spark back to your relationship!  We thought a doctor was CRAZY when we were told to look into it, we were actually told to attend a class which NOPE we did not do! But being told what we were, we did look into it and let me tell you, just some basics of it brought a whole new and exciting spark to our relationship. (TMI, I know lol but intimacy and/or sex is a part many are missing in a PTSD relationship) And it can help step past, even if for only that moment, many of those things PTSD can cause for either person when it comes to the intimacy and/or sex part in a relationship.

Use your imagination!

There are so many things that can help get a relationship back on the right path or going in a better direction. And acknowledge when one does something for the other, a little acknowledgement can go along way for helping both of you. Use the motions, it sure can’t hurt any worse than doing nothing.

Relationships take a lot for the average couple, and relationships with PTSD take a lot more. They are work, they take a lot of extra effort, understanding, communication, working together to find solutions or what works best for the two of you. They are not just going to happen!

I know all of us go through a lot, but through all of it, don’t forget to add in the motions so you can find or restart the emotions to your relationship. It can make life a little if not a lot better. Don’t forget the “us” in life, make the time for each other. Don’t allow a flat-line or roommate feelings remain in your relationship, you as a couple and as individuals are worth more than that!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook page

PTSD: Negative changes in thoughts and mood or feelings

PTSD: Negative changes in thoughts and mood or feelings

Negative changes in thoughts or mood and feelings are one of the hardest parts of PTSD to manage, for either side of the fence. This is the symptom of PTSD that EVERYONE with PTSD experiences in some way. It’s also the toughest part for others to understand, as well as to learn not to take personally.

These negative changes in thoughts or feelings, that come with PTSD can include things such as:

* Not being able to experience positive emotions
* Having negative views of yourself or others
* Feeling emotionally numb
* Experiencing a loss of interest in things you use to enjoy
* Lack or loss of hope for the future
* Having difficulty with or maintaining close relationships
* Memory issues, which can include not remembering parts of the trauma experienced
(Reference: MayoClinic.org)

This can include viewing yourself as bad or a negative change in the way you view yourself compared to the way you use to. One may feel they are not worthy, may have feelings of failure or that they are now a burden to others, may have feelings of guilt or shame.

One with PTSD can also view those around them in negative ways. Instead of feeling love and closeness to others that was experienced before PTSD, one may feel anger, resentment, distrust, etc. or nothing at all. One may feel others are “out to get them or ruin them”, may feel the world is against them or the world is not fair, and/or may feel as if nothing is safe and no one can be trusted.

Whoa! Now that is a lot for the one with PTSD to experience! It was difficult enough experiencing the trauma they went through, and now many of these symptoms may be at hand as well. This is when you stop, take a deep breath, step back, and really start thinking about it. All of these things just listed are NOT done on purpose! They are all or each, a part of what PTSD can or may cause.

All of these changes in thoughts and feelings can bring another part of PTSD, arousal- emotional reactions. One may get angry, irritated, experience verbal outbursts or aggressive behavior, feeling of guilt or shame may increase, one may stay on guard or alert, may experience self-destructive or relationship-destructive behaviors such as drinking too much, drug use, sexual communication or encounters with others they would not have had/done before, or driving too fast or recklessly. One with PTSD may be startled easily, have trouble sleeping, or have issues concentrating.

PTSD is NOT an excuse, unfortunately it is a very real medical condition that many people who have been through a life changing trauma experience when symptoms last for more than three months (time frame of symptoms for diagnosis changed from minimum of one month to three months, referenced from va.gov website).

But do not lose hope! There are things that can help manage these symptoms! Just as with other PTSD symptoms, and with a lot of effort, work, learning, and working together… we can try to manage these thoughts and feelings through learning and using coping skills, therapy, there are even worksheets that can be used to help you view on paper your thoughts, feelings, even fears in comparison to facts. There are many things you can try and do to help manage the thoughts and feelings when they come or are present. Things will not change overnight, just like with anything else, PTSD is not going away, but things can change.

Spouses/partners, family members, and friends…

You have a huge role in this too! I know firsthand that when PTSD throws these things at you or into your life, it’s hard, it can try to emotionally destroy you. It can cause you to feel some of the same things PTSD has caused your loved one to feel or experience. And yes, that goes for experiencing or doing anything listed above. This is when those words I say have to play a role, “PTSD is the battle, NOT each other”. The old saying “fighting fire with fire”, is not going to get you anywhere but more stress, emotional hurt, and possibly two people who really care about each other walking away from each other. You have to work together to find what helps best for you, your loved one, and whatever situation is at hand.

So what are some examples of things we can work on?

(NOTE: I am not a doctor or in any medical field. The things I share are from our personal experiences, knowledge, opinions, and what others have shared with us. For more information or help PLEASE talk to your doctor or contact one.)

Self-esteem and self-worth are the two major things that negative thoughts and feelings effect (and that goes for both the one with PTSD and their spouse/partner). These are things that everyone can work on.

* Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? If the answer is no, then there is something we can work on.  Write down what you do not like seeing. Then set realistic goals in writing for yourself, on how you can change what you do not like seeing. Maybe it’s I’m going to start walking each day for 15 minutes or other exercise, then build from there over time. Maybe it’s I’m going to watch what I eat more closely. Maybe it’s I’m going to shave x number of times per week. Maybe I’m going to have my hair cut once per month. ANYTHING that can help you view yourself in the mirror better than what you are seeing right now.

* Hobbies or projects. These can be challenging! I will not tell you they won’t be. Between the symptoms PTSD brings, then add in any co-occurring conditions, such as depression, or any physical disabilities… yes this can be challenging. BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE! Do not overwhelm yourself or set unrealistic goals. Pace yourself. Choose things to do that bring enjoyment, or are things you use to enjoy doing!

Hobbies and projects, no matter how long they may take to complete or do, show progress. They help with self-esteem and self-worth. Each step taken you are proving to yourself you can still do things and may be very good at something that you had no idea you could do before. 

* Compliments. Oh come on! It does not matter who you are or what you are going through, everyone loves getting compliments! Not only are they nice and make you feel good when you receive one, there is a lot that comes from giving them as well.  A simple compliment given or received can change a day around, bring an unexpected smile, shows someone that you care or notice things. It does not have to be some huge life changing compliment, do not forget that many times it’s the little things that mean the most.

Nothing is negative 100% of the time, no one is wrong 100% of the time… there is always something that can be complimented on, just do not over-do it, make compliments count with meaning.  AND accept them when they are given! Whether you see yourself as the compliment given or not, accept it and realize that people do not give out compliments for no reason, so you must have done something right or something that was in a positive way noticed. 

* “Motions lead to emotions”. Oh you knew I would not leave this one out! PTSD brings all of the symptoms, challenges, and can bring numbness. Numbness is not just going away or decreasing without help. When you go through the steps, you might just find some sparks there in life that you thought were gone. PTSD is good at hiding things or masking one from their true self or feelings. Spouses/partners, you too can experience the distant or numbness, so this is for you as well! Learn how to unmask things by going through the motions. Motions do not have to be only in a physical sense based around relationships and/or sex! It could be anything that you do that can bring back a sense of enjoyment to a relationship or other things that you use to enjoy in life.

* Work on changing the negative to positive. NOT an easy thing to do, but not impossible either!

One of the most common examples I have had come to me lately…
I have had [number of] failed relationships. I will never have a good relationship so why even try.

Okay, so you have had failed relationships, we all go through that in reality. So let’s change the perspective a little and try this, “My last [number of] relationships did not work out. So I am going to work on improving myself, so when that right person for me comes along our relationship will be better than those of my past.” 

And write it down in a note for yourself, place it to where you can see it, as a reminder if you want to! It can help you stick to a more positive mindset when those negative thoughts try to step back in. And you can do that with anything in life!

* Set goals for yourself! Setting simple goals, goals that prove to be a little more challenging, and life goals, all give you things to work towards. By setting goals of different levels they can help when PTSD symptoms are more of a challenge but can be done, it helps you see that even when PTSD challenges you, you can still accomplish things. And when you reach goals of a higher challenge WOW, what a positive change it can bring to you! In all seriousness, setting goals are extremely important. They give you things in life to work towards and are rewarding when accomplished. They help with both self-esteem and self-worth. AND can help you view things around you and in the world differently.

* Oh those negative views of others and how PTSD loves to play with this one! Bring out the pen and paper if you have to on this one! I’m serious! What are the thoughts you are having then put the facts of what has happened or is at hand next to them. Compare them to see if it’s PTSD sticking it’s hand in this to make you think negative about another person ot even other things in life, before placing blame or getting upset at someone (or bringing worry or fear of other things). Many times it’s the negative views that PTSD is bringing and not what another person has actually done. PTSD loves to bring in all of those “what if’s” on this one that you have to be cautious of. Communication is going to be a huge help in this also.

If something seems way off base from what a person would normally be like, talk CALMLY and ask questions. Do not jump to conclusions. Really hear each other out and talk about any concerns and the way you are viewing things. And BOTH people try not to put those defenses up, talk and work through whatever the thoughts are causing and get to the facts. It goes back to the why and letting the facts of why help you get through whatever is at hand.

Okay, these are some examples and what PTSD can cause. Do not lose hope, it is there even if it is masked right now. Keep working on those steps forward to understanding, accepting, and working through what “PTSD negative thoughts and moods or feelings” can bring, and are a very real part of life with PTSD. There are many things each person can work on by themselves, for themselves, as well as with and for others.

And just a personal note from me to you,

I BELIEVE in you! You ARE one of the “best of the best” and CAN make it through this part of PTSD. Do not give up!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD Facebook page

How do you refill your emotional cup when it needs it?

How do you refill your emotional cup when it needs it?

From my mailbox is a question that is one of the hardest things many people struggle with…

How do you get your emotional cup refilled when you are down and your partner doesn’t have the capacity to give you what you need but what you need can only come from him/her?” -Anonymous

To be fair here, this question could come from many different directions so I want to talk about different things that could be related to this, why, as well as things one can do or try…. from my and Craig’s personal experiences as well as what I have learned over the years of life with  #PTSD.

The empty cup feeling is very real, and can be real for not only the spouse/partner, but also for the one with PTSD.

Feeling of loss…

One of the most emotional draining things one may experience is the feeling of loss. Your life has changed, your partner has changed… in a sense, your relationship has changed, your roles in life may have changed, the way you handle or manage things has changed, maybe you lost a job, maybe someone you care deeply about lost their life… the list is endless.

You grieve… 

It’s only human nature to grieve when you experience any type of loss in your life. Grieving is how we process our feelings, what has happened, what has changed, and is needed to take steps forward. Many people do get stuck (a well known term for a spouse or one with PTSD) and you have to be cautious of this.

The facts are…

There are going to be losses in life of whatever extent, there will be grieving, and PTSD became or is a part of your life, no matter which side of the fence you are standing on. Which can bring an emotional and/or physical divide… which can BOTH weigh heavily on that emotional cup.

PTSD can bring so many symptoms… the lack of sleep due to nightmares, the flashbacks, the anxiety, the numbness, the triggers, whatever physical conditions or other mental conditions which may co-occur with PTSD, and list goes on. All of these things take a lot for the one with PTSD to battle and manage each day, and with that… their focus has to be on themselves quite often in order to manage those symptoms. Many times they feel lost within themselves or as Craig says it, “Sometimes I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

Add all of that together and how could that emotional divide not be there? BUT, it is something that can be worked on.  We will get to that in a minute.

When one is battling all of these things and trying to do their best, it can leave a spouse/partner feeling lonely or as if they cannot place anything else on their PTSD loved one’s shoulders by sharing what they themselves are going through or feeling. A spouse may be overwhelmed with everything life now holds, trying to learn everything, manage everything, and the changing roles do weigh in. The changes in relationship add a lot to it… you may feel like “I just want my husband/wife back!” You will experience all of that sooner or later.

That emotional cup empties. In reality, the one with PTSD most likely feels empty too. Yep, it’s one of those vicious cycles that can form.

The hardest lessons in life that have to be learned…

You cannot rely on another person to make you happy. 

That is a very difficult lesson when you were use to your relationship being a certain way, then PTSD stepped in and changed things, changed life. The emotional closeness may have changed, the physical closeness may have changed, and what use to seem like an easy relationship now has to be worked at to maintain.

But you know what? That’s okay! The more you work at it, the stronger your relationship can become. It can grow in ways that you never dreamed imaginable. It will be different, but that does not mean it has to be a bad relationship. It’s just changed.

This is where communication is important… you HAVE to talk AND really hear what each other is saying. And you know what, even with everything one with PTSD battles they can still be good listeners.  It is okay and important for BOTH people to share their feelings with each other. Each person owns their own feelings, they are your’s, and the other person does not have to feel guilty, or feel like they have to fix what another person feels. A simply “Hey, I know you are struggling with [symptom, feeling, etc] right now, but I really need to talk. Can you just listen and maybe help me or us come up with something to help with this.” And you agree to work on it if it’s needed or you simply listen.

“Motions lead to emotions”, my old reliable! Best thing Craig and I were ever told about! PTSD does bring numbness and emotional divide. It can cause it for either person, with what everyday life can bring. Spouses can experience that numb feeling just as one with PTSD does. Which can then weigh in a physical divide. Sometimes you just have to go through the physical steps. NO, this does not mean only sex! This could be anything, taking a walk together, making one on one time, going on a “date”, watching a movie together, find a hobby to do together, just talking about how each of you feel… anything!

When you put motions into action, they can spark those feelings over time. Don’t expect a miracle overnight, and PTSD is still there so things may still go back and forth. But this can help the emotions surface again. Emotions are not just going to mysteriously come back, you have to do something to get there. It’s like when you first start dating someone, it’s someone new, it’s exciting, you are learning about each other, this is no different! You are just now learning about each other since PTSD has changed things. That’s okay!

You cannot lose your “ME” to PTSD! 

If you do not work at it, it can happen to either one of you! This is where you learn what makes yourself happy! You learn what you like, what makes you smile, what makes you laugh, etc.

Sure PTSD is NOT fun and it’s changed life, but you can still find and hold onto your “me”. Me time and taking care of yourself are extremely important! As I always say it, “You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of or help another.” You have to find and learn how to maintain your own personal balance.

You can discover a new hobby, start taking walks or exercise, visit or call an old friend, go have lunch, window shopping, get outside and just enjoy the things you see around you, it could be anything that you enjoy! And for goodness sake, everyone needs to learn coping skills and techniques! They are life savers! All of those things do help fill that cup without having to rely on someone else to fill it for you. 

When you find your personal balance, you do not NEED the other person to build you up or be the reason you have self-esteem. You have done it for yourself… and that other person  they just became a nice addition with anything they can offer or add! You want your partner to be an addition to who you are as a person, not be who makes you, you. When you find your personal balance, you may be shocked at how it effects your partner in positive ways too!

Everyone will slide from time to time. Everyone may re-experience the feelings of loss or grieving stage. That’s normal and it is part of being a human being, PTSD or not. What you do to prevent yourself from becoming stuck, what you do to build yourself back up, can make a huge difference… as well as refill that emotional cup. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook

Awkward Intimacy story…

A husband and wife were watching a movie in their bedroom. The wife was laying across the bed, under a blanket (not in bed). The husband looks across the room at her and asks, “Are you wearing a top?” The wife answers, “Yes.” The husband then says, “Are you sure?” Wife pulls down the blanket some and shows him, then says with a chuckle, “I’m wearing pants too, but can take them off if you want me to.” slight pause then proceeds to cover back up with her blanket and smile, leaving clothing on. They return to watching the movie. Wife then says, “You could join me over here if you want to.” Husband responds, “I already took my meds.” Wife chuckles and responds with a smile still on her face, “I know that, what do meds have to do with you joining me under a blanket?” And then there was silence.

Okay, it was funny in a way, but what does that example really show?

It shows curiosity which quickly changed by one comment to the “what if’s” and “what am I expected to do” followed by avoidance… PTSD and what it really does. When in reality there were no expectations at all. 😉

When bedtime came after the movie, the husband wrapped his arm around his wife and told her he loves her.

Even in what seems to be awkward situations, it can still all work out. PTSD at times just simply processes things differently.

“Motions lead to Emotions”… no expectations needed  😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

PTSD… The Give and The Take

PTSD… The Give and The Take 

This is a little different then what I normally write but I felt there needed to be a clearer, more blunt, picture for those that do not understand what PTSD and living beside PTSD is like.

**This is by NO means meant to be disrespectful or hurtful in ANY way to anyone living with or beside PTSD!!! Just to make that point clear up front. Craig and I both are in the shoes ourselves. This is just simply to bring a real life view of PTSD to OTHERS that do not understand. If you are one that is living with PTSD, and some of the following applies to you or your loved one, NEVER give up because things CAN get better then what may be at hand right now!!! Craig and I have worked hard, and continue to, and we are proving things can change for the positive.  ***

Life changes when PTSD becomes a part of it. I’ve written MANY things about it, I educate others using our own life experiences and what has helped us get through the tough times, how to still live life, how to still be your own individual, a better couple, and family, and everything else that comes with it.

But what about the Take and Give? (Reversed on purpose)

What changed? 
In reality, many things have changed since PTSD became a part of life. What PTSD has “hidden” or “masked”… I don’t actually like the term “taken” away. But also what it gave to us.

The things that many that don’t live this life have a hard time grasping.

Real life with PTSD…

Every morning when my husband wakes he looks for me. Very rarely does he find me laying next to him in our bed, like normal couples would be, like it use to be for us. My arm is not there around him or his around me. There’s no waking up together and looking into each other’s eyes first thing in the morning, there’s no good morning kisses, no cuddling before our day starts. He never wakes with that handsome grin of his on his face like I use to see every morning.

I watch him as he opens his eyes and looks across the bed at my empty pillow. I see the look on his face when I’m not there beside him. A look of sadness, a look of despair, and the guilt.

Then he looks across the room to my chair, where he knows I will always be when he wakes. I smile and say, “Good morning.” His first words are normally, “I guess I ran you out of bed again?” My response is normally along the lines of, “You don’t need to ask, it’s really okay.” Then it leads to him saying, “I wish you could sleep. I wish these nightmares would go away. I feel so tired. I assume since you are sitting over there I had a rough night?“.

I take a deep breath, not wanting to answer that question again, like I have to every single morning. But he needs to hear the answer, it can’t just be left alone, PTSD won’t allow it to just be left alone. It does not matter how I word things to avoid or get past that question, it’s still there. He has to know what the night held.

The truth… 
PTSD was there and it brought the horrors of his trauma in the form of nightmares and terrors throughout the night, active nightmares. I cannot touch him, I cannot comfort him. I have to ground him (bring him back) to time, place, and who I am from a distance.

PTSD took away our mornings and the relationship closeness that comes with waking up together and being able to stay a full night in bed together.

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I did not say that. That never happened. I did not do that! You’re lying!” Those are things I have heard in the past, a real life fact that still exists even though we have learned now how to manage these things. Those things brought arguments, unsettled feelings towards each other, and things that no couple ever wants to experience, should not have to experience.

Those things caused friends to walk away. They caused work to become impossible, and clients to disappear. They cause family to become quiet, because they honestly don’t know what to say or do. Luckily we have strong family support rather they understand or not, many do not have that.

Memory, cognitive dysfunction, and dissociative symptoms are a very real part of our lives. It’s not that he just forgot or does not want to talk about something, it’s not that he is avoiding conversations or situations, or purposely picking a fight. It’s not that he does not want people around. It’s not that he does not want to work, because he would give anything to have those things back.

PTSD took away large parts of his memory, concentration, and focus. Things of his life every day that should be memories, do not make it to long term memory. They just slip away. PTSD stole or hid memories we lived and enjoyed together years ago, as well as what he lived for himself, and it continues to do so still to this very day. But that trauma that caused PTSD, for him it never goes away.

To see someone look at photos, and have no memory of special events, happy times, real life events. Then ask did that really take place?… That’s what PTSD can cause for many.

All of this leads to avoidance. One does not want to look or sound stupid, they don’t want people to view them as a liar when in reality they are not lying, they are telling things exactly as they recall or think happened. They don’t want people saying “You already told me that.”

PTSD causes life to become lonely. In many cases it takes away from a person the ability to share stories with your children or grandchildren, to be able to share the good times as well as the bad experiences. It can also take away the ability for one to rely solely upon themselves. Things that people have always been able to do. PTSD steals or hides a part of one’s life.

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I just can’t do that today.” a very real to life phrase. For several years I watched my husband sit in his chair, not being able to bring himself to exit the house or many days not even our bedroom. The longer there were delays in treatment (not our doings), the worst he became. Depression also at hand which is very common with PTSD. He had no interest in living life to it’s fullest, like he use to. He felt like a failure who had let every important person in his life down, as well as our country. He has survivor’s guilt, linked back to his trauma due to those that did not make it home. The strong man I knew so well since I was 16 years old, was sitting in a chair with no view of a future left for himself.

Suicidal thoughts are very real with PTSD. With all of the symptoms at hand, one loses sight of why they should live, they just want the pain from the horrors they experienced to stop. They start viewing there is only one way to make the pain go away.

I will never forget sitting next to the bathtub that he was sitting in, him wanting his life to end. Myself placing photos in front of him and talking to him for hours, telling him and giving him every reason he HAD to LIVE.

I feared things that I never thought imaginable for our lives, but they became real life very quickly. I feared one day I would walk in, and he would be gone from this earth. I am VERY thankful we made it through those times, but I am never blind to what PTSD can bring.

PTSD brings fear of dying, as well as living.

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My social butterfly. I watch him try his hardest to be the social butterfly he use to be, but that part of him is so deeply hidden within the symptoms of PTSD that we have not yet uncovered it. He tries, he will put that mask of a smile on his face and try to make it out that front door. He tries to be normal, he tries to be the person he use to be. PTSD has a way of “masking” the true person one is. Avoidance and triggers become a huge part of life when PTSD steps in. They prevent one from doing the things they use to find so easy to do.

It’s taken years of hard work and treatment for my husband to make it out that front door just one time per week, but we are there! A HUGE positive step! Once we are back home all of those PTSD symptoms he worked hard to keep in check while out, just flow back in. I watch the energy it takes for him to manage them, the space he needs after each trip outside, I see the reality of how hard one has to work to simply try to live some type of normal life. I see things that outsiders don’t and won’t see. I see not only the struggles but I also see the effort, the strength and will power to still live, and every small step that comes from it. I see things that most people take for granted being able to do, but yet to one with PTSD and their family are now huge steps in life and accomplishments.

We no longer have date nights, the crowds are unbearable. If we go out it is during off times and during the week when less people are out. Sit down dining out is only once or twice a year, if that. There are no more going to parties or large gatherings, things people enjoy doing. We use to throw some awesome parties, something we enjoyed being the social butterflies we were. Those are things we had the joy of experiencing in this lifetime, but only the future will prove if we will ever get back.

We have been back together for 11 years now, and have not seen one movie in a theater. Closed dark rooms full of strangers is not settling to PTSD. Of course I won’t complain at all on that one, look at the money we are saving lol. But seriously, it’s something that others experience with no hesitation, that has been deleted from our lives.

PTSD masks and takes away normal from one’s life.

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I watch across the room as my husband’s legs shake, how his hands trimmer, how he chews his nails until there is nothing left to chew. Things he never did before. I watch the worried look fall over his face. I watch him sit quietly like the world is sitting upon his shoulders. I listen when he speaks, many times I have to ask him to repeat himself because I cannot make sense of what he is trying to tell me. The words get jumbled up or they are slurred to where I cannot make them out. I watch how he tries to do things so quickly that he drops things or things are not done the way he use to do things. Then other times it’s like he is frozen in time.

Anxiety and the “what if’s” PTSD brings. The brain never slows down until it hits overload, then everything stops and one has a difficult time functioning. The brain majority of the time stays on high alert to everything and everyone.

One worries about making right decisions, doing things right, not letting others down. Everything becomes overwhelming and many times causes one to shut themselves away or pull away physically and emotionally from others.

PTSD causes one to honestly feel they need to protect themselves, even from loved ones.

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I could honestly go on forever with real life examples. But I hope these few bring a small view of what PTSD is like. Many people wonder why one will not just snap out of it, get over it, move on with their life. Those are very easy things to say, but very very difficult to accomplish. PTSD does not just go away. It comes from experiencing a real life trauma that was so bad that it just does not fade from the memory, it relives itself constantly. It does change a person. Many people wonder why the suicide rate is so extremely high for PTSD, I hope this gives you a sample of, an idea to why.

Unfortunately, not every person will survive PTSD even though we work hard to change that, not every family will stay together, not every marriage will survive. PTSD is not easy, it’s just a hard fact.

But, I’m by no means going to leave out the other part to this life!

PTSD may bring so many serious life changes to ones with it or living beside it, but there is more to it.

I have been writing publicly about PTSD for just over 3 years now, since I reached out in hopes to finding answers to the changes in my husband and this new journey in our lives. Living this life for 11 years now, knowing it was PTSD at hand for 6 years.

I have found that ones with PTSD are SURVIVORS! Their spouses/partners are SURVIVORS! They are the “best of the best” and some of the strongest, most caring people I have ever met in my lifetime. They are the ones that do fight every day to make it to the next, they are the ones that do not take the simple things in life for granted, and they appreciate life in a different way then others. Life means something, family means something, friends mean something… those things are not just words that fall off one’s tongue. They may have trouble with showing how they care through PTSD symptoms, but if one digs deep, it really is there.

Even through the numbness, frustration, anger, resentment, fears, and symptoms PTSD brings, when one works through all of those symptoms each day, and finds what works for them as well as their family, they may not find the person they use to be but I am seeing with my own eyes something greater! People who DO have a purpose in this world and life. People who DO care about others! People who are helping each other in ways that are just unreal and positively supportive! People who are valuable and have the knowledge to help others.

No, PTSD is not easy to live with or beside and it is constant work. Life does change, things in life change, but it does not mean life stops! Some things may come back, others won’t. None of us would wish PTSD upon anyone. BUT… I see a lot of good things happening too!

People who have PTSD do NOT deserve to be shunned by stigma, tossed to the side like trash, ignored by those who use to be close to them. They are still human beings and they can bring a meaning to life that others just have not had the life experiences to bring. Sometimes, they just need to be reminded that they DO matter and a positive support system is urgent!

If you are one that does not understand PTSD or what a person or family actually goes through each day, I hope you stop and take the time to learn. I hope you learn how you can be a positive support person in their life. If you don’t, it’s really not their loss, it’s going to be your’s. Please stop the stigma and take the time to learn.

Life has changed for us, we have lost a lot due to PTSD, our relationship is different then what other think a relationship should be, but this life is not all about bad things, there’s good with it too, it’s just different then many consider normal. 

I see the guilt on my husband’s face every morning when he sees his nightmares caused me to lose sleep. As much as I hate him feeling guilt, it does actually show in a different way he cares. We may not be able to have date nights like others, but he watches movies with me at home and we have one on one time, we re-learned how to communicate and have formed a very strong relationship… even through all of the symptoms. He is a VERY good father even though he cannot manage things other fathers may do. He is highly respected and loved by our children, and they all call him dad and are proud of him. He works hard to manage his symptoms so they do not effect others… that’s a man who cares even though it’s a different way of showing it. I could sit here and list things for days. My point is, yes PTSD changes one, yes things are different now and not called normal by others, but sometimes you have to look through the symptoms and the not so normal, to see what is actually there.

There is still life with PTSD.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Where’s the We, He/She, and I?

Where’s the We, He/She, and I?
Do you feel like you have lost those?

I talk all of the time about relationships, things that we have personally found through this life with PTSD that help us manage it a little bit better. I talk about Craig and what he experiences. I talk about myself, as the spouse and caregiver and things I experience. I even talk about our children and their experiences. In all of this I try to bring forth that big picture so others may find some sort of shortcut that Craig, myself, we as a couple and family, just did not have.

Sometimes to bring that big picture, well… you just have to be a little more blunt about it. I’m not a doctor or in any medical field, and as I always state, I just provide the personal experiences and information but what you choose to do with it will solely be up to you. I am not one to push things on another person. I may stand my ground on my beliefs or personal opinions like anyone else does, but it still goes back to it’s really up to you what you choose to take in or try, and what you don’t.

There is a very serious topic I want to discuss. I have been writing about life with PTSD for just over three years now. There is one thing that I keep seeing over and over again, and honestly, it’s crippling relationships and families. And it may very well be crippling you as an individual. It’s in reality more then only PTSD!

Just to save myself some typing here, anyplace I say “him/he” referring to in general statements in this, it can be replaced with “her/she”, whichever fits in your relationship or family structure.

Some of the largest, most powerful observations…of sorts, I hear/see that come to me on a daily basis go something like this…

“I don’t know who I am anymore since his PTSD symptoms have become so bad.”

“I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells around him.”

“I am afraid if I say that he will get mad or upset at me.”

“I have to do that or it won’t get done. So I just go ahead and do it.”

“I don’t want the conflict so I just keep quiet.”

“I just give in to whatever makes him happy. It’s easier that way.”

“Our life revolves around him and his PTSD.”

“He drinks too much (or any sort of addiction) and won’t see what it’s doing.”

“He won’t listen to me and realize I am right.”

“If I say how I feel it will start a conflict or make him feel bad/guilty.”

“I have to put him first because of his PTSD and everything he goes through.”

“I have to make sure he’s not triggered.”

” I’m just not strong enough or good enough for him”

Then there are the other statements… That other side of the fence as I call it 

“She complains about everything, I can’t do anything right.”

“She tries to control my life! I’m sick of it!”

“She treats me like a child.”

“She’s so over-protective of me. I feel smothered.”

“I can’t do anything on my own, she’s always right there.”

“I just need my space.”

“She checks or looks at EVERYTHING I do.”

That’s a very short list by the way, but you get my point.

I am sure that at some point in time, everyone that lives with or beside PTSD has said some of these if not all of them. But, has it become a vicious cycle? Do you find yourself saying these same things (or things similar) over and over again? BE HONEST with yourself! Even if you don’t say it, or don’t tell anyone else, be honest with yourself when you answer that question.

If you answered yes, there is a very good chance you honestly do not realize why. Unfortunately, PTSD and Codependent (or traits of) seem to go hand in hand. They have that natural attraction to each other, so to speak. And please don’t stop reading here!!! There is help available through therapists and support groups that can help break this cycle! Most of all, what YOU do for yourself can help! It could save your relationship, your family, your children’s future, and it can save YOU!

NOT everyone is a codependent, just to clarify that. There are views that one will step into and out of the traits of codependency as life circumstances change. Which is also very common. But you do need to do something if you find yourself experiencing such behaviors.

When one says or hears the term codependent, many times they instantly think of an alcoholic situation. An alcoholic is the dependent, the spouse or family become codependents. Codependency goes much deeper then that, it can and very often does occur when a mental illness or disorder is at hand.

The term is very misleading to many. Many people will instantly say “That’s not me”… the reason I asked you to be honest with yourself and keep reading.

Is someone else’s problem your problem? If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent.” (Excerpt: Codependent No More, Author Melody Beattie)

“So what is Codependency and who really has it? There are many definitions, but basically, Codependents are people who let the feelings and actions of another person affect them to the point that they feel like they have lost control of their own lives.”

“Common characteristics of Codependents include:

* Excessive Care-taking:

Codependents feel responsible for others’ actions, feelings, choices and emotional well-being. They try to anticipate loved one’s needs and often wonder why others do not do the same for them.

*Low self-esteem:

Codependents are people who need to be needed. They will only feel important and valuable when they are helping others, and blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.

*Denial:

Codependents typically ignore, minimize or rationalize problems in the relationship, believing that “things will get better when….” They stay busy to avoid thinking about their feelings.

*Fear of anger:

Codependents are afraid of both their own and their loved one’s anger, because they fear it will destroy the relationship.

*Health problems:

The stress of Codependency can lead to headaches, ulcers, asthma and high blood pressure.

*Addictive behavior:

Codependents may themselves develop addictions in an attempt to deal with their pain and frustration”

(Quoted Excerpts from: The Latest Definition of Codependency, interventiontreatmentrecovery.org)

On the flip side, what about the dependent?

A dependent relies on someone else. Now, mind you, there are honest reasons and medical situations where this is just going to be a part of life due to a medical condition.

But, at times, in some cases, even without knowledge one is doing so, dependents or one with dependent traits may cause one to feel guilty about succeeding or taking care of themselves, rely on one when they could do something for themselves, be manipulative, etc. Many that have an addiction and/or a mental illness/disorder can become a dependent at some level, however it takes strong symptoms for this to become an actual diagnoses. It can be more of traits then diagnoses.

Okay, now that we got some of the details out of the way of what codependency is, let’s take this to a more personal level. Only fair when I’m asking you to take a real look at yourself and your situation.

Let me tell you a story…

Awhile back now, I mentioned that one of Craig’s new doctors asked me if I “controlled him”, said to me the term “codependent”. I was very quick to respond “NO! You do not know me or understand me at all.” And I continued to explain to this doctor who I am, what I believe, and how I/we do things. To gave the doctor an understanding/examples that she was placing me in a category I did not belong in.

It REALLY bothered me, I mean REALLY bothered me that someone would say those things to me upon first meeting me. I did not understand it or why it made me so angry. But you know me, when I don’t know the answer to something I look for it, and sure enough I found it!

I was upset with that doctor because in reality I had once been controlled by a codependent, after that I also fell into the vicious cycle and had somewhat become one myself for a short period of time. I had already taken personal steps and broke the cycle, but yet I was being accused of being exactly what I despised, had already worked hard to change, and stepped past.

I was once trapped in a vicious circle of codependency. I was in a relationship for 9-1/2 years, with a person who had spent their life in the dependent/codependent cycle. Before that relationship I was one that knew exactly what I wanted in life, I stood on my own two feet, I took very good care of myself, I had everything going for me. Mine did not relate to childhood like many cases do. Long story short, the next thing I knew, that relationship turned into not a relationship but a controlled everything. I allowed someone else to control me. I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted in life, I did as I was told, and my world was turned upside down with anger, guilt, resentment, and the most unsettling feelings one could imagine. We clashed in serious ways when I started finding myself again! The outcome of that? I eventually found my footing and started taking ME back, and I ran for the hills away from that person!

The story does not end there though. Codependency, or traits of, can be a vicious circle, it is a behavior that can pass from one person to another, and that is exactly what it did without me being aware of it at the time. When Craig hit rock bottom and was acting WAY out of his character, I feared I was losing him. I feared I was heading right back into the type of relationship I fled from. I feared everything! He was what made me feel good about myself, he was what kept me going, he was where my self-esteem came from, he was what made me happy. I was not relying on myself. I had not broken the cycle of my past completely like I thought I had, and when PTSD stepped in it was a slap across my face of reality. Craig was no longer placing me on that pedestal, he was battling PTSD, and I was lost. I in return tried to grab hold and hang on for dear life to him… in many of the wrong ways. The same exact behavior I myself had run from. When PTSD caused him to hit rock bottom, codependency traits caused me to hit rock bottom too.

So not only were we battling this new thing called PTSD and what it was doing to us, we were battling ME! The more I tried to hang on, the further away he was pulling. Craig and I both had always had a well balanced relationship in the past (we dated for 4 years as teens/early adulthood), and when that rock bottom hit, well everything changed and both of our pasts stepped in full force.

Then that day came, still during the rock bottom of PTSD time that I just could not do it anymore, trust me it did not take long! I could not stand the person who had taken over my life… myself in reality, and who I saw in the mirror. My anxiety was through the roof to the point I was passing out. I was constantly watching him and everything he did. Trying to save him from himself. Trying to hold us together. And the list goes on. PTSD was not the only thing running and changing our lives, I was… and that had to stop quickly!

You know what I did next? I let go! I did not leave, I did not stop supporting him in positive ways, but I did face myself and what I was turning into. I started working on saving myself. I still took care of what Craig NEEDED, not what he wanted me to do but things that he honestly could not do for himself. I started taking care of myself, I started wearing makeup and doing my hair again, I started taking time to myself, I started doing things I ENJOYED doing, I started buying myself flowers,  I set boundaries not only for myself but also for our relationship, I started telling him how I felt and sharing my needs with him, I started taking ME back and caring about me! And I let go of the vicious cycle of codependency/traits. It did not happen overnight, but I did it.

I found a healthy balance within myself, which lead to a healthy balance in our relationship and our family. I own that, I did that, and that’s why that doctor upset me and honestly hurt me so greatly when I was called codependent. That is what I experienced in my past, it is who I became in my past, but it does not define who I am now.

It is very easy when PTSD is a part of your life to fall into the cycle of dependent and codependent. As a codependent you feel like what you are doing is to save someone. There are healthy levels to being a caregiver and/or a spouse, you HAVE to find and define those! Thinking you can save someone or “fix” someone is not one of them. You can help prevent someone from committing suicide, but you can not save someone from themselves or “fix” them. The only person you can control, a very strong word that is very real, is yourself.

PTSD is not just going away. It’s a part of life now. But it does not define who we are. Each person is responsible for defining themselves. We do not “own” each other, we should not try to control each other, we are each individuals with our own feelings, and responsible for ourselves, our own feelings, our own actions, as well as our own consequences rather good or bad. Rather you find yourself as having dependency traits or codependency traits, those are behaviors. Behaviors can change! You just have to face them and work on them. 

I talk all of the time about finding a balance, taking care of yourself so you can be able to help someone else, finding something you enjoy doing, taking “ME time”… get where that term came from now? 😉  YOU are responsible for your own self-esteem, your own happiness, who you are. When you find and build those qualities within yourself, you will discover that a balance enters your life. No one should be defined by another person. This is a two way street, it’s give and take, relationships are about two people who chose to live their lives together, not about controlling each other or defining who another person is.

Do not become an enabler. If you find that you already are, change it! You can be supportive, you can be a caregiver/carer, you can be a best friend and a spouse, but over-caring so to speak could cause a huge imbalance not only in your relationship, but in yourself and your family as well.

Life is trial and error, learn from all of it, build positive things from it. Make sure you are taking care of yourself so you can, in a healthy way, be there for and take care of others.

So, now that I’ve wrote a book and could still type more lol 😉  Bottom lines are what I mention to you every single day, for very good reasons. Educate yourself, learn good communication skills, set goals and boundaries, make sure you are taking care of yourself, seek professional help, and work together in positive ways. These are the things that have helped Craig and I together, as well as each of us as individuals, make the progress and positive steps we have.

“In a good relationship you do not define each other, you compliment each other.”

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook Page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

References:
1. Codependency/Being Codenpendent No More, Diane England, Ph.D.
2. GoodTherapy.org
3. WebMD.com: Are you in a Codependent Relationship? Eric Metcalf, MPH
4. Basics of Codependency, echo.me.uk

Long Distance Relationships and PTSD

Long Distance Relationships and PTSD

Okay, my mailbox is lighting up with messages asking questions about long distance relationships! And I’m going to need some input on this one. 

Questions coming to me are:

“How do I handle my PTSD partner being long distance? I don’t know when or when not to contact him/her and I worry so much about how they are doing.”

“My partner and I are in a long distance relationship and everything will be going fine, then 2-3 weeks of me not hearing anything or being able to get in touch with him/her. What do I do?”

“Our long distance relationship was doing great, but now out of nowhere my partner said he/she no longer loves me. Is this PTSD or are they serious? I don’t know how to handle this. Will this pass? I want to wait, but not sure if I should wait or move on.”

“Our marriage has been okay even with PTSD, but my husband/wife was transferred with work and now our marriage is falling apart. I don’t know what to do to fix this.”

Okay, those are a few things that have come to me, edited to include either male or female in order to help others. I am seeing there are huge relationship issues coming with long distance relationships when PTSD is a part of it. I would have to say the first question is, “Are these things normal as far as the personality of this person?” Some people may not be able to answer that question, especially if it’s a newer relationship. If it’s not related to personality, then PTSD MIGHT have it’s hand in these problems that are starting.

Mine and Craig’s relationship actually started with a long distance relationship, when I was 16 years old. We met, went on one date, then he left the next morning for 3 months to Australia. Probably why I did not have issues when he was gone with the ship during his military time. So we actually grew our relationship and got to know each other through phone calls and letters during his time away, BUT that was before #PTSD!

Once PTSD was a part of it, yes I’ll admit it made things a little more challenging, especially since at that time we did not know it was PTSD at hand.

Anyway, many long distance relationships, based on what has come to me, seem to adapt the “Out of sight, out of mind” saying. Which obviously is not a good thing.

Communicate! Talk and come up with an agreement that you BOTH can follow. There are times that one with PTSD does not want to talk to anyone, and it’s nothing personal. They are battling their symptoms, trying to adjust to changes, actually missing their partner which can cause PTSD symptoms to present numb, distant reactions or even emotionless responses. Other times they pull away, in a way to protect one or protect themselves from feeling as if they are a burden. This is when that “you deserve better then me” comes into play. There could be many reasons connected to it.

The other thing I hear a lot about is, “Now that we are physically apart from each other, he/she has had a relationship with someone else. But, says they still love me and wants to be with me.” The other side of this is a new relationship started and they no longer want their original relationship, no matter how long of a relationship they have had or close the two were when physically not distant.

NOT saying cheating of any sort is acceptable, but this does seem to come into play quite often. It seems to come from PTSD causing one to feel alone mentally, physically alone, and at times one is trying to find some sort of “normal” (IF cheating is not a part of their personality to begin with) and a not so good way of coping mind you. Another thing I have seen linked to this is when the non-PTSD partner “nags” or complains a lot, or does not except one’s PTSD and/or what life with PTSD is really like. I do hear a lot about nagging being the relationship breaker. It pushes the one with PTSD away. They of sorts, go into survival mode and some do not realize they are even doing that.

Another thing I have heard linked to long distant relationship issues are the constant phone calls, text messages, or emails… From what has come to me from both sides of the fence, these can push one with PTSD away, even though in reality, in many cases this happens because the non-PTSD partner is worried about them! You have to find a balance that is good for BOTH of you if this is happening! Many times the one with PTSD will just stop replying or answering if the number of messages are overwhelming them. This is not a good situation for them OR the worried partner. Many times this causes one to feel they are being treated like a child or being harassed and it gives off a false since of what the non-PTSD partner is actually doing and why. TALK! Come up with a plan that will help BOTH of you.

There is something that my parents actually agreed to, and it is something that Craig and I agreed to when we got back together. If there is EVER a time that either of us decide this relationship is not for us, and I mean really decide and know it’s just not going to work no matter what (not based on a PTSD knee jerk reaction or out of anger words), then we tell each other. Be honest. If a relationship has no chances of making it, be honest about it. And you part your ways without harshness towards one another. I think this agreement has honestly helped and even made our relationship grow and become stronger. No matter what PTSD brings, unless this agreement is brought up then there is nothing to take personally and we always know where each other stands in our hearts.

Whatever the cause for the issues, in my honest opinion you have to find the “why” to it, so you can work on finding a solution.

This is just a small amount of my input based on what I have had come to me. All input is welcomed on this topic!

** I will say though, let’s keep this peaceful and productive! NO “beating up” those that have caused hurt to you. We are trying to find positive things that can HELP long distance relationships have better chances of growing in good ways.**

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

From others:

“My best advice is to avoid that situation and if your in that situation make it a goal to move closer.Long distance relationship’s are going to be non traditional. There is going to be a new set of rules( for lack of a better term) ” -Beth

“Having had a long distance relationship with me being the PTSD partner in the deal….all I can say, is the person you are seeing must determine their boundaries in the relationship and then abide by them. I think the partner needs to decide what constitutes, “All they can handle, and it’s time to call it quits”. Sometimes that is not a chosen option, and the partner chooses to stay till the end….however that may unfold. Patience and tolerance of the disease is essential….informing yourself of the nature of the disease is most helpful, and lowering your expectations of the relationship is essential. Just remember, this relationship is probably not going to unfold in a manner you are accustomed to in your past. Long distance means you have the obstacles of time and distance also factoring in the equation. PTSD relationships are difficult, whether long distance or inhome….but they ARE doable! All I can say, is know your limitations. Not all persons can or will handle a relationship of this kind….you just need to know where you stand with the challenges PTSD behavior manifests, and whether you can deal with the behavior from a long distance perspective! My wife knows I can be challenging, and she has been able to put up with me for 17 years….that’s pretty magical!” -Steven

The long distance thing is very difficult. My husband is stationed in KY and I’m in Texas. When we see each other everything is great. But when he goes back to KY he seems to retreat. He says he doesn’t feel married. He gets very depressed and lonely, and starts drinking and taking everything out on me. He calls me very ugly names and says he wants a divorce. Then the next morning when he’s sober he says I’m his whole world and he doesn’t mean any of that. I on the other hand, feel very married. I’m counting on the days for him to get out (this October) so we can finally live together. It scares me though some times that when he says those things …. maybe deep down he means them. Maybe he has decided he doesn’t want to be married and he just doesn’t want to tell the truth about it for fear of hurting me. Fills my days with anxiety and sadness.” -Tania

Let me add this—If the relationship you are in began before the occurrence of PTSD, and now you are looking at a long distance problem, your afflicted partner may feel He/She is not the person they were when you got together. They feel they have let you down. If they have met someone else, who understands their problems as they are now, it becomes easier to let go of the past relationship….kind of “I’m not living up to what I promised, and life will be happier for you without me.” They still love you, and desperately wish that they could still be that person you first met…it’s just not possible. Hope that helps, Bec.” -Larry

 

 

 

Answers to a few questions I was asked…

I have had a few questions brought to me…

I feel like I’m drowning over here. Did you ever feel like leaving everything and looking for peace?” -Anonymous

You and Craig have such a connection and able to handle his PTSD, has there ever been a time it was not that way? My relationship is struggling and I’m not sure what to do or if this will ever change.” -Anonymous

Before I start with a response, I want to state that none of this is in any way disrespectful towards Craig, and today we are okay, it’s just simply a part of real life that we experienced in the past that I think will help answer several questions that have come to me, as well as help you understand why I “get it”.

My short answer, yes! But there is no way to answer this with a short response. I think it’s important with these questions to tell a bit of mine and Craig’s story, and the seriousness of it.

It was many years ago now it seems, almost 8 years ago to be exact and before we were able to get treatment for Craig, before we knew it was even PTSD at hand. I was drowning. What Craig was experiencing and the way it was coming out, then add into that everything I was juggling in life and trying to keep us going, well, it just about did me in. I had no clue how to cope or what coping even was when it came to what we were experiencing.

I was having panic attacks several times per day, my anxiety was extreme, the heart palpitations caused me severe pain, and the emotional side of things was just unbearable. All of these things lead me to passing out at times. Basically, my body could not take the extreme emotional trauma I was experiencing and it would shut down. Which did lead to me to being injured one time, I passed out and with the way I fell my head went into a sheet rock wall. Literally. I sustained a diagnosed concussion and had amnesia for several weeks. It was not until about 6 months later I recalled what had happened that day, what lead to me to such high anxiety that I passed out. During that time I do recall screaming out loud “I just want to die!” and I was lucky that my inner strength was stronger then that thought and those words. I knew with situations at hand at that time, I could NOT die, and that was what saved me. I did not have a choice, I was needed.

Then I thought, “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take one more day of this, maybe I should leave.” I thought I would be better off alone then in the situation I was in. I stood that day in front of the mirror and just looked at myself. I did not recognize that person in the mirror, it was not me. I stared at the healing gash on my forehead, I looked at every detail of my face, I thought “Where did my smile go? I never laugh anymore, all I do is cry or get angry”, I looked at my hair, the way I was dressed… This person of an outer shell appearance was not me, and the thoughts inside severely were not me!

I knew that day as I stared into the mirror that I had a serious choice to make. I am either all in or I am all out of this relationship. I had been like the monkey in the middle, and that was a dangerous place to be. I loved Craig more then words could ever be spoken, but at the same time I had to learn to love and take care of myself again. I had truly lost me in the roller coaster ride.

I thought about the 10 years that Craig and I were just friends, something always felt like a part of me was missing. I thought about where we stood right there that day. Then I thought, weighed the pro’s and con’s, and no matter how much I convinced myself I needed to walk away I could not bring myself to do it, I loved him too much, I knew the true him, he and I had a connection that many people only dream about, and I could not let go of that even with feeling like I was married to a stranger.

So, if that was also not an option, what now? I can’t die and take the easy way out, not me at all and no way I would ever do that even though that thought was real. I can’t walk away. So I had to be the one to make a change and there is no more playing the monkey in the middle of what to do. That day I made the choice… I was all in.

I had to start with me! I built a “concrete wall” between all of the negative thoughts I had been having and started building positive ones. That concrete wall included Craig’s symptoms and actions/words being on the opposite side of where I was standing until I found some type of balance within myself so I could then figure out how to help him. That “wall” was something that by this point Craig had shown me well how to build, with his illnesses he had one of his own, an emotional barrier. I hated that barrier but I needed it while I figured out how to save myself, then save us.

I went and got my hair done, I put on makeup, I put on clothing that fit and was not baggy, and I started relearning how to pick myself back up. I took time by myself outside every day, took time with my dogs and children, talked with my neighbors. I started building my self-esteem back and watched it form by looking into that same mirror and recognizing what I was feeling inside myself. I basically forced myself to believe I was stronger then whatever this was we were going through.

I was still taking care of Craig, but I was rebuilding myself. Craig was not receiving treatment yet, there was no help, and I had to start somewhere and hope he followed suit. I took my focus off of the negative we were experiencing the best I could, and placed my focus on “We are going to get through this and I will find the answers.” By changing my mindset from should I stay or go, and placing it onto “I’m here, we are here, I CAN do this, now how do I make things better”, it just made things easier and gave me the ability to seek answers and the why. I found direction and let go of being that monkey in the middle.

At that point, nothing with Craig had changed, actually his symptoms were becoming worse. But I had changed. With taking care of myself and knowing the direction I was working towards, I was able to learn how to handle things and situations differently. I learned to listen instead of fighting back. I was able to step outside of the box so to speak and look at the big picture before making any decisions or placing judgement.

The more I learned and the more things I watched/paid attention to and tried to find the why to, the more I figured out what helped not only myself but us, and Craig. My anxiety decreased, it’s never gone away completely, but I learned to manage it. I learned coping skills of my own and I was taking care of myself again.

Craig’s rock bottom was bad, and I mean really bad! He would bounce from anger and arguing to total numbness, he would be close one second then completely distant the next, he would be laughing and on this dangerous “tempt life” high, everything was fast and by the seat of his pants so to speak, then next thing I knew he would hit rock bottom of wanting to die and he would cry. There were so many nightmares and flashbacks, dissociation was a huge part of things also which made it really tough. He had anxiety, which I had never seen him experience before. Then there was depression. PTSD has the nick name “roller coaster” for very good reasons. That is exactly what it seems like when the symptoms are not managed.

It was several years of this before we could get Craig treatment and found out it was PTSD causing all of this. Once I had a term put to it, it was easier to learn more and find an understanding. Those things lead to me learning how to help him cope and manage his symptoms. As well as how to better help myself and our family.

All of the symptoms are still here today, nope, they have not gone away. BUT, we have learned to manage them and understand what to do when they come out. Treatment is ongoing, and I am sure always will be, but that’s okay, it helps provide a balance. Our life is completely different then it use to be before PTSD, but it’s a new normal to us and we work together every day to make it the best it can be.

I believe rock bottom for both of us was so difficult because I did not understand what he was experiencing or the difference in him, and he has such serious memory issues and at that time did not understand himself or what and why he was experiencing the symptoms, basically we were both lost and it caused a serious break in communication as well as life itself. When there’s not good communication, things are going to fall apart or at least make it difficult to move forward. What you do and how you relearn to do things is a huge part of what can hold things together.

I had to be the one to make changes, to learn how to view things or approach things differently then what others see as normal. I had to be the one to pick myself up first and say “Hey, this is not me or us and I’m going to find what will get us back”, Craig sure could not do it while experiencing out of control symptoms. It took myself hitting a rock bottom to recognize and learn how to manage and live this life with PTSD… and learn how to pick us back up.

We still have rough patches from time to time, how could we not? PTSD is a real part of our lives. But things have changed. We have learned how to handle things, what to do when symptoms come, how to communicate… and that includes if he is not understanding me, me rewording things until he does. We both use coping skills… and if he is not in a state of using them I will do them with him or guide him through doing them and remind him. Me time, aka “OZ”, is a must do in order to keep my own balance and to keep myself from seeing that darkness ever again. We take time to talk and really listen to each other and are very open to each other with what we feel and/or think, without judgement. We take one on one time, just the two of us, which helps our relationship. We have taught our children on their age levels about PTSD, symptoms, and how to handle things as well as how to use coping skills themselves, which I have shared many stories on here, so you know that has done wonders for a balance in children and as a family. And the list goes on, endlessly.

So, to the questions asked…

Yes, I know what it is like to feel as if I am drowning. Yes, there was a time that I wanted to run for the hills, and walk away to find peace. Yes, there was a time that Craig and I had little if any connection left. But most of all… YES things can change and become better!

I chose “ALL IN”! It was the step that changed things and the beginning of our path that lead to things becoming better then our rock bottom. I accepted that PTSD was a real part of our lives and instead of Craig and I fighting each other, we learned the tools to fight PTSD, together.

PTSD has not changed for him, we learned how to change us. We became stronger.

If you are at that rock bottom place, reach for help! I cannot say that enough. Don’t allow PTSD to own you, you are stronger then it is no matter what or how severe the symptoms are. Things can get better then what they may be right now. Life will not be the way it use to be before PTSD, but that does not mean there is not life. Not everyone will have the ability to step outside that box or recognize what I did within myself or know what to do to make things better, that’s NORMAL when things are so tough or out of balance, get help! Don’t EVER give up on yourself, you are worth more then that and can find a balance again. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Life with PTSD and Shame/Being Vulnerable

Life with PTSD and Shame/Being Vulnerable 
***This is NOT one to skip just because of the title*** 😉

There is a topic that many people, rather you have PTSD or you are the one living beside PTSD, is missing. I have people write to me everyday and ask, “How do you and Craig do it? How do you make it through this life with PTSD and other medical conditions the way you do? And have the relationship you do?”

Craig and I, since his medical conditions started, have had a very challenging life. It’s still not easy and both of us will tell you that. Those are very serious and heart felt questions asked. There is a lot that comes with learning about PTSD, life with it, coping skills, professional help, managing daily life and as a family. Then there is the relationship, and learning a new normal.

What’s our secret?

When rubber meets the road, I think it comes down to we both learned to be vulnerable. Which is a very difficult task, but you can do it. We learned that neither one of us are perfect, and with that we cannot expect the other to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes at times, everyone has something in their life they are not proud of, everyone has things that bother them that cause shame or guilt. And everyone experiences not wanting to be vulnerable. All of these things are normal and knowing what they are and how they work in life, helps make life with PTSD better. We learned to communicate on the deepest levels that we know, by being vulnerable. Craig IS my best friend. He’s not just a husband on paper, he’s not just a father, he’s not just a man, he’s not just a person with disabilities. He’s my best friend that I can honestly share anything with and know that I am safe in doing so. This is something that Craig and I have always been able to do, but PTSD did change that for a short time. It took time for him to re-learn this through PTSD effecting him and changing his life, that he could do the same with me again, but he did.

I want to share one more video with you today that i came across. To me, this video pretty much sums it up from both sides of the fence without me typing another book on this topic. 😉 It is WELL worth the time to sit and watch, and really hear the entire video by Brené Brown, Ph.D.. It will bring you a different view on how Craig and I manage things the way we do, it helps us understand each other… it can help you understand yourself as well as others, and I believe it is a huge key to helping life with PTSD. I know PTSD is not easy, I know facing the things that are in this video are not easy… some of you may really need a tissue for this one because even though it carries humor, it IS going to hit home base heart strings for many of you. But at the same time it may bring some much needed understanding. It does not matter if you are the one with PTSD or you are living beside one with PTSD, this really is a must watch. So, with that said, I’ll turn this one over to the following video. 

Brené Brown: Listening to shame: TED Talk: Inspiring: Informative: Ideas

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

“I am human too”

I want to talk about something that is very real, extremely important, and a topic that gets brought to me literally every day. It’s one that sooner or later, every single one of us will experience, and most likely already have.

I do want to start by saying, I am not a doctor or in any medical field, I am just a spouse of one with PTSD… that has been there. This is in NO way meaning to be disrespectful towards either the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner, and there is no finger pointing or blame being placed on either party. It’s simply the facts of life with PTSD… facts on the table, and I hope everyone will take the time to read this entirely and understand this is coming from the heart, with great understanding as well as meaning, and is a topic that there just simply needs to be more understanding to, from both sides of the fence.

“I am human too.”

There are going to be times in this life with PTSD when things become unbalanced. Everyone will experience it sooner or later. Even the most educated, patient, understanding people on this earth can and will experience this from time to time. There are going to be times when treatment might need adjusting or there is actually more going on then you know about at the moment. There are going to be times when coping skills might just simply not be enough or used enough. There are going to be times when your plate is so full, your mind overwhelmed, that the slightest thing or a combination of serious things will cause your world to lose balance, even if just for a short time. There are going to be times that the strongest, most level headed people are going to stumble. My “family”, it’s a part of real life with PTSD, as well as other mental and/or physical disabilities.

When one person becomes unbalanced, it will roll over to the other person. Either person can wear either set of shoes on that one. When there is an unbalance, it has to be corrected. To correct it there has to be communication, and both people have to work together.

It is very common for the one with PTSD to, at times, keep things bottled up within themselves. In reality, how could they not? They know what PTSD feels like, they see what it can do to those around them, and many times they just don’t want it to effect others so they wrap their arms around their full plate and do not share what is on it, so to speak. The spouse can do the same thing.

But, there becomes a huge problem with this. As much as you think you are protecting your loved one, there is no way to hide that you are holding a heavy, full plate. And that full plate turns into increased symptoms, as well as at times viewing things differently then what they may really, in fact, be like. It can cause finger pointing, arguments, hurt feelings, lashing out at others, feelings of no one really cares or understands, and it will cause one to feel alone and at times you may feel like the world is against you. It’s a part of PTSD and very real life.

When a person experiences any of these things there are several things that can also happen.

First, it is going to cause a break in communication. If one is not sharing what they are thinking or experiencing, the other person is only going to see the symptoms, reactions, changes in how one acts… but they are not going to know or understand how to help, what to say, or what the true issue is if they have not been told… then eventually, things are going to be taken personally. Taking things personally can be very damaging to any sort of relationship. And sometimes just a simple, “I need you to just listen” can be all that is needed.

Secondly, whatever is going on causing the unbalance is going to cause, like I said, the other person to become unbalanced or at least off centered sooner or later. When nothing seems to be helping and that person is grasping at straws of what to do, what needs to happen, or just not understanding why there are changes or increased symptoms… that person is going to start acting differently as well. Many times this person is the spouse/partner.

When a spouse/partner becomes off balance, starts acting almost cold, snappy in tone, sarcastic, angry or even as if they are mad at the world… or you, whatever the reaction may be, it is not that these actions are what or how they mean to act, it’s also not always right, it’s that these actions or even words are a human response to a unbalanced situation. It’s not that they are purposely acting this or that way, it’s their defense to the situation. It’s really no different then one with PTSD reacts. Again, not that it is right, it’s just what happens at times.

Then we have that vicious circle. It causes PTSD symptoms or the way one with PTSD responds or acts, to become worse. It drives an extra wedge in-between two people.

The difficult fact is, many times the one with PTSD does not realize how they are responding to their full plate, which rolls over to them not understanding why their spouse/partner is acting/responding the way they are.

With this, there is a great issue that arises. When the one with PTSD is experiencing a rough time, that full plate, they need and many times expect a spouse/partner to be balanced, “perfect” is a commonly used word. When that balance is not there, it many times is taken as “You are always mad at me.”, or “I can’t do anything right.”, “You are never happy with me.”, etc etc etc., the one with PTSD is taking the spouse’s actions personally.

As a spouse/partner, it is just a hard cold fact that we are the ones relied on to keep a balance. We are the support person, we are the one who keeps things managed, many cases the caregiver, we are the ones who are there when no one else may be, we are the ones that are suppose to keep a level head and take everything PTSD brings into our lives and our partner’s life into consideration without holding grudges or resentment, and everything else that comes with it. And honestly, we would not be with our PTSD partner if we did not accept them and want to be with them, period.

But, we are human too. 

Spouses have feelings, emotions, they at times NEED to cry, at times they will become snappy or sarcastic, at times they have that urge to yell or lash back, they can get frustrated, at times they will take things out on people or things that are totally innocent in this, and at times they will not use the right or enough coping skills. Really, they are no different then the one with PTSD, only difference is they are in the other pair of shoes. Spouses are human beings, and there is not a human on this planet that is perfect or that will handle everything the right way all of the time. Even the most strongest, level-headed, rational spouse, can and will stumble at times. They are only human.

When this happens, it’s really no different then everything we learn about regarding how to handle PTSD and how to respond or help the one with it, it’s just the spouse’s turn to need the support and that listening ear. Many times, if the one with PTSD will stop and focus on what a spouse is going through or how they are acting, and don’t take it personal, no different then what we teach the spouses, and really think the words “they are simply human too and this is their human reaction to the situation“, it can help the situation very quickly.

At times it does need to be taken into consideration that the one with PTSD does have a full plate, especially when their symptoms are at high levels, and they may not be able to stop and focus on someone else. These are the times that in some cases a simple, calm talk may be what is needed. A spouse saying and reminding/explaining, “I am human too. I have emotions and feelings just like you or anyone else. I am human and will experience things as well. And I would like to talk to you about how I am feeling, what is weighing on me and causing this, so I can get my balance back and we can work on things together to get our balance back.

This is real life and there are not any super heroes that can handle everything. The roles will reverse from time to time, this is when it is so important for good communication skills to be in place and used, it’s when you help each other through whatever the feelings are or situation at hand, and understand that sometimes when either person is keeping things bottled up… it can become damaging instead of protecting, as well as come out as personal to other people. It’s when you talk CALMLY and truly hear what BOTH of you are saying as well as feeling. Then you take the steps needed to get your balance back instead of taking everything personally. Many times when this cycle of unbalance starts, it’s just two people who’s emotions and situations are playing off of each other, talk and figure out the “why” so you both can move forward and find that balance again.

The fact is with the above example, you can flip that whole thing to either person. Either person can experience either pair of shoes, you BOTH are human and things are going to happen, emotions and feelings are going to be experienced… it’s part of being human. But the only thing that will stop this vicious circle is to recognize when it is happening, then do something.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD