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

spouse partner PTSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

You asked for photos… so here they are! ;)

 

Morning. 🙂

Well yesterday was for sure a busy day, lol. The teens had fun, I got to see my side of the family for my dad’s birthday for a few hours, and I did manage to get my hair colored before the busy day started. And… for those of you that wanted to see my hair (no, I have not had it cut yet) and those that mentioned that you would like to see or I needed to post an updated photo of me lol, since I’m always the one taking photos around here and avoid the camera haha 😉 these are for you… the face behind the keyboard and writing. 😉 Photos taken yesterday.

Now, let’s get this new day going… with coffee in hand of course. 😉

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment

The short story behind the “I thought you were single” comment that I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, and was asked to write about.

You know, when life contains PTSD and Depression, one just does not get out of the house as much, at least it’s that way for many, and for Craig.

I was taking Alex out and one of the neighbors was outside at the same time. So we started talking. In the conversation I was asked, “How do you manage to do everything by yourself?” It seemed like a harmless question to me. I responded with, “Well, I just do what I have to do, to the best ability I can.” Then I was told, “You have that property, your house is not the smallest by any means, you have the dogs, and a mom on top of it. I don’t know how you manage everything with your husband no longer around.”

Yes, the woman who is rarely speechless was at a loss for words.

I stood there for a moment to digest what was just said. Then I asked, “What do you mean?” I was curious at this point to hear a response, lol.

Then the neighbor was non-stop, “Well, I’m not sure the situation and did not want to bring it up, or did not know how to ask you. But did you two divorce, I never thought that was it honestly, did your husband pass away? I used to see him outside from time to time and have not seen him in, well, almost a year I guess. Has it been a year? Maybe longer than that? I felt like I needed to come talk to you, but was not sure how to bring it up without making you feel bad or maybe stirring up bad or sad feelings. But you are a great neighbor and you are so alone over here trying to do everything by yourself. I know your son is around, but he works a lot. You are raising that beautiful daughter of your’s all by yourself now. That’s got to be hard. Oh, and she’s just an absolute sweetheart of a child, very polite and well mannered, I see her outside with the dogs quite often. How are your kids taking this? How are you doing? Are you okay? When you all moved in, what 4 or so years ago, your husband was outside more, you two seemed so happy together, then over time I saw less and less of him. He must have been away a lot. This has got to be so hard on you, I figured he passed away, I was told he had some type of health issues. You must really miss him, it’s sad, heartbreaking, but you do a good job keeping everything up and your kids are just great kids. I want you to know that I notice, and you are doing a great job. I could not imagine being your young age and having to handle everything on my own. You are a very strong person, but you must miss him greatly. You are always smiling, how do you do it? I would be a wreck…”

I just let the neighbor talk lol, without interrupting. To say the least it went on for awhile, I just stood there smiling and listening… and I had plenty of time while the neighbor was talking to think about how to answer all of the questions and comments made. 😉

Then finally a break in the one sided conversation. The neighbor said, “Are you doing okay with being alone?”, and waited for an answer.

I then replied, “It is tough at times feeling alone, but I cope very well. I take time to myself, take good care of myself, have my hobbies and dogs, the kids do keep me busy and are doing great. Of course I love doing yard work, so that’s no issue, it gets me outside. And other than that, I’m inside taking care of the house… and my husband.”

You could have heard a pin drop! Silence.

Then finally the silence broke and I heard an “OH! I thought you were single now!” I smiled a little bigger and simple said that my husband does have disabilities and no he does not get out of the house much at all, that I do take care of him full time. But no, he did not die.

The neighbor went right into apologizing. “I am so sorry! I had no clue. Other neighbors thought he had passed away because no one sees him outside anymore, we only see you and the kids from time to time out. Oh that must be hard, you two are so young! Too young to be going through this.”

I simply replied with, “It’s just life, and we live it the best possible. But thank you for your concern, I appreciate it, and all of the compliments.”

So… that was pretty much it, lol. You have to just chuckle at what people think and start saying when they just assume things. So when Craig made his appearance outside when another neighbor got their vehicle stuck, it really meant a lot in many ways other than the obvious of Craig making it outside. And the new neighbors were happy to meet him for the first time. I joked with the neighbor lady (not the neighbor that had that conversation with me) her and I had talked about other neighbors thinking I was single, and I said “See, I do actually have a husband, lol”. We had a good chuckle over it.

I joked with Craig and said maybe the neighbors that don’t know us well will stop thinking you are dead and I am single now! 😉 He just smiled a half grin with a chuckle. Then I said, “See, you need to get outside more before the men start asking me questions!” LOL, he laughed at that.

Oh the things that come about when life contains PTSD and Depression. 😉 You have to just laugh some things off at times.

The moral to this: Before you assume what someone’s life is like, or start telling others what it is like… Just ask! People are more than happy to help educate others about PTSD and what life is REALLY like. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

“I’m off to OZ”… Me time

Morning. Coffee in hand and getting this new day going.
Would you believe it was almost 90 degrees here yesterday? My son was here most of the day so I took a trip to OZ! 😉

Okay, for those of you that have never heard me say that, it’s been my saying for years. I used to mainly use it during times that I knew I had to step away, take a deep breath, and think about things, decompress, before addressing them. Everyone used to tease me when I would say it and say “Clear a path mom is off to OZ” and everyone knew to just let me be while I was outside. It became very well known around here through the really rough days. These days, it’s more like my summertime saying for me time or when I realize I just need that time to cope…

Only Me + Sunshine + Bathing suit + Music through earbuds= “I’m off to OZ”… trust me 😉 it works great!

For this Spring/Summer I have set a goal for myself. Since my knee injury (no it’s not better yet and still in a brace) I have to do strengthening exercises from here on out, the rest of my life. So, with that I decided it was time to just get the whole body back in shape at the same time. With all this working out I am required to do now I started missing the sunshine and my tan, I have set a goal to TRY to get outside one hour per day (weather permitting) when my adult son is home so someone is inside with Craig. Whether it’s playing with the dogs, working in the yard, tinkering with my pond, or visiting OZ for some sunshine. 😉

When I first started taking me time and learning how to properly take care of myself as a caregiver while taking care of someone else, it was hard to find that time. I had to make it and take it. Back then it was 10 minutes per day to myself. That’s a huge improvement to be up to an hour per day now, and of course I take one respite day per week or every other week. But what a change taking just a little time for myself makes, huge positive differences in myself which in return helps Craig. 🙂

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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Just because you see a smile…

Just because you see a smile…
It does not always mean what you may be thinking…

A smile can be a gift, that others quickly respond to and follow. People like the positive things in life.

A smile can be a message, so others think and feel that no matter what everything will be okay.

A smile can be a shelter, that shows a form of strength and comfort.

A smile can be a safety net, to remind me that I can make it through things.

A smile can be a mask, that hides the pains and anxiety that I don’t want to reveal.

A smile can be a defense mechanism, to keep the hidden tears from becoming waterfalls.

A smile can be a powerful representation of something good, joy in life, and what others want to see…

But what the smile hides is what life is really like, when life includes PTSD‬ and/or other mental health conditions. Those with them as well as those standing beside them.

A person can only carry that smile for so long, through so much, before that smile fades away and the reality of life, or that tough moment in time, appears upon their face. When there is no masking, and the true pain reveals itself. No human being can carry a smile every second of every day. No person can hold onto the positive one hundred percent of their lifetime.

It’s okay to release that smile at times. It’s okay to let others see the true feelings you are experiencing. And it’s okay to allow those tears to fall. We are only human.

That smile is not what makes you stronger, that release is. Talking to someone, being able to truly experience what you feel inside, that is what brings you strength. Then maybe tomorrow, or the next day, a true smile may just appear.

Yesterday I cried, I bawled my eyes out. There was no masking things with a smile any longer. I felt the pain deep inside, I felt the loss of what once was, I felt the disappointment towards others that are suppose to be of help to us, I felt like all of my strength just left me, I felt helpless and hopeless… and that’s okay, I am only human. Today, I take another step forward, with strength.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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The “What If’s” of PTSD: explained

The “What If’s” of PTSD

This is a topic that many may just not understand, unless they are standing in the shoes of PTSD‬ or one that stands beside them. I had someone mention to me how they do not understand how something that should be not a huge deal, is huge to someone with PTSD. I have also discovered some new views that may help others with or standing beside one with PTSD. So I wanted to see if I can explain this so it makes more sense to others.

You know, everyone experiences something in their life sooner or later that changes the way they view things. It may be something simple such as, let’s say for example you got food poisoning. Something that unfortunately is common and many can relate to. So what happens then? You will most likely never eat at the place that food came from again, you may even avoid eating that certain food from there forward. You start relating that specific food to what you felt and experienced, getting sick. You see this happen all of the time. You experienced something that was bad or unpleasant, so you avoid it. You get those thoughts of “If I eat that, what if I get so sick again?” You just did a “what if”.

This relation is something that is human nature, even animals experience it, it’s the way the brain works. There is the relation of bad followed by avoidance because you have already experienced something unpleasant and don’t what to repeat that experience.

Now, take that to a severe, life changing experience… a trauma. Think about what traumas may consist of, a life may have been in danger or even life lost, fear is involved. When this happens those “what if’s” become more up front, thought about, in-bedded in the brain “I can’t go through that again”. The feelings become extremely strong. It can start effecting majority if not all of the decisions you make in life. It becomes a survival skill.

Those what if’s can start running your life, which is not a good thing as we all know, and people who experience this on high levels do not like the feeling or what it does to them. It’s not something that they purposely do, it’s in a way how the brain and mind reprograms itself so bad experiences can be avoided. And it’s why avoidance is a huge part of life with PTSD.

It takes a lot for a person who has experienced a trauma to push themselves through the what if’s as they come. It effects things related to or that remind them of their trauma, but it can also effect every aspect of their life. What if’s can start forming around anything, large or small in other people’s eyes.

We had something that had to be done this week (without going into details of what it was). It was something that Craig and I chose to let go of several months back (his decision which I agreed with for the best interest of his health), but not long after that decision Craig started second guessing himself, it started weighing on him, it lead to him feeling like a failure for not pursuing or completing what he felt like he should, which lead to guilt. I have watched this cycle happen time after time around this same “situation”, we will call it. So I knew something had to be done so he could find some sort of peace regarding this situation, so there would not be any more guessing of “what if’s”. There had to be some type of resolution, an outcome, done had to be done so this does not weigh on him any longer, which also means weighing on his health.

When Craig set in his mind “I have failed and I really need something to be done about this”, he and I talked. We had to find some way to relieve this stress, guilt, and his negative thoughts of himself that kept returning. So with help from one of my support ladies who understands this type of situation, we came up with a plan. I discussed it with Craig and he agreed with this plan, he would give this a try one last time. The plan included me doing what I can so to relieve him from as much stress as possible, so he could make it through this. Any level of stress effects him greatly, so this was an urgent part that had to be managed.

See, stress and those what if’s go hand and hand. They play off of each other in huge ways. It’s not situations where one can just say “Oh no big deal, I’ll just handle it”, because those what if’s are there that bring those negative thoughts of “What if I go through the same thing again?” or “What if the outcome is not good?” or “What if I fail?”. Those are huge worrisome thoughts, especially for one with PTSD and/or depression!

Over the month that this “situation” has been worked on, even with me handling as much of things as possible, Craig’s not blind and he is very intelligent. He knows what is at hand, the importance of it to him personally, and he obviously sees me working on it. His symptoms have increased, those what if’s have increased, but he also knows this is something that had to be taken care of for the best interest of his health and so his focus can remain on his health. So this is seriously important to remove it from his plate, so to speak. In other words all of the what if’s have to be faced and there has to be an outcome.

I was already prepared for what Craig’s PTSD and depression may do to him, which it has done to him, this is something that again we have faced before. So my plan had to include more to make sure Craig could make it through this. I informed the important people involved in this of what it is causing for Craig as well as my concerns regarding his health, I talked to his doctors so they could do their part in helping him make it through this, we have put every precaution in place here at home, and we have a serious support system on call… for BOTH of us.

Yesterday was Craig’s largest hurdle in this, his part of this that I could not do for him and he had to face. The people involved and his doctors that I informed really pulled through for him. He made it through yesterday, he’s still exhausted from it, and knowing him and his disabilities I know he will need a few days down, but he made it through it! And I am so proud of him!!! Now we wait for the outcome.

The what if’s are still here, but the hard parts are now over. His doctor said something that I felt was extremely important. He was told that no matter what the outcome is, he has to choose a final decision, will he accept the outcome or will he continue to pursue it if it’s not the outcome he feels is fair? He has to define what fair is to him and decide where acceptance is for himself so this can finally be over and stops weighing on him.

It’s not a failure if you define where your personal acceptance is. That’s a huge thought! It makes sense. It can also help you change those negative thoughts of yourself that do come.

There are certain things or situations in your life that do come, some things just cannot be avoided because avoidance at times can haunt you. There are things that you have to decide how far you will, can or can not push, set a goal, and there is no right or wrong to that goal as long as you define and set in your mind that this is where acceptance within myself lies. Then you make a plan and make sure that every aspect that is in the best interest of your health and limits is in place, as well as anyone who can be a positive help to you.

The past month has contained many what if’s here, but one step at a time we together are getting through them, and we reached for help to do it.

What if’s can become so damaging, they will weigh on you. But we have learned that it is possible to take control or at least the best possible, of many situations. Choosing what things need to be faced and what may not need to be if not of great importance, setting those goals, defining where acceptance is for you personally, and then when you reach it allowing that to be it, you reached your personal goal… it can take some of those what if’s away or allow them to be done so they do not keep returning, an outcome that you define is your acceptable point. It can lead to taking those steps, small or big, forward.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

PTSD: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Communicate honestly.

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

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

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

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

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

* Acceptance.

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

* Both people have to provide effort.

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

* Balance.

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

Bottom line:

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

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

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

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Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Valentines Day… let’s talk about this now, before it gets here.

Don’t break cupid’s arrows just yet! 😉

I have already had people coming to me regarding Valentines Day approaching. Oh boy, here it comes, that “love” kissy kissy share those feelings of romance day of the year. The day where many, especially spouses/partners, want some type of “normal”, expectations, or at least have the thoughts of! Those with PTSD, at least many, are already cringing and avoidance is on the rise. I’m already seeing and hearing about it from both sides of the fence.

If I had to choose one “holiday” of the year that seems to effect a relationship containing PTSD more than any other, this would be it!

There is no blame or finger pointing at either person. It all boils down to human nature as well as life with PTSD. But, it does not make this day coming any easier to get through.

Even a spouse that has no expectations for Valentines Day can have those feelings of “want” for some type of normal for that day. Especially when you see all of the stores filled with red hearts and romantic things, then your friends on social media posting what their day is like. The natural reaction of the brain is to wish you had some type of normal too.

Then there’s the PTSD side of things. Even if a spouse says nothing about Valentines Day, those with PTSD see the same things regarding that day is approaching, they may even place the expectations upon themselves. Then all of those negative changes in thoughts start rolling in, the numb feelings, avoidance increases, other symptoms may increase right along with it. Then the feelings and thoughts of “I can’t give her/him that” or “I can’t be what she/he wants me to be” slide right in and take over.

Valentines Day is one that Craig and I used to celebrate, not because it was expected but because it was fun! I would cook one of his favorite meals and we would eat dinner at home, we would get each other a little something special. So what if it’s considered a “Hallmark Holiday” and benefits the stores lol, it was fun having a day where we could express in a different than every other day how we feel.

Then PTSD stepped into our lives and everything changed.

It bothered me, in a way, for a few years when the day came around, missing what was our normal, what we had done for years. Then I realized that dwelling was not helping me or him! I had to accept that life is what it is, and anything that does come will just be a delightful surprise. 😉 I could not change me, who I am, or what I like to do just because PTSD had/has changed Craig.

My kids reached their teenage years and I found that I liked setting up Valentines Day stuff for them. Carrying on the day’s tradition in a different way. Craig and I will still have our special meal too though, and I accepted that just having him here with me really was and is enough for me. It goes back to “tomorrow is never promised”, something that really became a strong meaning the first time I experienced him wanting to die, so every day he is a part of my life is special to me no matter what the day brings.

But that’s just my personal thoughts and how I now handle things. There are things that can still be done for those that would like to still experience or try to accomplish some of the expectations or wants that Valentines Day brings… for either of you and you as a couple.

So here are some things that may help:

* Motions lead to Emotions

The largest thing on everyone’s side. 😉 Even through numb feelings and everything that #PTSD does bring to life, even through feeling worn out or overwhelmed (spouses included) you can still experience the motions. Even when the thoughts or feelings seem to be masked by PTSD and what life has held, you can still say that extra “I love you” or write it in a note or make a card, you can still sit together and have a meal, watch a movie at home together, or something out of your daily normal routine without stepping beyond what you CAN do.

Light a few candles at dinner time and turn the lights down or off! 😉 Women like romance lol (now I’m not trying to be gender specific here, there are many men that like romance too, so please don’t take me pointing out to guys personally when I use “her”, it really could go for either person), there’s just no getting around that whether you are having those feeling or not. And anything you do, it does not have to be something far fetched beyond your reach to provide it. Hold her hand during that movie or put your arm around her. Motions can be simple things that bring a lot of power and feelings with them. 😉 And you might be shocked at how good it feels to YOU when you see a smile from your spouse/partner, it can sure help change those negative feelings and thoughts of yourself around. Motions lead to accomplishing things! No matter how great or small things may seem. Which leads to another option…

* Make a special “date night” at home

There is nothing wrong with spending the day at home together! In reality it may make for a better day/night, you can avoid the crowds, extra anxiety, set schedules, and be in your comfortable space. 😉 You might discover you actually enjoy it better than going out, you are doing nothing more than setting your own pace for the day/night, and in a comfort zone.

* Intimacy

Nope can’t leave this one out… it’s the day of “love” lol. Please keep in mind that intimacy does not only mean sex! Intimacy is any form of closeness. I will skip details 😉 and just say “use your imagination”! 😉

* Don’t let expectations outweigh how you really feel about each other!

Expectations bring pressure, pressure brings on stress and anxiety, and those things can lead to a not so good day. Do not push expectations on each other or push yourself beyond your limits, they are no more than forced things that can lead to no where good when PTSD is a part of life.

* If you do go out

Once back home, allow the one with PTSD to relax a little, have a little down or alone time to recover from making it out of the house. Then carry on with your evening after that if you want to.

* Let any recent conflicts go!

Hard one I know, but give yourselves a break! Life does contain PTSD and not every day is going to be happiness and joy. Agree that for this day you are going to just be together and let go of any conflicts for this one day. Reality is 😉 you might realize that those conflicts should not have taken place to begin with, and this can give you a new start.

* Place your focus

Keep in mind your partner’s thoughts and feelings. You will be shocked at what this can do! Tell yourself, “No matter what I am feeling today, I’m going to place my focus on my loved one”. This goes for BOTH of you! Think of what they may like, how they feel, how you feel about them, and roll with it! I mean seriously, you are together for a reason, you care about each other for a reason, don’t dismiss those things. Use them to your advantage, you might just find those things help put PTSD in it’s place and remind both of you how your relationship can be and does actually contain. You might just see that person you have been missing, EITHER one of you! 😉 A little attention focused on each other can go a long way.

Okay, reality is you can use these things in everyday life, but since that “V” day of the year is approaching, these are simply things to think about. And you have a couple of weeks still before that day gets here. 😉 Try to make the day about enjoying each other’s time and HAVE FUN with it! Everyone needs a fun break now and then, and many times that does not just come, you have to make it… put those motions into action. 😉

Face PTSD head on and let it know that this day is not it’s day. It’s YOURS! Well, okay reality, at least give it a try. 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

Balance and Life with or beside PTSD

I have had a few comments come to me about “balance”, and a few made me realize that there is more to talk about regarding this subject.

I have to add my note here… I am not a doctor of any sort or in any medical field, the information I bring to you is based on our personal experiences, opinions, and what we have learned along the way in this life journey. I am simply a spouse and a caregiver of one with PTSD, depression, and other medical conditions… that brings awareness and support to others through our personal lives.

Balance is a word that I use a lot. Okay, more than a lot, more like all of the time, it’s extremely important to me and more than just a word, it’s a part of life. It’s a word that in reality years ago I did not even think about, and sure had no need to use that word (so I thought), I did not realize that it was even something that existed when it came to “life”… or was needed. When I heard others use the words “balance” and “energy”, was another, I just tossed them to the side, “What? I don’t need those!” I was one of those people just like many others that just loved life, and life was something you just lived. So why does this thing called “balance” need to be a part of it? It was a word, that back then, I myself dismissed.

After PTSD and other medical conditions became a part of our lives, I learned really fast what “unbalance” was! That foot-loose, carefree, just love and live life to it’s fullest person I was, changed! All of a sudden everything in life became serious, things happening brought an urgency, and along with that came worry, anxiety, panic, discomfort, fear, emotional hurt, and the list could keep going. That’s what I myself was experiencing, and I’m not the one with PTSD, Craig is! None of these things were me, they hurt, and I had to find this crazy thing called balance again. Then, take all of those negative things and add what PTSD brings for those who do have it, WOW, that’s overwhelmingly a lot!

It took a life experience, okay we had many experiences to the point it seemed like we were in a life altering bad experience avalanche, for me to realize and start understanding that life does indeed NEED a balance. It does not matter if your life is “good” or in the “trenches of hell”, that term “balance” and putting it to use, can change things.

Let me back up for a second, I used the term “hell”. I do not use or say that word very often. So if you hear it, it’s serious and here’s my view of what that means. It is the deepest, darkest, no view of a way out pit, black hole, that one falls in where no matter what you do, you just seem to keep falling further and lost in what is happening. There’s no light, there’s no hope, and that place will push you to want to give up. A place lacking balance. Okay, that’s “hell” to me, you get my point.

Back to balance. I was recently told, “I’m glad you found and have a balance in your relationship, wish we had that…” I stopped what I was doing when I read that, and I really sat back and thought about it and the way it was used in a paragraph. I did not take it in a negative way by any means, but the way it was said was a little misleading of a thought to what balance is for Craig and I. As well as what it takes and comes with it.

Balance is not something that you get or find, and then it just stays there. Balance takes constant work, a lot of energy and time, effort, it takes a “give and take” when it comes to the relationship, which is difficult with PTSD being a real part of life and what it does bring. And there are times, many times, that balance is not present and we have to work to get it back, or some sort of back that we can manage and live with, for whatever length of time it remains. It’s a constant effort, which we both are human and life does contain PTSD, it will slip at times. That’s when communication on a calm level has to take place so we know how each other feels and we can work at developing a balance again.

Then there is still the fact that I am in a caregiver role, Craig has very real life medical conditions to where i have to help him, which means there is not and will not be an equal balance in our relationship, again we had to find a balance that was comfortable for us, and continue working on balance itself. I had to let go of what was our balance or normal before the medical conditions, and accept that our balance changed when life changed, reality, when Craig changed. His brain and the way it functions, does not allow for an equal balance, at least not as of yet and it’s something we continue to work on. That acceptance is what helps us have a balance, our type of balance.

There’s not high expectations, or an expectation that things will be equal, the only expectations at hand are he is to try and do his best, and we work together. And of course PTSD and everything that comes with it does try us on it. It is a constant effort, as well as neither of us giving up on each other or giving in to PTSD. Balance is not something that comes easy, it does take hard work and effort, as well as keeping in mind that his brain does not fire/spark/function like it use to. Which again, is something that we continue to work on because there is always that chance he can be better than he is today, only time holds the answer to that one.

Then you have personal balance. Now, this one I have pretty much mastered, if there even is such a thing. However, I am human and at times I will lose my self balance for a moment (just like anyone else). That’s when I have to reflect on myself, who or how I truly am, whatever experiences or situations were at hand, use my coping skills, take time to think, then approach and/or talk about what happened… address the situation or why I became unbalanced. I learned that pointing fingers gets you no where good, excuses are not a part of this process it’s about explaining so you can move forward together and understand each other, repair the unbalance, as well as the relationship with whomever is involved. And at times it is just simply me that may have become overwhelmed, lost focus, or just simply having a bad day. Accepting and admitting without dwelling on self blame or with guilt, along with everything else I did, mentioned above, when a human unbalance comes, is how I find my balance again. Again, it takes effort, work, as well as reflecting on yourself… and either person can learn to do this.

“I can’t” to me does not exist when it comes to finding a balance, whether it’s in a relationship with your partner or others (work, family, friends, society), or a personal balance. You just have to learn how to, recognize it is important to have, accept reality of what is at hand, build and learn from your life experiences as well as relationships.

It is going to be more difficult for those with PTSD, because PTSD has in reality brought an unbalance that you are still learning to manage, no matter how long it’s been a part of your life. You also have to include the way each person’s brain works, and realize that you can continue developing it, no matter what age you are. I am a firm believer that there is always something else that can be done, it may take time to find what works or to understand how, but never lose hope, there is something.

We know that PTSD does not just go away, some may be able to place it in a box, but the reality is it is still there and only takes one trigger to bring it back out. Life changed, for each of us. But as I always state, “Life can get better than it may be today.” And finding some sort of new balance or new normal, will help. While remembering that each of us are human, we will become unbalanced at times, but it does not mean balance is gone for good. You just have to work on it. wink emoticon

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

When it’s the Spouse/Partner lashing out.

When it’s the Spouse/Partner lashing out. 
Why does this happen? They are not the one with PTSD.

Let’s take a look at reality here, “we are all human”, and it’s going to happen. Everyone does have a breaking point, and the key is not to reach it. It is not always the one with PTSD that does the lashing out, harsh words, picking fights/arguments, holding resentment or even grudges… or finger pointing. These things can be dished as well as they can be served.

The first thing to keep in mind is PTSD is not a one person condition or issue, for lack of better words. It can effect others, even if they do not have PTSD. But the finger pointing, blame game has to stop! It will only hurt both of you and your family. No one asked for PTSD, no it’s not fair, it’s not fair how life has changed, but it’s now a part of life and you have to learn how to manage it as well as your personal self (each of you), and learn to work through things together. You MUST communicate! There is no choice, in my personal opinion, when PTSD is a part of life… or you are going to have deeper problems arise.

I have had several people come to me recently and ask me how to help their spouse/partner, and why do spouse/partners lash out with harsh words or actions the way they do or if this is even normal?

(Just to note this up front: This is in NO way meant to make anyone with PTSD feel like they are a burden, guilty, or any other negative feeling. It’s simply to get to the root of the why so steps forward can be started. NO finger pointing here!)

So let’s talk about this more to bring a better understanding.

What are some of the many reasons a spouse/partner of one with PTSD may act or say things differently? 

1. They are overwhelmed.

This is probably the most common. Just like one with PTSD goes through changes once PTSD is a part of their life, a spouse/partner does too. A spouse may feel or think they have to do everything and take care of everyone, while also trying to manage the changes in life, but at the same time set themselves to the side. It is extremely important for a spouse to make and take time to take care of themselves, too.

2. Roles change or additional roles added to their normal.

Many times a spouse/partner may take on more or different roles in the home and/or relationship, or even work related than they use to, roles at times may even be switched. Spouses are known for carrying the weight of others and in many cases won’t ask for help. They will do things to just get them done, which can and will become overwhelming. Which in reality can be damaging to both people. You have to keep in mind self-esteem and self-worth of both people involved or as a family. There has to be a balance found.

3. Holding things in and not communicating.

This is very common with knowing the partner is going through life with PTSD and/or any other medical conditions. A spouse does not want to talk about their problems or issues or make others think they are only thinking about themselves. Many take on the mind set of “my issues are not as bad as what he/she is going through.”

The problem with this is sooner or later it will be seen or come out that something is wrong or the spouse is keeping things to themselves. It may come out no different than some of the symptoms of PTSD, the anger, arguing, frustration, snappy tone, or even blaming others for things, etc. It can be very damaging to one’s self to hold all of your feelings or emotions inside. Everyone needs to and deserves to be able to talk… and before it turns into lashing out at those you truly care about.

Everyone needs someone to talk to. Reality, your PTSD partner may be the one that truly understands, remember… you are BOTH going through this life just simply from different sides of the fence… you just have to give them a chance to. Conversations are not always easy, communication, good communication skills take practice, patience, learning how to accept what others feel or think and that they own those thoughts/feelings, and having an open mind so you can work through things or simply just talk and listen to each other.

Communication takes honesty, and knowing that you may not solve the world’s problems right then, it may take time and working together to make or figure out how to make changes. “We/I will work on that” is an awesome phrase when there is not going to be a problem or issue solved right then. You both simply agree that what needed to be said was said, and you BOTH will work on whatever is your part individually or together that needs to be worked on.

If you keep everything bottled up inside, there’s no chance of stepping forward, because your partner is in the dark to how you are feeling, and that goes for both of you. They are not mind readers, but they do notice when something is wrong. Communicate. And if you need a third party involved, seek professional help, there’s nothing wrong with doing that!

4. Secondary Stress or other Medical Conditions.

Folks, it’s a part of life and no one’s fault! It happens. It is very common for a spouse to develop secondary stress, caregiver stress, or even PTSD of their own in some cases. It is very common for trauma survivors to partner with other trauma survivors, whether both have PTSD or not.

A spouse may develop many of the same symptoms that come with PTSD, anxiety, anger, frustration, hyper-arousal, lack of sleep (could be for many different reasons), depression, etc. I will beg the spouses/partners on this one, PLEASE learn, practice, and use on a regular basis coping skills and techniques! And take care of yourself! These things can and will help!

Other medical conditions. None of us are getting any younger, medical conditions are going to come sooner or later of our own. When they do they add additional things to the spouse’s plate that have to be managed. Spouse’s again, are known to not share what they themselves are going through when they know someone else is going through their own battle. Help each other and talk to each other, and listen! Please do not put down or belittle what another person is going through, neither of you. Not everyone experiences the same things, but each are equally important.

Every single person is capable of doing something, even if it’s just simply listening or helping out in some small way when the other person is having a rough day.

5. A diagnosis is NOT a weapon!

It’s not a secret that at times things in life can get heated at times. Feelings get hurt, emotions overflow, things get taken personally, or not correctly the way they were meant, or things said that come from hurt or anger. These are all things that could be related to one using a diagnosis against another person. Please don’t do this! It’s a really quick way to lose someone you in reality care about. No one asked for PTSD, or any other medical condition for that matter, using a medical condition or “throwing it in their face” is not going to solve anything, it’s only going to cause more pain… and most likely for both of you.

6. Lack of acceptance and/or understanding.

PTSD and the life changes that come with it, are not things that are learned overnight. I can almost guarantee you there is going to be a rocky path until you learn more, and figure out what works best for you and your partner. This again brings lashing out, arguments, frustration, etc. Majority of the time from both people.

It takes time to learn, to accept, and work on things so there is a new normal and balance found. There is no quick fix, no pill, no cure, no one coping skill, no read this one article or answer this one question and you will know everything there is to know. PTSD and life with it takes a combination of everything you can fill your “tool box” with, both of you!

Every single case of PTSD is going to be different in some way, there may be many similarities, symptoms, and things that help, but each person is their own individual. Traumas are different, even two people that experienced the same type of trauma or even at the same time, may respond differently to the way that trauma effected them.

But anyone, if they try, put in the effort, and take the time, can learn to understand the now. No, you will not and cannot understand what one went through, you were not in their shoes when their trauma happened. Just as one with PTSD is not in their partner’s shoes. But, you can learn and understand what they experience now… the symptoms, the triggers, and what helps them the best and both of you. PTSD is an everyday learning experience and part of life, for both of you… it can change, symptoms can have ways to be managed, it will have it’s ups and its downs, it will come with good days and really bad days. Accepting that PTSD is in reality at hand, and learning to understand the now, can greatly help both of you. Things can get better than they may be right now.

These are just a few things of many that may help with the “why’s” when it comes to spouses/partners and their reactions or actions/words. As well as information about both sides of this life and things that may help.

No one wants to lash out or be lashed out at. Work together, communicate, have patience with each other, help each other, make sure you are taking care of yourself, and never stop trying, learning, and finding that works best for both of you. This life with PTSD does not have to be filled with arguments, harsh words, etc. PTSD comes with enough as it is without taking things out on each other. Learn to work together, and PLEASE talk. It’s a simple “I really need you to listen” and take turns talking and listening, really hearing each other out so you can work through things together and know how each other feels. It can work, and make life with PTSD a whole lot easier… Craig and I do it, and it’s proven to help. You can do it too! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : Facebook page