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Stress and PTSD

Stress and PTSD

Well, that’s a given isn’t it!

Stress is one of the things that Craig and I have been told time and time again that he needs to avoid in every way possible, which I know many others have been told the same thing. Think about it. That’s in reality a very difficult thing to do. We are talking about life, everyday life in general, and then disabilities themselves mixed in there.

Just with PTSD alone think of what the symptoms are and what they bring. Nightmares, bring stress. Lack of sleep, brings stress. Avoidance, brings stress. Anxiety, brings stress. Triggers and flashbacks, bring stress. Negative changes in thoughts, feelings, emotions of one’s self or others or the world itself at times, bring stress. Guilt and/or Survivor’s guilt, bring stress. The trauma(s) itself, brings stress. And the list goes on. PTSD… “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Oh look, there’s that term “stress”.

Then take all of the symptoms and add them to everyday life and trying to manage it, trying to be the best you can be, trying to function as normal as possible, trying to maintain relationships with family, friends, people in general. The mind can become easily unsettled, even overwhelmed, by simple things. So you can imagine what more important things, issues, or must handle situations can bring to one? It can cause one to shut down, become stuck, and not be able to function.

To those of you that understand PTSD and what it is, you are probably thinking “What is Bec writing? Of course PTSD is all about trauma and stress.” 😉

But what about those that do not understand, or brush off what stress does to someone with PTSD?

It becomes an additional battlefield for the one with PTSD, as well as their spouse/partner… and in many cases their advocate. Stress is the one thing that is always there, but at the same time stress has to be managed, and many situations even avoided. Because it’s what is in the best interest of the one with PTSD. You have to maintain a healthy balance and environment.

Some people look at the suicide rates linked to PTSD alone, they are in awe over the high numbers. But yet what is being done to help? What is each person doing or not doing? What can help make life better? What can help a person get to the best point they can get physically and mentally?

Many spouses/partners are in the shoes of, well, playing referee. Many do see and know what external stress can bring to their loved one with PTSD. They know what it also adds to their own life, as well as their family. When stressful events occur or even the “what if’s” of what may be coming, for one with PTSD, symptoms are going to increase. Then the vicious cycle of managing those symptoms continues.

Many people wonder why many of those with PTSD have difficulties leaving the house, many cannot work or are limited, many have a “safe room” that they can retreat to when needed. Many are disconnected from others. Avoidance is a very real part of life with PTSD, and a symptom.

Those with PTSD do try! They really do not want to be a hermit closed off from society or that stays locked away in a room. They WANT to be and feel normal, like they used to. But PTSD does bring a serious challenge, much of the time.

When PTSD becomes a part of someone’s life, life changes, it’s the reality of life with PTSD. You learn different ways of wording things, you have to tune the communication skills, you have to learn how to manage the symptoms and learn coping skills, you learn safety protocol… as we call it here, you learn signs of depression and suicide, as well as what to do when or if they come, and much more.

The “normal” you knew for that person cannot be expected from them any longer. It does not mean they can’t do anything or are helpless, it just means life has changed and does have to be handled and managed differently. You will still get glimpses from time to time of the person you knew before PTSD, enjoy those times when they come, but you cannot expect them to remain that way all of the time. You can not dismiss that PTSD has become a part of life, and with that a new normal forms.

Which brings us back to stress. When one cannot accept that PTSD is a part of a person’s life now, and that life has changed, it is going to bring additional stress. Why? Because the expectations you hold are going to be too high for one to accomplish or if they can it will not be permanent. Another reason if you see one with PTSD, and you are not living with them, I can pretty much guarantee you are seeing them on a “good” day, because they do not like you seeing their rough days.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times over the years I have seen external, as in outside our home, stressful situations brought on where they lead Craig to “shutting down” or pushed towards that and I had to step in for the best interest of his health. Which of course I don’t mind doing if need be. But the fact is if people would just think once in awhile and take the time to learn, and face the facts, there are many situations that could be avoided all together to where a certain amount of stress is deleted.

Craig and I had a situation recently, well reality is it’s been an on going battle off and on over the years but came up again and this time came to a head. His docs had already said he won’t be able to handle this type of stress so in the best interest of his health, it was put off again. Our focus HAS to be on his health. He gave up, shut down, became completely numb, and just could not handle the stress of fighting for what was right anymore, several months back, again.

Recently I noticed it weighing on him again. There it was, like this demon haunting him. This was a fight that he wanted to try to do himself, but it became too much. He shut down again. I also saw that at times he would try to push himself hard but would feel like a failure when he could not manage getting things done. Honestly, shutting down is probably the best thing for him at this point, but he can’t stay there, something had to be done. This cycle had to stop!

So as his advocate it was time for me to really step in heavy on this from a different angle than we had tried before, because those ways obviously got us nowhere good, and not just help out but to see if I could get this done, so this burden on him could be done and over with. I thought about it carefully, talked to several people, weighed the options to what the best and less stressful path would be on Craig, and I took it this past week.

I know that this “battle” we will call it without stating details, has to end, it’s been going on way too long (off and on as we could face it and dependent on Craig’s health, what he could or could not handle at the moment) and there has to be an outcome. If it was completely avoided and left alone, just let go, I have already seen the stress and guilt it has been causing Craig or how it leads him to completely shutting down, so I can only imagine what more would come to him by just letting it go completely. I can’t let that happen. Our focus HAS to be on his health.

I took my leap on Thursday with fingers and toes crossed that someone would hear my voice and my cry for help with this “battle” of Craig’s. To my total shock I was heard, the very same day I asked for help, after years of trying someone listened. I heard back from another person on Friday. We don’t have an outcome yet, but something is actually taking place and it’s not a stagnant situation of “what if’s” or “failure” or “ok we need to handle that again” anymore. No matter what the outcome is, it’s going to finally be over, at least that’s the hope.

This is one of those situations that in reality should have never existed, but this is life and things happen. My point of telling this is life with PTSD does and will come with stress of many different forms.

If you are not the one with PTSD, please keep in mind that what you do, how you act or react, and taking the time to learn will matter. Do not place additional stress on others, especially if they have a life large battle they are already having to manage. Please take the time to learn so you can form good relations instead of causing undue stress on another. If you are the one with PTSD or their spouse/partner, you have to figure out what is the best way to handle things, what is going to be in the best interest of your health, and always know that if you can’t seem to find what works best… ASK FOR HELP! 😉

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD : FaceBook page

The true meaning of Memorial Day

I have to tell you what happened yesterday! Craig was watching videos online where people were asking others what they were doing for Memorial Day and in these recorded interviews they were misleading people to what the meaning of Memorial Day is, on purpose, trying to find out how many people actually know the true meaning of Memorial Day.

I was in TOTAL SHOCK at how many Americans, of all generations, do NOT know the true meaning of Memorial Day! So if you want to pass the following along, you are more then welcome to… Memorial Day is a day that EVERYONE should understand the meaning of!

Memorial Day

Many know this as a long weekend, a chance to take a short vacation, time for parties and/or family gatherings, a time to start the grill and have a cookout, time to hit the lake or beaches. It is a start to summer time. However, what is the TRUE meaning of and for Memorial Day?

Let us not forget…

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday, it started as being known as “Decoration Day” at the end of the Civil War to honor and commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. It was a time when ladies placed decorations/flowers on the graves of the fallen, a tradition which carries on today.

Today, Memorial Day honors and remembers all of those fallen during military service, man and woman. It’s a time of remembrance and a time of respect to all of those who gave their lives for us.

As you honor this time this weekend, please don’t forget the true meaning of this day. If you fly a flag in honor of this time on Memorial Day, please remember to fly it at half-staff until noon, then raise it back to the top for the remainder of the day.

Memorial Day can be a difficult time for veterans, military, and loved ones. Please keep that in mind if you are celebrating this weekend. If you know of a veteran that is alone this weekend, take a little of your time and visit with them, many of them have lost a battle buddy or a loved one who served and did not come home.

To those that know someone or have a loved one who suffers from #PTSD, here are a few things to remember and/or things that can help through this time…

* Remember that many suffer from survivor’s guilt. This can make this time a very difficult one for them, even more then normal.

* Don’t push them to participate in gatherings. Let them set their own pace of what they are comfortable doing.

* Talk to them and be there to listen.

* Be careful with your words! Be respectful with things you may say or ask regarding service time.

* If you are setting off fireworks, PLEASE make sure you let them know ahead of time or let them know if your community will be setting some off. Even if it is not loud or from sound, remember the smell can be a trigger to some. By mentioning it ahead of time it can help keep triggers down or help them be able to control them.

* Some families remember by setting up small memorials or even place settings for an empty seat at the dinner table as a sign of remembering those lost in battle. If you have someone joining you or in your family with PTSD, PLEASE be careful with doing this, if they have survivor’s guilt and/or PTSD this could easily trigger bad memories. If you plan on doing this, ask if it’s okay first.

* Allow one to grieve during this time if they need to, don’t push them to be happy and join in events, let that be up to them.

* Know the signs of suicide and be cautious to them. This is a difficult weekend for many and PTSD could be more severe then normal.

And PLEASE, teach your children the history of Memorial Day, and what it really means.

These are just a few things to keep in mind this weekend. If you are out and about please try to enjoy yourself, be safe, but always keep in mind the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Those lost in battle may not be with us in body, but they will never leave our hearts. Each and every one of them gave their lives for each and every one of us.

Not one of them, will ever be forgotten! 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Music. Let me tell you a story…

Music. Let me tell you a story…

You know, music can be good for the soul, there is no other way to word it. It touches something inside of us and just brings so much meaning and feelings. Many of us listen to music when we are feeling different moods or emotions, or listen when we travel through different experiences in life, it can help calm us, help us vent frustration or even anger, it can help us process so many emotions and feelings of the past, as well as while we move forward through life.

But there is something else that music can very well do… Help us understand that we are not alone! It helps us feel and know that there are real experiences in life, and many times others have experienced something similar.

Not too long ago, Craig, who is a true music buff lol, played a song for me. It was a song about PTSD, bringing awareness. That song touched my heart. I had no clue where he found it, I just listened. I saw how the song touched him, I know how it touched me.

Craig listens to songs quite often that are written and/or performed by other Veterans as well as Active Duty Military. They seem to bring him a sense of someone else out there that understands. To me, they bring me an understanding and compassion of him as well as what he has experienced and feels, through music and words.

This morning I received a message on here. It was from a disabled Veteran and song writer that is a volunteer for an organization called SongwritingWith:Soldiers. I honestly do not know anything about this organization except for what I looked at this morning, and listened to.  BUT, I do know how what they are doing with and for our Heroes has personally touched our lives. This Veteran sent me a link to a song that he wrote, but you know what? That link was to the very song Craig had played for me!

I can not explain how much it touched my heart to receive that message! In this huge world we live in, full of so many people, it is amazing how paths cross at times… and to think music, one simple song full of so much meaning, was what brought the paths together.

No matter how paths cross, or the meaning behind them, there is one thing that stands tall… WE are all in this together! The words that come with so much meaning, understanding, and just simply the thought of we are not alone, are proving it. Each of us are here for a reason, we bring awareness of life with PTSD and other disabilities in many different ways… but we are in this together!

 ~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD and Hospital Stays

PTSD and Hospital Stays

After a weekend in the hospital, Craig’s first by the way (severe migraine and chest pains), I wanted to go over a lot that I found VERY helpful to make a stay easier for the one with PTSD, the partner, and the staff. Just to state this upfront, Craig does not mind me sharing this!

The ER was trying, with chest pains that meant a lot of people at one time around Craig in a rushed fashion, which sent his PTSD into overdrive, but the staff did what they had to do in his best interest. This was the first time I was not allowed back, and understandable with the fact they did not know if he was crashing or not, but there was a lot of work with his PTSD once they did take me back to him. One doc was asking questions about his deployments (regions he had been), exposures, and trauma time frame which sent Craig into an uncontrollable body tremor. I told the doc nicely he had to stop with the questions and I would help answer anything he needed away from Craig. Which was agreed to. Then I was able to ground Craig.

Once admitted to the hospital the staff were awesome! Craig told each person up front that he has PTSD and not to touch him without making sure he knew what was coming. This was a huge help to the staff and for him!

The first nurse placed a note on the door for no one to enter the room without checking with the nurse station. This helped with preventing being startled by someone in the room without him knowing. Or being touched while he was sleeping.

The staff would knock on the door before entering, call out to me/us and wait for a “come in”. By this point I could be next to Craig or have him grounded to make sure he understood someone was coming into the room.

Craig was pretty much sedated for a long time period to allow his anxiety to lessen and give his heart a break, so during this time there was a lot of grounding so the staff could work on him, take blood, give medications, etc. He was out of it, so PTSD defenses pretty much ran the show. The staff worked great with me during this and I would tell them what needed to be done to prevent a PTSD lash out, safety at hand, and get him awake enough and grounded so they could touch him safely and do their jobs.

The staff followed my lead to how to handle his PTSD and approach him. Everyone stayed safe and no restraints were ever needed! 

If in the hospital and someone needs to enter without extra help or another person being there, have the staff talk from the doorway until the one with PTSD understands they are there and entering. Also ask them to state their name, what they are (a nurse, doctor, picking up the trash, etc) and where you are (in the hospital). This helps with grounding when unknown if the one with PTSD is grounded or not. Once closer, have them state “I’m going to touch your arm (or whichever body part) and this is what I will be doing…” This helps keep PTSD calmer, no surprises, and allows the staff to do their job to help you.

If someone enters to remove or bring something to the room, same as above goes, but let them know to put a little distance, personal space, between them and the patient unless the patient is awake fully and talking to them. This helps prevent/with unexpected triggers as well as helps maintain safety.

If you are the partner, know upfront that the staff is not there for you or your needs, however if you are being of assistance they at times will go above and beyond their duties. (Hope I’m not telling on anyone here lol). If you need to leave the room, let them know you will be leaving, they should already have a phone number to reach you, but make sure they do, let them know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Doing this helps in case your PTSD partner does not recall where you went or was sleeping when you left, and the staff can inform them. It helps keep them from thinking you are not there for them. With as much as Craig needed me, the staff (cough, cough… loved them!) did go above and beyond and made sure I had everything I needed so I could remain in the room and help keep him grounded.

Partners! You HAVE to make sure you are taking care of yourself through their hospital stay!!! Make sure you eat, drink plenty, sleep, and take breaks from the room when needed! Do not allow yourself to become run down during this time or you will have a hard time being able to or having the energy to care for them once they come home.

Also, most hospitals do have a Chaplain there or within reach 24/7 for you! We had one stop by the room to check on us and to see if I needed anything with me staying to help with Craig’s PTSD. Okay, I bragged about you all! My extended “family”. 😉 I was asked if I had my own support and I had to say absolutely, thousands! We had a long talk about my page and support group, how life is with PTSD, the book I am writing in hopes to help others, Craig and my story and life, and that our families are just a phone call away and will be there if we need them (Craig didn’t want them up there, so they stayed on the phone with me throughout the weekend). Craig was sleeping while he was there, so he and I sat and talked for quite some time. (And he wants me to stop by and see him with a copy of my book when it is published which I will defiantly do!) So just know up front, Chaplains are not just there to preach to you, they are there to help you anyway possible and you can go to them or ask if they can come to your room at any time. The Chaplain is your go to person there for you!

To go bag. Okay I had an epic fail on this one lol. I always have one ready and in the car, but had cleaned out the car this past week and forgot to put it back in! I grabbed Craig’s meds bag and forgot the to go bag was not in the car! Make sure you keep a bag IN your car just in case you are rushing out the door and have to stay at the hospital. Add a change of clothes for both of you, personal items needed, an extra phone charger!, something for you to do or a book to read while there, and just in case you have to go to a hospital closer or one that does not know your medical history, I have found it’s good to keep a copy of all medical records on a flashdrive to help new doctors out, etc. This will make the stay a little more comfortable and information needed at hand. 😉

So these are just a few of the many things that can help everyone when it comes to those emergency ER trips and/or hospital stays.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

A holiday note…

To ALL of my “family”,

Today here on the lakefront it is Christmas. Coffee in hand and getting this day going. 😉 I know with our family here on the page being world wide, not everyone celebrates today in the same way or for the same reasons. Whatever your beliefs may be, with respect, I hope you have a wonderful day filled with love and smiles.

I hope PTSD will give you some time to just enjoy whatever you choose to do today, even if it is only for a short time, embrace it. Use those coping skills, take those breaks when you need to, and do those motions to find the emotions. I know today is a very difficult one for many of you, but … You’ve got this 😉 because I believe in each and every single one of you!

Each day we learn together, share with each other, support each other, and with each day of this special family we have created here, we grow stronger together. I honestly believe, PTSD does not stand a chance. 😉 It won’t go away, but we, together, are giving it a new fight and we are making a positive difference.

Do not allow whatever stigma you may experience today swallow you, you are better then allowing that to happen. We will change stigma one person at a time. And if someone is carrying that stigma, send them to my website or my page 😉 we can teach them the truth and reality of PTSD and life with it together. Because YOU no longer stand alone! <3

You all mean the world to me (and Craig). Today I wish you peace of mind, some time for happiness and joy, and I send you much love and strength. We may not have the same blood running through our veins, but YOU are a huge part of our “family”! <3

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD

PTSD vs Verbal Abuse

PTSD vs Verbal (Abuse)

I have had quite a few people come to me lately regarding this and how I personally handle(d) it. So I want to start by reminding you I am in no way a doctor and what worked for us might not be the correct things to do in every situation.

First thing you need to know, your PTSD loved one loves you, if they didn’t they wouldn’t be there. Verbal abuse in most cases is not how they would normally have acted towards you, so they sure are NOT meaning to do this to you now!

During the times of verbal abuse, I did not have anyone to guide me, I kept trying different things and continuing to educate myself on PTSD until I found what worked for us.

Verbal abuse is very common with PTSD. I believe it happens to those closest to the one with PTSD because that is the person they trust the most, the one there with them. The person they know they can turn to, and the person they know cares about them. Also the person that they know they have always been able to be themselves around. Just to say that up front.

My belief is verbal abuse happens when PTSD is what I call “out of control”. When they do not know or understand how to cope with the feelings they are experiencing, what is going on within themselves, not being able to cope with changes, feelings, and emotions or lack of, their medications if they are taking them might be out of balance, they may not know or be using coping skills… or not using them enough when needed, which leads to the anger and frustration PTSD brings being let out on the one(s) closest to them. The fight that PTSD “needs” in order to release those feelings of anger and frustration as I say it. These also seem to be the times when many with PTSD turn to alcohol, porn, or even drugs in some cases. Anything that can “seem” to help them cope. To me, it’s a cry for help.

BUT, there is hope! These things can be controlled with time, effort, self-help, professional help, family support, and a lot of good communication!

To understand why verbal abuse is there, you have to step back and figure out what is causing it, what signs are there? This obviously isn’t the way this person would normally be towards others.

Common signs that help is needed:

* Alcohol, drug, porn increased use or not normal for them to do but they are now.
* Addiction to video games has become very common for many.
* Avoiding a loved one much more then normal.
* Constantly picking the fight.
* Being critical of little things which should not hold huge issues.
* Throwing things or even taking anger out on objects.
* Becoming physically abusive.
* Picking or looking for a fight with other people, strangers.
* Road rage.

Those are just a few examples other then the verbal abuse itself.

Verbal abuse can weigh heavily on one or even on a family. It will bring you down, cause loss of self-esteem, cause emotional issues with the person on the receiving end of it, cause conflict, etc. It can very easily end a relationship.

It took me a long time to figure out, I had to get to the root of things in order for changes to happen. Once I did figure it out, then I started trying different things until something worked for us. He was not able to cope, he wasn’t able to notice what he was doing or how he was acting/speaking, to him all of the negative things that were coming out did not exist. I had to find a way to stop PTSD and what it was bringing to us in it’s tracks so he could focus and learn to cope. I had to accept the fact that he was in a place where he could not help himself and yes, it was on me to help him. All of this was PTSD, not the true him.

Please note again, these things may not work for everyone, or you might not have a situation where you are in a position to use these, and I advise you to seek professional help and NEVER put yourself in harms way!

Our part of the story…

In the beginning I would fight back, I am not one to just take personal attacks lightly, no one I don’t care who they are speaks to me that way. But you know what, that was not working out too well! It was leading to arguments which were totally out of the norm for us. It was causing more chaos, hurt feelings, avoidance of each other, and this could not continue, it was not us!

So I tried something different, when verbal abuse would start I would sit and listen. I would not interrupt and I would not really say anything at all. And I kept in mind and forced myself not to take what was being said personally.

Just to note: This by no means, means verbal abuse is acceptable or you are suppose to just take it, it’s not acceptable and has to stop.

I would sit and honestly listen to what was coming out of his mouth. Always keeping in mind that he had never talked to me this way before, so I knew this was caused by PTSD and not his true self. I would hear the anger, frustration, and most of all I could hear and see the internal pain he was experiencing. I would just listen.

I figured out real fast this was a form of coping, even though not an acceptable way of doing so, but it lead me to knowing that he needed help. This verbal usage was a way to vent, let it all out, and with me sitting there listening and not fighting back to any personal attacks (which I knew were not how he truly felt) it would eventually bring him to a more peaceful place once he had vented, and the apologies and the “what have I done? I’m so sorry.” would start. Out of nowhere he would be “back”. Even if it took hours.

This went on for some time while the doctors worked on finding correct combinations of medications, taught him coping skills and such. He did get therapy through these times as well.

Then I found that once his anger of this had it’s break though and I could see the true him was coming through with each verbal episode, I could calmly and with a stern grip on my own feelings say “I love you, I know this is PTSD and not you. You would never treat me this way. I will not fight with PTSD, but I will talk with you.” And it opened a non attacking or confrontational door for communication to start. And we would sit there and talk for as long as he needed to.

Once this started happening then I was able to add my feelings into the conversations over time. It’s kind of like when you teach a dog something new (by no means referring to him as a dog lol), you don’t and can’t expect a dog to know a command on the first try, it takes time and many steps to teach something correctly, so they learn the command. So in a weird way, I guess I was using my training abilities and applying them to our life. See, you can’t expect a person to just stop doing something and everything change in one second, it takes time, lots of effort, and many steps to get to the outcome you are looking for or is needed.

Then came into play the coping skills. Oh this was a fun one. I heard “Those won’t work for me, that’s silly and I’m not doing them”. Okay, this is a normal reaction from someone who’s PTSD has not found a balance. So what did I do? I can tell you I didn’t fight or argue about it.  I started using the coping skills myself, exactly what his doctors were teaching him and sending home worksheets with us on. 

One day I was doing breathing exercises, he looked at me and said “What the heck are you doing?” I paused and calmly said “Breathing.” I continued doing the exercises. Then I heard, “Why are you doing that?” My answer again calmly, “Because they help me when I’m stressed, help me relax.” And he walked away and I continued the exercises until I completed them.

It was only a few days later I noticed him away from me and sure enough he was doing those exercises.

See, PTSD causes one to lose direction at times, it causes them to have difficulty in making decisions at times. And sometimes it just takes someone else leading the way and giving an example to follow. And it worked!

I knew that I could not take the verbal abuse, I also knew it was killing Craig that he was treating me that way and couldn’t find a way to control it. So I had to find a solution, and I did. I had to get past the words being yelled and focus on what to do to make a change, and I did. I also had to accept that it was not a quick fix and it was something that had to have a lot of will power and effort put into it, and I did. It also took him putting effort in on his part, and over time he did. It just took time to re-learn, so to speak.

Over time Craig has learned other ways of coping with anger and frustration, all the things that come with PTSD. Those feelings don’t just go away, they are still there, but he battles them and keeps control of them.

He found that when he does have those feelings surface that it helps him if he just focuses and becomes quiet. He and I talked about this as a form of coping, so we are both on the same page of what is going on and no one takes anything personally. If I see he becomes quiet, then I leave him alone and allow him his time to be quiet and cope.

He also found that if that does not work, it helps him if he sleeps, takes a nap, and when he wakes up start over as if it were a new day. And yes, the doctors have even said they approve of this since it does help him to be able to cope with his feelings and emotions.

Communication is urgent! Many have lost their communication skills with each other in all of the anger and hurt. Small steps and work on getting it back. Talk to each other, both really listen to what each other is thinking and feelings. Don’t take everything personally, accept that is how the other person is viewing or feeling right now this moment, rather it is factual or not it’s the way they are feeling or viewing things at that moment… so you can work on finding solutions to it instead of arguing. Know that nothing involving PTSD is going to be solved in one conversation or right there that moment. It is going to take time and effort. Accept the phrase “we are going to work on this” and then each day work on it. Don’t dismiss what each other is feeling, use it to move forward, use it to heal the situation. Also understand that the verbal abuse may not only be coming from the one with PTSD, if one experiences verbal abuse for any extended amount of time, they can very well become a verbal abuser themselves without realizing it. Both parties have to work together to prevent this.

If you take note of everything I’ve said here, what we have been through, and you do something to help your own situation, you might just find the verbal abuse, the arguments, and the space between you gradual heals.

I can say, Craig and I have not experienced any verbal abuse or arguments since we started doing this and had our breakthrough. Every day will continue to need steady work to keep it the way it is now, I mean let’s be real, PTSD is still at hand, but we found what works for us! 

We are proof it can be done, and there is hope! Find what works for you and make sure you get professional help along with it. It will save your relationship, your children, your family!

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD

PTSD and Dissociation…

PTSD and Dissociation (Dissociative Symptoms)

I will be right up front on this one, if your loved one with PTSD does experience these symptoms, this is going to be the hardest part of PTSD to wrap your head around! You NEED to learn about this.

As I mentioned the other day, the DSM-5 has now included dissociative symptoms to PTSD. These are something that you may see in many cases of PTSD and it is important to understand them.

I want to start by saying right up front, dissociation/symptoms does not mean a person experiences the symptoms of it ALL of the time. It does NOT mean they are a bad person. It means there is indeed a “why” to things which may be happening.

Many times with PTSD people act in ways that “are not themselves” AT TIMES. Things that don’t add up from the basic symptoms of PTSD. This is one of the hardest things to get your head around, so to speak. Especially when you knew that person before PTSD and what they were like, how they acted or didn’t act, their morals, etc. in comparison to now. AGAIN, this is not something that is experienced 24/7, this can happen to the most loving, caring, respected people there are, and can happen from a trigger or when they are overwhelmed, rhyme and reasons to when this may happen do not always fit with this so to speak.. it seems to normal happen during high stress situations but not limited to those times.

In all my years being around PTSD, I have heard the term “dissociated” used once in awhile and even seen it in medical reports, “dissociative symptoms”, however it’s never been explained to us and never pointed out as something to really think about or look into, it’s been one of those “just another term” used.

So I started doing more research into it. I’m by no means an expert on the topic but found it may bring a lot of understanding to others by having/knowing this information. If it was not explained to us, I’m sure there are many others that might be in the same boat.

Now, mind you, there is a lot to this and many different levels, also not everyone with PTSD may suffer with this as well. But it might be a huge light bulb to many. Again, I’m not a doctor or in any medical field… I’m just another spouse of one with PTSD. So I do advise you to do your research and talk with your doctor on this subject if you or a loved one feels this might be something you may be experiencing.

Let’s start with what “dissociation” is. 

“Your sense of reality and who you are depend on your feelings, thoughts, sensations, perceptions and memories. If these become ‘disconnected’ from each other, or don’t register in your conscious mind, your sense of identity, your memories, and the way you see things around you will change. This is what happens during dissociation.” –mind.org.uk

Everyone can experience dissociation to one extreme or another. It could be something as simple as getting “lost” within a movie where you feel you are there experiencing it yourself for example, daydreaming, while driving a common route not realizing how far you have gone or what was along the way to where you are now. So this is common with everyone to some extent.

However there are more serious cases which involve one who has suffered a trauma rather it’s child abuse, a natural disaster, combat, assault, etc. All the traumas linked to PTSD.

Dissociation is a psychological term used when one suffers a mental absence from reality. Even though dissociation is not considered a mental disorder in every case, ones with PTSD as well as acute stress disorder, and conversion disorder (what Craig was originally diagnosed with) can have the symptoms of dissociation.

The human brain stores traumatic events/memories in a different way then normal memories in some cases. With dissociation, the memories are what they refer to as “split off” and can surface from time to time or triggered into consciousness without warning. Over time there are two sets of memories, normal and trauma, which parallel each other without coming together, and the person does not have control over them or when they surface. In extreme dissociation cases it can lead to multiple personalities (DID: Dissociative Identity Disorder), however again, there are different levels of dissociation and not all are to that extreme even though this seems to be very commonly related to traumatic events. And, just to note, dissociation does not mean you are crazy! It means your brain is handling things in a different way. In a way that it is “protecting” you.

Now I will say, a lot of research has been based off of childhood development (some type of trauma that happened normally before the age of 9 years old) however, there have been newer studies (2012) showing that dissociation can very well form as an adult not related to the development stage of one’s youth, due to a trauma as an adult such as combat.

Let’s jump to some of the largest subjects I see and to examples of dissociation. You know when you say “he/she isn’t acting like themselves” or “why did they do that, they would have never done that”…

One thing I hear from others a lot… “He/She’s a pathological liar”

Oh there’s one of the largest misconceptions with PTSD! Which could in a lot of cases be linked to dissociation. I commonly refer to it as “filling in the blanks” when one with PTSD does not recall the truth or what really happened. So, many times will “fill in the blanks” with what they believe is real or facts. Again, this does NOT happen all of the time, it only occurs when dissociation occurs which can be random or triggered by something.

Here is what actually happens.

The difference between one that lies, because we all know there are ones that do just lie out there, and one that dissociates, is ones that dissociate believe what they are saying as the truth, the “lies” are emotionally accurate to them based on what they are feeling rather there are accurate facts involved or not.

The one that dissociates sometimes believe feelings over the actual facts, what they feel at that very moment becomes facts to them. Then when their mood changes they might very well rearrange facts to be more consistent with the way they feel. Thus leading to others viewing them as “the liar who’s story changed.”

One that truly lies, knows they lied, they know and understand what actually happened or why they lied. See the difference now?

Then comes the confrontation! When one that dissociates is faced with hard evidence of what actually took place. This relates to my saying “they will fight to their death they didn’t lie.” In truth, because to them, they didn’t! Their “truth” is based on their feelings of what they feel is real, and not always to the hard facts.

However, there is hope in these situations. If the hard evidence is enough, one can adjust their opinions and views to see the facts before them. I hate to say, with PTSD this can very well bring on the fight or flight, so watch how this is handled and handle it as calmly as possible. An example of the “twisted truth” could be money they spent and swear they didn’t spend it. But in fact there are bank or credit cards records to prove the hard facts, but in their true belief they did did not spend a dime. In this example the hard evidence might or might not appear as facts to them. If not, save it for later when they are not in a dissociative state.

I hate to say, dissociation can be very destructive to those who suffer from it as well as those close to them. Dissociation goes beyond the common errors, self-indulgent denial, or fantasy. It can be very pervasive without a logical explanation or conclusion and can harm your quality of life in many ways. Dissociation can make one appear very irrational, illogical, and cause them to shrug off important things as if they don’t exist as well as have a false reality to things that don’t exist. False memories can form, be altered, or even rearranged at any given time, dissociation also comes with memory lapses or gaps in the memory forming a sense of memory issues to appear and they can also have amnesia where nothing is remembered at all.

Some examples include:

* Telling a story multiple times, but the facts in the story changes.

* They might mirror someone’s else’s story or experience as if were their own.

* Opposite, they might view their own story or experience as if it were someone else’s.

* When confronted with facts they may ignore them or swear they are not true or real. (Such as spending money)

* They might commit an immoral or unethical act and refuse to believe they did it. (Such as cheating) When in fact it is not something in their character to do.

* They might not remember an important event which happened or other times recall/speak of something that didn’t really take place.

This all can be very frustrating or frightening to someone who lives with a person who dissociates… can you imagine how the one who does experience it feels??? I can imagine the word “lost” comes to mind.

When one is dissociating, it is hard for a loved one to have a logical argument, persuasion and reasoning will very rarely come into play. And it’s not something that they are going to just “snap out of”, just like with PTSD itself. If you refer to your loved one with the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” theory, you might just have a little more then PTSD at hand. So it’s something to really think about and look into, because it is very real. In other words, they are not making this up!

Dissociation can also be a part of why people walk away from you or your loved one. It goes back to one believing you are telling lies. Stories can change and people can start not trusting what you say. They normally won’t confront you on things, they just simply stop coming around. One of the hardest things in life when in reality you both need a support system. If dissociation does come along with your PTSD, it might be best to explain it to others so your support system stays in place. It is something very difficult to understand, but very much a need to know situation.

One important thing to keep in mind. Remember that the person who experiences dissociation does not realize what they are doing when these episodes happen. As a loved one, don’t try to get back at them for what they did or said, when they are in this state don’t argue with them… agree to disagree and talk about it another time. It goes back to what we are taught… will that effect me 5 years from now, 10 years from now, is there really an urgency to discuss it right now this moment when they are not going to be able to be rational about the conversation? Sometimes you are going to be better off to address a topic later when they are not dissociative, or if not urgent just let it go!

You may also struggle with memory lapses or fragmented memory. This can play a huge toll on everyday life, work, school, and relationships. You might forget something you studied, a learned skill, appointments, etc. and also leads and adds to feelings of being disconnected form others. It can bring that feeling of floating outside of yourself wondering who that person is you are looking at, the “this is not reality” feeling. It can cause you to be confused, and can even cause you to become unsure about boundaries between yourself and others.

Like I said there is a lot more that goes with this then I could possibly write here, but this will give you a bases to start learning from and let you know that this might be a possibility in your situation. There are many different levels of dissociation from minor, even normal, to severe, and many more details.

Now, there is something different here then with PTSD itself, there have been reports showing that dissociation is or can be “curable” in many cases. So if this is something that you feel has become a part of your life, please contact your doctor and see what they feel or what they feel will help.

The whole key to me writing this boils down to “don’t jump to conclusions”! If your loved one is not acting like themselves, the person you know, then find out why! PTSD is caused by a trauma and affects one in many ways, but with that trauma might come other things as well. Dissociation is a form of “guarding” one’s self, survival so to speak, which is not controlled by them, and may very well come with PTSD.

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”

Thing “To Say” to one with PTSD:

We have talked about what NOT to say to one who has PTSD, but what are things “TO SAY” that can help?

Thing “To Say” to one with PTSD:

* “I’m always here if you want to talk”

PTSD needs support, and many times one with PTSD just wants an ear to listen. When talking with someone who has PTSD, it is important not to interrupt when they are talking. Truly listen to what they are saying. Then respond without changing the subject. Communication! A huge key.

* “I know I can’t understand exactly what you went through, but I’m trying to understand the best I can…”

No, we will never understand exactly what someone else went through with their trauma, so it is important not to say comments that are out of context. We only see “what” they are going through now as a result of the trauma, so our understanding comes from seeing the results not from the trauma itself.

* “I care about you/love you.”

PTSD is tough. Sometimes just reassuring one that you care about them can help. Sometimes they “need” to hear it. It gives the comfort that even through the rough times you are still there for them and still care no matter what you are going through.

* “Can you help me with…”

Many times when one has PTSD, we know they battle so much each day that we don’t want to add to it. So at times we stop asking them for help with even simple things. Where you think you are helping, you might actually be doing the opposite, it could be taken as “I’m not needed any more” or “they are fine without me”. Keep a balance. Ask for help if you need it or would like to have it from one with PTSD, and accept a no if they don’t feel up to it without tossing negative remarks at them. By asking let’s them know they are still needed and helps keep the balance.

* “Would you like to…”

This helps keep them included, even if it’s just going for a walk or watching a movie. Again, stay away from any negative remarks if the answer is no, you could follow it up with “is there anything else yo would like to do?”. You are giving input to something you would like to do with them and also backing it up with a different option of their choice. The important thing is for PTSD not to get into that stuck position too much.

* “You seem…(angry, frustrated, sad, etc) today, do you want to talk or is there anything I could help with?”

This is important. Many times one with PTSD might not realize their actions or the way they are coming across to someone else. By saying this you are pointing out how you are viewing things, you are opening the door for if they want or need to talk, and if that’s not the way they are feeling it opens communication for what they are actually feeling and keeps misunderstandings from happening or one taking it personally.

* “I am taking your medical condition to heart, keeping it in mind, can we talk about the way I am feeling about…?”

By saying things along this line before starting a serious conversation helps let the one with PTSD know you are not tossing their feeling and what they are going through to the side. You are keeping them in consideration. But you are also allowing for your feelings to be discussed on whatever topic is at hand. Communication is important, and both of you are important. This gives a decent icebreaker to prepare one with PTSD that a serious talk is needed but you also care what they think and how they feel. Do not misuse this! If you are keeping them in mind, make sure you do!

These are a few things that can help with knowing what “TO” say to one with PTSD. Words and how they are used becomes a great importance with PTSD so also think before you speak, keep communication lines open, make sure you do not just assume things, and make sure you use your ears and not just your mouth. 😉

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”

PTSD vs Relaxation…

PTSD vs Relaxation

Being able to relax when you have PTSD can be one of the hardest things you have ever tried to accomplish. However, being able to relax is a huge key to battling PTSD! 😉

Some things that can help:

* Environment. 

Your environment can make a huge difference to how you can relax or not. It is important to feel comfortable. There are things you can do to make your home or an area in your home “peaceful” to give you the ability to focus on relaxing.

– Sound of water. One of the things I did was place the pond outside the master bedroom. By doing this, the waterfall gives me the sound which is calming. I can hear it when I’m sitting at my desk, I can look out the window and watch it, which gives the ability to “take you away” to good thoughts, and when night comes the sound is peaceful and relaxing within the bedroom.

The sound of water is soothing, use it. If you don’t have a pond or not in the position to have one or want one, try using indoor waterfalls. These do not have to be expensive and these days can be purchased even at the dollar or discount stores. Place them around your home where you need them. They also make great conversation pieces and add to your decor. People seem to be attracted to them and will actually sit and enjoy them forever. Fish tanks are also another way to get the water sound in your home, just remember that they do bring upkeep to them but that can also lead you to a new hobby. 😉

– Cleanliness. I’m not saying you have to spit shine the house lol. But keeping your home free of clutter can form a more relaxing environment… and also keeps you from saying “oh I really need to do this or that” which causes your brain to stay in high gear and not relax.

– Organize. Organize your house or area. Have certain places for things and when you use things put them back afterwards. This not only helps with keeping things straight, it also helps if you have memory issues with your PTSD. You know where your things are located and it keeps down the frustration of finding things.

* Bedtime. 

Being able to relax at bedtime is urgent for PTSD! It helps fight the demons PTSD can bring.

– Clean, comfortable sheets and blankets. These things can help you relax. There is nothing nicer then going to bed on clean sheets. They have a nice smell to them, may be soft, and a good thing to help you relax. You can even get laundry detergents in different fragrances such as lavender, mountain spring, and many others that helps soothe you. Find one that you like and is right for you!

– Make sure your bed is comfortable. An uncomfortable bed is hard enough to sleep on, then you add PTSD to it, it becomes pretty important.

– Watch what you eat or drink. Avoid eating heavy foods or drinks that cause you to stay awake. The point is, you want a restful sleep, so you don’t want to be battling what you ate or drank along with what the night brings to PTSD.

– Avoid tv, movies, news articles… anything that could make you unsettled before bedtime. You don’t want those things lingering throughout the night in your memory or causing triggers.

* Coping. 

There are many coping skills out there to help you relax. There are many forms of meditation, breathing exercises, even scents you can add to your home, lavender and rosemary are two that I have found work the best. You can also add herb plants which add to the fragrance and also add colors that are relaxing.

* Outside influences. 

Avoid any outside influences or conversations that could get you or your PTSD stirred up when possible, especially before going to bed. If you have conversations, make them positive ones, recap on good things that happened during the day or what you might want to do tomorrow. When you are stressed or not having a good day, avoid phone calls or emails from people that could add stress. You can handle them when you are in a better frame of mind, this also keeps things from being blown out of proportion and/or arguements. Give your brain time to relax and handle those things another time.

* Music.

Music can be a miracle worker within itself. Find some soothing music that you like, something relaxing. Keep your heavier music and lyrics for other times when you are not feeling stress. Let the music just soak in and calm you.

*Colors.

Colors make the world go round. You see all of the time “this color is calming or soothing”, they have those labels for a reason. The brain processes colors in different ways. Use colors that are soothing or even neutral colors within your home or area. Don’t get stuck on what the trend colors are, trends change and it won’t be a trend forever. Choose colors that you find relaxing. It can make a huge difference to you.

*Hobbies.

Having a hobby is something that can help you relax. It gives you something different to do away from your daily routines. It also works your brain. 😉 The brain is still a muscle, it needs exercise! Hobbies will work those muscles and keep you focused on what you are doing and away from negative thoughts. Take time to find something that you enjoy! I would not advise getting into a hobby that becomes a high expense though, many times with PTSD you might find it hard to stick to one thing or your interests might change, expensive hobbies can also lead to financial stressers, which no one wants. So keep it simple but something you enjoy!

* Ask for help.

Some things in life can be or become extremely stressful. At times asking someone else for help can be a great help to you. It doesn’t make you any less of a person by any means, it actually shows how strong you are. There are many people out there that have knowledge in so many different fields, use them as a resource to help you! You might be shocked at things someone else has come up with or knows about that you haven’t thought about. And once you find things that work for you, you might just be able to use your knowledge to help someone else. 😉

These are a few things that can help you with relaxing or learning to relax. Again, finding ways and things to help bring relaxation to your life will put you another step up on fighting the battle PTSD brings.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story…PTSD

PTSD vs Numbness…

PTSD vs Numbness

You know, one of the toughest things that comes with PTSD is feeling numb. Last week we touched on the “motions lead to emotions”, but when you have felt numb, and sometimes for a very long time, how do you get to the actions, the motions?

I have found that many with PTSD lose a sense of the “what”, what do I do?

Craig and I watched a movie last night, “The Vow”. It was about a couple that was so in love, so happy together, showed all of the funny things they enjoyed together, etc. Then, there was an accident and she ended up with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) which lead to her not remembering anything about their relationship. This movie really hit home base with me, with Craig’s memory being so severe with PTSD. I kind of related to what the husband was going through… and I’m sure Craig related to the wife.

But you know what? There was something in the movie that hit home base with me. And I realized it is really how I view things actually.

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

That was a very strong line in that movie! And kind of fits with my life I think. I know Craig loves me, there is no doubt in my mind about that. But I also know he feels numb to love and feelings.

I have had many people say to me “How do you do it? How do you manage to stay? How do you cope with the memory issues? How do you cope with his PTSD?”

I think it’s all because I never give up on him… or us! Like the husband in the movie, I know what our relationship was like before PTSD. I know all of the laughter, the goofy things we would do, the things that made both of us smile, the things that we like or don’t like, just everything that made us, us.

I act on those things. Craig will get me for sharing this one later hehe 😉 There is one thing that I use to do when we were teens, silly thing, but it became a huge part of us. I use to squeeze his lips from the corners, making what I call a fish face, and say “fishy wishy… say it lol I won’t let go until you say it” and sooner or later he would give in and say it. We both would just laugh at it and yep it normally ended up with me being tickled. LOL! So silly, but you know what, when he was really down last week I did that. He said no, not doing it. And I said I won’t stop until you do. Before I knew it he was giggling and I was all smiles and laughing. That silly and childish “fishy wishy” is a part of us and who we are. No matter what PTSD brings to our lives or how serious life is now, that silly thing broke through the PTSD. For just a few minutes I saw it break through the numb.

Of course the movie had a happy ending and was based off of a true life story, the couple ended up back together and had children and a family even though the wife’s memory never returned she fell in love with him all over again.

It was a true life story about TBI and life. I see it being no different then life with PTSD. You might lose something in a relationship, you might feel numb, you might forget things, but are those things really lost? I refuse to believe so. You have to just work around them and find that new love in your relationship so to speak. The motions that lead to emotions and can help with the numb feelings.

Life and relationships don’t have to end with PTSD, they can in a way start over. Don’t dwell on what you have lost, find the new. Use those little things that you and your loved one found special. Even if it is only for a few minutes, they can help take that numb feeling away and remind you of the good that is there and the feelings. Don’t give up!

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

I have pondered on this. How do you show someone how to love, how do you show them actions that they can do to bring a sort of happiness?

The only thing i could come up with were the things I knew in the past we laughed about, the silly things, the little things that meant something to us and no one else…anything to break the ice of PTSD and Depression.

Our fishy wishy worked! I saw my husband giggle at me and how silly I’m sure I looked doing it. Especially with how serious life has become and everything I have to stay focused on. And it was worth every second of it!

So what are things you can do to help other then your personal things?

* Watch movies together, ones that are what Craig calls girly movies, the ones that have romance, facts of life, and what life is about.

* Take time to look through old silly photos of yourself and what you were like and don’t focus on what you lost, but what could still be there hidden that you can find again.

* Do something that you use to do. Step out of your comfort zone to something you use to enjoy, even if it’s just for a little while and nothing that is beyond what you can handle.

* Spouses, uh huh I’m talking to you now! Think about what made you laugh and your spouse laugh and take away the seriousness of what you are going through now and act on what you know made both of you happy in the past. There’s something, find it!

* Talk about good times and memories you have. Come on now, every single one of us has those, those crazy or silly things you use to do.

* Use the good and positive memories or thoughts. Don’t worry about how silly they might be or what would someone say… who cares! Relate to the good times and get a good laugh from them!

* Go out of your way and daily routines to try something new! You can still stay in a comfort zone and find something nice or funny to make new good memories.

Life may have changed, you may feel as if you have changed, but there is good there… use it! PTSD is a battle, but in reality, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time, you have the tools to fight it and break through it! Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on your loved one. Being stuck is really hard and does come with PTSD, use the tools of life to get through it! You might just be surprised what is still there but just hidden. 😉

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”