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Military vs PTSD

I want to talk to all of you that are in the military this morning. PLEASE bare with everything I have to say here and know I have the deepest respect for each and every one of you that put your life on the line for all of us rather it’s now, the past, or in the future. I also know that some of you might not like hearing some of what I may say here, but please read this in it’s entirety and know I’m not going to sugarcoat things and as always I am going to say it like it is. So just keep in mind I do have total respect for you as well as the job you do.  With as many emails that I get, I HAVE to and need to address this.

Military vs PTSD

I have to say military personnel, our proud brothers and sisters in uniform, are the ones in the most difficult position there is when it comes to PTSD.

See, one who chooses to be in the military, chose it as life, a life style, an honor. Very few walk away from it on their own after their first enlistment. Many do see it as a lifetime. Some have served for years, and many since they were in their teens. I know there is no greater position then serving your country. I know this firsthand because my husband was one of those who did. He was a lifer… at least that was his intentions, and he did not want to leave the military!

WE chose together for him to join the military, so I was by no means a wife that was not on board with it, I backed him 110%. Even though our paths separated for awhile through life, to say the least we got back together… and I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

I saw changes in him when we got back together, I knew what he had been through and accepted it. What we now know as PTSD was what he was silently battling with minor symptoms at the time from what happened to him. But one day that changed. PTSD honestly brought him to his knees, the man that I knew, many knew, as the best of the best, strong willed and stronger then many, and by all means a great leader to others had been effected by this unseen disability that we did not understand at the time.

His greatest concern was not himself, it was his military job. He was concerned that if he asked for help or told anyone what he was experiencing, it would end his career. We found ways to handle what he was experiencing, but it honestly was not enough. I started watching him get further and further away, I watched him change into a person I no longer knew, and PTSD did bring him to his knees.

He fought me on getting help. We never fought so this was really tough on us. But I knew professional help was needed. One day he stopped fighting it and me, and reached out for help. I will say right up front, help was not generously offered. It was a battle of it’s own, but we did not give up.

His memory issues were what stood out the most at the time. The picking fights for no reason, doing things totally out of his character, and eventually the issues rolled over to his work.

One day I had to break through to him. He wanted to give up when doors were being slammed in his face, things at work were becoming worse, and things at home sure were not normal. But I knew not to give up.

I had to sit and talk to him one day. It was not an easy conversation. He did not want to cause any more waves and chance losing is career, his love of the military and country. But he had to face the facts at hand.

“You love the military and you don’t want to let your country or family down. But what happens when what you are going through costs someone else their life? You care about your brothers and sisters, they are our family. But with the way you are right now, you could cause them harm or cost them their life if you don’t continue to try to get help for yourself.” Hardest words I ever had to say to him, but very much the truth and facts on the table.

Months of doctors followed, people thinking he was just wanting out, command not being understanding at all. Yes, I can say we were going through hell and the words PTSD were never even mentioned… not until later. They took him from his ship and put him at a desk job eventually. I really think a part of him died when that happened followed by us watching his crew deploy and he was not allowed to go with them. His loyalty to this country came first, and now it couldn’t. That cut deep. It cut deep for me too as I watched what it did to him.

Eventually he did lose his career. And don’t let me lose you here, keep reading please. After the military the battle became harder, adapting to civilian life is not easy so I will not tell you it is. His PTSD became worse no one was treating him for it, oh and the VA is who said PTSD chronic to us, he was discharged with conversion disorder because they said it was the only thing that fit, PTSD was never even considered to our knowledge.

If we knew then what we know now. A phrase that I’m sure will haunt both of us for life, but we won’t let that weigh us down. My military family, you have a chance we didn’t! I know it’s not easy and I know what it does to you to ask for help and then have to push to get it, I also know that many are afraid of losing their career and military life, for many of you it is all you know. I do understand because I see it through my own husband’s eyes.

But I also know and he does too, that if he had reached out for help sooner things might be different today. When you start treating PTSD soon enough, your chances of keeping your career become much higher. I am watching ones with PTSD make it to retirement! Your job might change, I can’t say for fact it won’t, but you can still serve your country. What you do for yourself now could change your outcome. If PTSD is there, it’s not going to go away and the longer you avoid it the worse it will become, there’s no getting around that one.

There are so many things now that can help. There is so much information, therapy, coping skills, etc that can help you now.

The fact is, and don’t get mad at me here  when you signed on the dotted line and joined the military, you knew there are wounds from war, you knew that one day the day may come that you served and could no longer move on to the next battle, it’s part of the job. You knew that the day would come sooner or later and you would have to join the civilian population again. But none of us expected it could happen by an unseen injury. Life does not stop at the end of a military career, rather you make it through retirement or not. Your love for your country, brothers and sisters does not stop. And it sure doesn’t have to stop at PTSD.

Those who do lose their careers to PTSD, your military job has not ended, so to speak. The page has just turned and you are needed to continue a battle, just of a different sort. Your battle you now or will face is continuing to help your brothers and sisters in uniform that face the PTSD battle. Your country still needs you and greater then ever! Wounds of war, you now stand in front of another brother or sister and guide their way through the wounds of war so they can live through the battle they now face.

PTSD is no joke, it’s taking more lives then war is. PTSD is not just going away, but it’s a battle that can be fought and won on a different type of battle field. Life is going to change, it’s just a fact of life, but you CAN survive it. Get the help you need, learn everything you can so you have the weapons for the battle, and you will find you have a huge following asking you to help guide their way, not just a battle but through life. Military will end one day for you, there is no getting around that fact rather it’s now or later, but the help you can offer those in uniform will never end, they need YOU! You still have a mission, prepare yourself for it.

I speak from the facts. I watch my husband’s eyes light up as they did when he was active duty, in a good way, every time I receive an email saying “what you wrote or said saved my life”. My “family”, we are living proof the mission is not over, it’s just changed. Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on those that are going to come behind you. Fight for the help you need now, it can and will make a difference for your future and the future of others.

My greatest respect to each of you that wear your uniform proudly and those that wore it in the past and will in the future. You are all Heroes… and that is a career that will never end.

~Bec
“A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”

PTSD vs Survivors Guilt

I want to touch on something today that many forget about or don’t even consider when it comes to one with PTSD.

PTSD vs Survivors Guilt

This is a topic that I have found effects many with PTSD. It is very apparent in the many Veterans I have spoken to or been in contact with, but does not effect only them, it stretches to anyone that has survived an episode where someone else didn’t.

The questions and statements brought up range widely…
-Why am I alive?
-What could I have done differently that could have saved them?
-Why am I the one that came back and they didn’t?
-I should have saved them.

The list is endless. The fact is, if you are hearing any of these things from a PTSD loved one, most likely you are not only dealing with PTSD but there may very well be survivors guilt there as well.

This is probably one of the most difficult things to cope with. Many Veterans ( I speak from the Veterans side since that is what Craig is, but it does go for anyone.) I know have found that helping others or helping other Veterans is a good way to cope with this. To feel useful, to unwrap some of the burden they feel to at least speak of it, they might do it because their doctor wants them to, and the most sincere… they know it might just save the next life. It’s in reality a form of survival. There are many that do not yet understand what PTSD brings and I know first hand that these very Veterans who shared their stories with me, as well as their guilt of the losses they saw or in some cases caused in the line of duty, brought a new understanding to me that I am very grateful for. Without them opening up the way they have done, it would have been a very difficult road to me understanding my own husband.

It goes back to a story I shared a little while back. Every one of the Veterans thanked me for listening, told me how much it helps them to be able to talk, but in reality they all helped me too! They are the ones I am thankful for. See, if they indeed weren’t the ones to survive, where would the next generations learn from? I believe that there is a reason for everything, I don’t know all of the answers to why lol because we sure don’t wish anything bad on anyone, but there’s a reason.

The ones who suffer from survivors guilt I have found are very hard on themselves. Almost like they are punishing themselves for surviving. And I can’t see through the computer but I bet there are a lot of heads shaking yes right now. My friends, don’t punish yourself, there’s no reason to. Without you and what you can bring to the rest of us, this world would be very incomplete! I know things happened that haunt you and your dreams, but you have a life to live that will change those of the future. I also know that there is nothing I can say that will change the way you feel, but I can say I am still proud of you and proud you are here today. You bring the rest of us wisdom, understanding, compassion, and hope.

To those of you who have a loved one which show the signs of survivors guilt, it’s not something to turn your back on or brush off. It’s real, it comes from real events, real feelings, and you have to make sure you make an extra effort to try to understand the best you can with not experiencing what they have and be there for them with extra love and understanding when these feelings surface. This is the time they will need you the most and also the time they might somewhat pull away. Be cautious of this. They need their space but they also need you! Especially during these times!

~Bec

Comments from those who wrote in on this subject: (with permission given to share)

” Yes, I have not been able to enjoy a holiday or any special occasion without the guilt, thinking of those who never got the chance. I often think why did I make it!”

~John, PTSD Veteran

“Could not have said it better,Bec–you do have a way with words. I was one of three who survived an ambush, out of fourteen, and the only way I found to get over the guilt feelings was to go and contact the families of the fallen, and share what I could with them–the good times, character quirks, stories shared, etc. You know, just about every one of them invited me in, had me stay for dinner, or lunch, and seemed glad to hear about the final hours of their loved ones—it helped me—thanks for your understanding, and your sharing.”

~Larry, PTSD Veteran

“PTSD vs Avoidance”

You know how you do things and just don’t think about it? Well, I was headed for another cup of coffee, still have the bummed knee so hobbling, and I thought, why don’t I go the other way through the kitchen? It’s a pass through kitchen and I take the long way…every time. So I turned direction and went the other way, the shorter way. Then I realized why I take the long way…there’s not a light switch for the kitchen at the other end.

“PTSD vs Avoidance”

**Again, I’m not a doctor of any sort and can not give medical advise. These are only my personal opinions and experiences.**

Ahhh…I was going somewhere with that, wasn’t I? 😉 One of the true symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. You avoid crowds, gatherings, family, friends, events, relationships, the news, tv or newspapers in general, maybe something as simple as a trip to the grocery store, emotions, thoughts, etc.

Are you really avoiding all of those things? Or are you really avoiding the “what if”. The situation which may arise or happen? The feeling that you are different? The mind set of something is going to happen? The chance of a trigger happening? The avoidance of feeling or emotion?

Avoiding things has it’s good as well as it’s bad that comes with it. It’s a way of coping right then and there, short term. It helps you get through a situation so you can do something. You might feel like you want to cry, or on the flip side lash out. Avoiding the thoughts and emotions of what you have been through can help keep these things from happening. However, long term avoidance can be more damaging. Avoiding things and seeing it helped you hold back those feelings can lead you to being numb. Pulling you away from family and friends. I know, that feeling of if I face it I am going to lose control. Control of the tears, control of the anger, and everything else that comes with it.

Sometimes you have to just have that trust, and that trust within yourself. If I face this, I won’t lose control, I can have a grip on it. Sometimes it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry…you are human!

I have watched my husband become a hermit because of avoidance. I have also seen him bounce back at times. And when he does find the strength to face some things, it’s not easy! Anxiety goes through the roof. But I also see his reaction when he has made it through something…and nothing bad happened! That smirk on his face of  “I did it.”

Walking out that front door is one of the hardest things for him to do. And that’s when I remind him it’s healthy for you to go outside, how you will feel better when you do. The fresh air, seeing things around you other then four walls, the sounds of nature. It all plays a roll in being the best you can be, even if it’s just for that moment.

Mark it on a calendar, I’m being serious! “Today I made it outside for 10 minutes”. Do you know what that can do? Tomorrow when you look at that calendar you might think “Wow, yesterday I went outside for 10 minutes. Hum, today I can make it for 15.” It gives you something to look at, to put into perspective of what you accomplished and a goal to work forward from. Maybe today is a day you can’t pull yourself from your bedroom. Mark that too. When you start seeing on paper, in your own handwriting, hey I haven’t made it from my bedroom in 4 days, what do you think you will do? I bet you make it to the living room. 😉 It’s okay to have those bad days, they are going to be there, but they are also something to build from.

I always direct you back to a calendar. My reason, you can see it plotted out by days. You can see how many days have passed by, you can see accomplishments you have made, you can figure out where you want to improve things from here. How about “Today I didn’t have any triggers”, then another day you might have 4, write them on there. It helps you notice the triggers and exactly what they are. It can help you face them in a way that you don’t feed the avoidance…with your own writing. Just something to think about. 😉

PTSD is so overwhelming that you lose sight and focus on the “who I was”, “what I was”, “I let you down”. Getting past that, or to a better place then you are right now is hard! Beyond words! Finding the good and positive in things is a difficult task and no one can do it for you. It’s a step you have to try for yourself. Does it make the horrors go away, no. Does it make the triggers stop, no. Does it stop the anxiety, no. But does it put things into a perspective you can understand and look at? Yes. It helps you with the avoidance.

Easier said then done? Absolutely! But then again, what in life is easy? Nothing! It’s a way for you to be able to learn to cope and learn to live again. PTSD is not the end, I refuse to believe that! You all are worth more then anything that could be put into words.

A simple example. How many of you have avoided posting on here? I bet at times every single one of you. Why? Because someone may judge you? Someone might not like what you say? Someone might think you are crazy? SO WHAT! Do those things really matter? You are who you are, and that is a very special human being. One thing you think and don’t post, know what that one thing might do? It might just save someone’s life, might make another person stop and think, it might even educate someone close to you that didn’t understand you. Look to the good my friends, you might be surprised at what you find there. (And no, I don’t expect everyone to post! I leave that to each of you and your comfort zone!)

Sometimes avoiding things is needed, but other times it’s not. Will I stop taking the short way to the kitchen when it’s dark? Yes, I sure will, there’s no way of having light from that way. But will I take the short way when it’s daylight? Yes, it helps me with my bummed knee. There’s 2 ways to look at everything, always remember that. 😉

~Bec

A Spouse’s Story PTSD

Let me tell you a story…A VERY special “group” of people.

As much as we all know that PTSD can affect anyone and is not only military related, I have to touch on the military for a second and you will understand why when you read this. 😉

There is a very special “group” that is dear to my heart. Without them I have no idea where Craig and I would be right now! So let me tell you a story….

There was a day when Craig had a very serious migraine, he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, rolled around in pain and couldn’t get to his feet. This was during the time that we were still waiting on the VA to get him in the system and I was lost at what to do. I looked up and saw our neighbor walking by and ran out for help. This was an older gentleman, he walked with a cane and was not doing too well, but one that talked to me every day as he passed.

He told me that I could take Craig to the VA’s ER and they would take him in even though we were still waiting for official appointments. That man, who could have said nothing at all, was the man who sent me in the right direction for getting my husband help that day. The ER doc got Craig into the system that day and the road to help started for us.In days to follow, and still to this day, we spent much time at the VA. There were many times I would be sitting in the hallway alone. But, I never sat alone for long. There was always someone that would sit down beside me and start a conversation. The question was always asked, “What is wrong with your husband?” And I would reply not knowing their response, “The docs are saying PTSD.”From there I have heard many stories over the years now. Every person who took the time to sit beside me would ask if I minded them sharing their’s with me. Every time I would reply with I don’t mind at all. And when they finished talking they would tell me thank you. Thank me? I would smile at them and chuckle, no, thank YOU!One gentleman told me, “Young lady you just don’t understand. You listening to me has helped me.” I smiled and said, “But what you don’t realize is you have also helped me.”See, every story that I took the time to listen to worked in a two fold. I helped them by simply listening and talking to them, but they greatly helped me by teaching me what to understand.

Who am I referring to? Our Vietnam Veterans!!!

Every single one of those people I talked to, the neighbor that helped us out so much, all Vietnam Veterans! I know and understand what I do today because they took the time, not only to serve our country, but to help me learn and understand. I listened and took to heart every word they spoke and advise they had to offer. And yes, I THANK them (YOU)! I would not be the person I am today, our family may not have survived this new normal, if you had not taken the time for me! My “elders” as you will hear me refer to them as, ARE my heroes! THANK YOU!!!!! 🙂

~Bec

WELCOME!

I want to start this journal of mine by saying “Welcome” to everyone! My name is Rebecca also called “Becky or Bec” by my family and friends. This is my little part of the world where I can share what life is like living beside PTSD chronic, Depressive Disorder (formally diagnosed as Conversion Disorder), and other disabilities. I’m not a doctor or in any medical field, I’m “just” a spouse 😉 . No one ever expects life to turn out certain ways, especially when mental illnesses become a part of it, but my family is living proof that even with these illnesses involved life does NOT end. It takes learning, coping skills, educating, and adjusting …but life DOES still exist 😉

My husband served proudly for this country of red, white, and blue …and asked for nothing in return. The result…he suffers from these illnesses which effect his everyday life. You know what, he would do it all again for each and every one of us! I stand proud of him and always will. Together we chose to no longer remain in the shadows and silent. Instead, we do share our life story in hopes it will help another individual or family make it through another day and to even be able to carry a smile with it 🙂 NO ONE deserves to stand alone!

See, PTSD and other mental illnesses do not pick a nation, skin color, adult or child, they are not only military related, and do not choose an age. My belief is it does happen to what I call “the best of the best”, the strong ones. I have found that in the world of PTSD you will find the most understanding, compassionate, and caring people that would give you the shirt off their own back if they could. I find it sad that these very people are the ones judged and carrying the stigma that goes with mental illnesses/disorders. They didn’t ask for this to happen, just as a person fighting cancer or one whom has lost a leg did not ask for it, it just happens.

YOU being here and reading this is a huge step no matter where you stand on the subject. You might be the one suffering from it, the spouse/partner, the parent, the child, the relative, the friend, the one that is just curious, or even the one that does not believe it exists. Fact is, you are here and that means something to the world. TOGETHER each and every one of us CAN make it through life living with or beside PTSD… 🙂

I Welcome you to my story, our story… “A Spouse’s Story…PTSD”,

~Bec