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Words are everything…

Words are everything…

There is one thing that I learned a long time ago with PTSD, and the reality is, in life itself… your wording is and means everything!

I’ve spoken to a few people recently and those conversations really made me realize I needed to share this, and this REALLY comes from the heart.

PTSD can bring a lot of things with it. At times it can bring out some of the most nastiest sounding and hurtful things one has ever heard or felt, but NOT only from the one with PTSD, but from a loved one as well.

PTSD is going to try you, both of you, all of you! It will try to push every button you have. It will look for that fight when symptoms are increased… fight or flight is very real with PTSD. It at times will cause or try to cause emotional pain. It is a human reaction that comes out when a person is hurting emotionally, any person.

NO ONE purposely does this!!! PTSD and responses to it are what does this. Emotions are what causes this.

There is no long write-up on this one  No long in depth conversation like I am known for. This is simple.

If you do not ever learn anything else from this page/me (which I hope will NEVER be the case! There’s a lot to learn and share!) I want you to really think about and learn this…

This is real life. With it, we are never promised tomorrow, we are not even promised another hour or minute. When this life brings those harsh words, misunderstanding, emotional hurt, and struggles… find ways to correct it! We know words and feelings cannot always be avoided, we know at times they come out wrong or in harshness. We know this life can get thrown into chaos at times and then it comes again. NO MATTER what happens, who it is to or from… step back, take a deep breath, and work through it TOGETHER!

Live each day as if there may not be another. That is one thing in this life that you own, it is your’s, and nothing or no one can take that away from you! Learning to live as such will rarely leave any regrets for later.

Today, take a moment no matter how good or bad things are right now… and share a smile, share a hug, share an “I’m sorry” or “We will be okay”.

Words can be and mean everything, please make sure you find the positive ones in there too. 

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Let’s talk about PTSD and Anger…

Let’s talk about PTSD and Anger…

Anger is a huge topic with PTSD… in other words you have been warned this will be a long posting. I am breaking it up for easier reading. 

One who has PTSD can be seemingly doing okay, then what seems like out of nowhere BAM! There’s that anger or high frustration. When this happens most likely something has triggered PTSD and/or possibly one has become overwhelmed.

Anger, frustration, and outbursts ARE symptoms of or do come with PTSD. They are very real and majority of the time do get taken out on those closest to them or whomever is right there at that time. It’s not done on purpose, anger is a response of what PTSD causes.

This is one of the most difficult things for a spouse/partner to handle, or to comprehend it’s not actually personal towards them, even when words spoken makes it seem as if it is. It leads to the arguments, fights, unsettled feelings, and also many times gives PTSD that fight it’s looking for. The “fight or flight” which also comes with PTSD. You guessed it, that one trigger sends a vicious cycle into motion.

I learned a long time ago arguing with someone who has been triggered or in heightened levels of symptoms, or anyone that’s angry for that matter… is just not worth it. They are not going to always view things as rational… how could they? They are now in a high alert, high anxiety, hyper arousal mode. Many times, survival mode! When one does give into the fight, normally later it’s nothing but tears and hurt feelings towards each other.

After the fact, the one with PTSD many times is truly sorry, feels guilty, or may not even recall what took place. Ever have an argument or disagreement then notice the one with PTSD later acts normal like nothing ever happened? Bingo, right there is why. It’s not that they are pushing what happened to the side, it’s that the state of mind PTSD caused was at hand.

When anxiety and other PTSD symptoms go up, including stress, concentration and the brain processing things can go down. This can prevent things that happen from making it into long term memory. Memory issues, cognitive issues, and concentration are not directly stated symptoms of PTSD, but they are VERY real with PTSD, and anxiety itself.

Okay, so we get the why now. But what can we do?

Without learning how to manage the arguing, fighting, or the stress and conflict that comes with it, sooner or later it will mentally effect both people, and sure does not help relationships. This is when that good ol’ trial and error comes into play. You have to try something!

A few days ago I shared an old posting of mine “Anger and Outbursts” which shared several different ways of learning how to cope with anger. Yes, there are ways to manage anger, it’s not going to make anger go away, anger is a PTSD symptom, but it can be managed better. It does not mean the same thing will work every time for every single situation, trial and error.  And you keep trying.

Craig has always best described anger as “floating anger”. As he says it, “It is right there, all of the time, laying under the surface just waiting to come out.” It’s one of the symptoms he has learned to manage pretty well. Sometimes it takes more effort then other times, sometimes I will step in and calmly prompt that a situation is becoming too much, overwhelming or stressful, time to step away from a situation so he can focus on coping.

The largest thing I personally found that helps as a spouse, is simply listening AND watching how I respond or word things, as well as when I respond can help. It does not mean I just sit back and take it! I don’t. But my choice of wording etc. can help anger be managed, and find ways to calmly help in order to allow the feeling to be managed.

Many times when symptoms are high, one does not realize how they sound, how things come across to another person. Many times it’s a build up of trying to hold everything in and it vents out, other times it’s triggered.

Now, just to note here, flashbacks are a totally different subject! One needs to be grounded if in a flashback. We will talk more about those another time. This is not relating to flashbacks… only anger, frustration, and outbursts.

Over time, Craig and I found that body language really breaks through PTSD more then words, even though I learned how to word things and those work also with him. All I have to do now when I see he is becoming frustrated or angry is sit back, raise my eye brows a little, and give him that “okay, I’m listening” female look.  Even if he does not realize how PTSD is causing him to act, that look cues him coping skills are needed NOW. Arguing is really a thing of the past with us, but the PTSD symptoms have not gone away, we have just learned how to manage them. 

So, other than body language, what are some of the things we have come up with that help?

You start with tone. Speaking when anger is present, your tone is everything! If you are snappy, bitter, have a raised voice, or toss anger OR hurt feelings back, you will most likely get the “fight” with the anger. It takes a calm tone in my opinion, to break through what PTSD is causing at that moment. As I say it  (figure of speech), this is when you really have to “bite your tongue” and do not lash out, back towards one. You focus on your tone, your wording, and your own coping skills.

I found that even telling myself, “This is PTSD. This is not him.” helps me keep focus, keeps things from being taken personally, and allows me to look for what will get through to him. It keeps over reactions down as well. In reality, it’s in a way forcing a sort of dissociation in order to be able to cope and help him through an anger state. I’m right there, I’m listening, but at the same time I’m maintaining my own balance so I can help him.

I get asked quite often, “What do you say when anger comes?

Now, keep in mind, every person may respond differently! It is trial and error to find the words that work best for each individual. I will say that over the years I have learned to notice anger very quickly and we have learned how to get it managed before it escalates. Craig has also learned to notice the symptom and feeling of anger when it starts to increase, and manages it very well with coping skills. But it was not always that way.

NOTE: I am not a doctor of any sort, these are things from our personal experiences that have simply helped us. I am NOT giving medical advice and if you are unsure how to handle a situation or what is best for your situation please contact your doctor or local crisis hotline.

How I, or we, word things for different situations…

Personal Situations/ One on One:

“I notice you seem angry. Do you need some time to yourself to use your coping skills?”

This one addresses what I am noticing in a caring, concerned tone. At the same time it is presenting an option or prompt that coping skills are needed.

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“You seem frustrated. Do you want to talk about it?”

If talking is an option this is where listening and not over talking or giving too many personal views as a spouse takes place. You don’t want to add static noise when you are addressing anger and frustration. That could lead to “fight”. You are simply allowing one the option to vent and communicate.

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“You seem like you need some down time to unwind. I’ll be in the next room if you need me.”

Again, it’s prompting that you notice a symptom is escalating. It’s allowing personal space to cope. But at the same time it opens communication in case one is wanting that, it’s not just one walking away.

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“What’s on your mind right now? Is there anything I can do?”

Straight forward in a calm tone. Prompts one that you are noticing something is bothering them and opens up a line of communication.

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What became the golden line for us in the past…

“I know this is PTSD talking this way, you do not talk to me like that.”
Followed by, “I am simply listening to you.”

VERY calm and level tone! That line was our original breakthrough. It was the first thing that ever worked for us to break through the anger and arguing. I would wait until he said “Why aren’t you saying anything!” or something along those lines, you know… PTSD looking for the fight. It was a pause and I used my response to break through to Craig through his PTSD. I always waited for that break/pause in the anger before I would speak. No arguing back! It’s not something that happens the first time, it takes time and you keep trying, repeating it, but this worked for us.

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Outside Negative Influences:

There are times in high stress situations where anger will rise and I will step in to help manage it if in the situation Craig cannot focus to recognize it. Normally these times are based around outside negative influences such as… Someone brings on high stress even when told not to or “that’s enough”. Someone tries to start an argument or becomes verbally out of control themselves first. Or someone stepping beyond personal boundaries such as the stealing from us episode we experienced a few days back.

There are many outside negative influences that can trigger PTSD anger.

I have become rather quick to tell others when they are bringing on too much stress or triggering anger. Some of the following things Craig uses also. High stress can lead to anger. Unfortunately, some people love to push a person to see if they can set PTSD off. Many times these are the people who are not happy within themselves or with their own lives and they take things out on others or cause conflict… those with PTSD seem to become almost like targets for these types of people. Other times they dismiss the fact one has PTSD or they don’t understand it. So you have to be the one to take control of your boundaries when these situations are at hand.

Unfortunately, many times if there is a conflict the one with PTSD gets blamed simply because they have PTSD. It’s not always PTSD that starts things! Anyone can cause conflict, and anyone can have anger. Learning what to do for your best interest in these situations to manage/cope with your anger and the situation can help prevent blame as well.

This is when “flight” comes in handy.  WALK AWAY if possible! If someone is bringing on too much stress or triggering anger, or is angry themselves… there is nothing wrong with walking away from them and the situation in order to help control your anger or frustration. Even if it’s simply walking to another room until everyone calms down. Learn your boundaries.

Here are some things we have used for these situations:

“You are causing too much stress right now. This needs to be discussed at a later time.”

You are addressing what they are causing, prompting the conversation ends for now… in other words you are leaving the situation, but at the same time not dismissing that something needs to be discussed.

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“We need to be heading home”

Quick out without anything else needing to be said.

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“You are angry, we do not need to talk while you are this way. Let’s talk later”

This can be used by anyone really. One with PTSD can point out when it’s actually someone else that is angry. The one with PTSD is NOT always the instigator or “bad guy”. You are addressing it and at the same time avoiding you being the one who uses anger back. Then you allow the conversation to end there! Your points can be made at a later time when anger is down in both people. Very seldom do any conflicts get solved when two people are angry.

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There’s another thing that we learned years back that also helps greatly, especially if it is a situation where important information is included, needs to be remembered (keep in mind remembering things in any stressful situation and if anger is up, with PTSD, can be difficult!), but yet it’s a situation that could bring conflict, anger, or fight between people…

It’s called EMAIL! 

A form of communication where face to face conflicts, telephone/verbal conflicts, and anger can be avoided! You can type it out, save it to review later when your coping has been used and you can think without so much anger, proof read it, all before you hit the send button. Just keep in mind, once you hit send there’s no taking it back.  Email and saving emails can be a way of maintaining communication as well as remembering the important things… just use it wisely.

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There are many coping skills that can help with anger, there are many different ways to address or say things to help keep anger low or help manage anger. Learning to communicate correctly can help greatly! The things I mentioned are just a few of MANY!

Anger can be triggered in many different situations for many different reasons, hard fact is, life brings stress and conflict anyway. But, what you do, how you learn to cope and manage anger, can make a huge difference in positive ways. It’s not something that you learn to do over night, it takes time, patience, and a lot of learning but it’s well worth it!

Anger is not just going away. It does come with PTSD. But everyone can do their part to help manage it. I don’t miss the arguments and conflicts, it’s a part of PTSD that we learned to manage and things have become much better for us since we learned what works for us and how to properly communicate. Don’t ever give up on yourself, and don’t ever stop trying. And don’t forget, you are better and stronger than PTSD  Find what works for you, your partner, and your situation.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD :FaceBook Page

A Spouse’s Story PTSD :Website

Weak minded? Are you sure about that comment?

Weak minded? Are you sure about that comment?

This is actually a pretty personal posting, in a way, but one I wanted to address and share with everyone, which I’m sure many can relate to.

I was watching my news feed on social media last night and this link came through. It was an article regarding how weak minded people need to learn from strong minded people, basically. X number of tips that mentally strong people don’t do.

I’ll be honest, my first reaction to it was… well, I was offended! My quick thoughts was how on earth could a person who personally knows me, as well as our story, post something like that? As well as knowing how many people we both know who suffer from different mental illnesses. It was like a slap in the face to me, especially with how much time and effort I put into educating others.

Then curiosity had me, I had to read the article. I read it, and I thought about it on a personal/our life level. Really not a wise thing to do, but with articles like that, how do you not compare them to your own life? That’s what they are about. It was like reading that people do have COMPLETE control over their mental state… nightmares, being around others, etc., basically it was like saying suck it up and get over it. Honestly, I wish I had the link but you don’t need the stress of that one article lol. I use to be one that believed completely in “mind over matter”, at least until I truly understood what mental illnesses do to one, how they do or can change the way the brain functions and even in a physical aspect, and I saw and continue to see it first hand on an everyday basis, the changes they do in reality cause. My mind altered in my thoughts quite a bit as I watched my husband honestly try and still could not completely defeat mental illness/PTSD. He has by no means given up, and we work hard at him being the best he can now be, on a daily basis, but each day is a true battle.

Then I read a different article this morning without taking it personally. It was actually a good motivational writing, now I was not taking it as personally, but stopping to think about it and how it does apply to life. It was about things to try or experience in order to maximize success and happiness… tips on what “strong minded” people don’t do in order to accomplish things. Actually, many of the things addressed are the same things I talk about here. But I sure don’t use the wording strong or weak minded!

As I read it I still thought, how could someone address something as weak minded vs strong minded? What does that do to the many people who have real mental illnesses? And honestly, are they even going to bother wasting their time reading something that would in reality consider them as weak minded? 😉 It went right back to my saying, wording is everything! I have been around ones with mental disabilities my entire life really. My mom taught children for 30 years that had mental disabilities, and I volunteered for many years myself, and do have a husband that has mental disabilities.

I have never viewed mental illnesses as being weak minded, and I sure won’t start viewing it that way now! This was the part of the two articles I had read that caused me to take it personally, and caused me to become offended… it was the wording of the titles, not the complete articles themselves.

See, one’s with mental illnesses are actually not weak minded at all. Many times they are actually the ones who have the strongest minds, as well as high intelligence levels. They are not weak minded, they have just been through or experienced something that no person should have ever had to experience. It’s not that they became weak, it’s that they were so strong, for so long, that the brain basically said enough is enough, then protects itself, and/or the brain itself changed. And I will tell you right now, if you know or could see what any person who has a mental disorder goes through every single day to make it to see the next, you would not and could not view them as weak minded at all! They are actually very strong minded, even though they have a mental health related medical condition. “The Best of the Best“, as I say it.

Then, some people were born with mental disorders, many cases it was in the genetics. That does not make them weak, it just means they are different then another person. For an example, take a child, or adult for that matter, that has Autism. I have met and known many with autism throughout the years. Of all of those people, I have never met even one, that did not have a special “gift”, a talent. And I mean a talent that will knock your socks off they are so precise and perfect at it. Now, is that a person who is weak minded? NOT in this lifetime! The way they function is just simply different.

Weak minded, strong minded… it’s really all just wording that is a part of stigma. I have known, as well as communicated with, thousands upon thousands of people since I myself was a child, children to adults of all ages, that have some form of mental health condition. I have never met even one of them that I could honestly say was weak minded. Just because a person has a daily battle that may be different then what you or I go through, doesn’t at all mean or make them weak. If anything, it makes them stronger individuals then we are.

Wording is everything, it also feeds stigma. My personal definition of stigma… “Fear of or the lack of education regarding something you do not understand“. If you view a person as weak minded, would it not be wise to take a good look in the mirror to see where weakness actually lies? Wording as well as stigma can be very harmful. Just something to honestly, from the heart, and with an open mind… think about.

~Bec
A Spouse’s Story PTSD