Monday, March 24, 2014

Him and Her


Lying in the dark, I often think back to the times we used to share.  The times before all of this started.  In my dreams you are still that man.  You are the one who laughed with me and cried with me through our best and worst times.  But that man is gone. 

I find myself wishing you could be that man again.  I look into your face and try to wish into it the lines and creases of someone familiar.  Instead, I am left with a man who has been hardened by life and who resists even the most basic contact with me. I see the changes in your features and know that it means that man is not there.  The man who once had a soft smile and a loud laugh.  The man who once told me he would love me no matter what. 

I feel empty. 

Not because I no longer have a self, but because the melding of our lives and our souls has been broken and I am unsure how to mend it.  I am alone.  Where once two people resided in the same space and time, there are now two separate entities simply ghosting around each other in a similar space.

You can’t be him again.  And I can’t be her.  And as much as I wish we could go back, back to a time before wars had to be fought, before the desert names of countries and provenances I’d never heard of became seared into my memory.  But we can’t go back.  And while I wish desperately that I could be that young, naïve, carefree girl whom you married, I can’t be her anymore than you can be the young man with the contagiously loud laugh, who could hold my hand and make me think I could take on the entire world if only you wouldn’t let go.

I am not her.  I can’t be her ever again.  And while I look into your hard and distant eyes and sometimes think I see the remnants of the man I am looking for, it is time for me to let him go, just as it is time for you to let her go. 

All we have is what is here now, in this moment.  In this moment, we have a history that can’t possibly measure up, a life lived that can’t possibly be recaptured, and a present that is painful to move through when still carrying the remnants of that old life.  That life we can’t have.

Now is the time to remember that while I look into your face and know that you can’t be him, you can be the man I need now, in this moment.   But you must also look into my face and know that I can’t be her, but I can be the woman who will hold your hand and walk through fire with you if it means we come out the other side together.



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Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Not About You

When you live with someone who has PTSD if feels like nearly everything in your life is about them.  And it sort of is.  I know I've mentioned before that all the advice tells you how to structure your whole world around your spouse while simultaneously telling you not to become all consumed by making everything in your world revolve around them.

They must think I'm Wonder Woman.

Over the holidays we had a few things pop up that had nothing to do with my husband.  For the first time in what feels like forever, I had things that needed attention.  This has not been going well.

My husband doesn't seem to be able to accept that sometimes not everything is about him.  On the one hand, he has a very real condition that needs a lot of time and attention for us to work through.  On the other, he has also sometimes taken advantage of that.  I'm sure he's not the first person do so.  And while he only takes advantage of me and not the system, it still bugs me.

Today we hit a breaking point.  He is walking around the house pouting and generally acting like a brat because he's "frustrated at the world" because I'm sick.  He went so far as to come to me and begin to yell at me for being sick.  Which is where I hit MY breaking point.

I looked at him, dead in the eyes, no softness, no gentle kid gloves and said, "THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU." I didn't yell, I simple said it firmly. 

I understand that he can't always control his temper.  But sometimes, it's not about him.  Sometimes, things in our life go wrong that have nothing to do with him or his PTSD.  And sometimes, I get sick.  And sometimes that means he has to take care of himself a little more than usual.

I don't generally get very firm with him because it's very hard to predict his reaction.  Usually it's more of a gentle verbal walking through to help him reach a point of understanding or keep him calm enough that he can think about it and come back later and calmly discuss.  He doesn't do well when I am firm or yell and today was no different.  He clenched his fists in anger and glared at me, angry that I told him what I did.

It's not about you.

Sometimes, not everything in your life can be about your spouse.  Sometimes, we give up so much and sacrifice so much of us to be who they need us to be that we forget to take time for ourselves.  And sometimes, you get sick and can't do anything about that.  And while I didn't yell, I did lose my temper.  I probably shouldn't have.  But sometimes, he needs to understand that not everything about him and not everything can revolve around him.

Every now and then, it's about me.



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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Don't Jinx It

It's been a month since I posted.  It's been a very uninteresting month and that is why I have stayed away.

No major battles, just the normal little ones going on here.  I have been reluctant to write about it, the peace that is, because I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Which sounds terrible now that I've typed it out.  But it always seems that when calm hits the house, the moment I get settled in it, the war breaks out again.

I don't know what is causing his change this month.  He admitted that he's missed appointments with his counselor because of scheduling issues.  He has admitted to not even working on the things he promised he would.  But for some reason, he is more even keeled than normal.

It's a welcome change this Thanksgiving.  Holidays are so tough for us both and he gets overwhelmed with it all very easily it seems.  Though, we aren't spending the holidays with family this year so I hope this peace can last through the new year.  Or close to it anyway.

We are not necessarily laughing more, but we are able to spend time together and be silent and calm.  He is being great about expressing himself BEFORE he is too escalated to do anything and he is respecting my boundaries of not being willing to talk to him when he is like that.  So over all, the baby steps we are making are good.

I am still waiting for the shoe to drop.  I am still cautious about letting myself think this change might be a continuing thing VS a fluke.  Even as I'm typing, I'm nervous about hitting publish on the chance that it's a jinx I'm bringing on myself.  And maybe it will be. 

But for now, we will enjoy our Thanksgiving quietly.  No big dinner, no trip to see family.  Just us.  And hopefully the calm start to the holidays will bring a wave of calm throughout them.


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and please remember to think of those who are not able to be with their family.



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Friday, October 25, 2013

Dear Amnesty International: Images Can Trigger PTSD

Someone brought a new-ish ad campaign to my attention.  This series of ads were put up by Amnesty International, luckily for me, they appear to only be in Switzerland, where the group is based.

I will not share the pictures for the simple fact of why I am upset about the campaign:

These photos were done in a wonderful way to be realistic.  Which means they are violent and graphic. And many of them depict things that are meant to show war crimes happening around the world. And while I understand the desire to create an intense emotional response from people to further your cause, I have to wonder why no one seems to be concerned about the well being of those who might see them.

Luckily, they don't seem to be anywhere else in the world, for instance, in the US.  If they were, there would be a significantly larger outcry I'm sure.  I saw them being shared on FB, and when my friend attempted to voice her concerned about people like my husband, who suffer from PTSD, and how these images are sure to trigger Vets due to the violence, she was met with a few who backed her.  Sadly, more people were adamant that the images were necessary and that not using such violence to sell the point was the problem with the world.  These people accused her of being apathetic and said that she needed to "wake up."

It was sad to me.  She was simply trying to point out that those images could cause harm.  And while I'm sure there are many who supported her (I am one), it is a shame to me that people seemed so wholly unconcerned with the well being of those who might see the ads and their families who will be the ones who pick up the pieces when an unsuspecting husband or brother goes to catch the bus one morning and is triggered by the violent image of a POW camp, a child who appears to be being carried to safety after a massive trauma, and someone else being beaten with a bag over their head by a guard.

These are images that can and will easily trigger PTSD issues.  And with Facebook's recent decision to change it's policy on violent and graphic images, it is something I am seeing happen, and hearing is happening, more and more.

So many groups are out there to remind people on September 11th, on Memorial Day, and many other days of rememberance that PTSD sufferers are trigger by images so please think about what you are posting.  But what about on a random Wednesday?  Who is there to remind the public that today, a day that has no special meaning, their photo in support of Amnesty Internationals shock campaign triggered someone's husband and she is now talking him down?

And when a voice of reason, simply asking, "isn't there a better way to make a point?" is met with harsh criticism, I am disheartened.

I didn't show the pictures to my husband, but I told him about it.  I told him about the campaign and how upset I was for the Vets and children who might be affected.  For the first time in a long time, I saw him get sad.  He grew quiet.  Then he looked at me and said:

"Those aren't images for small children.  Children should never have to see that.  There are people in this world, who do what they do, who go through what they go through, so that the children and people of this nation DON'T HAVE TO SEE THAT.  We do what we do, to protect our nation from the horrors we see.  We see them and can't unsee them, so that our nation can live in peace, never burdened with that knowledge."

He talked to me about how horrible he thinks it is that no one seems to think that it's important to protect children from images like that.  He discussed the issues related to children who suffer from PTSD due to the war torn nations they grew up in.  He asked me what would happen to them when they grow up and are managing the best they can, only to have to sit next to a picture of the most horrific part of their life just to catch the bus to work.

It broke my heart to have his ask me.  It made me angry to think that he sees what he does that way.  He sees his job as a means of protecting our nation and specifically our nations children from images like that.  He sees what he has been through and what he lives with as an acceptable sacrifice.

I get what Amnesty International is trying to do.  I understand that it is easy for people to go about their life and not think about the tragedies that are happening all around the world.  We wake up, drink our coffee and go to work never thinking much about some of the places in this world where people never feel safe.  But people who live with someone who has PTSD don't have that problem.

We know what the aftermath looks like.  We know what the fight looks like.  We live it everyday.

And I don't think it's too much to ask to simply think before you post something.  I don't think it was unreasonable for my friend, who knows what I live everyday, to speak up on behalf of those who might be deeply affected by these images.



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Monday, October 14, 2013

Sometimes, Silence is Good

Things have been quiet around here.  They are quiet because things hit a head last weekend.

I don't know what caused it.  I don't know why things escalated.  We had been doing so very well lately.  But a friend of my husband was planning on stopping by when he ended up in town.  It wasn't a huge deal and this friend is a fellow Marine with PTSD, so I know that even though they were friends anyway, it's good for both of them to meet up when they can.  Though he'd never admit it, it gives me husband comfort to know that this friend also has PTSD.  He is someone my husband admires and respects so I think it's good for him to feel that it's ok that he also suffers from it.

But this friend was supposed to come and go.  That turned into ordering pizza when I expressly told my husband we couldn't feed them and his friend brought a friend and then my husband invited more people over and the next thing I know I have a group of guys eating us out of house and home while watching movies and playing video games.

I think it's fair that I was upset.  My husband and I had discussed it all and that is not what was supposed to happen.  I was frustrated that my husband put me on the spot again.  He likes to wait until everyone is listening to ask if it's ok for things to happen.  When he does this, he forces me into an unwinnable situation.  I'm either the bitch wife who is treating him like I"m his mother and telling him it's time for his friends to leave, or my day gets ruined while he does whatever he wants.  Because it's easier not to fight with him in front of his friends, I usually give in.  It's a shitty position to put me in.

All of this culminated in me texting him multiple times to say it's time for everyone to leave.  It was midnight and I was ready to have my house back.  He didn't respond so I finally called his cell.

He came upstairs knowing he was looking for a fight.  He came up and asked me what it was I wanted.  I told him, he then asked what difference it made to me if his friends stayed or left.  He came up knowing that I wanted the house back to myself. He knew why I was upset.  But he came up looking for a fight.

This fight turned it suitcases packed.  Which turned into an even bigger fight.  He recently had told me in a fit of anger that he wanted a divorce.  He didn't mean it, but it has meant that suitcases have been in the bedroom for a while now.  They had been in the bedroom for a year to be honest.  We've had suitcases sitting out and ready since he started treatment both knowing that it could end up in divorce if he didn't follow through.

Since that night, the night his friends came to hang out, things have been quiet.  He has retreated to his video games and me to my shows and books.  It seems to be a mutual silence.  We are not refusing to spend time together, but I think we both need the quiet right now.

The quiet, for the first time in a long time, has felt good.  It is not the cold shoulder.  It is restful.  It is recouperating from what has felt like a year that lasted an eternity.

Sometimes, silence is good in this life.


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Broken Promises

I made a promise eight months ago.  I promised to never say divorce, never threaten, never mention, never imply.  A month ago, I broke that promise.  A month ago, my husband and I hit a point where things just couldn't continue without consequences and I was done.  I was ready to leave.

It is not an easy promise to break, but I am not a terrible person lording divorce over my husbands head.  He broke his promises too.  He broke every single one, every day for eight months.  Every. Single. One.

Eight months ago I left.  I left without knowing if I would come back.  But I did.  My husband left my suitcase in our bedroom so that he could remember what was at stake.  He promised we were in it together.  I was to be included in his treatment.  He was to continue treatment and not quite like he threatened to.  We were going to come up with plans on how to handle his triggers together and we were going to work together to figure out what some of his triggers were.

None of those things happened.

I am not being included in any part of his life.  We continued down the same path of denial, exclusion and indifference.  And I broke.  I am broken.

I feel defeated.  I feel lost.  I feel utterly pained that I can't help if he won't allow me and include me, but he refuses.

Broken promises are not things I take lightly and now I have broken a big one.  A massive one.  And he is angry and holding it against me in everything he does.

We will work through this just like anything else.  He understands that he can't continue his pattern if he wants to stay married.  He understands that just saying, "I'll try" isn't good enough anymore.  And he understands that I am trying to help, but can't if he won't let me.

I would like to be optimistic.  I would like to say this is us moving into a whole new place.  But these are promises I've heard before.  And because I've heard them all before, I want to believe, rather than do.

Broken promises are very damaging.  My broke promise has damaged a lot in just that one act.  His have damaged our life after so many years of them.  And now, I am left wondering if this trail of broken promises we seem to be following will ever end.  Will we ever be in a place to be working together?

Can we move forward and finally be partners?  Sometimes I think we have too many broken promises to be able to.



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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Unexpected Consequence of Blogging

A year ago, I started a blog.  I needed a safe place to talk about my feelings, away from the prying eyes of those we know.  I needed somewhere I could say what was in my heart, let out my hurt, encourage myself to stick with this life and sometimes, just to feel normal.

In the process, I hoped that others might find comfort in knowing they aren't alone, or even just being able to feel normal too.  I hoped that, by writing about PTSD from my own perspective, instead of regurgitating information, I might be able to show people this secret life so many lead.  Our situation is not so uncommon.

It's not uncommon for spouses to be sworn to secrecy.  It's not so uncommon for service members (or others who might have PTSD related to their duty i.e.: Police Offices, Fire fighters etc) to refuse to seek treatment, or to seek treatment in secret and refuse to tell anyone.  My situation is not so uncommon.  I lose myself in the situation, I forget else care, I live with a great big secret.

But, in the process of hoping someone might find comfort in my words, or understanding in my situation, I forgot one important thing... And it's been a life lesson.

Blog posts are always here.  So, while I might forget how hurt I am today, or I might forget how mad, my blog doesn't.  And it means that I get emails someone tweeted something, tagged me in something or generally shared something I wrote and I have to look.  I want to see what resonated with them.

Then I cry.

I cry remembering the pain.
I cry remembering the hope.
I cry realizing I am still in the same place, in a worse place, or that things were ever that bad.

The unexpected consequence of blogging is that your blog never forgets.  And when your blog is painfully personal, and is a place for you to release your feelings and the truth of your life, sometimes, what you need is a short memory.



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Friday, September 13, 2013

What is Secondary PTSD?


Secondary PTSD is when a family member or spouse living with a person with PTSD begins to mirror their symptoms.  It is characterized by similar issues with anger, insomnia, depression, and other common traits of PTSD.  Lately, it seems that the new diagnosis for military spouses is Secondary PTSD.

However there are major differences between Caregiver Fatigue (as it's called) and true Secondary PTSD.  Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted and even crying constantly are common with fatigue but do not necessarily denote SPTSD.

One of the biggest differences is issues sleeping.  Spouses often begin having trouble sleeping and experiencing nightmares.  The nightmares are commonly described as being about a traumatic event that involves their service member, but that is not the only nightmare many describe having.

Some researches claim that as many of 40% of spouses have symptoms or signs of Secondary PTSD, but hardly any ever seek treatment.  Other studies suggest that it is being over diagnosed and that nearly half of those currently diagnosed are, in fact, suffering from Caregiver Fatigue instead.  With figures varying in such a large degree it's difficult to say how common or uncommon it is.  But one thing seems apparent to me:  We are seeing it more and there is more and more information available every day.

We are no longer in this fight alone.  The medical profession is beginning to see and understand that their can be tolls on the family that may need to be treated.  So, I still suggest that people be aware that it is out there.  Be aware that living in this situation can have long term damage and watch for it.

Just as we care for our service member, we must care for ourselves.  If you are experiencing Caregiver Fatigue or think you might have the signs of Secondary PTSD, I urge you to talk to someone.  Be sure that you are being supportive and are taking care of you.  We so easily get lost in the world that surrounds our service member, we often forget our own.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, nightmares, are exhausted, depressed, emotionally spent, and feeling like you can't hope and are overwhelmed.  Call someone.

Militaryonesource.com is available and offers free counseling.  Keep in mind that they do require some personal information.

Giveanhour.org offers free counseling to vets and their families.

Heartsofvalor.org if a group for spouses of wounded warriors and offers support groups as well as retreats.




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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Day in a Million Days: Sept 11th, 12 years later

There isn't much to say about today that everyone else isn't already saying.

Not a day goes by when I am not reminded, when looking into my husbands eyes, that that one day changed so much more than I ever thought possible.

One day.

One day, in a million days.

One morning, in a million mornings.

Our life has been directly affected by that one day, that one morning, 12 years ago.

I pray for peace for those who are still seeking it.  I pray for healing for our nation, for those who suffered losses, for those still fighting in the war and for those who have lost everything.

I hope that some day, today will not be a painful reminder.  A tear soaked day that I can't help but wish were just another day.  Just another day, in a million days, that didn't have such a tearful pain linked to it.



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Monday, September 9, 2013

Secondary PTSD


Secondary PTSD is todays latest buzz word.  Where a few years ago it was unheard of, today, it's becoming more and more common for spouses and children or other loved ones to develop.

A year ago, I hadn't even heard of it. The next thing I know, I've agreed to go on a radio show to talk about what it is like to live with someone with PTSD from a spouses perspective.  The person who was on the show first was discussing it in part.  I listened and understood.  It made sense to me.  We are fighting a different battle at home, but a battle none the less.

The stress of living in this environment is one I have trouble explaining.  I often feel I am fighting a losing battle.  I am in a no win situation.  I am on egg shells, I am tiptoeing around not sure what will set him off today.

This evening, my husband and I began to fight.  It's a fight we've been having off and on for a few weeks.  I talk and he doesn't even acknowledge I spoke, he walks away like I'm not there.  He is having memory issues, which is common with PTSD.  But he won't admit it.  He won't admit that he forgets in mid movement what he was doing to begin with.  So we fight.

We fight because he changes the rules right when I think I have them figured out.  Because he forgot he changed the rules and is mad I'm doing something different.  Or simply because he is angry today.  He bullies, he belittles, he tells me he understands what I'm saying while simultaneously glaring and showing me that he is mad I dared speak up.

When you live in a house filled with land mines, it's no wonder spouse and children are developing a form of PTSD related to living with a service member.

Many of the symptoms are the same as PTSD.  And I can't help but wonder if, after all these years living in this environment, if I don't have some of the symptoms.  I've been noticing little things.  But I can only guess.  And even if I did, what am I going to do?

Sadly, the environment will be like this for a lot longer still.  And me talking to someone has always been a source of my husbands wrath.  It seems hipocritical of me to tell you to watch for signs in yourself and your family, when I myself and not following through.

But I will say it anyway.  Watch your family.  Watch for signs that they (or you) might be being effected by your situation.  And seek help if you notice anything.  Anything at all.

Secondary PTSD is becoming more and more common.  Don't be surprised if you start seeing more and more groups talking about it, or even advocates urging you to get help.  And really, I'm not surprised considering what many of us are living with.

(I am in the process of writing another bit about Secondary PTSD and what to look for)


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