Friday, February 27, 2009

The Angry PTSD Wife

There's a funny thing that happens when you're the wife of a Veteran with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and other physical injuries.

Some how I manage not to be aggravated by the problems & issues that arise from TBI, and my hubby's physical limitations. I understand when he can't remember our phone number, the year our daughter was born, etc. I sympathize when his hip and back are so painful that he has a hard time doing more than laying in bed. These injuries bring out the protective, caring, "lovey dovey" wife feelings.

On the other hand, when PTSD comes into play, I often feel the exact opposite of tender toward my hubby. It sometimes takes everything in me not to go toe to toe with him, get right in his face, and tell him what an a**hole I think he's being.

One "bad PTSD day" can leave me pissed for a week. We won't even talk about how I feel when we have a bad PTSD month.

So - to you out there in blog world...

What do you do to get over being angry? Have you come up with ideas for coping? Options for getting through the hard PTSD times with out becoming a monster?

Here's what works for me:

(1) I get some space.

In the heat of the moment, things often seem worse than they are. Right that second I may want to wring my hubby's neck... but 30 minutes (or 30 hours) later, I'm willing to spare him.

This can be TOUGH to make yourself do. It seems easier when your Veteran has just been a total a** to just strangle him or yell a string of obscenities at him (or her). But, unfortunately, that only makes it harder to keep your marriage going later. Do yourself and your family a favor - take a break.

(2) I vent.

Sometimes this means calling a friend. Other times it means a new blog post :) . And, then there are times that I just stand outside on my back deck and tell my husband off in my head. My recommendation is to just find away, whatever it takes, to let off some steam.

(3) I cry.

We all need it sometimes. The toughest, strongest individuals... those that never "need" to cry... do. It's our built in emotional release mechanism. In my opinion, it's a God-given tool. Many times in PTSD world, I don't need "help" to cry. Occasionally, though, I put in a sappy movie to help the process along. Afterwards, I always feel cleansed, lighter, and ready to try again.

(4) I go again.

It's hard to go again. It's hard to pick yourself up and face it all again. The life you lead as the spouse of a Veteran with PTSD is unfair. There are no two ways about it. Your are responsible for a lot (if not all) of the day-to-day needs of your household. There's no 50-50 split (often its more like a 99-1 division of labor). You don't have a marriage in the traditional sense. (Don't get me wrong, there are still good times!)

What you do have is a life that you have to choose to make the most of... a life with someone you love, who honorably served his or her country, and now needs help and support. Make up your mind to have a great life. Decide to truly enjoy the good times and get through the not so good times. (And when you need a willing ear on those difficult days, don't forget we're here to listen!!)

Big hugs and thanks for all you so bravely do!!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beastie Boy PTSD

I have a friend over on the Veterans Benefits Network who is a Vietnam Veteran and has lived with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for many years. He's a sweetheart and someone I often think about when our household is having a particularly bad PTSD day. One of his "pet" names for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is "Beastie Boy PTSD".

When I was still new to this whole world, I didn't quite understand that nickname... but a few years later, after many bad days (or weeks or months) as the wife of a Veteran with PTSD, I SO get it.

Living with someone who has PTSD is like living with two people. I know its not technically a split personality disorder, but it might as well be.

One day I am enjoying life with my darling husband... my high school sweetheart... the father of my child... one of the best men I know. And the next, Beastie Boy PTSD rears its ugly head, and I feel trapped with a thing I hate... that makes me miserable... that makes me want to cry and scream and hit and RUN.

I've learned to cope (sort of) with those days by simply shutting my emotions off and getting through the day. It's probably not a strategy encouraged by most mental health professionals, but for the most part, it works for me. Of course, this is also one of the parts of living with a Veteran who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is thought to cause Secondary PTSD.

Living with a hero who struggles with PTSD is no easy task. There's no debate about that. The "in sickness and in health" part of our marriage vows require A LOT of effort to honor on days where Beastie Boy PTSD is throwing its weight around.

I guess my best advice to those reading this post and feeling like you're reading about your own life, is to HANG IN THERE and KNOW YOU'RE NOT ALONE. Sometimes PTSD world really sucks but loving a hero is worth the effort.

Big hugs,