Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Memories of the Fallen Can Spark PTSD Flareups

As we pause today to remember the men and women who have served our country and given their lifeblood in its defense, many veterans who struggle with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) will be having a particularly rough day.  If you or your veteran is struggling today, here are some tips to help:

#1 - Don't Push

It can be tempting when you see a veteran you love in obvious emotional pain to push for them to talk about it.  Don't give in to that temptation.  Make sure your hero knows you're available if they want to talk ("Honey, if you'd like to talk, I'm here.  But, if not, I'm perfectly happy just to be nearby in case") and then leave the subject alone.

#2 - Follow Your Veteran's Lead

Don't assume because a veteran wanted to handle Memorial Day a certain way last year means that they will want to celebrate the same way this year.  At different points in PTSD treatment and at different stages of the grieving process, a veteran will want to handle "remembering" in different ways.  No one way is right or wrong.  Believe me, even if he doesn't seem to be outwardly acknowledging the life of a fallen hero close to him today, your veteran is painfully aware of the loss.

#3 - Be Prepared for Plans to Change

Every year as we plan for Memorial Day weekend, I'm always careful to tell family or friends that we're not sure what we'll be able to do.  There are times when I push my hubby to be "normal" and stick by commitments if at all possible, but today is not one of those times.  Today, in a PTSD household, has to be primarily about being flexible.  Don't let your feeling be hurt if your veteran is simply unable to follow through with plans.  It's not about you... it's all about the turmoil inside of him or her.

#4 - Avoid the "Boob Tube"

There are a million war movies playing on television today.  If at all possible, find something else for your family to focus on.  If your veteran simply refuses NOT to watch TV, rent a few movies (if your Library is open today, you can even borrow movies for free!).  Endless hours of combat-related images are only going to fuel an already rocky PTSD day.

#5 - Get Distracted

Sometimes the best answer to bad PTSD days is finding something low-key but unexpected to do.  Get outside.  Drive to an out-of-the-way park or preserve (somewhere that won't be crowded).  Help your veteran get started on a project or hobby they've been thinking about (not something off the "honey do" list, something that he or she will enjoy!).  Basically, find something that will let your veteran concentrate on something other than the flood of memories sparked by Memorial Day.

#6 - Know That This Too Shall Pass

PTSD flareups can leave spouses, children, and caregivers in the "cross hairs" of a veteran's sharp tongue and anger.  First, remind yourself that the person yelling and screaming is NOT your spouse... it's the stupid PTSD.  Next, remind yourself that the flareup will come to an end... that things will settle back down.  One great coping tool (discussed on another blog post) for this step is here: http://blog.familyofavet.com/2010/09/distract-cool-coping-tool.html.

And, in case you need them, here is a list of some of the PTSD-related pages on our main site that you may find helpful today:


Wherever you find yourself today, I hope that this post is helpful.  And, I pray for the families that will spend today remembering and grieving for the husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends whom they have lost.  May we always remember their sacrifice but also the dedication and courage that lead them to make the choice to so bravely serve their country.  Thank God for those dear patriots and for the families who love them.


Hugs,
Brannan

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

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