So, we've been in one of those downward spiraling PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) phases lately where my hubby isn't sleeping (which of course means I'm getting little to no sleep). Our days and nights are a endless mesh of exhaustion and I'm edgy from trying to anticipate and prevent his edginess.
Sometime around 3:30 this morning I finally managed to fall asleep, with my dear hero still on the couch watching television. At around 6:30 am he went out to "patrol" and discovered that our car had been broken into.
Within minutes, I was startled awake from my just finally found sleep with a shout from our bedroom door, "Wake the F*** up, we've been robbed."
Now, at this point a "normal" wife might wonder just what had been robbed... if her house had been broken into... what was missing... if windows had been broken, etc. But, nope, not me. My instant reaction was "Oh, crap. SERIOUSLY bad timing. Our 'bad' PTSD phase just went into overdrive." And the rest of the morning, filled with police and finger print powder (one of the things taken was a handgun) and a ranting husband has proven me to be sadly, most definitely correct. And four years of living with "beastie boy PTSD" tells me that the next 4 - 6 weeks at least are likely to be a challenge (to put it incredibly mildly). Damn that idiot who decided to break into our car!
So, this morning, I'm in PTSD "damage control" mode. For every caregiver of a PTSD veteran this skill is important, so I'm going to channel my frustration into sharing what I'm doing so that next time you find yourself in a similar, unexpected bout with PTSD-Max, you'll have some ideas.
#1 - Don't argue, just listen.
My "less experienced" self, who was first learning to deal with PTSD years ago, would be arguing with my husband's rants. I would be trying to reason with his out-of-control rage against the person who violated his sense of security... who dared breach his perimeter. Now, I know better. I'm simply listening, and letting the words flow by. When things begin to calm down, I'll put in my two cents, but for now it would just alienate him and fuel the building fire.
#2 - Alert professionals.
I'll be calling or e-mailing my husband's favorite counselor today to alert him about what has happened and to see how soon we can get an appointment. I know my hubby well enough to know I won't be able to get him to go in the next few days, but sometime toward the first of next week would be perfect. Alerting his counselor, though, will give me an ally who is already on standby in case things really go south.
#3 - Alert support network.
I've called the family members that make up our extended support network to tell them what happened, to explain my hero's reaction, and to ask that they also follow Rule #1. I don't need anyone "helping" if they're actually going to make life more difficult!
#4 - Double check meds.
In the coming week, I will be in "Florence Nightingale" mode. I always have to monitor my husband's medications (just part of caring for a veteran with PTSD and TBI) but in "normal" times I try NOT to be an extreme nag. But, as we weather the first days of PTSD-Max, I will double and triple heck to make sure that his meds are in his system consistently and perfectly. (Believe me, it can make a HUGE difference).
#5 - Take time to vent.
All of the steps above and just the general strain of the coming weeks will leave me completely drained and frazzled (especially since I'm entering this time already sleep deprived). It's REALLY important for caregivers in situations like this to find someone to vent to! You're going to be in your "caregiver" role and essentially unable to share your feelings or react to your PTSD spouse. Those pent up emotions need somewhere to go or you WILL explode (I promise!).
#6 - Be ready with "next time" solutions.
PTSD and paranoia go hand-in-hand. Something like this can completely rock a Veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Go ahead and start preparing a list of ways to make things more secure. For example, I've priced a solar powered motion activated security light (our driveway doesn't have an exterior light or wiring for one). In the next day or so, I'll make a list of similar options so that we can talk them over and come up with a plan. This will help (not totally prevent) my hubby's paranoia from going into overdrive because of what happened.
So, there you go... my "from the trenches" guide to surviving a super-duper, knock you over, "Oh crap why the heck did this happen," PTSD flareup.
Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers (and my hubby, too). We're going to need it!
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!