The Veterans Companion is a Veteran Owned Company, and blogging platform. Our journey began as a blog to offer a different perspective in the world of PTSD from War Trauma. PTSD effects all areas of our lives. By building a platform for offering questions to ask yourself we can look back to our relationships to learn and grow. We offer a voice to the Veterans trying to communicate what they..
My heart is heavy. Countless times I see PTSD caregivers say “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say.”
In the PTSD Veteran lifestyle it is not always about doing anything. Sometimes it’s verbal support, affirmation, and communication.
The Military is known for don’t ask don’t tell policy. This communication policy also carries over to civilian life. During times where they cannot have access to information, take action, or do anything, they wait.
They lean on each other. They talk, they play cards, play tricks on each other, clean, or pick their nose. It’s a shoulder to shoulder camaraderie. Silence or lack of action can be supportive because then they are not alone.
When I listen to the men I am surrounded by their conversations are much different than women’s. Men communicate differently. They acknowledge each others efforts, and compliment. Their conversations are factual, without detailed emotional questions, and are straight to the point. With their questions they are asking to understand the PROCESS of something, not the emotions.
There’s no “I just can’t believe so and so did this. What else did they say? How could they think that.” That’s criticism. Those questions are based on judgement of our perspective, without inclusion for others feelings.
While the end point in a women’s world questions are to understand, it can come across as nit picking, disrespectful, and rude. It focus’s on the ” well, if so and so just did it this way, then this would have happened.”
In that sense we are then communicating we are smarter, better, and contradicts the, “I’m just trying to help.”
Helping has a time and a place. Not all the time in everything.
In a Man’s conversation the move to question about actions is when something happened, not because of curiosity. They are trying to understand the process. Including the thought process behind someone without the additional need for emotional understanding.
Caregivers intentions with questions are honest. They are only trying to help. But…helping isn’t always helping. Trying to understand by asking more questions can push our Veterans away instead of bringing us closer. It takes the conversation away from what they are willing to say, to you leading the conversation trying to pull information.
The way it’s communicated can be perceived much differently than we intended and send our Veteran in to a rage because of probing.
It’s not that we can’t ask questions, but the answer may not be what you seek. In the don’t ask don’t tell policy it’s because you don’t have security clearance. Now they go against policy to open up about facts they aren’t supposed to say.
I’ve learned to wait for things. I’ve learned there is a time and a place. Unless the topic is pressing at the moment it can be handled at a later time. However, when it’s time, it’s time.
My Vet was Spec Ops. They communicate, communicate, over-communicate, and again…over-communicate. So in those times where I find certain details irrelevant I take it seriously. Those details matter. It’s what he’s used to. Our conversations move to game plans which then move to details, conditions changing, to if something falls through. If something falls through, we have a game plan for that..even if it means just sitting at home. These conversations are based on facts, and actions. It’s not about the feelings of wanting or not wanting. It’s not about the feelings of being uncomfortable. It’s just what needs to be done.
In those bigger moments where we don’t have the words…That’s fine. We can make statements to acknowledge whats going on and redirect taking action in other areas. We can communicate what we CAN do.
I’ve put together a list of commen things I say. This list ranges from situation to situation. It can cover frustrating servers updates shutting down lanes at the store, all the way to flashbacks and his feelings of not being good enough.
While it may or may not work for you, each Veteran is different and I know there are others out there that can benefit from simple statements.
1.) This is outside of your control.
When something happens where he cannot complete a task because something is blocking his progress this reminds him he cannot control everything as he was used to.
2.) You’re doing your best. What is something else that can be done in the meantime to save time/work later?
When things stall he can use help in refocusing his efforts in wanting to get things done. What else can be done that saves time later? Is there enough time to visit the other store for the items needed for the next project?”
3.) I see you’re frustrated/angry/excited.
A simple acknowledgement of feelings can diffuse the situation from getting worse. Now they know you understand their feelings without additional questions. Do the details matter as to why? If they feel it is – listen. They will tell you.
4.) “Unfortunately we can’t force XXX to happen or XXX to do something. But what you do matters because now XXX is done”
Focus on what is done. What progress was made? Go back to Number 3 and 2. Redirect to what else can be done.
5.) “You’re doing your best with what you have.”
This is usable in so many situations when he is frustrated. It is vague, but that small sentence acknowledges they tried. It doesn’t say, “You didn’t do enough.” by asking “Why didn’t you try this?”
6.) “You did what you had to do. Not many can.”
I say this to focus on his worth. This statement we use when we talk about the hard situations of the burdens he bears.
7.) “We all feel that way.”
This is only used when he says this in regards to things not going smoothly at work, or frustrated of an off day. This is not used to relate to the PTSD unless there is an experience I have that he can relate too. For example being hurt from someone’s words after a fight, feeling guilty over shared experiences, or something we can both relate to.
8.) “You’re doing a great job.”
When he’s actively trying to accomplish things, we point it out. It shows we notice.
9.) “Things always work out”
Ironically this statement doesn’t always work, but I try to back it up with an example of how a previously trying time did work out when we needed it to.
10.) I Love You.
In our relationship hearing I love you matters more than seeing something happen. This is where focusing on the feelings is ok with him. He says he can never hear it enough.
11.) An unprompted kiss or hand on the shoulder.
My vet is the opposite of many. He is very physical. His love language is physical touch. Leading through trying times where words are useless, a hand on the shoulder or a kiss on the forehead can melt away the hard feelings for a brief moment allowing us to slow down and breathe.
Above all else – LISTEN. Don’t interrupt and truly hear what he’s saying instead of focusing on how you feel about what you’re hearing.
***Disclaimer – This does not intend to handle situations that have elevated to violence or suicide. If your Vet is threatening or has taken the next step please reach out to the proper authorities.
“It can be coins or sports or politics or horses or music or faith… the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing to make it last.” ― Nicholas Sparks, Dear John
The boredom in daily living and the importance of hobbies, or finding passion in life again in something after deployment is something I believe strongly about.
Instead of living life with the anxiety and nervous energy, finding passions in activities grounds ourselves in a productive way.
Boredom in daily living….when the challenge of staying a live is over daily living becomes mundane. Our combat veterans no longer challenge every part of themselves anymore.
The value of staying alive, accomplishing their mission, and excelling is gone at discharge. They feel they lose their sense of purpose as their identity is in saving lives, or completing other missions. It’s a tangible, visual process they see finished through.
What they over look in time is while daily living becomes routine, we are now engaged in managing the relationship around them vs. themselves. Because they lived their life in another way, they’ve forgotten stability in a safe environment to building a life with a loved one TOGETHER.
The relationship can become a target.
In training they are taught what looks hostile. This can save their life. It trains from looks, body language, voice tones, and many other details or large things too.
Civilians don’t know in detail what they learn so it’s easy for a Veteran to assume they are a hostile because a civilian is having a rough day. Say the wife is having a hard time with the children and accidentally looks at her Veteran in an aggressive way and says something with an aggressive tone.
Instead of assessing the situation to understand the threat is assumed towards the Veteran. It was engrained in to the Combat Veteran to know instantly that was hostile. This triggers the Vet. The Vet instantly tenses up and prepares mentally, physically and emotionally for what they think will happen next.
The wife has no idea what she did was seen as threatening because after all, what’s on her mind was what just happened with the children.
The wife has no idea she triggered her Veteran, and the Veteran has no idea it has nothing to do with them.
Small daily things cause triggers in ways many don’t understand. The Veteran’s don’t know how to articulate that always either. So what became something to save their lives in combat, now became a way of life that drives a wedge.
The relationship between the Caregiver and PTSD Veteran can easily become a target. The support of brothers for missions is gone.
The Caregiver then takes place of that team, and becomes the focal point.
When Combat Veterans survive with a platoon of men’s opinions, experience and support…Veterans wonder…how is one person going to be my life force when I needed a team before to survive?
The Caregiver ability to be a team is overextending the ability of one person. It’s important to understand we manage proper expectations.
The caregiver can only give so much being one person, and the Veteran will have to actively remind himself of such.
The Caregiver will need to learn what looks hostile, and the Veteran will need to actively remind himself it’s no longer hostile or threatening in the same manner as it was before.
The relationship can turn quickly based on assumptions of threat. The Veteran will assess even a disagreement to mean something much larger such as “You’re leaving me because you don’t agree with me.”
Veterans don’t trust many caregivers not to leave, because after all in combat, that person that friended them was a hostile trying to complete their mission and used that Veteran as a pawn. Or many people before promised to stay, and didn’t.
What does it take to convince your Veteran this won’t happen?
What needs to be said to have it all click?
I don’t have an answer for that. It’s based on trust. It’s based on individual circumstance. But I can do is offer solutions to those Veterans who has lost their passion coming home.
Coming home means reintegrating. It means finding passion for living here again. It means separating the identity of war. It means allowing the guilt to stay there, while concentrating on mundane jobs that have no sense of purpose to them.
My advice is to find that fire that ignites you in your life. Many turn to volunteer work, woodworking, crafting, training, school or ways our lives can be better structured for our well being in the long run.
What does this have to do with Hobbies and Passion?
Hobbies and passion go hand in hand to displace nervous energy. Finding the joy in woodworking, or other hobbies passing the time and allows them to check out and just be. It allows a focused energy on a finished, tangible product. Progress is seen. Progress and movement means safety. Safety in small ways then translates to less threats, and a shift in thinking.
With conscious effort of working on projects it helps displace the energy and thought spiral many of our Combat Veterans go through because now instead of the recreation of smells, sights, and sounds, there is an active thinking in another direction which leads eventually to different thought pattern when being conscious about it.
This doesn’t mean it makes anything go away. This doesn’t mean their won’t be bad days. This doesn’t mean it replaces all the guilt, anger, resentment or more….
This means giving the Veterans time to mentally take a break. The mental break allows the physical body to take a break from the stress. It gives them the chance to relax in a way that could be similar to things they remember for the times before combat.
The displacement of anger and negative thinking without projecting on to the caregiver gives caregiver room to breathe. It gives the caregiver the time they need to care for themselves as well.
Individuality doesn’t mean turning hostile in my perspective. It means trusting the other while having an independent moment to create self satisfaction and accomplishment they create by themselves that no one can take away.
Independence and passion are amazingly therapeutic. The gift is learning what else are you capable of? What is another way we can accomplish something in a productive way with results?
My Veteran spends his time doing metal models, and scroll saw patterns. He creates things for the family, and our children.
This helps him feel connected to us by giving a part of himself in every project. He feels safer, he feels calmer, and he feels more in control of himself. His purpose is now a new skill, and the passion is to learn how to do it well.
When I say independence, it’s slowly done over time. My Veteran does not like being alone because it means a threat to his safety.
The game plan is a slow integration of learning to be alone for short amounts of time and learning after each experience everything is ok.
With his connection to the family in a gift giving and acts of service way, we can connect on a different level than before. It opens the relationship from “Let’s assess why my wife looked at me like that” to “She sees I am trying. She sees I am working hard on learning new self soothing behaviors.”
The passion in woodwork stems to his fathers teachings as a child. He can connect better having the sense of family experience over his shoulder instead of sitting, thinking and watching TV which then causes triggers, and further spiraled feelings.
We can talk without as much anger. We question each other’s motives less.
We have the room to grow together as a team in hobby work instead of against each other with destructive habits or words through assumptions.
My hobbies as caregiver include quilting, and hand-piecing jewelry with thoughts given to what it means to me to make the piece.
For example – Recently I pieced together a compass pendant, with a small crystal accent. This means connection to him. My upper arm tattoo is of a compass, surrounded by a rose. Underneath is a pair of dog tags with my Veterans name, and my Fathers name.
My Veteran was a part of the Bosnian peace effort, and my Father a Vietnam Veteran due to the draft.
While this necklace is simple, it’s means a lot to me because they both are a focal point in my life experiences. Without their involvement in my life I would not be the person I am today.
The purpose of communicating our boundaries is to show those around us our level of respect for our own needs.
As a caregiver we can let pieces go of ourselves a moment at a time.
As a Veteran we can dive deeper into the anger and anxiety one interaction at a time.
Enforcing the needs you have for yourself is a hard thing to do. In the military, or as a caregiver, our mission is to help those around us. We serve the needs surrounding us. In return, we forget to service our needs as well.
While it can feel selfish and counterproductive to who we are, as we begin healthier self habits, we can find freedom in helping ourselves.
Every family knows the struggle. Kids need toys. Kids get bored…
We buy toys to help keep children entertained..yet it’s not enough. The whining, the crying, the lack of creativity, and push for more challenging activities to keep them engaged is always evolving as they grow.
Children yearn for learning and play. A part of the push for learning through play is because it builds synapses in the brain many times faster than learning through traditional means.
It allows open ended play – which in turn promotes creativity, problem solving..and more.
With our blended family we have five younger children at home. We may share custody…but that doesn’t mean keeping them entertained while learning is any less of a feat.
The beauty of my career means the knowledge can be brought home. I own a Daycare Center. I worked with children and families for over 6 years.
With one of our children officially diagnosed with ADHD, and another another beginning therapy for ODD/ADD symptoms it can be a struggle.
I wanted to share ours ideas used in our home for you as well.
We have done years of the chunky wooden puzzles….the kids may play with them but they don’t enjoy them as much once they get older.
The Star Wars puzzle my son fell in love with kept him and the Veteran busy for awhile. It gave them a moment to bond.
In our area Home Depot hosts a free children’s workshop the first Saturday of every month.
For those who hate crowds, they offer kits to buy and take home too.
Blogs such as My Three Dinosaurs and From ABC’s to ACTs offer amazing resources for parents that are printable and free.
This is a bit old fashioned but still received with excitement from the kids. On those cold rainy or snowy days take a flashlight and do shadow puppets.
Legos are some of the favorites around here. They can keep the kids busy for an hour (5 kids and an hour of time and my sanity is worth the money)
We purchased the large tote from Walmart during the Christmas Sale.
Magnets- MAGNAFORMS with Lighted Block
These are still used every day the children are here.
My daughter is in love with her V-Tech. I never really paid attention to these until The Veteran showed them to me. While I can’t find the original amazon link I’ve post the police station below.
Ours have the mouth piece on them but because I know how batty it drives us I’m linking the ones without it.
When I first ordered these I didn’t read the description enough…they came with a mouth piece so the children could build musical insturments…..We eventually trashed the mouth piece..but they are used every day the kids are here.
Sensory Bin – Snow
While this is showing the activity at the daycare I own, we do the same at home. We bought cheap aluminum turkey roaster pans on clearance, grabbed some snow, and gave them toys to play with in the snow.
At home we used oversized Rubbermaid containers in the kitchen. If it makes a mess (which there will be water everywhere) just mop up and you’re good to go.
Sensory Bin- Sand
At home we purchased play sand from Lowe’s. It comes in 50lb packages.
We used a Melissa and Doug Construction Vehicle set in them.
Just like with snow – It stays in the kitchen for clean up, or outside during the nice days stored under the deck with lids for playing later.
“I fear being alone more than anything else. So why do I do this? Why do I push away the people I love? What is so very wrong with me? I don’t know. And I don’t know how to make it stop.” ― Victoria Aveyard, Glass Sword
Thousands of people can relate to being in a relationship of PTSD. Thousands of caregivers have been in the rollarcoaster of emotions. We can all relate to being pushed away.
I hear “I don’t understand. He said he wanted this to work last week and now suddenly he is trying to get me to move out. He says he doesn’t want to be a burden and I deserve better.”
The answer is this: Self Sabotage because of fear.
When we are plagued with low self esteem, coined with mental illness, and loathe our thoughts, feelings and effects of ourselves on another person’s life we come to loathe, and even resent ourselves. We believe our thoughts of ourselves…and begin to believe those around us think that about us as well.
And we begin to hate ourselves. And we begin to get angry. And we begin to feel vulnerable..and I don’t want to feel that anymore…
We feel heavy. We feel like we are holding you back. We feel the effects of our exhausting PTSD…and know we cause you pain. We took an oath to keep you safe…we took a vow to support you and my want is to keep you happy….than means hiding my pain. But…it still comes out despite whatever I try.
We feel the anger. We feel we should be different. We feel we shouldn’t be this way. We feel like if something happened to ourselves, or if it wasn’t me coming home, I would have gotten what I deserved over there. But instead of me sacrificing myself for my country..it was them. And yet here I am. And after all I did…this is what it is. And instead…I choose to keep going without explanation because doesn’t everyone say time heals everything? Yet no matter how often I hear that phrase..it’s not getting better. So instead I push my anger and thoughts down where atleast for now…it’s just there……and that’s all I know after time passes. Now that this has become normal for me…I’ve decided this is just how it is.
The redundancy of life. The alarm clock…the broken door that needs fixing…the cement needs fixing…the faucet needs fixing..the bills just keep coming in and I just cant get away….the dogs barking…the screaming children over a stupid crayon….why can’t they just get along? Why can’t we get a head?
My wife wants me to feel happy. She wants inside my head. How do I explain the internal screams of the night after the explosion. How do I explain I willingly carried out orders I know she’ll be disgusted by and not break the law in explaining it? How do I explain the fear? How do I explain the anger that won’t go away. How do I explain that I don’t feel after carrying out my orders? What if I scare her away? What if she sees me as a monster or the enemy?
The sadness and vulnerability sets in…
What if I cause her pain…what if she wants a divorce? How can I tell her how I feel when I can’t stand it myself? How do I get her to understand without having more flashbacks, or feeling the pressure of answering questions and not break down…? Maybe another day….I can handle this…I can’t handle her leaving if she learned who I’ve turned in to….
Instead of explain these thoughts our Veterans try to push away the emotions as their fathers did before them. As their fellow brothers did because that’s what they are taught to do.
It boils down to reactions, and fear, and the self esteem….
and then BOOM….
The arguments starts….instead of admitting I feel like shit…I blame her when deep down I know I played my part.
That desperate side of me that believes I deserve suffering comes out….and it says all the wrong things…
Instead of coming together as a couple to speak even marginally of the emotions in our heart we choose silence and blaming being tired..or rushed for work..or other reasons to ignore the backlash we fear could happen…..And for some…it did happen…the divorce, the accusations, the loss of a home…starting over…
Why do they lash out?
Because they are afraid
because of unmet needs
because of lacking the words to articulate themselves
because of lack of support from past relationships
because they have decided they are unworthy of love and it’s easier to push you away when you truly believe it
because they believe since they don’t have the answers you won’t either
because leaving fixes the problems in their mind in those desperate times…but deep down they know it doesn’t fix anything
Because they feel powerless. Ending the relationship is the only way they know how to control something…or feel like it’s something that is with in their control….even if that’s not what they want
Because when we lash out that’s the time we need someone the most….and cannot say anything out of habit protecting themselves based on fear….protecting their jobs, protecting you…or the family.
It’s a self sabotaging circle out of habit. Because after all…it happened to them before, or to a friend, or to a family member.
Getting to brutal honesty hurts. It can make you uncomfortable. However…I can say if you can ride the roller-coaster…and your Veteran or Service member chooses to open up to you…listen with an open mind…and an open heart. Having those discussions may be hard…but it’s actually better in the long run.
It means hearing things we don’t like to hear.
It means you have no control over what happened….and still don’t…and never will.
It means letting him be who he is…even just for a few moments..
Be free of criticism
Cast away judgement
Push aside how you’re uncomfortable with what happened and truly listen.
It’s easy to fall into the darkness.
It’s easy to want to say ” How could you have done that?!”
It’s easy to want to ask questions to “understand”
However…sometimes we don’t have to understand…because after all…it’s not our place to know to begin with due to their oath.
Don’t break down in front your Vet. This is your time to be the strength…..
Does this apply to domestic violence? NO
Does this apply to cheating? NO
Does this apply to those so committed to self destruction and bringing you down? NO….
This applies to those who have an open heart to themselves to grow.
This applies to those relationships fighting to stay connected in those hard times and reaching through the protection we build around ourselves….
This applies to those out there ready for change.
And sometimes as the caregiver…we have to change first for them to learn…and put some time in to it to rebuild a new trust in a way we haven’t before….after all…aren’t we all afraid?
Have they faced a mission they were afraid of before?
Have you overcome a frightening time in your life?
As a team…you both can make it through because just as he was part of a fearful time before as you were too… fear doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome as a team in marriage in a new way for you both.
If you’re unsure of ways to support your Veteran – Have a look at our past article to give you a starting point for those times.
Very long post…and very wordy. Stick with me here.
Recently I tried to explain the basics of Flashbacks to someone who said they don’t quite understand and felt this applied to more caretakers struggling to understand. While the answer barely touched the topic, it still paints a basic picture. Here I can be more in depth.
It’s common to not see traumatic things growing up. Many people enjoy a loving childhood without fear. Without abuse. Without rape, domestic violence…and so on.
Those who don’t have an experience to trauma can’t relate emotionally to it. I can respect it, and choose not to look at them being disrespectful even in asking questions. However, I don’t go in to details just like a lot of people.
I grew up in violence. I grew up with PTSD in our family between most of our family members being in the military.
I grew up being the brunt of the lash outs from several family members. So because of being mad I took it out on those around me. I lived an angry childhood in a way people don’t understand.
I played my role during my teenage years with passive aggressiveness that not only poked the demon, but wanted to get away with no outlet from both sides.
It’s been suggested I have secondary PTSD, or full blown PTSD of my own.
I own my place and actions now.
He’d lash out. I’d lash out.
I still have flashbacks of incidents that happen years ago that creep up. I feel stupid I’m still effected because I didn’t see death up close and personal compared to my vet. My stuff can’t compare…so I don’t compare it.
I remember sitting in the movie theater for date night one day. We were watching the trailer for the movie “Don’t Breathe”
The premise of the movie is a blind man who seeks out those in his home.
I have goosebumps writing this. My vet doesn’t know this happened.
One day while I was a teenager my mother was gone working. I ordered a package which came in the mail. I was asking for it and he pretended he didnt know. Finally he admitted he took it because “he didnt want me to have it”
I went to the their room to go get it. After coming downstairs I was in the hallway. He didn’t want me to have it. He tried blocking me from going to my room so I kicked the package on the floor to slide between his legs. He came across the hallway with a coffee cup in hand.
He swiped my feet from beneath me, taking me by the neck with his hand wrapped around it squeezing my neck.
He slammed me into the ground and started at me dead in the eye choking me.
He is blind and didn’t spill one drop of coffee.
I guess he blacked out. I don’t know.
During the trailer the blind man shoved a women against the wall by holding her neck and choking her.
I had a panic attack while watching the trailer. To this day my vet doesn’t know about my panic attack. I don’t want to burden him just like he doesn’t want to burden me.
Now he’ll know after reading this…..but anyway…back to the point…
Those struggling to understand the best way I can explain ptsd is imagine the worst experience/ scary situations of your life.
How did you feel?
What were the sounds?
What was the air temperature like?
Did you get goosebumps? Did you yell? Did it smell?
All of those things and more can trigger a flashback. It’s not just what we see, but what we experience.
It could be a popping sound from inflating a trash bag to open to put in the trash can….It sounds like a shot.
It could be a cold gust of air coming across while working outside….
It could be the neighbor kid crying…or your own.
I’m very long winded here and this is a feable attempt to explain how basic feelings compound but most people can relate to car crashes.
The car crash I explain below is one I experienced. While we did not stay in the hospital for long…imagine it did happen to you. How do you feel being seperated from your family unable to care for the time being.
How do you feel putting them in that situation?
How do you feel knowing if you didn’t leave one to two seconds later it would have avoided it all?
How do you feel trying to to sort your feelings out while still taking care of everyone else? Or at least trying to?
It doesn’t explain ptsd in depth, but atleast the initial flashbacks.
Most combat veterans have death and war they’ve witnessed. But since most of us didn’t see that, I can only provide civie experiences to explain. Most can relate to car crashes
Those feelings, thoughts and experiencing those events never go away for our vets. They are dealing with death. How do you feel after losing a loved one? Now imagine losing every single member of your family.
They (flashbacks)continue to reoccur. Including the thoughts and feelings with more compounding feelings.
After our veterans experiences happen the events can come back to mind in a lifelike experience quickly. Other times those experiences can stay dormant for years.
Everyone experiences it differently
THE CAR CRASH
Imagine someone turns into you while going through an intersection. It totals the vehicle. You and your children spend time in the hospital. There were multiple injuries that could turn if there isn’t medical care with you. The kids just had bad bruising.
You spend a few days in the hospital while the kids went home since they were in car seats. The buckles did their job, however, because of the point of impact, you were in need of a few nights observation.
You’re discharged. It’s time to go to work the first day back.all night and the next few days that fear after the crash comes back taking the wheel later that week to go to work. You don’t sleep at night because the looming fear of something is wrong can’t go away. You dream of the crash over and over. But- it’s time for work. You’re exhausted. That sense of something is wrong is there.
While driving to work another driver makes a motion similar to that moment before you crashed. But instead they stopped and waited like they were supposed to.
You almost slam your brakes and as your foot goes up you realize there’s cars behind you. During that time your world turns black and you can’t see anything. The radio noise is gone. The noise of vehicles is gone. Your sense of feeling is gone.
The world blacks outs. And you see the moment in slow mo before the crash. You see the car that hit you and feel like your there again. You feel the impact. You hear the airbag go off. You see the cloud of white in your face…..the adrenaline comes back, the fear comes back, but this time, you already know how you felt after the crash. Those feelings come back too. You’re 100% unable to stop in time or speed up to avoid it. You’re a sitting duck.
Then seconds later your back in the current moment. The snap back to reality hits you like a freight train. How the hell did I get there and here?
Your heart pounding. Your white knuckles on the wheel. Shaking. But- because you’re in traffic you must go on.
You get to work. People know you’re shaken up. You rush to your desk in hopes you avoid everyone else and the daily good mornings….the computer admin screen pops up and you enter your info.
There’s 80 emails already. Lord.
The phone keeps ringing.
People keep coming and going.
You keep slipping back to that place. You need more coffee but dread getting it because you don’t want to see everyone. You want to be alone. But…the coffee spot is the hang out. However…coffee must prevail.
Everyone is laughing and having a good time.
It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Why can’t I be happy like that? Why couldn’t I have that fun weekend with the kids at the park?
Now I have insurance claims and a rental until things work out. We’re lucky just to fit the car seats in….
There it is….. “Hey! How are you?!”
Ugh. I have to people now. “Good…you?”
And that last part entices a conversation about someone buying a new car with new features…then the dentist appointment and how their kids just love the new dvd system..
Seriously….doesn’t he know I just totaled mine?
No he doesn’t.
After the laughing and fake smiles you made it back to your desk…it’s only 1:45…only 3/4 more hours to go.
After a while work demands add up. More customers, more meetings…
You’re already feeling anxious. Another deadline comes in, then the boss wants to talk. Because you’re so nervous and worked up from earlier you accidentally have been snappy and short with everyone because of everything going on. But it didn’t seem too bad. You could have lashed out more…Not wanting to think about the feelings of the morning flashback. Not wanting see it over and over. Wanting to reconnect to the now with some inner peace…
The boss is suggesting to take a few minutes to leave early because you’ve been rather snappy and agitated.
But no. I haven’t. I’ve been doing my best today. I listened to everyone else. I didn’t yell at that customer. I didn’t forget the request H.R. made…
In their perspective you’re preoccupied. While you didn’t do something, there is a lot you DIDN’T do.
In their perspective Betty gossip is upset because when she was telling you about how she was disappointed with the pta meeting you didn’t put her feelings first. You weren’t listening and were being “*itchy”
Dave in accounting tried asking for something and you forgot to get back to him.
You snatched the mail from the mail guy because he was going to put the mail in a different spot than you wanted it.
In your perspective you’re just doing your best to keep it together. You thought you were doing pretty good. But all these little interactions are popping up. The office is starting to get upset with you.
But why? I could have yelled but I didn’t.
Chimany…my boss could lay off.
The guilt of having kids in the car that could have gotten seriously injured keeps coming back and you feel like a failure.
But now- everyone else’s feelings are getting hurt because while you feel you’re working on you- everyone else is slowing feeling it. They are seeing the moodiness. They don’t see what’s in your head and heart. They don’t see how you’re trying because emotions and heart aren’t a tangible product they can see
So the work day is over. You’re pissed at everyone. You’re pissed at yourself. You’re guilty for being agitated. You’re guilty of the crash. You’re upset they don’t seem to care. They are upset because you’re always a happy person. You weren’t like this before the crash. It was just a car crash. You’re fine and so is everyone else
The new college kid tried to talk to you about it, but he’s never been in a crash. He said so, but then he said “ why not just get back to work? It keeps my mind busy. He walked away with a smile. How dare him laugh it off when he has no idea how I felt.
Everyone else is happy and I am stuck in this funk
But the kids come running when you’re trying to cook. They keep coming in. The husband keeps trying to come in. You just want some quiet time to yourself but you know it’s pointless. Everything keeps swirling around and the overwhelming feelings just get worse. Then dinner is burned.
The anger sets in. The tears start. The anger came out of nowhere. Hubby came in and you yelled at him. It started a fight. You’re both going at it. A kid starts crying because they start fighting. The night is a mess.
I didn’t mean to take it out on him and the kids…it’s not their fault.
The thought train starts…It’s my fault. I didn’t do this…I didn’t do that…he doesn’t love me enough, the kids don’t have enough respect…the office people just don’t understand..
I’ve burned dinner before and it wasn’t a big deal.
You end up with frozen pizzas for the kids and feel like a failure. One job. Keep kids alive with their needs and cook dinner. I failed.
Then after everyone goes to bed you cry. All you can do is resent the flashback, resent the behaviors at work, angry and at the kids and hubby for constant interruptions, feel like a failure, and more..you’re so exhausted. All you want is to feel better and for these feelings to go away. But they don’t
After reflecting on the day when you lay in bed you have a choice. Breathe and take responsibility and not allow those feelings to rule you tomorrow….or continue to allow those feelings make make your decisions. You can choose your reaction, or allow the reactions to choose for you. YOU DECIDE.
What do you choose?
Those not choosing to be in control of themselves begin down a spiral.
Each day is a choice.
Each action needs conscious thought.
We have to choose to do our best not to react. And continue to remind ourselves.
Each day is a new day to gain control and not allow those experiences to take over for us to react to the feelings at hand.
Treatment starts with the person who wants it.
As hard as it is you can only control yourself. Same with our veterans
Military culture is a specific way of life. Many hold on to that way of life. They have a hard time coming back to the civie world because when you live your life a certain way…how do you change for someone else….. It’s about the hurry up and wait. It’s about listening saves lives…It’s about doing research and over communicating about even the smallest detail…but that’s not the PTSD….
Those experiences on top of that lifestyle compounds the ptsd which are two separate things, but when they lose themselves, you gotta look out for you.
Disclaimer: This post is not aimed at keeping caregivers in abusive situations….If you’re in an abusive situation remember you are only responsible for yourself and your children. They are responsible for themselves.
This post is aimed for those that see the progress or have a vet they just don’t understand.
If things have elevated to a violent standpoint…you know what you need to do.
I sit at my desk with my thoughts running in several directions. For weeks all I wanted was to soak in the tub. I finally had the chance to do so.
There it was…silence.
In that time it was apparent to me how often I can just sit in silence and just be.
No calls, no children running, no screaming because we just fell off the bed after multiple times of trying to avoid, “Hot Lava”, no family visiting, no people over, no need to cook at the moment….
The dog was laying outside of the door and it was peaceful.
Just being can settle the soul
Then the mom guilt sets in.
I wish I had done more these last few weeks to connect to everyone in a deeper way.
I wish I could sit down on the couch more to just watch a tv show with the children.
I wish I took the moment to laugh at that joke instead of taking homework so seriously.
I wish I slowed down just for a few extra moments.
I wish my feelings and sense of urgency didn’t always interfere.
Lately I’ve had a hard time just trying to keep the peace, be the supporter, support myself emotionally, be the strong one with the children, help run our businesses, cook, clean and the list just keeps going…
We delegate chores between family members to lighten the load on everyone.
We keep crafts, activities and minimize screen times so the children can work on interacting and learning and playing.
We explore new learning with the children to continue them on their yearning for learning.
We built kits with them to connect one on one.
We do therapy to make sure they are heard
We are researching ways to help each other all the time.
But we haven’t just sat in peace.
Despite the information and providing it’s apparent to me the always needing more resources can become overwhelming.
In this day and age the knowledge is always there for education but allowing ourselves the time to just sit in peace and enjoy the moment isn’t
I learned from others a lot of us can overlook this due to judgement. Judgement comes from ourselves, our family, our friends, mom boards. society in general.
The pressure to always be something is there. If it’s not and we don’t see tangible process we feel like we’re failing.
On the outside it looks lazy. On out the outside it looks like we aren’t doing anything because there isn’t anything tangible to show for it. However, we’re overlooking our limited time on things and ideas and products to make our life work more effectively while we’re exhausted on the inside from parental and spousal pressure.
The answer isn’t on the outside. It’s on the inside.
Those moments of peace before starting the project can be a moment of settling.
Those moments before going to the school sitting in the parking lot can be a moment for ourselves.
A quick walk around the local park by ourselves on the way home from work can help us unwind.
Wandering aimlessly in Target or Hobby Lobby for an hour with a Starbucks can inspire ourselves by just having the time a lone to allow us to just be.
Take the moment to just have some silence to reconnect with ourselves.
It’s ok to just be sometimes
You are ok to allow yourself some time to rest.
You are ok staring out the window for a few minutes
You are ok to put down the phone and disconnect by not replying right away
You are ok to allow yourself the breather we all can feel to relinquish the pressure.
Sex is safe to vets. It’s a comfort. Sexual attention is validation for who they are.
My vets using sex likes a security blanket.
For him it’s the one time his thoughts are completely free from everything else. He gets the attention he wants in a physically safe way. There’s no battling, no missions, no killing, no exerting oneself in a war zone…
Over the years it’s become a habit to womanize to slap a bandaid on his feelings.
Although he wants a committed relationship his behavioral patterns have become so engrossed in female attention for safety that he didn’t realize how it pushed every woman out of his life. Because he wanted more and wasn’t satisfied he couldn’t understand being a relationship how it felt to be satisfied and not want someone else.
He habitually connected with women who were having relationship issues so they could form a friendship. Then, when his relationship went sour, he was ready to move on into another one because he chose people he knew that wanted more, and would be willing to break off their current relationship, or cheat on their partners with him.
Problem was they were superficial relationships without a firm foundation.
He recently got in trouble lying about texting women. I busted him out and explained everything I said here. He said no one has pointed that out before.
I told him there’s no respect there. Do I believe nothing beyond basic chat, yes, however what happens over time is you’re keeping another person in your back pocket because you’re assuming our relationship is going to fail. Because you’re assumptions your disrespecting and disregarding my choice to be with you, the work we’ve put in to the relationship, and everyone involved. I refuse to compete so if you’re not happy, I won’t stand in your way.
Cheating is a choice. It becomes so normal in the military life they honestly don’t always understand the civilian world. If you say you want a relationship, there’s no “friending” a bunch of women to prepare yourself because then you’ve already made your mind up and at that point- why am I here?
Does it mean you don’t fulfill their needs?
Does it mean they don’t love you?
Does it mean you’re basically worthless in the relationship?
No. It doesn’t. It means they need to learn to water their grass.
It means its about learning to find validation in other constructive ways.
It means diving in to the conversations we don’t want to have with out blaming our partner.
It means stepping aside from our pride to understand what’s really going on.
Constructive ways of helping themselves to earn validation can be done through charity groups.
Validation can be found in accomplishments through hobbies.
Validation can be found by praising your partner on the little things they don’t think you notice.
There are many ways we can help them feel good about themselves in the way they are needing without reaching out to third parties.
Another tough question to ask your partner- Why does someone’s else’s view of yourself matter to you? How does that opinion make you feel?
Why do you feel your relationship is threatened or destined to fail?
What do you think of yourself?
Why does my opinion of who you are get disregarded because you don’t believe the same thing?
Cheating, affairs, relationships….it boils down to validation and comfort seeking behaviors.
Having our vets understand why they are going unfulfilled helps us understand how to take their needs in a new direction.
For those that feel they are fulfilled – It’s time to make the choice. Did you decide your relationship is going to fail? Or are you going to ask yourself the hard questions and follow through on your actions to solidify your relationship?
If you’ve already decided that person is going to leave you…why? What did they do to give you that idea?
Partners – If you’re threatening to leave to change their behaviors. Stop. You’re pushing them away.
Partners – For those self sabotaging the relationship to see how far your partner will fight for you. Stop. You’re pushing them away.
How is the relationship compromised? Emotions are hard to judge. But what’s harder to do is trust. Your instincts know if you’re with someone who’s in it for the long haul.
It boils down to not feeling good enough for you.
Vets – Stop the self sabotaging behaviors. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.