If you are living with someone with PTSD, you may find you are feeling some of the same symptoms as the person you’re caring for. You may find that being responsible for running a smooth household while getting the kids off to school, making sure nothing disrupts the life of your loved one with PTSD, and having your own needs go unmet, leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, individuals with PTSD may not be very available for their spouse’s emotional needs. If you are the caregiver, you may find yourself constantly walking on eggs as you try to keep the home quiet and make sure no one does anything to aggravate your spouse. You can end up feeling like you have a shadow version of PTSD. You may even exhibit some of the same symptoms: sleeplessness, hypervigilance, isolation, depression, and anger.
Living with someone who has PTSD is not easy for anyone. It can take its toll leaving you emotionally drained. There are a few things you can do to cope though:
- First and foremost, take good care of yourself. You have to do this; no one else will. Try to get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, and get some exercise.
- Make sure you take some time for yourself each day to nurture yourself; you’re worth it and you deserve it!
- Make good use of your friends. Talk to them, go out with them, and let yourself relax a bit. Don’t feel guilty for tending to your needs – if you don’t, you won’t be able to care for your loved one with PTSD.
- Be gentle with yourself; forgive yourself if you make mistakes. As tired and overwhelmed as you are, you get to be human too, and no one is perfect.
- Go for counseling if you need it. Meeting the needs of everyone else can leave you feeling drained and empty.
PTSD takes a toll on the whole family, and as the spouse of a loved one with PTSD, you are at risk of feeling like you have a shadow version of the disorder. Take care of you. What you do is priceless and your family depends on you to make it all work. Taking care of yourself is your right; don’t let anyone take that from you. You do great work and you deserve to be happy too.
How difficult it is to find peace when you live with PTSD. I am not the person I once was, nor do I seem able to be the person I want to be. I don’t like giving PTSD that much control, so I fight. It makes me think of the story the Native American grandfather told his grandson. It was about two wolves fighting within us all the time. One wolf fights to do right. The other wolf fights to do wrong. The grandson asks the grandfather, “Which one will win, Grandfather?” The grandfather replied, “The one you feed!”
I think there is a lot of wisdom in that story. If we feed the wolf of anger within us, it will grow. The problem is, how do we feed the wolf of peace? I think part of the answer to that must be that we actively have to feed the wolf of peace, not just sit back and think if we don’t feed the wolf of anger it will just dry up and blow away. It may not grow much, but it doesn’t seem to shrink either. However, if we take the time to culture the growth of peace within ourselves, there is a favorable pay off, I think.
So, how do we feed the peace wolf? I think we each have to seek the answer to that question as it’s probably a bit different for most of us. Prayer, meditation, peaceful music, aromatherapy, massage, there are many possibilities. It may be that no single method is the answer, but a combination of many. I sometimes think that it’s mostly the effort I make, not actually what I do, that makes a difference.
I don’t have all the answers. I’ve lived with PTSD for many years and I wish I were in better control of it now. The one thing I do know is that I won’t sit back and just expect I’ll get better as time goes by. I won’t allow PTSD to take over one more moment of my life if I can prevent it. Why? Because I know the value of finding peace again. Good luck to you too.
Living with PTSD is not a picnic, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s my reality and I just have to deal with it. The toughest part is the anger. I’m angry a lot of the time, my temper has a hair trigger, and I can explode with little provocation. There is a reason though: PTSD is based on chemical changes in the brain.
That’s not an excuse for bad behavior, it’s just a fact. I still have to put the effort into controlling my temper and not lashing out at others. I think knowing that chemical changes in the brain drives those behaviors makes me more determined than ever to find a way to overcome the changes and “reclaim” myself. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve lost who I really am to PTSD. I don’t like feeling that way.
So, what do I do to reclaim my even nature? A lot of the time it involves isolating myself while I get a grip on my anger. I journal to seek what’s behind my rage; is it really that someone or something is bothering me, or is it simply that I’m already more than half way to a state of frothing anger and sometime ridiculously small has tripped me the rest of the way? Once I answer that question, it’s easier to let go of the anger. While I know isolation is a problem for people with PTSD, I also know that in order for me to get my anger under control, I have to cut down on the outside stimuli coming at me, or there is so much, I can’t get a handle on it.
Living with PTSD is not easy. No one said it would be. It’s up to us to learn as many different techniques for coping as possible. Somewhere in all those techniques are the keys to caging the tiger. I’ll find it. Just give me a little more time and I’ll find it!
All of us feel anxiety at times in our lives, but sometimes with PTSD, anxiety can become long-term and overwhelming. When you have recurrent, unexpected periods of intense fear, you’re probably having a panic attack. There are symptoms that can also be present when having a panic attack:
- Racing heart
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach problems
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- You may feel you are out of control or that you are in physical danger
If you have a panic attack, you may go to great extremes to prevent another one from occurring. It is not unusual to isolate yourself and refuse to go out in public for fear it will trigger another attack. If you aren’t sure whether you’re having panic attacks or if it’s just being a bit fearful about something, consider:
- Have you had recurring periods of intense fear or discomfort?
- Did you also experience a pounding heart, shortness of breath, sweating or dizziness?
- Do you worry about having additional attacks and work to prevent them?
- Do you avoid situations for fear you might have a panic attack?
If you answered “Yes!” to any of these questions, you may want to consider talking with your doctor or mental health professional about how you get control of the situation. Panic attacks are no fun, but they can be successfully treated!