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Senior Contributor

PTSD

I am looking to connect with other carers of men with PTSD.

My husband has PTSD (most related to time in the military and 20 years in the emergency services). His PTSD displays as nightmares, flashbacks, depression and emotional withdrawal. In addition, he has recently been identified as having a seizure disorder, but we are waiting to find out if it is related to the PTSD (dissociative seizure/PNES) or adult-onset epilespy (partial absence seizure).

He was diagnosed with the PTSD in the last few years, but had been displaying symptoms for longer than that, but the condition has been hiding in him from as far back as 1993.

I myself have (now well-managed) depression. We also have two girls aged 14 and 11.

The last few years have been extremely draining and exhausting for both him and I. It has affected our girls somewhat as well.

I hope there is someone out there who can relate to this.

12 REPLIES 12
Senior Contributor

Re: PTSD

Hi Used2Be

My former partner has PTSD and he lives with us. His PTSD is from childhood and also from 2 tours in Vietnam. I also have PTSD (and we both have bipolar diagnoses - I accept mine, he says his is no longer current - but I think it is, whatever the shrinks say) so I can relate to your husband's symptoms.

My former partner also has a type of seizure and I think he was told at one stage it was an unusual type of epilepsy (I'm not sure exactly what), it makes him prone to suddenly going white (or yellow) and either passing out or nearly so and then throwing up. He's weak as a kitten afterwards. I've noticed he has these more often when he's stressed, and they are worse if he drinks much alcohol (more than one glass).

PTSD is often undiagnosed for a very long time, I've had mine since childhood but only got diagnosed in '09 after Black Saturday. It is possible, even quite probable, that your husband's PTSD goes back to his military career or before. No doubt his time in emergency services would have had a significant amount of trauma too. It is incredible what the human mind can live with and shield itself from for a very long time. 

I really feel for you both. I've got 3 kids aged 6 to 17. It must be exhausting and terrifying for all of you.

Most of my life I've suffered from severe depression, and the way I learned to protect my kids from myself when I was in that space was emotional withdrawal. I was too fragile to deal with them very well (and usually couldn't cope with their friends coming over) and often told them I needed "time out" because I was stressed. I was frightened I would just lash out at them emotionally because I was so fragile and that would easily turn to burning rage. So it is possible the withdrawal is your husband's way of trying to protect all of you as well as himself.

One of the problems with my former partner's PTSD is that when he's triggered he can be quite emotionally abusive. It is one of the reasons we aren't partners anymore. I have had to learn to be very clear with him about boundaries for everyone's sake including his. So if he starts behaving in ways which are very inappropriate I tell him very calmly what he needs to do, and why I find his behaviour abusive. I know he doesn't want to hurt us, but at this stage he's unable to be fully conscious of his behaviour when he's triggered.

You don't mention whether your husband is receiving any (psych) therapy for the PTSD. I would recommend exploring this, it has made a huge difference to me in being able to recognise and manage my triggers (I'm happy to explain the other things I've found helpful in another post if you are interested). It might take quite a lot of work to find the right "fit" with a therapist, which is also very trying and tiring, but worth it in the long run.

Have you tried to tell your girls what's going on? They will probably be quite bewildered, frightened even - as you no doubt are (quite understandably).

One vital thing is to take enough time out to care for yourself, because you are carrying a huge load. They are all depending on you, and even without suffering from depression that can seem overwhelming. Whether you see it or not you are incredibly strong. 

Kind regards,

Kristin

Community Manager

Re: PTSD

Hi Used2Be,

 

Welcome to the forums, I'm really glad you found us.

 

Kristin raises some good points, in particular making yourself a priority.

I hope you find these forums as just one way to look after yourself. Many members have contributed to this thread sharing the different strategies they use to help look after themselves.

 

Another option is to contact ARAFMI Mental Health Carers (Freecall: 1800 811 747) - not only will they assist you & what you're experiencing, but they also have referrals that may be helpful for your husband.

 

I'm sure there are other members here who have similar experiences that can offer support & advice. The person they care for may have different diagnosis, but the exhaustion and impact that you refer to is something a lot of carers can relate to.

 

Re: PTSD

Thank you so much everyone.

My husband is receiving treatment and has come along way sinve his first major meltdown a few years ago. We are really fortunate to have a supportive gp who knows and treats the whole family. and he understands mentall illness, as he has experienced it personally. in addition, my husband is under the care of a psychiatrist and a psychologist who work as a team. i have my own psychologist and so does my eldest daughter.

The basics are in place. its just that as hubby progresses dealing with 20 years of trauma, more and more things are uncovered, which is good but also difficult as he processes each memory. the hardest is his miltary career. he was involved in some very extreme, very violent, very personal moments. those are the most challenging.

we are fortunate as a family that he has never turned to alcohol, or drugs or been violent. those are all common with ptsd. instead we have emotional withdrawal, periods of silence and the inability to connect on a social or emotional level. we are immigrants and dont have family in australia. his lack of social skills means we have become very isolated.

Re: PTSD

I was trying to finish typing last night but got interupted. so one of the challenges is my isolation ( it doesnt worry him). i have tried to do stuff on my own, like go to a book club and I even joined a dancing class with one of my daughters friends mothers. it just gets so difficult,as we only have one car, and we have kept our girls involved in activities they love, so i have to be aware of their schedules. i work full time and the occasional evening. stuff got even more complicated when hubby chose to move out over easter. it is a very complicated way of life, as he still spends many evenings and all weekends with us, but sleeps in a share house five minutes away. i dont know how to connect with others anymore and i also dont know how to connect with him. he believes he is evil and does not deserve any happiness. i still love him and i see the whole him, but he only sees the bad stuff in himself, and admits he can not connect on an emotional level with anyone. we are doing all the right things, going for individual counselling and have even started relationship counselling. it just gets so hard and so exhausting. i am lonely, dont know what kind of future i have, and dont know how else to support him. i have tried everything i can think of, but because of what he believes he is, he is unable to accept or understand that i am willing to support him. i know i cant stop the nightmares or what happened in the past, i just want him to know he doesnt have to be alone. i know his recovery is in his own hands, but i want him to know i am there for him, whether it is at 2am the morning when he has live nightmares where he reenacts stuff in his sleep or whether it is 2pm and he is laughing and enjoying time with the girls. i am just so tired.

Re: PTSD

Hey there,
My partner has PTSD from working in defence as a civilian. He has nightmares, difficulties socialising, very low self esteem, some self care issues (eating, primarily). He also engages in treatment with a full team and we have also undergone relationship counselling. I also have my own mental health issues which are in remission but still, I understand your struggles. My partner has two kids 11 and 6 years old.
I think it is definitely wise to contact a carer support agency. There are carer retreats; I am actually looking for one for myself now, which may be a good option for you to just relax, recharge and be surrounded by other carers who will understand your struggles.
As for the nightmares, when my partner and I got together he would thrash around in bed and drench the sheets in sweat, often only sleeping 3 hours a night. It took about a year of our relationship but when he was having nightmares rather than trying to wake him up as it would scare him more I would quietly tell him he is safe, he is at home in bed with me and its okay, that he is going to dream of us on a holiday. It soothes him and he settles again. He no longer has night sweats or thrashes around and sleeps for more like 5-8 hours a night.
For the self esteem, we have worked on assertive communication. He can get "latchy" on things which used to result in us fighting, but with working on self awareness and assertive communication, he has reached a point where he can tell me "hey brodie I'm feeling latchy about >topic< can you please hug me?" And so I hug him and tell him I love him, that its okay.
As for social impacts, my partner games. He plays the Sony and is able to talk on a microphone to other people playing and has actually made a pretty nice group of distant friends that way. He has problems engaging in friendships face to face, but we are slowly bringing in my friends and going to dinners. To accommodate his anxieties of leaving the house, he always get the corner chair in a cafe so he can see everything, we don't go to places that are super loud and if we expect to be in crowds, my partner takes the camera which reminds him of carrying a gun in his old job and people tend to part around someone carrying a large camera, so we've been to surf competitions and fair days with him carrying his camera.
With communicating to your partner you are there for him, be direct. I sit my partner down, hold his hands, get him to look at my face and tell him directly " listen to me very clearly. i love you, I am here for you. You are a good person, a loving father, I love you." Then I hug him close and tell him it'll be okay. This seems to work quite well as its full communication in body language and verbal.
If your partner is good with the kids, maybe encouraging him more to take the kids to one of their extra curricular activities or to school in the morning could be a good way of him feeling needed and loved in the family? That would also give you time to go and get a cuppa with a friend or to go to a dance class.
Also I'm not sure if you're aware of EMDR? It is a form of therapy for PTSD sufferers. My partner does it every few weeks with his psychologist and it always seems to have a great impact on his anxiety and flashback type symptoms.

Re: PTSD

Thanks Brodie, great feedback. It sounds odd, but I almost envy the latchy bit! My dh is exactly the opposite, cant or wont ask for help or ask for a simple hug. I persist (gently now once I learnt I was pushing too hard), and now will even put his arm around me when sitting together on a chair. The strain of feeling like I am walking on eggshells around his moods can be draining.

Re: PTSD

Oh his latchy wasn't like latching for affection, it was getting latchy to silly things like an expression on my face 2 hours ago which he was reading too much detail into and then winding himself up about it, stewing but instead of just saying what he was feeling, it would come out as him being angry with me for not feeding the cats on time. Or he'd feel strangely threatened by another person around me and instead of saying so, would act out in other ways until we'd fight the real issue would eventually come out. He isn't latchy with me emotionally so much, but when he has this latchiness around random things it does work now when he recognises that is what is upsetting him, to directly say so and for me to sooth him.

To show Pax I want his affection as he sometimes thinks I don't, I will pick up his hand or arm or whatever and put it around me, or say "HUG ME!" and smile and he hugs me. His PTSD can make body gestures as small as me putting my hand on his knee make him jump so I often have to say first "can I put my hand on your knee?" before acting so he knows it is me and it won't push him into a flashback or panic state.

With our relationship counsellor, we've come up with "time out". We rarely fight now, but when we do it can be explosive. So the idea is that he or I say "TIME OUT" and based on our coping skills, go off and do whatever we need to do to cool down before coming together again to talk. For me, I walk. I leave the house, call a friend to vent and walk it off. My partner naps..sleep is a great aid to him. But the key is also to have a time frame set on this...so if I'm going for a walk out of frustration from a fight or something I must be back within a set time limit (say...30 minutes) or message before that time is up to extend it further if I need it. This means my partner isn't fretting with increasing anxiety over my safety or whether I am leaving him (he will convince himself I am leaving him).

Communication is key, but both people in the relationship need to be on the same page...so in therapy together, we have come up with key phrases I can use in situations that won't make my partners PTSD flair up but will convey my needs in a language he can grasp and recognise. So for example if he's driving a bit silly, insteadof me saying "that was a bit stupid" I can say "That makes me feel unsafe" and he recognises it and it's like a reality check for him.

You must protect your own wellbeing first. I understand the desire to be there for your partner and support him and your family, but you are no use to anyone if you aren't looking after yourself first. So take the time out when you need to. Do you have a friend or neighbour who if you need a break, can watch your girls for an hour or so while you go and do something nice for yourself? It might be helpful (if you haven't already) to write down your list of positive coping strategies and stick the list up on the fridge or in your bedroom or your diary. Some of mine are:

-Go for a walk

-Write about it

-Sing and dance it out

-Call my mum

-throw oranges at the ground (releases anger)

My partner also has a list him and I worked on for him which cover helpful strategies he can use when he is anxious or depressed as well as a few key sentences he can say to himself when he feels insecure or anxious or depressed. He had trouble coming up with them at first, but things like "This feeling will pass. My wife loves me and cares about me. Don't push her away. Listen." and when you notice he is showing signs of anxiety or emotional negligence, suggest he has a look at his list and read his sentences out loud to himself.

My favourite message for myself and my partner is that all feelings are like waves in the ocean, they will peak and then fall away again. No feeling is permanent.

Re: PTSD

That was such a comforting message to read Brodie! For the first time in 7 years I feel like someone actually understands! At the moment, dh is unable to accept that I care (he is tryng) mostly because of his feelings of self-loathing. He believes he deserves to be punished for what happened, and constantly repeats his belief that he is evil. He has come a long way but this recent self hatred is since getting to this particular bank of memories. So while he has massive improvements in so many, I fear that this element is going to take some time. He is now in control of panic attacks, and can manage daytime flashbacks. He is exercising, taking his meds, he even told his family. He is getting better in social situations, and I am getting better at picking up his cues as to when it is time to go. We have all adjusted around his hyper vilgilence, and he is also better. But light touches can still startle him.

As for me, I seem to have forgotten how to make friends. Because things with dh have been so all consuming, the minute I start getting to know them, I will end up oversharing about our situation and they back off.

We dont live close to my daughters friends, and I dont know my neighbours. My girls are old enough to spend time without parents at home, but neither feel comfortable alone at night. I try to be back by 8:30 if I do go out, and Dh is more than happy to stay with them. But I am so exhausted most of the time, what with the youngest waking with asthma or the eldest with her anxiety! Even though they are both doing better on their respective illnesses, I have gotten into the habit of not settling fully to sleep, and then on weekends I end up sleeping whole afternoons away!

Re: PTSD

Oh I so relate to the oversharing thing! I think that is when it is handy to make friends who are also carers or to get yourself a support worker...not a counsellor, but a support worker who can go out and get a cuppa with you, or even attending support groups.

I'm glad your husband has made such progress, that's great to hear! Since he is happy to stay with the girls if you go out at night, maybe take advantage of that? Find night dance classes, art classes, etc. I know it can be difficult to take that step back, when I went into study 3 days a week I found it very difficult not to return home at the first sign of distress from my partner for about the first 6 months, especially.

If sleeping on the weekends is what your body needs, that's okay! It's what you need at that time, probably weekend catch up and something that relieves some stress for you! Maybe you could make something more of that? Capitalise on it a bit...run yourself a nice hot bath, put some lavendar oil in the bath and start reading a book or listening to some music, then go have your nap. Give yourself that rest you obviously need and deserve.

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