I have been spending a significant amount of time with families of soldiers with PTSD, and there are several observations to be made. The first is that PTSD is real, and those who have it suffer greatly. It debilitates their lives, and wrecks their families. The spouses often display symptoms of PTSD themselves after caring for their service member and the resulting meltdowns, rages, screaming nightmares, inability to tolerate normal family life, and the inevitable shutout of loved ones. There are many Facebook pages for spouses of vets with PTSD. Search – they are there. You will find that your ‘new normal’ is indeed normal for a family dealing with the after affects of war. There is a lot of help if you and your loved one seek healing and not just medicating – either by the docs or your own brand of self medicating. What sort of healing is necessary? The first is healing of relationships. Which ones? The relationships between the veteran and the family of origin (if possible), the ones between the veteran and the spouse, and between the veteran and his or her children. One of the most universal of complaints from those surrounding the veterans with PTSD is that the veteran pushes away those who had been close to them. That hurts – a lot. That needs to be healed. So – caregivers – seek the healing. No time? You have no time NOT to find help for yourself. Your entire family depends on you. Engage in rigorous self care. Stay close to your kids. They are hurting too. When you mess up, apologize and ask for forgiveness. This is huge for your kids. It means they can trust at least one of their parents, and goes a long way towards healing attachment wounding.
The second is healing of social relationships. There need to be people in your lives who are good, trustworthy, supportive, and who can be taught what the stakes are in PTSD, and how they can help. Can’t find any? Look harder. They are there. Have you been damaged in life so much you aren’t sure what such a person looks like? Read this book by Cloud and Townshend “Safe People”. You have to develop a social network of support to help you walk this new path.
The third is healing of self. Anxiety is not permanent if treated. Insomnia is helped with sleep hygiene. Don’t know what that is? Message the page, and we will tell you how to do it. Depression can be alleviated. Are you one of the many waiting for treatment at the VA? Find help elsewhere. Do not stop until you have found someone to work with you. Never ever give up.
Caregivers need to remember one other thing – the rages, the anger, the cheating – are not about you. They are about the veteran. We all have a choice about how to react to what we feel and perceive in the world. Our reactions are our own, regardless of the provocation. If you have been a ‘messy spouse’ ~ clean up your mess. Be faithful, constant, loyal, supportive. You are responsible for your own choices and actions. Just like veterans are responsible for theirs. Get into a support group. You do not walk alone. ~Kay