Thursday, December 19, 2013

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD by Welby O'Brien

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Deep River Books (November 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Emily Woodworth for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Welby O'Brien holds a masters degree in counseling from Portland State University and a teaching degree from Biola University. She is the author of "Formerly a Wife" (WingSpread) and "Good-Bye for Now" (WingSpread). She is also a contributing author for both "Shepherding Women in Pain" (Moody Press), and "Chicken Soup for the Soul" (Divorce and Recovery). Her most important qualification is that she is married to a 100% disabled veteran with PTSD. Welby initiated and continues to lead a family support network know as Love Our Vets. She live what she writes.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

You may not have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but if you are living with a veteran who does, you're suffering from it as well. Love Our Vets is dedicated to addressing the needs of the loved ones. It answers over 60 heartfelt questions, and provides tips for taking care of yourself. Sharing as a counselor and from her personal experience of living with a 100% disabled veteran with PTSD, Welby O'Brien gives hope, encouragement, and advice for the caregivers and families effected by this disorder. This is not a just book about PTSD, but a resource for those who struggling with the challenges it presents.



Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Deep River Books (November 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937756645
ISBN-13: 978-1937756642


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PART ONE

REAFFIRM
Our Questions
     What is your dream? We all want something. We long for it. Always have.
     What do you want―really want? What makes your heart ache, and what drives you to keep going? I have always longed for an enduring and fulfilling marriage. I want what I see in the movies. I want the hon¬eymoon to last forever.
     Well, now that I am all grown up and have experienced a failed marriage, as well as several years of a happy one, my dream is now subject to the confines of reality. We all know that no matter how wonderful the marriage, the honeymoon does not last forever. That is just a fact of human nature. But we do know that really great, successful, and fulfilling marriages are possible. But is that true for those with PTSD? All of us who are married to, or in a relationship with, a vet with PTSD are asking, “Is it possible for us to have a happy and fulfilling relationship?”
     What about those who are related in other ways to their veteran? Parents, siblings, children, friends, partners, and even coworkers. We all desire positive relationships with those we care about. Is there hope in all the craziness?
     After many years of wrestling with that question and seeking the perfect key, I finally realize it does not exist. There is no easy way. No magic formula. But what I have found in my own life and the lives of those around me is a principle that seems to be consistent. For all relationships.
     The most successful marriages and healthiest individuals seem to have more of this than those who don’t. Amazingly simple. But also a continuous goal. It is in the day¬to¬day living that we have the opportunities to experience the blessings of these two treasures: faith and love―shown by actions, and not dependent on feelings.
Faith is connection with God; love is connection with others. It is in connecting that healing and growth triumph. The comfort and closeness heals and nourishes. Ultimately, it is faith and love that provide the life-line we so desperately need. The pain and struggles do not go away. But where there is comfort there is hope. Truly we can find hope and practical help for ourselves personally and for our relationships.
     For the remainder of this book, I’ve chosen to use male pronouns in the interest of consistency. Please know that when I refer to “he” or “him,” these same strategies and words of encouragement apply if your brave loved one happens to be female. Men or women―this devastating disorder doesn’t play favorites.
The following pages contain a gold mine of practical help and hope for all who care for a veteran with PTSD. Although my own experience is in the context of marriage to a Vietnam veteran, the wisdom shared applies to all from all conflicts. Your loved one may even still be serving in the military. My hope is that this book will support and encourage all of you who struggle to love the vet in your life who has PTSD. You are the wives, the husbands, the parents, the children, and the dear friends who have made a courageous commitment to love your vet as well as humanly possible. He or she is your hero, but you are a hero too.
1. What is PTSD?
     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs as a result of a severe trauma. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a “mental health condition that’s trig¬gered by a terrifying event.” Wikipedia defines it as a “severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope.” It may be an automobile accident, an assault, the tragic loss of a loved one, witnessing a horrific event, or anything that is horrible and shocking.
From the beginning of civilization as early as the first wars, PTSD has haunted its victims and their loved ones. Throughout history it has had other names, such as battle fatigue or shell shock. Up until the last few decades, PTSD went relatively undiagnosed and unacknowledged by our government. Now we know better. It is a serious problem affecting many of our men and women, particularly those who have experienced combat.
     The atrocities our veterans experienced are often too horrendous to even talk about―and in many cases, are locked away “safely” in the deepest parts of their memory. For the rest of their lives, they will live as if the impending crisis could reoccur at any moment. And what com¬passion it stirs in us to realize that most of them were just young men, boys at the time.
     There are many ways to describe PTSD and the effect it has. It can be likened to a reserve tank of coping skills for stress. Most people have a ready supply on hand for emergencies. With PTSD, however, the tank is about ninety¬five percent full, due to the brain operating in impending crisis mode at all times. The remaining five percent is all they have to handle real stress. Therefore, when something triggers them, they have no reserve with which to handle it in a healthy way as others might. Some terms used are that they get “triggered,” “activated,” or “hijacked.”
     Some of the typical symptoms include flashbacks, avoidance, numbing, withdrawing, hyper¬vigilance, irritability, being easily startled, memory blocks, sudden bursts of anger or other emotions, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, fear, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other addictive behaviors, difficulty holding a job, and relationship problems.
     I encourage everyone to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about PTSD and its effects. It is also related to Traumatic Brain Injury. Include TBI in your research also. We are fortunate to have an abundance of resources, including classes, the VA, books, support groups, the internet, and those who live it firsthand.

2. Can his PTSD affect me?
     Hard as we try to not let it, it does. It is inevitable for two reasons. First, ever notice that when two people live together and are close on any level, they can’t help but rub off on each other? Conscious and subconsciously we affect each other. This goes for both positive and negative (sorry…I was hoping to just give out good news today).
The other reason we are affected by their PTSD is the nature of the disorder. Having lived with it ourselves, we do not need to be psychologists to know that those around are indeed impacted. The effects vary because each situation and each person is unique. However, the following may be considered typical when living with a PTSD vet: anxiety, fear, anger, mood¬matching, taking on their obsessive¬compulsive behaviors, trying too hard to fix them, being diligent to avoid anything that triggers them, sleep disturbances and deprivation, depression, isolation, avoidance, mood swings, hyper¬vigilance (sound like someone you know?), negativity, wanting to run away, wanting to throw in the towel, wondering if you made a mistake, feeling trapped, entertaining thoughts of suicide, filling your life with busy activities to distract, finding yourself trying to try harder, wishing someone understood, dreading going to sleep at night and dreading getting up in the morning, feeling terribly alone, feeling unloved, experiencing road rage, getting triggered yourself, trying really hard to figure things out, seeing things with a distorted perspective, poor self¬esteem, feeling irritable, struggling with food or other comfort addictions, feeling callused with walls up, wondering when you stopped living, feeling hopeless, questioning your faith, feeling drained and exhausted―and the list goes on.
     It has been said that there is such a thing as secondary PTSD. Similar to getting cancer from second¬hand smoke. It has also been labeled “vicarious trauma.” As loving, caring individuals, we have over time been exposed indirectly to their trauma. It will affect us on every level: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically.
     Camille’s vet came home from a lunch meeting with his fellow vet¬erans. At the restaurant, a lady had come up to them and started bragging about what she did to help the other side during the war. The enemy! He got so enraged (understandably so!) he stormed out and sped home. All the rest of that day he spilled his anger on her. Trying to be a good wife and to be supportive, she listened. That night she could not sleep. It was an awful night.
     The following day, she was perplexed (and exhausted), trying to figure out why she was such a wreck. At her next visit to her counselor, he explained what is called “limbic contagion.” Like vicarious trauma, the limbic system (part of the brain) gets activated under acute stress. In severe cases, this leads to PTSD. For those of us who live with it, we can indeed be affected by it. Camille was experiencing her husband’s PTSD. His encounter at the restaurant put him back in the war. To him and his brain he was literally there. Again. In battle. Fighting to survive against the enemy. What she had not realized was that she was there as well.
     It will affect me when he is triggered. The question is not how to keep it from affecting me, but how is it affecting me? My key lies in tuning in to what is going on inside of me―learning to be more attentive to my needs and internal signals, and not just working hard to try to make it all go away. Here is some of the wisdom from Camille’s journal that she gleaned from her counselor:
     “When I feel something is wrong, tune in to it. Name it. Feel it and experience it. Feel the sensation (stomach, neck, heart, short breaths, etc.). Ask myself: What part of my body is not right at this moment? For me, it usually is that I stop breathing or breathe shallowly and am stooped over forward. Hunched. Tight neck. I feel like crying inside. Stay with it. Don’t rush or try to fix it. Breathe!!!!!!!!! It may move. Do a body¬scan mentally. Slowly go from top of my head to the bottom of my toes and feel every sensation. No analyzing. Just notice the sensations. Then, still relaxing, ‘go’ to a place where I love to be. A happy place where I can feel good, and find comfort.
     “My goal is not to not have it affect me but to be aware of the effect. Tune in! Feel it and release it. Not being aware of it creates the tension that is destructive. Differentiate and acknowledge. His pain. His trauma. My pain. My trauma. Talk about it. As I take care of me and feel and communicate, it helps him. Do not do it only in order to help him, but know that it will benefit him.”
     As loved ones, our challenge, along with Camille, is how do we get ourselves back to where we are not hijacked emotionally? Learn to calm ourselves. We need to learn how to regulate our emotions by identifying them and getting ourselves back to a place where we can think. Clearly. Soundly. Our safety skills are to regulate us, not to stop others from affecting us. Our theme should be “feel; don’t fix.” I like to think of it in three steps:
1. Feel my body: Where do I feel it physically?
2. Feel my emotion: Name it. “I feel ticked off.”

Pause here as long as you want. Take time. Don’t rush to figure or fix.

3. Feel my need: What do I need right now that would nurture and comfort me in a healthy way?
     Whatever labels one may select, the bottom line is that we are indeed affected. No question about it. But there is hope. Don’t stop here. Just know you are not alone. You are going in the right direction with people who care and understand.

3. Is there a cure or can it improve?
Sort of, and possibly. (I could have said, “Of course. Take this green pill and in six days everything will be super duper.” Wouldn’t that be nice?} But seriously, there is hope. When I went into this, I thought we were stuck. Forever. Just deal with it. (And unfortunately that is what some professionals are saying.) But now that I have personally experienced growth and healing and have seen it in others, I am excited to say, “Yes!” There are all sorts of possibilities.
     Our vets we love will never totally get over it. PTSD will always be present in them. Even in the best cases, it does not ever totally go away. But, they and we can learn how to handle it better and how to have a healthy relationship in spite of it. There are many professionals working on it every day, and new information continues to surface. New insights and therapies are proving to be very hopeful.
     As far as what we can do at home, Debbie shares some hope with us: “When we first learned about PTSD, all I spent my energy on was analyzing and trying to understand it all. Just daily functioning in our marriage was overshadowed constantly by the awareness of the influence of the PTSD. For many years I worked at making it work. I journaled, got counseling, read everything I could get my hands on, joined the support group, took classes, etc. And it helped. It was intense and hard work. I am glad that he got help too and was willing to talk with me about stuff.
     “But recently I have noticed that things are going better without all the conscious effort. All the work we put into understanding it and each other, and doing the things that were good for us and the relationship, are finally paying off. The intensity is lifted. The good things we put into place are starting to take hold without so much focused effort. I did not know it would get better.
     “We are laughing more and discovering silly moments (we could have our own comedy show if rating was not an issue)! We are enjoying passion and sex (when things work) more than ever. We pray together, which is huge. It is so wonderful to be able to enjoy each other rather than analyzing all the time. I know the PTSD will always be there. And I keep on guard for triggers. But what a nice place to finally be in, where we can experience joy and love and peace for the first time in our lives.
     “At our group support meetings, I notice those who have fulfilling (not perfect) marriages and relationships with their vets are those who have been at it for years. And are doing the right things. Those who struggle are mostly those who are new to PTSD. So be encouraged that the hard work will pay off. It does get better as long as we make good choices and he is willing to do his part too. Even if he is not, our good choices will pay off.”
     Both our vets as well as those of us who love them wake up each day with new opportunities for growth. Faith and love seem to be central in the successful process of growing with PTSD. Connection with God and connection with others who care are the common threads woven into the lives of those who are finding fulfillment while living with PTSD.

4. Can I help him?
    Simply put, you can help him, but you cannot fix him. Curious how it seems that those of us who are drawn to vets are also very caring people. It would be an interesting study to follow the lives of those who fell in love with vets either with or without knowledge of their PTSD. I often wonder if there is something at the subconscious level that identifies the disorder and resonates with it. Maybe we are more of a match than we realize. Most of the people I have met who love their vets are by nature very loving and caring people, the type I would want around if I had a problem.
     The drawback to being of that nature is that we are wired to care, as well as to fix the problem. It is in our nature to find the problem and solve it. How simple. But alas, here we are with a lifelong problem that does not have a fix. The good news is that it is not a black and white issue with only two extreme options. There is plenty of middle ground where we can indeed be of help. The key is to hold on to ourselves as we reach out. Do not kill yourself in trying to fix him. As we take care of ourselves and remain mindful of our own needs, we have more strength from which to draw. It is a balance. We have to stay nourished and nurtured ourselves on a continuous basis if we are to be able to give and encourage and help them.
     It is very meaningful to our vets when they see us wanting to understand them. Anything we can do to learn more about PTSD and about them will help. Be willing to talk with them about it whenever they’re open. It is also helpful to refer to the PTSD as “The PTSD,” rather than just “PTSD.” Somehow that label keeps it separate and objective rather than infused with him.
     One of the things we can do is to love him physically. For wives, this is not just making love (which is really good too!), but it can be lots of hugs, and pats, and foot rubs, and hand squeezes, and kisses on the cheek, etc. You might run up to him (be careful not to alarm him) and say, “Oh, this came for you in the mail today.” And then give him a big hug and slurpy kiss. Or, as you pass in the hallway, just grab him and squeeze him and say, “Have I told you today how much I love you?” Spontaneity and randomness are really fun! You will find a wellspring of love that you never knew you had. Funny how it is that when we give we also get a blessing ourselves!
     Another way we can be helpful is in relation to anniversaries. Have you ever asked him about his anniversaries? These are the dates that were significant in his time of serving and very likely significant in his trauma. Ask him to share those times with you and anything about them that he feels comfortable sharing. Make notes of them for yourself. Then throughout the year, keep these in mind. It may be helpful to draw his attention to them when the time comes if you see him starting to have more severe problems; or it may just be helpful for you, as you remember these times are harder for him whether he is conscious of it or not. I have found that sometimes our vets are very keenly aware of these anniversaries; other times they are relieved to be reminded since that offers an explanation for their unusually acute difficulty. And a bit of hope that things will ease up a little after the date has passed.
     Words of affection and affirmation are huge to them also. One of the drawbacks of PTSD is how it erodes one’s self¬esteem. Anything you can do to build him up is really important. Tell him how much you appreciate how he keeps the family safe. Or thank him for doing chores, or for hugging you when you need it, or paying bills, etc. Let him know how much you admire his tender heart or the kind words he said to someone. For some it may be a stretch, but getting into the habit will eventually begin to help him as well as you. We tend to get nitpicky and negative. That is just being human. If we can keep our sense of humor a little better and let go of the things that really don’t matter, we’ll feel much better.
     Anna was feeling irritable around her husband’s sixtieth birthday (maybe hormones, or lack of sleep, or not feeling loved, lack of chocolate, etc.). Whatever the reason, she was not really in the mood for a happy birthday. So she decided to try to come up with a homemade card, listing all the things she loves about him.
     She thought it would be a good exercise but was kind of doubtful that she could do it. She sat down to write, hoping to come up with sixty things in a week’s time. Twenty minutes later she had sixty and could not stop. Do you know how much she fell in love with him all over again that week? And when she gave him the card, his eyes welled up with tears. “No one has ever given me a card like that before. Thank you.” They both were deeply touched. And he has that card to look at when he feels discouraged or depressed or unloved.
     Be creative. Whether you’re a parent, friend, spouse, or other loved one, the sky’s the limit to your expression of affection for your vet. For instance, if you don’t mind a little cleanup afterward, you might try what Bethany did. She noticed her vet was really down one morning, so she took advantage of the steamed¬up bathroom mirror to do some artwork. She wrote something affectionately cute and drew something naughty. He loved it! Good thing the kids were gone.
     Most vets feel unsafe. They long for someone they can trust. Any¬thing you can do to help him feel safe is a huge help to him. One way I have seen is through listening. Really hear him. Encourage him to talk when he feels like it. To share his dreams or nightmares. To share his memories, whether pleasant or horrific. Do not interrupt. Do not judge. Any criticism will shut him down. One wife I knew was constantly put¬ting down her man. He was really shut down. No way would he ever feel safe enough to open up to her. Another wife I knew was a non¬stop talker. She, apparently, was incapable of listening. Words went just one way. Don’t tell, but once when I was on the phone with her, she was just babbling on and on. I couldn’t get a word in, or if I did, she just changed the subject back to herself. So I set the phone down, went and did something, then came back and picked it up. She was still talking. If I were her husband, I would want to live in my cave too.
     Another way you can help him is to encourage him to get the help he needs. This can be tricky because you do not want to nag, just encourage. It may be going to a counselor, a VA support group, a Pointman group, AA, taking a walk, or reading something beneficial, etc. You cannot do this alone, and the more help he can surround himself with, the better for both of you. Ultimately it is his choice.         Unless, please take note, unless he is abusing substances detrimentally and/or people are in danger. If he is in any way harming you or anyone else, then it is essential to have an intervention of some kind. The family and other loved ones need to rally around him in love, tough love, to ensure he receives the treatment he needs.
It may seem like an uphill battle, but be encouraged that your love and support can go further than you realize.

5. What about his constant negativity? It really gets to me.
     Understanding goes a long way toward helping one tolerate another’s negative behavior. Why are our vets plagued with such negativity? Why are they prone to being skeptical and fearful and angry and irritable? Sometimes it helps to brush up a bit on our PTSD information. Then allow ourselves to journey back in our minds as if we were there with them in their trauma. Sit with it. Feel the terror. The aloneness. The dread. The shock! The stench of death.
     That exercise can be painful and evoke a variety of feelings in us. But that is good every now and then in order to retain our compassion. And compassion is a companion to understanding.
It is also necessary for us to remind ourselves that we cannot fix them. It is not our job–even if it were possible. But we can help. Talking with them is good. Bringing their attention to the constant negativity can be an eye¬opener to them. Often they are not even aware of their downward spiral. Asking questions is also good in that they help preempt defensiveness on their part.
     Vickie and her husband had a routine of starting the day by dis¬cussing all the things that were on the day’s agenda. Without fail, every time, he ended up reciting all the things that could possibly go wrong. His mind was encumbered with visualizing every potential disastrous scenario. In contemplating his trip to the bank, he anxiously talked about dying in a car accident, having to wait in long, horrible lines, getting a new inexperienced teller who took forever, and then getting robbed on the way out to the car. (At that moment some of us might have been inclined to grab him and shake him and scream, “Snap out of it, Eeyore!”)
     Fortunately, Vickie’s approach was much more effective. Calmly, without getting riled herself, she gently called it to his attention. “Are you aware that your thoughts are spiraling downward? Can we think about the good things in store today? And we have so much to be thankful for.” She wrapped her arms around him and told him how much she loved him. “I know you have a hard time with anxiety, but sometimes I feel pulled down when you talk like that.” She was able to draw his attention to it and at the same time express her feelings in the form of an “I” message.
     Staying aware of our feelings is crucial to keeping ourselves from being consumed by negativity. We have the choice to be thankful and do things that are going to uplift us physically and emotionally.
     Rachelle took a different approach. There were times when she felt like she was the recipient of a dump truck load of garbage. Ken would rant and spew out all sorts of anger and frustration. Pure negativity. It was not always aimed at her, but she happened to be the nice person with a good heart who cared enough to listen. And take it. And take it some more. Over and over.
     One day she realized it was not healthy for either of them. She did not like the way she herself was becoming negative. She felt the downward drag. And she often felt obligated to try to cheer him up at those times. If only she could say the right thing, perhaps she could fix him. Neither was a healthy response.
     One thing they both enjoyed was a good sense of humor (which, by the way, often goes a long way in resolving conflict). So she shared with him that when he spouted off his garbage she felt like he was a dump truck. And she did not want him to do it anymore. Her tone of voice and caring heart were well received. He admitted that he did not like doing it. As a result, they agreed that when he started dumping, she would make the noise of a truck backing up: “Beep! Beep! Beep!” It worked. Now they can smile when he starts to dump. By the way, he got her a toy dump truck for Christmas.
     Our vets will always struggle with the downward pull of impending doom. We cannot eradicate that. But we can come alongside them and love them in it. And we can provide so much encouragement to them by our positive outlook and our reminders of the many blessings we do have.

6. Why am I sometimes overcome with this awful fear? How do I handle it?
     All of us are fearful of something. Usually it is what we dread losing the most. For some it may be losing a child, our marriage, losing love, or losing the man we so deeply love. For others it may be loss of independence, health, freedom. And for all of us losing our life―or anything else that is precious to us.
     Like pain, fear is our body trying to warn us. To inform us. To alert us of danger. And as difficult as it may be, we need to listen to it. Stop. Feel it. Tune in and try to understand what our inner self is needing.
Our vets are often plagued or consumed with fear themselves. As trauma survivors, they are still in survival mode. Much of that wears off on us, even if we do not realize it. So not only do we carry their fear, we compound it by adding our own.
     The first step in handling our fear is to own it. Name it. Recognize it. And accept it. There is nothing inherently bad about being afraid. The danger comes either by ignoring and stuffing it, or by feeding it.
After we acknowledge our fear, then we need to think about it. Why am I afraid? Is it rational? Can I reason myself through this? Some have benefited from journaling and others by talking. Just like all our unwelcome feelings, we have the choice to process it in a healthy way―to find healthy outlets for it.
     If there is something worthy of our attention, such as an abusive situation, then we need to immediately do something about that. If it is just a nebulous feeling hanging over us like a heavy fog, then we can explore it further. Good counselors are very helpful in aiding us as we dig down to the deeper layers and get to the stuff we can work with.
Talking with other vet wives and loved ones is truly a lifesaver. Brandi was in a new relationship with her vet. Although a bit uneasy, she went to meet with some other ladies who were also involved with PTSD vets. What a relief for her to hear that her fear was common.
     “I just am overwhelmed at times with this awful fear. My stomach gets to churning and sometimes I just want to bail.” The discussion centered around the fact that we never can be quite sure when our vets will react. And when they do, what the fallout will be. That is just something we learn to accept. As loved ones living with them, we are the first to get it. So it is understandable that we carry some level of fear. Our bodies are helping us stay alert and on guard.
     But sometimes that is not good for us. So it is crucial that we learn to be aware of when our fear is consuming us and putting a barrier between us and our vet. “Perfect love casts out fear.” On the flipside, fear casts out love. When I am fearful, I am focused on me. When I am loving, I am focused on someone else. Reaching out and caring will mysteriously dispel the fear.
    In a nutshell, the best thing we can do with our fear is to protect ourselves from real danger, feel the feelings, process them in a healthy way, and love our vets.

7. How can I get friends and family to understand?
You can’t. Even with as much information as is available about PTSD, one really cannot know what it is like to live with it until they do it. One evening a new lady who had been a vet wife for more than thirty years came to our Love Our Vets support group for the first time. She just sat quietly observing as we all talked. No expression. Just listened. When it was her turn to share, she just burst out in tears. “You all know! You understand!” She sobbed with relief. “You really know what I’ve been going through!”
     Our hearts went out to her as she tearfully told her story and how hard she had tried to get her grown children and her friends to understand. It was like she was dying alone in the desert, shriveled up from thirst. Along we came in our desert¬ready tour bus with gallons and gallons of water and tons of love.
     It does help to educate those around us who are significant in our lives. There are some good classes available through the VA and veterans’ assistance centers. Some counseling facilities also offer classes and support groups. There are new resources popping up every day online. Books, groups, websites. Any information you can pass on is helpful.
     But it is probably not possible or necessary that they totally get it. In one sense, it is a relief that maybe you can stop trying so hard. Also perhaps it will lighten your already overbearing load to have one less task to worry about. Ask yourself, Why do I want them to understand? Do I need sympathy? Do I need help? Do I need an excuse for some¬thing? Do I feel I have to defend him?
     After thinking about it more, I have come to realize it is easiest to more or less just let it go where others are concerned. You and I can find the support and understanding we need from those who also live in our shoes. We find comfort and hope when we connect with others who know and feel and care. And we can offer mutual encouragement and practical help as we connect together.
    When I do decide to offer some sort of “explanation” to others, the best way I have found to communicate it is with a nice short statement. And then leave it there. Something that will offer enough of an explanation to relieve myself and to help them. Then let it go. A few things you might consider using are as follows:
“Yeah, he really has a hard time being around people.”
“It has not been a good day around here.”
“The PTSD makes it hard for him to _____.”
“His stress tank is full and there is no room for anything more. Any¬thing stressful will put him over the top.”
“It is a baffling and frustrating disorder.”
“We have good days and bad days.”
“He can’t handle loud noises.”
“He does better with______”
“Thanks for caring.”
In your mind and heart, bless them for caring and trying to under¬stand, but give them grace that they will never experientially know what you are going through. And that is okay. It hurts. It feels lonely and scary. But it is okay.

3 comments:

Wanda Barefoot said...

Scheduled for 12/20 at 12:00 am EST.

http://abookloversretreat.blogspot.com/2013/12/love-our-vets-restoring-hope-for.html

SueFitz said...

Book Promo posted:
http://booksbooksthemagicalfruit.blogspot.com/2013/12/book-promo-love-our-vets-restoring-hope.html

Hill Staton said...

Nice blog!