Thursday, July 1, 2010

Secondary PTSD and Me

I once read an anonymous saying that stated "Everyone's crazy...just some more than others". I used to laugh at that statement especially in college where my Psychology professor told us that everyone had symptoms of OCD  hardwired in them. Thinking back, I can say I do have a slight problem with counting things or keeping things in a particular place. I have watched others with odd quirks of their own, and even my own mother who obsessively counted objects on a curio cabinet. There is only room for one crazy person in this household and so far my husband is reigning number one. I do have to admit though, I have changed so much in the last three years I barely recognize myself anymore. Am I on the path of becoming second runner up in the race of being nuts?



When you are seeking information regarding PTSD you usually come across the term of "Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome" or "Compassion Fatigue". I have read on Family of a Vet, (a site in which I haunt quite frequently) about this subject and the author/owner of the site has a special way of describing things on an every day person's level. Another words, it's simple, to the point, and in no way must you have a Harvard degree or be a psychologist to understand any of it. If you are a caregiver or spouse for your veteran with combat PTSD, definitely check out her site along with her description of Secondary Post Traumatic Syndrome. Now I didn't go out to seek out my mental problems nor did I think in anyway I am going nuts...but I admit that I have had some problems here as of late.

My last doctor visit my blood pressure was really high...enough to be put on medicine for it. Tension/migraine headaches can sometimes be debilitating to the point where now I have a special med that is a kick ass Tylenol mixed with Zanax for nerves. Let's add in the anxiety pill that I take as needed, and the medication for depression which is really for my Rheumatoid Arthritis (I promise I am not 80!) and helps combat the battle of the blues in the process. So the two or three bottles of meds have now increased to 11 and I was forced to get a pink old lady pill box daily reminder for myself all before my 35th birthday which is quickly approaching! It's quite depressing really because I still feel young, still feel somewhat sane, and embarrassed I should have to admit to anyone I am taking so many pills. My doctor made a comment that I could be suffering from Secondary PTSD so I have been looking at it a little closer now that she has brought it up.

So in case you haven't looked yet at Family of a Vet's explanation of SPTSD because you are reading this blog, here is an excerpt that I found on another site, counseling.suite101.com.

Anyone who gives care to a traumatized person is susceptible to STSD, including children and spouses of active duty military personnel. It seems to be more likely to occur among people who have experienced prior traumatic events themselves. People who have other types of mental illness may also be at risk. However, social isolation or a lack of inner resources, such as a strong spirituality, can cause anyone involved in the care of a traumatized person to be debilitated by STSD.

Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder

People with STSD may experience the same symptoms as the traumatized person. These symptoms include depression with suicidal thoughts and feelings, as well as feelings of loneliness and betrayal. This condition may also lead to substance abuse. Many people with STSD will have difficulty carrying out regular tasks at work and home. In some cases, their ability to cope will be severely impaired.
Family members of traumatized persons will often develop hyper-vigilance. Since they are impacted by the traumatized person’s emotional crises, they become sensitive to small mood changes or other risks to stability. Eventually they may find it difficult to relax and feel as if they are “walking on eggshells.” This may also make sleep difficult.

Ok...no suicidal thoughts here and I don't recall a traumatic event in my entire lifetime except my first marriage which was a nightmare. Mentally, I have always felt I was a stable, sensible, albeit somewhat moody person. However, in the past three years I have resorted to crying jags, sleepless nights where I can't clear my mind or when I do sleep....have horrific nightmares which include my husband in them. I do know I can't relax and can't remember the last time I have. I feel as if every move I make is going to set my husband off or worried that the kids will do something or be loud, therefore I am going to get my ass reamed for no reason. I seem to be the gutter for everyone's problems and no one in my family really seems to care that they put so much on me....I do sometimes get overloaded. I have noticed that my patience has gone down to zilch and the big heart in me has somewhat shriveled up. I don't have things to look forward to anymore, I don't have any friends let alone any who know what the hell I go through, and it seems like I am in isolation but not because of me. It's because the fate of PTSD has cursed us and taken away what little friends we did have.

I did take Family of A Vet's idea to "get involved" so I did. This has helped not only keep me busy, but gives me something to do as well as make some difference for others. The only issue is that the part time work I gave the FRG has now led me to take on leader position, the Disabled American Veteran's Ladies Auxiliary
has given me tasks I must complete, and THEN I make candles in the process which is somewhat therapeutic but has gotten so large that it gives me a heavy stress load. I then blog on three sites which helps me and is really the only thing here lately I have thoroughly enjoyed doing as it releases so much stress and weight off my chest. I find that any chance I get, I talk about PTSD and TBI just so others are educated and try to help other spouses with resources. Occasionally though my husband yells at me to slow down, and so does my doctor, but what they don't realize is all of this....is my only escape from home. Granted most of it is done from my home, my computer and phone...but it gives me something else to focus on besides just the PTSD. It's nice to be around people that don't yell, scream, and cuss at you. Perhaps its just being around normal people for a while that is nice. I didn't realize until this past year how starved I am for a little attention, and even more.....appreciation.

I am getting really forgetful. I don't know if its my RA kicking in, the stress at home, the kids, the crazy vet (ok before I get bashed, that's what he calls himself), or just simply my brain is getting too overloaded because of all of it. If I write it down, then I must remember where I put it. If my ass wasn't attached, I would have lost it a long time ago. I did upgrade to a desk calendar which has helped me tremendously. Household chores are simply becoming overwhelming. Mainly because time flies here and it seems like yesterday I just did 20 loads of laundry and put it all away....when in reality it was last week. Five in a family means a lot of laundry especially with two potty training. I do think sometimes though my laundry is secretly breeding downstairs in the washer. My sister swears they are like Gremlins with disregard of them getting wet and feeding them after midnight. To clean the house or do laundry, even cooking supper has become monstrously hard for me to deal with. I maintain a clean house and never has my family gone without a home cooked meal, but if I had my druthers, I could easily put up a "Mom/Wife on Strike" and be content with it. I am simply emotionally and physically tired.

I do feel lonely...extremely so. I once told the marriage counselor we see that although my husband is here, we are so far apart that he might as well not be here. Betrayed? Hell yeah I feel betrayed! I feel I got the shaft by everyone and that's not limited to the government, the VA it's including family members like my mother in law who's ignorance and lack of consideration, plays not one part nor helps with my husband. It's "Oh well honey". I feel betrayed by the best friends who no longer talk to us and well....I am just all around pissed off most of the time! At everyone, everything and anything. Most of the time I wake up angry and don't even know why! This is what saddens me the most. Because my kids are going to grow up with a father who isn't there mentally and a mother who is slowly becoming one big angry ball rolling from one day to the next!

The VA doesn't offer individual counseling, the Vet Center only offers counseling for both the soldier and the spouse, and most therapists around here either a, don't take our insurance or b. Don't have a clue as to what the hell Combat PTSD is let alone work with you on it. I was quite surprised to learn that some in this area don't have a clue, and send you somewhere else. Well, what the hell did they learn in college then? I guess I would rather them be honest and tell me upfront that they only know what's in the Diagnostic book than try to fumble and not really help at all. Marriage counseling is ok, but tends to focus on the Vet and his problems more so than the spouses in our case. I don't feel I can get enough out or even that the therapist is really listening to  me.

I guess my biggest concern is whether I am suffering Secondary PTSD after three years of dealing with my husband? Where does one go to get help with that when resources are so limited and will it get worse as the years progress? No local wives to talk to who understand, no time really between three kids for just me, and no resources military wise for counseling....support group at our local VA is not an option as I have been there and done that. I hope that I don't get worse, as I really don't wish to think myself as slowing losing it and becoming my worst nightmare, being like my husband........

Everyone's Crazy Including Me,

Uncle Sam's Mistress

15 comments:

  1. It only makes sense that you ARE in a traumatic situation, that it stresses you. PTSD is contagious.
    Thanks for helping out at DAV. I am one and we need you. And at 34 you're still a child.
    Love always,
    Kurt

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  2. Hey! Yes I know I have Secondary PTSD. I had dreams that Iraqis were trying to kill me on Saturday night. I told my husband and he laughed saying I didn't serve in combat. I said its call SPTSD. I also can't remember anything at all. My memory is shot and it used to be great. It's hard to stay on track and be happy when you are going through all this. If you ever want to talk I will be here for sure.

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  3. Kurt, funny how PTSD is contagious. Who would have thought huh? I was able to find a counselor who hasn't returned my call yet...but he has military experience, so keeping my fingers crossed.

    I love my DAV! My husband joined after I did, even though I was there on FRG capacity. We are the only couple there under the age of 50, but those guys really like having us there. They are a good group of men and women and I feel don't get enough credit for what they can do and have done for veterans. They are our reps for our re-appeal of disability. They are hoping with our membership it will attract more OIF/OEF soldiers because there is always room for them at the DAV. Glad to know you are a fellow member!!! Love you too!

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  4. WWS, I have dreams more related to things that set my husband off or dreams that he does something bad like go off the deep end and hurts one of us. I know bad huh? I just seem sorta puzzled all the time and its harder and harder to remember things. Even though we decided to hold a birthday party for our two younger ones with close family members, I FORGOT my son's birthday. Granted he just turned four and didn't know it...I still got the "Mom SUCKS" award for the year. I forgot, my husband forgot and it took my 13 year old to remind me. Ugh. It's like trying to keep up with appointments for my husband, his medicine, and the kids...I just don't remember much else!! We are a mess aren't we? Thank you for being there...always the same in return. My email is always open!!!

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  5. haltermanswife@gmailNovember 14, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Hey! I completely agree! I know I have some symptoms already-and it's starting to grow more. I have recently joined a group that is trying to help the wives of vets. It's called Pointman International Ministries. Under that group is the wives section called Homefront. Homefront is a group of wives that give support, advise, lend a helping hand or ear to listen with, and it is only with this that i'm this sane. I would check it out. I'm getting some information here soon on us getting recognized. I'll post as soon as i get it. Feel free to email me-it's always good to know that we aren't alone and we aren't fighting alone. :)

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  6. Wish I had read this 5 years ago- I may not have thought I was loosing my mind! Thank you ladies

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  7. Thanks for posting, I have been suffering in silence for 8 years. Now my husband said he is confused and needs to clear his head and moved out, I am sorry I let myself go that long. I stuck around through thick and thin and then he leaves me, Had I know this is how it was going to end I would have left for my own sanity years ago, I could never make him happy anyway and all I did was wrong or pissed him off for some reason.

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  8. @ Anonymous- I am so sorry to hear this. This saddens me to see and I know you are hurting. Take this time to find yourself, heal and do something for you. Eight years is a long time and God knows, I am sure you have given a lot up. If he feels he is confused, needs to clear his head...let him go. Sometimes you can only do so much and sometimes there are those in all of our lives who we will never make happy. I would like to suggest that you see a therapist or get some kind of counseling. I know that sounds cliche, but you got to get it all out to move on. If you are having secondary issues, which most all of us do, that is something you NEED to take care of asap. Do it for yourself. Stop and think of what you were planning for yourself eight years ago and find YOU again. You are still in there, you just got to find it. You can do this. If it's something that you wanted to try, or something you put off...do it. I am starting for myself a list of things I haven't done and would like to. Writing is one, traveling is another, changed my hair color, taking better care of my health, and learning to cook new things and try new things. If your husband has PTSD or any other issues, know that he may very well be confused and without proper treatment...he will always be angry. You were simply there as the target. It's not your fault. Stop today and look in the mirror. Ask yourself "Who am I?" or make a list of all the things you CAN do and a list of "Will Do" and take one at a time. My mama used to say when I was little and had a cut "sometimes its got to hurt before it can be better". It won't heal overnight, maybe not in a month...but every day will get better. Take this time for just you. Be selfish and know you deserve it. Always here~USM

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  9. Military wife,
    Hell ya, sometimes I feel like he's the only one who did anything important? What about me..I stayed behind through deployments and took care of our home, finances, children etc. Where's our recognition? Just a moody, easily aggrevated, angry man that returns. Yay. Well I know good help is hard to find and that's why I'm back in school, I finally decided to quite letting his military shit run my life. There was never time for me to do anything because I was always taking care of everything. NOT anymore I'm 1/3 way through my masters program in counseling and I'm not turning back. It's my turn, all you ladies need to take yours...

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  10. The tears just keep coming. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt for so long. I really need a support system and really need some help. Anyone out there?

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  11. I just found a program that is confidential and it's a coaching, counseling program that is not connected to the VA, so nothing goes on his record. It's called Coaching into care. The number is 1-888-823-7458. I just called today. I am desperate for relief and they seem like they can really help me, and you too.

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  12. I am married to a desert storm combat veteran, whom suffers from PTSD. Over the last 5 years it has gotten to the point

    that I actually hate him. I hate being in the same room. Our grown children hate being anywhere near him. He insists WE are

    the problem and unless WE change, things will just continue to get worse. At one point he actually had his VA provider

    convinced that I was batshit crazy and I was the one that needed to be on prozac...there is nothing wrong with him and he

    doesn't have an issue. I will constantly catch him in lies, and if I call him on it, he becomes angry to the point of

    violence, has actually spit in my face and once again, convinced me that I am the one that is batshit crazy. Everything in

    the world is MY fault. I can not say or do anything right and no matter what I do he finds fault in it. Unlike a lot of

    wives, I am a veteran as well. He refuses to acknowledge MY vet status, as I am not a combat vet and actually told me my

    service "didn't mean shit" because I'm not a combat vet. I have been accused of sleeping with any male I am on friendly

    terms with, hence I no longer have friends. When we are in the company of others, he has to be the center of attention and

    all his sickening little stories dominate the converastion. He also enjoys belittling his family in the presence of others

    and when we show any signs that he's not amusing (he always says he was just being funny) the screaming and emotional abuse

    begins and we are lectured on how we have embarassed him publicy, and how dare we. He has lead men into combat and we show

    him no respect blah blah blah. He does nothing around the house except for complain that I can't keep up and can't keep it

    clean. I work 50 hours a week as an EMT and a counsoler for those with PTSD. Lol. Funny, huh? I can't deal with the war at

    home but it's my job to help others with theirs. I actually was stupid enough to mention secondary PTSD to him alomg with

    caregiver burnout. Wrong thing to do. "you're just trying to play can you top this. you're always more tired than me,

    sicker than me and hurt more than me. I hate to tall you this but there is nothing wrong with you." Yep. That's what I

    hear. Mr. combat vet can't even put his clothes in the hamper, says he hurts too bad. At this point I am anti-gun, anti-va

    and anti-military. Thanks uncle sugar. thanks for all the "monster sarge's you have created and left the rest of us to

    suffer with.

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  13. As a PTSD counselor, you should know it's not Uncle Sam's fault for creating "monster sarge's." Does the military offer the traumatic situation that leads to the PTSD? Of course, but even with that, it is still up to the individual how they are going to react to the situation. Can you control that you're having nightmares and reliving memories? Maybe not. New theraputic ideas are being put forth every day, but the bottom line has to be personal responsibility. Either he can accept that this is what he's living with, the same way someone who's lost a leg or an eye would have to, and stop blaming everyone else for not coddling him, or he will continue on his destructive path. He may not be able to control the conditions he had to fight under or the nightmares and exhaustion, but he can control how he talks to his family, how he treats them, and how he interacts with other people. The fact is that neither of you needs to top the other. It doesn't matter who is suffering more--what matters is that you're both suffering and neither of you should be expecting the other to pull the full load or give special treatment as a bow to either combat (or non-combat) status. This behavior is selfish and undermines a healthy relationship. He may not be able to control the past, but he's fully in control of the present, and he needs to decide to either be on the team (your family) and treat you all with the respect and dignity you deserve, or GTFO and let you heal on your own. With that, though, acting like you hate him isn't going to make anything better. You both need to stop treating each other like the enemy, like it's a competition for who has made whose life suck the most and start focusing on how you have both been positive in each other's lives.
    Not that I have any experience or anything. I've just been married to a combat vet with PTSD for the last decade myself and have been active duty that whole time.

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  14. Check out your veteran's center again. My local veteran's center has a support group for spouses of vets with PTSD as well as offers individual or family counseling for family members... They have been extremely helpful for me.

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  15. Hello all! I am a veteran and an ex-wife of a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. After surviving my experiences as the wife, I returned to school and for my doctoral research, I looked at the impact of social isolation in partners of veterans with combat-related PTSD. I am very concerned about the lack of support for spouses and partners. So glad to see this site! I would love to follow the comments as I believe it is so necessary that spouses and partners get the professional and support services they need. So many spouses and partners utilize the internet to communicate with others- that I feel it would be awesome to have professional services for spouses and partners through online resources.

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