Good Morning Fellow PTSD followers! I woke up this morning to a literal winter wonderland! Lots of snow landed here in East Tennessee yesterday and I love it! Sitting here with my computer and my coffee, I thought more about what I would like to blog about today. After some hard thinking, and trying to keep within my second New Year's Resolution of being organized, I thought I would talk about symptoms and what those entail from my perspective.
The most confusing aspect I think of PTSD is not knowing what all accompanies this disorder. If you are a spouse or family member, more than likely you already know from firsthand experience. Although the military gives you short list of "what you might expect", sometimes it's nice to know what all the symptoms are so you are better prepared. This alleviates that "deer caught in the headlight look" when one of these symptoms shows up. I would like to reiterate that the military did not give me a handbook to go by, so most of all of these I personally experienced with ignorance on the subject itself. I have been to the Army sites, Mayo Mental Health Clinic, and many PTSD resource sites. Thought on this glorious snowy day, we dear readers will compare our scars...some of which we were informed might happen and some they failed to mention.
What I think is funny that the military gives you a "this might happen to you" scenario but in jargon most people don't understand. I am a smart cookie, educated and a reader but no less I still didn't understand most of what they told us. I like how they give you one or two word explanations of Flashbacks, hyperarousal, numbness and avoidance. Now if you don't have a full explanation of what these are, you are pretty much left in the dark. So let's move on to the first symptom that your soldier "might" experience.
1. Flashbacks or Intrusive Memories. Well this one is self explanatory and although I haven't been able to witness it firsthand obviously because I am not psychic, it is simply reliving the traumatic moment for minutes or days at a time. My husband did tell me one time it was like having a digital camera in his head, flipping through those moments over and over again. Sometimes he can think of other things and clear his head, other times he can't seem to rid his mind of anything but that.
2. Upsetting Dreams: Not really much explanation on this one. Can we lump this into the nightmare category or just every night dreams like we all have? Come on Military, who really knows what this means? I can say this though, in nightmares my husband has had he has relived the moment of terror for many nights after he came home. Most of which I could make out, some of which I realized what it pertained to after speaking to one of his fellow members about some things that happened over there after the fact. In this discussion, I realized then what my husband was screaming about or mumbling about in his sleep.
3. Avoidance and Emotional Numbing: Avoid what people? Emotional numbing? The only Doctor I can really relate to is Dr. Seuss, let alone define and understand what emotional numbing is! This avoidance and emotional numbing includes according to the Mayo Clinic: Trying to avoid thinking or talking about traumatic event, feeling emotionally numb, avoiding activities they once enjoyed, hopelessness about the future, memory problems, trouble concentrating, difficulty maintaining close relationships. Well readers, I can relate to all of these. Open communication is something that doesn't happen in our marriage....not always, but since the two years he has been home. It's not just about war related topics, it's pretty much anything and everything. The most we talk about is what he might want for supper that evening, or perhaps the latest about his mother if he listens to me long enough to rant. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with my husband's life. What a shame huh? Considering this used to be my very best friend that we shared everything with each other.
4. Emotional numbing: Oh yeah. Have faced that demon many times in the last two years. What irritates me about the military's maybe/might/possibly definition doesn't quite explain the lengths to which this numbness goes to. He doesn't care. Period. He doesn't care what he says, how he hurts people, how he lets them down. His explanation for everything is "well I have PTSD" and well everyone is just expected to say ok. Put a smile on boys, ladies take the hearts off the sleeves.....be prepared to get walked on and your feelings trampled on because we got a man with PTSD. He doesn't even try to act like he cares. That's not emotional numbing, its emotional death. It's the end of my old husband and friend, it's an empty pod person with no heart and has no conscious.
5. Avoiding activities they once enjoyed: Let's revamp that phrase. Let's add in, avoids all family members, buddies at work, lost interest in fishing which was his all time his favorite past time, working or putzing in his garage, and of course spending any time with his wife. Let's not forget spending any time with his children, showing interest in their developments or achievements. The only activity I can say he still enjoys and doesn't avoid is football. Any and all football.
6. Hopelessness about the future. I can honestly say I really don't understand this one and perhaps in my situation this is the only one that doesn't apply to me or my husband. Of course, since there is no conversation and he pretty much avoids anything and everything, I may be missing some of this.
7. Memory Problems and Trouble Concentrating: Yes and Yes! Memory seems to have gone MIA somewhere between Iraq and Wisconsin. Still looking for it. I used to think he was so preoccupied with other things that he would simply forget...but it's getting worse and the more I think about it, the more I see it in everyday things. Some days it's just forgetting what I told him to pick up at the store, or simply forgetting family obligations or promises made. Sometimes I feel he just forgot about us period. Most of the time it's like dealing with someone who has ADD.
8. Difficulty Maintaining Close Relationships: Ain't dat de truth! Seriously....who thinks of this stuff? Should this even be a number in this classifications of symptoms? I mean, looking at the seven top signs listed here, one could possibly maintain that holding down a committed relationship would be quite hard. Perhaps not just for the person with PTSD but with the other party concerned.
So there it is. The top eight signs you know your spouse has PTSD. Well, in some of these I can see just a typical ass of a man who really is self absorbed and selfish. Although not true, this really doesn't give you much help or help a spouse understand what is going on. What happened to the "what causes this" if you didn't already look it up. I really like the portions where they tell you if your soldier exhibits these signs then seek help immediately! Before I go into that topic, lets save that for another blog! My next blog will go into the stuff they don't tell you about and what my perspective is on each one of them and my experiences. For those who actually made it this far, I hope you found some comfort in there knowing that you aren't the only one who stays confused about symptoms. Until next time......