Monday, March 23, 2009

PTSD Healing: It’s a Matter of Perspective, Or: Seeing It Their Way

I can’t help myself, today is just a 2-post day because I’m sitting here with 4 really great perspectives from the other side and as you begin to consider reaching out to friends and family it’s good to know what kind of compassion you can hope to receive and also, what’s on their minds:

1 – Tawnya Torres writes the blog, The Life Of A PTSD’s Spouse. Her husband deployed to Iraq and came back a different man. While Tawnya continues to raise 4 children, she also has to accept and make peace with the fact that her marriage is not the way it was before. She wrote a really great piece this past Saturday about the two ways she’s dealing with that.

2 – Ever wonder how PTSD and vet disabilities are interpreted by and affect kids? Tawnya sent me this Sesame Street promo clip for a show on this topic that airs on April 1st. Hosted by Queen Latifah with an appearance by John Mayer, the show seems to be a very poignant and positive look at bridging the gap between children and their vet parents when the family reunites at home. For further reading, here’s the press release for the show.

3 – My friend Alicia Sparks writes a mental health blog called Celebrity Psychings. In that wonderful way synchronicity works, today she began the series ‘Don’t Avert Your Eyes’ about how to approach someone who needs help; might just be a good resource to turn your friends and family onto so they can learn the etiquette of communicating with you.

4 – My friend Deb Vaughn runs a group on Facebook: I Love Someone With PTSD and I’m not Alone. In her description of the group Deb writes, In addition to those affected by this condition, there are those of us who love and support someone with PTSD. At times it can be lonely and you don't know where to turn. I am starting this group to give loved ones a place to go. It's a great resource for your friends and family so that they can explore their own experience with and outside of you.

I asked Deb to write about what it’s like to watch a loved one struggle with PTSD and still manage to maintain a close and loving relationship. She’s been really great about sharing her perspective. Here’s what she says,

Over the last few years in my journey with my partner and her struggles overcoming her trauma, I’ve learned many lessons. Some of the most important lessons have been about patience, patience with her and with me.

You see, I’m a fixer by nature. I always want to fix things, help people and make things right. PTSD isn’t that simple. There is no quick fix. There is also no simple way to learn and understand what the person you love is going through.

It’s heartbreaking to watch them struggle and to be in pain. Each day is different. You have no idea from one hour to the next what things will be like. It’s hard not to take their moods or outbursts personally. You have to keep reminding yourself that it’s part of the PTSD.

She tells me she doesn’t know how I put up with it all. I do it all because I love her and I will only be satisfied when she is better. It’s a long process. In many cases it can take years. That’s also hard to grasp. Patience is not one of my strongest traits, but somehow I’ve found it deep within myself. I’ve come to realize that it grows out of love.

Here is what I would tell her if she asked me the top 10 things I’d like her to know about my approach to helping her heal from PTSD:

1) You are not a burden. I love you and wouldn’t be with you if I couldn’t handle things or you.

2) Please bear with me, too. I’m still learning and need you to understand that I don’t always do the right thing.

3) Always be honest with me. I can handle it.

4) Sometimes when I react badly it’s because of my own past and not because of you. I have my own demons.

5) I try so hard to understand what you are going through and it’s hard to admit that no matter how much I learn, I’ll never really know what it’s like.

6) I hate to watch you suffer and it breaks my heart.

7) Communication is so important. I need you to tell me what you need or what you need me to help you with. I don’t always know what to do.

8) Sometimes I feel selfish when I want to do something for myself or ask you to do something with me that I know you don’t feel like doing.

9) It’s hard not to take your bursts of anger personally.

10) My love for you is unconditional.

(Photo: DavidDMuir)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I have PTSD and I can relate to your partner.
I always feel as if I am a burden to my partner as well. I can't imagine how hard it is to be her. Sometimes I get lost in my own world and forget there are others looking in that are wounded from my actions.
She cheers me on when I win the battles.
I only hope that she stays strong and patient for me until I will this war.

Deb said...

Thank you so much for reading the blog. I hope that you can find comfort in the experiences of others.