Caring For Partners Who Have PTSD

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Updated: September 23, 2015

This one is for the ladies.  I am well aware men as well as women have to take on, caring for partners, who have PTSD and TBI. This article can be useful to all sexes. The reason for saying this one is for the ladies is as follows:     In 2003 my oldest son was murdered. At the wake his mother was very upset and hollered at me that she loved my son more than I did. I responded to her by saying I love him just as much as you do, “Mothers just love differently than fathers”.   When she said her final good buys, I witnessed her when she first saw our son Jimmy Jr. in his casket. The first thing she said with crying eyes, is “he doesn’t look happy”. Once she settled down, but never stopped crying, I left her alone to say her final good-bye to our son. After about an hour passed, I returned to her and my son and he did appear different to me, from when I walked out and left her alone. She had taken the time to inspect his body, take off the make-up applied by the funeral home, fix his hair and straightened out his clothes. He did look more at peace in a strange way. For this reason, I realized women, mothers, do love differently. It is the mom’s and ladies that make sure a man’s socks are matching and they look good when they leave the house. Their focus on their loved ones is to have them make an awesome impression in all aspects, is totally different than the way a man looks at it. We like to make sure they have money and look good, but not down to the matching socks. Only a mother has these instincts. After all moms are tethered to their children for the first 9 months.

So …. Lately I have been thinking about the families and loved ones of the victims of soldiers, combat veterans and others with PTSD. As one who has experienced PTSD and TBI, I know the toll this must take on the ones closest to you and the ones who voluntarily take on caretaking.   It seems that there is distance between both of you. You see PTSD has many triggers, sending people with PTSD into a deep pattern on thought, effecting how we respond to others around us and close to us. The typical first response is to be left alone as if no one understands, but we are not good at stating this moment, it normally comes out when the level of stress builds to a boiling point. We don’t want to be bothered or babied, as if we can’t handle the things we volunteered for, making us a self-sufficient man. We come home from war as a protector and provider not wanting any help and not wanting to relive or share the stories we feel only those of a like brotherhood may understand and that is usually only when we are drinking.

Sharp loud sounds may cause us to flinch and go for our guns or cover. Songs and cloud formations might remind us of the living years of those of our comrades in arms and the sadness of their passing. Yes, we are protectors and providers by nature. Now you are home, some with physical disabilities and others with mental disabilities and all with anger, hyper-vigilance, paranoia, flashbacks, nightmares and long sleepless nights. Many of us are drinking and using drugs, both prescription and illegal. I remember that old TV commercial years ago that said “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

For me personally the weather is a trigger point. After all we were trained as special operators to operate and go after the enemy when they were at low ebb, during rain, poor weather cold nights, no moon. It dawned on me, when the weather is at its worst, I enter a mental dark zone.  Most of our wives, girlfriend, mothers, sisters and daughters may never truly understand. These and other indescribable moments send most PTSD victims to a dark place where we want to be left alone.

I have watched the women throughout my life, always keeping them at arm’s reach, because I never wanted to talk about issues. I felt it better to keep my face on and be the macho guy, even when the physiological chips were down, never letting anyone get too close.  A combat veteran’s life has always been a struggle for others to help and comfort us. Even though you ladies have always attempted to fix things with us and with no immediate or apparent thanks or appreciation. This must be difficult. We just want to be left alone, so we do not unleash our anger, depression or other negative feelings loose on you and normally with no explanation. If we ever get to that point, it’s normally accompanied by tears and frustration. We do not always know how to be less than we dreamed of and once were, at the height of our military and physical life.

I have watched these ladies attempt to take control and comfort their PTSD soldiers. I have experienced how the ladies I have been involved with, do all the work, all for their man, be it husbands, fathers or sons. These women give so much with no reward. This is what you do ladies. Ladies sacrifice their own childhood dreams of what love and a relationship should be. They do this day in and day out, without fail, as their life passes by, seemingly unrewarded for their efforts. Dealing with a man that can’t walk or for those who can, can’t find a job or can’t protect their families like a good man. Many of these guys just feel hopeless and helpless, not being able to even be part of the man they wanted to be.

Then ladies, you have to deal with the unknown and the fear your man may commit suicide or homicide. After time many of these men have become so physically and psychologically dependent on you, their world becomes very small. About the only thing they feel they can control is the lady who is already giving her all. I just can’t even imagine the hurt, pain and suffering these great and giving ladies must feel at times, all the time knowing, in their hearts, these ladies are giving their best, their all. Many times ladies, not even taking care of yourself.    A conflict will begin to brew and a life style change neither of you signed up for. You must feel like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. How do you keep it up when you are fighting a lose, lose battle. I have seen it and I know the nurturing mentality and caring disposition of most ladies. There is a lot for you to know and learn. I realize how difficult this must be when you are being closed out most of the time. It will never be easy for you and I wanted to take my hat off and just say how much you are truly appreciated, for all of those moments when you feel like enough is enough. Your never quit attitude and undeniable determination to care for those who will push you away, in their most moments of need.

I want you to know although most men with combat stress do not know how to show you their love and appreciation that deep in their hearts and minds, they do love and appreciate you. They do not know how to say it nor show it in many cases. Most of these men are living every moment fighting their own personal demons while attempting to show something. They, we truly don’t know how to get it across. So the message to the men is try harder and the message to the ladies is THANKS!!!   Thanks for being the care takers and please find comfort in the fact that even if we don’t know how to say it and you don’t often hear it, we greatly appreciate you ladies, as you are the best, for all you do.

This is just a simple thanks.

Smokey West

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