There is something to a military spouse. The resilience, strength, and ability to adapt to change at a moments notice is something we as military spouses have, and continue to have, if not more so, after our loved one comes home. We have a bond and connection to one another even though we dont know one another. We have that knowing of “I’ve been there” empathy towards each other, or “I can only imagine what you’re going through”. We are a small community, and can even say family. We are one of a kind.
One of the things I am finding important is coming up with a safety plan. It it is a good thing to have, and discuss with your spouse. I was recently given a blank safety plan to fill in/tweek with what will fit us. Once complete, it will be printed out, and put up in certain areas of the house to remember what is to happen if we get to that point where we have to draw the line. Below is the blank safety plan that I was given, and was told I could share. Please feel free to save it, and create your own. For us at the end I will add at the end what will happen if none of the items listen help, which likely means inpatient is the result.
I often see questions from civilians who do not have a loved one that is a vet or a service member, what can they do to show they support the troop by more than simply saying it.
As the spouse of a veteran with PTSD, here are some of my suggestions.
Get involved – Many communities are creating organizations to touch on military and veterans issues.
If you are in a church, find a way to create programs to help vets and their families. For example, create a children’s night. Have a safe place the parents can drop the kids off, knowing they are safe, to give the kids a chance to play with other kids, and a chance for mommy and daddy to reconnect.
If you are a pastor, educate yourself on PTSD, and get training so you can help those in your congregation that may be suffering.
If you own a business, hire a vet.
If you are a professional (Dr., psychologist, therapist, lawyer), offer pro bono work to veteran’s and their families. Many vets and their families are going without healthcare. Many need a lawyer because they have gotten themself in trouble, or they have family issues, or need help with appeals, ssi or initial filing.
Find ways to help them. Find out what their needs are. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to. Be there for them. Some are coming home to no help or loved ones. Try to become a friend to them. There are many ways people can help. When you say we support our troops, don’t just say it, but mean it.
The last suggestion I have is, educate yourself on invisible wounds. Help us raise awareness, and join us in fighting for them. Write your congressman and senators, demanding action. Demanding more help, and for them to start showing their appreciation for our vets. Find out which politicians are against veteran’s benefits, and NO MATTER WHAT PARTY THEY ARE IN, VOTE THEM OUT. We do not need politicians up there who want to take away the little benefits that our veterans do get. They have no business in Washington. I dont care what party they are in.
Here is an interview my husband and I sat down to last year whenever I was first starting the local peer to peer support group. We stepped out in faith and outside our comfort zone.
We met with Laurie, from Channel 3 here in Hampton Roads, to participate in an interview to raise awareness and inform those in our area about the support group I am starting, PTSD, and its effects on the Veteran and their family.
In doing this interview, it was not easy for either of us. When you put yourselves out there, you are worried about judgment from other people. Hesitation is what the devil wants. The devil will try to hold us back as much as he can. I realize this is not about us, but helping others through what we have gone through. I do not want any other spouse to feel as alone as I did. We had to step out of our comfort zone, and step out on faith, in hopes of helping others who are going through what we have gone through.
This powerpoint presentation was given by our guest speaker, Tabitha Sierra, M.A. at the November 19th Wives of PTSD Vets and Military of Hampton Roads, VA peer to peer support group meeting. She has given me permission to share this.
I remember when we first started the process of getting my husband into the VA, my husband’s case worker gave an analogy to describe PTSD. PTSD is like a pickle. You can take a cucumber and turn it into a pickle, but you cant take a pickle and turn it back in to a cucumber. There are several types of pickles; dill, sweet, bread and butter, “wickles,” etc. It is up to the person to decide what “type of pickle” they want to be. You then learn to love the taste of the pickle, but it will never be a cucumber again. That analogy has stayed with me. I know that my husband is forever changed, and the person who I knew is gone. He still has parts of him remaining, but he is forever changed. Learning to accept and love the “new pickled” him has it’s challenging moments, but I still love this man with all my heart, who he was, and who he is now, “pickled” and all.
Something I have found myself doing as of lately, is telling my husband what to do, instead of asking him. After the behavioral issues we have dealt with over the past few years, I have found myself treating him as though he is my third child, and at times, it doesnt help things. In fact, it can hurt. I know for myself that I dont like being told what to do, like I am a child. Why should my husband be any different?
One of the important things I am finding and having to remember is he is still an adult. It is a hard balance going between behavioral issues, back to good, and having to learn to trust his abilities again. I can honestly say I dont know that I will ever get back to not having questions about behavior, or decision making, but for the sake of our marriage, I have to learn not to treat him like a child, and TELL him what to do. Asking him to do something goes a long way, along with a please and thank you thrown in there. It comes down to respect, and I respect my husband
One of the things I try to do is keep my own political views to myself, at least off my public sights concerning our veterans. One of the things I always remember my grandfather, and father say is you dont talk about politics (however this doesnt apply to them today, they are just like everyone else, freely speaking their mind about their views). We all have different political opinions, and unfortunately these types of conversation are rarely kept civil. Keep in mind, I am a Political Science major. Not because I want to be a politician, but because I want to “learn the game” to help our veterans and their families, however that leads me to helping them. The last thing I want to be is a politician, but do want the knowledge of how our system works, can lead me to finding ways to help.
With all of this said, I do want to bring up politics for a moment, but not for the reasons one might think. One of the things I see over and over again on the posts about the VA scandal is people who automatically begin blaming one political figure, one party or the other. STOP making veterans about the left or right. We lose 22 veterans A DAY to suicide. That is someone’s father, husband, brother, mother, wife, sister, friend. The number is likely HIGHER than that due to the lack of a streamlined reporting system, and only getting the numbers from 21 states. Our veterans issues not only affect the veteran, they affect the FAMILIES. These issues ARE NOT just a republican or democrat issue. It is AN AMERICAN issue. Stop trying to make it about blaming one or the other, and come together for the sake of our vets and their families. We have so many veterans families who are losing everything and many losing their loved one while people are arguing over who is to blame. JUST FIX IT, and put action behind “Supporting our troops.”
This type of point the blame attitude is the wrong attitude to have, and will not help our veterans. When we are so divided on this very important issue, very little will be accomplished to help them.
Code words. This is something my husband and I found that works for us.
We came up with a word that was totally random that we could use when he would begin to get into his angry rantings. This was used to diffuse the situation, and for him to know he needed to chill out. He would walk away and cool off. The word we use is acorn. We haven’t had to use it in a while. As the rages slowly went away, we would use it in other ways, if one of us were to go off into a drawn out rant about one thing or another and needed to cool out. Lately we haven’t found the need to use this code word, as we are both learning to communicate again. Please note that is an everyday process, and we still don’t have all the answers.
Another word we use is “noted.” We use it when I am saying something he doesn’t necessarily want to hear, which is usually about getting back into therapy or something to do with his health. So I know he hears me and understands, but doesn’t want to talk about it, he says noted. This way I back off, but I’ve at least said what I needed to. In doing this particular code word, I’ve also had to gage his moods, and know when I can approach certain subjects and when I can’t.
It has all been a learning curve, figuring out what works for us, and what doesnt. I’m still learning, and at times, adjusting. I don’t claim to know everything. In fact I know very little. I only know what we have gone through, what we have tried, what works and doesn’t work for us. Everyday it takes hard work. Sometimes when life is moving so fast you can’t catch your breath, it is easy to forget. I’m human and I make mistakes. But the key to that is learning from those mistakes, and changing it so I don’t do it again.
My parents always told me, in life, nothing comes easy. I never understood that until going through all that we have. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and it isn’t happily ever after. Life is about learning and hard work. Relationships take both. Love isn’t always enough. Learning to work together, instead of against one another has helped us. But it is one day at a time, one step at a time, taken together. I know there will be misteps, but it is taking from those misteps to try and make sure they don’t happen again.
There are so many times, that I have things I want to write about, experiences I want to share.
When I sit down to write, it is as if a wall goes up, blocking my thoughts. I am unable to write down my thoughts, get out the past, and express my fears.
I am not allowing myself to touch these thoughts when I want, not allowing myself to express them. I can only imagine, how it is for my husband, not wanting to touch what is on his mind.
Consciously or sub-consciously, we sometimes don’t allow our mind to remember the bad, to remember the negative, to remember the nightmares.
I can never imagine what my husband and other veterans have been through, but I can somewhat understand why my husband avoids, why he blocks it away.
Although it doesn’t compare, when I reflect over what we have gone through over the past two years, it is like pulling off a scab, letting it bleed all over again. This is why I don’t push, and I don’t pry for my husband to talk. He will talk on his on time, own his own terms. All I can do, is be there for him, when he is ready. There are so many times, that I have things I want to write about, experiences I want to share. When I sit down to write, it is as if a wall goes up, blocking my thoughts. I am unable to write down my thoughts, get out the past, and express my fears. I am not allowing myself to touch these thoughts when I want, not allowing myself to express them. I can only imagine, how it is for my husban…d, not wanting to touch what is on his mind. Consciously or sub-consciously, we sometimes don’t allow our mind to remember the bad, to remember the negative, to remember the nightmares. I can never imagine what my husband and other veterans have been through, but I can somewhat understand why my husband avoids, why he blocks it away. Although it doesn’t compare, when I reflect over what we have gone through over the past two years, it is like pulling off a scab, letting it bleed all over again. This is why I don’t push, and I don’t pry for my husband to talk. He will talk on his on time, own his own terms. All I can do, is be there for him, when he is ready.