No One Can Prepare You For The Firsts
You read about PTSD a lot. What it can look like. What to keep an eye out for. But nothing really prepares you for those firsts.
The first time you witness a trigger...or even just figure out what the triggers are. The first time seeing certain people and not knowing what kind of physiological response your body is going to have. The first nightmare. (Nightmares are the worst)
The first Christmas when it feels like things are going ok but then, all of a sudden, he's backing out of family dinner. He knows that it's immediate family only. He knows that there's no pressure. But he can't. And again, you remind yourself that you are on his team. You are his advocate. You tell him that it's ok that he can't come. You offer comfort while loading up the kids in the car. You remind him that he is safe while texting your family to give them the heads up that he isn't coming so that they don't ask a million questions when you get there.
As a spouse, you can often feel helpless. Or at a loss. You don't truly understand the feelings they are experiencing but at the same time, you are experiencing feelings they won't understand.
The key for me in moments like this was to take a big breath and try and focus on the big picture. The most important thing was "does John feel safe/comforted/supported?". If the answer to any of those was 'no', then that's what I needed to focus on. How could I change that feeling in that moment? That's what I would focus on; I could figure out the why later.
The hardest first, for me, came the first time I came to terms with the fact that my husband was now a different man. Still a good man. Still a kind and generous man. But a different man.