What PTSD Looks Like...For Us
It's PTSD Awareness month.
June used to be about Father's Day, John's birthday, and of course, the last day of school! But now, along with those things, I have my mission to normalize having discussions around PTSD and bring awareness to those who might be living with it in the shadows.
And because PTSD can look, sound and feel like SO MANY different things, I wanted to share a couple of ways that it shows up in our house. So here we go.
Definition of agitated
: troubled in mind : disturbed and upset When Caswall asked him to describe what he had seen …, he got very agitated …— Bram Stokerwas so agitated she could hardly speak
FOR HIM: The sudden loud noises that come with having kids and their constant need for attention. (Don't read that as being ungrateful for our kids.) Animals who need to be fed and walked. No time to be alone. These are all things that can often times lead to my husband becoming very easily agitated. And it's not every time one of those things happen, but often enough.
FOR ME: I'm constantly trying to be on the lookout for things that could cause a blow up and mitigate that shit ASAP! It can be exhausting. And I'm often times annoying him with asking "is everything ok?".
Definition of nightmare
1: an evil spirit formerly thought to oppress people during sleep 2: a frightening dream that usually awakens the sleeper 3: something (such as an experience, situation, or object) having the monstrous character of a nightmare or producing a feeling of anxiety or terror
FOR HIM: There wasn't a lot of sleep that happened in the first few months following the incident. Nightmares make for a shitty sleep and usually a shitty next day. It's like when you are supposed to feel your safest, tucked into your own bed, but those assholes have a way of ruining even that some nights. They suck!
FOR ME: It wasn't until January of 2019 (4 months after) that I started tracking the nightmares in the notes on my phone. I thought that at least if I kept track of when they occurred, we could retrace our day and see if it was something specific that led to the nightmare. My body has also become accustomed to "sleeping lightly". I will usually hear a nightmare happening before he wakes up. I wrap my arms around him and comfort him in hopes that he will be able to fall back asleep. It breaks my heart a little each time.
Definition of hypervigilance
: extreme or excessive vigilance : the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threatA person suffering from PTSD may have sleep disturbances, irritability, hypervigilance, heightened startle responses and flashbacks of the original trauma.— Ellen L. Bassuk et al.
FOR HIM: Always on the lookout. Watching behind him. Taking note of who's around, what are they doing, does he recognize them. We went on a trip last fall to NYC and stayed at an AirBNB in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. Like most streets, ours had a convenience store on the corner. There were always the two same friendly men behind the counter and on who stood out in front of the counter, just keeping an eye on things. But the way he stood there, the way he watched, made John so hyper-aware. He did not like going there.
FOR ME: My hyper-vigilance takes many forms. I've become hyper-vigilant about home safety (are the windows and doors locked at all times). I've become hyper-vigilant about being aware of any stressors that could trigger John. I've become hyper-aware of language, both verbal and body.
PTSD can be a monster. It can sometimes make the person living with it unrecognizable. For me, it has often made me feel like a burden. Like I should keep what I am feeling to myself because why would I want to drag anyone else down into these moments of darkness with me. But it's become so important to recognize the signs, find things that help mitigate the symptoms, and try to always act from a place of love. It also helps that our support systems are INCREDIBLE.
There are some days where things seem to line up perfectly and it feels like a "normal" day. But those days haven't outweighed the days where we have at least a couple moments of "fuck this" in some way, shape, or form.
If you or someone you love is living with PTSD, do these sound familiar? What does it look like in your house?
Be kinds and take care of each other,