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Nightmares. PTSD?

Open Discussions about Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby CrackedGirl » Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:11 am

Wrt the writing maybe just start writing and see where it gets you. You can worry about tidying up for your wife after, the important thing is to get it out so you can organise your thoughts. As for giving her something she can't handle she is likely to be struggling anyhow if things are bad as she does not understand what is going on. Good luck.

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Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby Koshka69 » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:14 am

StirFried,
I just started poking around the Combat PTSD forum because my boyfriend returned from Iraq in May and PTSD is wreaking havoc on our relationship, so I'm trying to read others' experiences to try and educate myself. My boyfriend isn't (that I know of) having the nightmares you are, but the anger at seemingly trivial "important things" send him over the edge; he can't be around people with outward appearances of middle eastern decent (he acknowledges that he knows they are not "the enemy" but he can't get over that a month ago he was pointing weapons at people with that appearance); and he's completely stopped talking to me (we have a long distance relationship at the moment because he went into collapse and had to immediately fly to be with his 13 year old son to bring a small piece of his former self back into his life). I can empathize a bit with your wife's dilemma. In my case, I was in the military for 22 years, so I know the ins and outs of war zone life and don't press him to talk. There were times right before he returned when we were chatting on skype that he launched into stories about when he was shot and pretty gory stories about what he's seen and some killing he had to do (he was starting to get spun up and nervous about coming home, so his nerves made him start to unload stories). I just let him let it out, stayed non reactive (even though much of it was horrid to even imagine), and let him talk till he stopped talking. When he was talking, I never stopped him, interrupted, asked questions or pressed him for details... I just let him get it out... whatever he wanted to say.

Unfortunately, upon his return, he fell completely apart and feels unbelievably lost and like he is a misfit in this civilian world. Once he got back around his son he went into a cacoon and has spent the last month in his own shell. I know he wants to talk (we met up a couple of weeks ago and had a heart to heart about all this uncertainty and his feelings), but he told me he just doesn't know what to tell me. I want to listen, and I've told him that. I know that I cannot "fix" him, take it all away, make him feel better, or really do ANYTHING other than be by his side. He understands that. But he still remains silent. I truly understand why he doesn't talk, but it still hurts me a lot that I just can't be there for him as a shoulder (even a silent one) if he needed. He and I are not married (we're sweethearts from two decades ago who reconnected while he was in Iraq), so you do have a lot more at stake than we do... you have a marriage.

I know your wife may not have the military background that I do, and may not quite understand that PTSD is not something a significant other can change, but rather be a silent supporter. Please just know that even if she is coming across as mad, upset, pissed, or extremely frustrated with you, it is because she loves you and she just wants to be there for you. Maybe you could sit down with her and explain to her how this is a journey that you need to take alone, but that she could best support you by just being there if and when you need and not necessarily expecting you to spill out all your experiences to her. Maybe by telling her how YOU feel she could best support you she could feel that you're not shutting her out.

Sorry for the long rant... just am wearing similar shoes to those your wife is currently walking in and wanted to express some thoughts to you that maybe she's unable to convey to you since she's hurting and upset right now.

As far as your job situation... I used to work in Defense Intelligence with a very high level security clearance and mental health treatment was always a concern, as "stability" was always considered in renewal of our clearances. What I used to do was visit military chaplains because they were the ONLY members of the military that had 100% confidentiality protection. I do not know if you have a resource similar to that, but it may be worthwhile to do a little digging into the rules surrounding your medical clearance renewals and researching who can and cannot divulge information to those who renew your clearance.

My heart goes out to you and your wife. Stay strong and I DEFINITELY will be thinking of you.

-Koshka
Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall. - Confucius
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Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby StirFried » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:51 am

Koshka69 wrote: Unfortunately, upon his return, he fell completely apart and feels unbelievably lost and like he is a misfit in this civilian world. Once he got back around his son he went into a cacoon and has spent the last month in his own shell.
-Koshka


Koshka, thanks for your "rant" as you put it. :)

I know what your man is going through. I know what he means about feeling he cannot fit back into society. Its like the environment we have been living and working in has become a part of us. That environment has changed us. It has changed the way react to things and changed the way we think. Experiences that we have had have been in the extreme such as being put in a situation where we have had to kill or almost being killed ourselves. We see and do things we cannot get out of our heads in ten life times let alone one life time. And after all this we are meant to just slip back into a normal environment as if nothing has happened. How the F@#$ are we meant to do that?

Not being able to relate to society any more makes you frustrated, really frustrated. There is no sense of belonging any more. You feel lost. We get really angry because we see people who are "having a crisis" over something that is so F@#$ing trivial. They think they are having a bad day because their I-Phone $#%^ itself or something. Our version of a bad day is when people die and get maimed and blinded. Then we have to try and "fit in" with people who moan and complain and think they are "always the victim". They have no idea what a victim is! A victim is the 10 year old blind boy who has no hands because he found an unexploded 20mm H.E. round and he picked it up. A victim is the mother who is crawling around on the ground in the market trying to put the pieces of her baby back together after some coward set a bomb off. And thats the thing that makes us the angriest is that these people who moan and bitch just have no f@#$ing clue what goes on in the real world. And it makes us totally f@#$ing angry that 99.9% of those people would not be seen for dust if they were asked to go and serve.

Your man's coming apart after coming home is probably because now he is out of that situation he has time to reflect on what went on and how F@#$ed up the whole thing is. For me in some ways it is worse being out of it sometimes than being in it. People who have not been in our situation find that hard to understand. That in itself makes it hard to fit back in as we are different from everyone else and no one understands us.

Withdrawing after being with is son I would say he may have some issue with having witnessed harm to a child near his son's age. I could be wrong but if that is the case he may be having issues relating that situation to his son.

One of my experiences involved the death of a little boy. My son is now the age that little boy was when the situation happened. Now I am back home when I look at my son I just cannot comprehend the pain that little boys father must have felt when he found out what happened to his son. I think about how I would feel if I was the father of that boy. Being around my son is a constant reminder of what happened. When I think about it I get stressed and worried that something will happen to my son. I find I become over protective of him and I am somewhat scared what my reaction would be to anyone who might hurt him even accidentally. Sometimes I get this almost overwhelming fear that something terrible will happen to my son like happened to that little boy. In my case this experience with the boy is the thing that bothers me the most. That's the one that gives me really bad dreams.

I also know what you mean about your man feeling uneasy around middle eastern people. People need to understand that he has just come out of an environment where people who look like that have been trying to kill him and his buddies. Sights and sounds can bring it all flashing back, especially certain smells. I find that a lot. Smells are a real memory trigger.

Hey Koshka, thanks for posting. You sound like you do have some idea what he is going through and having been in the military yourself. That in itself might make him open up more and talk to you about what is going on. But like you said, he said he is not sure how much he should tell you. Same with me. I am the same with my wife. I dont want to tell her something she couldnt cope with. But at the same time as well the worst things I just cant seem to talk about anyway face to face. On here it is different, no one knows me personally and hopefully will not judge me. The thing you need to be aware of is that he may talk about some things but he probably wont talk about the things that bother him the most. Probably not for a while anyway.

All the Best
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Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby Koshka69 » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:32 pm

Hey StirFried,
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply... I really really appreciate it and read your response with great interest. EVERYTHING you said made complete sense to me. He is experiencing things EXACTLY as you described.

I think he's having a particularly difficult time for 2 reasons: 1) he dealt with the death/killing trauma years ago from his experience in Panama, so I think he thought he was, in a sense, immune to the rest of the effects of a war zone (or, didn't expect that there would be more to deal with than the getting over "I had to kill someone" part of combat) and 2) he is returning to a civlian life that is, as of yet, still not constructed... he was divorced a year before deploying and didn't quite have time to build his "single parent" personna; lived in one city and upon return has spent a month in "relocation mode" as he awaits moving to a new city and getting a new job, etc.

Throw in the middle of all this, us reconnecting after 23 years, and his world is totally upside down. I absolutely understand why he's shutting down and putting "us" on hold while he tries to pick up the other pieces of his life and try to construct a personal identity.... after that, the "other issues in life" can be dealt with. I definitely do not hold this against him, and it's a major reason why, even though my heart aches that we've reconnected only to disconnect, I believe it is best for me to back off and give him space to find his comfort zone... however long (years, if need be) that may take.

I never thought of the point that he may have seen some traumatic things involving children. Very good point and thankyou for sharing that with me. With all that he has seen (and I know it is a LOT), I'm now wondering if this, too, explains some of his clinginess to his son. His son (13 yrs old) has grown up with both parents deploying and/or being away (his ex is in the Air Force and deploys too) and some of the separations have been due to the marital breakdown as well. So his son has had to live the majority of his life with one parent at a time (his mother is a pretty distracted parent, so that's an issue). There's a lot of guilt about this going on with my bf. He had to leave his son to a disconnected mother for 12 months while he deployed, and now that he's back he wants to spend 24/7 with his son out of guilt for having left him, and in preparation (ugh) for another impending 12-month separation coming up next May when he deploys again for another 12 months, this time to Afghanistan. Additionally, he realizes that he only has about 4 years left with his son before his son goes off to college and leaves home to begin his own adult life.... and with my bf's impending deployment, this means he'll only have 3 of the 4 years with him. I think the guilt is killing him. Again, I know that he has to resolve this for himself, and with me not having children and not personally knowing the level of love one feels for a child, I just back off and let him do what he needs to do (just quietly hoping that his constantly being with his son doesn't turn into unhealthy codependence... that it's positive rather than eventually destructive). I am so sorry to hear that part of your trauma involved seeing things involving children the same age as your son. I can completely understand why you'd have all the feelings you do... whether others feel they're realistic or not. I hope it gets better for you as time passes (though i know you will never forget... you don't forget stuff like that).

Can DEFINITELY relate to the aggravating importance put on trivial things. Heck, I went through this too when I retired from the military. It actually is enraging. It bugs me to no end when I go into an office (pick one... dentist, doctor, other) and the receptionist is babbling to the person next to her or eating a bag of chips and giggling or doing some other annoying non-job-related BS and ignoring you while you stand there waiting. Made me want to reach over the counter and grab him/her by the collar and yell "LOOK HERE, LAZY... I AM STANDING HERE AND YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOB... PUT DOWN THE PHONE, QUIT YOUR GABBING, EAT YOUR FOOD LATER AND DO YOUR DAMN JOB." Of course, I kept this inside, so I'd just stand there with my insides on fire and a look from hell on my face. You and he definitely know this feeling... and in an even more intense way. In a war zone, there is no "not paying attention" or "goofing off" when it comes to your job... people DIE that way. In a war zone, your "co-workers" are a tight group of people who, out of necessity and loyalty, would take a bullet for you. There's no playing around in that environment. I am sure it makes you wonder to no end when you return why in the hell you're protecting the freedom of people who can't manage to focus on their jobs long enough to do their jobs.... especially when their jobs don't entail bullets flying past their heads. Kinda makes them look REALLY ungrateful for your efforts.

As for opening up to me... he does know he can open up to me, as he has kinda burst open in the past. It did suprise him then that I was willing to listen, as his ex wife used to just say "stop it, I don't want to hear that stuff" when he'd open up. I just told him that if he needed to talk, I would listen... no matter what he wanted to unload. He appreciated that. I think he'll eventually remember in the back of his mind that I did this, and when he gets in a better place with himself he may feel able to not shut me out (not that he'll share all, but he'll remember I didn't tell him to shut up about it). In the few days we were together upon his return, I saw him sharing with me, and just let him do it.... talking about buddies, war experience, dragging out every uniform and survival kit in his bag and showing me every item and putting his helmet on me and showing me how everything worked. I just went with it... appeared interested, because I actually was... and just let him explain and talk, without interrupting. I know this was therapeutic for him... he just needed to babble military stuff to comfort himself, so that's what we spent hours doing.

I really want to thank you for sharing with me. It is really helpful for me to hear words of someone who is in his shoes explaining how they feel and also sharing the hesitations you have about opening up. I know it really has less to do with me (or your wife) than it does with you trying to get a handle on and dealing with what you're feeling inside. This is why I know I need to not take ANY of it personally. He's not shutting me out because of some defect in me... it is because he's trying to process what's going on with him. I do realize that he and I probably will not be able to venture into exploring "us" until after he returns from Afghanistan. While I would LOVE to work on us, it is, realistically, too much to ask of him. I know that this is going to take YEARS. Which, when I look deep within myself, I am ok with. I love him and the love is true, so it's not going to die or fade. It just may take us a bit of time to get to a point where we're actually able to build "us" when he's done rebuilding himself.

Just a question I thought of about your wife.... has she explored support groups or online forums like this to ask her own questions and vent her own frustrations? Also, can't remember if you're from the US, but if not there may be something similiar offered.... the US military has programs for families to cope with the difficulties of a family member returning from a war zone. There are different programs and some are for all of you together, just spouses, just families, just for the member, some for significant-others, etc. I have found this particular forum helpful to me, and later on if he and I decide to give it a go with "us" I am going to partake in the programs available to better equip me to be supportive to him. Just wondering if you have any of those types of resources available. I think if your wife is able to talk to others who are in her shoes she may find comfort in knowing she's not alone... and she can learn from others' experience (I learned a LOT by talking to spouses who have had husbands return from multiple deployments and they REALLY helped me understand how this rollercoaster goes).

Your words have been SUCH a comfort to me. Much more than you will probably ever know. I cannot thank you enough.

I hope YOU are able to get through things and adjust as time passes. I really feel for you. And I hope your wife is able to also touch base with some resources that help her too. You know, you see all these happy returns from deployment on tv and news, but what they don't show you is the long long difficult road of adjusting to being back.... it's so so hard for everyone involved.

Hugs,
Koshka
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Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby 4horsegal » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:36 am

Have you considered showing your wife what you wrote here?
I think it would really help her understand what you are going through. It certainly might make things easier between you.
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Re: Nightmares. PTSD?

Postby too tall » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:07 am

I have nightmares three times a week and wake up soaking wet(I have to taking a shower I am sweeting so much). I asked a professional what in the world was going on and he said that it is anxiety...I don't take any meds for it, but I cannot handle the dreams, so I am considering it...I am in a similar boat as you are, but I won't loose my employment. I found out today that anxiety was the cause, had to seek medical advice, the nightmares were too intense. I don't struggle during the day with anything only at night, so I am considering taking something at night...however in your situation maybe just knowing what the cause is can help. I am planning on trying to see if just knowing it is anxiety about my past work will calm me down, before getting on meds. Hope this helps, it was a relief to me to find out it was simply anxiety...further I found out I had to have a surgery from a wound and threw a lot of stuff, I was so angry, but it gets better. I did it in private-it kind of helped.
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