I love my partner Fabian more than anything. I truly mean this with every fiber of my being. He is my life partner and best friend. Before we were together I said he was the boy version of me and I still say the same. I sing to him “It’s always better when we’re together.” I want to kiss him non-stop and I feel calmer in the heart when we are together.
Fabian also is a veteran with PTSD. To read more of his story you can read my previous article here. There is no cure for PTSD but he is committed to explore ways that truly work in order to make the quality of life better for veterans and to change the stigma of mental health. I am also committed to bringing yoga, reiki, my medium abilities, food healing and heart work to those living with PTSD, spouses and caregivers and anyone that needs healing and the feeling of connecting the brain and the heart together.
To say that resources that work are limited is an understatement. It’s extremely hard to know where to start, where to go, what to look for – and here’s the big one – when and how to ask for help. The asking part is so vulnerable and raw that it can become an overwhelmingly daunting step.
When Fabian and I first started our relationship I didn’t know enough about PTSD. I knew there was something called triggers that could send someone out of the present moment and that there were certain things to teach in yoga and certain things I wouldn’t do like adding slow music, avoiding surprising sounds, giving options, no “rules” etc.
Often, the person with PTSD themselves is struggling and can become victimized and isolated. The process also starts to affect everyone around them and their life as a whole. No one is talking about this. At least, I don’t know anyone that is. I don’t hear enough vulnerability or see enough vulnerabilities and I know why. Because it’s the HARDEST thing! I also don’t hear enough from the families supporting those with PTSD and again because it’s vulnerable for the person, their partner and because you don’t want to say too much or not enough or embarrass yourself or the person.
We live in a world that is slowly moving from a more masculine energy to a more feminine energy. We are transitioning from the beliefs of being quiet where you do what needs to be done. Smile and let everyone think you are perfect and your life is perfect. We are transitioning into a time where vulnerability and trust are the only options. Opening the heart is the only way.
Nothing is perfect but there is such a thing as harmony and joy and a feeling of bliss. This feeling is felt within your spirit and for anyone living with PTSD, you may feel like your spirit isn’t in your body. You need to re-feel and re-learn how to literally be “here”, be present, and be in the now, and to feel “whole” again. Your family will now also need to start to adjust to this new way of being. It’s complicated and complex and there isn’t a rulebook or a how-to on how to process anything.
Early in our relationship I experienced my first “trigger experience” with Fabian. He misinterpreted something I did and then got angry. He said hurtful things and words that felt like he was pushing me away, and then got quiet. I explained what I had really meant and that I hadn’t meant anything personal, but my words weren’t getting through at all. I felt so hurt and also so confused. I felt really surprised too. Like, how did we get here? What are we in an argument over? Did I really do something this bad? Are we going to be OK? Is this PTSD or just his personality? Who is this person that is acting so differently than my love?
It’s hard to not take something personally when you feel like they’re “mad” at you. As time passed, I felt a heavy feeling in my heart and my mind filled with more questions. Is he going to understand what I am trying to say? How long does a trigger last? Should I have said more or should I have said less? What do I do? Am I enough?
The thing is you only know the answers by living it. Yes, he will understand what you are trying to say maybe not right now but he will. Yes, this is PTSD. Yes, this will happen again, maybe a lot depending on the person and how far along they are in treatment. It can last 24 hours or longer or less depending on the person and situation. It doesn’t matter if you would have said more or would have said less because whatever triggered them has taken over and they are now someone you don’t recognize.
As long as you are in the heart and have good intentions, know that they will come out of the trigger experience. They will become clear again and may feel guilty. This is when talking and accessing each other become very important. This is when you learn more and more about each other and how things will be for you and your relationship. Another FYI, it’s been 3 years and I am still learning. You don’t figure it out the first day or the first week or the first year. You must continuously show up with an open heart and mind and always remain vulnerable. I believe this is the only way to connect and learn.
I am very grateful that the love of my life had already found holistic healing and the heart space before we began our relationship. I had also found this path before we became partners. I believe that this is the only way to find healing when it comes to certain aspects of trauma and learning to trust, being present and having the courage and bravery to move forward.
To have the support and care from a spouse, partner and family is huge. It allows you to get out of the head and into the heart while figuring out how to combine the two. As a spouse and caregiver I see it all. We see it all. We feel it all. We live it all. While the person with PTSD is trying to be seen and recognized, we too, also want to be seen and recognized while also giving a lot of ourselves to feed their needs.
Tara Beamish, a spouse and caregiver to her husband who also is a veteran with PTSD recounted what this truly means to many:
“Have you ever been present for your children’s birthdays, Christmas’, and anniversaries while their father and your husband may have been physically but was miles away mentally or let’s be honest, drunk and passed out? I have, and then had to calm the excessive guilt he feels.Have you ever sat at home for weeks on end trying to hold together a family and home while barely holding yourself together because your partner is provinces away at an addiction and mental health center? I have, twice. Have you ever had to quit a career that you were so passionate about and excelled at to become a full time caregiver to your 36-year-old husband? I have and not only is that financially difficult but extremely emotionally draining when every time you met someone new and they ask “what do you do?” You feel as though you have to explain yourself.Have you ever ran around the house trying to quiet the kids and clear the clutter and cook the meals and help with homework all while consciously making an effort to not leave your husband alone for too long? I have and fear that I am failing miserably”
This is what we do. They feel they have lost a part of themselves. We then give a part of ourselves to make up for it. Then we suffer, they suffer and before anyone realizes it, there’s a lot of suffering. There are definitely times when people aren’t meant to be together and separating is the best option but there can still be compassion and empathy for both sides.
I feel there is a lot of guilt in the spousal and caregiver community to also speak up about what the needs of the caregiver. The person with PTSD – their story is huge. Their grief is huge. We can see that and feel that and recognize that. But we also need to know that the weight we carry is huge, and we are just as important. This weight, the change in the relationship, and finding the wholeness of both people individually and as one needs to be the intention. Don’t let their grief be bigger than you. Also, remind them and encourage them to remember that PTSD isn’t bigger than them.
Leaving the military or any incident that happened to cause PTSD starts to become part of your story. But let it just be part of the story. Being part of the story is different than letting it identify who you are. Your being is light; loving, beautiful and made up of energy whose essence is whole, pure and true. Your essence is just as successful and connected as ever. Things are different now but not wrong or bad or negative or broken.
The story is different but the heart is the same.
Because spouses and caregivers take on so much, I want you to hear this. You are allowed. You are allowed to have dreams. You are allowed to have feelings. You are allowed to speak up. You are allowed to hold space and cry with your partner too. You are allowed to make as much time as you need for your partner but to also make time for you. You are allowed to do whatever your heart needs WHILE ALSO loving them and being the best person and support they have and have ever had in their life.
This may also be a message for the person with PTSD too. You are still allowed to be YOU. Your life will feel different and “look different” than the way it did before and that’s OK. Be there for each other and find support within the people that fill your heart and life with positivity and the realness of life. Find the home and community that is supportive of you and your partner’s journey. Also, thank yourself every day because your partner and the world may not say it enough.
I see you. I feel you. I hear you. I acknowledge your vulnerability as strength. You are not alone.
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