The Ugly Side of PTSD: A Peak Inside A Caregivers Truth
There is much misinformation and stereotyping that can come alongside a PTSD diagnosis, heck even the experts are torn on whether the correct term is PTSD or PTS. One thing I know from personal experience is that when your family is living with someone suffering from PTSD you don’t care what they call it – you just want relief and normalcy.
When my husband returned from overseas, I knew. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me something was different, his actions told a story all of their own. It was the same when our son was diagnosed after a suicide attempt in 2012.
Many of the same symptoms very different triggers all in the same family.
I was thrust into a world I had no understanding of and no coping skills for. It had been easy to understand the risk that my husband had as a result of serving on active duty as a combat engineer, but my son? There is nothing that prepares you to hear that a verbally abusive teacher had caused such trauma in your child that he ultimately would attempt to take his own life.
Overnight I became a caretaker supporting my two men faced with mental & behavioral health issues to varying degrees. Our son was in crisis, my husband burying it all deep inside. Out of necessity I did whatever I could to better understand what they were dealing with and what I could do to support their healing process. Ultimately it became a new way of life as we adjusted to the effects PTSD has on our entire family dynamic.
At the peak of our crisis, it was upsetting to watch how these invisible wounds had hurt both my husband and son so similarly yet their way of managing the pain so opposite. PTSD is like that – so different for each victim. It was devastating to realize how PTSD had managed to destroy the joy which had once filled our home. Laughter and good times were replaced with silence and tension. Family discussions ended in hurt feelings and tears rather than resolution. For months I walked on egg shells as I wondered if they would ever be ok, and secretly wished I could open my eyes and this nightmare would be over.
But things didn’t unfold quite as magically. Instead I had to find the balance of being supportive and learning to take care of myself. I worked to find healthy coping strategies and found a team of doctors and therapists that would help each of us find our new normal. And while I’m grateful for how far we’ve come, I have to say part of me is still wondering if we are truly on the other side of it.
Maybe it’s because June highlights PTSD Awareness, but today I find myself reflecting back over the last 5 years and am acutely aware of the effects PTSD has had not only on my family but on me personally. It’s an illness that has an ugly side, one that is so much more complex that we see from the outside. It has been hard on us all both physically and emotionally and I see the ripples and impact in every nook and cranny of our lives. And I find myself wondering if we will ever be truly free.
I want to be angry, but who do I blame.
I want to lay my head on the pillow at night without worry.
I want to escape the helplessness I feel when they are struggling.
I want to be guilt free when I’m tired of supporting and caretaking
I want someone to lighten my load.
I want to stop wondering if today is the day I’ll receive a call saying they have stopped fighting.
I want my life, my husband and my child back.
I want this albatross out of our lives
I want the suffering to end.
I want my boys to wake up and find hope, feel peace and know they are loved.
I want them to have the strength, courage and resilience to find happiness once again.
But most of all…
I want the world to know that PTSD sure does have an ugly side…
— Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author, lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. She is the co-founder of LivingThruCrisis.com and her books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Risk are go to resources. Her website TheDirectionDiva.com is filled with tips, inspiration and resources for the military community.