August 17, 2010

Combat Vet Girlfriend Finds Hope and Support at PASP

Photo by Scott Lee
ACK Girl said...Another comment from More Stupid Crap to Say to a Combat Veteran from February 18, 2010 12:12 PM (24 comments and growing),
I have been dating a veteran of the Iraq war for approximately 6 months now and I see how his PTSD effects everything aspect of his life. He was very forthcoming with his struggle right from the start. I thought I had a reasonably decent grasp on what I was getting involved with because my father was a war veteran as well. I was used to not being able to make loud noises, walk up behind him without warning, ask questions about his experiences (my father taught me to listen to the information offered but to never ever ask questions of a veteran), etc.

My father was a loving man but not an emotionally expressive one until the tail end of his life. It took the passing of my mother for him to finally let down some of his guard and show some real emotion. It was in the 9 years between my mom and dad's passing that I finally got to know my father as the man he truely was. He was wounded still, decades after he served in WWII. He struggled with his own deamons and yet he was still infinitely proud to have served his country. To him, it was his greatest accomplishment.

When I met my boyfriend there was so much about him that reminded me of my dad. He had all of the qualities that I loved about my own father. He is proud yet humble. He is strong yet vulnerable (not that he wants to show that, but I have seen it). He is wounded yet he carries on. I admire him in ways he will never know....the same way I admired my dad. I see his struggle with his PTSD and I wish I could help somehow. All I can do is listen when he wants to talk and do my best to not do the things that I know will set him off (like walking up behind him unexpectedly, discussing politics, religion or the war (any of them, and things like that).

We have had a hard time with certain aspects of our relationship but I know in my heart that he is a good, honest and loving man. I also know that he is deeply, deeply wounded in ways that I could not begin to imagine. So I will patiently work through the bumps with him because I believe in him. I believe in all of our veterans and service memebers. I owe my life to them, I owe my freedom to them and I owe my undying support and gratitude to them. It was an honor to have been raised by the man I called daddy. It is an honor to share my life with than man I call "honey". It is an honor to be an american citizen and I am fully aware of the price that has been paid and will be paid by those who defend our freedom and liberties.

Thank you for this blog. It helps to read these posts to gain better insight into how to help and support the veteran that I love so dearly.

14 comments:

  1. I have been dating a combat veteran for the past two years, off and on, of course, with the rise and fall of his PTSD and depression. We are planning a life together as soon as he gets through the medical discharge process. Which has dragged on for 20 months already, with an anticipated six more month due to big review of possibly inaccurate PTSD diasnosing.

    He's a wonderful man. He is worth it.
    He's of a breed that I love, strong, honorable men, molded by their experiences. They are a handful, but the good parts are really good.

    However that doesn't make it any easier to deal with on a daily basis. Well, ok, a little easier, because if he was this up and down for no good reason...this probably would have ended a long time ago.

    Sometimes he's really great about sharing what's goin on with him. Other times, I think he tries to hide how bad it is by isolating, but making up lame excuses to be off the grid or back out of plans. Then he gets mad if I confront the gaps in his stories. I want to make him feel safe to tell the truth, so I give him opportunities to come clean. We can't work out problems if he can't tell me whats' bugging him. I know its sometimes irrational, that's ok, we can work through, or around irrational concerns. Most of his "irrational" concerns make prefect trauma sense if you know what he's been through. I also admit that maybe some times I have a hard time believing his excuses just due to my own trust issues.
    I just wanted to post some about my experience. to concure with the above, much more eloquent poster.
    I want to offer a listerning ear, or reading eyes, as the case may be, to anyone else who just wants to talk about how it is. I don't think we can change our loved ones with PTSD, but we can change ourselves so we can be happy and fulfilled as people, AND love a combat vet.

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    1. I applaud your willingness to read and learn more about your veteran, he needs a strong and empathetic caregiver to help him heal from his mental wounds.

      I'd like to offer an explanation of Combat PTSD that may help. A friend of mine was referring to us as sometimes being sick and I too used to think is these terms. Recently there has been a movement to change the name of PTSD to include the term injury in some form such as PTSI or just PI for psychological injury.

      Trauma can alter the physical structures of the brain and these alterations can be captured on modern imaging scans. The mind of the Combat PTSD veteran has become compartmentalized and locked into a continuous defensive state. When your veteran starts with his "lame excuses", or rather when his PTSD starts to go into overdrive and he starts shooting off reasons not to participate. He is looking to relieve his stress level not give excuses, his irrationality is a symptom of his injury.

      When he starts to become confusing in speech and actions his mind has entered the realm of dissociation. Where flashbacks and hallucinations interject into reality and we become fearful of our inner being. Then, the trust of self comes in. My therapist told me, "If you can't trust yourself then you cannot trust others." It's an issue of our mistrust in self that we may loose our sanity once we walk out the door or become to involved that we forget to guard our minds.

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    2. so what do we do in this case? my boyfriend has been running excuses, or just opting out to not even talk to me or answer my calls. I know he loves me because he is the kind of man that words can be trusted. He has been isolating himself, just going to work and being alone for 3 weeks, and even though I try very hard to be comprehensive, its hard to accept that is not from me he is running from but from himself. I know that if he just take my hand and let me help him he will get better, because I will make sure gets his reg sleep hours and a better diet, which he wont do alone.

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    3. how can we help when they go on isolation mode? my bf has been avoiding me for 3 weeks, and even though on some of his text he had reply, which has not been much, he has clearly stated that he loves me and cant tolerate to be with anyone else but me. I know that if he takes my hand together we can make it thru this, but not alone. I am pretty sure than when anxiety kicks in, his sleeping habits goes to a minimum and not eating what he must be eating. I love him so much and I wish I could help him, but its hard when they built this walls aroung themselves.

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    4. Avoidance is a hallmark symptom within PTSD, avoidance causes us to loose days and sometimes weeks of time. It is an alternate reality that has us in snared, when we snap out of it it's disorientating. We don't know what's going on usually if we don't have the language to describe it. To describe it sounds literally absurd. And it's difficult when you don't no I understand your triggers and warning signs when you're going over the edge. It's scary to acknowledge it verbally because then it makes it more real. So we don't say anything.

      Will collect you around him? Maybe go cleanup his house, fix several meals and freeze them. Don't say anything to him just do for him and be there for him if he chooses to speak to you. That will show him that you care and everytime he opens up something that remind him of you. Which in small ways will make him think more about what he's doing.

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    5. Avoidance is a hallmark symptom within PTSD, avoidance causes us to loose days and sometimes weeks of time. It is an alternate reality that has us in snared, when we snap out of it it's disorientating. We don't know what's going on usually if we don't have the language to describe it. To describe it sounds literally absurd. And it's difficult when you don't no I understand your triggers and warning signs when you're going over the edge. It's scary to acknowledge it verbally because then it makes it more real. So we don't say anything.

      Will collect you around him? Maybe go cleanup his house, fix several meals and freeze them. Don't say anything to him just do for him and be there for him if he chooses to speak to you. That will show him that you care and everytime he opens up something that remind him of you. Which in small ways will make him think more about what he's doing.

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  2. Yes, I know this "mistrust of self" you speak of. I want so much to know which part is pre-war and which part of my good friend is post-war. His family is no help to me. They call him lazy, retarded and say that he only wants to live life as a movie. They do not understand. I am so confused because he cannot figure out what to do with his future... and that includes me. We label our relationship as friends, but we both know we are truly soul-mates. His high moral values, kind heart and commitment of concern for others is truly an inspiration to me. Yesterday, he checked into the VA psych unit. When I walked out of the hospital, I didn't know what I was supposed to do next. I was lost. I had to remind myself to get something to eat and get gas for the car. I cried all last night and this morning. This is the second time he's been in the hospital and I'm very proud he's asking for help. He opens up to me, but I'm the only one. I see how much this is affecting me and I'm scared on so many levels. This is an amazing man who deserves the right to understand himself and the world around him. But I feel like I have Secondary PTSD. I'm so confused. I know I need to this time to take care of ME while he is in the hospital, but I'm having a hard time controlling my thoughts. All thoughts seem to go back to him. It's consuming. Any advice?

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  3. Sounds like compassion fatigue. Compassion and empathy are some of the most intense connections people can experience. It's normal to feel lost in your position right now. You have been the support for one another and he is not there. He opens up to you because of the empathetic connection, empathy is a great tool in helping us heal. But, it can take a toll on you in the form of emotional burnout or compassion fatigue.

    My advice would be to read and learn about what to expect on dating and living with a combat veteran with PTSD. You mentioned his values and principles. This might be a time to look at your own and reaffirm them. I had a hard time with values and principles because the concept had never been introduced to me until I was in my late thirties. If you are like me then it could be time to research. The other suggestion you already know and said it yourself.

    Take time for yourself and reincorporate the stuff in your life that you need. Find creative outlets and journaling can help with collecting your thoughts. The act of writing may diffuse the repetitive thoughts. Get involved with an online support group, I suggest Family of a Vet. You can find their button on this page. If you want to help your veteran heal, then you must have or learn good self-care practices.

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  4. I am a retired Army soldier, I suffer with PTSD and TBI. I am struggling to keep a relationship alive despite these , problems. I was honest and upfront with my issues , before we got serious. She claimed she understood.

    Now she claims , I am wooden, I don 't express myself . I am not affectionate enough. I think at times are we in the same experience or time zone. I try and even push myself. I tell her how I feel, but she says what I say , and what i do are 180 degrees apart.She goes off on me about every other week about some picky thing about me. I am confused. I know , I am somewhat protective after all I have been through. I barely survived the TBI , which case given me some cognitive problems. I spent 6 months in rehab after a month in a coma.

    I am at a loss. I am almost ready to quit on this relationship , because I do think , she is not up to it , and I wont do anything right. Quitting is not my nature, however, we are getting nowhere but more hurt and more damged.

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  5. 5, 2014 9:54 PM CDT Just a few weeks ago, I met the man of my dreams. Sadly, he suffers from PTSD and TBI due to an explosion that he was victim to while serving. He has depression and social anxiety, so it's been difficult getting through to him lately. But just during the few wonderful times we've spent together, I truly know he's the one for me. He's had a hard time dating because a lot of women don't see past his challenges. I do. I can see straight into his heart. And there I see the most loving, kind, intelligent, funny, creative, gentle, brave and handsome man I've ever met in my life. I know he's going through a very hard time right now...I pray for him every single day, morning and night. He's always on my mind. I won't ever give up on him or ever stop praying for his full recovery and restoration. I would give anything to hear him laugh, see his amazing smile and stare into his beautiful brown eyes again. One day with him would be worth a lifetime of waiting... Ashley A

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    1. I am at the same boat right now. I miss him so much when he has those moments, because he totally blocks me out.

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    2. I posted on my Facebook page looking for more people to comment and come in here and offer support.

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    3. I posted on my Facebook page looking for more people to comment and come in here and offer support.

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  6. Hi,
    I would love to chat with you! I just met a man 2 weeks ago and your story is the exact same as what I am going through right now! I would love to hear from you! My email address is jessica.davis@scotts.com if you would like to talk?!?

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