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.

24 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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    6. OMG... Jo Folek! I have recently started dating a newly released vet and I feel the same way that my life experience has shown me different personalities and behaviors. I came on the internet to seek help because we have only been dating a short time, all you have mentioned is what we are going through and I have no idea how to handle it. I care about him because he is a great man and a loving father to his kids ( we do not have any kids together). But he does things and his behavior and moods flip flop which does not always make sense to me. I just wish I could get him to see how much I care and that I am not here to hurt him but I wonder if we will even last long enough for him to find out. Thank you for your post, today I am reaching out and looking for ways to date a vet... Good luck to you!

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    7. Hello. I am writing this in hopes that I may help someone relate and or someone can help me. I am dating a special forces army vet. He is magnificent to say the very least. There are a few things that he has done during his 2 tours that I couldn't imagine having to do. I never ask him questions, I always allow him to tell me, but when he does he has flashbacks. So then I proceed to try and take his mind off of it, whether it is turning on some comedy shows or (just to be honest) have sex, it seems to help but he is also having nightmares. Last night he woke up at 5am (waking me up in the process) telling me about a man that was in all black standing over him and he was 9 feet tall. It is scary to me that he is seeing this stuff so vividly, and I can't help him at all. He has anxiety attacks daily as well as being in major pain due to a surgery that didn't work on his hip. So he is self medicating with alcohol, BTW he doesn't drink much, but enough that you can tell he had been drinking. I am always doing things for him, I make sandwiches for him before I leave the house for work, I clean the house, do laundry, do the dishes, set appts for him, take care of the dog. He tells me all the time that I have no idea how much I help him with everything, but I still feel helpless when it comes to his PTSD (anxiety and nightmares). When it comes to having sex with him, its fantastic, but lately we have been having more discussions aka small fights, because I get tired (especially since I don't get much sleep with his nightmares) and I don't want to have sex but he makes me feel guilty if I don't. I think he uses it as an escape from his mind, but he doesn't want to say it since it will make me feel like he is using me for sex, which he clearly is not. But just last night he got very upset all of a sudden and told me that I don't touch him or make him feel wanted (y'all, I can't keep my hands or eyes off of this man), it really confused and hurt me. When I started getting emotional about it and upset, he had no idea why I would be upset, it was as if he didn't just act like an ass for no reason. The conclusion that I have come to is that he can't control his emotions very well, so he doesn't know when he is being mean and he doesn't want to be mean. But also that his anxiety tells hhim that he isn't good enough and nobody wants him, so I will have to learn to constantly show him more affection. I have so many problems with wrapping my head around his PTSD and how I can help him, I feel like I should do more. But I just try to take a step back and breathe for a min. I hope someone can relate to what I'm saying tonight. Have a great night.

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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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  7. Hello!I met a man who was a soldier in Iraq for 4 years,about a month ago. We met online. Both looking for long term commitment. He is no longer in the army since 7 years ago. We are both in our late 20's.The first week we were texting every day. He opened up a lot to me, he was very charming, making plans, calling me sweet names, saying he was there for me when I needed him... He told me that he hated it when he was in the army, that he almost killed himself. He told me his ex wife left him with their son when he came back from the army and that it was a very hard time for him. Anyway, we started sending videos of ourselves to each other since we don't live close by. He told me how beautiful and intelligent I was... Then the next day he texted me asking what I was up to.. I told him my plans for the evening and then did not hear back from him for 4 days. I kept sending a few messages, asking if he was ok and that if he was not interested anymore i'd love to stay friends. He answered, Apologizing and saying he had a lot on his mind and a lot of stress.I said I understand. Days passed we would text but I was the one always initiating it. He would say He does not deserve me at times and leave it at that when I asked him why. The communication was not at all like it used to be. I sent him a lengthy email, no answer. Few days later I tried again to get a response from him and to tell me that it was ok if he was not interested he could just tell me. I shared my feelings for him as well. Finally,I had a missed call from him, he then replied with a lengthy message telling me about his uncontrollable depression, that he feels worthless and does not know what to do. That he feels crucified but that instead of being in physical pain he is bleeding emotionally.That he is full of anxiety, self loath and that he hates his reflection in the mirror, he is lost,trapped. He said that he thinks the army did this to him and that he was not like that before, that he used to be free of all this. He said that he wants me to know that he has love for me and checks his email daily in hope of receiving another video from me.He said to not think I am in any way at fault for his sparse and strange behavior, that he wishes he was like he used to be;he'd be able to make me his wife and be fulfilled in every way , that he would die by my side instead of alone because that was the path he is on. I said I was happy that he shared that with me and I felt sad for him to think that way of himself. I can only imagine what he going through...No answer. 2 day later I sent him a short text telling him I was thinking about him and hoping is he having a good day. He told me he was honored by me thinking of him and that i was so beautiful and understanding. Asking me how my day was. I asked him then if we could talk on the phone later maybe. Never answered. Anyway, i texted again for the next few days asking how he was. Silence again. I asked him if maybe we could see each other in person soon. No answer. So again I sent a few lengthy messages,telling how confused I was and did not know what to think... He just said: "You are so amazing.I dont deserve you, I'm sorry. Im even scared to talk to you." So I tried to make him laugh.I did not hear back from him for two days now. I am really confused.I would love to build a future with this man.I felt that he is like no other Any advice are appreciated, please. Should I keep on trying? I also told him that if he wants me to leave him alone to just tell me. But he never said so.I wonder what he is going through in his own mind. Is he scared to hurt my feelings by not telling me he is not interested. Are his depression and anxiety an excuse or he really feels that way?I feel that my needs are not being met as well. That he is ignoring me,I am not giving up because I still feel that he wants me since he never said he did not. He is all I think about everyday now. Is there also anything I can do for him? Should i keep on contacting him?

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  8. I have been dating a veteran for 3 months who has PTSD and TBI. He is the man of my dreams he is kind,smart,funny and very compassionate everything I ever wanted. He broke up with me last week,it was devesating. Well he agreed to meet and talk with me as I felt something just wast right. He is definitely suffering from anxiety and the PTSD and shows all the classic signs. He wants to be alone and states it not fair to me since he doesn't understand why he feels so overwhelmed. I think he believes he doesn't deserve love to which he has had some bad past experiences. I will not give up on him, he deserves love and patience and loyalty. This man has given up so much for me and millions of others and I owe it to him and stand by him and love him in with compassion and empathy. But I need tis on how to help and what not to do.

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  9. I have been dating an Iraq combat vet for about 7 weeks now. I'm having a hard time reading him cause he backs out of plans and I make it about me. I have told myself that it's not. But we are not serious enough for me to feel confident that it's not me. I had an episode this weekend where I fainted and he took care of me all night and took me around to get meds and the dr. I think his survival mode kicked in. Can do with me give me advice on what to do? Do I just wait on him to make plans? Or would he like me to initiate? I'm a rescuer by nature so I'm up for the challenge. I just don't want to be pushy.

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    1. Make your plans that can either include him or not...if he backs out then it is his loss. 7 weeks?? Don't think you can depend on him for anything in that short time. Plan to do things without him...if he wants to see you, he can make plans or join in yours.

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  10. I have been dating a Iraq combat vet for a little over a year. He warned me that sometimes he likes to be left alone and not text or call. I have been fortunate enough that I haven’t experienced too much advoidance. However, this past month the communication has been terrible, and he’s been distancing himself. We were supposed to be getting a house together (renting) this month or next and he has completely stalled on that. Last week was the 5 year anniversary of his good military friend’s suicide which kind of coinciding with him deciding to move all of his stuff and his kids’ stuff out of my house. This week, he told me that one of his soldiers tried committing suicide and he’s doing everything in his power to get him help and will contact me when he can (we live in different towns). I am scared to death he’s just going to completely leave me with this lack of contact.
    In addition to the avoidance and communication issues, I am realizing he physically isn’t the healthiest. He sleeps 3-4 hours a night, and when he sleeps more he doesn’t sleep well. He has migraines a lot, and last week he was put on medication for high blood pressure. Is this all normal of a PTSD sufferer?

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    1. My BF has diagnosed PTSD after serving 35 yrs in the army (Iraq twice, Bosnia etc, etc) We have been dating 2.5 yrs and he's a great guy. He
      needs sleeping pills to get a good nights sleep....think this is common due to nightmares. Lack of sleep isn't good for anyone so I would imagine it would heighten any issues...maybe your bf should inquire about sleeping pills. Think lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure but I'm not in the medical field.
      Military life is hard on their bodies. My bf is 54, strong as an ox and in good shape but has arthritis due to his work in the military. Their bodies have been abused and stressed.
      Communication or staying in touch isn't as important to him. I think maybe because he, and probably your bf, are used to being away from loved ones with no contact for long periods of time. Think we as women (I know me anyway!!) like the daily communication when apart. We aren't always together as he has a son with his ex who he has 50% of the time. I've experienced good times and not so good. Sometimes I won't hear from him for a few days and then when I do it's like we just texted an hour ago. I have gotten worried and anxious about this (thinking the worst of course) but guess that is my own issue. I've learned that this is just him...he's a great guy who assures me he loves me. Sometimes he has bad days where he is in pain physically and maybe emotionally as well.
      I know it is so hard but try to give him the space he needs....sounds like he has some issues to deal with lately that are causing him pain. Try not to be the nagging gf as it will just push him away...he will shut down.
      I recently caught my bf in a lie which I had repeatedly told him was a deal breaker for me especially since he continued to lie after being caught. BUT I love him and think he deals with things differently than I do and have given him second chance. PTSD isn't an excuse to lie but he does have issues.
      Maybe your bf has backed off a bit since he feels overwhelmed with all that is happening now and avoidance is the only way he knows how to deal with it. Give him space and slow down with the moving in together and I'm sure things will improve. I just text a "heart" or "I'm thinking of you" but leave communication to a minimum when he is pulling away. That way he knows you are there but are giving him what he needs...space. Just remember all the good times and why you love him.

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  11. I'm a vet w ptsd. Previous relationships have failed because ive had times of isolation and lack of affection. I was never violent. I finally went to therapy, left policing which wasnt helping and really started to get better.

    I began just sleeping around with no commitment, though because I didn't want to keep losing a girl that I was into. But I finally met a girl who knew about me who wanted to be with me. That relationship lasted four months. She just dumped me because I still isolate somewhat. But we had a great relationship for the most part. Like lovers and friends. But now I feel betrayed and feel like I'm falling back into the shadows... Fuck it.

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  12. Don’t give up, there has to be a way to work through this. I am on the other side of the fence in your situation. I am dating someone in your boots and I wish there was more help to navigate through having a successful relationship.

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