From the editor:
Susan is an EFT Cert-1, Certified EFT Practioner specializing in PTSD, anxiety, fear, depression and other traumas as well as other issues like public speaking, physical and emotional pain and couples work.
She lives in Albuquerque, NM with her husband Adam.
I have been asked to write an “Ask Sue” column to share what I have learned about PTSD from a wives’ perspective and to share what has helped us. I’m sure that there are professionals out there who will say that I am not qualified to write a column like this. If you find it helpful, then maybe I am qualified. I realize that some veterans are resistant to help which comes from someone who has never experienced combat PTSD. I, personally, have not experienced PTSD, just the effects of it. I have experienced secondary PTSD. I have not experienced loss of limb, just very close to loss of life. I have experienced very low quality of life and a regeneration of that life. I have lived with years of pain, excruciating at times. I know what all those things feel like. If anything I have to say sounds reasonable or helpful; think about it. I have had the experience of working on my own issues and living with my own severe health challenges. My husband and I have come from living in hell, to a much better place. We have learned a lot, changed a lot and grown a lot. I don’t believe that a time will come when his combat trauma will no longer affect his life, but today it affects it to a lesser degree. If even one person benefits from the life lessons that we have learned along the way, the hard way, I will consider myself successful. But keep in mind that I am not an expert and I am not claiming to be.
The improvement that has happened in our mental, emotional and physical lives has happened over the last ten years. I have had a lot of help along the way. I had the full facilities of the VA Hospital available to me. I had the doctors and therapists who are specially trained to deal with combat trauma. I had the therapy groups and support groups. I have been at those support group meetings nearly every week for eight years. My husband has avoided the hospital as much as possible, but he could see that I was going downhill and he encouraged me to go to the meetings and get any other help I could get. Over time I started to do better. I came home and shared what I learned with him and over time, in baby steps, he started to do better. But it didn’t just help me and my husband; sharing my stories and hearing those of the other women helped us all to develop coping strategies together. We learned that we weren’t alone, isolated, living in a nightmare; that other sisters were living with the same thing.
I read many, many books, many of them over and over, and did the hard and painful work of turning the magnifying glass on myself and my life and the choices that had created my reality. These books changed my beliefs. I stopped believing that I was helpless to change my life. I stopped believing that everything is hopeless and the best we can hope for is to roll with the punches. I came to learn that we are powerful creatures. I learned that I have quite a lot of control over my today and my tomorrow. I learned that when I took responsibility for my own health, and made better choices, my health improved. I was chronically malnourished to the point that my body had broken down and my mind was unable to think and remember, but today I am in the best shape of my life because I did take control and refused to accept that I couldn’t change. These are the experiences that I will be sharing.
Anything that gets across that your life is in your hands can’t be bad. I believe in that saying: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. I know of too many vets who sit by the hour with a beer in their hands, raging at the tv and their families about what is going in the world: or zoning out into their memories and flashbacks. But they are not doing anything to change their lives. I think that is sad. Your life can be better. No one is saying that it is easy; it is terribly hard. But so is the life some of you are living now. There are too many things that government bureaucracies cannot do for you. The VA cannot motivate you to want to live each day that you are alive. They can try, but the choice must be yours. Only you can try to find happiness from within you.
You must never give up. There is something important that you should be doing with your life. You survived war for a reason. Our country needs men and women like you who have already done the most courageous thing a citizen can do; fight for your country. Please don’t sit back and let PTSD take over your life and make the rest of your life count for nothing. If we do not continue to stay involved and fight for our freedoms, they can be taken away. Your life is precious. You are unique, and so are your gifts and talents. Use them. God Bless You, SusanB