As a veteran advocate and spouse, my husband’s PTSD has changed me for the good and the bad. I could talk about the bad, but I choose not to. Not today at least. I don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist, but I choose to protect my own mental health and show up in the way that my marriage deserves.
The ‘what if’ game seems to happen all too often in our military community. What if this happens when we PCS? What if that happens on deployment? What will our family look like five years from now as a result of mental health challenges? It’s easy for those thoughts to run rampant and often the bad is very obvious. But one thing that mental health has taught me is to be present and focus on today.
2. RECOGNIZE THE SERVICE MEMBER IS NOT HIS OR HER PTSD
Early on, I had to separate who my husband is from his mental health. I believe this has been our saving grace. I frequently remind both of us of what is at the core of him, otherwise it would be easy to say that he is his PTSD. In the beginning of our journey, I was hurt and scared so separating my husband from his PTSD was hard. The lens through which I viewed him had to change if our marriage was to survive.
3. CHOOSE GRATITUDE
I now choose to be grateful every day for who he is, and remind myself that I am blessed. I pick five things that I choose to be grateful for about my husband that popped up the day before. This reminds me of the foundation of who he is and will always be. The world would be so quick to say, “Yeah but look at everything else.” It would be easy to focus on the negative things, but that’s not the life I want.
4. INVEST IN YOUR FUTURE
PTSD has also caused us to take a hard look at our lives and choose to be investors in our future like never before. We can’t let life just be. We have to actively participate. While confronting problems is hard and growing weary is a thing, persevering has become my favorite quality about us. On a personal level, I know that loving through scares of suicide and the roller coaster that PTSD can take you on is a choice.
When you choose nothing, you are still choosing something.
We invest in showing up for our marriage and for ourselves through community, resources, communication, and quality time. I love that we make the conscious decision to choose us and while I would not wish PTSD on anyone, I can say that our intentionality with how we proceed in all areas of life has made me proud of who we are as a family.
5. WORK ON YOURSELF TO LOVE BETTER
Looking back, it was easy to get stuck in the “what was” cycle. Reminiscing on life before an injury and carrying previous expectations into the current season is exactly what I was doing. That meant I needed to allow for redefining everything in my life, but the work on myself that I put in was worth the love I now give.
6. CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS
An example of this is the way I choose to celebrate. I was the worst at celebrating my husband’s mental health wins. My expectations were unrealistic and I scoffed at celebrating the small wins. “We shouldn’t have to be celebrating this,” was what I thought. Along the way, I wiped the slate clean and made the choice to be okay celebrating it all. By nature, I am a cheerleader so I tapped into that, sought out victory, and lost the idea of measuring how big or small it was. Victory was victory, and if it showed up in my life and through my husband I was going to acknowledge it and celebrate. I had to change my approach and let me husband know I saw him and was proud.
7. REMIND YOURSELF THAT CHANGE IS POSSIBLE
“It will never change,” is a phrase I believe blocked me from giving fully of my love, mostly because I was discouraged and it is hard to give from that place. I encourage you to remember that you are not immune to change. Nothing is ever the same and everything is constantly evolving. It is so easy to impatiently ask yourself, “Will this ever change?” I can assure you it already has. You are further along in your journey, you know more than you use to, and you’ve been through it once so you have more experience and strength to lean on than before.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~Socrates
Keeping showing up, picking yourself back up, attempting your best to love the best way you can, and don’t be afraid to try something new. You are seen, loved, and valued.
· National Suicide Lifeline | 1-800-273-8255 | Free 24/7 resource that provides confidential support for people in distress. They offer prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
· National Center for PTSD | Understand what PTSD is and the treatments available. Access resources if you or a loved one needs help.
Bree is a dog mom to her German Shepherd CC and Boston Terrier Cooper, a veteran wife and advocate, and a Whole30 certified coach. She has a natural energy and enthusiasm for life that is palpable. Bree combines her artistic background, military experiences, and family and human development studies to pass along tools that aid in life management, creating a sense of hope as people find community and begin investing in themselves. She creates the space that says all are welcome and has a passion for making the journey to better health one that is enjoyable and uses the Whole30 as a tool to do so. Bree believes that being healthy is multifaceted and enjoys educating people about mental, physical, and spiritual health.