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Hi ... BF Suffers from PTSD

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by OneDayAtATime, Oct 24, 2006.

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  1. OneDayAtATime

    OneDayAtATime Member

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    I'm new here and glad I found this forum. My BF is having nightmares and he confided in me about them. He is a survivor of a terrible bombing (military) in the 80's and was injured by shrapnel. His best buddy was severely injured and my BF keeps seeing his friend's shattered face in his dreams and he can feel the searing hot shrapnel burning through his fatigues. It is impossible to wake him up during these episodes and when he does wake up he is shaking for hours. It disrupts his life for several days before he is able to settle down.

    The injured buddy is still alive (thankfully) but my BF refuses to see him. I'm sure he is afraid of reliving it all again but I think it would help him to see his friend.

    What can I do to help him? Would it be wise for him to see his buddy?

    My name is Jan and I live on the East Coast.
     
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  3. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

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    Hi and welcome. There is a wonderful section for support for you and the rest that support us with PTSD.

    From what you asked and since it is such a direct question I will say no. Not at this time. He needs to start to heal before looking at his trauma head on, if ever. If he were to go see him in the shape he is in now with the nightmares and symptoms he has, it would only make him worse. PTSD isn't something you can just face head on all at once and be better for it. It is a slow process to heal and will cause more damage and set backs if it is forced too soon.

    You can read the board and ask questions and we will do all we can to help you both. But he has to be ready to help himself for it to go any where.
     
  4. OneDayAtATime

    OneDayAtATime Member

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    Thanks Veiled

    I appreciate the honest answer. I went through a similar situation myself in college (explosion killed or severely maimed several of my friends and I survived without a scratch). I remember the nightmares I had and the guilt I felt for not being injured. For myself, probably the only reason I'm "okay" now is because I forced myself to go to the hospital every day to visit my friends who were maimed. It was SO hard to walk in that hospital every day to comfort my friends with missing limbs and multiple surgeries. I didn't want to go, but every day I felt good about visiting my friends. It hurt so bad to see them in such bad shape, but I was so thankful that they survived. I don't remember how long I had the nightmares. I do know that I couldn't bear to go where there were fireworks or watch a movie with explosions for several years. Loud noises still get me 30 years later, but I would say that I have truly been okay for a long time. Facing it head on helped me, but that may not be true for everyone.

    I will be reading a lot more here to learn more about how everyone else is coping with this. Thank you.
     
  5. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

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    That is one of the fun mysteries of PTSD. Some get it, some don't. And both are perfectly normal. What you described sounds like post traumatic stress which is a normal reaction and you are able to put in the past and it is a bad memory but does not effect your life daily directly. But when it heads into PTSD grounds it changes. And those things will make things worse.

    I have a twin, you could and can say we went through the same traumas. Over years ours were very close. She is fine now as I have PTSD. Both normal reactions though...

    Sorry you both had to go through that. And I hope you find the info you need to help undrstand this beast we all battle. And hopefully you can get your boy friend to look too to help him understand it a bit more. Understanding it does help us a lot.
     
  6. OneDayAtATime

    OneDayAtATime Member

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    Wow, didn't know there was a difference!

    I didn't realize that there was a difference between Post Traumatic Stress and PTSD (too long to type!). But I can see what you mean. I was just lucky I guess. It was pure hell when I was going through it, but it has not affected my whole life.

    My BF actually does pretty good most of the time, but those nightmares are very scary for him and me. He says that he keeps those feelings in a box most of the time. Sometimes they come out and he has to stuff them back in the box. I guess this is a coping skill for him. I hope it is a healthy one.
     
  7. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt! Premium Member

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    Hi Oneday! Welcome to the forum. Stuffing those feelings is a form of dissassociation from one's self and trauma. No, it is not healthy in the long run. However, it's a coping skill that your bf needs to use for the moment. Consider seeing if he would be willing to look at the forum. There is a sufferer section and a spouse section. Support for both!!

    Many of us (myself included) do pretty well coping for the most part. Yet, rock bottom will be lurking around the corner!! I know, I'm in the middle of it now. Each person will discover that rock bottom and become open to seeking help. The best you can do is learn about PTSD and encourage getting help. Do not, under any circumstances, agree with or enable self-medicating (drugs, alcohol, anything not prescribed for PTSD and all drugs for PTSD are just temporary!!) as this will increase symptoms and create a whole new set of issues!!

    Bec
     
  8. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

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    Bec, is right on that one. You keep sucking it up until you hit bottom, and all that you have stuffed in that box just keeps building pressure until it blows. And trust me on this one, it is not pretty when it does.

    They have to be slowly taken out of that box a little at a time and worked through so you can process it and turn it into something closer to what you have already done. Made it a bad memory of your past that as a bad memory will have bad feelings when thought of. But not haunt you daily and into the nights.

    The down side is you will still have triggers and too much stress will kick you right back on your back side, but you will be able to pick yourself up faster and know what is within your capabilites and learn where you can push yourself and where you just don't.

    Picking up the book "I Can't get Over It" for trauma survivors and just leaving it out where he may just happen to read it... even if you have to stick in the bathroom (sorry men you know you do it). It will help open his eyes and bring some insight. And my husband is reading it to get better insight on how my head works also.

    The sooner it is addrssed the better, rather than letting it fester as it just gets worse if he has PTSD. Has he been diagnosed?
     
  9. anthony

    anthony Renovation Aficionado Founder

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    Hi Jan, welcome aboard. Jan, I have a little bit of a different theory here for your situation, and the reason I do, is that because his mate is still alive and well, this may be the exact therapy he requires. Now it will only go one of two ways, in that he will break momentarily and get instant relief talking with his mate about the incident, to help himself rid some guilt about it, or the other, as veiled mentioned, he will fall down in a heap, be there for quite some time, possibly end up in hospital or suicidal. Realistically though, if he has PTSD, then he is going to end up at the later sooner or later anyway, regardless how well he tries to keep it in, you pretty much will hit rock bottom before your mind and body allows you back to the surface.

    Honestly, I say give it a shot with him seeing his mate, however; you must be prepared for the aftermath if one occurs. I think you would also need to discuss with his mate first, some of the issues he is having, and that if he can lead those into their discussion at some point, even vice versa if his mate just happens to be having the same dreams. It could be quite therapeudic for both parties.... or it could all just fall down. But if you don't give that one a shot, I think some real good that is within reach could be lost. You hit it on the head yourself with your own experience, though the only difference is that your BF has already developed PTSD because he didn't do what you did, he didn't discuss everything, as we males do. Doh!
     
  10. OneDayAtATime

    OneDayAtATime Member

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    More info

    My BF may have already hit the brick wall at one time. He has mentioned it but won't really talk about it. Several years ago he had a breakdown and was hospitalized. I thought it was because of another tragedy in his life (his wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness while they were in there early 30's ... she somehow survivied for 12 years but it was very hard on him watching her die slowly) but now I wonder if it is because of this other experience. I wish I knew the answer to this. I hate to ask him about it because he does NOT want to talk about his breakdown at all.
     
  11. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

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    Major life stresses can and do make PTSD symptoms flare up. So if it is the other experience giving him PTSD then you add the second tragedy, yes makings for a good break down. Stuffing it all up is also a cause for a break down of no return (for them it feels that way).

    I went up and down for a long time (years), depending on my drug of choice at the time from docs or alcohol and my situation; but everytime I went up it was never as far as before and the downs always got worse. It was when I hit bottom and would die without help that I got to where I am now. And even then it was my husband dragging me cussing the whole way to the shrink to be diagnosed, and then my other doctor I see weekly confirm it.

    You know when you hit bottom, you sometimes don't know it can get lower. I had been hosptialized a year and a half before I hit the lowest point, and then I hit even lower.

    It is very normal not to want to talk about it, that is a reason I suggested that book. Help him see it is normal and in no way makes him weak.

    Anthony, since this is an incident from around 20 years ago and in light of losing a wife slowly... What do you think? You have a much better grasp of this than I do. Just seems confronting it all at once after such a long time bottling sounds scary to me. Especially if he has been hospitalized in the past.

    And OneDay, thank you for the extra info, it helps shed more light.
     
  12. anthony

    anthony Renovation Aficionado Founder

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    I think that his wife dieing slowly, isn't really a traumatic event as such, more a life event. The initial event is what is causing his trauma, and because he has never healed from that actual event, regardless the highs and lows, any exposure to normal life events will collapse him, as it will all of us. Think about it like this I guess, in that when a person without PTSD losing a loved one, they can hit bottom, but the difference is they can recover with support quite quickly, and a little time will see them moving forward again without incidence again. Because he has PTSD from an initial traumatic event, and never healed that, add another life event into the equation, and now he not only has watched his wife die slowly, but also never spoken about it, got support he needed, grieved properly, etc etc, thus because of his PTSD, all the feelings and emotions from this other event will be sitting inside of him also, building up with his trauma, fueling PTSD as such.

    Because he has PTSD from the initial event, this means he has two jobs too do. Firstly he must heal the trauma, which I think his friend could help him with quite substantially, the second is now learn how to control and manage PTSD itself, which is a whole nother kettle of fish, so to speak. Because he would have bottled up everything in regard to his wife dieing gradually, all this would also need to come out, otherwise it will continue to fuel PTSD.

    Think of it as PTSD is the fire, and without fuel and air, fire cannot burn. Air is life, which is a constant. Stressors within life come and go, they are fuel. So air is always present, so all PTSD (the fire) needs is fuel to burn. Any life stressors that are not dealt with immediatly will cause the fire to burn. Once the fire burns (PTSD), it is not just as simple as smothering the fire to put it out, instead it must be resolved, discussed, argued even, and dealt with emotionally to extinguish the fire as such, being PTSD.

    If you think of life with PTSD like that, then what you must do to help your BF, is to extinguish all the stressors, emotions, etc etc that he has been exposed too in life, and the only way to do that is to get them all out in the open, look at them rationally, discuss them, analyse them, get emotive about them. I say emotive, because he will say he is angry, yet anger is not an emotion, it is an emotional response to an emotion. What he is trying to say, is he is frustrated, hurt, etc etc, which are the emotions causing anger. Dealing and coming to terms with emotions then stops the anger. So this in essence would help him to lessen the fuel as such. Even though when dealing with issues, the response may be a big burst of fuel to really get the fire going, its a burst that is required to burn all that internal suffering, then nothing is left, so the fire calms once again, except with less fuel present now. Each time you get your BF to get to the emotional level, this cycle will continue, thus eventually all his fuel is gone, which means the fire can no longer burn, as life itself is not enough to create fire, it must have fuel (stressor) to allow the fire (PTSD) to burn once again.

    Basically, if he starts at the initial trauma, his fire will burn large for a while, then reduce, then deal with the lose of his wife and issues involved in watching her die slowly, the fire will burn large once again, then die down, and so forth for each event within his life. At that point, then learning how to manage PTSD might come a bit easier as such. I think the exposure to his friend could start the process though.
     
  13. OneDayAtATime

    OneDayAtATime Member

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    I appreciate everyone's insight and opinions. Everyone' experience is so different and yet has so many similarities. Every single comment is so important and helpful.

    A little more info here. I just started dating BF in July. I am the first "serious" girlfriend he has had since his wife's death in 2004. His kids are grown and have both had serious issues from suffering through their mother's illness and death (they found out she was dying when they were in grade school). The daughter has coped by developing a tough outer shell. The son has coped by retreating from everyone for years. Both of the his kids are now doing better emotionally. In fact, they have welcomed me with open arms ... something I did not expect since I expected them to resent me as an interloper.

    There are several things tugging at BF's subconscious at the same time. I know he feels guilty for loving another woman and moving on with his life. He is worried because his daughter is showing some possible signs of the illness that took his wife (this isn't likely but he is still worried of course). He is worried about his son who has been out of work for some time. Any of these worries is enough to trigger an anxiety attack. I am beginning to believe that he has been able to move past his wife's death for the most part (since he had to face it every day for so many years and was able to mourn for her). He has had a few brief episodes of grief and remorse but they have quickly disapated and have not altered his life for days on end.

    Last weekend we decided to go to the movies. We both wanted to see "The Departed" , a movie we both wanted to see. It was a pretty bloody and graphic movie that showed several people being shot in the face or head. That night is when he had the nightmare and ultimately told me about what had happened to him. He also admitted that these nightmares have plagued him when his anxieties are elevated. I think the graphic movie triggered the nightmare, but the current anxieties he is feeling also probably contributed to the hold that this nightmare has on him.
     
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