Hi there, g’day, welcome.
I've been thinking about my first blog post for some time. I wondered just what I might write, apart from hello!
You've probably ended up here having read my story in the PVA newsletter. As I mentioned there, for me it's time to start and open up the conversation around what it's like living and supporting a loved one suffering from war related PTSD and depression.
I’m really interested to see where the conversation takes us and the support that we might be able to give each other by connecting through shared experiences and being able to talk about what we struggle with day to day.
I hope I find you popping in here and having a read and if you feel inclined contributing. I would love to hear from you.
Let's see where this takes us.
Below is my story that I shared in the recent PVA newsletter.
Something was not quite right. In the days, months and years to come exactly what was wrong would slowly be revealed.
My husband deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. The man that returned was not the man that I had said goodbye to six months earlier.
This is my story.
On returning home my husband was; withdrawn, irritable, angry, having nightmares, in pain both physically and emotionally, prone to mood swings, had sudden explosive outbursts, fatigued constantly, depressed, increasing his alcohol use, in denial, shut down, silent for long periods, suicidal and so the list goes on. I was to finally learn this is what acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression looks like in real life.
Like many, the true extent and impact of the trauma took some time to truly come the surface. Along the way what was obvious was it wasn’t going away any time soon.
PTSD bubbled away intruding on our lives in unexpected ways and in doing so completely turned our world upside down.
The ripple effect of war related PTSD and depression on those around the veteran often has a huge impact and for me this was certainly case.
The grieving for what has been lost, the complete and utter helplessness felt when it looked like all avenues for improvement had been exhausted, the fine balancing act that each day required of me, the educating of family and friends while trying to make sense of what was happening myself, the transformation of my mate into a person I hardly recognised at times, the suffering in silence that was often the best way of dealing with a situation and the exhausting and humiliating process I have endured to access help via a bureaucracy that treats veterans' akin to tax cheats.
There were periods when there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Anyone living with a veteran who is suffering with PTSD and depression knows the path is often a rocky one. No two experiences are the same but what does seem to be common to us all in the early stages is the frustrating inability to help our loved one and to understand what it is that they are dealing with. I found the isolation, anxiety and loneliness hard. Often my own anger, resentment and despair would surface. I would often feel totally overwhelmed.
Five years on… countless counselling sessions, group work, books, internet searching, soul searching and writing to decision makers to highlight the huge gaps that still exist in their cumbersome processes, there are still days when I feel like I know very little about how to manage our new reality.
One thing I am very certain of. The role we all play in keeping our loved one afloat during these horribly difficult times is incredibly important.
Often it’s all about them and that’s ok, it needs to be. However I believe we do need to be heard and acknowledged for the vital role we play.
For me, I feel the time has come to open the conversation up to those of us who ‘pick up the pieces’ and ‘keep the fire burning’ while supporting an acutely mentally ill person.
We are a rare breed but also a growing breed and as others before us have stuck together to get through the really tough times we will need to also do the same.
This topic is very personal. In my experience there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and ignorant judgment by others can hurt.
There is so much we can share and exchange. The support we can provide one another should never be underestimated.
I have contemplated for some time what it is I can now do to connect with others who are going through, and have gone through, a similar experience to me. I want to talk with others and bring the conversations we have behind the firmly closed doors of counselling sessions out. If we can talk more broadly and openly about our experiences then that isolation that can so often be part of this process might actually start to fade.
This blog will just be a small, quiet space in an otherwise noisy, crowded and often demanding online world. I intend on sharing a story or an idea, or I might ponder how we can help one another a little more or share something that has worked for me or something I am really struggling with.
Sometimes there will be no words. I’m a prolific iphone photo snapper. I love a good sunrise and I’m fascinated by clouds so they may make an appearance from time to time. There could be the occasional rant or vent but I hope it will be a space that is real, relevant and mostly happy!!
I would like it to focus on us, the partners, and what life is like for us.
Let’s get talking. After all, we’re all in this together.
We all have a story, what's your story? I'd love to hear it.
Have you had similar feelings to me?
Have you had similar feelings to me?