In a recent interview I was asked, “You’ve said that many of the people who share their stories in the book Love Our Vets have grown stronger because of PTSD rather than in spite of it. In what ways have you and these other loved ones/caregivers experienced growth?” I really had to stop and think about that one!
Often as loved ones and caregivers we just keep trudging forward, doing our best to keep up with the demands of the tyrannical PTSD treadmill. We dare not to look back for fear of losing our balance or momentum. Because we are so other-focused, we seldom pause to reflect on US, our needs, let alone the bizarre concept that maybe there could possibly be something positive resulting from the PTSD.
Those of us who are willing to learn and grow (which is usually not fun!) over time have indeed learned from our own lives, from our PTSD survivors, and from others who are overcoming similar challenges. Many of us have received good counseling and continue to work on our own issues such as staying grounded when things get crazy, or not needing them to always be okay in order for us to be okay. We’re learning to tune in to our needs and communicate them before we have a meltdown. We have learned the importance of owning our own feelings, and advocating for ourselves when necessary.
Over time most of us have acquired greater compassion. And we realize the value of staying connected to good peer support. We’ve also learned that it isn’t always about “me,” and we cannot fix it. And we’re gaining more patience, better listening skills, and are not as quick to judge.
It isn’t me. I can’t fix it. Take care of me.
It has been surprising to have found greater strength than we knew we had in us, and many of us have grown closer to God and increased in faith.
We try to keep our sense of humor and be able to laugh at ourselves (plenty of material there!). Knowing we will have ups and downs, we’re getting better at enjoying and treasuring the good moments as well as not getting all bent out of shape over minor things. Instead we keep perspective on what is really important in the long run.
So as we continue to move forward, I hope we can remember that we are on a journey, and our lives and those of our loved ones are constantly in process. Ultimately for all of us, whatever our challenge, we try to remember growth and its benefits don’t happen overnight, and eventually all our efforts WILL BE WORTH IT!
Welby O’Brien is crazy about her Veteran husband, and together they face the daily challenges of PTSD. Holding a Master’s Degree in counseling from Portland State University and a teaching degree from Biola University, she has authored LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD , Good-bye for Now (grief support), and Formerly A Wife (divorce support). She is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America, as well as Shepherding Women in Pain (Moody). Welby initiated and continues to facilitate the spouse and family support network known as Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC. Join Welby and thousands of others on Facebook: Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC on Facebook.