The Questions: My hubby has been in ongoing therapy for over a year now. When does it start to get better? Does it get better? What can I do to help him?
My personal journeyOn August 15, 2003 I took my first step into the world of PTSD when I suffered catastrophic injuries including fractures to my skull, spine, ribs, and hips. After spending three months in the hospital I was able to function enough to live a semi normal life, but not enough to continue my career in the Marine Corps. In February of 2005 I entered the VA system and then in November of that year I had my first appointment with the Mental Health Clinic. It took two years to get my medications right before I would even consider any type of therapy because I didn’t want to start one thing without finishing another. From 2008 until 2016 I was on the VA ride from hell; my medications were changed, dosages were taken up and down, different therapies were tried and mostly failed… it was awful. Until one day it wasn’t. Suddenly things began clicking and making sense and I was able to take my first real deep breath since 2003. Now, for me this transition came with changing my life – this isn’t true for everyone or maybe anyone but me – I divorced my ex husband, settled my life, met my soul mate, and finally got the life I’d always wanted. The biggest step for me was learning Mindfulness, then everything else just sorted itself out. I found the therapy and medications that finally helped to level me out enough that I was able to regain my hold on the real world. So my PTSD treatment timeline was 13 years. But my story is very different from other’s… so this shouldn’t be considered a common timeline.
When does it start to get better? Does it get better?
I think the best way to answer this is… years. I worked with a group of vets from the VA for a while before we came to Pensacola; some of their journeys took longer, some shorter, and the others were still on their particular PTSD journey. There are a lot of factors when it comes to finally seeing some progress – everything from age and sex to family dynamics and number of traumas. It starts to get better, or at least you start to see progress, when the medication and therapy are working together with the vet. Until everything aligns… no progress or very little progress will be seen. That’s why it’s important to always be in constant honest communication with your doctor. They, your doctors, need to know when medication is not working or not working enough, they need to know – honestly – when you’ve checked out of therapy and you’re just there to go through the motions. There’s nothing wrong with saying that a type of medication or therapy isn’t working for you. The whole reason different therapies and medications exists are because not everyone responds to the same kind of stuff. But they also only work if you use them, so if you aren’t committed to therapy or if you are just taking pills occasionally and not like you are supposed to, the shit won’t work.
What can I do to help him?Take Care of yourself – make sure you are getting the emotional help and support that you need to get through this. No one is shorting the emotional toll those that surround us pay. So make sure that you are taking care of you first!
Education and Research – Read about different upcoming therapies, understand what lead to this diagnosis, understand – as much as you can – what they are going through. We can’t always express in words how we are feeling or what’s going on – so the less you guess and the more you know the better you will be able to help.
Don’t assume that you are the issue and don’t assume that the issue is something rational. PTSD changes the chemicals in the brain so what he is going through or what is happening to him may never make sense to you – but it is very real to him.
Be supportive in a way that works for him. If that means giving him space when he needs it or hugs and encouragement… do that.
Be patient. Stay calm. Breathe.