I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in the Pacific Northwest we are fully embroiled in Autumn. The air feels crisp, my daughters are noticing leaves changing colors, and the other day when I walked beneath a beautiful oak, I smelled that cool, mulchy scent that means Fall. Ahhhh…
Mid-October also means it’s time for this month’s Parenting with Mental Illness feature interview. On a side note, I’d love to hear from a dad one of these days. If you’re a father with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another mental illness, please fill out the preliminary survey (that’s the PTSD link; if you need the general mental illness one, it’s on my guest post info page)!
Today’s feature is a mama who you may have seen around the PTSD blog community before. Patricia “PTSD Wifey” and I did a guest post exchange earlier this year. She wrote about secondary PTSD for Betty’s Battleground, and I wrote about PTSD nightmares for PTSD Wifey. Her blog also appeared on the recent Feedspot list of top 75 PTSD blogs, meaning three blogs that I’ve written on made the list 😉 She’s a vocal member of the PTSD community, and I am excited to present her interview today, in which she discusses her experiences with secondary PTSD, a lesser-known phenomenon that merits a ton more discussion.
Without further ado, let’s meet Patricia!
Parenting with PTSD: Patricia “PTSD Wifey”
How many kids do you have?
How did you acquire Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
I was exposed to hellacious Complex PTSD episodes [by] my spouse and developed “Vicarious” or “Secondary” PTSD. There is not an actual diagnosis code for this so my medical professionals simply put “PTSD”. My only triggers are my husband’s symptoms leading into a full-blown Complex PTSD episode.
How long have you had PTSD?
One and a half years.
What made you seek out a diagnosis?
June of 2016: I had gotten to a point where my anxiety and stress levels began to interfere with daily survival…[therapy] was like a last ditch effort in hopes to regain my own sanity and stability. I went through “rapid results therapy”.
How did your husband’s PTSD interfere with your mental health?
I developed Vicarious PTSD by exposure to my husband’s episodes. His behaviors during episodes were hard to endure until he had embraced his journey and made improvements in therapy. Prior to his success in tackling his symptoms, there was a year and a half of reliving his traumas during his episodes. However, through recent therapy of my own, it turns out that I have had deeply suppressed trauma from childhood. And my PTSD today was triggered by going through the daily stress of my husband’s PTSD from the onset of his diagnosis.
How does having PTSD affect your daily life?
PTSD has affected my daily life in both negative and positive ways. Negatively, I have also developed Major Depressive Disorder and find it hard to work a 9-5 type of job. Too many variables interrupt my reliability. On the positive, I have been able to share my story and experiences with the world through my website. This motivates me as I am able to bring hope and inspiration to others.
How does your husband’s PTSD affect your family?
My husband’s episodes, and my reactions had gotten toxic, creating an instability in our home. Our children had internal conflict because they were scared and didn’t know what was wrong. Their behavior took a turn for the worse but how else could they react? Children cope with things differently because they don’t reason the same way adults do. I feel they were crying out for attention.
What are your most difficult triggers and symptoms?
My most difficult triggers are my husband’s constant chatter about nothing important or that comes to a point, on loop. Another is seeing his PTSD attack surfacing. My anxiety increases from 2 to 100 in a matter of seconds. Then I am on the defense and with his PTSD, he will not leave me alone. He follows me around, antagonizing me, and pushing me to be very hyperaroused, hypervigilant, and into extreme anxiety states. The chatty Cathy stuff is bearable except it can go on for an entire day and prevents me from getting anything accomplished. Even caring for our children. When he starts this type of communication it’s a sure indicator that he will most likely be in full-blown PTSD by nightfall.
How has PTSD made you a better parent or person?
1. I have found a terrific way on how to explain PTSD to a child or teenager.
2. It has made me step up my game, work hard, and suppress my symptoms.
3. It has taught me much better patience and grace when it comes to my husband or children. I have also made amazing connections with others who face PTSD in their lives.
If you could correct one public misconception about PTSD, what would it be?
PTSD episodes aren’t the only issue. There are also residual PTSD Symptoms that last for days after an episode subsides. Be aware of these symptoms and show the extra level of care and support for your loved one suffering. After the full-blown episode subsides it is easy to think, “Oh good, that’s over now”, but the truth is, many people have after-math symptoms that make it challenging to get re-acclimated with their lives.
What’s an example of those residual PTSD symptoms in your experience?
How does your blog affect your relationship with PTSD?
Sometimes it can be triggering but 95% of the time it enriches my relationship with PTSD through the positive interactions I have with my followers.
What are you doing with your blog these days?
I have been working on updating my articles and am now the proud owner of a YouTube channel all about PTSD from the spouses point of view. Most of my time right now is focused on my YouTube Channel and promotion of of my book.
Thank you so much Patricia “PTSD Wifey” for coming on Betty’s Battleground today and sharing your experiences as a mama with secondary PTSD
For the past two months I have not sent out a newsletter due to a glitch, but I finally worked it out! So my email subscribers will begin receiving the monthly Betty’s Battleground newsletter again, starting with a special compilation newsletter that includes all the bonus questions from the last three Parenting with Mental Illness interviews: that means Andolina’s, Brandi’s, and Patricia’s! Patricia’s will include her best coping tools, how she helps her husband though his episodes, and the differences between direct and vicarious PTSD.
And don’t forget to visit her blog when you’re done here, starting with this post on residual PTSD symptoms.
If you are a parent living with PTSD or another mental health condition and would like to be featured in this series, you can start by filling out the preliminary survey. If you have PTSD, find your survey here. If you have another mental health condition, find your survey here.
Don’t forget to leave a comment for Patricia on your way out..