When most people think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they probably imagine a man that jumps at his own shadow and is violent when triggered. That’s just the reality of how television and movies portray this disease.
But PTSD affects a lot of people; people of all races, genders, and backgrounds. In fact, PTSD affects roughly 8% of Americans (24.4 million people). This disorder can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event in their life. It is not specific to soldiers.
In this case, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda from Mrs. Bass Life. She has combat-related PTSD from serving our nation in the military, and she is also a loving wife and mother. This is her story, all about PTSD.
The Start of PTSD
How long have you had PTSD, what symptoms did you show, and how soon did you seek help?
I developed it after my injuries in 2011 on my last deployment. I was in the hospital a while and so I was forced initially to get help, but I wasn’t ready.
I do feel like that mattered because I was pushed too soon to “deal” with it and it pushed me to a dangerous edge. Also, the methods that they used to try to make me “confront” or “deal” with it failed miserably.
They tried to treat the symptoms of the PTSD and not the actual PTSD and help work me through it. So I feel it ended up taking me much longer to confront everything because I was forced to handle it.
I just recently started to get help with it and trying to control it or handle it better anyways. It will never go away, but I hope to have it get a little easier to handle. I had everything that comes with PTSD. I also tried to commit suicide twice earlier on in my journey with it.
Related: Mental Illness and Motherhood
What did they do in the hospital that you felt was more harmful than helpful?
When I was in the hospital, my physical injuries took priority. They didn’t address my PTSD at first because my physical injuries were so severe. But my PTSD was also extremely severe. I mean, they diagnosed and treated it the best way they could at the time to stabilize my health.
I felt that right before I was discharged to go home for the first time, they began to really push me to address my PTSD to the point of me almost taking my own life two different times.
I feel that if the doctors (both in and out of the hospital) would have listened to me when I would tell them don’t push that button or I’m done for right now; then maybe I would have been ready sooner than I have been.
This year is the first time since then that I have decided I was ready to try to address my PTSD. While I do believe sometimes it’s important to push someone to talk, it should be on a person-to-person basis. Some need that immediate treatment and some need to wait until they’re ready to seek help on their own terms.
As a medical professional, I’m sure it’s difficult to figure out which patient needs what. But also sometimes they are so dead-set on addressing it quickly because they think it’s right for everyone.
What pushed you to get help?
Facing these demons isn’t an easy thing to do especially of this magnitude. Everything in PTSD: depression, anxiety, the survivor guilt, the nightmares, hypersensitivity, the triggers and I could go on and on.
I finally realized I was ready to face it for my husband and my kids. I also waited a while due to the fact that for the initial part, my physical injuries were a priority over my mental health. So it wasn’t until after the hospital and me getting home before I really had to face those demons. At night when I would be alone with my thoughts: an idle mind is the devil’s playground.
Also, I feared admitting it and talking about it would mean I’m weak and I couldn’t handle it. There is a stigma in our field that if we admit this then we are weak and broken. That isn’t true.
PTSD and Motherhood
How has your illness affected your life as a mom?
It has impacted my life with everyone, not just as a mother. My patience has sucked ever since and I struggle with it daily.
Also, my kids witness my struggles of being triggered and they see the demons that have a hold on me from the inside out.
However, I do my best to not let it impact my parenting much. I am very lucky to have a husband who understands everything since he was deployed and in the military too. So he steps in when he notices I’m struggling and picks up the slack.
Without my husband, I believe my kids would suffer due to my patience and my triggers. It’s been tough on my kids still because they may not see everything but they know there are things I can’t do and stuff they can’t ask me or talk to me about and things I can’t watch or places I can’t go.
I believe my PTSD has made my mom guilt worse than the average mom guilt. Not only do I have to worry about how my PTSD impacts my kids, but I have to worry about how my physical disabilities are also impacting them because I don’t want to feel like I’m holding them back or keeping them from experiencing things in life and definitely don’t want them missing out.
How much do your kids know or understand and how do you handle knowing what to tell them vs what to keep private?
We are not parents that shelter our children, but we also aren’t reckless either. So we tell the age-appropriate content that is appropriate but enough that they understand what PTSD is and why I have it. They were present (except for the youngest) and they have an understanding of triggers and what it is and why. So we keep it age appropriate and also only answer what they ask, nothing extra.
If they ask something that isn’t easily answered or isn’t age-appropriate or we feel their emotional and mental maturity can’t handle the answer, then we are honest. We tell them that it’s not something we feel is an appropriate thing to discuss. But we normally will try to answer as best as possible. We have to judge it per child and their age but also their mental and emotional maturity.
They know what PTSD is by definition and they know what I am like in a PTSD episode and they understand triggers and some of the symptoms. They have witnessed it in full action, unfortunately, but they know it’s something I’m going through therapy for.
They understand I’m working to hopefully manage and learn to live with it easier because they know it will not go away. They know there are major triggers and they are very conscious about triggers happening around me. They are so aware for their ages (13, 10 and then our youngest can’t be since he is 16 months).
Do you have any tips for dealing with your PTSD around your kids?
Our tips for dealing with PTSD around kids would be to be honest because kids can pick up on things and know when something is wrong. Now, I’m not saying have a come apart in front of them inappropriately but if you’re struggling, tell them Mommy is struggling right now, but don’t worry it will be okay.
Also, if you’re married or have someone who can step in and let you go into a room alone to get out of the sight of the kids, then do that. If it’s bad enough, my husband steps in and cares for them and tells me to go shut the door and breathe.
Now sometimes we don’t have enough warning to do that so then David (my husband) will help me calm down in front of the kids. They see us being a team and daddy supporting mommy when I need him and mommy struggling but they understand why.
They all tend to love on me at that point. If it’s a severe episode, David will get them separated if possible but life and PTSD aren’t always convenient. So it just depends; honestly, you have to trust your parenting instincts. As a mother, no one knows your children the way you know your children and you have to trust that you know them and know that your instincts are good.
Don’t doubt yourself, and remember it’s okay to admit you’re struggling and why and it’s okay to say “I made a mistake” or “I’m sorry you had to witness or see that PTSD episode I really wish you didn’t have to worry about mommy (or daddy) struggling but we will get through this together as a family and a team”.
PTSD and Other Relationships
How has your illness affected other relationships?
PTSD has been tough on my marriage but luckily my husband is amazing and has refused to give up on me and our marriage. It would be easy for him to give up and walk out but he says I’m worth it.
It hasn’t been easy by any means but luckily he understands without me having to say anything or explain it to him much because he was in the military and deployed too.
Related: Nurturing Your Marriage After Kids
As far as other family: they don’t fully understand and they just let me and my husband deal with it. It’s not something that is discussed. It’s tough because some people think it’s something I just need to get over.
Friendships are extremely difficult for me because I lost many of them earlier on in my journey and so I struggle trusting people. I tend to keep people at a certain distance.
I struggle to make friends not just because of trust but because I don’t feel I can relate to many people in the civilian world. Once war has changed you, you’re changed forever. Literally, stains of war because not only do I have to answer about my physical scars and health but my PTSD also.
I have only recently begun to try to help others by sharing my day to day life on Instagram and starting a blog. Next, I am working on a podcast and doing more things like this. I still am extremely wary of who is close to me because I don’t want to lose friends due to my medical health or my PTSD again. So I am very selective about who I chose to become close friends with.
I have a lot of associates but very few friends; close friends or best friends. I prefer to keep it that way. My PTSD and disabilities make it difficult to have friendships, especially those that don’t understand. I don’t want to constantly explain myself or feel that I have to explain myself to be understood. I learned who was a true and real friend and who wasn’t.
PTSD: Recovery and Advice
What is something you’ve learned about yourself from having this illness?
This is a hard question to answer because I’m still learning about myself since I am just now deciding to get help the way I need it. This time, I’m seeking out someone who has experience with combat PTSD to help me work through it all.
We’re also doing a different treatment that is a newer form of therapy for PTSD and I hope this approach works along with my being ready for it; it still doesn’t make it easy. It’s hard as hell to go through these sessions but I’m tired of the same issues with my PTSD and I’m ready to cope better hopefully.
I have learned I am not weak; I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I might have been through something that has left a permanent impression in my brain and I will forever have to deal with that, but I can do it. I will just have to continue to be strong, the same way I have always been.
If anything, my physical disabilities and my PTSD and the fact I went through what I went through has made me who I am today. We never stop growing, learning and changing, The scariest thing is to stay stagnant.
What are some coping skills that you’ve learned throughout all of this? How do you handle your triggers?
I have a service dog, Hartley, that has helped (I had another prior to the one I have now until he needed to retire). He is there for medical alert, PTSD, and mobility.
My husband also helps with screening shows, movies, etc for triggers. He is my battle buddy. I talk to those who understand me, my complete story, and my PTSD.
I have found that you also need a relaxing outlet, like a hobby or activity that works for the time or stage that you’re currently in. I write and keep private journals, listen to music (great stress reliever), and I plan in my planner. I also try to immerse myself in activities involving people I can relate to the most. I also just try to never let my mind or myself be idle because that is the worst time for it to creep in.
Also, I’m always evolving and learning new coping skills. I’m always trying to figure out new ways to handle it better than the day before. It depends on the trigger and the need that is there.
What would your advice be to someone that has PTSD and has yet to seek help for it? Do you have any words of encouragement or things you wish someone had told you?
I would suggest they at least talk to someone whether it’s a phone call, face to face, or writing. You have to have a release and I’m not talking about a doctor initially. That’s just one way to work up to seeing a doctor when you’re ready.
Other forms of release I would recommend is taking up a hobby, activity or passion to throw yourself into and release whatever you need to get out.
Another good one is to trust your feelings and your gut; if you feel you’re pushing it to an unsafe point then trust yourself.
I would also say to remind yourself that your ultimate goal is to seek help and try to heal within a reasonable expectation. You need to tell yourself that you aren’t weak and you’re not broken just because you have PTSD. It’s not going to be easy but you can get to a point to cope with it better. Remember what the final outcome or goal is and remember that it’s okay and you will figure out your new normal.
What would you like others to know about your mental illness?
My PTSD doesn’t mean I’m weak, broken, or incapable. It means that I shoulder and carry more demons than most could imagine.
I have seen some extremely difficult things and had to do extremely difficult things. That is the face of war.
I am capable. I have been through hell and back and I’m still standing. It isn’t about what is wrong with me, it’s about what happened to me.
Is there anything else we should know?
When I was away from home in the middle of the war, I would dream and think of home. Now I’m home and all I can think about is going back.
Transitioning to civilian life has made my PTSD a little harder to deal with because in the middle of dealing with it, I’m struggling with adjusting to life in a world I’m foreign to which is civilian life.
I have been in the military since I was 17. Any type of major life change when dealing with something like PTSD is going to enhance it.
I still struggle with an identity crisis type thing and wondering where I belong in life. It’s impacted me, my husband, and our kids in our daily life; every minute of every day.
Please follow her Instagram
She also has a blog
And be on the lookout for her podcast, Journey of a Thousand Setbacks: A Unique Perspective on Life’s Little Ambushes. It is coming soon on Apple Podcast and SoundCloud, you won’t want to miss it!
Do you or someone you love struggle with PTSD? Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful. I’d also like to thank Amanda and her husband for their service to our country.