PTSD By Proxy

Ever since we built the staircase in our house, I’ve been afraid one of our daughters would fall and get hurt. I never envisioned Mike would fall. I’d rather it was me. Mike is supposed to be invincible. Thankfully, at least he has a hard head.

I’m scared for his brain, his lovely, thoughtful, warm, loving brain, and I want to be up his ass about resting and recuperating. I’ve flip flopped between telling him what to do, policing his activities and leaving him be.

I’ve had no shortage of opinions on Mike’s recovery, and I’ve been willing to share my hard won medical knowledge, gleaned from too many years of watching medical dramas. I feel like a doctor, but as far as I know no one has bestowed on me a medical degree, and Mike is less likely to listen to the wisdom I’ve collected trolling the Internet than he is to his doctors. (The ones who actually completed medical school. As far as I know.)

If I were in his shoes, what would I like? To live my life. To make my own choices. More pain meds.

Mike isn’t a child, and I may want to consider not treating him like one. Perhaps it is time to back off and focus on my own recovery from the trauma of seeing him so vulnerable and hurt.

My emotions don’t match up to Mike’s current state. My husband is fine, getting stronger every day. Can you say “delayed reaction?”

Our daughters have been extra emotional lately (and that’s saying a lot), and I have the patience of a gnat (one in need of more antidepressants). I firmly believe every spouse or partner of an injured person should be given a prescription for the same level of pain medication that the patient is taking. An automatic partner prescription. I’ll take some valium too.

Who knew a loved one’s accident would give me PTSD? I have many of the symptoms (pieced together from every crack website I could find):

  • Reliving the Event – Every time Mike moans or coughs, I think he’s dying. If he’s too quiet, I think he’s dead. Isn’t that normal?
  • Avoiding Situations that Remind You of the Event – Well, I don’t want our girls anywhere near the staircase and I want to move to a nice, flat ranch house. Stat. Does that count?
  • Feeling Numb – no luck on this one – I’m feeling plenty thankyouverymuch.
  • Feeling Overly Emotional – Define “overly.” My crying jags feel so refreshing, even though they come over me in inconvenient places (read grocery stores and preschool classrooms) and often scare small children and animals.
I wish I looked like this crying ...

I wish I looked like this crying …

Instead I look more like this. Scare any small children lately?

Instead I look more like this.

  • Feeling Keyed Up – ding, ding, ding – I am on the lookout for danger and am feeling on guard and easily startled (See “Reliving the Event” above). My daughters are taking advantage of my over-reactivity by making loud noises just to see me jump. Thus my unrequited need for valium. Apparently, deep breathing exercises are all I get.
  • Impulsive or Self-Destructive Behavior – I’m obsessed with finding a new pair of sunglasses. But that’s pretty standard for me. Does shopping for hours on Bluefly for a new party dress and shoes I don’t need count? How about my new found big screen TV obsession?
  • Diminished Appetite – Ok, here’s the problem. Why is it I never get the diminished appetite symptom? Of any illness? Even when I have the stomach flu, I want to eat. What does a girl have to go through to get a diminished appetite?

I’m not making light of PTSD, please believe me. Whether or not witnessing an accident like my husband’s contributes to a PTSD response, I am not qualified to say (though at times I convince myself I am).  However, I am struck by the backlash of emotions I’ve felt over the past several days after holding it together for my family during and in the days following Mike’s accident.

I’m grateful for the friends and family who have offered me a safe and comfortable place to fall while I’ve fallen apart. After several days of feeling the weight of my emotions, I am feeling more and more like my regular crotchety old self. For this, we’re all blessed.

And if I don’t have PTSD now, just wait until we get the shopping medical bills from this little shenanigan! I’ll especially appreciate paying for all those $15 boxes of tissues I snotted up in the hospital. I better go order another pair of shoes.

Be well!

41 thoughts on “PTSD By Proxy

  1. Hilarious, poignant, honest, and insightful– the best of you in all here in this post. I am sick thinking about how you must feeling seeing those stairs everyday. It is PTSD and you deserve medication. It’s still so fresh, I imagine. I hope you can breathe through the pain and also, if you get any tips on how a girl can lose her appetite, please post about that.

  2. I so get your post. Unfortunately, I really do have PTSD and can so relate to your issues. When Mike is well again, hopefully, this will all fade away into the background and won’t rear its ugly head again. Followed you from SITS.

  3. 1st: (((HUGS))) 2nd: You may not want to hear this, but your feelings about this may be projecting to your daughters. 3rd: The internet is a big & terrifying place, especially when you have been/are going through something traumatic. I have done the same things many times. Searching the internet & finding the worst thing possible. Mike seems to be healing wonderfully. You; Not so much 😦 It’s a very good thing you are at least able to share this with us. But, you may need to find someone who is trained in these things. (and get meds. I highly appreciate lots of meds:) Unless, you think you can work this out on your own. You know you are going to have to exorcise the stair demons.
    I have had panic disorder, so I know how it feels. I could not drive my car without panicking for quite a while. It took time & baby steps. (and meds although I’ve been off of those for a couple of years now. Long story.) If you feel the need to talk, let me know. Or post it here. Go out and scream! Do what you need to do. It’s not unusual for a spouse to feel like this in your situation. I’m not a doctor or even in the medical field, but I’ve dealt with a lot of crap in my life & if I can help, I’m here 🙂
    P.S. I’d like to look like Angelina Jolie crying even if I’m not. Snooki, however, not so much 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Collette! I’m touched and grateful for your concern, and I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and experience with me. I am getting professional help and am in baby step mode. And I think your screaming suggestion is prescient – I’m a big fan of screaming into pillows and in the car! Next time I’m screaming, I’ll think of you and smile. 🙂 And, yes, I prefer Angelina over Snooki any day! Thanks again for all the love and support!

  4. I have been reading these posts and have been too traumatized myself to comment. I cannot imagine how you are feeling! I am glad Mike is feeling better but you are justified in your response. My husband watched me almost die on the delivery room table and I always acknowledge that was worse for him than me. Big hugs all around!!

    • You are a sweetheart! Thank you for the hugs. I guess I feel surprised at my strong reaction, but it definitely makes sense. And it’s been really helpful to write and talk and take in so many hugs this week. Have you written about your delivery story? If so, I’d love to read it when I’m a little less reactive. If not, I hope one day you will. I would love to read it. xo

  5. i’m having stress just thinking about what you went thru. it’s too much. i know how sensitive you already are to the fragility of life, you needed that like a .. hmmm, i’m not going to say it, b/c that seems really inappropriate. 😉
    i think everything you are going thru is normal. it’s so hard to come to terms that we really don’t have control and that we are all so vulnerable. it’s all baby steps. one at a time. one big tv and new pair of shoes in front of the other, and you’ll be back to your normal wonderful crazy in no time. xoxoxo

  6. I like that line abou the automatic partner prescription. Funny bit.
    Sorry it has been so hard on you. You probably wont like this but I feel bad for your husband. With you a basketcase, it is causing him this. How’s that for guilt?
    P.S. Why does biying shoes make everything abetter for women? Ahh you people!

  7. PTSD diagnosis is spot on. The T stands for trauma which you have had. You will continue to have flashbacks and anxiety for a while. I had 2 traumas last year: my dad hitting his head at our house(lots of blood) and seeing my friend’s son get hit by a car. Unfortunately, I can close my eyes and still envision both. My son was there both times, and he still talks about them. Talking about it is very therapeutic, so share with family and friends. Bravo for being a brave wife and mom. Take care.

    • Your traumas sound heart-breaking and hard. Thank you for sharing them and your wisdom. How are you helping your son through these memories? I’m not sure how to help our girls …

      • Talking with Sean definitely helps. He usually will bring up my dad or our friend who got hit by the car. We talk about how we keep him safe on the streets and that my dad was well taken care of by the paramedics and ER staff, I think reassurance of safety is the biggest issue. I wish I could promise that those things would never happen again, but I can’t. We just talk about what he and I both did in that situation that helped the people involved and what to do if something like that happens again. My son is a planner, so just the ides of having a plan gives him a bit of control and makes him feel safe. Take care.

        • Thanks, Gretchen. You’ve reminded me how important it is to just talk about these events, without an agenda in mind. I feel reassured when I can talk about scary stuff. I want my girls to feel the same. Thank you! Have a wonderful weekend! And hugs to you, Sean and Mark.

  8. It’s horrible watching someone you love hurt themselves “but good.” Hubby recently sliced open his finger on one of my Cutco knives. (The guy is a surgeon. He should know how to handle sharp knives. Sheesh!) But seriously, I felt awful for him. He was gushing. ANd all I could do was watch him bandage himself up. Poor guy.

    I hope that Mike is up and running at 100% soon.

    It is amazing how something like that reminds us how nothing is stable, and even the people we think are so solid are so very fragile. So very, very fragile.

    • You’re right – the fragility and lack of stability in the person I count on to be my rock is the scariest part of this. Mike is humming along just fine and we’ll get the results of his last set of tests this week. All is well and I’m finally feeling calmer.

      What kind of surgeon is your hubby? He’d be handy to have around! 😉

      Where did you end up during the Super Bowl? I ended up watching the second half cuddling with Mike and enjoyed every minute. Who knew?!

  9. Oh Mary- you CRACK ME UP!!! I love the pictures… still laughing!!!! And Bless your heart for going through all of this… UGH. You poor PTSD survivor!!! I’m glad through it all you can find humor in healing…

    • I’m definitely closing in on the humor and starting to feel grateful for my journey through this hard time. Next time I’ll skip the blood and fear and get right to the humor thankyouverymuch! xo

  10. I think we get PTSD because in the moment, we have to respond to the crisis at hand. It’s survival instinct, right? However, we still have to process the event that we’ve lived in and what happened to Mike was scary – for him and for you. Cry it out, girl, and my guess is that you look more like Angelina than Snooki while you’re doing it. (and for the record, I wish I was one of those people who lost their appetites to stress too!)

    • You are amazing, and I’m happy and lucky to have you on my side! Thank you for summarizing my experience so well. And hell yes – the least I could get is a day or two of no appetite! 😉

  11. I may just mention that the PTSD may not be what’s happening because it sounds like you are still going through some of the trauma. P means post and this is not “post” for you. This happened pretty recently and it’s very normal for you to be having all these feelings. I dont say this to minimize the issue but just to let you know that you are doing fine with a shit situation. If you are still feeling the same in 5 months, then that’s pretty “post” and may be time to reach out for more help.

    • You know, Les, I can’t tell you how touched I am that you took time to write this to me. Thank you. I appreciate your thoughtful words and everything you wrote makes perfect sense. I am feeling better already this week and am grateful for all the kindness and love I’ve been shown. You have a big heart. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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