A daughters perspective.
My name is Nicole, and my father is a retired RCMP vet and has struggled with PTSD for over 30 years now. As a daughter I have a unique view of this and it is difficult to describe sometimes but I wanted to share it.
When you are young you believe that your parents are strong and infallible, nothing can bother or affect them.
As I got older I became aware that there were some problems with my father and that things just weren’t right, but being a man from that generation and of course a vet, he tried very hard to hold it all together and not show any weakness.
I was about 15 when I started to notice these changes in my father and it was around this time that I too started suffering badly from depression and other mental illness, because of this my family was affected and we all started family therapy. Through this therapy, and over the years, we became more aware of our families stuff, and mental illness became something we started to talk more openly about. This took many many years though. By the time my sister and I were adults we knew that something was very wrong with my dad and that it wasn’t just depression, and the older he got the less he was able to hide it.
About 16 years ago my parents had to move to a smaller neighborhood on the outskirts of the city to get away from the busy and crowds, and dad’s high pressured jobs started getting to be way too much for him to handle. They eventually had to move out of the city altogether because he couldn’t handle the stress of the big city life, crowds, traffic, ect. As the years went on his agoraphobia worsened to the point where he had trouble going anywhere with people, and could no longer drive in the city at all, he could do wide open spaces like highways but if he were to be surrounded by cars like in the city or rush hour he had full blown panic attacks. Even family events can only have a few people around and he has to take Ativan to get through them. Thank goodness we have a small family. In fact if it wasn’t for Ativan he wouldn’t get through many things.
He suffers greatly from violent thrashing nightmares and he has always had a very sensitive startle reflex to loud or sudden noises of any kind (in which he jumps and yells out), this has been all my life. He can be very hard to be around at times and has issues with anger and moodiness. We spend a lot of time walking on eggshells and watching what we say to avoid a blow up or start an issue . It really does affect the whole family and you never really can tell what he will be like that day or even moment to moment sometimes.
My sister and I are now in our late thirties and we see it all now and he shares more of it too. It is heartbreaking to see someone with such a gentle and caring heart suffers so greatly. He only wanted to do good and to help people and after 10 years, what he got was a lifetime sentence of fear, nightmares, emotional problems, depression, anger, and so much more.
He is now 65 and the sad truth is the older he gets the worse a lot of it gets and the less he is able to handle it. He hasn’t been able to work for about 4 years now as he couldn’t even handle a very low stress job at a golf course, which is fine, but he spends so much of his life zoned out in front of a computer and lost to that world or inside his head.
After many years and so many wrong diagnoses around 8 years ago he was correctly diagnosed with PTSD and started receiving help. He has been put on some new meds and has been trying some new therapies recently that have helped him a lot more with his anger and volatility, as my mom said it was that or her and I understand because he wasn’t always easy to be around or live with before. He seems to have more good days than bad and has been doing a lot better lately, and even getting out a bit more with mom. I am proud of the work he has done and that he is still fighting to get better, it gives us all hope. They have even been able to travel a bit as long as he can avoid his triggers and has mom there to ground him, which is cool and I hope they can do more.
As a daughter I guess I see things in a different way because he doesn’t always want to show us these things or talk about what is bothering him or to let us see him crying, which he does a lot more of as he gets older as well, or be vulnerable in front of us because he is our dad and feels he needs to be strong. We assure him that it is ok and we will try to work on it as a family. It is hard and odd to see your parents as people with problems and not perfect. I know that sounds weird but it is true.
The reality is that I am going to be the one looking after them in their old age and my father and I are so very alike we clash and butt heads often. It concerns me as I wonder how I will be able to deal with it and help him. I wish so badly that I could take away his demons. Make his burden lighter and see a glimpse of the dad we knew when we were young, but the reality is that he no longer exists and I miss him sometimes.
The harsh reality is that PTSD is a family affair, it does not just affect the sufferer but all those around them. We all deal with and experience how it changes and takes away your loved one. Although the person dealing with it is the one that needs to do the work to get better, we as the family need to help identify the problem. We need to be there to support and encourage them and even get help ourselves when needed. It happens to them but we all live with it. We will continue to be here to help and support my father and maybe this can help others to do the same.
I just miss my strong, fearless and confidant father of young, but then again maybe he never really existed and it was always just a front because he was afraid to be anything else.
Papa I miss you and I will always love you, please keep fighting for you, and all of us. Nicole
As an update: I have recently found out that rapid eye treatment has been helping his nightmares a lot. I encourage all who suffer from this to seek professional help as it now exists for this horrible condition and can help greatly. We now have some real hope for our veterans and those currently working, both on the job here and away. Maybe with this help and the new therapies we can help the next generation be free of these demons that haunt so many. Thank you to all those who have fought or are fighting for our country both on the home streets or away in the wars, we can never repay what you have done or do for us on a daily basis.