Helping your Spouse Conquer Anxiety: A Wife’s Story

– Posted in: Caregivers, Mental Health Professionals, PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Helping your Spouse Conquer Anxiety - A Wife's StoryJune of last year ushered in a substantial change that crippled my family’s unity. We no longer played together as a family. When my son had soccer games, there was an empty space next to me where my husband would normally sit.

Earlier that month my husband was a passenger in a car that struck and killed two people (one a child). The victims ran across the road without checking traffic.

At first my husband seemed fine. Then I would wake up in the middle of the night to discover his side of the bed vacant and cold. When his nightmares began, I would find him sitting at the kitchen table staring at the wall.

He started a routine of going in to work late. His performance began to slip, and then he started calling in sick with a cold when he didn’t really have one. He eventually lost his job. He would rarely go outside, and didn’t even spend time in any rooms of our home other than our bedroom and his den.

Depression and anxiety go hand in hand, {{1}} and his depression was bearing down on our son and me. He refused to go see a psychiatrist because he thought it was a sign of weakness. Our marriage was suffering, and after my ultimatum he finally agreed to be evaluated.

The diagnosis

PTSD can affect anyone, not just soldiers or trauma victims

I was surprised, as was he, to learn that he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I ignorantly thought this was something that only war veterans or people who experienced mass trauma were diagnosed with. After hours of research I learned that members of the general public get PTSD, too.

The New England Journal of Medicine’s December 1987 issue had a report of research conducted on PTSD in the general public{{2}}. One percent of the civilian population has this mental illness. Including those who were exposed to or who have witnessed a physical attack raises the percentage up to 3.5%.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that 7.7 million Americans currently have PTSD. During their lifetimes, 7.8% of Americans will have the mental illness.{{3}}

Getting treatment

Treatment options were slim – finding doctors when needed was a challenge

My healthcare plan covered up to 80% of my husband’s treatment, but finding the best doctors to meet his needs when he needed to be seen was a challenge in itself.

Now that we had a diagnosis, there was hope, but our options were slim. Nights were always the hardest, and our only alternative was to go to the emergency room if he felt symptoms of a panic attack coming on. This meant our seven-year-old son would have to go sleep at a neighbor’s house, or I would have to call my mom to have her come over and stay with him. This was neither a good situation for our family, nor for the other people in our lives.

Concierge health care

Concierge health care gets you help whenever you need it

Concierge health care was an option I discovered, and the one we chose. It may not be for everyone, but for some people it is ideal. Quite frankly, it has saved my family.

Concierge health care (also known as direct care) is a relationship between a patient and a physician or physician group in which the patient pays a monthly or annual fee or retainer. In exchange for the retainer, doctors provide enhanced care, including 24 hour access in most cases.

The down side of the concierge health care option is that it won’t accept any health insurance. However, it is affordable for us. We pay only slightly more per month than what we pay for our Internet and cable TV, and my husband gets instant access to doctors 24 hours a day.

My husband’s new doctor even makes house calls and asked him to keep in e-mail contact with a journal and any questions. The care and attention my husband received then, and that he continues to get now, is incredible.

Coping strategies

Tips for coping strategies

In doing further online research, I came across some blogs written by others who offer coping strategies to help loved ones recover from PTSD. Like me, the bloggers are not medical professionals, but merely people whose lives have been afflicted by this disease. Here are some of the coping strategies I have tried that have worked really well in helping my husband:

  • Make the person aware of their surroundings. When someone is about to have a panic attack point out things in the area to help turn their mind away from the bad memory.
  • Use images on your phone, computer or in a photo album. Find images from a family vacation or those showing a time before the accident that trigger a happy memory.
  • Get the person talking before the panic attack becomes full-blown.
  • Identify what triggers the panic attacks and come up with a “happy place” to divert the person to when the panic attack is in its early stage. In my case a photo of my husband skiing with our son was used.

Going forward

My husband is now working and enjoying his family

My husband is now back to work and engaging in family activities. In our case it took seven months of treatment to get him to a point where he could function in society.

I credit my success as a caregiver in helping him beat this disease to his own inner strength and determination to be cured, my endless research, and the help we got through our concierge health care provider.

While it isn’t an ideal option for everyone, concierge health care is worth researching. After all, if it helped my family, it may be an ally in helping someone you love.

Sara-Fletcher-120x122Sara Fletcher is a freelance journalist and a proud mother of two. She is currently researching concierge medicine as an option for her mother. You can follow her on Google+.
 
 

Please note: The writer of this post is not a trained mental health professional. This post is for information only and is not intended to be a substitute for the health care of your personal physician or mental health professional.

[[1]] Nichols, Michael L. Anxiety and Depression: Two Sides of the Same Coin?. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from https://anxietypanichealth.com/2008/09/23/anxiety-and-depression-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/ [[1]]

[[2]] Helzer, John E, Robins,Lee N, McEvoy, Larry. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the General Population. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM198712243172604 [[2]]

[[3]] Staff. Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml#pub4 [[3]]

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8 Comments… add one
David March 14, 2013, 11:19 am

Your story is inspiring and I am happy that you managed to get through all the challenges, stronger and more united. The information about Concierge Health Care is really helpful and it is a very good option for a lot of people in a similar situation. I believe it is one of the best because of the direct relationship between the physician and the patient.
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Brian March 17, 2013, 7:04 am

One thing i like to do for distraction is something like a video game, puzzle or write down what i’m going through. It helps once you get it out of the head and redirect the energy elsewhere. It is really helpful for those who are in the family to know how to help the individual or at least be aware of what they go through.

Mike Nichols March 17, 2013, 11:52 pm

Good suggestions, Brian – thank you!

I love computer games, and they have gotten me through many perilous situations. Another thing I do is go for a walk with or without the dog. There’s a state park nearby that I love to visit for walking or photography or both. Above all DO something rather than stare at the wall!

James Dreesen March 22, 2013, 11:20 pm

I do believe that Anxiety is usually a manifestation of a more serious psychological problem, just like loss of sleep. But there are ways to cope up with it. Try to do breathing exercises or do a hobby that would distract you on moments that may trigger anxiety.
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Bert April 8, 2013, 3:09 pm

I want to thank all of you for your helpfull coments. I feel you are talking to me as a friend you haven’t seen and want to share your help and loveing kindness. I try to smile no matter how I feel taking time to rember the suffering ones who have it so much worse than I. With Gods help I can make it.

Jessy May 3, 2013, 11:41 am

Do you think its possible to completely cure an anxiety disorder 100% without medication

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RRR August 13, 2014, 11:59 am

My fiancee has been diagnosed with an anxiety and panic disorder. I caught her flirting with a guy on text. She admitted she spoke to the person on several occasions. She said she panicked and couldn’t believe was she was doing. She would pray everyday, have sleepness nights and cry too. I forgave her. I too was angry at her for what she did. She said she didn’t have a physical contact with her but they did meet. But prior to this, her disease was driving me insane. Everyday her stomach hurt, her cramps were worse, she wanted to throw up, etc. She says she can’t live with herself for what she did. She even broke the relationship. I have suggested couple’s therapy. She has agreed but we also agreed not to see or talk to each other for like two weeks. I can’t be around her because I am getting stressed with her disease. Just thinking of her stresses me out. Am I doing something wrong? I would like to workout since we’ve been together 9 years, but I can’t move forward if she can’t find help. And one more thing, she loves to say one thing and then an hour or two later she’ll change her mind and say something opposite. Can someone help? Thanks.

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