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A Partner’s Perspective

When I was asked to write something from the perspective of a partner of someone with PTSD and the impact of an assistance dog, I said yes and then didn’t really know when to begin.  The assistance dogs are incredibly well trained and the impact they have on the families they are with, words can’t do justice, so instead I’ll share a deeply personal example in the hope that in some small way it helps someone else.

In a recent ‘get to know you’ interview initiative at work, one question I was asked keeps swimming around my mind. The question was about fearlessness.  I gave some silly answer because I didn’t really want to share the truth of what scares me.

My husband is a loving caring husband to me and our two children, he’s an outrageous flirt and has a wicked sense of humour and a huge heart … oh and he also has complex PTSD, a mental health injury sustained whilst being a Police Officer.

PTSD is permanent, the way I describe it is that it creates like a worm hole in the brain, rewiring it.  When something happens it can cause a trigger and this sends the person through the worm hole, a journey that can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, months… a hard and dark journey for those suffering.

There are many other symptoms and effects of PTSD and C-PTSD but the one that I want to share today and that scares me the most is the sleep walking.

To the outside world Stu can look totally normal but the reality is that something has stopped him sleeping properly and he wakes in a trance like state.  Sometimes this happens and he’s not gone to bed but sat on the sofa and transitioned to a trance.  I can talk to Stu like he’s wide awake and have a ‘normal’ conversation; episodes can last minutes or hours.  In the darkest of nightmares he remembers the worst of memories or steps back in time.  These episodes are very real, he can live past traumas over and over as if he’s stuck in a loop.  Two nights ago whist sleep walking he had a pain in his ankle and wanted medicine but in this trance state didn’t understand that you only take 1 and not the whole box.

I don’t need to describe the impact if I hadn’t of been there … but with me and Stu is this ray of light and a beacon of hope, the most unlikely of carers in the form of our four-legged furry buddy Milo. Milo is Stu’s assistance dog for his PTSD.  Milo was with Stu as he woke in his trance and Milo brought Stu to me and in so doing I was able ensure that Stu couldn’t harm himself.  Milo does many things and this is just one example, he comforts Stu, he adds to his sense of purpose (something he struggled with after ill health retirement from a job he loved and was devoted to, more of a vocation than and job), he gives Stu confidence to be himself and venture out and helps him avoid the worm hole, or when he’s in it, to make the journey back out.

I will always have two roles in our relationship, Stu’s wife and his carer but Milo gives us more time and space as husband and wife and parents to our two beautiful children.  Milo picks up some of the carer responsibilities – we share them together. There is no greater gift.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading our story.  Lots of people struggle with their own mental health or support someone as a carer; be kind to yourselves and if you or someone you know needs help, be brave and reach out – it may take time but someone is always listening.

I can’t thank the team at Service Dogs UK enough for bringing Milo into our lives and for helping Stu in so many ways.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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