PTSD and Holiday Season Triggers


This week I decided since it was almost Halloween that I ought to get out my Halloween stuff out and see what I have so I can decorate before the day completely passes me by. Not that the kids would allow that….

I pulled out the totes I had in the garage marked “Halloween” and realized I didn’t have much at all. Perfect excuse to go shopping right? To my surprise when I got there, I think there was more Christmas décor than Halloween, and it isn’t even Halloween yet. I had a mini meltdown right there in the aisle. I am NOT ready for all that. The holidays are supposed to be an enjoyable time spent with friends and family, but in all honesty, PTSD and holidays don’t always mix well together.

My husband is not the greatest at showing positive emotions, so instead of being able to make the stress worth it in his mind like it is in mine, it just causes him to get more angry and frustrated, and want to hide out. We are learning slowly how to deal with all this. We don’t travel during the holidays; way too many people to encounter. Instead, we open our door for friends and family to come to us so that if my husband gets uncomfortable he is in his own environment. He has even been known to disappear until everyone is gone. While that is an option, I certainly do not encourage it. I am very open and honest with those who choose to come over about things that tend to trigger him, and what his limits are just in case an issue was to arise. I don’t make my husband go shopping with me. Instead, we shop online and decide what gifts to get as a team, and then I go out and get them, or we just order them.

We choose to watch parades on TV as opposed to going to them, and we stick to our normal routine as much as possible so there is no adjustment period before and after the holidays. It might sound boring to some, but having our own traditions gives him something to look forward to, and sometimes just having them is all he needs. We pick and choose which other events to attend (if any) by carefully weighing the options. We ask ourselves if environmental triggers will be present. What will the crowd be like? Will they understand if there is an episode? What about an escape plan?

I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but this is our life, as real as it gets. We have lost a lot of friends, and even some family members have chosen to distance themselves from us because of the these things, but in the long run we are better for it. We have been given a unique perspective, we no longer take all this for granted and that is a beautiful gift in itself. For those of you who are living with, or have a loved one living with PTSD, what things have you found to help you get through the holidays?

About the Author

Kristle Helmuth is a 26 year-old Army veteran, wife of a wounded warrior, and mother of two children. She is currently working toward her B.S in Communications and digital media. Kristle is the author of, a blog that chronicles her journey through healing and self-discovery. Kristle has used her broad skill-set to increase awareness of the issues facing our nations wounded heroes, share resources, and provide hope for Military Families. Kristle is always there to offer support, encouraging words, and a kind open heart to all Military Spouses.

7 Comments on "PTSD and Holiday Season Triggers"

  1. to Syven914
    WAIT, just wait.
    i've suffered with this garbage since coming home in late 1969 from the nam, on second wife. she's more understanding and the love of my life.
    The Warrior

  2. continuation… We don’t go to restaurants at busy times. If we go in a restaurant and there are no seats where he can put his back to the wall, we leave. I feel like I must always be with him to provide a buffer between him and other people. He can get mad if someone just looks at him. We don’t have any friends anymore except for his fellow veterans. Yes, it has been difficult, and there have been many times that I thought of leaving him, but I know that he needs me, he loves me, and I love him. It’s not fair that my life has been disrupted because of his PTSD. This is not what I envisioned for my “golden years.” But it’s the way it turned out, and I just deal with it, and that includes helping him deal with it too.

  3. Holiday blues | October 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    Holidays are frustrating! I used to think it was just me that had this problem. I see others not have the same problems as my husband and I but maybe try are just better at hiding it. I don’t know how to cope with my husband emotionless self. Hoping it gets better when he gets out!

  4. Thank you all for continuing to share with each other the things that have and have not worked for each of you. This is why I continue to write. Everyone has an experience, a story, and it never ceases to amaze me how much we can all teach each other if we just take the time! :)

  5. My husband does not admit that he has PTSD, even though everyone around him see the signs. I can't get him to get help and I don't know what to do about it. I'm on the verge of just throwing up my hands and moving on. There are times I'm afraid to sleep in the same bed with him. The kids don't want to be around him because no one is sure what will set him off or when. I cannot afford therapy for either of us (if I could even get him to agree to go). Any suggestions? He's been home 5 years now and only seems to be getting worse.

    • I would suggest that you compile some research to show him. You could also search for competent therapists in your area, find out what forms of treatment they use for trauma survivors, what their experience with veterans is, etc. If you do the research, you will find that people do recover from PTSD, and then share your hope and faith with him that he can get better and you will try to help him do so by being supportive. Don't forget about your own mental health, look into secondary traumatization and remember that his problems are affecting you quite a bit, as well as your children. Even if you cannot convince him to go to therapy, you should probably go yourself if you can afford to. Also, your fear of sleeping with him is very real, it might be that you do need to take protective measures for yourself. I hope this helps, good luck to you my prayers are with you and your family.

  6. Hello all. I am retired British Army and now training as a psychotherapist in England. You all seem to have forgotten that you americans invented a very effective (and evidence based) treatment for PTSD called EMDR (eye movement desensitisation reprocessing). For anyone suffering that has not tried this, I implore you to google and find a qualified EMDR therapist to help you. The DoD use it, but a bit sketchy with the VA? I would be interesting to hear any of your stories involving EMDR – good and bad – at

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