Collateral Damage: How Secondary Stress Impacts A First Responder Spouse
Being a First Responder Spouse is challenging in so many ways. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with shift work when all of your friends and family live a 9 to 5 lifestyle. You have to miss out on birthday parties and dinners out because your spouse is working the night shift.
While sitting alone at your kid’s hockey game or dance class, you find yourself repeatedly explaining to other parents why your spouse can’t come. Someone tries to ask you if you watched the latest episode of a popular weekly show, and you tell them you haven't seen it yet because you promised your spouse you would wait to watch it with them on their days off.
Making dinner, bathing the kids and putting them to bed are routines that you often have to do alone. You go to bed when they are on night shift worried and don't sleep well, hoping your loved one will be ok.
When your spouse has a hard day, you are their rock. The one that comforts them and offers them a safe place to talk. You do your best to support them and be their comfort.
Then it happens. You've been doing your best everyday to keep your family system running smoothly and your spouse develops PTSD. Things become overwhelming. You might feel resentful towards your spouse or conflict arises in your relationship.
You may start to get headaches more frequently or feel nauseous. You could start to have trouble sleeping or develop insomnia. You slowly become less productive and often feel exhausted. All of this might lead to the development of anxiety or depression. This is what is called secondary stress.
You are not alone.
Secondary stress is something very common to happen to spouses of First Responders dealing with PTSD. Often the spouse blames themselves, but the truth is that PTSD can happen to any First Responder, no matter how hard we try to prevent it. When it does happen, it often affects the whole family, not just the First Responder with PTSD.
Secondary stress can also occur in the children of First Responders. Are your kids showing signs of secondary stress? Look out for next week’s blog post where I will be covering secondary stress in children.
If someone in your family is dealing with an operational stress injury such as PTSD, my Resilience Academy might be the answer you are searching for. In this comprehensive course, I help you and your first responder family to get to a much mentally healthier place with tangible solutions.
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