There’s a Stranger in our House

The world outside of our home is screwed up, filled with unfamiliar people and places and laced with danger at every corner. – All things that could contribute to injuries, attacks, accidents, and death. Not the calm, peaceful and pretty death we see in movies and novels. No, we are talking the violent, ugly and sheer gruesome kind of death- or just plain death!

But what about having someone come to our house my husband’s never met before?

caregiver, isolate, stranger, veteran, home

Going out has become somewhat of an art form for our family. Between Elijah and my husband there are quite a few things I need to take care of to make such outings go as smoothly as possible. Places like the grocery store increase my husband’s anxiety so much that at times, he won’t even make it out of the house. He tries not to show it, but I have come to learn his behaviors and moods when his anxiety starts to get the better of him. If we make it out of the house together and he actually goes to the store, a restaurant or anywhere else, I can feel when he’s about to have a panic attack.

Everything must be taken into consideration when we leave the house:
  • Where are we going?
  • Is it a well-known place?
  • Is it a new place?
  • Does he know the area?
  • How long will we be gone?
  • How many people will there be?
  • Should we go there early or later in the day?
  • What is our exit strategy?
  • Where are all the exits?
  • Is it a gun-free zone?
  • What kind of people will be there?
  • How long will it take us to get there and back home?
  • Is there a possibility that we will be stuck in traffic?

I could go on all day about the questions that race through my mind BEFORE we even leave the house! Answering these questions and accommodating all of these concerns has become almost second nature to our family.

This is why I have made it a priority that our home is the safest place not only for our son, but also my husband. For both, our home is their safe haven. It is the one place they can be comfortable, feels safe, and pretty much do and say almost anything they’d like to without the fear of being persecuted or facing any major harm- other than someone’s feelings getting hurt.

But what if we have someone new come to our home?

While I am starting to get the hang of going out with my two men, it is far more difficult to invite new people into our home.

Our home is my veteran’s safe haven. Here, he can do and say pretty much anything he wouldn’t dare say in the “civilian world.”

  • The political correctness that has consumed our society is especially difficult for him to handle.
  • He cannot handle the fragile feelings our generation seems to wear on their sleeves.
  • He cannot handle what he calls “pure stupidity.”
  • He uses more curse words than the dictionary can hold.
  • The way civilians often times read into the things my husband says, drives him crazy.
  • The complete lack of unity and structure drives him insane.

He feels that having the ability to avoid people, substantially decreases the chance of him saying or doing something that could upset someone. Him being able to stay in his safe haven, where he is surrounded only by people he loves and trusts, seems to be a key in finding the best coping mechanisms for his PTSD and TBI. In essence, he tends to isolate himself.

Having said that, this safe haven I have tried to create for both my men, is also the place that makes it almost impossible to have a social life.

The struggle of providing a safe haven is not limited to friend

I am not just talking about friends or new acquaintances. No, I am talking about social workers and nurses; people we may have to deal with on a regular basis. Relationships that are important for the vet’s well-being and health care treatments. Relationships we need to foster in order for the kids to become productive citizens in a society that values social skills.

Relationships we caregivers need to keep our sanity!

It does not matter why someone would come to the house. The fact of the matter is:

It happens!

Whether it is a skill-builder for Elijah, a social worker or nurse from VA, a notary, a friend of Elijah’s, or another mom I happen to meet for a cup of coffee (which hasn’t happened in a while). The fact is, new people will come over to our home.

This simple fact can create a lot of anxiety and panic in some veterans. And I know from personal experience, how difficult it can be to explain to the vet that some stranger is coming to their home.

So, I’ve to come up with different ways to prepare my husband as much as I can for the arrival of new people to our home.

Here are my 3 tips on how to manage the struggles of strangers in our home:
  1. Preparation

    One of the easiest things to do is to prepare the veteran for a visit. Now, I say that lightly. Because it’s a lot easier said than done. I will totally acknowledge that! By easiest, I mean, that it is a step that can be taken in order to potentially (more like hopefully) lower the vet’s anxiety level. I know my husband gets very anxious and sometimes even kind of…panicky (if that’s even a word) when someone new is supposed to come over. So, I just made it a habit to try and schedule these appointments out for at least 1 week. That gives my husband 1 week to prepare himself for it. Granted, this could also completely side-ways with him being on edge the entire week. But I will take that over a sudden anxiety or panic attack, because a…”SURPRISE, I kind of made this appointment or invited this person over without you knowing” kind of anxiety/panic attack can really suck!  My suggestions are:

    • If you have to schedule an appointment with a social worker or the like, try to schedule it for a while out and give your vet a heads up.
    • Try to schedule it at a time your veteran is least likely to be on edge. For my husband it depends on things like school work, previous or upcoming appointments, who is supposed to come to our home and even the time of day. I take all of that into consideration.
    • If he already has 2 appointments scheduled that week, I will not add a house visit to that list. I cannot count the times I have told the VA that they ‘need to be on our schedule‘. Because we are who live with the veteran and experience his anxiety in full force, NOT them. And I cannot count the times I’ve had a nurse or technician respond with some snarky remark. But like I said: They will be fine. Your veteran’s well-being is far more important than someone’s hurt feelings because they have to put 2 extra minutes of work into this process.
    • Explain what the appointment is for.
    • If you have a calendar, try writing appointments on it and display it where everyone in the house can see it. We have one hung up in our main hallway. He has to pass by it every day. Now, I am not saying that he actually looks at it every day; nor will I promise that your vet will. The point is this: I TRIED! 🙂


  2. Reminders

    Sometimes, I feel as though I am some sort of parrot. Do y’all remember the Talking Toy Parrot? You know, the one on the swing and it would literally repeat everything you said? Yeah, that’s how I feel sometimes. A plastic parrot on a swing that repeats itself over and over again. Eventually either gets ignored or annoys the living crap out of the person who thought it would be cool to have a parrot. 🙂 OK, in a seriousness, though. Reminders have helped my husband in many cases. One or two days before the appointment I start to remind him that, for example “Jane Doe is coming over Friday for that coupon-thing.” Just simple little reminders like that to make him aware of who is coming and why. Here are some things you could also try:

    • Sticky notes. I’ve used these handy little papers many times over the last few years. They are my secret weapon for leaving messages. The brighter the better! I don’t deal with the new soft colored sticky notes. No people, I use the bright neon-yellow/green/pink kind of sticky notes. While a good dose of selective viewing and listening all men seem to have contributes to my vet’s TBI/PTSD induced lack of concentration, no one can tell me that I don’t try.  🙂
    • Verbal reminders. Yes, after a while I risk my vet getting annoyed at all the reminders I give him. But guess what? He knows I stay on top things. And he also knows that if it wasn’t for me, shit would probably roll down hill a whole lot faster! So, my verbal reminders are here to stay. I do, however, make sure that I keep a calm tone when I do one of these reminders. I also try to use a time when he is calm and comfortable(-ish).
  3.  Expectation

    Even after taking these steps to help my veteran, there is one thing I expect him to understand: This is MY home as well! I fully understand that our home is my husband’s safe haven. And I wish nothing more than for him to feel safe and comfortable in his own home. However, I expect him to also understand that this is not just HIS safe haven/home. Here are some of my expectations:

    • My husband is very supportive of me creating new relationships and connections with other moms. He just doesn’t necessarily like strange people coming to his house. Understandable, right? Well, one of these days, I may very well be having other moms over. I may very well want to have small study groups at our home.
    • I still schedule and remind him of appointments to suit his needs, explain the purpose and remind him again. But this is also my home. I am his and our son’s caregiver. But, I am also his WIFE and our son’s MOTHER! That is what I expect him to understand.
    • I’d treat this step pretty much like I would treat the other two. Id’ catch him during a time he is calm and comfortable(-ish) and tell him that I have someone coming over. If I’d sense his anxiety level increasing, I’d calmly try to convey to him that I understand his concerns and don’t take them lightly. But that this is also my home.

It’s not always easy to accommodate a veteran’s needs, juggle the needs and wants of children and still have a social life. And it sure isn’t easy to not be able to open one’s front door without going through a mile-long list of potential anxiety and panic attack inducing triggers. But in the end, it is important to try and keep the channels of communication open.

Making sure the veteran’s home is safe and comfortable is one thing. Shielding oneself from the rest of the world because of it, is an entirely different story.

Do you have any other suggestions or tips for trying to manage this struggle?

Disclosure: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This post contains affiliate links. For more details please view my disclosure policy.

Do you want your Caregiver Voice to be heard? Would you like to share your caregiver experience? I’d love to hear your story! Send me an e-mail via my Contact form HERE.


  1. August Pfizenmayer says:

    My fiance has PTSD and he has a hard time going grocery shopping with me as well and a hard time leaving the house in general. I have mental health problems too though so it’s a give and take thing, which makes it much easier. I can’t imagine having to take care of a husband AND son. You are so strong

    • Alisha says:

      Oh! Thank you, hun!
      Yes, it is definitely a give and take thing! I just wish people on the outside would understand that PTSD does not equal violence. And that people affected by it, would much rather isolate themselves and not deal with the outside world, than go out and spread violence. You do amazing things on your end as well!

    • Alisha says:

      Social life? What’s that? =) I believe there have to be boundaries and support. If I cannot take care of myself, then who will? It really is a process, and I by no means strictly abide by the rules of self-care. But I’m working on it.

  2. Claudette P. Esterine says:

    I am such a believer in making your mess your message and you have demonstrated that point so well in this post! Thank you so much for the great service you have done and will continue to do as you share your life and your family’s journey with the world. Namaste.

    • Alisha says:

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I really do appreciate it. It is comments like your that drive me to continue sharing our journey and through it, hopefully help others in similar situations.

  3. darklittlecritter says:

    Alisha – I loved this piece for all the practical and reality-conscious suggestions you shared… but ESPECIALLY for the way you addressed the way you balance your family’s anxiety with your well-being.

    I know a ton of families who would appreciate your reassurance that they CAN acknowledge and meet their own needs while doing the big work of managing their loved one’s emotional and cognitive weaknesses.

    Thanks for this!

    • Alisha says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Your feedback is the reason I keep sharing our experiences. I truly hope that this, and my other pieces, can help others. Thanks so much for your sharing! I really do appreciate the support.

    • Alisha says:

      It’s not as bad as it may seem. But it is more difficult, it seems, for others who are not in a similar situation to understand why we do things in a certain way.

  4. Inspire the Best You says:

    That sounds like you have a pretty good plan. Preparation and reminders always helps. As an introvert and a highly sensitive person, I find having people over upsetting sometimes too when it’s unexpected or unplanned.

    • Alisha says:

      I TRY to have a good plan and stick to it! =) Does it always happen? No, not really. But we just pick ourselves back up and keep going. How do you deal with unexpected visitors, if I may ask? Do you have a plan for the unplanned?

  5. The blog dahlia says:

    Thank you for giving a glimpse into what life is like for both you and your husbsnd. As a civilian, I cannot relate personally to your experience. I may get a story here and there from the television or a chance meeting from a veteran on the street.

    I am thankful to your husband for his service and I am thankful to you for being there to help him.

    • Alisha says:

      Personally, I believe that TV does very little to accurately portray these experiences. It seems as though, the media makes veterans look like they are all violent, blood-thirsty killing machines who could snap at any minute and go on a rampage. Or they are portrayed as these fragile, sick and deathly ill beings who are all on the brink of death. There seems to be no real depiction of life. I mean, my husband is very much alive and while he fights with his demons, he does have his moments of life! I would imagine it to be very difficult to try to understand ANY person’s life story from a chance meeting on the street. I’m glad you were able to get a glimpse into our life. It is comments and feedback like yours that motivate me to continue to share these insights. Thank you so much!

  6. Mrs. AOK says:

    I’m not sure if civilians understand life with a veteran, so I’m glad you shared your perspective. When my husband came back from war it took us some time to figure out our new normal. He was always on alert when we went out and noises could startle him. Thankfully, years later things have settled and things aren’t like they were in the beginning.
    Patience, love, and work.
    Thank you and your family for your service.

    • Alisha says:

      I’ve come to find that the word ‘normal’ is completely relative. 🙂 I glad you guys have been able to adjust to your own new normal. And you are right, it takes patience, love and work!
      Thank you for sharing your experience.

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