Here’s an awkward circumstance.  Nina shows up at your door and wants to chat.  A
“normal” person in a “normal” household would invite Nina in, offer her something to drink,
and sit down for a gab session.

Yet again, we’re not “normal”.

Nina shows up on what those of us at
Family Of A Vet fondly refer to as a “PTSD day”.  
You know the ones we’re talking about.  Where your spouse has suddenly transformed into
a being you not only cannot recognize but would rather just get in the car and leave and
wait to come back when he/she is “normal” again.

So, what do you do with Nina?  How do you explain that today is NOT a good day for her to
be appearing at your door?  How do you quickly avert her to someone else before she
hears your husband or wife fly into their next tangent?  Or worse, sees her?  Or even
worse, throws something in her general direction?

I have several Nina’s.  I have, for the spring, summer, and early fall, created a conversation
area on my porch.  This solves several problems.  My lack of perfect housekeeping, my
son’s marbles that inevitably end up all over my living room floor, and our very excitable
dog for a few.  But it also helps solve my PTSD problem.  I can tell my husband I’m going
outside to “think” and sit and talk to Nina for a few minutes.  She feels valued and like I am
a part of her world.  I have a momentary connection with the outside world.  If my husband
starts screaming, she won’t hear the exact words and I can calmly say, “I think I need to
head in, sounds like something just went very wrong with the project he was working on”
and discreetly excuse myself from the conversation.  

Another good “Nina” solution is to have a short list of excuses posted near your front door.  
Some of my personal favorites are:

  • The baby is sleeping.
  • I have to get breakfast/lunch/dinner on the table.
  • Did you know about the bake sale?  I’m working like crazy!! (this one actually led to
    someone dropping off baked goods for a sale that wasn’t happening.  I’m not
  • Johnny is sick. (great for deterring children too).
  • I’m taking a meal to someone who just (insert excuse here…had surgery, a child,
    nervous breakdown, etc).
  • I’m just not feeling very well today. (only try this if you’re desperate and you know
    they won’t try to “help”.)

I’m sorry if you feel bad for lying to Nina.  Make sure you do some of these things to help
add credibility to your story.  Follow up your “lie” or “porch distraction” with a visit to Nina’s.  
There’s better control over the environment there.

What about the Nina who you WANT to tell?  How do you explain PTSD (Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder) without sending flying red flags to Nina who will beg you to leave your

  • Be as honest as you feel you can be.  If you KNOW Nina will report him for hitting
    you and he has, omit that information.  This is ESPECIALLY important if Nina has
    ANYTHING to do with law enforcement, health care, or the school system.  She is
    required by law to report any and every incident of abuse she hears about.  Please
    don’t put her in that position.
  • KNOW you’re going to have to lie at some point.  Make it a lie of omission.  Just don’t
    say the whole tale.  Leave out the parts that you just can’t bear to have her hear.
  • Make certain whatever story you plan to tell the outside world is the same.  If Nina
    and Sharon hear two different versions, you’re either a liar, or it’s way worse than
    they thought.  
  • Make certain whatever you say to Nina is okay to you if it becomes public
    knowledge.  This is ESPECIALLY important in a military community or a small town.  
    You KNOW how news travels.  If you’re not comfortable with everyone finding out,
    don’t tell ANYONE you can’t trust 100%.  Leak Nina a small secret and see if it stays
    with her or everyone knows.  This is a good way to test what to say and what to keep
    to yourself.
  • Educate her about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the chances of
    recovery for your spouse.  Send her to Family Of A Vet or other websites for more
  • Get her involved in the cause.  If she wants to help, have her take the kids so you
    can get a break.  Let her take you to coffee once in a while.  It’s okay to let someone
    help you.  That’s what REAL friends are for.

Whatever you do, be as honest as you can be.  It’s okay to tell someone, “I’m upset and I
don’t want to discuss it.  What’s going on with you?” and distract yourself.  Sometimes, it’s
the best thing you can do.  I’m also infamous for telling people, “I’m just having a hard day.  
Can I have a hug?”  Okay, so the entire small town I live in thinks I’m cracking up but at
least I have a chance to cry and let it out for a few minutes to real human being.

It’s okay to not be perfect.  You need a Nina or two to help.  A few more Ninas that do not
know what’s really going on are just fine too.  This is a time to surround yourself with good
understanding friends who care.  They are invaluable.  Sometimes opening that door can
be exactly what you need to help you hang on.

This article was written by our own Heather Hummert, the wife of an OIF Veteran & Purple
Heart Recipient.  If you would like to contact Heather directly, you can e-mail her at
Heather -at- or

If you would like to help us build this site and reach out to other Veterans, their spouses,
and children, please e-mail us at Info -at- or

Don't miss these other articles about Real-Life Coping Skills for those of us living in a
"PTSD World":

Day-to-Day Skills for PTSD Households

Searching for "Normal" - Ideas to Make Life Easier

Dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the Workplace

Coping Skills for the PTSD Spouse

Helping Children Understand PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

How to Handle the Weeds of PTSD

Protecting Your Perimeter (Dealing With Paranoia & PTSD)

Dealing with "Nina", The Nosy Neighbor

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