PTSD Tip of the Day: Do NOT run your vacuum…and keep the blinds CLOSED.

Every housewife is either rejoicing with this advice, or cringing. But it’s true.

With PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the equation, there are days that just by running the vacuum or opening the windows, you risk having a PTSD trigger and full-blown episode happening before your very eyes.

Why, you ask?

If the vacuum suddenly turns on without warning, you may find your PTSD spouse jumping out of his skin. If that doesn’t get him (or her) — the added noise will grate on them in such a way they can’t function very well afterwards. This is especially true with someone who also has a traumatic brain injury added to the mix.

It’s sensory overload at its best.

Sudden or unexpected noises are bad juju, period.

I learned this years ago by accident but I don’t think much of it any more because it’s so natural to me to accommodate my husband in this way. If I need to vacuum, I do it on a day that I think my husband is managing his PTSD well. I always notify him in advance before I turn it on.

I literally forgot about this element of our life until recently.

Some friends of ours are staying at our house. The husband has PTSD and a TBI, just like my husband, but in his case he was injured differently. The wife was being so gracious to just grab the vacuum and capture the crumbs that their children had left — but I didn’t catch her in time.


She was so pleased with the handiwork she did. I, on the other hand, went into a panic attack of sorts. The crumbs were NOT worth a PTSD trigger for either of the guys, let alone two at once.

I told her that as an FYI, we always warn my husband in advance that the vacuum will be turning on…and I always pick a day/time that is best for him.

She stood there, stunned. I think she blinked twice before her mouth formed words.

“Really? Why?”

Then I told her why.

It never occurred to her to modify the noise levels in the home, or to just say something about it in advance.

The next day, she asked about the blinds. She noticed that we always have the blinds closed during the day. At night it seemed natural, but in the day…? To her, it seemed to be a total waste of a beautiful view, let alone the fact we used electricity to light up the house during broad daylight.

Yes, she is right, but so are we.

I explained the mindset that comes with PTSD, especially for a former sniper like my husband, that the risk of having someone see you before you could see them was just too great. In their mind, it was a threat to their personal safety and the safety of their family.

She had a total lightbulb moment after I explained it to her.

She always wondered why her husband insisted on having the blinds closed during the day, even to the point of arguing about it. And when the vacuum came on in her house? Her husband either left, or he became easily agitated. That made arguments easier to have, too.

I can’t make this stuff up, people. It’s true. It’s real. It’s life.

It’s not because our husbands are weak, or unable to cope. Everything about their life is coping. They cope way better than the average person because they have to do it SO much in the course of any given day.

I just feel badly that I didn’t teach other wives about this sooner. I think I just saved this couple about a lifetime of arguments just in one simple lesson.

And I save myself from having to vacuum the blinds. [big grin!]

About The Author

Torrey Shannon

My name is Torrey Shannon and I am a writer, author, blogger, movie consultant, speaker, veteran's advocate and Blue Star Mom. I am also a full-time caregiver and spouse of a wounded warrior. My husband survived a gunshot wound to the head in a gunfight in Iraq in 2004 after serving in the Army for more than 23 years. We spent three years of his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has severe PTSD and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Dealing with the invisible wounds of war first-hand allows me to bring a human element to the problems our military communities face. Blogging gives me the chance to do what I love the most: write about life after combat and help create awareness and solutions for military members and their families. When I am not writing here, I freelance for a variety of publications and media outlets and am currently writing a book.