What Is It Like to Be “Married to PTSD”?

When I married my husband ten years ago, I had known him for four years. I knew a lot about him. And he knew a lot about me. We had a clear plan of where we were heading and what we wanted our married life to look like. There was so much to look forward to.

But just shy of our fifth anniversary, obvious cracks had begun to appear. I realised our plans had lost their momentum, and even simple things seemed to take more effort and were becoming increasingly difficult. Along with children, anger had become a constant presence in our home. I tried to voice my concerns with the limited knowledge I had, though it wasn’t until a close friend spoke privately to my husband about these cracks that he would finally acknowledge them.

I had known my husband for nine years when he was given a diagnosis of complex PTSD. Sadly, it wasn’t a relief to finally have an answer to all those cracks, it felt as though we had both been handed a sentence.

From my medical background, I understood that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder meant my husband had an anxiety disorder following long-term exposure to traumatic events in his career as an Ambulance Paramedic. I was certain that it would involve a cocktail of medications: antidepressants, anxiolytics, sleeping tablets, and possibly antipsychotics. I anticipated that he would require ongoing intensive cognitive therapy with a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist.

But no one could tell me how long therapy would take. No one could predict when things might get better, or that they may get worse. No one could guess what would become of his career. No one could foresee what it might do to our family.

And no one could prepare me for what it is to be married to PTSD.

But, after five years of stumbling along this perilous and erratic journey with my husband, I now have a fairly good idea…

 

It is to worry about where he is, what he’s doing, if he’ll come home, if he’s been drinking, if he’ll remember, if he’s okay.

It is to hear the sharp words and venomous tongue, but not let yourself listen to them.

It is to watch extreme anger erupt out of nowhere, but have no time to take cover and no way to extinguish the fire.

It is to walk on eggshells, and to teach your children how to follow in step.

It is to frequently torment yourself by wondering what your life might have been like if he hadn’t developed PTSD.

It is to automatically answer “I’m fine”, when in all honesty you’ve forgotten what fine feels like.

It is to soothe your children, repeatedly, during times of family stress, and hope they believe you when you tell them that none of this is their fault.

It is to always put yourself last in the futile hope that your efforts will further his recovery.

It is to helplessly watch him relive the trauma that haunts him day and night, and then helplessly watch him try to drown those memories with any drink at hand.

It is to recognise how strong and resilient you have become through necessity alone.

It is to desperately live in the moment on the good days, and to hope for a better tomorrow on the bad ones.

It is to live with resentment, fear, anger, jealously, frustration and shame, but needing to make peace with all of these in order to keep going.

It is to berate yourself often when reminded of much worse situations other people live with.

It is to learn how to look for happiness in what you still have, rather than what you used to wish for.

It is to worryingly recognise in yourself the emerging signs of secondary PTSD.

It is to finally accept that you can’t fix him, that you can’t fix this, and that no one should ever expect you to.

It is to hope for a better future but not being at all sure what that might even look like.

It is to grieve for a man who you still see each day, and sleep next to each night.

It is to cry, at times, more than you think possible.

It is to stare at your wedding ring and wonder if you really would do it all over again.

And it is to cry, at moments like these, when you actually stop to think about what it is to be married to PTSD.

 

(original post published 21st June 2016)

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14 thoughts on “What Is It Like to Be “Married to PTSD”?

  1. Medic72 says:

    I was a paramedic that developed PTSD. I always felt ashamed that I could no longer be the person my husband (also a paramedic) married. I often tried to shield him from the symptoms but some weren’t even within my control. Aggravated, irritable, we struggled to keep our lines of communication open but I saw how much the symptoms were hurting him, that helplessness in his eyes, the fear that was there when I wanted nothing more than to die, the stress I was adding to his life. Everything skyrocketed after I was fired. Now we were struggling financially, he had no one to turn too to offload his work stress; his work stories were too triggering to me. He was carrying a lot on his shoulders and he became irritable, quiet, sullen and seemingly resentful toward me. My husband committed suicide in January of 2016. Most days I don’t know why I’m still here, why my life has to be this hard. Will my suffering ever end? All because of a job that we felt we needed to do for the sake of others…to keep them safe, we gave everything we were.

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    • Lea says:

      I am so sorry to read your story, I am lost for words. All I can hope is that you have loving friends and family to turn to and support you, as well as getting the best professional help you can. I am now following your blog, your journey, and in some way I hope that your writing is helping you process the hurdles. Sending you much strength, take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Liz says:

    Have you heard of NAMI? They offer support groups for family members who are living with a mental illness. It’s called family to family and they are free. You can go on their website, NAMI.org, or just search for NAMI family to family. On the site you can see if there is a group in your area. They can be very beneficial. I hope this helps. I admire your strength and perseverance, all of you. Thoughts and hugs are with you. 🙂

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  3. Karen Coslett-Morris says:

    I am a mum who has a grown up, married daughter who is a mother of 3. Due to a major traumatic event 2 years ago she has just been diagnosed with PTSD. I live some 900 miles away from her so every fortnight or so I give up a week to travel up to her in order that she may take advantage of all the support services that are currently available to her. Unfortunately, her husband works away from home travelling all over the world as a specialist engineer so he is unable to support her emotionally as much as he would be able to were he home all the time. As a family we have come to the conclusion that her PTSD affects all of us as our whole family life has been touched by it. However, I can only praise the services that have helped put into place a support network for her for those very worst of days when we are not there. Although, I have made sure that they have all our contact details so that they can call upon us to fill any gaps in services that they feel she would benefit from. I am so lucky to have a great relationship with her so that our helping does not tread on her independence toes. Your blog has helped her enormously understand that asking for help doesn’t make you weak. In fact it makes you stronger and having read your blog she has an understanding of where we are coming from which has helped all of us work together as a team. Albeit from a distance. However, I have discovered the rail network which takes just 5 and half hours door to door. I will continue reading your blog and the responses and would like to thank you for giving us somewhere to go to gain an insight as to how other families cope. Thankyou

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    • Lea says:

      Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and share your story, and that of your daughter. She is very lucky to have your guaranteed love, compassion and support, all rolled into the package of a wonderful mother. It will be through your loyal care and support that she will sense her steady foundation, which will, I’m sure, ultimately see her through this difficult time. I am so pleased to hear that my words have brought you both some solace, even though my journey is from quite a different angle regarding PTSD. I wish you both much strength with your ongoing journeys. And always have hope.

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  4. Sarah J says:

    I was stunned when I first read your blog. Stunned because it was as if you were typing about my own life. I too have a husband with PTSD, and it is so incredibly hard. I hate PTSD and what it has done to him. The man I love, who was so adventurous and full of life and humor, is now fearful, driven at times nearly mad by it, and prone to fits of rage that can be truly frightening and make me embarrassed to step out onto the street at times, thinking my neighbors must think I am being abused. He would never, and has never, physically hurt me or our dogs, but when he rages he says terrible, hurtful things that are hard to put aside. Like you, I have resentments, but I love this man. He did not ask for this to happen to him. It is not his fault and when he is calm, hints of the man I married are still there. I hang on to those moments like a vise. I am so thankful for my counselor, my dogs and for the fact that I have activities and friends that I can spend time with and have a laugh. And thanks to you for being there! It helps so much to know that I am not the only one struggling with this. No one talks about it, and there are so few resources for what my husband when through. But again, thank you for this blog. It must be very difficult to have a husband with PTSD and have children to take care of. I can’t even imagine. God bless you.

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    • Lea says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sarah. What you say is all so true – we are living very similar lives. It certainly makes it more complicated, having children in the mix, but often they are the ones who keep us grounded, keep us moving forward, keep us positive about the future. I wish you much strength on your own journey, and I’m pleased that my words are able to bring you some solace along the way. Take care.

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  5. Jen Lee says:

    I’m so thankful that I stumbled upon your blog. My husband, who was an EMT for 20+ years, was diagnosed with PTSD a year ago. It has been a solid year of feeling the isolation due to the PTSD -family/friends either fail to understand or refuse to so they have gone their separate ways. Your blog entries bring tears to my eyes because for the first time I feel like someone understands my side of his PTSD – that is something that I never thought was going to happen. Thank you so much!

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    • Lea says:

      Thanks for your comment Jen. It is a lonely journey to have a spouse with PTSD. I felt alone with my struggles for many years, but in beginning this blog I have discovered how many people, like me, are out there walking the same journey. I wish you much strength on your road ahead.

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  6. Alexis Rose says:

    I talk to my husband and kids what it’s like to have a wife and mom with PTSD. It’s been a journey. I wrote a post a while back called The New Normal, where I talk about what it’s like for my family. I’m glad you are writing how it feels, PTSD effects the whole family, not just the person who has the diagnosis.

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    • Lea says:

      Thanks for your comment Alexis. You’re right, PTSD does affect the whole family, and it’s best for everyone for this to be acknowledged instead of being brushed under the carpet.

      Like

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