United States of America
My husband has chronic PTSD from his service in the Army, following two deployments to Afghanistan. He probably never should have done the second tour as his symptoms were already showing after the first one.
I didn’t really know what PTSD was back then. You don’t know until you’ve lived through it, I guess. The Army doesn’t give you a handbook about what to expect with PTSD. And after he was medically retired in January of 2011, I figured he would start to recover from the nightmares and anxiety attacks. We still had our whole life ahead of us.
I was wrong. The worst was still yet to come.
The past six years since then have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and it’s still an ongoing battle. My husband tried psychotherapy and seemingly every medication the VA and other doctors would prescribe. But most only made things worse or facilitated his substance abuse.
Substance abuse – or “self medication” – had became, and still is, another battle all on its own for my husband. So we keep him away from “medications” for now, and he will occasionally agree to psychotherapy, but does not regularly go.
I have a fairly decent support system, through my parents and my younger sister. And although I do have some friends that would be there for me if I needed them, I usually keep this personal stuff to myself, not wanting to burden them with my problems.
My husband also doesn’t like it when I talk to his family or mine about his PTSD and the issues that come from it. I can understand why but I also wish he understood that I need someone to vent to too. At one stage, I used to talk to his family about different issues, but they became more and more judgemental and less helpful so I ended up just not talking to them about any of the issues we were having. I even felt like I was being judged by them for my husband’s behavior.
The relationships he has with most of his family, including his parents, has become strained and distanced over the years. I blame PTSD. I don’t think his family understand it, although they say they are trying to. I guess I can’t blame them, because it’s very hard not to take things personally. He does have one sister and an aunt and uncle who always show him unconditional love, no matter what the issue is, and he does appreciate that. So do I.
Distance from family and friends seems to be a growing problem for us since 2011, and even I have found myself distancing myself from friends and some family unintentionally.
Over the years I have learnt that PTSD is a very serious and difficult condition to treat. I have learned that I cannot “fix” my husband’s PTSD, as much as I tried. I have also learnt that we can survive through it whilst still having a good life with our children, and a happy one at that. It just takes some extra work and accepting that things will not always be good.
I have learnt to accept my new “normal” instead of wearing myself out trying to “correct” every change or mistake. And I learnt that seeking therapy for myself is okay and nothing to feel ashamed about. I am still learning, and we still have very dark days when I feel like I know nothing about his PTSD. But I still love him tremendously.
PTSD has changed my life in so many ways. I am the one who must stay on top of everything or I feel our family would fall apart. I am trying to learn to just let things go sometimes too. My husband does help in ways that he can, when he can, and he tries his best during his good days. I thank God he still has good days and his PTSD hasn’t consumed all of him.
There have been so many traumatic events over these past six years that sometimes the simplest thing or the look on his face can send me into a panic. I am not as relaxed and happy as I once was, that’s for sure. I am trying my best to get better. I worry, now that our children are getting older, because they notice when I am crying or upset with Daddy, or wonder why Daddy is so angry.
I have begun to explain things a little bit to my seven year old, explaining what PTSD is and why it’s making Daddy act the way he does. Though sometimes it’s difficult to explain to a small child, especially when she doesn’t understand why Daddy couldn’t make it to the school function he promised to go to, and things like that. Luckily he does come to some school functions when he is feeling okay. It’s hard to get him to be around people in general.
I think some of the biggest misconceptions about PTSD are that it’s something you should just “get over”, but for most it’s not that simple. It’s also something that affects the entire family, and isn’t just about nightmares and flashbacks but a host of other symptoms and dilemmas.
If I could change anything about this journey with PTSD I would have changed the way I neglected myself all those years. You can’t get your health back once it’s gone, for the most part, and you can’t take care of anyone if you’re dead or sick. I am starting to take time out for myself now.
It’s hard not to give up and let go of or divorce a partner with PTSD. But if you’re able to still see the person inside them and how hard they are fighting to break free of their PTSD, and find the strength to stick it out with them, it’s definitely worth it. I am grateful I have been able to survive this PTSD rollercoaster with my husband, and I plan to continue to do so for the rest of our lives.
I want others to know that PTSD is a struggle and is very difficult to live with, whether it’s you or a loved one. And please don’t judge someone with PTSD. You truly cannot understand it until you have lived through it.
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