I met my husband in the fall of 2007. He had already been to Iraq by then. I met and fell in love with the man he was. I didn’t know though, that he was a different person from the man he was before he went to Iraq. 7 years later, he was finally diagnosed with PTSD.
When he got orders for Pendleton last year, it was to get fixed. He had some physical issues that couldn’t be fixed in Okinawa, so he was sent here to go to the Wounded Warrior Battalion. Once we got to California, the tests started. I never thought he had PTSD because he was the same before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and after. I did think he had a TBI and related issues though, which was confirmed. Since the VA has gotten ahold of him though, he’s got a laundry list of things wrong with him.
PTSD is different for everyone. My husband deals with it by shutting himself off from the world. He doesn’t have anger issues, he doesn’t lash out at people, he doesn’t drink, he just avoids the world. That doesn’t bode well for me though, because I like to get out and do stuff and no one can live like that forever. Most of the time, depending on where we are going, he doesn’t go along. If we are going to a friends house for dinner, then he is fine. He knows everyone and knows what the situation will be. He functions normally in society, but he prefers to not have to interact with the general public. If I decide to take the kids to someplace like the zoo, he won’t go. There have been times where things have set him off. You can see that he is raging in his head, but then he also calms himself back down.
For the past few months, he has been going to therapy. Then he started group therapy. He was skeptical at first, but I convinced him to have an open mind and to realize that everyone’s situations were different. He is now in an 8 week outpatient therapy group. This has been the best thing for him. I was talking with the wife of another Marine in the group and she said she has seen major changes in her husband too. These guys know they are screwed up, but they might not know why. This group is teaching them why they are the way they are and teaching them how to effectively deal with it. It’s weird to think that 3 weeks in I’m seeing a difference in him, but I am. He is learning how to talk to me about what he thinks. Little things. Last week was the anniversary of one of his Marine’s death. He told me about it, so I knew to leave him alone to deal with it. Before he wouldn’t tell me then we would both get mad and frustrated with each other. I wouldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to talk/hang out/whatever and he couldn’t understand why I just wouldn’t go away! He must have some women counselors who are telling these guys that us girls tend to take stuff personally. He has talked and explained more stuff to be in the last few weeks than he has in the last few years.
PTSD gets such a bad rap. I wish people could see how these guys struggle with normal life. I wish people could see that they aren’t crazy. They aren’t psychopaths. They just experienced something that screwed them up. They were hyper alert for months, sometimes years the way units were deploying. It’s hard to just shut the alertness off. It’s hard to reintegrate yourself back into everyday life. Yes, they may be screwed up, but who wouldn’t be after the things they’ve seen and done? My husband doesn’t talk to me about Iraq because he doesn’t want me to know what happened. He doesn’t want me to think less of him for things. I’ve done my best to convince him that I wouldn’t think less of him for doing his job, but at the same time, I don’t want to know everything. He needs to talk about that kind of stuff with those who have been there and who understand. That’s not me.
My husband is a great guy. He would do anything for anybody. He is the old man of the group he is in and on more than one occasion, he has brought a Marine home. I don’t know why he brings them home, but they are always young, single guys, so I feel obligated to make them a home cooked meal. Then they just hang out and watch sports together, while the kids beg them to play board games. I’m sure he just wants to give these guys a little normality and get them away from the military for a bit. He wants to help them just as much as he needs help. I’m just so sick of seeing people (who in most cases aren’t familiar with the military) make comments about our military and PTSD. PTSD isn’t just reserved for the military. A lot of people have it from being raped, assaulted, natural disasters, you name it. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
Honestly though, it’s so nice to finally be where we are. To finally start to learn how to deal with it. It’s a huge stress reliever for both of us. I love my husband to bits, but he’s not the easiest man to live with. He is finally getting the help he needs. Without this, I honestly don’t know what would have happened to us.
This is a brief explanation of PTSD, it’s symptoms, and stress reactions.