This made me think of how many other spouses there are out there, sitting behind computer screens, looking for anything and everything dealing with PTSD and more than likely, not feeling any better while not finding many answers. This was the whole purpose of my blog because yes, I used to sit where you sat desperately seeking anything related and finding disappointment. Sometimes you will venture across a blog such as mine and others, and inside say "YES! I feel that way!"...but then you must log off the screen, and that leaves you wishing you had someone to talk to.
Once your husband has a diagnosis, or even if you suspect the symptoms, the first natural instinct is to seek out online the definitions/symptoms. You google, you ask jeeves, Hit Wikipedia, and many others only to find the same old textbook statements that are simply broken down and rehashed on other sites. I can tell you, it doesn't help much. I am college educated, smart, and well read.....I still didn't understand half of it.
I can say a good knowledge of PTSD is helpful because at least you can separate issues going on with your relationship and see that 95% of it is related to PTSD. The rest somehow correlates with PTSD being the main branch. Knowledge is one of the best things that God ever gave us, so yes use your brains and educate yourselves. Attending some of the PTSD classes by the VA was somewhat helpful but still had some downfalls as some programs are. That's a given. It's a shame they don't offer individual counseling for spouses.
Living with my husband for the past three years, has really taken a toll on me emotionally and physically. I have educated myself in subjects still considered to be taboo by many military installations and members of. It's one of the hardest battles in my opinion, to ever go before because you never know where the enemy is going to attack. You finally figure it out, and BAM! It's coming from a totally different side. I have gone through death of family members, and I can deal because you have the whole "they are in a better place" or "they are much better off because they were so sick"....I can deal with the economy, and being broke all the time or really budgeting our money because hey, what else can you do right?
PTSD/TBI I struggle with because it hits you below the belt and man does that sucker-punch hurt! By the time you have a game plan, things suddenly take a 360 and you are left once again out in the open with no defenses. Then here you are, standing alone with no one to hear your emotions, feelings, and needs, trying to debate whether to wave the "Retreat" flag or get the hell out of dodge! The best thing that I have found is finding others who are suffering. Yes, maybe we as spouses are still living day to day wide open for attacks, but at least we have someone to talk to who knows how it is to be on the attack end of PTSD every day of our lives.
If I had to give one advice, TALK about it. We are not victims of abuse where we feel the need to stay indoors, wear long sleeves, and cover our bruises. Why should we? As a spouse, the most needful thing I yearned for was just knowing that there are others out there who feel like I do. I needed a place to vent, a opening to say "My Spouse has Combat PTSD and this is how it is affecting me and my family". We have commercials for Viagra with Smiling Bob because "Now bob is the life of the party"...we have commercials for Bipolar, Depression, Postpartum Depression, Fibromyalgia, diahhrea, weight and hair loss, and everything in between. I have yet to see anyone on the tube talk about PTSD or TBI. I found and interesting article but a little outdated. I can imagine the numbers are higher now five years later, but eye opening.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
-- According to a 2005 VA study of 168,528 Iraqi veterans, 20 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 with PTSD.
-- In an earlier VA study this year, almost 12,500 of nearly 245,000 veterans visited VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms of PTSD.
-- The Marines and Army were nearly four times more likely to report PTSD than Navy or Air Force because of their greater exposure to combat situations.
-- Enlisted men were twice as likely as officers to report PTSD.
-- 8 percent to 10 percent of active-duty women and retired military women who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD.
-- Studies show that U.S. women serving in Iraq suffer from more pronounced and debilitating forms of PTSD than their male counterparts.
-- A Defense Department study of combat troops returning from Iraq found 1 in 6 soldiers and Marines acknowledged symptoms of severe depression and PTSD, and 6 in 10 of these same veterans were unlikely to seek help out of fear their commanders and fellow troops would treat them differently.
Wow huh? Now this is five years ago! I can only imagine the percentages have increased. The most important part I think left out of these type of articles is about the families who become the primary caretaker of the Veteran. The VA does not offer individual counseling like they do for veterans, so often we go overlooked and set aside. We NEED to be heard as our spouses came home and no longer acknowledged our feelings, our emotions, and often, we become the target for everything that goes wrong with the Vet. Crap rolls down hill, and we are often the stopper at the bottom of the hill. It's rough.
I think the more we get out there and talk about it...the more our voices can't be ignored. We are the ones who deal with the Vet full-time trying to balance and juggle not only our family but all the issues from PTSD/TBI. I really wish there were "PTSD Spouse" groups available than there are. I have been to the ones at our VA, and once a month is not helping me. What I would not give to have a group of ladies, go to lunch, have a drink and lay into it. I think that just by relieving myself of so much pressure would benefit me. One of the hardest things I have faced so far is just finding other spouses willing to talk about it. Here, I can't find any. Most responses I have gotten are out of state spouses. I am hoping though that my words, will inspire them to say "You know what, I am going to form a group here in my area".....I often wondered what would happen if I put an ad in the paper with "Desperately seeking Combat PTSD Vet Spouses"?
More importantly.....I wish my husband would acknowledge me. Listen to me and just try to give a shit that I am going through all this. He complains all the time, and God knows what he is going through...but I offer to listen anytime he wants to talk. I offer help anyway I can...only to get shut down when it's my turn. I can handle a lot of things, but I think that portion of it is what rips me apart. The wound never has a time to heal because every day it just gets torn open again. I have gotten past the "he's never going to be the same ever" but haven't quite grasped the concept of "HOLY HELL...is this going to be the rest of my life?"
Any spouses reading this, please feel free to comment. I know you are reading, and there is no shame in commenting. Hell, you could just say "yes, yes and yes" and maybe feel a little better yourselves, if not for just a little while. For all of us, keep your chins up....you are not alone.
Until Another Time,
Uncle Sam's Mistress