After the many emails over the weekend, I was somewhat surprised at the questions you ladies asked! I want to remind you I don't have all the answers nor do I pretend to know them. I am not a PTSD expert/doctor and can only answer based on what I have experienced with my combat veteran. I will attempt to answer these the best way I can and hope that it helps you or steers you in the right direction. Many thanks to each of you who gave me permission to use your question so others may see it......Here we go!
How do you deal with your vet? Is it ok for me to not want to stay with my husband? He has gotten so bad that I can't deal with him anymore. He was diagnosed with PTSD but he won't get help, it's been four years! I don't know what to do anymore and there are days where I really just hate him.
First off, I understand how you feel. I really really do. Is it o.k. for you to hate the man you love? YES! There are going to be days where each of us in a relationship are not going to get along. What you are feeling is completely normal and I can tell you there are days where I really just want to take a cast iron skillet to my husband's head! You can love some one to the depths of your very soul and still not like them some days. This doesn't necessarily mean Veteran's with PTSD/TBI and their spouses, it can be anyone including family members. Does this make you less of a person? NO! I get very angry most days, I am hurt, I feel betrayed, and some days I want to smack him upside the head and tell him to just get over it! He is home now, leave all this crap in the past! However, we must remember that PTSD/TBI is not something that just goes away and not something our Veterans caused to get this.
Educate yourself on the subjects, look into options for both you and your husband and learn together. Spouses of Combat PTSD Vets don't deal, we COPE. Most of us are on medications ourselves, others find things to get involved in, and others just take it from day to day bracing for the worst and hoping for the best. I found that by reading and researching PTSD and TBI is how I cope along with blogging about it.
I can't answer your question on leaving your husband but I can empathize with you. My husband and I separated the second year he was home for a while. If you feel leaving is the best thing for you, then you must do what you have to do. Do consider what is best for you both of you as well. See if you can find a counselor or therapist for yourself in the process. Sometimes talking to someone about the problems you are facing can be a huge help. We can all let loose a "hear me roar-I am woman" scream and be falling apart at the seams on the inside. Open up to your soldier and let him know you are there for him but both of you need help. Sometimes holding their hand and standing beside them can make huge changes. Remember that he is suffering just as much as you are. What you are seeing is our "pod" person, and somewhere deep down inside is your husband struggling to get to the surface. He is hurting right along side of you and probably angry at you as well. You both must decide whether you can make it through all this.
Do you read any books that these doctor's suggest and if so, have they helped you any? I don't want to waste my money or time.
Honey, I have read anything and everything I could get my hands on! I like to think of myself as a PTSD/TBI aficionado. I have researched and read online, in books, taken classes at the VA as well as done the "home class" with DVDs the VA has had to offer. I can recommend some of the books which I found helpful and were suggested to me. Now mind you these aren't jumping with excitement or lead you down some road of mystery, but helpful nonetheless.
An Operator’s Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping by Ashley Hart II **Still working on this one**
After the War Zone: A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and Their Families by Matthew J. Frie Ph.D.
Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families by Keith Armstrong
Down Range: To Iraq and Back by Bridget C. Cantrell, Ph.D., and Chuck Dean
Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops by Ilona Meagher
Tears of a Warrior: A Family’s Story of Combat and Living with PTSD by Janet and Anthony Seahorn ***this one I found the most helpful and most interesting. You can also check with your local Vet Center in your area because most of them give these away for free which is how I got it. ****
War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Edward Tick
I have read each of these except the first one which I am still reading, and portions of it were helpful as each author has a different perspective. If you can make it through the dullness of some of them, they are helpful in some areas or they were for me at least. The biggest help I ever found though was reading other people's blogs especially ones that are written by Veterans. A doctor can spout off anything they want to about what they think and what they have read, but no one knows better than a Veteran with PTSD! Sites such as this one.
This particular Veteran has PTSD and TBI, and I feel his posts help me look inside to see what goes on in their heads. His recent post of "Realities of Coming Home" really made me think. Check out PASP who is another fellow Veteran who has literally been there and done that on a wide range of issues and hardships. Check out milblog where there is an array of blogs from Soldiers and Veterans. Reading spouse blogs also help me validate the emotional turmoil I go through and makes me feel like I am not alone. PTSD: A Caregiver's Perspective is another one I find interesting because she really can let loose some steam and feelings, but also provides a different point of view than I have. It's somewhat comforting to know that another spouse out there is going through hell with me. These I found more helpful to understanding my soldier and myself than any of these books that I read, but now that's just me!
I read your blog about the sex problems and was shocked you wrote about it for the public! I have to say thank you because no one wants to talk about this stuff and I knew others have to be having problems like me. We are having some difficulty in the bedroom and I don't know what to do about it. I think it's his meds too that are causing this. What are you guys doing to help with this? Something's gotta give!
This was the fifth email this weekend in regards to sex. It must have been a lousy holiday weekend for all of us with this many emails in regards to sex! I took the third email which pretty summarized all of the emails so as to answer all of you.
Yes I was shocked to discover my willingness to discuss my lack of bedroom fun for the world to see but I set out to be honest and talk about real issues in my home and with my Veteran. I once read that “Sex is more than an act of pleasure, its' the ability to be able to feel so close to a person, so connected, so comfortable that it's almost breathtaking to the point you feel you can’t take it. And at this moment you're a part of them.” I also read that sex is like air, it's not important unless you aren't getting any! Ain't that the truth! I miss the closeness more than anything. Sex is just sex if you don't love someone. Loving someone puts the emotions into motions.
Our issues in the bedroom have been like this since my husband came home from Iraq. I think it's the emotional numbness the Veteran feels and the lack of closeness that also plays a part in the frolicking department. It's also the medicinal cocktail that our Veterans are taking that is knocking down the stamina. I didn't say anything to my husband for a long time due to the fact I was a little embarrassed to admit to him that I was concerned. After many nights of shaved legs and lingerie, only to go to sleep with a book....I finally had enough. I gently discussed it with my husband and made sure that I did not damage his male ego. I was surprised to discover after having such an open discussion with him, that he knew we were having problems just thought I was not bothered by it! Umm Hello!!!!
After looking up his medicine he is prescribed, it was no wonder that the downstairs department was on vacation! The issue I had was getting him to admit to his male doctor he was having performance problems. I assured him that doctors usually have heard and seen all. I offered to go with him for support and he took me up on the offer! Now his psychiatrist didn't want me in there, but his primary care was willing to talk to me. I talked to his doctor and just told him that I knew not having sex wasn't going to kill us, but it sure as hell made things a little more exciting! The doctor was very receptive and told us that unless the Veteran tells them they are having problems, they aren't mind readers! We are currently in the process from two weeks ago of changing anti-depressants around to see if this helps bring "up" the situation to a positive one.
I also try to do "date nights" after the kids go to bed, or when they are at Nana's. Sometimes as a woman, you are going to have to stimulate and give them a reason to get excited. Just because they have PTSD doesn't mean they are dead! Sometimes the work falls solely on me and I am good with that! Counseling can help too as in marriage counseling. You may not be on the verge of separating or the "big D" but just talking about issues can relieve the stress and tension at home. I found that just being able to listen to my husband talk helped me tremendously and he remarked that just knowing what I go through and how much I love him to stick with him; made him feel better. Feeling better can often lead to feeling really really good. His doctor also suggested taking the fun outside the bedroom. Although most Vets have problems with public outings or crowds, doesn't mean you can't find a secluded spot to do a little snuggling! Wasn't too long ago I am certain that cars, and necking in the woods was a reality! Now I don't mean rush out and get arrested for public nudity and whatever else, but keeping it exciting can be a helpful thing. Word of caution I can give you is remember the phrase of "Poison Ivy, Leaves of three let them be!". Hahaha!
Adrenaline rush for them is something they miss as they experienced the jolt of it constantly in the war zone and if you can find some way to charge that need, you will see fireworks! I can't give you a lot of answers on this subject as we are still currently working on it. This is what so far, I have found that helps us.
Why won't my husband talk to me about what happened over there? I want to understand him and help him, but he is shut up like a clam. I am really pissed that he won't tell me nothing!
Ok...First off, you don't NEED to know! Understanding your Vet and the PTSD has absolutely nothing to do with what happened over there or what he/she endured. If they want to talk to you, then they will in their own time. In going on four years, I might get a glimpse into what happened or what my husband did in small little pieces once every six months! Curiosity is a normal process for any of us, but remember that curiosity killed the cat. What I do know, I wish I didn't. It has forever changed my view of my husband regardless of my love and respect for him. It's a normal reaction I think, but I feel guilty that I feel that way. Most times the Vet doesn't want to talk about it simply because it's reliving the horror of it. Other times, it's because they don't want to be judged and others just don't feel like its something they want to share with you.
I look it at this way....if you once upon a time had a boyfriend/girlfriend that you did something with but didn't tell your spouse and never will...it's pretty much the same thing. Because if your spouse came up to you and said I slept with 300 women in my day and relived all his personal memories and sexual encounters, would you not be changed by that? Of course you would! There probably isn't a week that has gone by that the stuff my husband told me hasn't entered my mind. Soldiers have enough going on in their minds without having to deal with "what if my spouse doesn't love me after this?".
Pushing your soldier to relive things he is trying to suppress is only going to make it worse for them. Try to focus your understanding on other things rather than what made him/her that way. If they decide to tell you, listen wholeheartedly and without judgment. If they don't, don't take it personal and don't get pissed! Focus on coping skills and learn about PTSD, concentrate on your relationship and the future. Dwelling on the past or what went on in a war zone, isn't going to help your relationship or you. Remember that some mysteries are better left unsolved!!
Ok, I think that was all of the emails I could put on here. The others I will answer individually. Again, I want to reiterate that I am no way a professional or claim to be. The answers I gave you are solely based on my experience and everyone is different! I want to answer you because I don't want you to feel alone as I did for some many years. Each of you will find ways to cope and each will have your own success stories!
Uncle Sam's Mistress