Friday, September 10, 2010

The Families Behind the PTSD Curtain

A dear friend of mine wrote on her Army Wife blog, Married to the Army, about PTSD and the families that live with it. Her blog made me think about a few things and how the families behind the PTSD curtain aren't really mentioned that much in or out of the military communities. Is it our fault as family members for not speaking about our issues within our PTSD/TBI home? Or is it others like the Military, the negative stories on the five o'clock news, or the lack of support that shuts us up?

I can say that prior to my setting up a blog...I didn't say anything. There were quite a few that didn't even know my husband had problems. The ones that did, didn't say anything to us about it although talking about problems never was a problem before. I guess I felt more ashamed and alone when dealing with the problems and issues, never having a support system in place or acknowledgment from any military or VA personnel that I was indeed living in hell. When I did speak up at a counseling/therapy group, the other wives (all Vietnam Veteran Wives) belittled me and made it seem like I was going through none the worse than they did. Yes, I think there is a definite generational gap between spouses of wars, but didn't we all hurt the same? Don't we all experience the same type of hell and lack of support? Did we not lose our husbands to this unseen wound that consumes our soldiers to the point we don't know who they are? I think so.

It's very easy for older Veteran wives to tsk tsk our generation of spouses, because they have already been there and done that. It's like they forgot how hard it was at first to cope, and find a way to raise a family with a spouse with these types of problems. They made it through 25 years of hell, so therefore our problems that are just now occurring in a lesser time span, is no worse than what they have already been through. Perhaps I am just one of those that thinks that all war is the same, no matter how old, no matter how many years in between or how many years you were still hurts the same way and we all suffer.

When my husband and I started marriage counseling, it wasn't bad....for him. When my turn came around and I started was "let's not flood him with all the negative things" or " let's not worry about what he is doing, let's worry about getting him the help he needs". Uhhhh, isn't that why we are here? When you have issues that are slowly breaking up a marriage, aren't you supposed to talk about that and fix whatever? Why is it when, as a spouse, I bring up my side of the story, automatically the blame shifts to me and I am not heard? What is the point of "couples counseling" if there are not two involved? I sat for hours listening to her ask my husband the same questions over and over again, and not feeling like I had a say in it whatsoever. When she asked me why I didn't have anything to say on our 15th meeting, I simply told her " you kept shutting me up. What I had to say was not important enough for you". 

I sometimes get aggravated with society because in cases like ours as PTSD/TBI families, if our soldiers aren't missing limbs, horribly disfigured, or in a wheelchair....the look on their faces when you state PTSD and TBI are like Whhhhaaaat? I remember one time at the VA when a young clerk asked my husband what was wrong with him. My husband stated "I have severe PTSD and TBI". The clerk responded "so you are just mental". Wow. Really? I can only imagine how hard it is for our soldiers who suffer from invisible wounds to prove that they are indeed injured. Why should they even have to? The news story about the military who do have TBI, having issues of getting awarded their purple hearts shows how hard it is. While our military members suffer, trying to constantly not only battle outside and the government...they are also battling themselves in the process.

In the background, there are the families who stand behind them. We battle not only the disaster our families have become, but battling someone we no longer know. We sometimes battle addictions, physical and verbal abuse, suicidal threats, severe paranoia, and much more....Some days I feel like society has really shunned us to the back darkest corner. Like we are lepers being quarantined to a separate place as if PTSD is infectious. Other days, I wonder if the shame of what goes on behind our closed doors keeps us from talking more openly about what we are enduring. I know I shouldn't be ashamed because, hell it's not like our Vets are just lazy, alcoholic wife beaters and we the wife who just wears long sleeves to cover up. They can't help the angry outbursts, the lack of emotions or control some of themselves. They can't help what they have come home as and I firmly believe they don't fully comprehend what it does to their marriages or family.

When I began my blogging, I really thought no one would ever read it. Maybe I would get a comment from a spambot or two advertising free male enhancement products and how to increase my website traffic. It has definitely been an eye opener for me because not only do I have some participation on the blog, but the amount of emails I am receiving. I don't understand, even listing as "anonymous" why spouses feel like they have to hide behind the safety of an email? A few of them don't want other people seeing...I get that. But why? I know some have stated "I am ashamed to say in public my husband has a porn addiction, gambling problems, or is drinking himself to death"....why? Although we aren't all experiencing the same things, we know how it is. We have all been through the same hurt, the same losses, and trying to gain our footage in this rocky life of ours.

I wonder if all of us, who are spouses of PTSD and TBI, all came forward and spoke about what really goes on in our homes. What it's really like to live with our Combat PTSD Veterans? What we have lost, learned and dealt with? I wonder if the VA would increase our Vet's disability rating to what they are supposed to get, if the whole story was acknowledged? I wonder if some of these higher ups in the military would sing a different tune if they had to be forced to listen to us because we wouldn't shut up? Why does it take a soldier or Veteran to go in and shoot a place up, in order for PTSD to come to light on national news? If a soldier goes home and for unknown reasons, kills his family and then himself, then why does all of a sudden everyone scramble to make themselves look good? When they know damn well that everything will go right back to the way it is when the news channels find some other noteworthy story.

What's a real shame is when we have all these spouses on a military post who can't come together because they are afraid of their husband's getting booted out of the military. So many emails I have gotten in response to my statement of start a support group if there isn't one, stating that they can't because the military would kick their husband's out if they found out. You would think how much negativity about PTSD we see in the news, the military would already have one in place and be supportive. To me, it would make them look better that they are trying to put in support systems to prevent such incidents like suicides and the Ft. Hood tragedy.

I am pretty vocal about PTSD and the families who are behind it. I am not afraid to say My husband has PTSD and TBI. So what are you doing to for me? Not in the sense that I want attention, or use it as a conversational piece. It's "you broke him, now fix it!" statement. However, there are so many of us who would not admit that to anyone. Not even their families. I guess this blog isn't really making any sense right now...I guess what I am saying is, why do we feel the need to be quiet? If we all shut up and never speak....will this help in the long run or only hurt us more?  Is being married to a Combat PTSD/TBI Veteran give us a reason to keep our mouths shut and shy away from the world? Or are we shut up by so many obstacles the world places on us?

Just me and my big mouth,


  1. As difficult as it is to think about PTSD and TBI - it is a reality that you, and several other wives/family members expereience every day. My husband is currently deployed. I have no idea what's in store for us when he returns. Without your voice and others, willing to stand up and keep telling your stories - I would be blind-sided with changes that may occur. Thank you!

  2. Thanks Renee...I sincerely hope that you never will have to worry about any of this. I really really do. I think I pray every night for all our military and say "please more". I am sending my wishes for a speedy deployment for your husband and you~

  3. I can only imagine your difficulty as a wife of a wounded soldier, I am the mother of a severely injured soldier and yet we are 4 years out from injury and just now dealing with PTSD/TBI. And while everyone asks our seriously physically wounded about their PTSD/TBi, we have seen how those without physical wounds are treated. My heart goes out to you. I know as I fight for treatment for my son now, it is way more difficult than I thought it would be. The lack of programs and information for severe PTSD/TBI is completely unacceptable. And unfortunately what I am finding is our soldiers ability to hide their mental injuries is amazing.
    My son is finally going to seek treatment, but after being hospitalized for so long, he does not want a hospital environment to deal with this injury, so finding a non-hospital setting that will allow him full and complete treatment has been a nightmare.....and then he has to be accepted into the programs.....OMG really?
    We have to stand up and fight for our soldiers, our wounded (no matter the wounds) and our families.
    I plan to follow your blog and would feel honored if you would check out mine at

  4. Luana,Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I can only imagine how much hell you are going through! I hope in no way, have I offended you by saying that our unseen wounded soldiers were far off worse than those that have. It's just easier for the public to see them wounded than not. I can completely understand why he feels the need not to be hospitalized. Have you guys tried your local Vet Center? I know first time out, the VA will have a waiting list for PTSD/TBI but the Vet Center is usually pretty good about getting them in. Also, Gina who comments on here suggested NAMI (tab up top). I haven't used them, but you could try! I agree there isn't enough for the soldiers and more so for the caregivers. Try to find someone for yourself in the process. Gina was talking about the new caregiver bill in place. I am hoping this new bill will help all of us. Adding you to my blog and always here if you need a friendly voice!!

  5. Luana, am adding your Tempered Steel Organization to my tabs resource. I normally try to keep my tabs in reference to PTSD and TBI only, but I think your purpose would fall into those guidelines as well. You are an amazing woman and I have best wishes for you and your non-profit! Maybe by putting this here it will draw a little more traffic.

  6. USM,

    I'm here again and anonymous as usual....and yes it is fear that keeps my ID secret. My husband separated from active duty 5 years ago and during the first 4 of those, his PTSD got worse, his depression, alcoholism, anxiety, detachment disorder, all of it. He had sex with my "friends" and abused me physically and verbally. It was holy hell.

    Then finally, after 15 job rejections he got a job, in the field he wanted to be in, a field where you cannot have a PTSD diagnosis.

    And....things are improving for him. He is feeling more like a man, like his old self, he is showing some real healing for the first time in years.

    I have put my more lucrative career on hold and take care of everything so he only needs to focus on going to work, making money for his family and feeling good about doing that.

    He hasn't had a drink in a year, went to therapy for the first time and has a good handle on his anger management.
    He still triggers, but less than before.

    I'm still carrying a heavy burden, but am really trying. So, I cannot speak up or reveal who I am. I can't lose him to the black hole of despair again.

    Thank you for giving me a voice here, even if it is an anonymous one, and please keep fighting the good fight for all of us.

  7. Anonymous...not signing your name doesn't mean anything and please don't feel as if I was saying that is bad. What's bad is the fact we FEEL we can't say anything. Does that make sense? I am so sorry all this happened to you but I am so glad you are writing and commenting. Because that helps not only me, others who are going through what you are, but yourself by getting it off your chest. I hope that you DH gets better and better and hopefully not have any more serious problems as in before. Please continue to write and you know blogging may be beneficial for you if you want to do it under a pen name. I know some days I feel as if I have the world lifted off my shoulders when I write about what's going on or what I have been carrying around. Sending you many hugs, and know that I understand you...........

  8. Having been married to someone in the military for 16 yrs now, his last tour of duty in Afghanistan has taken the biggest toll on us. I had suspected he had PTSD for quite some time now but he is now dealing with TBI and PTSD. Since his return in 2008, its been an up and down rollercoaster and he is getting treatment from the VA. I agree that the biggest issue that I face is not really having any support or anyone I can talk to that can maybe understand the issues i deal with on a daily basis. All of my family is non miltary as you mention his wounds are not visible which makes it harder because they just see him as a alcoholic and start to feel "sorry" for me. I dont need anyone to feel sorry for me. I just need someone that I can talk to and that will understand what I am going through. Just as you mention in your blog, when my husband comes back from his sessions at the VA, all I hear is that they ask him "what is your spouse doing to help you reduce your stress?" "is your spouse being supportive?" And I think, what about us? Who is asking us? He has never been physically abusive which I am thankful for but he is just not emotionally there for me or our girls. That is what is hard. I have to be the one to be there for them and him and I get nothing in return.

  9. I am the wife of a combat veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD. My husband has a rotating collection of addictions. He was hooked on crack and crystal meth, he kicked that habit. Now he's addicted to alcohol and on-line poker. He has spent $4,760.50 since October 12, 2010 on on-line gaming. I have been by his side through it all and STILL I feel used up, hurt and alone. I want a better life for us, but it seems like he won't let go of the addictions in his life and he just wants me to accept it. I WILL NOT! I want a healthy, happy home. I'm tired of being the victim of his occassional rantings, emotinal meltdowns and yes, at times, his physical abuse. I want my husband. I don't want the addictions. PTSD is survivable, but the addictions are killing him. I am a veteran too but I have not see combat.Things are spiraling out of control and I am losing myself in the process. How do you find yourself again? Is that even possible?

  10. As I read this I started crying, because you described exactly how I feel. I was referred to you by Lori. My husband was injured a month and 11 days into his third deployment a week after losing his best friend and 4 other guys, (including the chaplin). We have been dealing with chronic pain, TBI and Severe PTSD. He is currently in patient off post to try and get help. Our marriage has literally been crumbling apart. When he was injured they moved us away from our home at Carson to Fort Sam, so he could receive the care he needed with us by his signed. For the first time in his 7 year military career I feel completely alone. It has been 6 months and I haven't met anyone. I have tried to open up to family and friends, but they are all so proud and think he is doing great. Meanwhile my kids and I each have a therapist, my husband is not even at home, and though I love him with all my heart he keeps mentioning divorce. I am desperately seeking advice and a support group or something, because I can't keep my mouth shut anymore if I want to save my marriage.

  11. Vi, lori did contact me and I sent you some information. If you will, please send me your email address and anything else I can find for you will direct your way. Right now, I have no way of contacting you. I did give her my number as well so if you need to talk to are more than welcome to call!! Send me your addy and definitely check out Wounded Warrior Wives. I know what you are going aren't alone. <3 Hang in there. <3

  12. My email addie can be found here on the site. Sorry, I forgot to remind you about that!! ~USM

  13. I cant believe I have actually found you! I was just telling my husband that I found this website that I have been wanting to read, hear... You took the words right out,of my mouth. When I tell my sister in law about what I go threw with my husband she does believe me. But my sister in law also tells me that when she is around my husband she would not ever think there was anything wrong with him. I told my sister in law I live with him day in day out. I see all the things that cause him to be a different person from P.T.S.D.. It's nice to know I found someone who is speaking the truth about P.T.S.D. About what really goes on inside our homes. I love my husband very much and I want to learn how to better support him but we both need help in dealing with this illness. I'm so happy I found you.

  14. You nailed it!! I've had the same thought- you broke him now fix him!


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