Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When PTSD Turns Physical

So I have been putting this topic off for a while now....mostly because I wasn't sure how to address the questions or the stories shared with me, and because I know what you are going through. Inwardly, I think I have been avoiding this topic because it hit so close to home and I am trying to forget.  I have had approximately 57 emails in regards to physical violence within a PTSD/TBI homes, and it saddens me to see so many of you are crying out for help. Saddening me further, is the knowledge that many of you who visit the site or don't say anything, probably will never reveal that domestic violence is an issue with your Veterans if its going on. For those that wrote me, I won't be sharing your emails as promised but wanted to make sure you understood my appreciation for trusting me with such stories of your lives. I know it was hard to write some of the things you did, perhaps embarrassing to see it on the screen in front of you, and more so admitting that these issues were indeed real.

I have been following PTSD material, information etc for a while now and was quite surprised to learn that domestic violence, emotional abuse and verbal abuse was a common factor in most homes. I haven't been able to find a straight forward PTSD/Domestic Violence statistics online in regards to the past few years, and the ones I have, are all older than 1995-1997. Makes me wonder what happened to the people who were looking for these correlations between Combat PTSD and domestic abuse? Did everyone just stop caring?

One of you wrote that "everyone says just leave-if I do, he will go nuts or something and kill himself. Do you understand how I feel knowing I can't go because of this and the constant back and forth?" Yes Ma'am I do. I have only had a few serious issues with my husband in the four years he has been home and us as a family dealing with PTSD. My husband constantly talks about suicide and the fact he wished he never came home which he thinks would have solved all our problems and he would not have to hate himself so much. It's not a statement he uses to hold something over my head, could be just generic conversations from "how did your psychiatrist appointment go?" to "you need to go get a haircut". His angry outbursts could suddenly with a blink of an eye turn very scary with him picking up tables, chairs, hitting walls, breaking things, and often would push me around. Grabbing me by the arms or wrists would leave bruises for a week or longer. I kept thinking to myself, if it gets worse...I will have to leave him. Just when I think I am ready to walk out the door and just give up.....the thought occurs to me "if I leave, my husband will simply become another statistic on some blank page that no one cares about". It blows over, he switches back to his semi-normal PTSD self and acts as if nothing ever happened. In the mean time, I am cowering on the inside and permanently waiting for the fists to fly. There isn't an apology because he doesn't realize he does it. If he does snap out of it, then its like he is humiliated and doesn't want to even look at me.

I don't want to admit that my husband has pushed me, hit me, or cornered me in the kitchen and yelled and screamed in my face until he was red, shaking and spitting on me from the anger. I never had to deal with this growing up, never had this happen in our relationship ever, and so for the most part, I feel confused. Where do you draw the lines between "not being able to control their emotions or behaviors" and "they don't know what they are doing as they often black out"? I do know that being a verbal and physical punching bag is not ok. I know that I should walk out and never think twice because my safety and my children's safety is priority. So why do we stay? It's the same question many of you asked me that echoes in my head all the time.

I often would hear of a friend of a friend who was hit by her husband....personally before the battle came home, I would be like "what the hell is she staying there for? All you would see is ass and elbows out the damn door!" After enduring so much the past four years? That perspective has changed drastically. I don't know whether its the counseling or doctors telling me "eh they all do that-just avoid the triggers, walk away when they begin boiling over and know that often times they don't realize they do it" that is keeping me here because I am permanently scarred for life with bad medical advice? Or is it because that small glimpses of our husbands the way they used to be keeps us hanging on to such a thin life line desperately?

I do know this...a few weeks back my husband suddenly turned into a monster I have never seen before. It was over something silly and stupid....he really really hurt me. Physically I was hurt, but emotionally I was absolutely devastated he could ever do that. I kept questioning myself....was it my fault? Could I have prevented the situation somehow? What did I do? Never once during that 24 hour time frame after the incident did I ever stop to think it was all him. It wasn't was nothing I could have done to prevent it. When he looked at me, it wasn't him. It was like this dark, evil, shadowy thing had taken him over. I had never seen this side of him and that part scared me to death.

Talking to other spouses, I knew that this was not acceptable. It just leaves you in this stupor and asking "what in the hell just happened?". I know it's very easy to say, "get out-run and never look back". It's easier for family members to turn a blind eye when it comes to needing help, and even more so for people to lay all this advice on you when they haven't been in your shoes. I won't give you that spiel of "call the 1-800 domestic abuse hotline-they can help you" because many of you told me you had the numbers. I will say this....protect yourselves first. I forgave but I haven't forgotten. I learned a lesson and now am more cautious and definitely more aware of his anger. If you can't stop to think of anyone else but him, look at all the murder-suicides happening all over the United States. Our Veterans didn't learn to half ass do anything especially in combat, so when their anger gets to that point...they can be seriously a danger to you, your children and to themselves. After that incident a few weeks ago, my perspective has totally changed about my husband and what goes on behind closed doors of PTSD homes. Not everyone is going through this, but there are many.

Do make sure you protect yourselves.....have a flight plan in case you must leave. Make a private account and slip a little money in there. I myself have started this and although it kills me to take just a little and move it because we are on a very tight budget....I know that something may happen and I will need that to get the hell out of Dodge! I had a friend offer a place to stay, I have 911 programmed in my phone. I make sure I have a phone charger in my car, and my battery is always charged on my cell. The car has a spare key I hid, the gas tank I fill up constantly so it's never past 3/4 of a tank.

I don't have all the answers to give you...I am not a professional and don't try to be. All I can give you in return is my story, validate your feelings of not wanting to leave or give up, and tell you what I would do or my plans if this happens again. I read on a domestic violence website that if you question whether you are or aren't in an abusive relationship, then you are in one. How does one tell between abusiveness and PTSD? So much isn't our Veteran's faults, and some of it is. It's like a constant mental tug of war for spouses like us who are in these situations. I totally understand where many of you are coming from.

 Check out I quite often visited her site at the very beginning because she was really all we had for spouses to go to for some answers. She has a section on PTSD and Domestic Violence. I also came across this article.

I saw this episode on Oprah with this author on it. How funny that at the time, I thought to myself THANK GOD this hasn't happened to us. I hope this makes you all feel somewhat better that I do know how you feel and I have walked in those shoes before....all I can say is, sometimes you just have to get out. There is only so much love, so much support you can give our combat PTSD Veteran's, and still not be enough for it to keep them inflicting their anger upon their closest ally. Don't stop yourself because of what he might do to himself, you have to think of yourself foremost. Counseling and inpatient programs have helped some of the anger physical outbursts here, but I just never know....and we never know when the battle will escalate to the point where someone is seriously injured or dies. That is the first thought that needs to be in our heads......

I receive emails sometimes from Combat PTSD Veterans themselves, which gives me a chance to see the other side of it. One Veteran told me that he doesn't know what happens to him, and that he never could figure out how the anger and rage would come and go without him even realizing it. He told me that Eminem's and Rhianna's song Love the Way You Lie best portrayed how he felt most of the time. He has given me permission to copy his email and place here without his name:
" I hear the song Eminem sings with that chick and I swear it's my life USM. I love my wife, and I don't know how I can be this way and not know it. The part where he says "Cause when its going good/ its going great/ I'm Superman with the wind in his bag/she's Louis Lane/But when its bad it's awful I feel so ashamed/I snap/Who's that dude/I don't even know his name/I laid hands on her/I'll never stoop so low again/I guess I don't know my own strength." It's not that I intentionally set out to be some ass it just happens. I get lost and I remember nothing. It's like I am asleep and then get woke up. She thinks I am crazy. I just wanted you to know I read your blog and try to gain some ideas of what I am putting her through. She left me but I am trying to fix myself so I can get her back-she is all that mattered to me but my PTSD is smothering everything and everyone in my life. I am too much of a p&s*y to kill myself but I see some of our brothers do it and I totally get why. You say you live in hell. I get that. I cant imagine what we do to our families. I just want you to know we are proof that hell exists in our world and no matter what we do, Iraq will always be there haunting us for the rest of our lives pulling us under. I wish I could just make it go away"

Wow huh? I wanted to include that because I am trying to be fair to the Veteran's as well since so many are reading my blog. On the other hand, for you Veterans out there....we have to protect ourselves first. We may love you to the ends of the world, but if you hurt us.....we often can't protect ourselves from you. If any of your hell is close to that, then surely you can understand why we have to find our ways out.

If anyone else would like to comment, share a story or advice...please feel free. I may have a big mouth, but never all the answers. Sometimes in subjects like this, it hits so close to home that I just don't have the right words or know what to say.....

Hurting Inside for All of Us,


  1. That email excerpt is heart wrenching. I can't imagine being in either position- spouse or veteran. Thank you for the honesty, from both of you.

  2. tore me to pieces. I have never really paid much attention to that song, just background noise on our local radio show. Now takes on a whole new meaning. I felt it was important to share because I didn't want to not show the Veteran's side of it, or seem like I was playing Devil's advocate either. It's rough...on both sides. Is there really ever a right answer to all of this?

  3. I firmly support your resolution to not jeopardize yourself to harm. It is above and beyond insanity. And if a man is bent on self destruction, I would always prefer he went down that road solo. God's peace, safety and love for you and your family are in my prayers and contemplations.

  4. My husband recently entered a program for PTSD in California called The Pathway Home. It is essentially our last hope for his treatment and safety for all of us. He has not really been physically abusive but has severe dissociations which are different than flashbacks and have become very dangerous. He has absolutely no memory of them when he snaps out of them. The other day on the phone, we were talking and he was telling me his frustration that they have not set him up for a driving simulator yet. I had mentioned to one of the administrators that might be a good thing for him since he has not been allowed to drive due to his dissociations. He really wants his license back. He was getting pretty pissy that they hadn't set that up yet even though he had only been there 2 weeks. The program has never done that for anyone so they will have to even see if it is a possibility. I know that not driving is very difficult for him and his independence. However, if that is all we lose in all of this really that is very minor. Safety has to be our top priority and closely following that is peace and happiness. I think it is important for us all to set goals and prioritize them. For us, driving is a bonus but isn't going to help keep us safe or provide peace and happiness. My husband and I had an honest talk about all of this and he did see my point and I think it helped him refocus on what is truly important. Safety is something that most people take for granted but when that most basic need is in jeopardy it has to come first. Thanks so much for sharing this post. I know how difficult some of this to write about and share for the world to see. You are very courageous and I am regularly inspired by you!

  5. I dont know I do it. I know u dont believe me but I dont want u scared of me ever again. If I get this way, RUN baby. I dont want to lose u because u are my only light in my dark. I dont tell u often but am so proud of u and hope that r story help others.Even if i get mad cause u wrote some deep shit about us, u keep going. I dont wnat to be this way. I hate me and who I am. Should u need to go I cant blame no one else but me. Dont stay because u think i would hurt myself. U r the reason I fight ptsd but if i cant protect u, even from myself then you must save yourself. I love u sweethart~

  6. I thought you stopped reading my blog! I can't deal with this right now. I love you too and you should know that. There will never be another person who loves you more than I do. I just can't love you and be scared too. I am sorry I write some personal stuff, but it must be done and both of us know...there is nothing else for us. I want those who shunned us to see what its like, I want those who closed doors to have to open them again. I can't keep us both afloat as I am drowning too honey. I know sometimes you just get so overloaded and boil over, but I can't be the catcher all for everything. I try to find a way to help us both, and we can't seem to find a break. However, I have to draw a line somewhere...especially where our boys are concerned. I hope you understand that.

  7. I wrote a blog post about this very topic tonight. Mine's a bit long, and it's a bit of a different perspective. Hopefully you will find value in it. If not, I'm sorry I wasted your time. I sincerely pray that the separation for your family is not permanent.

  8. Thanks Gina for sharing your story.I sincerely hope your husband gets the help he needs there. I wish you and your family all the best. I swear that being married to PTSD/TBI is like a vicious cycle of limitations, validations, and not knowing what is next. I don't know how we do it all the time!

    Marine Wife Unplugged, I will most definitely check your post out. It's been kind of nuts here. My husband and I are not currently separated, we just haven't spoken about an incident. He used to read my blog all the time, so was surprised that he posted. However, this is not the place we need to talk about it. LOL We have separated on many occasions for this and other reasons. I am still trying to find my place at where I need to be, my limitations and all while on my own. Thanks for commenting.....

  9. I too have a husband suffering from PTSD. He returned from Iraq this past December a stranger to me. I don't feel the Army is helping us and I don't know what to do. They have us in Hawaii now so even if I wanted to leave I couldn't afford the flight home for me and my three boys. I love him so much but I can't stand the pain and ridicule anymore. I feel trapped and alone. I'm running out of hope....

  10. Jecka, I'm so sorry honey. I really am...I honestly would not wish this life on even my worst enemy. Its hard for you guys because you are probably far from home and the cost of flying. Please join us at the Wounded Warrior Wives. It can provide at least support for you and PTSD is a wound. There are quite a few of us in this and you will be able to have a place to go and talk freely. The link is: You will need to register with WWW, and then register for the OH forums. Once you get that, you will need to pm one of the moderators for permission to get in the forum just for us. It's done that way so we can speak freely and without other lurkers. It really has helped me and although I am stateside, I have no family, friends, nothing.....I know you feel. Take some time to think about it, most definitely make you a secret fund even if just 20.00 a week or pay period. I have quite a few Active wives over there if you need a battle buddy. They have been emailing me and want to help someone like us. At least you can have an ear to listen and a place to go if you need it. These are women I trust and know that mums the word. They truly want to help, they just don't know how and several want to be the shoulder to cry on and be supported. We all need battle buddies too you know! My email is always open too....never feel like you can't use it. Sending you big hugs your way, and know you aren't alone at all. There are many echoing the same sentiments around the world......come be a part of our group, I promise it will make you feel better.

  11. Thank you for posting such a sensitive topic and sharing your personal struggles.

    I hope this gives the strength to other women and men to come forward and get help.

    Hugs for you!



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