I really don’t know how to tell a story, but I can share a bit about my journey with a spouse with PTSD. After reading a few posts from The PTSD Collective [previously Away With Her Words] that popped up on my Facebook news feed I realized that my husband has PTSD.
Up until now, even though he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist around 2004, I really didn’t believe him. You see my husband has always told stories. And that’s just a nice way of saying he lies for attention. Now I see that it was the PTSD talking.
He is a retired military veteran who served 28 years in the Canadian military. He joined at 17, in 1982, back in the days when you didn’t need a high school diploma. I met and married him in 1994. That’s a full twelve years of seeing, hearing and smelling things that I didn’t know could haunt him. He continued adding on more sights and sounds until he retired in 2010.
I remember when we were first married. I warned my mom when we went for a visit, that if you hear someone scream in the night, that it was just Glenn, he has nightmares. “Why?” she asked. “Well, because he’s seen some things in the military that haunt him,” I told her. “Really? But he hasn’t been in any war.” And I just shrugged my shoulders.
What did I know about PTSD? Nothing really, I thought it was just what some of the war vets got after going to war. You just stare into space. My husband still works, he functions, so it hasn’t affected him, I thought.
We started our family in 2001 and I became frustrated because he wouldn’t seem to help out around home. He needed a break from work. Home was where he could escape, he said. He could play video games for hours, and as the internet grew he would escape into a world he created, one without me.
I stumbled on some emails about how he just got in from fighting forest fires. What!?! He’s nowhere near the province where they were occurring. Why is he doing this?? What’s wrong with me, why does he need to lie? Even then, I had no idea how PTSD was running his life.
A formal diagnosis came shortly before he retired, but I still had no knowledge of PTSD. Don’t those people stare off into space, disconnect with reality, want to shoot people or kill themselves? I thought he must have pulled the wool over this guy’s eyes. I should know, I’ve heard a lot of lies from his mouth by now in our marriage.
Since he retired, he has crawled into his shell and hasn’t come out. He has a hard time connecting with his own kids, who are 16, 15 and 9 now. I asked him four weeks ago to hang up the new shower curtain. It’s still hanging in it’s package. I want to cry. He can spend hours upon hours on the computer but can’t take five minutes to hang a shower curtain.
Only within the last few months do I understand why – PTSD. Thank you, Lea, for writing about PTSD from your point of view or I would still be in the dark. I had no idea. There have been many times as I was reading your words that I thought, My husband is just like that, that’s what PTSD is?
Now I need to learn about PTSD, and it feels so insurmountable. I am so exhausted. But I also want to make sure it doesn’t beat us.
We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary and I am reminded that I promised to love and cherish him through sickness and health until death do us part. And that’s just what I plan to do, armed with knowledge.
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