PTSD? What’s that? I had no idea until my husband’s diagnosis about four years ago. My husband was in the Canadian army when I met him. As a family, we went through two U.N. tours, each six months long, although he had done other tours before we met.
After he retired from the army, sixteen years ago, my husband’s social and occasional drinking became worse. I noticed he was beginning to change. Less patience, more drinking, and more abusive talk to me and the kids.
I did everything at home for the kids. He was their father, but I practically raised them by myself. Going to sports, shopping, taking them everywhere. Because he was usually too drunk to do anything. And I worked full time.
Then one day, we were in the car and something happened. My husband saw an army airplane and began shaking and crying. Neither he nor I knew what was going on. We let it go. It passed. But then again, he had more episodes of fear and nightmares that would go on and on.
Finally, I told him, “you need help.”
During this time, however, it was I who was going to therapy, thinking I was going crazy and trying to manage my life and save my sanity. He needed yet another crisis to wake up. While I was at work, his friend called me to tell me my husband was in the hospital. He couldn’t take it anymore. He was finally ready to get the help he needed.
It took thirteen years for him to accept help, and to begin the talking that would start the healing process. The treatment he received was great. He was taken care of by others who had gone through the same thing.
My husband first had to stop the drinking. He tried psychologists, but isn’t able to go deep enough within himself for it to work. He is unable to be by himself as he has disassociation (he loses ground with reality). All this triggered by anxiety and stress.
He feels safer when I am with him. Now, we go to couples therapy together and he sees his psychiatrist regularly for his medication. And he doesn’t drink anymore. The support we get is from the clinic we go to in my hometown.
I try explaining to people how it is, but no one really understands or relates. They can only be there for me when I don’t feel very good. I chose to quit my full-time job to be with my husband and focus on the healing of our family. I still do things for myself though, and our children are much happier that their father is back in their lives.
I have to say that I did quit once, last year. Not as a threat or punishment towards my husband, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and knew my children and I deserved a better life. I left the house, and I asked for a divorce. My husband left, but this was the wake-up call he needed. It was a hard decision but in the end it made a positive impact on us all. We were back together after three weeks of separation!
I have learnt that the PTSD is not his fault, which may be easy to think for people who don’t understand. I have also learnt that you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves. It has made me a stronger woman and a wiser one. I am more informed by asking questions, going to conferences, looking up information in books, and on the internet.
I don’t believe I would change a single thing about my journey. I would like people to know that PTSD is an illness, a mental issue that could happen to anyone. And please, if you don’t know what it’s like, DON’T give advice, just LISTEN.
I would have much more to say and many more details to share, from our sixteen year journey, but it would be far too long. Be patient, comprehensive, and give the person with PTSD some space and time.
I will support my husband the best way I can. Though I can’t say forever, because it’s just one day at a time.
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