“They’re sending me back stateside because they can’t fix me here.”
I guess that makes perfect sense when you are stationed on a little island with limited medical facilities, but why didn’t I question that further? He had recently had yet another shoulder surgery. I couldn’t even remember how many that made it. He also couldn’t pass a CFT (combat fitness test) because of physical issues with his hips. I assumed they were sending him back because of his his physical issues, so less than 60 days later, we were back in California and he was at the Wounded Warrior Battalion.
There was so much he didn’t tell me. So many holes that I simply never questioned.
I was busy trying to find a job and handle two little kids, but that’s no excuse. What was going on? What were his doctors saying? Was he even going to the doctor?
Then, I had a job and could never accompany him to appointments, but I don’t think he would have wanted me to go anyway. Much to my surprise, he was officially diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) not long after.
I still ask myself how I didn’t see it.
I beat myself up over it for a while. I live with him. How could I miss something like that? I knew very little about PTSD though. It wasn’t discussed in anything having to do with his deployment and none of my friends ever mentioned it in relationship to their husbands, so it was never talked about. How could I suspect something I knew almost nothing about? He was also diagnosed with a TBI (traumatic brain injury), but that one didn’t come as a surprise at all. I had actually been telling him for a couple years that I thought a brain injury was the reason for his severe migraines.
PTSD is a result of exposure to a single or multiple traumatic events. These can range from assault, abuse, natural disasters, and combat. Most people associate PTSD with the military and combat. There are more symptoms out there than most people realize, but the common ones include intrusive memories, dissociation or avoidance, depression, panic attacks, aggression, and addictions.
Sending our spouses to war never gets easier. In the past 13 years, countless spouses have sent their husbands and wives away with a prayer that they’ll come back. After months of worry, hand-wringing, crying, and sketchy Skype calls, the lucky ones welcome their spouses back home.
The breath we hadn’t even realized we had been holding for months was finally exhaled. They came home. They’re in one piece. We are good. Or so we think.
My husband came home and was just fine.
It wasn’t until six years later that he was diagnosed with PTSD. Apparently, he had drastically changed from the man he was before he went to Iraq. I didn’t notice many of the changes because they occurred before I met him. I honestly think he didn’t want to admit to himself that anything was wrong.
Now that I look back, I can see how he gradually got worse and closed in on himself. He started to avoid the outside world. Any kind of social occasion, even something as simple as going out to dinner, was always done with friends… friends who were veterans who would have his back if something happened. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why we could never do anything as a family, just us. Why didn’t he want to go out alone with me? All of that, on top of him closing himself off from me, really started to affect our relationship.
Once he was officially diagnosed and in the Wounded Warrior Battalion, he started counseling, met many other Marines in his situation, and gradually started to improve. It’s been over two years since then and he has come so far. I know a lot of his triggers, but there are still so many times when I’m clueless as to what set him off.
He finally started explaining the sudden bursts of rage.
Once he explains it to me, it makes perfect sense and I understand it. I understand why all his friends are veterans too. He has told me some of things about what happened in Iraq, but there is so much that he doesn’t want to tell me.
I am not going to judge him, but I understand why he doesn’t want to tell me. Instead, he has many friends he can talk to who can empathize. He has also found that helping other veterans in his situation helps him as well. He meets so many vets who are lost and simply don’t know where to turn anymore. These veterans– all our veterans– need help.
The public tends to stereotype veterans.
They see a vet and if there is any kind of anger, it’s automatically PTSD and they are therefore dangerous. But that’s not how it works. We need to educate everyone, military and civilian alike, that anyone can suffer from PTSD and everyone suffers differently.
I know a lot of vets who have turned to the bottle. They try to drown their demons in alcohol. Not everyone goes that route though. My husband has never had that issue. He exercises his demons via killing them playing video games. Everyone experiences handles PTSD differently.
June 27 has been designated as National PTSD Awareness Day, with the month of June designated for awareness as well. Raising awareness of PTSD is essential for overcoming the myths and stereotypes and eliminating its stigma. Bringing awareness in relation to veterans and combat is crucial due to the number of veterans who have it.
According to a study done by the VA, the Institute of Medicine, and the US Surgeon General, at least 20% of the 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD. It is estimated that 31% of Vietnam veterans have PTSD as well. Vietnam vets weren’t given any kind of treatment and were left to deal with it on their own. Many still have issues, while others started to see issues crop up years after leaving combat.
Many believe that the numbers for Iraq and Afghanistan are higher, as many go undiagnosed. Some refuse to seek treatment, while others are unaware they have it. You may wonder how that’s possible, but my husband went almost seven years before being properly diagnosed. He never thought he had it either.
If you believe a loved one is silently suffering, talk to them.
If that doesn’t work or you aren’t sure how to approach it, talk to someone they trust who can have that conversation for you. I believe if I would have approached my husband, he would have blown me off. The same conversation coming from a friend and fellow Marine, would have been received in an entirely different way.
I know far too many who have lost their battle with PTSD. It shouldn’t be this way. These men and women made it home from war. The war shouldn’t continue for them once they come back.