Jessica is a young mother with an energetic brood of children. She loves playing with them and hearing their laughter. She loves to cook, craft, and create. She kisses scraped knees, raises a vegetable garden, and loves to serve others. She is like most young mothers, with one exception. She is the wife of a soldier suffering from PTSD. Her husband, Josh, is diagnosed as fully disabled because of his PTSD.
“It’s hard,” Jessica confides, “people don’t see what I see in Josh. They look at him and can’t see his disability. I love him, and watching him struggle is hard.” She goes on to describe a camping trip they had. Josh started having flashbacks. He didn’t know where he was, he only knew that his family was there and there were ghosts in the background all around him.
When we were putting the kids to bed some campers across the pond started letting off fireworks. Josh’s memories triggered the thought it was mortars going off and he yelled about insurgents storming the gates. He tried crawling under the beds and hiding in the bathroom. The whole time his eyes were bulging and his breath came fast. He ran out onto the deck screaming, “You’ll never take me alive!” It was scary for Jessica, she explained how the kids thought he was joking or playing a game. After, Jessica repeatedly called his name until he finally realized she was there and calmed down, sobbing himself to sleep.
Josh is unable to function on his own and can't work. He is working to overcome his PTSD, but still depends on his wife and friends for everyday support. Jessica describes moments when she is confronted by people who do not understand the severity of PTSD and make judgments. "It hurts when people judge our family. Because his disability is not physically visible, they can't understand why he doesn't work. This is just as disabling as losing a limb or some other physical disability."
PTSD is an anxiety disorder usually triggered by trauma or an event that is severely emotionally damaging. Jessica’s husband is one of many soldiers who are silently dealing with the effects of war, who struggle to cope every day with the trauma they witnessed. Jessica describes a moment they had after watching an action movie in the theater. Their kids were yelling and running, on their way to the car. Josh screamed, “Don’t they know that is what people do when they are hurt and dying!” He drove home white-knuckled on the steering wheel with eyes wide. He kept repeating, “It’s OK,” until he could calm down enough to cry.
PTSD is difficult to control; it can take years to gain even a little ground. Maketheconnection.net, a site dedicated to soldiers with PTSD, lists some of the symptoms:
Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
Having nightmares, vivid memories or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it’s happening all over again
Feeling emotionally cut off from others
Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about
Thinking that you are always in danger
Feeling anxious, jittery, or irritated
Experiencing a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen
Having difficulty sleeping
Having trouble keeping your mind on one thing
Having a hard time relating to and getting along with your spouse, family, or friends
Soldiers are not the only ones who can suffer from PTSD. Many innocent people have witnessed great traumas or experienced horrific conditions. If you, or someone you love, suffer from PTSD there are ways to help. In recent years, there have been many medical advances in this field. Treatments have greatly improved. Seek out help, you are worth it.
The most important thing we can do, all of us, is know the symptoms and triggers. Showing unconditional love and compassion can mean so much to a spouse of someone who is suffering. We may never completely understand what these men and women are going through, but we can support them on their path to happiness and peace.