mental health matters ptsd

The Families Behind the PTSD Curtain

This post was submitted by a site visitor and it represents her experience. 

A dear friend of mine wrote on her Army Wife blog about PTSD and the families that live with it. Her blog made me think about a few things and how the families behind the PTSD curtain aren’t really mentioned that much in or out of military communities.

Is it our fault as family members for not speaking up about our issues within our PTSD/TBI home?

Or is it others’, like the military, the negative stories on the five-o’clock news, or the lack of support that shuts us up?

I can say that prior to my setting up a blog, I didn’t say anything.

There were quite a few people that didn’t even know my husband had problems.

The ones that did, didn’t say anything to us about it, although talking about problems never was a problem before.

I guess I felt more ashamed and alone when dealing with the problems and issues, never having a support system in place or acknowledgment from any military or VA personnel that I was indeed living in hell.

When I did speak up at a counseling/therapy group, the other wives (all Vietnam veteran wives) belittled me and made it seem like I was going through nothing worse than they did.

Yes, I think there is a definite generational gap between spouses of wars, but didn’t we all hurt the same?

Don’t we all experience the same type of hell and lack of support?

Did we not lose our husbands to this unseen wound that consumes our soldiers to the point we don’t know who they are? I think so.

It’s very easy for older veteran wives to tsk tsk our generation of spouses because they have already been there and done that.

It’s like they forgot how hard it was at first to cope and find a way to raise a family with a spouse with these types of problems.

They made it through 25 years of hell so therefore our problems that are just now occurring in a lesser time span is no worse than what they have already been through.

Perhaps I am just one of those that thinks that all war is the same, no matter how old the soldier is, no matter how many years in between deployments or how many years you were deployed….it still hurts the same way, and we all suffer.

When my husband and I started marriage counseling, it wasn’t bad….for him.

When my turn came around and I started speaking…I was told, “Let’s not flood him with all the negative things” or ” Let’s not worry about what he is doing, let’s worry about getting him the help he needs”.

Uhhhh, isn’t that why we are here?

When you have issues that are slowly breaking up a marriage, aren’t you supposed to talk about that and fix it?

Why is it when, as a spouse, I bring up my side of the story, automatically the blame shifts to me and I am not heard?

What is the point of “couples counseling” if there are not two involved?

I sat for hours listening to her ask my husband the same questions over and over again and not feeling like I had a say in it whatsoever.

When she asked me why I didn’t have anything to say on our 15th meeting, I simply told her ” You kept shutting me up. What I had to say was not important enough for you”.

I sometimes get aggravated with society because in cases like ours as PTSD/TBI families, if our soldiers aren’t missing limbs, horribly disfigured or in a wheelchair….the look on their faces when you state PTSD and TBI is like Whhhhaaaat?

I remember one time at the VA when a young clerk asked my husband what was wrong with him. My husband stated “I have severe PTSD and TBI”.

The clerk responded “So you are just mental”. Wow. Really?

I can only imagine how hard it is for our soldiers who suffer from invisible wounds to prove that they are indeed injured.

Why should they even have to? While our military members suffer constantly battling outside people and the government…they are also battling themselves in the process.

In the background, there are the families who stand behind them. We battle not only the disaster our families have become, but someone we no longer know.

We sometimes battle addictions, physical and verbal abuse, suicidal threats, severe paranoia, and much more.

Some days I feel like society has really shunned us to the back darkest corner. Like we are lepers being quarantined to a separate place as if PTSD is infectious.

Other days, I wonder if the shame of what goes on behind our closed doors keeps us from talking more openly about what we are enduring.

I know I shouldn’t be ashamed because, hell, it’s not like our vets are just lazy, alcoholic wife beaters and we, the wife who just wears long sleeves to cover up.

They can’t help the angry outbursts, the lack of emotions or lack of control. They can’t help what they have come home as, and I firmly don’t believe they fully comprehend what it does to their marriages or family.

When I began blogging, I really thought no one would ever read it.

Maybe I would get a comment from a spambot or two advertising free male enhancement products and how to increase my website traffic.

However, it has definitely been an eye opener for me because not only do I have some participation on the blog, but the amount of e-mails I am receiving is astounding.

I don’t understand, even signing it “anonymous”, why spouses feel like they have to hide behind the safety of an e-mail? A few of them don’t want other people seeing…I get that.

But why? I know some have stated “I am ashamed to say in public my husband has a porn addiction, gambling problems, or is drinking himself to death”….why?

Although we aren’t all experiencing the same things, we know how it is. We have all been through the same hurt, the same losses, and are trying to gain our footage in this rocky life of ours.

I wonder if all of us, who are spouses of PTSD and TBI, came forward together and spoke about what really goes on in our homes.

What it’s really like to live with our combat PTSD veterans?

What we have lost, learned and dealt with?

I wonder if the VA would increase our vet’s disability rating to what they are supposed to get, if the whole story was acknowledged?

I wonder if some of these higher ups in the military would sing a different tune if they had to be forced to listen to us because we wouldn’t shut up?

Why does it take a soldier or veteran going in and shooting a place up in order for PTSD to come to light on national news?

If a soldier goes home and, for unknown reasons, kills his family and then himself, why does all of a sudden everyone scramble to make themselves look good?

When they know damn well that everything will go right back to the way it is when the news channels find some other noteworthy story.

What’s a damn shame is when we have all these spouses on a military post who can’t come together because they are afraid of their husband’s getting booted out of the military.

So many e-mails I have gotten in response to my statement to start a support group if there isn’t one, state that they can’t because the military would kick their husband’s out if they found out.

You would think with how much negativity about PTSD we see in the news, the military would already have one in place and be supportive.

To me, it would make them look better that they are trying to put in support systems to prevent such incidents like suicides and the Ft. Hood tragedy.

I am pretty vocal about PTSD and the families who are behind it. I am not afraid to say, “My husband has PTSD and TBI. So what are you doing  for me?”

Not in the sense that I want attention or to use it as a conversational piece. It’s a “You broke him, now fix it!” statement to me.

However, there are so many of us who would not admit that to anyone. Not even their families. I guess this blog isn’t really making any sense right now…I guess what I am saying is, why do we feel the need to be quiet?

If we all shut up and never speak….will this help in the long run or only hurt us more?  Is being married to a combat PTSD/TBI veteran really a reason to keep our mouths shut and shy away from the world?

Or are we shut up by so many obstacles the world places on us?

Just me and my big mouth,

4 thoughts on “The Families Behind the PTSD Curtain”

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I’ve had a very hard time finding ANY spouse support for PTSD and what I have found are forums full of women just, well… bitching about their husbands. We all need to vent sometimes. Lord knows, when I have someone that I can talk to, I vent it all out. However, we need help, we need coping skills of our own. Personally for me, I need to know how to help my husband. How to help him be a productive member of our family. Right now, he’s an extra child and no longer an active member of our family. I have a 5yo and 2-2yo’s and I NEED HIS HELP.

    UGH!

    Anyway, again, I say THANK YOU!

  2. Uncle Sams Mistress

    P, thank you for your comment. The hardest part about your comment, is there is no support for us. Whether we are Active, or Reserves/NG there isn’t really a true type of support for us. Because there isn’t a resource, there isn’t a way for us to get the tools necessary to deal with all the issues within our home….leaving us nothing to do but vent, bitch, fuss and cuss. Venting though is a good thing and often times, most of them women don’t have anyone to talk to that knows what they are going through. I know it seems like playing devil’s advocate there on this statement, but I know in my case it’s true.

    It’s like when you finally come across someone that is suffering too…all of a sudden you flood over with everything that has gone wrong. In our case, even the marriage/couples counseling for PTSD and TBI didn’t help me in particular because it was focused on the Soldier themselves. That left me with absolutely no one to talk to.

    As far as your husband, be supportive, but be firm. Start by setting boundaries and give him a list of things to accomplish like putting away the dishes etc. Start small and get bigger as you go and in the process, praise him highly for what he does accomplish. Often times, we as the caregivers take control of everything and the military member feels we are taking away their masculinity. Give him something to accomplish that he can walk away and beat on his chest while grunting. Hahah! It’s hard when you have children because you do feel like a married single parent.

    Have you guys checked into the Vet Center in your area? I don’t know your situation but often times this is the way to go whether they are active, reserves, NG or out. They do not have to be signed up with the Veteran. This provides a wonderful been there done that kind of counselor that the veterans feel comfortable with. There is also couples counseling available at no cost to you as well. I know I fuss about ours all the time BUT there are many who have more resources and more options than our small one.

    Educate yourself about PTSD and read. If you blog, or read blogs…often times reading blogs by Veterans themselves who have been in war/combat will be very enlightening to you. Out of everything, this has been the most helpful because it’s done in the perspective that is often blocked in our vision path. Let’s face it, our spouses did not come home with a PTSD friendly manual. It’s left to us as the family to pick up the broken pieces of what was left of our spouse and try to figure out how to put them back together again.

    You aren’t alone…please know that. If you go to my blog http://www.armyreservistwife.blogspot.com there are a number of bloggers on my list and also on my profile. Operation Homefront also has a Wounded Warrior Wives group (can be PTSD and TBI)that is been very beneficial to me. Again, there are not much resources, so often times we vent and share successes that we have found…..Always feel free to email or comment and I will get it. Being vocal and releasing your frustrations is the step to healing yourself and you MUST take care of yourself in all of this. Take some time, get a sitter and do something just for you. Don’t set expectations for your “pod person” based on what he used to be…you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We were sent home empty men, but somewhere deep inside is your old husband….from time to time, you will see a glimpse of that person. That is what you are working towards; pulling him closer and closer to the top. It’s hard…one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through…having a support system where you can go and vent, is always a plus. I hope that makes you feel better….

  3. Dear USM,
    I’m not sure how to start but after reading this story I can see there are other wives of p.t.s.d. Soilders that feel the same as I but do not open up about what really goes on behind the curtain. I talk to my sister in law about what goes on at home when I need to vent and she tells me you would just think that my husband is fine by looking at him. I have my mother in law who I think is now believing me telling me that Iam the one with negative thoughts, that I’m the one with the problem.
    I just get so tired and so upset that I do not have the answers. I know that I am supposed to be supporting my husband and I do but when he does things like, leave the house and spends money on something that we did not even need just upsets me terribly. We are struggling financially, barely making it. My husband is unemployed and I can’t work I seem to be the only one who is stable enough to take care of our 4 yr old and 1 yr old children. My husband tells me with a high voice I want to get some chocolate, I want to go. I say I am so tired and I don’t even eat sweets like that. He tells me I want to go so my mother in law goes with him. Later on in the night I ask him how much he spent on fudge candy he tells me $30. I get upset because here I am trying to scrape what we can to save for thanksgiving. He tells me I’m sorry I had to get out of the house the walls were closing in on me. I tell him then why didnt you tell me you felt like that. I told him if you have to leave the house that’s fine but you don’t have to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need or use. That’s not all that had been going on that day but I am just so tired of dealing with everything it’s so hard. I’m not supposed to get upset because I know its not him it’s the p.t.s.d talking and when I get upset it just makes him feel worse. I know that it’s seems silly to get upset over $30 worth of fudge but when you are broke and using credit cars to live on $30 is a lot of money to spend on junk we would not even eat. I just wish I knew. Or can learn how to deal with these things better. I just started getting anxiety attachs witch is not a good thing and I have been forgetting a lot lately. I’m so upset with myself because Iam trying to get help my husband gets help through the V.A. But I just don’t like loosing control. I can’t loose control Iam usually the strong one that’s takes care of our family emotionally and now I seem to be falling apart and that worries me to pieces. Is ther anyone who can come forward to help me or tell me something that I should be trying that works to help myself be a better person to be in control of being a caregiver/spouse to my husband? I hope that someone can help. Thank you for sharing this story.

    1. Uncle Sams Mistress

      Ok, First off let’s repeat this: “Its ok for me to cry, its ok for me to have feelings. I am going to have bad days. I am going to have break or melt downs. I am carrying the world and its ok to ask for help”. Now, for you…I suggest that you stop placing expectations on yourself to have all the answers because honey, let me tell you…no one has them. Not the VA, not the specialists, not people who write all the medical books, and the list goes on. The spouse is never going to know and just when you think you have it all figured out…something will change. For you, you will need to take time out and find some “me” time. Whether it be stopping and taking a walk, going out with a friend even if to have a coffee, hot bath in the evenings, whatever it is that relaxes you. Those type of issues I know all too well because I suffered from trying to plug the holes in the dam, which leads to controlling everything, which in then places more on your plate because in your mind you have built yourself up to be Super Woman. Controlling everything also leaves your Veteran to be resentful, bitter, and feel like you just took his testicles. You are going to have to ease up on the whole “I have to control everything” and that’s hard I know. But it’s not going to help you any. Take one day at a time. Know there are going to be some good ones, and some bad ones. First thing, if he has tendencies to blow money, know that they ALL have issues with that. It can come from many things; depression, manic bi-polar type issues, the thought of “I might not be here tomorrow” (that is something you have to watch for carefully as that could be a warning sign for suicide or suicide tendencies) and from the most common thing of “immediate gratification” like the fudge incident. I know what that is like and money being tight. What we had to do after blowing almost 16,000 dollars, was to sit down and look at all the bills. My husband just didn’t get it. We decided that mutually the best solution was for me to be able to handle all the financial stuff, and set him a certain amount for him to spend. They need to feel like they have something, does that make sense? I know money is tight, but if you really really sit down and tighten up things…can you say alright, here is 50.00. If you blow it, that’s all you have. Everything else is going to bills. As mentioned before, you need to look into the VA Caregiver program which also includes a paid monthly stipend. You can also look at programs that help you financially like Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes which helps with up to 2500.00. Now, use that for emergencies and/or to get yourself out of a little bit of debt. Men are stubborn, hard headed, and they are going to buck and snort. You don’t know what all is wrong with him, but you have to remember that neither does he. They have things taken away, losing jobs and not being able to care for their family or wife, is a serious blow to a man’s self esteem. Without treating him like a dog, be sure to focus on the positive things that he does. Praise and ruffle them tail feathers of his without seeming like “good dog”. We lost a lot, but they really lost more. So try to be patient, understanding, lose the concentration on the negatives, and focus on positives. Breaking down and having bad days yourself, is not losing control of the situation. Try to get into therapy for yourself whether it be on your insurance, or through the Vet Center. Some VA’s offer support groups and some don’t. The VA Caregiver program if you qualify, will also provide a phone support group. There are online groups that help like Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives. Facebook has a ton. If you find me, you will find my likes and there are a bunch of PTSD related pages where Veterans and spouses talk about these very issues. Make sure you include your Veteran on daily input whether it be whats for supper, what to get at the store, what you should do with the clogged up sink. Remember that he might be disabled, but he isn’t dead so there are things that he can do, and can provide input on. Releasing some of the control on everything and praising him will help considerably. Check out the groups. Having people who get it, will help you. Go ahead and register yourself on the Operation Homefront Wounded Warrior Wives website as well as the Wounded Warrior Project. On the latter, you will need to register you and your husband. There are weekend retreats for both of you that you can attend and they are lovely. I hope this helps some. <3 USM

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