In my previous posts, I have gone over different symptoms of PTSD that my husband has suffered from, but that have also gotten better with time. Nightmares and depression are two symptoms of PTSD that he still battles on a daily basis.
Let’s start with nightmares. Sometimes he’s lucky and will go weeks without one, but then when he least expects it, they hit full force. Most of the time they are triggered by something going on in his life. Stress is a HUGE factor but simple things like watching the military channel will almost always result in a sleepless night. Lately, learning of the deaths of Rangers he served with has brought on a wave of nightmares. To his credit – he has done a great job of avoiding the things that he knows will trigger these sleepless nights. So he avoids the military channel and war movies, and tries to not talk about things he did overseas. But he can’t control the news and hearing of a comrade’s death really affects him.
When he does have a nightmare, one of two things will happen. Best case scenario: He wakes up gasping for air, calms himself down and goes back to sleep. Worst case scenario: He wakes me up from all the screaming, so then I wake him up. He will then ask me to hold him, and while crying, asks me to please “stop this from happening.” I HATE when this happens because there is nothing I can do to help him. Talk about feeling like a useless wife! All I can do is hold him and try my best to comfort him.
On to depression. I use the term “depression,” but “sadness” is probably a better way to describe it. My husband does not suffer from any sort of clinical depression – he simply becomes incredibly sad. Nine times out of ten, nightmares are the culprit. The day following a sleepless night is always a hard day for him. He likes to be left alone and tends to be uninterested in fun activities. If the nightmares persist, so does the sadness. I can usually tell when he is down because he will walk around the house with his headphones on. That’s my cue to just leave him alone. I used to try to make him talk to me, but all he really wants is to be left alone.
And then there are days when he is just sad for no reason whatsoever! He tends to be really hard on himself on those days – he will think he is a “failure” and will tell me that I deserve to be with someone better than him. Again, there is nothing I can do but reassure him that all those things he feels are not true. I always tell him how proud I am of him and of everything he has accomplished since I first met him when he was only a freshman in high school. With time, he eventually snaps out of his “funk” and becomes his joking, funny self.
When I think about it, it’s harder for me to deal with the sadness than the nightmares. As much as I love my uninterrupted sleep, seeing my husband get down on himself is so difficult for me. Maybe because I have known him for so long and have seen him accomplish so much (both in the military and in his civilian life). Or maybe it’s because when he is down it takes such a toll on me. My husband is my best friend, and when he shuts himself off from me I just can’t function. And then there’s the fact that I just can’t do anything to help him and that’s hard. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – all I can do is love him.