As Uncle Sams Mistress explained in an earlier post, a common symptom of PTSD is paranoia. In my husband’s case, he became increasingly paranoid of others after each deployment (three total). This was something that I did notice when we saw each other, but thought nothing of since it was quite mild at the time. However, our move to a bad part of Arlington in the fall of 2006 escalated these feelings of paranoia. My husband became fearful of his surroundings and truly thought that someone was going to “attack” him.
I do feel that it is important to add that we were truly living in a bad part of town and any sane person would become fearful – my husband just took it to an extreme. For those of you who may not be familiar with Northern Virginia, the area has been battling MS-13 gang members for years. This Hispanic gang originates from El Salvador, and law enforcement officials estimate membership to be between 5,000 and 6,000 members – making it the largest gang in the area. My husband and I lived right next door to these people and it was scary, to say the least. My fluency in Spanish didn’t help the situation as I could understand everything they said.
My husband dealt with his paranoia in the only way he knew how – he got armed. Within months of living in the bad part of town, he purchased three additional weapons – two hand guns and an M4. His Glock 21, a gift from his father, went from being locked up in a small safe to loaded and on his nightstand. The minute Arlington County granted him a concealment permit, he was armed 24-7. There was a gun on his hip if we went to the movies, or the laundromat, or out to eat. He even bought a fanny pack so that when we went bike riding together, he could take his gun!
At first I thought, “OK, he just really loves guns and feels safer with them”, but quickly the situation got out of control. If he was watching TV or playing X-Box, there was a loaded M4 in his lap. If we came home late from hanging out with friends, he had to clear the apartment before I was allowed to enter. This was not normal behavior.
My husband’s paranoia was also evident in other aspects of our lives. Crowds were a no-go as he could not handle a situation where people were too close to him or bumping into him. I can’t even tell you how many times we walked into a restaurant or a store and had to turn right around because “something did not feel right” to him.
And not only was he paranoid that something was going to happen to him, but he feared that something would happen to me! If I made the mistake of not answering my cell phone when he called, he would call over and over again until I picked up. And if I still didn’t pick up, he would leave me a message telling me that if I didn’t call him back in 10 minutes that he would call the cops and report me missing. If I went out with my friends or to the grocery store by myself, I had to call and report when I had arrived and when I was leaving.
Thankfully, my husband’s paranoia has improved significantly since then but it’s still a part of our lives. There is still a loaded Glock next to our bed – but instead of being on top of the nightstand, it’s in the drawer. He still worries that something will happen to me if I am out alone, but doesn’t call me over and over again until I pick up. For this symptom of PTSD, time has been the only real “cure.”