As you may remember from my last post, it took about a month of living with my recently discharged soldier for me to start noticing the early signs of PTSD. Sudden outbursts were definitely the first and clearest indication that he was not the same guy anymore. I later learned that there are many other symptoms of PTSD, but in his case, it took a while before these other symptoms appeared.
After about two months of living in a small studio apartment in Virginia, my husband and I began to realize that we really needed to find a bigger place. At the time, he was a full-time student and worked as a security guard for the Department of Homeland Security, so he did school work at odd hours.
When I woke up one night to find him studying in the closet with a head lamp, I knew it was time. We found a very affordable apartment about ½ a mile away, so we moved. This new apartment was in a very bad part of Arlington, but it was cheap so we thought, “why not?” It’s just for one year. I later learned that putting someone suffering from PTSD into a situation where they do not feel safe, is a HORRIBLE idea. But that’s a topic for next time.
About the time we moved, I began taking more notice of his outbursts as I was beginning to suspect that something was not right. Once I began to make a conscious effort to pay attention, I realized how often these outbursts were occurring. In my husband’s case, every time there was an outburst something was bound to break. One day I woke him up from a nap, and he got so angry he kicked the TV in our bedroom off of the stand. Another time, he got so worked up over something not going right that he grabbed a hoodie I had left on the couch and ripped the hood right off! And cell phones – those suckers had to be replaced on a monthly basis!
One of the worst outbursts I witnessed involved a bag of pepperoni. My husband and I got into an argument one night over something stupid. I can’t even remember what it was about, that’s how stupid it must have been. At some point during the argument, he decided that he was over talking and walked away. A couple of minutes later, I walked into the kitchen and found him making himself a sandwich. I put my hand on his arm, and before I could say a word he threw a bag of sliced Hormel pepperoni at the kitchen window and shattered the glass! Yes, you read correctly. He threw a bag of SLICED pepperoni (NOT a stick of pepperoni) so hard that he broke part of our kitchen window. I didn’t even think you could do that with something the size of a Ziploc bag! Well, he did.
My husband’s outbursts also included a lot of verbal nastiness, as I like to call it. He said some really mean and hurtful things to me during this time. I know he never meant any of them, but it has taken me a long time to forget about some of those things – the forgiving part was easy. I also want to clarify that during these outbursts, my husband never hit me. However, there were times when I was pushed and shoved, which was not OK. Luckily, it never escalated past that.
At the time, I thought these outbursts were as bad as things were going to get. Sadly, this was just the first of many different symptoms of PTSD. The biggest mistake I made was never talking to anyone about it and thinking that I could “fix” the problem myself. Every time we went a week without an outburst, I thought “Oh yes, I’ve fixed the problem,” and then another outburst would occur. I learned the hard way that I had no control over how my husband felt or his reaction to those feelings. The only thing I could do was love him.