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November 5, 2011

Living With PTSD, A Wife's Perspective...

Do not let PTSD destroy you or your marriage!

Isolation, loneliness, sadness, despair and hopelessness – these emotions become a daily part of the lives of women who live with a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. There are finally programs available for the veteran suffering, but what do their wives (or husbands) do?

For the most part, we suffer in silence and either learn to live within the parameters that our veteran sets forth, or our marriages end. In my life, neither option was acceptable. I long ago accepted that the ignorance of others regarding PTSD was something I could not change. No matter how many times one tries to explain the perils of PTSD to a family member or friend, the reality is; unless you live with it every day, you simply cannot understand.

Countless times I have heard “that was a long time ago, get over it already, just move on” – and other such nonsensical statements. This simply confirms what we already know, they just don’t get it. When these comments are made by close friends or family members, they cut to the core and the hurt much deeper.

Eventually these types of comments and attitudes drive the spouse of a PTSD veteran even further away from friends and even family. Why? Because protecting our beloved vet has become second nature. Running interference at family functions, community events or even at home with the children is so ingrained that usually we aren’t even aware we are doing it.

We have learned when we dine out to sit in a location that allows our vet to clearly see the entrance or exits, never with his back to a window or near the kitchen entry where loud noises and dropped trays are most likely to occur. While at family or community events, our focus is ensuring our husbands are not overwhelmed by the crowds, noise or gets involved with a conversation that can turn ugly in an instant because someone says the wrong thing. Most of the time, by-standers (or family members) will never see any of this. For the wife it is instinctual and appears effortless. The reality is over time it just wears us down. At times someone may see a flicker of concern in her eyes, but will never see the sadness or loneliness that lurks beneath the surface. She has become a master at masking it from everyone including her vet.

The VA is woefully incompetent in assisting our PTSD veterans and even more-so for their wives. However there are some programs/classes or support groups beginning to surface at select VA facilities across the country.

If you are the wife of a veteran suffering with PTSD please, please know that you are NOT alone. I know it feels like you are. There are hundreds of thousands of us out here and many of us are willing to help. If your local VA hospital or clinic does not offer support for the spouses, get on-line. Find a support group. Do not let PTSD destroy you or your marriage. There is help out here for you.
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