FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

What PTSD is (and isn't)
heroes & families in their own words

In a modern world where PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and its effect on our
heroes is creating more and more conversation, a group of heroes and families wanted to
lend their voices to the debate about
what PTSD is (and what it isn't).  Here are their
thoughts and feelings about what life with post-traumatic stress disorder really looks like.

being, and having myself caused death or injury to another human being to protect my
comrades and the civilian population of a country I had never been in filled with people I
did not know, I have a unique understanding of the consequences of violence on behalf of
radical belief. But violence is not exclusive to radical belief. Sadly, the effects of violence
are exactly the same whether it is visited on behalf of recklessness, selfishness, greed or
malice. It is easy for many people to believe that the intent of violence somehow changes
its end result, but for those of us who have become intimately familiar with it, we know
better. We know the truth. We know that civility is simply an unspoken bond between
mankind to behave well for the sake of all. But when someone breaks that bond and
engages in violence against others for personal gain, or for a belief system, simply telling
them that they are being irrational is not always effective. Sometimes, a person willing to
physically harm another must meet someone who will physically harm them to protect the
other. The great majority of combat veterans are professional, dedicated, and honorable.
We will react to a threat. We will stop at nothing to protect what we love. But not one of us
will harm another person simply out of emotion, selfishness, or greed. We will only resort
to violence if it is needed. PTSD does not make a peaceful man violent, a professional
man out of line, or a sober man a drunkard. It does not make a hero, or a villain. It is
simply the side effect of knowing first-hand what heroism is.  

K. Clewell, Veteran

PTSD and TBI are words that have been getting a lot of attention lately but I think it is
important to make sure that the information that others are getting is accurate. Here is a
little bit about my life story with
PTSD. My Husband served honorably for a year in Iraq pre-
surge time frame. Our men and women are trained to deal with stresses that you and I
back at home could never imagine dealing with. Death becomes a regular part of their lives
because they are in a War Zone. PTSD is a progressive disease. Every person’s
experience with it is unique but there are certain things that all PTSD suffers struggle with.
Each person has their own set of “triggers” for a PTSD moment. My Husband’s triggers
range from, fireworks, large crowds, gun shots, highly stressful situations, emotional
moments (i.e. the birth of a child, birthdays, and holidays). In a PTSD moment his
reactions can vary. Sometimes these moments just create a very high level of anxiety,
others times he can become very angry or withdrawn from those of us around him, but
bottom line each time is different. As a Wife you learn to deal with these moments and over
time figure out certain things that can calm down your significant other when they are
having a PTSD moment. I know that if my Husband is having a nightmare it is best to let it
run its course and then gently try to wake him up once it seems that the nightmare has
stopped. But I also know to be very careful when waking him up because his adrenaline is
likely still very high. If I know we are going to be going into a stressful situation or some
place that is going to be crowded I always make sure to reassure my Husband that he has
an exit strategy at all times and that I am paying close attention to his body language
during those situations because it if he is about to have a moment or is in the middle of a
moment his body gives off very clear signs. When this happens I very quietly and privately
walk up to him and ask if he is okay. Sometimes something as simple as that is enough to
snap him back into reality. If that does not help or he is still full of anxiety I remind him that
he can walk outside at any point to take a break, or go wait for us in the car, and in some
cases if all else fails I make an excuse as to why we need to leave so that he can go home
to his “safe zone”. Yes all of these things makes life a bit more complicated especially
when you add three children into the equation but I take my marriage vows very seriously
and it is my job as his Wife to stand by him no matter what he is going through. Now is it
always a perfect science, no! There are bad days and good days. But from moment to
moment things can change. PTSD is not something that lasts for months on end, it is
always with you but not always active. By active I mean that PTSD is always something you
are dealing with in your head but it is not always in control. Depression is in most cases
connected with PTSD and that can “have a hold” on your significant other for weeks,
sometimes months on end. PTSD in the moment can make you do things you normally
would not have done but that’s IN THE MOMENT, these are not moments that last for
weeks on end. My Husband and I have learned to roll with the flow and take it one moment
at a time. Now what is PTSD NOT. PTSD does not make you a bad person, it does not
make you do things over a long period of time (weeks, months, years), PTSD is an inner
struggle with being exposed to the evils of the world.
PTSD does not make you a violent
person but please be clear on this that in a PTSD moment you can do things that you
normally would not do. Please understand by what “in the moment means”. In the moment
is something that can last from a few seconds to a few hours but NOT days or weeks or
months or years. It can happen multiple times a day and some can go months without a
PTSD moment. It is important to understand that PTSD is a condition that with love,
support, therapy, and possibly medication can still be a part of your life BUT not RUN your
life! My Husband and I work very hard everyday to be a team against his PTSD with love,
support, and hard work!

J. Raines, Spouse of a Veteran

PTSD is our new four letter word.  It has become an unwelcome guest in our home, in our
lives & in our family.  PTSD is a battle that my spouse & I battle every minute of every
day.   There are times that it feels as if IT has won, but that is a lie that I refuse to
believe.   PTSD has forced us to adapt to the world in a way I never imagined possible.  
For example, we cannot go into crowds.  We cannot go to church, the movies or
restaurants without a “plan.”  We have to make sure we know where the exits & entrances
are, we have to plan what to do if we get separated, and we never ever let our guard
PTSD requires careful monitoring.

There is a fine line between true PTSD symptoms or triggers & simply using it as an
excuse for bad, bad, bad behavior.  Which brings me to what PTSD is not…….it is not a
license to hurt or abuse others.   There are tools out there to teach someone how to
handle the triggers of PTSD…..we are not going to be perfect in our endeavor to
overcome, but we will keep trying...

PTSD doesn’t look like a crazy person, waving a gun in the air & talking crazy.  My spouse
is quiet, withdrawn & embarrassed by the stigma attached with PTSD……PTSD is your
neighbor, your friend….it is the person sitting next to you.

K. Stalnaker, Spouse of a Veteran

My husband suffers from combat PTSD and has dealt with it since his return home from
his year deployment to Iraq back in 2005.  Things have gotten progressively worse for him
over the years and yet that have become progressively better for me.  Allow me to explain.

As each day passes and I spend those days monitoring his moods, handling his
medications, keeping up with his doctor appointments, and being the “jack of all trades” in
this household.  I have seen what darkness rises up within him and manifests itself as
nightmares, depression, anger, stress, overloading, flashbacks, and all sorts of other
things it can become.  I’ve wiped away tears, soothed the angry beast, guided that which
felt it is unworthy and useless, and brought out the positive cheerleader deep within myself.

We do not live some horror story like the media often portrays PTSD to be, we live life like
any other dealing with some manner of disability.  My husband isn’t some raging monster
who runs around wide eye waving a gun around threatening everyone in sight.  He is a
man who wakes up each day and exerts his best control to raise his children and be there
for his family in any way that he can outside of working a job.  He gets stressed and angry,
but he still has some control.  He gets depressed and detached, but he always returns.  
He sleeps poorly and so he’s always tired, but he strives to still be helpful.

We may have had to change our routines, but we still live and we still thrive.  PTSD may
seem like a curse, but it is a curse that anyone can overcome because PTSD is not a soul

A. Taylor, Spouse of a Veteran

PTSD in my family means that my husband has trouble sleeping at night. It means he has
nightmares about the things he's done and seen. It means he is always prepared for
anything (even and especially a nuclear attack), always on the lookout, and always
extremely protective of his family from anyone and anything. Because of this it means he
suffers from anxiety and discomfort in public places and crowds. It also means he suffers
from depression and can become easily irritated or frustrated. It does not mean he is
homicidal or a danger to our family or society. It also does not mean he is violent. I know
and trust the man I married, even if he is having a "bad day". At his core, he would never
lay a hand on someone he loves. Sometimes, he just needs his space to work through his
demons, and sometimes he needs my support for it. My husband has never turned down
help for this injury of war, and as a civilian friend mentioned today, "that's the measure of a
real man."

A. Linder, Spouse of a Veteran

PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, a disorder that can happen to anyone that has
gone through a tragic event in their life, like assault, war, and disaster. A year and half ago
I didn’t even know what PTSD was, now it is a part of daily life as I take care of the love of
life and my Hero. He has nightmares, anxiety attacks; we don’t go out, because he can’t
deal with large crowds. We don’t do fireworks on the 4th of July; we sit in a corner seat in a
restaurant when we go so he can see everyone around him. Loud noise makes him jump
and want to take cover, even a simple balloon popping.  Memory loss is something I deal
with everyday, we have reminders programmed in his phone for meds and appointments
as well me telling 3 to 4 times a day, if not more. Even making sure he eats, he only likes
to eat with me so if I am at work or running errands he won’t eat till I am home.   And taking
meds on time and every day is very important, otherwise he would not sleep. No sleep
makes everyone cranky and irritable and increases the stress level.  I have done lots of
research on PTSD, keeping up on the latest and best treatments. Also joining support
groups and doing whatever I can to raise awareness about PTSD because so many of
soldiers are coming home with PTSD and several others combat injuries.

T. Sebock, Spouse of a Veteran

We have seen some ups and downs in our PTSD journey and our typical day is full of ups
and downs.

By 9 am every morning I am reminding hubby to take his meds and he is usually good for
a bit then he falls asleep. For instance he slept for about 12 hours last night and is
currently sleeping on the couch as I type this. I will usually give him until 11am and then I
want him up or at least awake. There are days I feel like I have to force him to eat and
there are others when he will willingly eat.

There are days when my dear hubby does not want to leave the safety of our bedroom, it
is a controlled environment. There are times we have enjoyed family drives to have one
idiot on the road scare him and the fun is over. We have days when hubby gets up and
wants to ‘help’ around the house…usually we stay completely out of the way because once
he gets going and don’t want anything to interrupt him or his progress.

To the world that sees us we look no different than any other family but we are not, we
have perfected a carefully orchestrated dance around hubby to keep him and others safe
from startling him straight into a panic attack.

Here it is now 7:30 pm and hubby is safely cocooned in our room waiting for me so we can
watch a show as he is falling back to sleep. I will be praying that tomorrow is a better day
or just as good as today depending on the situation. Our life, while it is much of the same,
is so very different every day.

P. Busenius, Spouse of a Veteran
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