PTSD is a terrible affliction and so many military families are going through the pain of dealing with its effects as we speak. The “disorder” isn’t even looked at as a real problem by many, and what’s sad is how some people choose to deal – or not deal – with it.
I love my husband and my family. We have been through so much together, and we are still working through some problems stemming from PTSD. Four deployments in 10 years can really wreak havoc on your life. My husband has been deployed three times to Iraq (2003-2004, 2005-2006, and 2009-2010) and he has changed considerably. In fact, I have changed too. We have all changed. We aren’t the same carefree couple that we once were 10 years ago.
The changes were manageable at first. He was transiting from a re-deployment phase in April 2003 to another deployment in Jan 2005. The unit was gearing up to go back again to Iraq in less than 10 months and I rarely saw him. He was a tanker back then, and he was constantly in the field doing range exercises or at NTC or Fort Polk doing training. It was like he wasn’t home. He would be gone for 2 or 3 weeks out of the month. Then he was gone for a year.
When he came back in 2006, we PCSed to Fort Bragg within 4 months. We were in a constant state of flux. In June 2006, he returned to AIT to learn a new MOS. He changed from combat to non-combat because he was tired of being deployed, but combat stress was setting in nevertheless. When he graduated from his second AIT and joined us at Bragg, he suddenly segregated himself from us. He set up a game room that housed his computers and play station console. He would spend hours on end playing a role-playing game called “Final Fantasy.”
When we moved to a bigger house on base, he moved into the garage. He no longer joined us as a family, so the kids and I would just do things by ourselves. Even though today he no longer lives in the garage, where he spent more than two years separating himself from me and his kids, he still plays video games 18 to 20 hours a day. He also doesn’t have control of his temper, and nightmare plagues his sleep. We have good days and bad days, but we are still dealing with this issue. It’s still like a black cloud above our heads.
Despite his progress on his own, I wonder if counseling would help my husband. He is numb, not the happy person I married. The nightmares, isolation, and quick temper my husband experiences are all symptoms of significant adjustment problems that most soldiers face after combat deployments. I told him he has signs of PTSD. He doesn’t have a diagnosis, and he is too proud to seek treatment on his own. There is a certain stigma attached to getting treatment, and I tell you what – I believe it!
He doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize our family’s financial standing. He tried once to talk to a counselor, but it didn’t work. He considered going to a counselor as a moment of weakness. My DH told me the way he deals with leaving again for deployment was to pretty much block everyone out. That’s how he handles stress – he turns it on and off like a switch.
My husband is now a little better than he was, but he’s still not the man I married. He rarely smiles. He dislikes groups of people, especially crowds. He has no desire to make friends. But we somehow make it and drive on. I know one day that he will get the help that he needs. I can’t make him do something he doesn’t want to do, but he knows that I will still be there for him because we both signed up for this, “for better or for worse.”