Married Monday: Helping a Spouse with PTSD

As many of my regular readers know, my husband (The Boy) has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD). He’s had it for several decades now. His PTSD is from his time in the military and the trauma surrounding a devastating training accident plus many stressful/dangerous deployments. Like many in the military, he struggled for many, many years without being diagnosed.

As many of my regular readers know, my husband (The Boy) has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD). He’s had it for several decades now. His PTSD is from his time in the military and the trauma surrounding a devastating training accident plus many stressful/dangerous deployments. Like many in the military, he struggled for many, many years without being diagnosed. When we began dating in 2005, this PTSD thing was just started to be recognized but those still in the military where discouraged from seeking help. It was purely a post-military/retirement thing.

Married Monday: Helping a Spouse with PTSD

We spent the bulk of our first years together struggling with the issues of this PTSD. Luckily, he didn’t have suicidal thoughts or alcoholism but he did obsessively lock our doors and windows, sit with his back to walls, and have vivid nightmares. I had never had to deal with something like this (and there was no training or assistance available at that time for those living with someone with PTSD). I ended up just soothing him the same way that I would sooth a scared toddler. I accepted his weirdness and moved on.

I finally talked him into telling someone at the Disabled Veteran’s office about it. The man we spoke to was incredible. He explained to The Boy that it was time to stop thinking like a soldier (the “Suck it up and take the next mountain” mentality) and get help. He pointed out that the military was taking PTSD seriously and working really hard to provide therapy and support to not only those affected by it but also their loved ones. I forced The Boy to make an appointment for a formal diagnosis.

And he was absolutely, positively diagnosed with PTSD (by the amazing Dr. Harry A. Croft who wrote the book, I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall: Managing Traumatic Stress and Combat PTSD) and began regular therapy sessions with a former Air Force officer who also had PTSD. It was really difficult for him in the beginning but he was so comfortable with his therapist that, eventually, I started to notice a difference. The nightmares were less often. He stopped obsessively locking and relocking doors. And he started talking to me about his experiences.

They also offered me the opportunity to learn more about how to support him and learn more about the disorder. I was unable to do the meetings but I read everything handed to me and spoke to his doctors/therapists whenever they wanted (or I had questions). I felt a lot better once I had concrete information on how he was feeling and knew more about how to help him. His therapy was good for our overall relationship, too. It was during this time that my dad died and it was really hard for both of us (he was my dad and The Boy’s best friend). Since he had gotten used to talking about his issues and feelings in therapy, The Boy was better equipped than me to discuss our loss. He actually took the lead when we talked about how dad’s death had affected us.

PTSD never goes away. The symptoms vary person-to-person. It’s NOT like they show on TV. It is not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. If you or your spouse/partner needs help please check out the National Center for PTSD website for more information.

Do any of you have a partner with PTSD?