January 13, 2016, by Helen Duke – When someone you love returns from active service suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) It can be a scary and confusing time for the whole family. What you were expecting to be a loving reunion with the serviceperson that left you can instead feel like living with a withdrawn and physically and emotionally withdrawn stranger than you barely recognize. As the spouse of a veteran or member of military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder it is important that you remain strong and encourage your loved one to seek the help and support that you need.
It is also important that your recognize the signs and understand PTSD so that you are better able to offer support and find medical and physiological assistance. Severe anxiety, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts and nightmares are all common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and as the spouse or partner of a sufferer these can be very difficult to live with. It’s also difficult to empathize with the horrendous things your spouse will have experienced in order to be going through this trauma, and this is something that you should acknowledge: but that doesn’t make dealing with the disorder any easier. It’s important to remember that your spouse is probably just as afraid of their out of control behavior as you are, which is why seeking support is such an important part of the process of recovering from PTSD.
Encourage Your Spouse to Seek Support
Many military veterans try to hide the symptoms of their condition, fearing the perceived stigma that is associated with struggling with PTSD. However the most important thing you can do for your spouse, and the thing that will aid their recovery faster than any other step you can take, it to encourage them to seek professional help and support. There are many support groups available for vets with PTSD: sharing their experiences with others can be more beneficial and cathartic than you might expert, and can work particularly well in overcoming the condition, especially when used in conjunction with a mix of therapy, medication and a committing to living a healthy lifestyle. When the going gets tough (and there is no tougher challenge for any marriage than one spouse suffering from PTSD) it can be tempting to leave and avoid dealing with the crisis, however staying with your spouse, listening to them, and giving them all the support you are able to give really will ultimately both aid their recovery and strengthen your partnership.
Supporting yourself is An Important Part of Supporting Your Partner
Whilst simultaneously providing love and support for your partner during this period when it is likely they will both need you most, and frequently try to push you away, it is important that you take time out whenever you need it and take whatever measures you can to protect yourself from the onslaught on your time and mental wellbeing that will inevitably accompany their treatment and recovery. There is no shame in taking time out to invest in yourself and to decompress: spend time with friends, go for a walk or to the gym, find a support group of other military spouses that are experiencing the same trauma as you, and will understand and provide a safe forum to discuss your fears and feelings. You don’t have to be a martyr to your partner’s PTSD, and you don’t have to pretend that life is happy and normal: this will be a difficult and stressful time for your family and the more open you are about it, the more likely you are to be offered support when you need it.