Thursday, May 24, 2012

Things to do when your Spouse has Combat PTSD

They warn you about the dreaded knock on the door. They warn you about the possibility of the physical injuries that can be incurred. They tell you about the days and weeks that one may go without hearing from their loved ones while deployed and what a "blackout" means. They explain the days and nights of worries, fears, and loneliness. They explain to you that you'll need your friends that are experiencing the same things. Yet, through it all, they don't warn you about PTSD. They don't explain to you that just because the deployment is over that the war will never really end. This war I am referring to is the war within, the war that many come home with and that never leaves.

Many service members return from deployments struggling with coping and the acceptance of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a chemical change in the brain after going through a traumatic experience. Of course, one can understand that combat experiences are more of a traumatic experience than most can imagine. Some of the men and women that come back from war are forever changed. They are no longer the easy going, carefree, people that left full of life and some innocence. They have flashbacks at undetermined times, they struggle with anger issues and emotional issues, and they become isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious. They lose sight of how life was in the time before. They spend many sleepless nights due to nightmares and night sweats. Many may avoid loud and crowded places, celebrations, and situations that they may have no control over. To them, everyone can be a threat. It is said that an estimated 25% of returning combat veterans come home with PTSD.

This leaves many spouses of service members with PTSD with their own personal battles, wondering how to adjust and what to do through these times and episodes that may exist. They find themselves clinging to the past in hopes that the person they sent to war will eventually return, all the while knowing that more than likely will not happen. There are five things that come to mind when it comes to a spouse accepting and adjusting. I have done these things being that I am a wife of a multi-combat veteran.

Give your Spouse Space.
Trust me; giving your spouse space is a necessity! They have to have this space so they can personally adjust and process all that they have been through and experienced. Even though you find yourself trying to adjust to the changes, they are the ones trying to discover their place in life and who they are.

Never Hound Them for Answers.

The worst thing a spouse can do is constantly nag and hound the veteran for answers and to explain what they experienced. There are things that take place during deployments that many people cannot handle even knowing about. Most of the time, the service member is not going to want to share the gory details of what they have witnessed and had to do. Accept this and move on. If your spouse does want to share their stories, sit back and listen. Never pressure them to keep talking when they can no longer talk. There are stories that will be broken into bits and pieces. Be thankful if they are opening up to you, even if it is just the smallest amount of communication on what they have experienced.

Get Educated

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get educated! Lack of knowledge on this topic can end up making a person crazy when PTSD is involved. The more you know, the more you can help. The more you know the better off you are and the more you can understand the vets mood changes and frustrations. Becoming educated will give you a better understanding as to how to deal with and handle the bad moments and why they battle PTSD.

There are many online resources to help with this education, such as:

Family of a Vet, Inc
Clayton Stress
Give An Hour
Operation PTSD

Find a Hobby
As a spouse of an injured veteran, you are going to need a hobby to keep yourself grounded! Take an interest in blogging, scrapbooking, aerobics, exercising, crafting, sports, or anything else that has been of an interest to you. Find something just for you to help you ease your mind. You will need this, especially when days get bad and episodes are active. Becoming involved in a hobby you truly enjoy will ease your anxiety and emotions that will begin once living in a house with PTSD. Creativity really shows through when a person has a lot on their mind. It's a wonderful outlet!

Take Personal Time
The most important things for you as a spouse, take some personal time for yourself! You have to have this to maintain your sanity with this life. Go get your hair and nails done, walk through the mall, spend time sitting in a park, take a hot bath, read a book, or whatever else you find relaxing. With whatever you do, make sure you always remember yourself and take the time you need and deserve. In no way does this make you selfish when you take a time out, instead this will save your relationships and save you emotionally and physically. It is crucial that when going through hard times, you take the time you need to process and adjust as well.

PTSD and anything combat related affects the family as a whole, not just the veteran. Always remember that and never lose sight of who you are.


  1. Thanks for posting this, I couldnt agree with you more. I am currently going through this as well, nice to know someone else is too.

    1. You're welcome! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. It is so easy to become consumed in where we are in life and where are spouses are with injuries sustained in combat, however, we must take the time for ourselves. If we don't, we won't be able to be the person we are.

      So, take care of you! Thank you for reading my blog!

  2. Well said :) and so true. As a wife that goes through all of the above, I appreciate you educating others :)

    1. Thank you for reading this and for your comment. My goal is to better educate people with life after combat situations.

  3. This is a great post! The advice is sound and I think something more people need to know. It's tough to have to figure out this journey on your own and it's wonderful that you have posted about it.

    1. Thank you so much and thank you for taking the time to read this post!