My husband and I have become friends with our neighbors—the husband is a retired Navy Seal. The stories he can share are like something you’d see at the movies. Unfortunately, they are all too real. It amazes me that he can have such a great outlook on life, after facing so many disturbing events. It leaves me wondering why some people develop PTSD while others don’t.
The sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families, and the struggles of today’s veterans, and active duty military are very real, especially if you live in an area with a military presence. Our country has been involved in the international conflict for so many years that it almost seems normal. However, the mental stress of constant readiness and repeated violence takes a huge toll on each participant’s psyche. In any given year, up to 20% of veterans of the Iraqi and Afghani wars develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This disorder negatively impacts not only the veterans but also their families. Sadly, two out of three veterans with PTSD end up divorcing their partner.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms include extreme anxiety, heightened vigilance, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, and isolation. There may be physical reactions as well, such as rapid heart rate, altered breathing, sleeplessness, and more. Each person reacts differently, so symptoms can vary greatly.
How to Cope with your Spouse’s PTSD
First of all, you must take care of yourself. You have likely been giving everything to helping your loved one with the disorder. However, caregivers (that’s you) need help and support too! Think of the situation like the oxygen masks on airplanes. Care for your needs before turning to help others. If you’re knocked out, both you and your loved one could be lost.
Continue your own social activities. Set boundaries with your partner. Pursue relaxing and enjoyable endeavors to recharge your batteries. Expect to have mixed feelings. You won’t always feel positively towards your spouse. It’s normal to occasionally get angry or feel resentful and overwhelmed.
Learn all you can about the disorder and possible treatments. Encourage your partner to pursue medical treatment options if they are not already doing so. The military and the Department of Veterans Affairs realize the far-reaching effects of PTSD and offer numerous services for the whole family. There are also charities and mental health organizations that will assist you. Join a support group, either online or in person.
Be a good listener. Don’t discount or invalidate your partner’s feelings and experiences. Let your loved one know that you are committed to the relationship. Marriage and/or family therapy can go a long way toward improving communication and strengthening your relationships.
As we continue to remember those who fought for our freedom, remember that sometimes, the battle continues long after they arrive back home. Take the time today to thank a Veteran and their family.
If you’re struggling with the effects of PTSD in your relationship, schedule an appointment now with Family Therapy Associates of Jacksonville.
You may also enjoy reading our blog How To Talk To Your Partner About Starting Therapy.