Well before I knew anything about PTSD and relationships, there was a time in my life when PTSD were just four innocent letters of the alphabet.
Put together, my medical books told me these letters described a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The textbooks explained the nature of psychological injuries. They described the ensuing depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, hypervigilance, and substance abuse. They outlined the basic foundation of treatment, consisting of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy.
But then in 2010, after my husband had been wholeheartedly dedicated to Army for more than five years, everything began to fall apart around us. A medical professional made his assessment and handed us our sentence.
PTSD. And just like that, those four letters now belonged to us.
My medical books didn’t lie – my husband ticked every box they listed. Perhaps they didn’t lie, but I quickly discovered that they didn’t even begin to tell the full story. There was no mention of the explosive anger that would reduce me to tears and cripple my morale, the sleepless nights, the dark clouds that would linger for weeks on end. There was no talk of the unpredictable disappearances and the destructive binge-drinking, and no warning of how PTSD can push a family – and a marriage – to the brink.
My husband may be the one with the diagnosis, but our whole family lives with PTSD.
It doesn’t matter what the exterior looks like; a veteran, a police officer, a first responder, a doctor, a paramedic, a fire fighter, a journalist, an emergency service worker, a lawyer, or an adult who is still guarding a broken child deep inside. It doesn’t matter, because PTSD doesn’t discriminate. It will rain down on anyone, anytime. And once it has someone in its grip, the result will always look the same.
If you are here, reading my words and following my journey, then I know that PTSD belongs to you too.
You also live with PTSD, as your own diagnosis, as a partner, as a spouse, as a parent, as a brother, as a sister, as a child, as a relative, or as a friend. Just like me, you are worried. You are tired, and you are scared. You are sick of walking on eggshells, every moment of every day. You are sad, but only when no-one is watching. You are pushed to your limit. You are lonely. You are lost.
You’re looking for answers, but more than that, you’re searching for others who understand firsthand what your life has become. Because your friends don’t get it, your colleagues don’t get it, and even your family doesn’t necessarily get it. You’re looking for people on the same journey so you can take comfort knowing that you’re not as alone as you feel. And you’re searching for hope.
I share my stories because I want you to know you’re not alone. You are not the only one who has ever felt this way, you’re not the only one who has had these thoughts.
And I believe there is hope in this dark world of PTSD.
But although PTSD impacts on our life considerably, we are still just a family. And I am still just a mother. I choose to write about and share these aspects of my life too, because I strive to not let my husband’s PTSD define us all.