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What It’s Like Being the Spouse of a Veteran With PTSD

Disclaimer: I am the wife of a veteran. These are my opinions based on experiences I have every day.

When you marry a veteran, lots of things travel through your brain. You know, and do your best to understand, that what they experienced stays with them. Most don’t want to talk about it, and even if they do, you will never truly understand because you did not live through it. One thing that does not change is how proud you are of them. They made the choice to serve their country. I am so proud of my husband. He is my hero. Sometimes I tell him that he is my hero and I am usually met with “I was just doing my job” or something to that effect. To him, it was just a job; to me, he is a living, breathing superhero.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something that will affect a spouse more than you might think. I was not prepared in any way, shape or form for how PTSD would affect my marriage. Everything was great…until it wasn’t. I don’t know what triggered it, and neither does he. There were a lot of arguments over “stupid” things, tears shed and emotions I didn’t even know I had, thrown out into the open air. I knew that whatever this was, wasn’t my fault. However, I couldn’t help but think, did I do something to provoke it? Am I making it worse by being emotional? If I am making it worse, how do I stop? The overwhelming desire to help him overshadows any emotion I could be feeling.

Something I have learned along the way is that I cannot keep suppressing all the feelings I had/have when PTSD gets in the way. No matter how much I want to help him, I have to remember that I cannot be a support for him if I am also “traumatized.” Feeling like things are always my fault, not expressing my uncertainty, sadness and in some cases, anger, got to me. I realized that it is OK to ask for help. We have since gone to our local vet center to gain some support, but it still feels awkward at first. Sitting there telling a stranger your most personal problems and how they make you feel. All I want to do is move past it because it is what I have conditioned myself to do. I put so much focus on helping my husband, I never realized how badly it was affecting me and my mental health.

Your spouse is supposed to be the closest person to you. The one you confide in and rely on during your lightest and darkest times. A mental struggle I have is feeling like I will never have the close bond I desire with my husband, because his brothers and sisters in arms hold that title. No matter how hard I try, I will never understand him the way they do. I just have to trust that he loves me as much as I love him, and that trust requires me to be more vulnerable than I have ever been. That vulnerability is a feeling of great discomfort, that I live with 24/7 because I love him.

These are just a few of my opinions on what it’s like inside the mind of a spouse of a vet with PTSD. I hope it is relatable for others in my position and continues to open a door to a previously closed room.

Getty image via gud_zyk.