Friday, December 13, 2013

Loving my Soldier: Hindsight Insights of PTSD and TBI

No one told me what to expect when my husband returned from war.

I guess no one told him either.  He wasn’t the same. What was different? Hmm. Nothing too much at first. He didn’t smile or talk as much, and he just seemed a tad distant, but that could’ve been because we’d been a part for so long. 

Something more? Nah. No way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). at the time, I felt like most soldiers were falsely claiming to have it, as if it were an excuse for their bad behavior or some sort of get out of jail free card. Wow, I was wrong.
My husband and I, and most of our military friends felt the same way, but when PTSD symptoms starting emerging in my husband, I started to secretly second guess my preconceived notions. 

PTSD shook our world to the core, and we all but crumbled. It took years to get the help my husband needed, and even after treatment the battle continued. It's only been in the past couple of years that I feel we are "in the clear", or on the other side of the storm. At this point in our marriage, we can look back on our PTSD and take a deep breath...reflect, and even make a list of things we wished we'd known, or things at least I wished I had known. 

I understand the PTSD journey is's difficult...the hardest thing we've ever gone through, but worth every single moment of the struggle.

I pray that my list will in some way help you or someone you know that could be struggling with this issue.

Hindsight is 20/20:
*Pressuring my husband to talk about his  deployment experiences was not a good idea. I just needed to love him, and talk about other things.
*Listen when your husband chooses to talk about the war. Just listen. Don’t talk. Just listen.
*Don’t tell him how he needs to be feeling or what he needs to be doing. Just love him. Let your actions and words show him how much you love him.
*PTSD symptoms can show up months or even years later. Your brain does a really great job of covering up and trying to protect you.
*Men want to know that they’re good enough. Good enough to save the day, get the job done, make ends meet, protect you and your family. Their ego is fragile no matter how big it may appear. Build them up with words and actions. Let them know they are good enough.   
*Sometimes soldiers returning from stressful combat situations literally can’t feel. This was hard to swallow, and understand. As a woman, I feel LOTS of emotions, lol. Many soldiers returning from war have lost the ability to feel any emotion other than anger. There is a constant numbness. And that’s normal. It’s how many are able to successfully do their job. BUT at home, these men who are fathers and husbands, need to feel. It would’ve been nice to know that my husband feeling distant from me and others was normal, and that it takes time, rest, patience, good nutrition, and prayer to learn to feel again.
*Prolonged stress can alter your genetics, and cause damage to your brain. Google the effects of stress…you’d be amazed! Upwards of 80% of diseases are a direct effect of stress, and soldiers, and their families—yes, even the kids are stressed. What helps? Exercise! Music! Positive Thinking—putting the Word of God in your heart and mind. Staying busy. Getting involved, and volunteering.  
*There is no shame in admitting that you or your spouse need help for PTSD/TBI. My husband denied any problems until others began to recognize symptoms in him, and then he was worried that getting help would be embarrassing, make him less of a soldier. That wasn't true. Getting help saved him and our family.

Please feel free to leave comments or shoot me a message. I’d love to hear from you. 

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Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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