Marriage is a beautiful journey filled with love, companionship, and shared experiences. However, when you’re married to a veteran who is battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the journey can come with unique challenges. This blog explores the importance of supporting and understanding what PTSD is, the impact it has on the spouse, and common warning signs, and provides credible resources to help spouses navigate this complex situation.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a mental health condition that can affect individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events. Veterans who have served in combat zones often struggle with this condition. My husband, who has served 4 combat tours, battles with this along with TBI and other issues from being deployed. He has over 40 months deployed in combat zones. For me, it’s vital to comprehend that PTSD is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a natural response to traumatic experiences.
The Impact on the Spouse
Being married to a veteran with PTSD can be emotionally challenging. It’s common for spouses to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and sometimes helpless. You might even experience guilt for not being able to “fix” your partner’s pain. I can remember several times feeling these same emotions. It seemed like I was just watching him go more and more downhill at times. It left me feeling empty at times. It’s essential to recognize that you cannot solve PTSD alone, but your support is invaluable in their recovery journey.
Warning Signs of PTSD
- Flashbacks and Nightmares: Frequent distressing memories or nightmares related to traumatic experiences can be a sign of PTSD.
- Avoidance and Emotional Numbing: Individuals with PTSD may avoid reminders of their trauma and may become emotionally numb or distant.
- Irritability and Hyperarousal: Look out for signs of heightened irritability, sudden anger outbursts, or being easily startled.
- Social Withdrawal: If your spouse begins to withdraw from social activities, hobbies, or friends they once enjoyed, it could be linked to PTSD.
- Substance Abuse and Alcoholism: Some people with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Changes in drinking habits or drug use may be indicative.
- Service-Related Guilt: Many veterans struggle with guilt, especially survivor’s guilt or guilt related to actions taken during their service. This guilt can be overwhelming.
Support and Communication
- Educate Yourself: Learning about PTSD is crucial for better understanding your spouse’s experiences and emotions. Knowledge can foster empathy and patience.
- Encourage Professional Help: PTSD often requires professional treatment, such as therapy or medication. Encourage your spouse to seek help and offer to accompany them to appointments if they’re comfortable with it.
- Active Listening: Create a safe space for your spouse to talk about their feelings and experiences. Sometimes, just being there to listen without judgment can make a significant difference.
- Self-Care: Caring for someone with PTSD can be emotionally draining. Prioritize your own mental and physical health. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups if necessary.
- Patience: Recovery from PTSD takes time. Be patient with your spouse and yourself as you both navigate this journey together.
Credible Resources for Support
- National Center for PTSD (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs): This comprehensive resource offers information on PTSD, treatment options, and tips for families and loved ones.
- Veterans Crisis Line: If you or your spouse is in crisis, you can reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line for immediate assistance.
- Wounded Warrior Project: This organization provides support for wounded veterans and their families. They offer programs, counseling, and resources to help navigate life after combat.
- Give an Hour: Give an Hour connects military personnel and their families with mental health professionals who volunteer their time and expertise.
- Military OneSource: A Department of Defense program, Military OneSource offers a wide range of resources, including counseling services, articles, and practical tips for military families.
- Support Groups: Look for local support groups or online communities where spouses of veterans with PTSD can share their experiences and find solace in connecting with others facing similar challenges.
Marriage to a veteran with PTSD can be demanding, but it can also be an opportunity to showcase unwavering love, support, and understanding. Understanding what PTSD is, recognizing warning signs, and encouraging professional help are essential steps in helping your spouse on their path to recovery. Remember, you are not alone, and there are credible resources available to assist both you and your partner through this journey. Together, you can navigate the challenges of PTSD and build a stronger, more resilient relationship. The Stay Safe Foundation has been a critical part of my husband’s recovery, and they continue to show us time after time why they are one of the resources out there.
About Sarah Parris
Sarah was born in Fiji and adopted by a Texas native and an Air Force Retiree. She grew up in the Northern U.S. and has traveled the world with her family, ending up in PA, where she graduated college with a degree in Sport Management. She now lives with her husband John, a disabled Army Vet, their daughter and dog, in Georgia. She works in management in the fitness industry, and loves helping people show up to better themselves. Sarah sums up her life philosophy with scripture: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7