The symptoms of PTSD came years before the actual diagnosis. The short fuse and demanding aggressive behaviour. The drinking and lashing out. The venomous words and unrelenting criticisms. “… anger had become a constant presence in our home.” ~ Lea Farrow of Away With Her Words
Because we didn’t know what we were dealing with, the stress of “it” caused immense strain on our marriage. To the point where we nearly got divorced. Even after we knew what we were dealing with it became too much. I had built up so much resentment over so many choices, decisions and negative moments in our marriage that had gone undiscussed, that it became a huge stumbling block in our relationship. There was so much I hadn’t said because I was scared it would trigger a stream of cutting words that I would never be able to recover from. Yet each unspoken incident became a brick in an impenetrable wall that stood between us.
Cutting people out of your life is easy, it’s keeping them in your life that’s hard. With PTSD it’s harder still. PTSD is a disease that we live with and it’s a struggle every day. It took some pretty intense counselling sessions to bring us to the point where we can start to speak reasonably to each other again. While things may not always be good, they aren’t always bad either.
Looking back I feel like I’ve been walking the line with Johnny Cash. Walking that line for better or worse. Trying to balance the good times with the bad.
“I Keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time; I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; because your mine, I walk the line
I find it very easy to be true; I find myself alone when each day’s through; I’m a fool for loving you; because your mine, I walk the line…” ~Johnny Cash
I know it’s supposed to be a love song but the words have taken on a new meaning for me. I keep my heart guarded so that those stinging words that come out at the most inopportune times can’t hurt too much. I’m always on the lookout for signs that the next tantrum is about to erupt and triggers so that I can intervene before it becomes an issue. And while I remain true to my husband at the end of the day I am always overcome with an extreme loneliness.
Friends and family who know of our marriage problems blithely offer advice. “Take a break. Take some time for yourself…” or “Make time for a date night. Make it a priority.” It’s just not that simple.
I am an extremely reticent person. It is very difficult for me to tell people what is going on with me and when I do it is only after much thought and deliberation. I always figured I could handle my emotions myself. However after the last few years I realized I simply couldn’t go on like this. I needed help but I couldn’t get the support I needed from my close friends and family. It’s not their fault. They tried. They just simply can’t understand how isolating it is to feel like you are sacrificing every day to support your spouse. How time consuming and emotionally draining it is to spend your day tip toeing around their moods. The idea of joining a community program and having to speak my fears and flaws out loud to a group of strangers made my stomach churn, so instead I turned to online groups. There I found some solace in hearing stories from other spouses who were going through the same thing. I found a sense of connection through these people I have never met and am glad to learn from the strategies they share.
You know how flight attendants say put your own oxygen mask on first before turning to help the person in the seat next to you? It’s been the same idea for my marriage. Coming to the realization that I can only help him heal if I work on myself first might sound obvious but it hasn’t been easy. Finding support for myself has helped my marriage more than anything else we have undertaken. Finding support for myself has been the first real step I have taken towards healing my marriage.
If you are dealing with a loved one who has PTSD here are a few resources to check out:
- Visit Families of theRCMP for PTSD Awareness at behindtheredserge.ca
- Contact OSISS (Operations Stress Injury Social Support). They have a section for help for family members. https://www.cfmws.com/en/AboutUs/DCSM/OSISS/Pages/Operational-Stress-Injury-Social-Support-(OSISS).aspx
- Look up OSI clinic at http://datacloud.me/OSIConnect/en/btn_8_38.php
- Check out the COPE program to see if it is a good fit for you.
- The VA Caregiver Support Line provides services and support to family members who are taking care of a Veteran. Call 1-855-260-3274 or visit VA Caregiver Support.
- Visit the Wives of PTSD Vets page at https://www.facebook.com/WivesofPTSDVets.