I know there are TONS of pages about PTSD and people's personal experiences. This is my blog though, and I'd like to share my family's PTSD story. My husband and I both had various versions of PTSD from nonmilitary events but PTSD from our deployment(s) has made us different people. I honestly think there are good and bad things that can come from PTSD, whether others think so or not. We were both deployed during OIF 07-08 for 15 months with the 4th IBCT, 1st Infantry Division. He was a medic & I was an intelligence analyst. We worked in the same unit but rarely saw each other due to our assignments.
His incident occurred during the first few months of our deployment, during an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack followed by shooting incidents. My husband left that attack and firefight with PTSD and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I didn't really know him at the time, so I don't know how he was before these things happened to him. He did debrief with us, where I worked, about the incident so I was aware of the nitty gritty details. I didn't think those would come in beneficial to me, I just thought I was doing my job. I didn't realize that knowing the details would help him open up to me, and heal from the incident.
My incident occurred during an Indirect Fire (IDF) attack on our Forward Operating Base (FOB). Our FOB got IDF pretty much daily, it was rare if a day or two went by with no IDF. I worked at night & slept during the day. I got woken up a few times by IDF, once it hit the building I was living in, while I was sleeping, and another it hit the tent I was living in...and I took shrapnel to my thigh. This incident had the IDF so close that my ears were ringing, but I was still pretty sleepy and wasn't quite able to understand what all happened. There ended up being over 10 volleys of 81mm mortar rounds that hit our FOB that attack. We got lucky during that attack, but the day after that attack there was an attack in the same area which did end up killing some Soldiers. That made me realize how truly lucky we were during the attack where I took shrapnel to my leg. I didn't over react about my incident...I just filled out the paperwork I should have & even went into work that night. It wasn't until I got home from that deployment that I realized I could have died, if our tents were closer, if their aim was better, so many ifs. I do think the prayers from home kept me safe as well as my daily prayers!
I didn't think I had PTSD until I got home and saw fireworks shows. The fireworks made me jump, cars driving erratically made me pull over, loud bangs made my heart race for an hour. I was lucky, my PTSD didn't affect my sleep unless there were bangs while I slept. I did have issues, and still do, with my ears ringing. When there's a loud bang, even if it's clearly not loud enough to affect my hearing, I lose hearing in one or both of my ears for about 10-20 minutes. I didn't have issues with sleeping until my husband deployed this last time, and I started having nightmares about seeing vehicles after attacks, watching as our Mortuary Affairs guys sorted through personal belongings with such respect, and of course the many IDF attacks we had. I would wake up crying and shaking. It was confusing, because I wasn't actually part of some of the dreams, I was just witnessing...and it had been 4 years since my attack! I also had dreams of being there with my husband during his few attacks he has mentioned to me. I had to go see a doctor to figure out how to stop this.
My doctor has helped me realize that just because I wasn't an active part in these incidents they still affect me, just like someone who has witnessed a car accident or traumatic experience can be affected for years. I now know that it's okay for me to have these feelings and dreams, they're not just *meant* for those individuals who took part in those specific events. They affect us all. The fact that I know my husband's stories and he's able to open up to me makes our marriage that much stronger. He knows that he can honestly tell me what's going on during this deployment and I won't overreact or freak out and lose my mind. He knows that I understand what happens during a war, and that even though I'm not there during that deployment I am still here for him. He is able to tell me details, however big or small, of incidents he's currently going through and it's okay.
I feel as we are one of the lucky couples dealing with PTSD. Let's face it, he's from the ranches & farms in Texas....I'm from the suburbs of Philadelphia. We did not grow up alike AT ALL! But, thanks to our war experience and PTSD stories we are able to bond and open up to each other about the incidents we have experienced that have shaped us. Experiences shape us all, whether good or bad, you decide. We could have let our individual cases overwhelm us and ruin our lives but instead we thrived, met each other, and are more willing to work through any issues and problems we have experienced.
I love my husband dearly and I'm so blessed to be able to help him through his daily struggles of his TBI. Yes, we have our moments where we argue, and yes, our marriage is far from perfect. It's okay with me that he has nightmares, that he can't handle crowds, that he gets very emotionally charged about certain things. He's my husband, he was that way when we got married, and I will continue to help him through any challenges that we face. He is able to listen to my stories, and even though I wasn't on the streets walking them like he was, he's able to not judge my deployment as something less than his. He's able to respect and honor his wife's service, and the fact that I gave up everything in my military career to raise our family. For that I'll be grateful forever.