People sometimes ask me what it's like to be with someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. They tell me that they "couldn't do it." Some people are quick to tell me I need to leave and never come back. Others think that my husband's PTSD symptoms are blown out of proportion or that he just needs to "get over it." Trust me, I wish he could just "get over it." Truth is that he cannot. PTSD is an injury. If a soldier lost a limb or an eye in combat, people wouldn't say to just "get over it." But somehow, with the invisible wounds people expect soldiers to just bounce back.
PTSD is cyclical. It moves in waves. It's always present, but for us and our situation, there seems to be ups and downs. Think of it like a roller coaster. Sometimes the dips go pretty low and sometimes the tops of the hills last longer than the dips. The whole goal with PTSD is to treat it so that eventually, the highs outlast the lows and the highs last longer and the lows are shorter.
There are a lot of different symptoms of PTSD. Instead of going into all of them, I'm going to talk about the ones that affect my husband and our household the most. If you read this and you know someone who has PTSD, some of these may ring familiar with you.
Anger and Bitterness
This one is pretty hard for me. I can tell we are going to be hitting a wave of PTSD when my husband starts talking smack about everyone and anyone around him. He will say he hates everyone, except me, the kids and our parents and siblings.
He will spout off horrible, mean things about people he doesn't even know and it’s hard to deal with. His rants are pretty illogical and he usually has no basis for his anger. Sometimes, it gets so bad I cannot stand to be around him because it's so depressing to hear someone talk about how the whole world sucks.
That's probably the hardest symptom to deal with. I don't want my kids to pick up on his bitterness. I don't want my kids to be jaded like he is.
Depression and Isolation
When my husband gets into a cycle, his depression always gets worse. For him, he isolates A LOT! Hubs will go down to the basement and lay on the futon in the dark and ignore me and the kids. Sometimes he will just lay in bed all day and refuse to get up. On the days I can get him out of bed, he migrates to the couch where he will lay there and watch TV without interacting with the rest of our family. It's pretty hard to deal with, to be honest. When he gets like this, I just try and give him space. I've found that pressing him to get up and get active usually backfires on me. I'll give him a day or so to be moody and sad and then I'll try and get him up and out to do an activity with the kids.
Hubs will get really frustrated with me and the kids. He'll get easily annoyed and he will yell at the kids or start swearing. When he gets like this, I usually take the kids out of the situation. I try and go out for the day to visit my mom and dad or take the kids to the zoo or something … just to give him time to calm down and cool off.
This one is disgusting. When he gets into the PTSD zone, oftentimes Hubby will wear the same clothes for days, and he will refuse to shower. Since he is unemployable and stays home most days, it really only affects me and the kids. I'll try and urge him to shower and shave. He's gotten better about it, but there can be times where he wont shower for 3 days or so. YUCK!
Hubs will do this. For example, he has an OCD thing with vacuuming. He will vacuum the same spot on the carpet over and over. On the other hand, he will also go on tirades about having a clean house, but he only cleans certain sections of it.
Hubs will get an idea in his head about something he wants to do, like a hobby and he will go balls to the wall about it and buy everything and anything he can about the subject. However, pretty soon he gets tired of it and moves on to something else. I can't tell you how much money we've spent dealing with his hobbies.
Lastly, Hubs obsesses about money. He will redo the budget over and over, and if we get just a little low on money he will spiral down into "woe is me" and he will start to talk about how we're going to lose the house, and all our possessions, when in actuality, we are nowhere near that point.
So there ya go. There are more symptoms, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. As I said, the anger is the worst. He will spout such vile, nasty comments about people and he will talk about how everyone is crap. It's hard to hear. I try to be positive about life … It's hard to do, being around someone who is a downer 90 percent of the time. If I allow myself to be pulled into his depression, it will be the end of me. I can't live like that. It's hard to be with someone who is constantly worrying and stressed and who can be such a complete ass to people for no reason.
However, I keep doing what I do. The one thing to remember with PTSD, is that it IS a cycle. There are both highs and lows and really, you have to learn to weather the bad times and hope and pray that the good times are straight ahead.