Prior to my husband’s last deployment, I had no direct contact with anyone who came home with PTSD. At least no one who was open about it, or even acted how I thought someone with PTSD would act.
That’s one of the troubles with PTSD. It’s not how someone acts in public or controlled situations; it’s how they act when no one else is around.
I had known from telephone and email conversations that something wasn’t right with my own husband. He would call and make wild, angry statements because I forgot to close the garage door. When he actually returned home from deployment, the problems became worse. He began not sleeping at all, and then slept for days. The anger, outbursts, and sullen behavior all reached epic levels. It nearly toppled our marriage over into a hole that it could never crawl out of.
You see, my husband denied he had PTSD, as many do. Because I was largely uneducated, with the exception of knowing PTSD wasn’t what the media portrayed, I didn’t really know what to do. I couldn’t fully see the tell-tale signs in my husband until it was almost too late.
He doesn’t have flashbacks in the “traditional” sense. Instead, his PTSD is quiet, it’s withdrawn, and it’s mean.
I wish I had known all of the ways PTSD can manifest itself. I wish I had known PTSD isn’t always yelling, fighting, and violent. I wish I had known that many of the things we often associate with PTSD are just a very small sampling of what can really be happening in your home.
My husband is withdrawn. He can go months without really speaking to me about anything. This started immediately after he returned, but being his wife, I became a great excuse maker. We never want to think PTSD has touched our life and our spouse. So I made excuse after excuse.
“He’s withdrawn because he’s adjusting.”
“He’s not sleeping because of the time difference.”
“He’s sleeping all the time because of the stress.”
But what it all added up to was a giant elephant in the room, one that he refused to talk about. An elephant that I was scared to bring up.
Sometimes, his posture changes, and I can tell that he is not in the moment with me anymore, but somewhere else entirely. Those times can be followed by silence, or an escalation of anger, but I know it’s not me he is angry at.
When he does have angry outbursts, it’s often at times when I least expect it. He once became angry with me when I asked him to bring me ketchup from the kitchen.
We are shown, and told, that PTSD is loud; that it is crazy, emotional, and intense. There can be violence, drinking, and wild behavior, but that isn’t always the case, and I truly wish I had known that. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten to the brink of divorce.
I would tell any spouse, any family member or friend: Watch.
Simply watch your loved one. Has their sleep pattern changed? Are they sullen or withdrawn? Have they refused to see friends since their return? Are they having memory issues? All of those things, simple as they sound, can be warning signs.
PTSD can be the silent secret that you aren’t even sure is really there. It can be a quiet ordeal your spouse may be living with every day, but not saying anything about. It can be new behaviors you’ve never seen before, or old behaviors that you haven’t seen in a while.
If you suspect anything might be wrong, talk to them. Don’t ask what they did or saw, just talk to them about your concerns. Don’t let it become the elephant in the room and the secret you keep because they don’t want to talk about it. Angry or not, it’s so important that you urge them to seek help. I was lucky that I managed to get my husband into treatment, but others are not as lucky.
Because PTSD can be quiet.
Guest Post by Annie Mously, military spouse blogger
**October 10 is National Depression Screening Day. Take this opportunity to learn about your risk for depression, anxiety or PTSD by completing a simple self-assessment online at www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org.