As we wrap up Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and our series about PTSD in the military home, we wanted to share a success story with you.
If you haven’t read the previous week’s posts, check them out. We shared stories like Bailey Francisco’s, a military brat that spoke frankly about his dad’s battle with PTSD and how it ripped their family apart. Week 2 touched on how PTSD is no excuse for abuse–there is a difference between the diagnosis and inexcusable treatment of a spouse or a child.
Week 3 we heard how Paul, an Army veteran, lives with the guilt he carries after leaving the military and not being able to deal with life. A struggle that resulted in anger and explosions at his family. With a PTSD diagnosis and proper treatment, Paul’s journey took a drastic turn.
And in Week 4, perhaps the most important lesson was learned: PTSD isn’t a catch-all diagnosis, and why it’s so critical to seek help from a professional to find the right treatment for the individual.
This week, we want you to meet the Grenier* family.
Matthew Grenier is now an active duty E-6 in the Army. He still remembers the day he enlisted.
“I have known since I was a child that I wanted to join the military. Just like my father ,and his father before him.” For Matt, there was never a question. Even Amy, who is now his wife, knew that about him.
“We were high school sweethearts,” she remembers, “and he was always straight with me that if we were going to get married, the Army was going to be part of that equation.”
That equation turned out to be a lot heavier than either of them anticipated. Upon finishing Advanced Individual Training, he was off to his new unit, and on his way to Afghanistan. “I always knew it was a possibility,” Matt explained, “and it was what I had trained for. To be honest, I was looking forward to going. I was worried about my then 5 months pregnant wife. That was hard.”
Amy shared, “I had a pretty easy pregnancy, thankfully, so it wasn’t too bad. But, still, I had wished that he could be there for the birth of our baby. He did get to see the ultrasound and we found out our baby’s gender. That’s a lot more than other families get. So, I was grateful.”
In Afghanistan, Matt’s unit saw heavy fire. It was 2007-2008. They lost lives. He saw things he still won’t talk about.
When he returned home, it was a difficult time. He recalls, “I didn’t want to hold my baby girl. I didn’t want to talk to my wife. I was a ghost in the family.”
“It was like he wasn’t even there,” Amy says. “He was always quiet. He didn’t go out, he kept to himself and his only other emotion was anger.”
Matt wasn’t doing well, and at his command’s urging, he sought help for what he later found out was PTSD. At the time, he didn’t know what PTSD was, and had no interest in talking to anyone–a commonality shared by many military members.
Matt started individual therapy, and then family therapy shortly thereafter. He even sought out the company of his fellow soldiers who were going through the same things. He recalls that just spending time together with other people who understood the struggle, and being there for each other when needed was enough.
It’s been 9 years since his deployment, and 7 years since he first sought treatment. He’s been off medications for 3 years, out of treatment, and ‘in recovery,’ as Matt calls it.
“I can see now that PTSD is treatable. I always thought it was an incurable disease–something I would always carry with me.”
Matt now shares his story of recovery with others, “I know how hard it is to accept and to talk about. My family was suffering. I was suffering. It was needless. Just get help. If there is one thing I want others to take away from this is just that. Find help. Talk to someone. Do it before you lose everything. And, remember, this is completely treatable. I’m not saying I don’t have my moments, but I can say that I’m living a much fuller life and so is my family.”
Do you have a PTSD success story? We’d love to hear about it.
Posted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Pipeline