This morning, like every morning, I opened my browser and started to scan Facebook for the daily drama... erm.. I mean updates.
I came across this article posted by a group page called Victory Girls. (Before clicking, please note, it's a heartbreaking suicide note from a 30 year old Iraqi war veteran to his family.)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is NOT a joke. The "idea" of PTSD is still relatively new. It wasn't entered into American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980.
Many people didn't and still don't understand the disorder. Some people blow if off as being crazy, fake, or dramatic - yes, I've heard people say those things. As a photographer, I meet all kinds of people. One session I had the father brought a service dog. When I asked about the dog the father told me that it is a PTSD dog. After serving several tours overseas he battled with PTSD and was given this amazing dog. Some of his "tricks" include standing between people and his owner, knowing how to get his owner to the closest exit, and to simply provide comfort. It was amazing to see this pup in action and it made my heart happy that there are programs out there for those with PTSD.
Now.... on a personal note...
My grandfather, a WWII veteran, had PTSD - we just didn't know it until he was in his 70s. He erratic and dangerous behavior was "blamed" on his liking for alcohol, it wasn't until later that we realized that his liking for alcohol stemmed from his PTSD. He had survivors guilt and experienced things that no 18/19 year-old should have too. It breaks my heart that he spent most of his life dealing with something that he (and the medical community) didn't understand. He was part of the "suck it up and be a man about it" generation instead of the "it's ok, you are not broken and can get help" generation.
The main squeeze's father was a Vietnam vet. He spent two separate year long tours as an infantry Marine. He shared with Vincent some of the horrors he witnessed, but he too was not formally diagnosed until he was in his late 50s. He handled his PTSD in a quiet manner - never asking for help. He always seemed very calm but there were times where his disorder would take over and he would become extremely angry. I personally witnessed a PTSD break through and it was one of the scariest things I have ever seen.
The main squeeze has PTSD. He served in the Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq but his PTSD is mostly from his motorcycle accident. I knew enough about the disorder to recognize when it was the disorder talking and not my husband. I knew enough to comfort him, be patient with him, and to love him through the pain.
Mixed with his traumatic brain injury, Vincent's PTSD manifested in such ways that he would become extremely angry and depressed for "no reason." I remember one time after his accident, he couldn't find something (keys or phone probably), and he came out of the bedroom screaming at me. I know my husband and I knew that that was the PTSD talking. I remember asking him to go back into the bedroom, take a deep breath, then come back out. He did that and was fine.
There have been other instances but its not prudent - what is important is that I, as his wife, had to learn the behaviors associated with Vincent's PTSD. I made the choice to love him through the disorder and recognize that the man I married is still there.
I also know that suicidal thoughts are prominent in PTSD patients, so I tried very hard to maintain an open line of communication with Vincent. He was smart and brave enough to admit he needed to talk to someone, so he went to the therapist for almost two years. That is also important - HE GOT HELP.
We have been blessed. Vincent has surpassed all expectations and has not let a brain injury or PTSD slow him down. He recently finished his MBA and is one exam away from getting his CPA. He is an inspiration. He is amazing. HE IS A FIGHTER.
It will always be an internal battle for him and I will be by his side every step of the way.
Why am I sharing all of this? Simple - PTSD is a highly misunderstood disorder. It's scary and sad. It is very real. Vincent and I share the same belief that if our transparency with PTSD can help one person it is worth sharing.
Living with someone with PTSD can be a constant battle but my love for my husband will always win over his disorder.
If you have PTSD -
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you have a loved one with PTSD -
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
For more info, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health's website or The Nation Center for PTSD. History of PTSD here.