Compared to the civilian counterparts, the challenges that a military spouse has to face may sometimes be overwhelming. Out of all the trials in dealing with their spouses and children, one of the scariest may be dealing with PTSD. How can military spouses survive this mental condition? Read to know more.
It was an exciting day for Sue* and her family. Although her husband, Greg*, had missed the birth of their son and their daughter’s second birthday, she was still looking forward to this day.
It was the day that Greg’s tour ended. They made their way to the base to meet him. She, her little girl, and her baby boy all dressed in matching outfits printed with the words Welcome home, Daddy!
Sensing a Difference
As Sue and the children finally approached Greg in the meeting area, she was excited to give him a kiss and a hug. But something felt different. He seemed aloof. He held her hand and gave her a passionless kiss. Still, she did not mind. She thought that maybe he was still getting used to life back home after so many months in combat.
Sue waited for her husband to settle in and become comfortable, but after a couple of weeks, things took a turn for the worse. Waking up in the middle of the night, he struggled with nightmares and episodes of sweating. He would snap at their little girl and baby for petty reasons.
Changing for the Worst
Usually, Sue would let things pass and not react to Greg’s outburst, but one night was particularly bad. Greg snapped at her about forgetting a grocery item. He cursed at her in front of the kids. In the past, he was a mild-mannered man, so this was something different.
A few days and a psychological assessment later revealed that Greg was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sadly, Sue and Greg’s story is common. There are many other stories of military families who have faced the challenges of this condition.
As a military spouse, how can you help a loved one who may be suffering from PTSD?
How to help a loved one with PTSD
The prognosis of PTSD improves when the signs are recognized early. Military spouses may help their loved ones considerably if they educate themselves about PTSD and the subtle signs of the condition.
Some of the telltale signs of PTSD include the following:
Increased agitation and irritability
Flashbacks or hallucinations
Insomnia and/or nightmares
Phobias that did not exist before the trauma
Loss of interest in hobbies and daily activities
If military spouses notice these signs as early as possible, their management of this mental condition may produce better outcomes.
Get Help Right Away
If you suspect that your spouse is suffering from PTSD, it is best to find help right away. PTSD may be dangerous not only for your spouse but also for your family. Since one of the hallmarks of this condition is increased agitation, violence may occur. Abuse of substances, suicide ideation, and other dangerous complications may occur if PTSD is not diagnosed and treated.
Military spouses and their families may access mental health resources if they have loved ones with PTSD. You may sign up for psychological assessments, counseling, couples therapy, and other forms of intervention for you and your spouse. The resources may also be used in the treatment for co-occurring disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.
Do not delay finding help. It may save your spouse’s well-being, your well-being, as well as your family’s well-being and safety.
Show Patience and Support
Living as a military spouse, it may be difficult enough to balance marriage, family life, and other responsibilities. Adding PTSD to the mix may sometimes feel overwhelming. This is why military spouses are in a league of their own. They are the strong pillars that make a military family successful.
Assisting service members means showing understanding and support. Equipping yourself with knowledge about PTSD may help build an attitude of compassion instead of retaliation when difficult moments arise.
There are many ways to show support to your spouse. You may:
Provide encouraging words (“I am here for you,” “I am here to support you,” “I love you”)
Show physical intimacy (hugging, holding hands, kissing, touching)
Accompany your spouse to treatment sessions when possible
Plan activities to help you bond as a family
Provide a calm and safe home environment for your spouse
Care for Yourself
Last but not least, it is important to care for yourself as well. As mentioned, it may be challenging to juggle so many responsibilities and tend to the needs of your spouse and your family.
You also need to nurture your needs. Take a break when needed, and always find time to recharge.
PTSD may be scary, but military spouses are resilient. By arming themselves with different strategies, they may win the battle of mental health.
*Names are changed for anonymity.
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