As an investigator by nature and career, I set about to find all treatment options that were available to wounded veterans. I researched day and night about PTSD and TBI. I looked up experimental treatments, studies, and programs. I also found that connecting with other wives offered many resources. Every time someone mentioned a program, I looked in to it and signed up for it. My husband kept his promise and tried everything at least once. To give you an idea of what we tried in that first year:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialecticable Behavioral therapy
- Biofeed back
- Carrick Brain Center
- UTD Center for Brain Health
- Equine Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Couples therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Inpatient treatment (3 times)
- Outpatient treatments
- Service dogs
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber treatment
- Recreational Therapy to include:
- Competitive Sailing
- White Water Rafting
- Art Therapy.
I admit, I was obsessively searching for a magical cure for PTSD and the symptoms of his TBI. Although none of the programs offered the kind of results I naively expected, I learned more than I thought possible. I learned so much about myself, my husband and our marriage. I learned so much about PTSD as it pertains directly to my husband. I learned what his limits were. I was able to see how he reacted in situations. I realized I could learn as much from the bad days as I did from his good days, and most of all we both learned that we will survive.
One thing I want to stress is that what I learned can be applied to every marriage and relationship regardless of if someone suffers with PTSD or not. Marriage is about compromise, compassion and communication. Without these three things, any relationship will suffer.
I understand his limits and do not push him past them. Instead, we have worked around them so both of us are satisfied. This is compromise that is required of every marriage. I have learned that you have let go of individual expectations after an injury. You build a new life together. Ideally, where each person brings out the very best in the other and each person shares compassion and respect for their spouse.
By no means do I have all the answers to a perfect marriage or how to survive PTSD as a spouse. My husband and I still have bad days and ugly days, but we continue to fight for each other, to want the best for each other, and to work through each bad day together. Do I miss the person my husband used to be? Sure. But I wouldn’t want things to be any different. He is still the love of my life and the most incredible men I have ever met.
I want to leave you all with a final piece of advice. There will always be bad days. These bad days may be because of PTSD or maybe just due to the general strains of marriage. In these times, I ask that you do one thing. When you are feeling at your worst and you don’t think you can spend one more second with your partner, take a moment and think about your wedding day. Also, think about the day you first met them. Really think about these two moments, imagine all the details of the day and all the moments that led you to love. Try to relive it through your memory and savor every image, sound, smell, touch that you remember. I guarantee no one looks back on these two moments with anger, hatred, anxiety, stress, depression or fear. These moments bring smiles to our faces. Try to get back to those moments and remember that PTSD can never take those joyful memories away from you.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal November 24, 2015.