It's funny the things that you suddenly see clearly at the oddest moments...
An older member of my husband's family who served in WWII as a Navy "Frogman" (the precursor to the Navy Seals), and his wife have always been talked about as being... let me put this kindly... shall we say eccentric? He follows a very set routine, hates to go new places, has met more than one family member at the door with a shotgun, and is angry and withdrawn most of the time. His wife is often forgetful and has become increasingly irate herself. They have a marriage that on its best day (at least to the outside world) seems strained and unkind. And, none of these attributes are new... they've lived a lifetime together (since the man's return from WWII) this way. And, unfortunately, their children (now grown) have been marred by the hostility, anxiety, and paranoia within their home.
I don't know why I suddenly had an "Ah-hah!" moment just a few days ago... even in typing this blog the answer seems obvious...
What is the answer?? This man, a Veteran hero, has been struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for most of his adult life. It's gone undiagnosed, untreated, and thus has been allowed to fester and spread throughout his entire family.
Of course, this isn't really his fault... at the end of WWII it wasn't acceptable to admit you were struggling with "Shell Shock". You (especially men) were expected to move on, get to work, care for you family, and keep going.
So, what can we, as part of the "new" generation of Veterans and families from OIF & OEF learn from this story?
#1 - Seeking treatment for PTSD isn't just about helping yourself... it's about safeguarding the hearts, minds and futures of your entire family.
#2 - The consequences of not providing diagnosis and treatment for the 300,000+ Veterans of the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan will be far reaching and will last for generations.
#3 - We are fortunate to live in a time when PTSD is something you can talk about. I'm not saying there isn't still a stigma attached at times... but it is at least a topic we can bring up & address.
#4 - If we want our marriages to be filled with love, kindness, and tenderness, we have to fight for them now. We can't let things sit & fester!
So, as the wife of a brave OIF Veteran who has stepped up and sought help in his struggles with "Beastie Boy" PTSD, I have to encourage you, our other returning heroes to do the same.
You have to choose not to let PTSD destroy you, your loved ones, and your future. Your wife, children, parents, etc., can only do so much. The steps to coping and healing are yours to take.
I'll leave you with a paraphrased quote from a friend over at The Veterans Benefits Network...
"PTSD is a sickness reserved only for survivors. It takes courage to survive and it takes courage to deal with PTSD."
So - take heart, dear hero - and get started in the journey to make the rest of your life all it is supposed to be!