Friday, February 27, 2009

The Angry PTSD Wife

There's a funny thing that happens when you're the wife of a Veteran with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and other physical injuries.

Some how I manage not to be aggravated by the problems & issues that arise from TBI, and my hubby's physical limitations. I understand when he can't remember our phone number, the year our daughter was born, etc. I sympathize when his hip and back are so painful that he has a hard time doing more than laying in bed. These injuries bring out the protective, caring, "lovey dovey" wife feelings.

On the other hand, when PTSD comes into play, I often feel the exact opposite of tender toward my hubby. It sometimes takes everything in me not to go toe to toe with him, get right in his face, and tell him what an a**hole I think he's being.

One "bad PTSD day" can leave me pissed for a week. We won't even talk about how I feel when we have a bad PTSD month.

So - to you out there in blog world...

What do you do to get over being angry? Have you come up with ideas for coping? Options for getting through the hard PTSD times with out becoming a monster?

Here's what works for me:

(1) I get some space.

In the heat of the moment, things often seem worse than they are. Right that second I may want to wring my hubby's neck... but 30 minutes (or 30 hours) later, I'm willing to spare him.

This can be TOUGH to make yourself do. It seems easier when your Veteran has just been a total a** to just strangle him or yell a string of obscenities at him (or her). But, unfortunately, that only makes it harder to keep your marriage going later. Do yourself and your family a favor - take a break.

(2) I vent.

Sometimes this means calling a friend. Other times it means a new blog post :) . And, then there are times that I just stand outside on my back deck and tell my husband off in my head. My recommendation is to just find away, whatever it takes, to let off some steam.

(3) I cry.

We all need it sometimes. The toughest, strongest individuals... those that never "need" to cry... do. It's our built in emotional release mechanism. In my opinion, it's a God-given tool. Many times in PTSD world, I don't need "help" to cry. Occasionally, though, I put in a sappy movie to help the process along. Afterwards, I always feel cleansed, lighter, and ready to try again.

(4) I go again.

It's hard to go again. It's hard to pick yourself up and face it all again. The life you lead as the spouse of a Veteran with PTSD is unfair. There are no two ways about it. Your are responsible for a lot (if not all) of the day-to-day needs of your household. There's no 50-50 split (often its more like a 99-1 division of labor). You don't have a marriage in the traditional sense. (Don't get me wrong, there are still good times!)

What you do have is a life that you have to choose to make the most of... a life with someone you love, who honorably served his or her country, and now needs help and support. Make up your mind to have a great life. Decide to truly enjoy the good times and get through the not so good times. (And when you need a willing ear on those difficult days, don't forget we're here to listen!!)

Big hugs and thanks for all you so bravely do!!



  1. I absolutely love this article! It made ma laugh and cry at the same time if that makes sense to anyone. We are not married but are living together and it has been so hard. He is at 70% disability and is going through the rigors of tests and evaluations that have been taking its toll on all of us. He can't work because of his PTSD because he would pass out and has been put on medical hold even with Cognitive Work Therapy. He is depressed about this and again goes into the cycle of constant sleep. I worry so much about his health. I also feel like he is not doing enough for himself like taking care of his health himself and since he is home all day, would it hurt to contribute to the housework? Often times I come home from work and find him sleeping or hurting somewhere or having a headache or some other ailment. I cannot count on him to do anything. I always have to follow up, which he does not like at all.

    He says I am being too controlling and like a ball and chain when I call him to check on him to see if he is ok. He wants to do it on his own, but I feel so out of the loop when he does not share his medical history or outcomes with me. We are constantly on each other and it is getting too much for either of us to handle. We are separated at this moment. We know we love each other but we have many trust issues at this point. I have a son that cannot be a part of this unstable world anymore. I do so want to deal with it but I cannot because I have a responsibility to my child as a mother first and foremost. This kills me inside.

    Even with therapy together was not a success. The first visit I was so frustrated about a lot of things and wrote out what I wanted to discuss. When I started reading the paper, he felt cornered and got angry and burst out of the room. I ran after him of course and we came back to the room. He already had a bad taste in his mouth and soon after convinced himself of it and stormed out asking me for a refund of the money that he had given me to pay for expenses throughout the year. ($12,000) I made the money last the whole year and we still ate out more than in. He on the other hand had over $30,0000 and spent it all in the course of 6 weeks for what I don't know. Now he wants to move back in with me and have him on the lease so that he cannot be thrown into the street. No one throws him into the street, he walks off and leaves me and my son behind when he is angry. He claims he will return when he is able. I cannot do this anymore. It is so hard. How can I explain to him that I need to be a mother to my son and not chance losing him to social services because of the fights we have? This has left me speechless and distrought and feeling helpless and worthless to anyone. My job is suffering because of it as well. Should I cut the ties? How do I cope? I am afraid to tell him. What do I do?

  2. Ahhh, this made me cry - didn't need a sappy movie for it. I'm glad it did though, because I'm walking around feeling overwhelmed and just needed to cry.

    I have a PTSD (among other things ) Army vet. I can relate to a lot of what you've said.

    One thing I do is take a deeeeeep breath, hold it, try to take in more (strengthens lungs) then exhale and sigh as exhaling. It's a relaxation technique my massage therapist taught me.

    I journal a lot too.

    If all else fails I talk to my puppies, they never have a bad thing to say!


  3. I am the wife of a PTSD/TBI veteran and I stumbled upon this in attempts of getting more info on his PTSD condition and help for myself, I am the stable one...or so I think, because all this "being the strong one is truly hurting me emotionally as well. :( My husband has been off work for almost 4 years now. he gets va benefits of over 3000 just recently approved and just recently been approved 1400 from SSDI this excluded the benefits my 3 year old baby is now getting 664 from his SSDI benefits as well. :( my husband and I have fought so much over his unemployment, him staying home depressed and I even have my baby in daycare because truly this condition can be contagious on all of us. The va is so unhelpful when it comes to filling me in because they depend on my husband to sign a release form on his condition, and i guess he is not willing to sign it. all this fighting led him to file a divorce but ONLY AFTER knowing he was approved for Social Security. So i guess me keeping our family out of bancruptcy and me sticking by my husband thru sickness counts for nothing. truth is I love him so much :( if not i wouldnt have put up with the mental and physical abuse. truthfully the mental abuse hurts now we are in reconciliation no longer continuing the divorce. Althou the divorce is still pending until he discontinues it. But he wont, because this is his way of controlling me. He states that I have a anger problem and i am a threat to him and my baby boy. we don't get along well anymore because of the effects of his condition, but not that i am a threat but that he is just saying i am because in refusal to talk about finances and things that need attention he shuts me out. if i say something that he doesn't want to hear it's considered a threat :( Even worse...until the court changes the provisional order that was typed back in october for us to have this horrible 50/50 arrangement with our son (which i am pushing for in our June hearing) he is using this provisional order to his advantage. to control me in and out my home, my time with our son. he limits the time my family can see him. Granted things are going fairly well these days with church counciling and so i am there everyday...but I recently became my son's representatve payee to recieve the babies benefits and my husband took those stupid papers and found a way to show him able to manage our son's benefits. Truth is he is not even half as capable as I am and he doesn't even manage his money well :( he already spent the 17,000 in back pay they gave him and I am scared he is going to use my son's backpay on his two other daughter whom he owes childsupport and stuff on. Very difficult stuff huh? I just pray god is watching all this and helps our family...he is very greedy these days and I wish we were not blessed with this privilage of disability ...i think he exagerates it. I know you know what I am talking about because that is what they's all in the head...he truly can work if he wants but he truly is not good with money. Whatsoever should I do....this man will try for cusody of my son if we cant work it out. i am scared. He uses his unemployment as a benefit with time for our son. If i counted on him to help pick up the baby from daycare or take him to the doctor he states he is the one who does EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!! nuts....i have done for us for so long, i dont know what is goingthru his i that mean that now he doesnt want to do the same for me willingly? am i wrong for trying to secure our son's money? Because I am going to appeal the decision, it is in my son's best interest. I know it is, i know my husband he is not organized or responsible, e pays things late he is just like having another kid. Please help if you can :( Sincerly, me

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  5. As a Vietnam combat veteran who has suffered with PTSD for over forty years now, I have also had to watch my wife and children suffer with "secondary PTSD". I'd like to help others not go through the same thing so, after much research, I've written a booklet which I send out for free entitle "How Families Can Help Combat Veterans Suffering With PTSD". To get a free copy via email, go to and leave a message in the 'contact us' section.

  6. My wife left me becouse of PTSD my kids are my only light thank god for them.


  8. Julia -

    You need to find a counseling resource right away. You're exhibiting all of the classic signs of secondary PTSD which (I'm sure) are compounded by the wounds from your past. Give An Hour ( offers free counseling around the US. Check out their website and see if there is a counselor near you who is in the program.

    Proud wife of an OIF veteran
    Founder of

  9. WoW...that was pretty shocking how right on that was. I am pretty much in denial...denial with a smile. Probably because I reached out in the middle of a bad PTSD 3 days to the internet to see whether or not I am alone. I guess not. ;-) Thank you!

  10. Anonymous -

    You are most DEFINITELY not alone. You'll find while looking through this blog and through the main site that there are a lot of us out there struggling with the same things. Hugs and prayers to you and to your family as you figure out how to live this "new" life together.

    Brannan Vines
    Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
    Founder of - a site dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

  11. So my husband (60% disabled iraqi vet) says in an arguement that I dont know anything about PTSD and that I should research it. So here I am. I am troubled by what I am finding out. Basically, im pissed that I am going to have to somehow, find a way to accept the fact that I have married someone I cannot rely on! How do you have a marriage like that? Someone in one of the posts said "its not going to be fair, there is no 50/50". I dont know if i can be ok with that.
    I guess i should consider myself lucky.. he doesnt sleep all day but he does zone out on the computer, doesnt hear me talk, doesnt listen, blows me and my questsions/concerns off, never takes responsibility for himself.
    Ill give you some history:
    We have been married 2 years. HE has a son from a previous marriage and I have a son from a previous relationship and together we have a daughter who is almost 1.
    The other day, she was climbing around, trying to stand and she slipped and bit her lip. He heard her cry and came barraling into the room questioning what happened. I scooped her up and calmly said, "she bit her lip". He was so concerned he yelled at my son to "get out of the way". and when I got angry at him for doing that, he blamed the child because he never listens (he is 3), and then me because she "always gets hurt when youre around". HOW can i get over this? He refuses to get help. He says he has been thru all the meds and the counseling and all they do is tell him to breathe and take meds he wont take. He says he wants to use marijuana to help his symptoms. great. ....something else to ruin what little motivation I can get out of him. He is completely unreliable and I feel like a single parent with just one more child to clean up after and organize life for.
    The subject of secondary PTSD is a real possibility here for me and I know I just cant live that way...rather I WONT live that way.
    In all of the research I have done so far, it talks about the other steps that us as spouses can do to help keep us organized ...nothing along the lines of offering ways to help your spouse get up, get moving, move on with life. IF I continue to do everything, isnt that me enabling him? Wouldnt that too mean that I am part of the problem?
    I would like to know if anyone has actually gotten their spouse to become involved instead of just taking on all the jobs. I also want to hear from people about the possibility of using PTSD as an excuse. Yes, he has it, and yes he has bad days, BUT he remembers other things (like his sons practices and PTA meetings) without being reminded and he is doing well in school. Sometimes it feels like he picks and chooses what to care about and remember and when he is aloof or forgetful, he blames it on PTSD.
    At any rate, it is good to vent and I am grateful for anyone who reads and responds. We all need support.

  12. Sorry it's taken me a day to respond! I wanted to think a little :) Here is my take from a "been at this a while, but still don't have all the kinks worked out" perspective. In our household we have an agreement - as long as my husband is trying to work through his PTSD then I am willing to do my part to learn to live with his PTSD. I believe there does have to be some give and take BUT you can't expect that give and take to be even most of the time. It sucks, but it is what it is. I've had to learn to deal with (which has been a process) the fact that there are days when I wake up to a "normal" reasonably helpful, involved hubby and there are days when I wake up to a grouch (could insert A LOT worse words there) that isn't going to do anything at all. But, I have noticed that as time has progressed and we have worked together to find "middle ground" and find ways to cope, that he has plugged back into our family somewhat. There can be some improvement there. I really think though (and I say this from a been there standpoint) the two of you need to go to your nearest Vet Center and ask for marriage counseling. You're pissed (which is a perfectly normal reaction, I spent the first 24 months in PTSD world freaking pissed at the world) and he's unplugging - partly because of PTSD and partly because your pissed. A counselor can work as a intermediary to help you work through that as a couple and get to a better place. And, as a final note, as far as him remembering somethings and not others, I don't know why but it seems to be a very common PTSD thing that some topics just click better than others. And they're not even always the "fun" things (sports scores, time scheduled with a buddy, etc.), sometimes they're just things that for whatever reason make an "Aha!" place in their head. Can't explain it but I experience it myself with the dh all the time and hear about it from TONS of spouses. Hope this helps! If not, feep free to e-mail me at info -at-

    Brannan Vines
    Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
    Founder of - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

  13. My husband has PTSD. He gets 100% disability. He has it really bad. I knew nothing about it when we got together (4 years ago). We have 2 children. I realized early something was wrong with him. I knew it wasn't him. I encouraged him to get help. When we figured out it was PTSD he went through all the doctors and hospitals and counselling. I try to see it as a cancer. I can't get mad at him. I never fought back at his anger. At first it would lead to worse fights but I have almost always remained level headed and calm. This is what has saved us. I had to call the police on him a few times but I never had him arrested, I asked the police to calm him down before he came back inside and he usually would go to bed and the next morning we would be better. When he was 'normal' we would talk about how to stop his rages. We had key words or sentences. So when he would rage I would try to explain to him when he would 'snap' that he is 'doing it again' and 'needs to be calm' or needs to 'walk away'. It didn't work every time. It has been a year and we have come a long way. He no long yells, he no longer rages, our children do not seem to be affected at all. I agree it is a heavy load to carry. It is 99% of the workload and life load on your shoulders. You have to be an extremely strong person to be able to be the spouse of a PTSD Vet and make it work. I married my husband for the person he was. If he had gotten cancer after we got married I would have been just as supportive because I love him. It's the pain of loving someone who loves you back just as much. I don't love him any less because he is sick. Sometimes I hate the person he can be but I never loose control if I can help it. that is the key. The Native American Indians, the Japanese, they have their calm ways of coping and self healing (I grew up in an area with Native Americans) and sometimes learning to cope and remain calm is the only way you can help your husband. We are now in the process of starting our life. He hasn't beaten PTSD and I doubt he ever will, but the best thing I can do for him is to help him enjoy his life to the fullest, as he can, because deep down inside he really is a good person.

  14. I'm a wife of an army veteran he has PTSD and Tbi injury from the military we are going on 5 yes of marriage . Sometimes I feel I'm walking on eggshells around him. I have yelled cried screamed at him. Not the best thing to do I'm sure. But I'm new to this and I don't know how to cope sometimes with him and he thinks it's okay to say things and start an argument with others if they didn't even do anything wrong. I guess I have been silent to long. My heart can't take it. :(

  15. I am so overwhelmed by all of the responsibility that lies on my shoulders. I take care of him, my kids, and have a full time job. I get angry as well and lately I have just wanted to scream. How do I get through this?

  16. Anonymous -

    I *KNOW* that place... as do many, many, MANY of your fellow veteran wives. First (((HUGS)). Second, know that you are ABSOLUTELY not alone, that your feelings are normal, and that it can get better. Have you been able to look into any counseling options for yourself? It really can help make a big difference. If we can help you find something, please send an e-mail to

    Brannan Vines
    Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
    Founder of - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

  17. I know how old this post is but I re-read it when we have bad days and well we are having a bad PTSD day here. We are 2 years out of the diagnosis and 7 months out of the Army and things are on the up swing. But today was a bad bad bad day and my husband was being a complete and total a**hat. Yesterday, I was feeling crappy so he took care of me. This morning I was still exhausted so he let me sleep in and made coffee. But as soon as we left for the grocery store it all fell apart everything I said set him off. And of course it is my fault for being obnoxious, belittling him, and always correcting him. All I really said was "No it's south not north." But it was an attack. Later on when he came out of his room and had paperwork I had to fill out that second (because it HAD to be done when he wanted it done) and he had lost our check book he flipped saying how I was useless because I didn't jump up and help him right away. The first fight made me mad and I yelled. Tonight's fight made me talk quietly, calm, and need to fight back tears.

    I have always heard about the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde scenario with anger but up until recently it has been more moodiness, mean comments, depression and nightmares. Now it is definitely anger with meanness and mood swings. His PTSD has definitely morphed into something ugly. It sucks. Like I said, we are (or were? not really sure at this point) on an up swing but his anger with his mood swings is getting much worse. On the upside (and other side) of the coin he is getting much nicer, sweeter, more loving, more in tune emotionally to me at the good times.

    There really was no point to this (and because this post is so old I dont know if anyone will actually see it) but when we have a bad PTSD day this is the post I go to. Because I am angry and upset and frustrated but it makes me feel normal and be able to breathe again.

    1. It may be too late now, but I am right there with you. I am at my whits end with my husband. I have been in the relationship for 5 years (married 4), and I simply don't know what to do. I feel helpless, lost, angry, stressed, and in a constant state of fear of saying the wrong thing. I am tired of getting yelled out and belittled for things that shouldn't be turned into a huge argument. I've been to marriage counseling and he can manipulate the conversation and turn things around in a such a way that I turn out to be the bad guy (as always). He can be incredibly charming to the world when he wants to be, but I am sick and tired of these high/lows. My self esteem is below the floor, my confidence as an individual is non existent. He loves unconditionally (according to him), but how can you lash out at someone for no real good reason? How can he get over the anger after insulting me and expect that I can forget it in a moments notice and have sex with him (and like it) 10 minutes later? Can someone please explain this to me????