Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Day in the Life of PTSD (and Secondary PTSD)

How can one day have so many ups and downs? One might simply say mental illness...maybe even combat PTSD but how about secondary PTSD? Here’s how my day was today:

Woke up at 5am to take our youngest, almost two-year-old, to surgery. He needed a dental procedure for tooth decay….not from bottle-feeding, but from ‘comfort’ breastfeeding. He was conceived when my husband returned from his 15-month-intense infantry tour in Iraq . Needless to say…there were quite some serious issues during that time of homecoming but the hubby and I seemed to work them out. Baby was born with minor health issues but seemed to thrive quickly. His temperament, on the other hand, was questionable. He quickly started displaying frustration with his eyebrows as early as two-months. I assumed he was perhaps more needy than his brother and sister so I coddled him frequently and often since I knew that his crying would easily upset my husband. Long story short…all of the demand nursing caused him tooth decay that went misdiagnosed for a year. Well, today was his surgery.

My husband very recently came home from his second attempt at in-patient PTSD re-integration. He wanted to be home for this surgery and the other kids ball games. This time though, he and I both realized that the kids and I suffer from secondary PTSD…explaining the pressure, outbursts, hyper vigilance, and over compensating characteristics our 10-year-old daughter has been displaying for two years; the adrenaline seeking, attention seeking, acting out in school characteristics of our six-year-old son who has been recently been diagnosed with ADHD; and the aggression, separation anxiety and violence displayed by our youngest…not even two-years-old yet.

So, here we sit at the surgery center anxiously awaiting word from the doctor. I am trying not to think of the worst that could be happening to our baby but my mind keeps going to the affair my husband had while receiving ‘so-called’ treatment, the unspeakable amount of meds he was put on during the time of his in-patient care, and the delusions he had during that time. I try to brush it all off and read a magazine. I reach to my husband for comfort and he’s resistant. All of the other couples there in the waiting room there, young and old, are comforting each other…but when I get close to my husband and try to focus on his appointments…he lashes out…raising his voice and cussing at me. So now, I’m not only worried about my baby who is under anesthesia…I’m worried about all of the people looking at us for this obnoxious behavior. I shut down as I usually do to avoid any more aggravation for him. He always seems to be quite relieved after getting his point across anyway. Here I go…coddling, yet again…but not a child, this is my 28-year-old husband.

Luckily, our baby made it out of surgery fine. We picked up our other kids on the way home. We had to drop them off again within a few hours to travel out of town for my husband’s psychiatric appointment. The baby came with us since he was still groggy from his procedure. I was apprehensive since the last time my husband had an appointment with this psychiatrist…he got impatient and exploded on the receptionist so I made sure I came to this appointment with him. I wanted to make absolute sure that his psychiatrist knew all of the meds he had been on since being at the live-in PTSD transition home (BTW he was put on so many heavy meds during his stay there…he went into a complete mental breakdown with severe delusions, paranoia, and had his affair). The psychiatrist this time so completely understood and, just like me, was appalled by the amount of medications he was put on. I felt validated for once…guilty for tossing my husbands skeletons out of the closet, but relieved that someone else understood that the insane amount of medication had something to do with it.

As we were leaving the psychiatrist office we ran into an OIF/OEF combat therapy social worker that we had met with before. We really connected with him before in hopes of getting my husband combat therapy from him but were told that my husband was not near enough ready to work through it. This time, the social worker thought he was ready…not only did that take a huge weight off my shoulders but another lady there in the hall was supportive and helpful as well. She heard me saying how I realize that the kids and I have secondary PTSD but cannot receive any help through VA without my husband and the lack of resources our local VA has. She offered to make some calls and get us set up for family and marriage counseling. I was on an ultimate high for a while. I even suggested to my husband that we do some monthly shopping…keep in mind…today is the first of the month when everyone and their mother is out, about, and bitchy. We usually avoid this completely but were feeling so good that we did go shopping for groceries on our way home. It was actually a pleasant experience.

We got our kids and headed home after our very long day. We decided to relax with pizza and a couple of beers. I knew I’d have to get the older kids ball gear ready for early tomorrow morning after getting dinner served but had to sit down to pay some bills online. When I got to the cell phone bill I was reminded of all of the minutes and messages shared between my husband and his hideously disgusting mistress…not only was I reminded of that…I got yet another missed call from an ‘unknown’ number….the 16th unknown call to either my cell or the house phone in the last week. I’m so irritated and I express it to my husband who ‘cannot’ deal with stress. I’m so frustrated! I feel that he was able to deal with her when he wanted but cannot deal with ‘real-deal home-life’ stress when necessary. I feel guilty for having those feelings because he’s been through so much but c’mon, ya know?

So while I’m trying to pay the bills online, he’s passing out on the recliner, our 10-yr-old has an attitude about when her bedtime is, and our six-year-old is screaming about who knows what, and our potty-training almost two year old is pooping all over the carpet. I want to pull my hair out. I used to be such a better parent and wife. I had so much patience and understanding. Now all I have is anger, resentment, and rage. Why do we have to go through this too? The kids and I didn’t sign up for the military! Where is the help for us now?


Serena volunteers as one of our Grassroots Team members. Members of the group volunteer from home as little as an hour or two per month to help us reach out to Veterans and their loved ones. If you're interested in joining the team, we ALWAYS need more help! For more information go to


  1. Serena,

    I'm sorry to hear about what you must endure on a daily basis as the wife of a combat veteran. I relate to what you've written on so many levels - it's ironic, really. The only difference is my children are now grown, I am a grandparent now and in 2005 my husband died due to his exposure to agent orange and his service in Vietnam. I certainly can remember all the anger, resentment and rage I had while he was living and for quite sometime after he died. I wish I had some words of wisdom but I don't. All I know is that as the wife of a combat veteran you are almost, if not, the only person that ever gets a glimpse of the pain and suffering your husband goes through - I suppose that is one of the few things that kept me going besides my children.

  2. All you have to do is take all things positively, I'm sure you can surpass all those things! :)