Sunday, April 17, 2011

PTSD & Facing the Heartache

By now many of you will be used to my ramblings. If you're not, you'll soon learn that my posts are often about what I'm learning or processing as the wife of a disabled Veteran with PTSD, TBI, and other injuries.

I've been struggling lately with being particularly irritated with my husband. TBI (traumatic brain injury) I can deal with. The injuries to his hip, back, shoulder, etc., I can deal with. But, the damn PTSD is driving me over the edge. I swear to you there are times when I want to strangle him... really do something to make him see how much hurt he causes me... how painful, harmful and horrible his treatment of me is. There is that part of me that somehow wants to force him to just "snap out of it". And, unfortunately, our last few days on vacation have actually made that worse!!

We're visiting friends (one of the few ways we manage to take vacations, since it still keeps my hubby somewhat in his comfort zone). They're a couple that we've known pretty much forever... since high school... since before the Army... and war... and PTSD... and all the crap that came afterward.

Now, I have to explain, that on average I'm just not a jealous person. I don't want what others have. I'm happy for people when they are happy in their lives. But now, looking at my life, and looking at the "normal" life of our friends, the heartache I often try to ignore seems to be roaring to the surface. I look at their life as what could have been in ours... at the kindness they share... at the tenderness the husband expresses... and it makes me mourn. And (just what I need) its also making me even more short tempered with my husband.

I think few people realize when they first begin coping with a spouse who has PTSD that they will essentially face an ongoing "mourning" process. That they will have to grieve the loss of their life, of their pre-PTSD spouse, of what might have been.

I think we get so busy managing the PTSD symptoms for our Veterans sometimes, we even try to somehow skip this step. I know I do. I consciously stuff my feelings down... put them away for some other day when I'm more prepared to handle them... because truthfully, they terrify me. I worry that if I ever started down that road, that my carefully balanced, ever spinning menagerie of overfull plates would come crashing down around me. That if I started to feel the depth of my loss... the depth of my anger... the depth of my sadness, I could never get back up again.

So, if you, like me, are dealing with all of this pent up, threatening-to-explode, total-destruction-on-a-timer, what do you do?

Well, my therapist (a kind woman I found for free through Give An Hour - has recommended I literally have a funeral for the husband that was. That I write my "former" husband a letter and place it with some photos and momentos of our former life in a box and bury it. And, that I accompany that burial with a small ceremony, a symbolic opportunity to help me realize that what was will be no more.

At the time she made the recommendation, I blew it off... giving her some excuse... but really simply wanting to avoid the issue. Obviously, though, it has to be faced. Whatever process I choose to use, I have to do something. More than four years of essentially ignoring my underlying emotions isn't exactly working.

To make a go at this life... to find a new sort of happiness with my wounded hero... to build a life with the man I pledged to support in sickness and in health... it must be done. No more looking at the Joneses.

I've got to instead look forward at the life of the Vineses. I've got to make peace with the opportunity I've been given. Without my husband's battle with PTSD, would not exist. Without PTSD, there are a lot of people out there who could not have been helped (at least not by FOV). There's a purpose in this.

And if there's a purpose, there's also a Greater Plan... a God plan... for how to cope. There's a way for all of us to cope, for us to survive, for us to rebuild our families and navigate the minefield before us. We just have to keep going... but at the same time have to be willing (including me) to do the emotional work it takes to move forward.

Hugs and prayers to all of us tonight... and to our struggling heroes... and to the children we now raise in uncertain surroundings. May God grant us the wisdom, bravery, and patience to navigate our new lives and to let go of the lives we leave behind.

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - a site dedicated to helping heroes & their loved ones survive and thrive after combat!


  1. I couldnt have said it better myself. You are doing a great thing that is going to help SO many families. I hope that you heal by healing others. I love this site. ~ Natalie Lloyd