I noticed about a month after my husband returned home from Iraq, in February 2004,that something wasn't right. He refused to go to sleep at night, and then would end up sleeping all of the following day. He was extremely aggressive and would go off on these rages that I had never seen before. One day he went on a rampage and pulled out the drawers to our dresser, smashing it and chipping the hard wood floors. At this point, I took our three year old son and had a friend pick us up. I was shaking and crying pretty hard as I called his 1SGT to tel him that I thought my husband had a serious problem. His response to me and our situation was that he hadn't noticed anything different about his behavior at the motor pool and that maybe I needed to back off.
When my husband didn't come home early from work about three months later, I started to worry, though I was also getting use to him arriving later than usual. At first, I didn't think to much on it when I heard his key turn in the door. Then when I saw his face and the look on it, I knew something wasn't right. He told me that he had to go away from awhile to a locked down mental health facility in the next town. He was driving and had seen the post hospital blow up. He stopped the car in the middle of the road and started doing ID checks. An officer from another unit called the MP's and from then on things just got worse. Trying to regulate the medication he was on was terrible. He'd sleep all the time and when he was awake, he was like a walking zombie. his temper only got worse and finally he was medically discharged from the military. Now, he is on 100% disability for PTSD and TBI. At one point he turned to substance abuse to self medicate. I developed secondary PTSD and would even have anxiety attacks. If there were too many people in line at the grocery store, I would leave my cart to the side and just go home. There were days I was too nervous to even leave my house. I began checking all the locks in the house several times throughout the night just to make sure my house was completely locked up. If I ran into someone I knew while out running errands, I would get nervous and make any excuse I could just to leave. If anything unexpected would happen, it would upset me. I developed insomnia, nightmares, and an ulcer.I filed for divorce on two separate occasions. We have been to hell and back and everything in between. So many hardships that I could probably write a novel.
Now he is active in ACVOW and volunteers at the local VA. He still has his nightmares and crowds will still make him nervous. He doesn't like to talk about his experiences, so I have learned to stop asking. It took me six years to learn how to navigate through his troubles and through it all, we have become a much closer family. There isn't too much that can shake us now days. It's a process to go through and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But, he is active in pursuing all the outlets that help and he is taking classes to help counsel his peers with PTSD. It is our dream to one day open our own center for soldiers and their families suffering from PTSD. I have learned to be more understanding, but I have also learned not to allow the fact that he has PTSD take control of the way the family will be. In return, he has learned that while he does have PTSD, it is no excuse to fly off the handle and act any way he wants when he is mad. While we have come a long ways. we still have miles to go. I just wish there had been more support when all of this first started. At that point, I had no one and I was 22, without a clue on how to handle any of it.