I am one of those people that can handle any crisis that comes along. I am the person calling 911 while delegating everyone around me to ensure that the situation is under control. I do this without thinking and I do it well but once the crisis is over I am the first person to crumble. My husband’s deployment was no different. I helped start a non-profit group that assisted the troops and their families, I was involved in every possible fundraiser out there, I was the person that others called when they were scared; all the while holding it all together.
When my husband returned from Iraq, he knew I was headed for a meltdown, he had seen me do this many times in the past and he expected I would have a few days where I fell apart and then would move on as I always do: He was wrong.
I found myself having the nightmares that I didn’t have while he was in Iraq, I began to have panic attacks if my husband was not in my sight and I quit sleeping. Sleep became my enemy because there was still a part of me that didn’t entirely believe that I wasn’t dreaming he was home as I had done many times while he was gone.
Instead of getting better after a few days, these things became worse. When I did sleep I would wake up soaked in sweat and screaming from the nightmares, the panic attacks got so bad that security had to come talk me out of a bathroom stall in a department store restroom and I was having trouble dealing with other people.
PTSD is not just for combat veterans, anyone who has suffered from a traumatic experience can suffer from it. Many who lived through September 11 suffer from PTSD as do survivors of abuse. I did a great deal of research on the subject and was told that I was probably suffering from ASD (Acute Stress Disorder) but as I read up on ASD there were factors that did not fit. When I began talking to other spouses, I discovered I was not the only one having this kind of trouble.
After talking with a professional I was told this is becoming more and more common in military family members and it is probably a very mild form of PTSD it is not something that is really being talked about in the military community or even the medical community.
I found help and solace in the same place as my husband found his; with other veteran’s and families at my local VFW. I still have moments when the panic sneaks up on me and while nightmares still occur they occur less frequently. Therapy is a good thing but for me I found that just being able to talk with others who really understood what we had been through and how we were feeling at the time offered me a way to heal without feeling like I was crazy.
Like my husband who also suffers from a mild case of PTSD, I had to learn what will trigger such episodes. I avoid alcohol and particular cold medicines as they seem to bring on or increase the nightmares.
If you are having anxiety or panic attacks, nightmares, depression, flashbacks or any behavior that is not normal for you then it is probably time to seek out a professional to help you work through everything that you are dealing with. Also look around your area, find a support group, a veteran’s group that offers an empathetic ear to your situation. You do not have to put on a pair of combat boots and walk into a green zone to suffer the effects of the war and if it is keeping you from living your life you owe it to yourself to seek help.