PTSD Heartache

16 Oct

Letterbalm Depressed ManDear LetterBalm: My husband served three tours in Afghanistan, and, as is true with many of those in the military, he returned with psychological wounds, not physical ones. He’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has nightmares, jumps at loud noises and has trouble controlling his anger. He also loses his temper with our young kids – and, he’s mortified when this happens. He’s getting therapy and medicine at the local VA hospital, but he hates the medication because it numbs him out. I’m keeping things together, but I think we need a family meeting to reassure everybody and keep things on track. What can I say to my kids and husband?

–Army Wife

Ms. L.B. thanks your husband for his service and adds her belief that helping our troops and their families is the best of what we are as a nation, no matter one’s opinion of war. You have good instincts in wanting to keep the lines of family communication open. You and the kids might want to have some sessions with a family counselor, if you can. Keep talking to your husband and be kind and patient. And to your children, make your reassurance age-appropriate – it’s amazing how resilient kids can be if things are explained to them in ways they can understand. Try this:

Everybody, I need you to be quiet and listen carefully. You know that Daddy came back from the war and is behaving differently. Sometimes he gets angry and loses his temper and gets impatient with you. But we both want you to know that it is not your fault. Daddy is isn’t being bad, he’s just different than he was before he went away. If you dad and I get loud together, it’s O.K. if you go to your room until things calm down. We don’t know if Daddy’ll ever be like he was before, but we all love one another and we will always stick together. Your dad and I want you to know that you can come to us with any question you have, and we’ll try to answer it. If you want to talk to us privately, that’s O.K., too. But first, let’s have a group hug.

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