Veterans Returning With PTSD Add Stress to a Family Unit Struggling With Many Issues

“If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”  Samuel Johnson

WARNING: In all posting about PTSD/recovery/mental illness, I never wish to assign any blame. The family members are each doing the best they can. They each need help to stop the trauma.

1. From Leila Levinson: “The War That Comes Home: How PTSD Affects Our Children”:

“Our veterans desperately want to shield their families from the horrors of war, and so they turn to silence, knowing no other way to keep the awful memories from polluting their homes. They don’t tell us about their awful nightmares (though many children remember being awakened by their fathers’ moans or cries during the night), and they don’t speak of any negative emotion, as to open oneself to sadness or grief would open the flood gates.”

“And the effect of the trauma — a distortion of perception — keeps them from perceiving how this silence shapes their children.”

“Children are sponges, absorbing whatever emotion and behavior they observe. They take on their parents’ attributes, and so I inherited my father’s depression, his emotional distancing. I inherited his war.”

“Children of Vietnam veterans recognize the connection between their emotional lives and their fathers’s war, but children of World War II veterans still resist making similar connections. Perhaps this is because we, the generation that made Prozac and therapy household terms, still need to idealize World War II as “the good war” and our fathers as the “Greatest Generation.” But I believe that that label has burdened them, made it more difficult for them to admit their pain and find help. Delayed onset of PTSD among World War II veterans has not received much attention from the media, despite the significant increase of diagnosis of PTSD among World War II veterans in just the last 10 years.”

“Our misperceptions of what PTSD looks like not only keeps World War II veterans from getting the help they need, but it will affect the level of support available to our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is time to realize that there is no good war, and there is no victor. Everyone returns from war wounded, bringing their war home into the hearts of their families. That is the cruelest aspect of going to war, that the veteran isn’t able to protect that which he or she holds most dear: his or her family.”

“Our responsibility is to mitigate that harm as much as we are able. We must support our veterans, not with a bumper sticker but with heartfelt commitment and engagement. We must do all we can to help them heal and know peace.”

2.  From Dr. Anthony Hassan and Marilyn Flynn: “PBS’s ‘This Emotional Life’: Who Will Provide Mental Health Care to Our Veterans and Their Families”:

“The number and type of injuries, the frequency of deployments, the nature of our military force, the consequences for family life and children, and the conduct of the war itself have combined to create a crisis for our society.”

“It is staggering. The number of surviving service members with permanent disabling injuries surpasses that of any previous modern conflict. The invisible wounds of war are even more prevalent. Of the estimated 1.9 million service members sent to battle since 2003, some researchers estimate that more than 500,000 will develop combat stress disorders ranging from severe anxiety to depression.”

“Untreated, these reactions may last a lifetime. Not surprisingly, families and children are profoundly impacted. You have heard the story about the soldier who cannot sleep, turns day into night, reacts with unpredictable irritability, fails to maintain employment, and is unable to concentrate, every family member is thrown out of normal balance.”

“The soldier’s children may react with poor school performance, strained family relationships and peer related difficulties, bullying behavior and depression. It should come as no surprise that combat deployment can have a cumulative negative effect on marriages and family stability that remains even after the deployed service member returns home. The fact is, the devastating effects of frequent redeployment — a hallmark of this war — are now well-documented.”

3.  From Lily Casura in Healing Combat Trauma: “Sometimes You Have to Choose to Love–A Love Story after PTSD”:

“Into the dearth of “good news” about combat veterans with PTSD and their partners comes the remarkable love story of Josh and Helen, who met and fell in love AFTER his service, his suicide attempts, and his PTSD diagnosis. While PTSD can seem like the “third partner” in a relationship — the ever-present elephant in the room — in Josh and Helen’s story, it’s what brought them together, and love, wisdom and maturity is what keeps their union intact.”

“I had the pleasure of getting to spend a few days recently with Josh and Helen, and was impressed by both of them, and the sheer fun of their relationship, which can be too rare among partners where one has PTSD. I was struck by Helen’s clear-eyed, open-hearted approach — the education she sought about PTSD, as she was falling in love with Josh — and the way in which she’s really becoming a wise “spokesperson” for how love is possible after PTSD. For all the broken relationships out there, and all the partners barely enduring and tolerating one another, I felt like Josh and Helen’s story needed to be told, so I asked Helen to tell it. Just as a point of reference, Josh served in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2008. He was honorably discharged in 2008, and served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. Here is Helen’s story:”

Picture Credit.

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