PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is commonly talked about among veterans. With how it is portrayed in the media and on TV, it seems civilians seem to think that all vets have it and it only causes violence and mental disorders. The truth of the matter is that, according to the VA, only 11-20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. In my opinion, those statistics are misleading, as many go undiagnosed and others aren’t diagnosed until years later.
So what do you do if someone you know as PTSD? How do you act around them? How can you help them?
Knowledge is Power
Read up on what causes PTSD and how it affects the brain. The more you know about any subject, the better off you are and this is no different. Learn what sort of things can trigger veterans and maybe why these are triggers for them.
Don’t Think They Can Just Get Over It
No one can just get over a mental issue, which is what PTSD is. One traumatic event can wreak havoc on a person’s life, but veterans tend to have multiple traumatic events, one after another while deployed. They’ve seen things the average person will never see. It’s not something one can just get over.
They Want Help
Many veterans have a hard time asking for assistance, even if they know they need it and they want it. In their minds, there are vets out there with way worse problems. Those who have lost limbs, been burned, or blown up. They always think their brothers need more help and they don’t deserve the help themselves. In some cases, they just need that one person to offer the right assistance.
They Are Not Who They Used To Be
War has changed them. They no longer see the world the same way, which in many ways has changed them. Deep down they are the same person, but so many personality traits have changed that to many, they appear to be completely different people.
They Don’t Think Like We Do
For many people, going to a crowded place is no big deal. For a veteran with PTSD, they see danger in that crowded place. It’s another form of a battlefied. Crowded places make it easy to hide weapons and harder to escape from anything dangerous that could happen. Knowing what they see and experience, helps you better understand why they hate going places and doing things they used to enjoy.
They want to talk to you, but they don’t want to scare you away. Don’t pressure them, but make sure they know you are there to listen. It could take months or years, but eventually they will open up. There are many things they will most likely never tell you though, because they don’t want you to think bad of them or even hate them for things they’ve done.
Expect Emotional Turmoil
When they are not talking, you’ll assume their actions are because of you. I promise you they aren’t. There are reasons why they don’t want to go to that place or do this. They may not be ready to tell you why, but odds are it is not you. Your emotions will be put through the ringer and you will seriously consider leaving the relationship or no longer offering your friendship. Do your best to explain your feelings without blaming. It’s not easy, but you’ll both come out of it better.
Your Presence Matters
Knowing that someone is there for them, that you have and will stick by them, is a great healing method. I know of far too many veterans dealing with PTSD, who have been left by their spouses. I can truly understand why a person would get fed up and leave, but knowing you are there for them, knowing that you believe in them, is a wondrous thing for healing.
Find A Battle Buddy
Find a group of some sort to talk to about the PTSD and any issues you are having. I found a group of spouses through the Semper Fi Fund. Talking to them and hearing how their husbands are has helped me better understand my husband. A lot of us deal with the same issues, which allowed me to better point out what was and wasn’t related to the PTSD. It’s also a lot better venting to people who get it. I can’t vent about things to people who don’t understand any of this. You can share resourses, stories, and get a better understanding from people who have been there.
They Still Love You
If they loved/liked you before, they still do. They just have a hard time dealing with all the emotions and keep it bottled up. We went through times when I was convinced my husband no longer had feelings for me, but he has always loved me. He was isolated and wouldn’t talk to me. It took a good year, but we finally got through it. I know a lot of people would have left, but I knew he was still there, I just had to get to him.