Spouse calls: Counsel for a Marine’s mother
Stars and Stripes August 2, 2009
Q. My 22-year-old son, a Marine, came back from nine months in Iraq and now will not even speak to me. My son who left for Iraq came back very different. I raised him, practically by myself, sacrificed for him and gave him the best upbringing I could. He never went hungry, dirty or did without. He was fine before he left and while he was there. He called me from Iraq a couple of times and sent e-mails back and forth.
I don’t know what happened to change him like this. I do know that he suffers from (post-traumatic stress disorder) and he was in a dangerous zone there, but why has he turned on me, his mother?
He came back from Iraq and two months later, he married a girl he barely knew that he met up with on MySpace while in Iraq.
Has anyone else heard of a case like this? My son still keeps in contact with his high school friends also, but not me. This has broken my heart. The pain is indescribable.
A. What is happening to your son is not about your effort and sacrifice in raising him. Those who experience PTSD often distance themselves from those they love most.
I usually advise family members caught in the crossfire of PTSD, whether spouses, parents or children, to obtain counseling for themselves to develop coping skills for this new set of circumstances.
It can also help to find out more about PTSD. When you begin researching, you will recognize some of your son’s reactions and be able to put them in perspective. This will help you to see that your son’s reaction is not a personal rejection of you, but fallout from his experiences.
Here’s more from someone with first-hand experience:
I am the wife of a Marine (Vietnam 70-71) who is cursed with PTSD. And although we’ve only been married for 4.5 years, "John" has been under the care of the (Veteran’s Administration) for several years now.
I too am seeking help to understand this cruel and unjust disease — yes, disease. John was married twice before. He has been through various sessions at the VA, and is taking meds for sleep, temper and depression.
The first thing a therapist will tell say to you after you spill your guts out about your situation is, "It’s not about you." And it isn’t.
Your son is in a world of pain; all the things you taught him about being a good person, etc., went out the window on the battlefield. He had to learn to survive the worst possible circumstances in an instant. It’s hard for the rest of us to visualize what this would be like.
I’m lucky in that the weekly support group sessions my husband attends has opened up a separate group for spouses. I have met some incredible ladies here.
Here are some things I’ve been told:
None of your son’s anger is about you, it’s about the circumstances that got him to this point; things he can’t tell a mom.Don’t forget to take care of yourself. It’s not all about your son; you will need support too.Your son, the one you know, is still "in there;" he just needs the right care and medical attention to bring him back.It won’t cure itself overnight. There will be many hard times. If you believe in your son and yourself, seek help. Keep trying.You’re not alone!For more information and conversation about PTSD, see the Spouse Calls blog.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She and her family are stationed in Germany. Spouse Calls appears weekly in Stars and Stripes. Write to her at email@example.com and see the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.