Q. I don’t know what to do. The man I am seeing, I just started dating two months ago. It has been the best two months of my life. I just found out he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from being in the Iraqi war.
We have exchanged that we love each other and last week he told me he had things in his head that he had to get straight. He didn’t need my help. I couldn’t help him is what he said. He needed to talk with his buddies, because they had been there and they understood what he was going through. I don’t know what to do to help him ‘cause I don’t want to lose what we both know we have.
Where can I look, what can I do, or what can I read to help him? Right now I’m desperate! I’ve searched this blasted internet looking for someone to talk to about what to do. Can you please, please direct me? I’ve always supported our military, but right now I question our government for letting these guardian angels go through this. Please direct me if you can.
May God bless you and your family.
A. If your boyfriend has been diagnosed with PTSD, he certainly needs individual counseling and can get it through the military or Veteran’s Administration. If the two of you plan a life together, you should see a counselor or therapist together. His condition will affect both your lives, and you will need the tools to make your relationship as healthy as possible.
Based on what I’ve heard from spouses of PTSD sufferers, your boyfriend probably won’t and can’t share everything about his wartime experience with you. There are some things that only those who have been through combat together can share.
Accept his need to keep some things private, but insist on some type of couple’s counseling to help your understanding of the symptoms that could affect your life together.
No doubt his reluctance is because of his desire to protect you, but if PTSD is a major factor in his life, you will feel the fallout one way or another. You will both need to know how to live with it. The best way he can protect you is to include you to some degree in his treatment and recovery process.
If he shuts you out now, when you are just getting to know each other, it will only make your future more difficult. What may affect only a small part of your relationship now will affect more of it as time goes on, particularly if you plan to have children.
A book that I have found helpful and informative in regard to combat trauma is "Back From the Front" by Aphrodite Matsakis. For more about the book and the author, see www.matsakis.com.
The VA has a National Center for PTSD, and you can find out more at www.ncptsd.gov. Private, nonprofit organizations may also be helpful. One such organization, founded by military family members, is Veterans and Families Coming Home at www.veteransand families.org.
On the Spouse Calls blog, there are several threads concerning PTSD, where you can leave comments and questions. There are other bloggers living with the effects of PTSD in their loved ones who can answer your questions and offer their experiences at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.
Also on the Spouse Calls blog, I’ve listed more sources of information and links to online resources. Thank you for writing, and I hope that these resources are helpful.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog at http:/blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.