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A reader who is a licensed social worker was unhappy with my response in the Aug. 16 Spouse Calls: "Forgiveness key to surviving PTSD."

Here is her letter:

I am writing in regards to the above-referenced article. I realize that everyone can interpret things differently. However, for those that have never read this blog and read your article for the first time, it sounds as if you are encouraging spouses to leave their significant others when they are confronted by (post-traumatic stress disorder.)

First of all, spouses should try and separate themselves when dealing with a spouse with PTSD and not take things too personally. They should encourage their spouse to seek help or talk with someone, even a friend. In addition, the other spouse should seek help as well to help deal with their spouse’s PTSD symptoms and be supportive. By understanding the illness, you can better help your spouse as well as yourself.

Obviously if it is an abusive relationship, then they should walk away, but to just state "not to continue to let a person walk over you" without any clarification or qualifying statements definitely implies that you are supporting this spouse, Shannon, in leaving her husband in a time of need.

Nothing in your article states if either of these people received any kind of counseling, only that they went on to meet other people. There is just not enough information provided to make the intentions of "forgiveness" clear to all. Our spouses are deployed to fight for us and while this was their choice to enlist in the military, it was our choice to marry them and become a part of the military lifestyle. Our spouses need our love and support even in difficult times, and yes, if it becomes a truly unhealthy or abusive relationship, than definitely leave.

Furthermore, any person can suffer from PTSD after being involved in a traumatic event, even a child. Are you suggesting that they walk away from their children as well?

I realize that this may not have been your intent with the article, but if one person can read your article and get this impression, how many others did?

— D.W.

Thank you for writing. I agree that more background about Shannon, the spouse whose message appeared on Aug. 16, would be enlightening. For more than two years, Shannon has been posting updates on the Spouse Calls blog regarding her husband’s struggle with PTSD and her own response to it. Her comments and encouragement have been helpful to many other bloggers in similar situations.

I need to clarify that Shannon did not walk away from her husband in his time of need. After 18 years of marriage, Shannon’s husband was deployed to Iraq and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. During in-patient treatment, he informed Shannon that he wanted a separation. Since then, Shannon has written regularly about supporting her husband’s recovery, although he has begun another relationship.

She wrote in her most recent update that she is finally beginning to come to terms with her husband’s rejection of their marriage and is learning to forgive and move forward. My remarks were about Shannon’s commendable response to a situation she could not control. I did not recommend that spouses of PTSD sufferers should walk away from their loved ones, and the column was not related at all to children suffering from PTSD.

I completely agree that anyone affected, directly or indirectly, by PTSD could benefit from counseling.

More of Shannon’s story — in her own words — is available on the Spouse Calls blog. Type her name into the blog’s search feature.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com and see the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.


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