Scene, Sunday, November 8, 2009

A woman with post-traumatic stress disorder wrote to give her perspective of life with this condition and the stigma it carries:

Q. I just read an article of yours suggesting that all those spouses married to a person diagnosed with PTSD should walk or run away from that "dangerous" PTSD person before becoming a victim.

I am highly disappointed in your statements. Statements such as these have made it extremely difficult for those battered spouses who have been beaten and traumatized in silence — (as I was) for 17 years, before friends saw that I was literally dying from the inside of busted intestines because my charming, narcissistic ex-husband would not allow me to seek medical attention.

When I … visited an attorney to ask about divorce, my ex began to discredit me in public, saying that I had been "diagnosed mentally ill" and was a danger to my children and everyone. I have (been tested) with no signs of personality disorders or aggression.

When I did finally file for divorce and go into hiding, I was too afraid to make any claims. He then made claims in court that I was psychologically ‘unfit’ for the children. … The counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists and internists all discovered that I was in extremely poor health; suffered from severe PTSD, panic and anxiety disorder and had developed non-convulsive epilepsy due to multiple traumatic brain traumas.

I had lost much memory function … have muscle and cognitive issues that will haunt me for life due to trauma. I live with flashbacks, nightmares, and the smell of blood sends me vomiting for days.

So please, please, when you speak of PTSD labels, do not lump all into abusers. There are those who do not abuse but were (and still are) the ones that receive the abuse in horrendous ways. There are those labeled PTSD that do not return what we were given because we know more intimately than anyone how much it destroys.

I kindly ask that you represent fairly when you speak or write and do not do anyone injustice. It makes the innocent of us climb a steeper and thornier road in this society of crucifying media. We have already been beaten down by those we thought loved us. We don’t need it from strangers.

A. I am very sorry for the difficult and painful experiences you have had and still have. It is never my intention to label or generalize about the behaviors of those who have PTSD. I hope that printing your letter will show another of the many faces of those living with this disorder.

I don’t know to which article you are referring, but many of the answers given in this column and posts on the Spouse Calls blog are addressed to specific questions and concerns expressed by readers. As such, each does not apply to everyone.

I do know, however, that I have never written that "all those spouses married to a person diagnosed with PTSD should walk or run away." When writing to a person in an abusive or violent relationship, particularly if there are children involved, I do advise that individual not to remain or keep their family in a dangerous situation. This is the only responsible advice I could offer, but even that does not imply a permanent separation. I simply advise spouses to allow a safe distance when dangerous, violent or abusive behavior is present.

Thank you for your letter and for your insight as a human being living with PTSD. I hope and pray that you and your family find healing and peace.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at and see the Spouse Calls blog at

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