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European edition, Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spouses of veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder are drawn to one another on the Spouse Calls blog by shared experiences. Some have been living with the fallout of war — whether Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam — for years or decades. Many say they are glad to find they are not alone.

With strength and humor — through good days and bad — they generously encourage each other. Here are some blog excerpts, credited to their user names.

Chicabee: (Commenting on the aftermath of her husband’s VA inpatient treatment) He’s supposed to be able to incorporate what he’s learned in seven weeks into real life ...

My experience was that it doesn’t work that way. It’s like he went … to learn to ski. They gave classes on how to ski, wrote it on a dry-erase board, handed out pamphlets, and talked about it a lot. But, no one ever actually put the guy on a pair of skis, in the snow, on a hill. So the guy comes home all fired up and feeling good about himself, tries to actually ski, then finds himself angry and frustrated because he spends most of his time on his rear end on his way down the hill.

Wildflower: Today is one of those days when all I want to do is cry and give up on our marriage. I haven’t a clue what the future holds, and several have told me I’m too compassionate … I’m just not ready to give up. I love what he used to be, but not what he is now.

Chicabee: (Sharing advice she’d like to give her husband) Okay, so fine. You have PTSD. Now what are you going to do about it? It’s not going to be easy to re-train your brain, but if you can change your mind about what you’re wearing today... you can change your mind about who you are going to be today.

Don’t you think you’ve given enough already serving your country? The only medal you got for it was a big fat case of PTSD. Do you really want to let PTSD ruin the rest of your life? No, so make PTSD the enemy instead of your wife; together you can kick PTSD’s a**. But you will have to do it together …

Wildflower: He thinks I think, "It’s all about me." Well maybe that’s true — it’s about me saving my sanity, if I still can. I never expected to spend my retirement years alone or broke, but maybe I can still find some dignity.

Endlesstour: It is through a very great and deep love that we stand by them, and help them struggle through a great deal of chaos and pain …

We are normal women put in very not normal circumstances. The regular rules don’t apply … It is OK to pay attention to that feeling of depletion and do something to fill up again, even if that means leaving our relationships.

Maybe compassion is what it is about; compassion for ourselves. Maybe we just have to open to the idea of allowing ourselves to move toward health and peace and to know that our relationships are not failing because of us, or even our husbands. It is that third partner in there — Vietnam or Iraq — that tips the balance.

Thanks so much for being out there, all of you. You make a difference on this endless tour.

Wildflower: It’s early morning here, and I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, so I guess we are having a cup together … Let’s lift our coffee to the hope of another good day.

I’m lifting my cup with yours, Wildflower. Here’s to hope.

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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