The number one complaint or comment made by military spouses these days is," My husband/ boyfriend is not the same man that left to go to war." The sad fact is that these spouses couldn't be more right. Many of our loved ones are not the same and will never be the same again. Post traumatic stress will take the strongest and most brave soldier and drag him or her into a whirlwind of symptoms that are difficult to understand and to conquer. These symptoms are often so severe that they will leave you wondering whom this person is, what in the world is wrong, and what can you possibly do to help?
The most important thing that you can do for yourself and to help your spouse, who may have post traumatic stress, is to educate yourself. You need to know what the symptoms are - not a checklist of words that sound bad but that you can't relate to. You have to realize for yourself how this condition relates to your husband. You need to realize the possible risks of this disorder, and what to do about it.
It is true that your loved one is not the same and will never be the same person. He is forever changed. He may be in the middle of the biggest mental minefield imaginable. He may not even know what is happening to him. He may not be able to verbalize what is going on in his mind and in his body. He might not be able to ask for help.
Your loved one may be violent, angry, aggressive, isolating, drinking, doing drugs, threatening or seriously considering suicide. He could be going through flashbacks, nightmares, and not be able to sleep. Most PTSD suffers quickly find themselves frazzled and worn down to the point of giving up. These are symptoms that he is not going to verbalize to you, unless the problem is so blatantly obvious that he has no choice.
Post traumatic stress is a very serious disorder. Suicide rates of troops who are coming back from the sandboxes of Iraq and Afghanistan are off the chart. Our soldiers are coming back and killing themselves record numbers. So if your loved one has recently returned from a war zone, and your observation is that he is just not the same, look for signs and symptoms that may indicate post traumatic stress.
The number one thing that you can do to help someone who has PTSD, is to know what is happening with them and to be proactive. PTSD is a debilitating disorder, and those who have it often can't even verbalize their experience at the time.
It is absolutely correct your husband is not the same and he's never going to be the same again, but there is hope for those who have PTSD. As a spouse, as someone who cares, first step is to get the concrete facts of what PTSD is, what the symptoms are, and how to deal with them. Secondly, you must formulate a plan of how you will react when the symptoms arise. Post traumatic stress does get better with time. People do get recover and go on to live very happy, productive lives. There absolutely is hope, but recovery takes a lot of support and time.
If you're feeling that your loved one is "just not the same", you are not alone. There are thousands of military wives that feel the exact same way that you feel. There is light at the end of the tunnel- you just have to know what you dealing with, and learn how heal from it.