Today we are honored to have Andrew Budek-Schmeisser of Blessed are the Pure of Heart as our guest to share a perspective that he’s uniquely qualified to offer. He knows first-hand the devastation that PTSD can cause in marriage, so I was thrilled when he agreed to share his wisdom and experience here with all of us at Messy Marriage. He will be hosting WW as I spend a day of catching up with my sister, Faith! Please, make him feel welcome!
When Beth asked me to write a guest post on the subject of how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects a marriage, I wondered where to start.
Half an hour ago, I got my answer.
A serious illness makes if necessary for my wife to help me in and out of the shower, and afterwards, she combs my hair (lifting my arms hurts).
Tonight, standing behind me, she sneezed. I spun around, dropped into a combat crouch, my left arm rising to block any blow, and my right hand dropping to my hip, where once a holstered .45 would have ridden.
That’s combat trauma. Welcome to our world.
PTSD is characterized as an abnormal reaction to a traumatic event, such as war, natural disaster, serious accident, and the like.
The “symptoms” are a tendency to relive the event, loss of interest in normal activities, emotional distance, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. In the worst cases, self-medicating through alcohol and drugs, and suicide.
Most people affected by trauma experience at least some of these immediately after the event.
But most people, it’s said, “get over it”, while some remain stuck, and are diagnosed with PTSD.
I beg to differ. It all depends on the trauma itself, and the circumstances and context that surround it.
Living with hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, and nightmares has become the New Normal. Events that result in PTSD change one. They give memories that can’t be erased, and often demand responses that become part of one’s muscle memory.
You can’t go back to life as it was before. You can go through therapy to understand the how and why, and go through prayer to obtain absolution, but you can’t turn back the clock.
And many with PTSD, especially combat trauma, would not want to.
Combat is the catalyst for this conditioned process that forges a warrior from a civilian. It creates a new self-image and psyche whose fulfillment is found in standing ready to defend one’s country and people.
Combat is the warrior’s purpose. Not “peacekeeping”, not learning a useful civilian trade. The focus is the firefight.
The famous “Band of Brothers” speech from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” defines it well:
“Gentlemen in England now abed shall hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks, that fought with us upon this day.”
What would I be without my PTSD? What would define me? What would set me apart, in my heart? If I lose the meaning and immediacy of the firefight, do I surrender my soul?
So, the problem … the scars are an honor, but their effect on a marriage can be disastrous.
It’s been a hard road for my wife. She’s had to learn to look at life through a gunsight, as it were, and it’s made her a different person.
She didn’t ask for it; but I’ll let her have the last word: “It’s what comes with the territory of choosing to love.”
How has PTSD impacted your life and marriage?
What other words of advice would you offer to spouses married to a PTSD victim?
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