Editor’s note: the author wishes to remain anonymous. We ask that you respect her experience and willingness to tell her story.
He thrashes and turns, violently ripping at our bed. Startled awake, I place my hand on his arm. “Sweetie, wake-up.”
He stops and breathes. “Thank you,” he says.
Later I awake to him panting in his sleep. “Wake-up, hey, wake-up,” I say. He opens his eyes — it’s just the recurring dream, again, about the time the mortars were crushing him after that IED strike. We go back to sleep. Another night, I wake-up to crying. Crying? And there, curled on the floor, my big, strong husband is weeping.
“What is happening?” I ask.
“It’s just the nightmares,” he says.
Then there was the anger. Sudden, like a storm without warning. It would sweep over his face and explode on our kids and me for no reason. He was never truly violent or dangerous — but you could see he was holding it back, holding it inside. It made you wonder when it would come out. Nothing had caused it — just one of our kids not getting his shoes fast enough or doing something irritating like kids do.
I couldn’t take him into places with lots of traffic. If I did, I had to drive. He wasn’t aggressive or violent — he was thoughtless. He would turn into oncoming traffic without meaning to, he just didn’t see the car coming. We stayed in our small Army town a lot, stayed home on payday so he didn’t have to deal with the crowds, figured out ways for him to commute when there wouldn’t be stand-still traffic. When we did go on a day trip, we went somewhere without any other people.
And then there was the suicide scare. Until that day and the one time that followed it I never really thought that he would be one of those people. Kill himself? Crazy. Not him. He wasn’t like that.
But there he was, rocking himself on the floor, crying. “I don’t know why I’m alive. I wish I was dead,” he said.
I was scared. I gave his shotgun to a friend to keep it out of the house for awhile.
My heart broke for him. He has had every opportunity to get help. He has helped other people in his unit get help. He knows how. He knows where to find it.
And I am angry. Why him? Why us? All he ever did was volunteer to serve. And this is our reward?
I want someone to blame. But there isn’t anyone. There is only war.
PTSD is scary — really, really scary. I didn’t ask for it, we didn’t want it. There was a time he thought that only weak people with what he called “tiny heart syndrome” had PTSD. And while his attitude has changed and he is now getting help, the fight against it still hangs like a weight around our necks. It will never be completely gone, only managed. He has a world of resources available to him. Now he just needs to continue to use them.
Sarah Palin says her son, Track Palin, struggles with PTSD. He was arrested recently for assault among other things. Reports said he threatened suicide.
I pray that if his alleged violence stems from PTSD, that he gets the help he needs — that all of our veterans know there are people out there who want to see them pull through and find health and happiness. I ask God to help us all.
But that wasn’t the end of Palin’s thoughts. She linked his PTSD to a lack of respect for veterans’ service from President Barrack Obama. She turned the mental ramifications of war — all war — into a stump speech. She turned a scary mental health problem that has only to do with war into a campaign line.
Like Track, my husband served in a war zone under a previous president. But it doesn’t matter who was in the White House at the time. It doesn’t matter one bit.
I live every single day with the side effects of PTSD. I don’t blame Obama. I don’t blame Bush.
I blame war.