We all have heard of the man who comes home from Vietnam and sleeps with the gun under his pillow. Or the other solider that came back from Iraq and has to count the exits of every room they enter in just in case they have to make a quick escape. Or maybe you saw the report of the woman who came back from Iraq and when she came back from war, she killed herself. We have all seen the news reports of the hundreds upon thousands of soldiers who have come back, especially from Operation Iraqi Freedom, with a case of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We hear their stories of loss, and disease, and of how they are trying to adapt to live back on the home front. But do we ever hear the stories of their families?
Do we ever hear of the women who walk on eggshells around their solider husbands? Hoping to get things right as not to agitate their husbands into threatening their lives again. Do we hear of the men who slave over making sure everything in the house is perfect? That the children are in line, completing the check list that mars the back of their head to make sure their wives don’t lock themselves in their rooms for another 14 hours. We don’t hear these stories. We don’t hear of the spouses and family members who live with their own ticking time bombs. Fighting a war at home can be just as traumatic as fighting one on the battlefields.
An angry spouse who fights with you over every aspect of the day becomes the enemy. Explosions over dinner spurred on by a dog barking outside become IEDs. The slamming of the door after an outburst becomes artillery fire from the enemy. The house becomes a battleground. And it’s no surprise when the family ends up in the crosshairs of PTSD.
PTSD is not the common cold. It’s not tuberculosis. Or the chicken pox. But that does not mean it’s any less contagious. When mental illness grabs ahold of a household, it never lets go. The house becomes a battlefield and the solider, unfortunately the enemy. Because the people in the family are spending so much time in the battle ground, the family experiences their own trauma because of the PTSD, and that trauma creates PTSD for the members of the family. Living in the battleground you can never leave, only makes the PTSD worse; keeping the whole family in a constant state of wanting to “get fixed” but never being able to escape one another.