A few years ago, Bob Woodruff of ABC Nightly News came to my home near Kansas City, Missouri. He had read or heard of an article in which my (now ex) husband and I had been interviewed. In the original article published in a local news magazine we had been very candid about our struggles with PTSD- specifically his all too recent suicide attempt because of his PTSD. Bob Woodruff was interested in hearing about our experience and we welcomed him into our home.
During the interview the producer and Mr. Woodruff mentioned that they had also interviewed a woman in Michigan who’s husband also suffered from PTSD, but who had committed suicide leaving her a widow with two small children. I didn’t know the woman, I didn’t know her story, but her loss affected me deeply. I felt just as helpless given the lack of knowledge and support available even just a few short years ago to those suffering from PTSD. We lived and worked in an environment where PTSD was disregarded, dismissed or denied. Support was non-existent and often I found myself educating the caregivers assigned to help because awareness was slow in coming. We chose to go public years ago with our struggles in hopes that others would benefit from our experience, if nothing else to know they weren’t alone. I knew the struggles she had gone through, I knew the kind of sleepless nights, the walking on egg shells, the constant fear of living with someone who suffered from PTSD.
Those of us who suffer with PTSD don’t sleep well, we have nightmares, there were several occasions when I woke with him yelling at me in Arabic or with him hitting and kicking me in his sleep. I was terrified of driving when he was behind the wheel, as he always followed the vehicle in front of him at, what I considered, a dangerously close distance. He had been in several minor car accidents that he always excused as weather related, but I knew better. The 4th of July holiday was like living in a hostage situation, we couldn’t go out and every firecracker sent him into a flashback. Our fights- and there were many- always revolved around his reckless and careless behavior where our relationship or his friendships were concerned. He drank too much, then he was hooked on prescription drugs or wouldn’t take those that actually helped. He treated me, his children, and our families as if they were the enemy, always against him in some unknown or unseen way. After years of marriage I just got used to the constant verbal barrage when he’d misplace his keys, or forget our address, or get frustrated because he couldn’t balance our checkbook. I knew what it was like to make excuses for him when we’d have to leave a crowded event early because as usual he was “freaking out”. I also knew what it was like to have someone you love decide to take their own life. I was lucky- very lucky that my soldier wasn’t successful. My soldier asked for help.
Bob Woodruff asked me point blank, “What did you do that she didn’t do?” My initial reaction was anger- how dare someone assume that SHE did something wrong. Her veteran was the one who was selfish enough to kill himself, she couldn’t have stopped him if she wanted to, how could anyone think otherwise. My answer was simple, “Nothing… my years of volunteer work, my years of education and research about PTSD and it’s symptoms meant nothing more than I was aware. If my husband had decided to kill himself, I couldn’t have stopped him- just as she couldn’t have stopped hers. The only difference was that my soldier was brave enough to ask for help.”
June is PTSD Awareness Month, if you or a loved one are in need of help or information concerning PTSD and it’s symptoms, please contact your local VA Hospital, Veterans’ Center or Community Organizations that support veterans and their families. More information can be found here;