I am the spouse of a retired RCMP officer who is severely experiencing PTSD. He is getting treatment, and that helps, but just seems to scratch at the surface. It feels like one step forward and then in between sessions four steps back.
My husband’s episodes of insomnia are frequent, the nightmares he has are graphic and gruesome and reminiscent of the hundreds upon hundreds of fatalities he dealt with as an accident reconstructionist. He is alcoholic, as drinking was how the debriefing used to happen with superiors back in the day, drinking was encouraged to increase comradery and put what you just saw, heard, and smelt behind you…..the only thing now is that all of this tragedy is not behind him, it is now with us every single day – a huge presence in our lives.
How, you may ask does it present itself? Oh….I won’t go into all of it as I could write a book. But for instance, on hot summer days when black flies are more prevalent you will hear my husband frantic, yelling, urgently, desperately trying to get rid of the fly, you see the very first accident he came upon at the tender age of 21 was on a hot summer day and as he waited for assistance he was there all by himself for hours with these black flies feeding on the dead family.
While working on machinery the smell of antifreeze, diesel and gasoline will set him off, so to counter this, he will self medicate with alcohol, you see these smells takehim back to those accident days. Our life is full of wondering when the next shoe will drop, will it be my wishing to take the kids to the park, which means driving 10 minutes away, which means to him that I am taking a risk and thus could be in an accident? I am losing myself in trying to cope with his illness on my own. His controlling nature, to keep us safe from harm’s way, is making our world smaller and smaller – not to mention the feelings associated with trying to accommodate his fears even though on one level I know this is unhealthy.
As an RCMP officer everyday life stuff is a trigger because the “warzone” he has fought in is not overseas, but here – everywhere – we are living in it. The “land mines” are the vehicles on the road, the bodies of water that could pose a threat, be it a wading pool are a picturesque stream, that he has pulled drowned children from – we can not get away from his “warzone’ which is now ours as well, we are surrounded by it.
I am worn out. You see my dear husband whom I love so much feels broken. He says he wants to be a rock for me too, a stable person whom I can turn too when I need care, but we both recognize that for the time being I am the rock – I must be. In alanon we are encouraged to practice detachment from behaviours which we have no control over, rather than engaging in irrationality. That is fine if it were just him and I, but we have two very young children under the age of five. They are unable to detach, therefore in addition to everything I am endlessly intervening, pre-empting, trying to avoid potential triggers so as to minimize the stress on everyone, particularly our children. They do not understand when they can hear Daddy up in the night wailing and crying because he has just awoken from a nightmare, they do not understand why Daddy is asleep on the couch when they awake in the morning. Yes I am enabling by not being honest with our children, but really, how can one burden them when they do not even fully understand the concept of death? I refuse to add more stress to their lives, even if it means running myself ragged. This of course harms our family too, after all I need to be the rock. News Flash VA and the RCMP Rocks can be fragile, rocks can break, the bottom line is rocks need support. And most certainly my husband needs my support.
New fears begin to entrench me as never before. I now worry and picture the accident scene, and the deaths of small children, when I take a drive. I second guess myself and worry am I needlessly risking our lives? His PTSD is now becoming mine, I am suffering secondary PTSD.
A psychologist at a course on caring for PTSD victims described PTSD as a as a faulty smoke alarm to its suffers in that they never know when or what will set things off symptoms. This was a good analogy, when she said this, I raised my hand and said that my husband had become my faulty smoke alarm, and so the chaos of living with PTSD continues.
All of this is on my mind b/c we have to make a case for spousal counselling support in order for me to receive some counselling. We have appealed a decision by VA. Their words could not be less sensitive. The letter my husband received stated that “We have found that your request for spousal psychology sessions has not been established to be necessary for achieving a positive treatment outcome for yourself.”
Sorry, but What The Heck? How could my receiving counselling or us having access to couples counselling, not work towards achieving anything BUT a positive outcome for him? If the marital and familial issues caused by PTSD are ignored it doesn’t matter how quality the treatment the PTSD sufferer receives, the outcome for the victim of PTSD will not be very positive at all if their family is falling apart!!!
Have they sat up with their loved one, soothing and comforting them, through nightmares, and worried when they have disappeared before bed only to come back in from outside inebriated in the hopes of being able to sleep that night?
As I am writing this my husband came in crying, telling me how much he wants to be there for me, I know he does – I don’t doubt that one bit. He then reflected that without his early years of self numbing with alcohol he probably would have killed himself – thus the alcohol saved him, but he does also know that it is also killing him too. His words while crying when he left the room a couple of minutes ago was that “I can not take this PTSD anymore I just want to kill myself”. It is here that I will sign off, and take care of my husband, whom I love with all my heart – he is a beautiful soul that has cared for so many people.
Please feel free to share but I wish to remain anonymous. Thanks for all that you do!