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Post-Traumatic Stress: When It Starts To Hurt Your Family

Last year, our family had the most magical Christmas: the blankets of fresh snow, bright lights and merry songs filling our home, plates of homemade cookies (because nothing brings joy like a tight waistline),and the surprise return of our favorite soldier from a deployment to Afghanistan.

Days before Christmas, he brought peace and joy and fulfillment through our frost-chilled front door. We were a poster family for catalogs– the happiness, smiles, and warmth were palpable.

While the first few months of his return were not without reintegration hiccups, contentment reigned as communication between husband and wife felt natural and rich, father and daughters fell into a pattern of play monsters and tickle fights, and peace continued to fall over our small family.

I wish I could stop there.

However, those hiccups gradually escalated from minute grievances into interruptions of family life, of trust, and of the very basic foundations of our relationship.

Three months post-deployment, he began to face sudden and severe anxiety, a new hardship for him. Because he did not know how to cope, he became easily irritated and angry, lost interest in his religious faith, delved into former addictions and lied constantly.

While I never, ever feared for my physical safety, my mental and emotional safety seemed unstable: I had no idea when he was telling me the truth.

The dissipation of trust had reopened old, painful wounds that I thought forgiveness had healed. Our emotional connection resembled the flicker of a dying lightbulb. We were roommates, friends even, but our deep-rooted foundation of emotional and personal security and connection had begun to decay.

And hardest of all, he didn’t see that his poor choices were affecting our family, our marriage.

And so here we are, six-months post-deployment, plummeting the drop of the emotional roller-coaster, our hair whipping in what seems to be a continually circling, never-ending wind of “figuring things out.”

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