Confession: I recognize my husband’s PTS symptoms… because I have suffered them, too.
I have been with my military husband for 15 years, which included 5 combat deployments. But I never understood PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress) until it happened to me.
In 2011, I gave birth to my son during a Category 3 Hurricane. The birth itself was healthy and normal, but the recovery was not. I was alone at the hospital, because my husband was deployed. I watched the giant pine trees around the hospital swaying and falling in the howling storm. While I was in the recovery room, the hospital lost power. Nurses gave me a flashlight and a box of granola bars for my post-birth meal.
I spent the night sheltering in a hallway clutching the baby during a tornado warning. I felt helpless and alone since I couldn’t reach my husband or even my parents, who were watching my other children. The next day, I was “released,” but the base and roads were still closed because of downed trees and wires. So I moved to another floor of the hospital where I had to care for my baby alone, and walk outside to a food truck to get myself a meal. When I finally made it home, I thought the trauma was behind me.
Until one year later. We moved to Spain, where there are no hurricanes. The first week there, I saw the wind blowing palm tree branches, and my heart started racing. All I could think was, HURRICANE! I felt a pang in my abdomen, like labor pain, even though I wasn’t pregnant. I felt like I needed to get to shelter and protect my children. For a few minutes I couldn’t think clearly.
When I had calmed down, I tried to reassure myself with facts: “There aren’t any hurricanes in Spain. This is just wind. You are not having a baby.”
But there was some part of my brain that had connected the stress and fear of the hospital with the image of TV weather reporters standing near Florida palm trees during a hurricane. I never understood why I had such an irrational panicked reaction to those palm trees.