Thursday, September 5, 2013

Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder

                One of my favorite activities in writing is the research I do for the next story or novel.  Two weeks ago I realized the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was fast approaching.  I decided my novel project for November would be my story about a young girl left for dead after watching her best friend killed by raiders.  Eventually, she will befriend a falcon.  To begin, I checked out a falconry book from the library and bought a book about PTSD.  The latter is a topic near and dear to my heart since my husband and many friends have been to the warzones in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

                In my readings, I came across some interesting information.  As a wife, the first two years after my husband returned from Iraq were tough.  Reading other stories, our story is a picnic, but it still wasn’t easy.  My husband returned different.  Yes, the basics of his personality remained the same: Catholic, husband, father, and soldier.  However, his personality became rougher, he smiled less, and socializing no longer was a priority.  I, being an introvert, miss the socializing of the past and his consistency in smiling.  Also, he has stretches of extreme tunnel vision that drive me crazy.  For the most part, all our energy went into finding a new normal for him.  We both went to counseling and have structured a new life which has more bumps in the road, but usually they are more manageable.

                In Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress by Bob Delaney, he extends his topic to the spouses of individuals with PTSD.  The spouses of soldiers experience “another form of PTSD on a different level-something I describe as Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder (ATSD).  The circumstances that trigger the trauma in ATSD…unfolds with anxiety on the home front, but the impact on a person’s body chemistry may be the same.”  This anxiety remains after the spouse returns home as the adjustment process begins and the PTSD needs to be dealt with.  In my case, I lived with anxiety for about three years.  I still feel it from time to time.  I am sure my kids felt all of this as well though we tried to shelter them.

                Putting a name to my experience felt really good.  Seeing a person speak in such a way helped validate all the feelings I had and still feel.  The spouse that Bob interviewed for this section of the book stated, “’But I’ll never be the same Mary.’”  I relate so much to this sentiment.  I will never be the same Lisa.  Some people realize this about my husband, but even fewer realize or understand that about me.  While going through all the anxiety, many people criticized me in the way I survived.  With that, I became more of an introvert and trust people far less then in my younger years.

                The military, government, and television are working very hard to educate others about PTSD in our returning soldiers.  I am happy to see that this understanding is extending to all citizens who go through traumatic experiences in the civilian world.  I challenge all of you to broaden this understanding to the immediate family members who live with people with PTSD.  We change as well or we don’t succeed in the relationships.  I believe a lot of the time the spouses change in the same way.  Most days, I am okay with that.  Other days are a bit rougher.  Now I know it is normal.

                The information will help in my writing.  My character at the beginning of the book still lives at home with her parents and younger siblings.  I will write about her PTSD, but now I will also write about the ATSD that the family will experience especially her mother.  My prayer is that I will do both justice.

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