The Effects of War

PTSD The effects of war

By Martha Ramos

I am the wife of a Vietnam veteran who is suffering from PTSD. My husband and I have been married 31 years, and have three children. I wrote this poem following one of my husband’s PTSD episodes.

The children and I have had to learn to ignore my husband’s hurting words, mood swings, and rages of anger. We have learned to avoid saying anything in front of him that might upset him. To put it simply, we have learned to live with PTSD. Our children all react to his actions differently. My daughter responds by making gestures after her dad walks out of the room, and says, “Why doesn’t he just shut up?”

My middle son, who was almost choked to death by his dad, still fears him. He has learned to be quiet around him, and not talk to him about things that might set off his anger.

And our youngest son, who is usually quiet, just responds to incidents by saying, “Why is he mad now?” and assures me he will protect me. The children and I have learned to keep secrets, because we don’t want to upset dad.

Around two years ago my husband finally started receiving help. It took 40 years for someone to finally tell my daughter there was help out there. Through conversations with a co-worker, my daughter discovered that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had programs to help veterans like my husband. This pointed my husband in the direction of the pension/compensation area of the Veterans Administration.

He went through a series of medical tests and conversations with doctors. They diagnosed him with PTSD and other medical conditions possibly caused by his time in Vietnam. He received a rating of 60 percent disability and a monetary compensation.

The compensation was nice, but that didn’t help my husband’s condition. We were still living with someone who had outburst and anger issues.

Months later, an angel was sent to my daughter. Another co-worker told my daughter about her husband who worked at the VA in a program that helped Texas veterans get help for PTSD. This young man helped my husband get into a program in which therapy is given to veterans like my husband. A therapist, also a war veteran, is now conducting sessions with my husband. The therapist also met with me, and provided me with information on this disease. He explained that he hadn’t had a veteran yet that didn’t get better. I was told to be patient, that it would take time to see a change in my husband’s behavior.

 The compensation was nice, but that didn’t help my husband’s condition. We were still living with someone who had outburst and anger issues.

My husband has now been in therapy for almost a year. Is it helping? I am going to say yes. Is my husband cured? My answer to that is no, but what I can say is that my husband’s outbursts are fewer, and he now is expressing some of his anxieties to me.

I still fear leaving my children and grandchildren alone with my husband, thinking he is going to lose his temper and hurt one of them. When I am away from home and my cell phone rings, my heart just drops. I wonder, “Did something happen?”

We all still tiptoe around him, but at least now we can tell him bad news – we just need to wait until he is in the right mood.

I have learned more about PTSD, and have learned that it is not his fault, so I try to talk to him, rather than to argue back. I remind my children during his episodes that dad is sick.

Patience and understanding is the key to helping your loved one. There is help out there; you just need to be pointed in the right direction.

As I was looking for information on PTSD, I realized that the number of veterans experiencing PTSD is enormous. According to a study from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), more than half of all male Vietnam veterans, and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans, about 1,700,000 Vietnam veterans in all, have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.”

Veterans don’t talk about it. How they are affected is different for each one. My uncle came back paralyzed, and my husband came back with PTSD. PTSD is a disease that affects each veteran in a different way. To any family affected by someone with this disease, we are all victims. Patience and understanding is the key to helping your loved one. There is help out there; you just need to be pointed in the right direction.

References: National Center for PTSD (2006, December 12) Psych Central: Facts About PTSD.

 

The Effects of War

War is a terrible thing.

The after-effects are unimaginable.

People killed, injured, and lives changed.

Anger, illness, depression, and so much more.

Families affected by not knowing what is wrong. Why is he always angry? Nothing makes him happy. Will this upset him if I tell him?

People asking what is wrong with him?

I’ve been told be patient. I tell my
children he is getting help.

But is it really helping? We don’t see it.

Even after forty years the effects of war are unimaginable.

–  Martha Ramos

 

 The National Center for PTSD

No one knows more about PTSD and how to treat it than the VA. If  you’re looking for more information from the “official source,” check out the Veteran Administration’s National Center for PTSD web site.

If you have gone through trauma – war-related or otherwise – or know someone who has, check out the “Public” section of the site.

What is PTSD? How is PTSD measured? What treatment options are available? You’ll find all this, and a lot more.

www.ptsd.va.gov

 

Martha RamosMartha Ramos is an elementary school teacher, a technology facilitator, and is married to a Vietnam veteran.