When I wrote the following journal entry in 2008, I wanted to know what could be causing my husband’s anger. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I may be suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) myself. In fact, many abuse victims exhibit PTSD symptoms like forgetfulness, unexplained fear, extreme anxiety and nervousness, sleep disorders, and exaggerated startle response.
December 23, 2008
I know what happened the other day was horrible. I feel I was partly to blame, and not because he told me so right after. I slapped him. I was wrong for that. I took one of our bills from him and tore it apart. I was also wrong for that.
But Will didn’t have to do what he did. He could have shown restraint – he had an opportunity to show restraint.
I had already gotten into the living room before he reached me, so he had stood there in the office after I took his paper, after I slapped him, after he said I was a cunt, and had time to think about his response. He thought about it, and then he came after me. He thought about it, then charged me, threw me over the end table and choked me in front of our children.
We’ve talked about it a little. I said I was sorry for slapping him. He said there was no excuse for what he did, that he was raised better than that. He never said he was sorry.
My counselor once asked me if I thought he could be suffering from PTSD. I replied, “If that were the case, wouldn’t it show up after he came back from the war?” When he returned from Iraq, he was gentler and more loving. It’s been since he came back from his last “gravy” assignment that he’s acted out so badly.
In fact, his anger was an issue about half-way through the deployment. I emailed him about it because when I mentioned it on the phone he just got mad.
My counselor said that something during the last deployment could have triggered the PTSD. Will could have put the experience deep into his mind trying to forget it, but anything could have been the trigger.
IF it is PTSD. He was violent with me at least twice before going to war. What’s the excuse for those times?
Fact of the matter is that there is no excuse for shoving me over the table and holding me down by my throat even though I slapped him for calling me a cunt and even if I tore up an invoice into teeny tiny pieces in my rage. I am not responsible for his physical assault anymore than he was responsible for me slapping him across the face.
If PTSD caused him to snap, then why did he make excuses for his behavior? Why did he blame me? Why did he feel like he had to teach me a dangerous physical lesson after I slapped him? After I slapped Will, I turned to walk away because I knew I’d stepped over a line. I knew I was wrong and needed to remove myself from his presence. I did not blame Will for my wrongdoing.
A different example is if a war veteran jumps under the table because some boy threw a firecracker, then the veteran may be embarrassed of his or her exhibition of fear. The veteran would not chase down the kid and choke him. (Under no circumstances is “jumping under a table” something to feel ashamed about if you have PTSD! I’m simply drawing a comparison.) Will, who happens to be a war veteran, chased me down and choked me.
If Will had PTSD, then he would have apologized. I hope. And then he would admit he had a problem and seek help for it. I hoped. But Will did not seek help from anyone except Jim Beam, and I’m certain good ol’ Jim did not hold Will accountable.
The people who suffered under the weight of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in my family was me and possibly our boys. I cannot speak for the boys, nor do I necessarily see signs of PTSD in them. I do see the signs of PTSD in myself.
I’ve never been to war. I’ve never been raped at knife-point or fought for my life from strangers. But I did live with an unpredictable, angry and abusive man for over 17 years. And that is way more than enough time to develop hyper-anxiety, difficulty concentrating, experiencing overwhelming guilt or shame, and any of the other symptoms of PTSD listed on Do You Have PTSD From Abuse?
A good site to find out more about PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Info.