WASHINGTON — Diana Veseth-Nelson’s husband, retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He received treatment through the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s specialized care program. Here’s Diana’s story of coping with PTSD as a military wife, supporting her husband throughout his treatment and her desire to reach out to other military spouses.
|Diana Veseth-Nelson poses with her husband, retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson, and their dog, Loki.
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My husband’s PTSD manifested itself in different ways. I remember Fourth of July at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., when we were all standing outside listening to the band, enjoying the picnic and listening to fireworks. The fireworks bothered Adrian because they sounded so much like gunfire. It made other soldiers upset too, and we all went inside. I thought it was ironic because the celebration was supposed to be for the American soldiers; they couldn’t even enjoy it.
He’d see a can on the side of the road and swerve, thinking it was an improvised explosive device. When he’d go out to dinner with other soldiers, I’d say it looked like a “The Last Supper” painting because they’d all sit there with their backs against the wall. If a room became too busy, he’d want to leave. He’d suddenly become unfriendly or unapproachable.
At first, I confused his behavior with depression, or I thought maybe he was just tired. I also couldn’t help but think it had to do with me; I’m only human.
I was fortunate that Adrian was willing to get help once he got back. Once he was diagnosed, I knew we’d know better how to deal with his symptoms. I educated myself on PTSD; I went to his group therapist and reached out to the Real Warriors Campaign for information. But the most important thing I did was to listen to Adrian.
After he took part in the DHCC program, I could tell there was a stark improvement in his ability to manage his PTSD symptoms. The program taught him different ways to manage the symptoms. I never thought he would be into activities like yoga or acupuncture — now he’s a convert!
I think because Adrian and I communicate well we’ve been fortunate. When a soldier comes home, there’s usually a highly anticipated arrival and perception that everything’s going to be OK now. The truth is, everything may not be OK and getting to that desired state may be more of a process. But in the end, it’s worth it.
We recently moved outside Washington, D.C., and I’m looking to start a support group for significant others since we’re so close to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other bases. I think spouses need a support network just like service members, especially since some soldiers are not as open as my husband. Some families may have to cope with someone who is in complete denial — being involved in a support network may help. My hope is to lead a group that does just that, provide support to military families.
(Note: This post originally appeared on the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury blog. Diana’s husband also wrote a post about his experiences for the DCoE blog. You can read the post here.)
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