Family Matters Blog: My Husband’s PTSD

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.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

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.)

For more fam­i­ly-relat­ed posts like this one, vis­it Fam­i­ly Mat­ters Blog or check out Fam­i­ly Mat­ters on Face­book and Twit­ter.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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