It’s the Fourth of July, and the whole city sounds like war. In my husband’s head, it is war all over again, battles he thought he left behind in the Iraqi desert years before I met him.
Inside, our home is no retreat. Nothing drowns out the thunder of gunfire and imminent death. Chances are, my husband and best friend isn’t coming back from this tonight.
But this isn’t a story about my husband and his tour of duty in 2005. This is my story about being married to a combat veteran with PTSD.
I want to tell you about the challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve learned to handle them. I want to show you the strength and lessons I’ve discovered along the way. …
In our individualistic society, therapists, counselors, and researchers tend to focus on individual people, not their families or relationships. However, studies show a positive correlation between one partner struggling with mental illness and the other partner sharing that same struggle, and sometimes one person’s mental illness is a direct response to the other’s condition.
That’s the way it is in my marriage. I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and my husband suffers from combat-related PTSD. We both have a history of substance abuse, too. …
As a person who’s been through her share of trauma, it’s taken me a long time to learn how to say a few things I should’ve been able to say years ago, things that mean I respect myself.
What does a woman say when she wants better for herself? How should I talk when I respect myself?
This is how I would answer that question. Here are ten things I couldn’t say ten years ago.
This has become a handy phrase both at work and at home. As a big-hearted woman who looks younger than she is, I’ve endured plenty of disrespect, and too many times I’ve said nothing to defend myself. …
Across cultures and geographic locations, natural disasters have always affected poor families more than they have affluent people, and the California fires are no different. Poor families are more vulnerable to these blazes and the devastating effects they have on lives.
“When it comes to disasters, differences in vulnerability can affect the magnitude and duration of impacts like the loss of property, livelihoods, or services.”
— from a 2018 study conducted on more than 70,000 census tracts in the United States
The problem isn’t only the fires themselves but the socio-economic context that produces long-lasting disaster, affecting some groups of people disproportionately more than others. …
Some stories feel impossibly difficult to write, let alone publish, but those are usually the ones people like the most. Those are the stories that get people talking, which is exactly what I’m trying to do — start a conversation.
So here goes.
As my followers already know, I write about social injustice. I know all about white privilege and systemic racism and the world that colonialism has created. I’m open to conversations with people who want to talk about the prejudice they’ve experienced. …
This year, the world has changed, and so has the way we look at it. The things we say reflect that change, and I think a handful of new phrases will continue to shape who we are and how we think and act long after the pandemic is over.
Here are seven phrases that didn’t exist before the pandemic:
Deborah Huffing, 66, from Dripping Springs, Texas, kept a secret well into adulthood. She constantly picked at her skin, peppering her back with scars and legions, and she managed to hide it from everyone, even her husband of 21 years, who she slept with in the dark to hide the damage she’d done to herself. She never realized other people did the same thing and that she could get help for it until she broke down crying in front of a doctor.
In the summer of 2009, I traveled abroad in northern India for six weeks. The experience was spiritual, heartwrenching, and humbling. This is the hand-written journal I kept while I studied at the University of Hyderabad, complete with all the prejudices and fears and self-righteous analyses I indulged in while I was away.
Until that point, I thought I was open-minded and tolerant. I talked about feminism and multiculturalism and participated in civil rights’ marches. I thought I was different. It turns out, though, that none of us are all that different.
Looking back on my experiences over a decade later, I’m struck at how biased I really was, despite the Bachelor’s of Science in psychology I was earning. As a white person living in twenty-first-century America, even today, I have to check myself and my sometimes self-righteous, self-entitled thinking. …
When it comes to my veteran husband’s PTSD, there’s one symptom that haunts him more than the others. It follows him into his dreams and pounces without warning. Some nights it’s all he can talk about. What hurts him the most is his survivors’ guilt.
“Two [of his friends] were lost in Iraq, and the other two were killed in Afghanistan. When that last one went down, it just undid him.”
Survivors’ guilt is like someone using their own empathy as a weapon against themselves. Timothy J. Legg, a geriatric and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, tells us that survivors’ guilt happens when someone feels guilty after surviving an atrocity that other people didn’t survive, or she might feel guilty because other people got left behind. She may ask herself, “What could I have done differently? Why didn’t I suffer as much as other people did? …
Whether we called it “shellshock” or the “thousand-yard stare,” we’ve been aware of the ways that trauma impacts the human mind and body for about six thousand years. Our ideas about what it does to people and what we can do about it have shifted, evolved, and been shot through with stigma and misconception over time.
Although we made plenty of mistakes along the way, there are symptoms of PTSD we see repeatedly depicted in many stories, poems, and scientific records, from The Odyssey to present-day scientific studies. From the beginning, we knew what hurt us and where it hurt, but we didn’t know what to do about it. To a certain extent, we still don’t know what to do about it, but, today, we do have a limited yet empathetic understanding of PTSD and how to treat it. …