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PTSD Does Not Make Abuse OK

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms.Vicki,

My husband deployed last year. Every time we could talk, it was hell for me. There wasn't one day where I wouldn't be yelled at or called names when all I did was ask him how his day was or what he ate and that we missed him.

When he came back to his duty station, he continued harassing me daily, judging my every move. I wondered what had happened to him.

I started getting sick so often. My physician figured it was the fact that I developed depression so my appetite was bad. I was always sad. 

My husband would always tell me no one had time for me to be depressed. At times, I thought I was the problem. I thought if I take a knife and cut my veins, what would he do? Would that make him happy?

I am his way to connect with everyone -- his family, his jury duty, his bills at home, everything. When something gets broken here in the States, no matter what it is, I get yelled at, cursed at, screamed at and demoralized.

When he's home on leave, he's really lovey dovey. He always spoils me with genuine love.

The last time he was home, he confessed to me that he was depressed and easily angered, and that he had suicidal thoughts running through his mind daily.

Recently, he came out to his commanders about being depressed. After months of me asking him to seek help, he saw a therapist where he was told he might have PTSD.

I was relieved because my worries were confirmed. These past six weeks, I've been extremely patient. I've tried to avoid fights. If they happened, I'm always the one to try and make things better. I fear that if I don't, he will take his life.

I love him, but I just don't know anymore what road to take. He said we would get couples therapy, but Ms. Vicki, PTSD has taken over my life. I'm not sure what my next step is.

Everyone fears for me. I've thought about leaving, but I don't want anything to happen to him. I know therapy should help us a bit. I no longer have the patience for his PTSD. It's emotionally and mentally draining me.

What do I do now? Not even his family understands how bad he has it. They just say he's weak and stupid. I'm really in need of your advice.

Sincerely,
PTSD Has Taken Over

Dear PTSD,

I am very, very worried about you! Let me be very straight with you: I think you are in an abusive relationship.

Furthermore, you said you are dealing with your husband’s PTSD, but here are two things I want you to consider:

  1. You are not sure if your husband has been diagnosed with PTSD.
  2. There are many people who have been diagnosed with PTSD, but they are not abusive to their spouses or anyone else.

I understand that depression can make people more frustrated, edgy and irritable. However, your husband has to be responsible for his behavior toward other people.

I agree that something is wrong with him because according to your report, people in his unit (his commanders) have questioned his behavior, right?

So certainly, whatever is happening to your husband is affecting him at work and in his marriage. Those are two very important domains when we look at how problems are affecting individuals.

You describe the cycle of abuse very unmistakably. There is a cycle of abusive behavior. It peaks and then it tapers off with your husband being “lovey-dovey” during the honeymoon period.

Then when you let your guard down, it happens again: the name calling and his demeaning behavior.

You need help very quickly. You cannot worry about trying to save your husband’s career or making him upset with you.

Right now, there is a lot going on with you. You cannot sit back and let your husband threaten you. You must take action. There are many people in the legal office on base/post that will help you. Most legal offices have walk-in hours too.

You can also contact Military OneSource 24/7. They can help you with your distress by phone and connect you with a counselor in your local area.

Lastly, I think you should also contact a Victims Advocate (VA). They are usually located in the family services building on base/post. You can speak with them “off the record” before you disclose certain things. The VA will help you with resources and provide support.

I’m not calling you a victim because you don’t have to be, but there are many ways that your husband is taking advantage of you and this is a huge problem. I want you to be OK. I’m worried about you so please write me back.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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