Arts & Culture

Does Your Husband Have PTSD?

Question: "Does your husband have PTSD?" He is next to me, breathing calmly, quietly. Soft lullaby music escapes beneath my kids’ doors and follows a wispy path to my ears. He has been home for weeks. I still wake at … Read More

By / February 17, 2009

Question: "Does your husband have PTSD?"

He is next to me, breathing calmly, quietly. Soft lullaby music escapes beneath my kids’ doors and follows a wispy path to my ears. He has been home for weeks. I still wake at night, scared and shocked to find a body next to me. I stare in the dark, black night, trying to remember. It takes several minutes before his breathing sounds familiar to me. I stretch my leg, tentatively, until I find his leg beneath the covers. He did come home to me. It wasn’t a dream.

I ease closer to him, trying to coerce my body to remember his silhouette, his scent. Sleep finally wins.

I snap awake to the sound of him screaming. He sits up in the bed, arguing beneath his eyelids. He flails, turns to me, screams, breathes, cries, and falls back to his pillow.

I edge closer to him and peer over his shoulder. He is sweaty, and he grunts and grimaces. He continues over an hour before he falls back into a deep sleep. Then, he rolls over and throws his arm over my hip. I stare at the wall, awake and terrified, until the sun pours through the window. Another day has come.

Weeks later, we drive through town, listening to children’s music, chatting back and forth, and trying to soak up the joy of being together again. A car backfires. He pushes my head down into my knees. "Hold on!" he yells, screeching out of the mall parking lot. When we are finally "safe" he looks into my terrified face. "It’s okay," he says. "Don’t worry. It was just a car backfiring." I am worried.

Months later, we wander through a crowd at a carnival on base. Music blares through the speakers, bright neon lights reflect off the grass, and our kids, riding on our shoulders, laugh and point at the balloons and exploding fireworks. We are finally a family again.

Then, he begins to unravel. He jerks his hand from mine, his face goes white, and he begins to dodge people as they approach him. "This doesn’t feel safe," he says. "There are way too many people here." He looks behind him, nervous and agitated. "Can we just leave?" he asks. We do. We bargain with our screaming kids as we leave the carnival, promising them a wonderful tomorrow of ice cream and swimming.

Even two years after his return, he is edgy. He doesn’t wake up as often. Doesn’t avoid every crowd. But he is always vigilant. Always watchful and easily agitated. How could he not be? Suicide rates are rising. Deployments are continuing. Wars are still raging. At what point can he drop his guard and leave it all behind?

Answer: He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.

Melissa Seligman, author of The Day After He Left for Iraq, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week.  Stay tuned.