June 12, 2010

Communicating with Deployed Combat PTSD Soldier

Panic Attack or Anxiety PTSD
Image viaWikipedia
I received this email just about 30 minutes ago from a woman whose fiancée is deployed in a war zone with PTSD that he has had since 2005!

Diagnosed with PTSD and still in combat? Really? To some of the general public this will be a surprise, but to those of us who live it. It has always been a reality. Hello world, wake up and smell the gunpowder in the air. I want to encourage our readers to research this site and copy and paste those links here and I will add them in a new resources button 'Communicating with Deployed Soldier.' Here is her email as it came to me,
I came across your blog while researching out PTSD. My fiancé is actively deployed and been dealing with this condition since 2005. I found your blog to have a wealth of information especially the posts relating to communicating with a loved one with PTSD. I searched through your blog for information on understanding and communicating with a spouse or partner who is deployed but was not successful. Any insight you may have or resources you know of that you could give me would be greatly appreciated. My fiancé is really having a hard time and I am at a loss on what to say to comfort him since I am doing this from a distance and I am really wanting to understand PTSD and the effect it has on a person.

Thank you for your time
My response,
Right below the Dr. Jay's ad you will find a box that says 'Resources and My Favorites.' You will find several articles that I wrote along with others whom I thought were relevant to the conversation of . The rest of the information you need to better communicate with him comes from your soon to be education on Combat PTSD, thats where the rest of the website comes in. Two of my writers are Combat veteran wives who can give you a wealth of knowledge in understanding their Combat Vet, which may have some insight for you and your situation.

The writing at my websites comes from a clinical perspective with a 'been there, done that' kind of attitude. Sound familiar? Well, now we are connecting. I can help you understand how he thinks, the other writers can help you with getting through it how they got through it.

Hope this helps and I will be posting this response at my website. Can I have your permission to use your email? I will change the names and will post soon


  1. I am reading away and came across this post http://www.ptsdasoldiersperspective.com/2009/09/what-to-say-to-your-soldier-while.html

    A short post but it answered a question I have had for awhile now. Whether he finds comfort in the emails, letters and words exchanged on the phone due to the lack of physical presence?

  2. Absolutely! When I was in combat I felt my loved one presence around the other side of the world as if they were next to me. It is a chilling experience if one were to dwell on it in a war zone. But none the less they were with me, in spirit and I know they felt it too. Your intuition on this is spot on!

    Thank you TMW, making the button now and will add more as we copy your helping hand. I know I wrote it, but by golly this this has reached critical mass here at PASP and we need your help! Yes, you the reader. Copy, paste, research!

  3. I don't know if he is actively seeking help, but he can go to Charlie Meps while deployed and get medicine such as an anti-depressant. If all else fails, he can also go to the unit's chaplain and those guys have more training now than they ever did before on dealing with all issues, not just PTSD. My husband found comfort in talking with their chaplain because he listened. Looking back, I would say he is finding comfort in your letters and photos. In counseling, my husband revealed that the last six months he didn't want to talk to me or call me (although I thought nothing was wrong) because he felt I would know things weren't going good. He did say letters made him focus on just that..my words. Being halfway across the world and wanting to fix his problems is a bitch because you just can't. You also don't want to bombard him either with "get help get help" scenarios or some end up rearing up and get angry. The best advice I could give you is to write letters....let him know that no matter what happens over there, you will be there for him. Don't make comments like "you're my hero" because for many I have talked to, this really pisses them off because they don't feel like heroes and feel they are letting you down. Let him know that anytime he wants to deal with the issues he is having, you will be right there beside him and not going to leave. I told my husband one time, that no matter what he did overseas or ordered to do....would make no never mind in my eyes because he will always be my husband. Depending on what he is doing, this helps them cope with the fact, I am not alone.

    Write,every day until cut off comes. When he comes home, concentrate on getting him help. I am guessing this isn't his first deployment? Reintegration may be troubling this go around. Don't expect too much, expect the worst and hope for the best. Take it one day at a time and understand that he won't ever be the same again. If he has been struggling, then he needs to seek more help out and talk about it with counselors. Just understand that he may never talk to you about it, or what he is feeling if he is feeling anything. I write about my husband all the time and he knows that I love him. He says thats the only reason he hasn't gone off the edge because he knows I am there to pull him back. Unfortunately, with PTSD its sometimes a one way street. Stay strong, keep writing and letting him know you can understand anything...no matter what. If you ever need us, we are here.

  4. Also...as an afterthought here, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell him that when he comes through de-mobilization and they ask him questions that relate to PTSD answer freaking YES! I know some of them are too worried about careers, commadarie, commanders, etc...but it will make it soooo much easier for him to get help when he gets home because he sought the help to begin with. I tell all my soldiers upon de-mobbing please please please tell them that yes you are having problems. They might keep him one or two extra days, even a week but they can get him asap into a therapist and see a doctor upon his return. For my spouses who have done this, this was much better because the soldiers had time there to reintegrate for a spell without the burden of family, children, jobs, etc. For some, this also keeps them from coming straight home and getting drunk and staying intoxicated. Little drastic I know, but hey been there done that! I am also a FRG trainer so am really pushing other unit spouses to be prepared because the military doesn't give you a hand out on how to deal. As far as wanting to know what he is going through, read through Scott's site here and you can see from him and others what a nightmare it is for them. For the spouses, me and D have contributed blogs but you can read more at each of our sites. It's not pretty honey...I can't tell you that it gets better because it may or may not. Its a really hard road to travel and many just don't make it past the first turn. You have to be determined, go in and fight it together as if PTSD is an unwanted visitor in your home. Hope this helps you some.

  5. All of the resources I had listed all over my blog are still here. In the right column two different sections. The first PASP(1) Resource Seal of Approval, the other Resources for Soldier, Veteran, Family, and Loved Ones. Still hard for me to adjust to myself.

  6. http://www.familyofavet.com/loved_ones.html

    Of course I am partial to Scott and PASP....biased I know! However, I do like this site as well as often went back to it the first six months my husband was home. Honestly, there just isn't a whole lot out there for family/spouses etc which is why I think Scott wanted me and PTSD:Caregiver here. There needs to be a site dedicated to nothing BUT us!!

  7. That's right Mistress, I respond to an incredible amount of email answering or trying to feverishly research the issue so that I can cover it in the resource lists that we keep. Family of a Vet was one of the first organizations that reached out to me to assist them. At the time I was unable as I was in the middle of another PTSD melt down.

    I am happy to announce that I will be updating our PASP(1) Resource Seal of Approval to include Family of a Vet to recognize the hard work they do and would like to extend an offer to join the Coalition of Combat PTSD Bloggers.

  8. Thanks for the input. I would of responded sooner but as I was responding earlier my other pc crashed.

    He has been on some heavy duty meds for years. He does see a counselor on a regular basis. He is a very spiritual person and relies heavily on his faith so he visits the chaplain often. This is his 4th deployment. He did leave military for a period of time and could not handle civilian life and went back to what he knew. I can't help but think by continuing to do what he does, it is his way of not dealing. I know he has major fears about what will happen after the military. Yet we have discussed at length he can not handle any more deployments since he knows he can not handle it emotionally and he pretty much decided to go ahead and retire when he can which is in about 2 years. He is also fearful of just not being able to make it to retirement. He does talk to me about how he is feeling but sometimes I just don't know what to say. At times though he seems to tell me how he feels and then just shuts himself off. Since he went back from r&r I've noticed he seems to be in a rut. I hate not being able to help him. I know when he comes home there is going to be a rough adjustment period and we will go through that again when he retires. Which is why I know it's important I learn as much insight as I can for his sake and mine.

  9. I understand.

    Now give yourself the permission to be where you are right now. Given the information you have right now, you can start making informed decisions AND communicate this with your new network of "helpers."

    If all is as you say it is then you are on the right track, keep learning and praying. Strengthen YOUR spirituality. Listen to your inner voice, it is there waiting for you. Reality testing against our inner voices needs to be checked by people you trust (for those of us who do reality checks all day long....).

    All I can say is pay it forward and we are here for you.

  10. Im almost too scared to leave a comment, but im out of choices. My fiance is on 3rd deployment, this is his 2nd to Afghanistan. This is my 1st. Now when he first left, in January every message we had he told me things were going good, alot better than he expected, however 4 months into the deployment he finally broke down and told me what was really going on. He told me he had been on medication to treat anxiety and depression since the 2nd month of being there. I was stunned! Before he had left we talked about his previous deployments and he was always excited in a way to talk about them, so i was thinking this one would be the same for him. I was wrong! He told me that this war was unlike anything he had seen before. The sound or the mortors coming in is the worst sound in the world, and the fear of death never leaves his mind. He has been seeing a therapist on a weekly basis and has to see the dr once a week for his script refills. The scripts they have him on are for depression, anxiety and blood pressure. Oh ya, and his blood pressure had been averaging around 180/120 and his hr 110. They told him his body doesnt know how to get out of over drive. They let him stay for over 4 weeks with his bp this high before they put him on medication for it! He said when he first started taking the anxiety pills they would make him hallucinate, then they put him on med because he couldnt sleep. Now hes all drugged up and still feeling everything he was before the meds, now just drugged! The meds were not helping, so he resorted to something i still can not bring myself to talk about to anyone, but it helps him relieve his pain and fear. While being there they have diagnosed him with PTSD. He was offered to Chapter Out, but has chosen not to because of financial reasons. My whole thought on this, is I am scared to death of the state of mind my loved on is in! I know he is not thinking rationally! Why will they not get him help? He tells me he has asked over and over again, but they keep telling him the same thing, "take the medication" Are there no other treaments that he can recieve while being deployed? Can you PLEASE HELP me?
    In every conversation we have i am constantly assuring him everything will be ok and I am here for him. I try to make him laugh at things he use to find funny, but most of the time i get nothing but a little smirk. I see the man i love and adore, slipping into someone full of so much pain! What can I do??

  11. Anony, You can begin to educate yourself and pull together a network of people around you. You will need a strong group of people who have been there and done that. Find PTSD Caregivers in your town, yes they are there, they are everywhere. Read the first two years of this website and the section Communicating with Soldier or Veteran.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee