- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hi Ms. Vicki,

Before I proceed with my letter, I want to ask you to forgive me for the tone. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic or graphic, but something strange is happening to my husband.

We’ve been together for 18 years, married for 16. He has been in the Army for 13 years. Like everyone else, he has experienced his share of deployments. I stopped counting after the fifth one. Honestly, I was giving him credit for being OK and not really having any of the problems you see so many others have. Now however, things are really coming to the surface.

First, my husband has a terrible memory. He doesn’t remember anything and then he turns around and argues with me about the facts. I literally have to run down the facts to him from A to Z to make him remember, and then he will relent on the issue.

Ms. Vicki, I know my husband had many concussions during combat. His Humvee turned over many times when they would come in contact with IEDs and other explosives. I think he has some head trauma.

Here’s the next thing. He can still operate on three to four hours of sleep a night. As a matter fact, he is up all night doing things like cooking, cleaning out closets and mopping floors. When he does sleep, he often has nightmares. Don’t misunderstand me; I appreciate having a husband that will cook and clean, but good grief, at 3 a.m.? This can’t be normal.

He returned home from his last deployment in early March. Well, from my understanding, his unit is preparing for another deployment in late 2010. Am I supposed to keep my mouth closed and pretend that nothing is wrong with my husband? How can I let them deploy him again when I know something is wrong?

I know this is the start of something bigger. I’m trying not to diagnose him with post-traumatic stress disorder or anything because I am not a doctor. I’m trying to read and learn as much about this as I can. Is there anything else I can do to help my husband? Give me any advice you can. — C.J. in North Carolina

Dear C.J.,

I truly appreciate you writing and sharing with me and other readers. I also applaud you for trying to glean more information about combat stress disorders and for wanting to help your husband. Many therapists, including me, are working very hard to erase the stigma of receiving mental health services. Many service members in all branches of service believe seeking help for combat stress is a sign of weakness, but it’s not. It’s crucial to their overall well-being.

My first recommendation is for him to visit immediately with his primary care physician. Many ask, “Ms. Vicki why do you recommend this?” Well, you want to rule out other medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure or anemia. Bottom line, it’s just a good time to have an overall medical physical.

During this visit, he also should discuss other symptoms he is having, including sleeplessness, nightmares, the possible head trauma he sustained in combat, etc. The primary care physician should refer him to other clinics and for other tests like the behavioral health clinic and the traumatic brain injury clinic for an exam.

You should know this will not be complete in a day or two. Take the time to follow through with recommended services. Moreover, I encourage you to accompany him when he has appointments.

Another resource I want you to take a look at is the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Call 802/296-6300 or visit www.ncptsd.va.gov. They can provide much helpful information about PTSD and other combat stress disorders.

I wish you and your family only the best. I know this is an abbreviated answer, but I hope it helps. Keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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