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When love is not enough: How avoiding your mental health issues could be destroying your family.

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Love is not an obligation, nor is marriage when it involves abuse, neglect, and torment.

It is not a contractual agreement that allows either party to punish, break, or destroy the other's mind, body, or spirit.


Sadly, this is often the reality for those married to a person battling PTSD or other mental health issues. When we refuse to get help, our families suffer the worst outcomes. Our spouses and children can develop anxiety, depression, secondary PTSD, and other mental and physical ailments simply as a byproduct of living with us and our conditions.


It is widely understood that abusers come in all shapes, sexes, and sizes, and this is not aimed at one specific gender or demographic. However, this is written by and for those that wear the uniform. Ultimately, our actions or inactions have the most significant impact on those who love us.


The following is a passionate plea for you to get help.


More importantly, it is an urgent call to action for those in an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, LEAVE. RIGHT. NOW!


- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233

- http://www.ndvh.org/

- National Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474

- http://www.loveisrespect.org/

- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673



How do we stop the domestic abuse statistics from rising? How do we save our marriages and keep our families together? The answer is a lot simpler than you’d imagine, but it requires Herculean efforts of self-reflection, humility, and the willpower of the Gods to see it through.


It requires drive, willpower, curiosity, and the ability to step outside of your comfort zone to seek out answers that you may not want to find.



LOOK. INWARD


Our families notice it long before we know something is wrong. They might notice that our temperament is off; we’re quick to anger or stop smiling and showing affection. When our spouses or loved ones see these changes, rather than brushing them off, pause, acknowledge their concerns, and LOOK INWARD. Don’t react dismissively or, worse, instigate an argument and turn to anger. Engage in discussion and let them ask questions; they only want to help. Be vulnerable and let them in. At the very least, acknowledge that they are correct, but let them know that you are not sure what is going on.



ACKNOWLEDGE YOU NEED HELP


The human mind does not come with a maintenance manual or a reference guide. It is completely normal to feel like you don’t have the answers when dealing with complex issues such as survivor's guilt, PTSD, or trying to make sense of trauma that you have incurred over the course of a military career. This is where trained professionals come in handy. You cannot overcome these difficult challenges on your own. Psychologists, counselors, clinicians, and therapists are there to help you navigate the road ahead. We have to stop viewing these individuals as roadblocks to our careers or as “Big Brain” charlatans that are out to swindle us. The truth is that a vast majority of these individuals are passionate care providers that specialize in helping people like us in solving the most complex issues known to man; The effects of trauma and TBI on the human mind.




ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE


Perhaps the most inconvenient and brutal truth to acknowledge is that the most readily available maladaptive coping device within our Military is alcohol. It is widely condoned and has long been offered by Senior NCOs and Commissioned Officers as a reward for a job well done and a tool to unwind and relax with at the end of the day. But long gone are the 1960s and the days of drinking yourself into a better mood. These days the consequences of habitual drinking and our health are well-known and documented. Drinking is not the correct answer when dealing with our mental health issues.

Alcohol only makes things worse, and it's often the catalyst behind the worst decisions in our lives. Drug abuse, more specifically prescription drug abuse, is a growing problem amongst service members and veterans looking to disconnect and ignore the reality of their trauma. Drug use allows us to escape from the reality of our situation. It’s an easy connection to make in our minds. It’s a choice that seems free of repercussions or adverse effects. After all, drugs such as Xanax, Ambien, and Ativan are all prescribed by doctors, so it’s fine to use by anyone. This is absolutely false; medications should only be taken when personally prescribed to you by a licensed Doctor. When used properly under a licensed professional doctor's guidance, medication is a great part of a personal treatment plan. Abusing prescription drugs will only lead to more problems between you and your family, but it will further complicate your treatment plan.




THE LINK BETWEEN OUR MENTAL HEALTH AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE


External injuries are easy for us and our loved ones to understand. A broken leg, for the most part, is a known and common injury. Both people in the relationship can see the damage and understand what is needed for their partner to heal and recover. When it comes to mental health issues, this is not the case. There is a multitude of problems that can leave both partners exhausted and frustrated when it comes to trying to understand what is going on. PTSD, TBI, untreated depression, and anxiety are not subjects that are easy to discuss for any service member or spouse. But action must be taken when things start trending downward, and sadness, despair, and hope seem lost.


“I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells.”


From the inside looking out, it’s easy to think that you and you alone are dealing with this nightmare. Yet your loved ones are watching and suffering the consequences of your struggle. One minute you’re the person they love and cherish, and the next, the sound of you entering the home is the harbinger of pain, anguish, and hate. Thus begins the elaborate dance of navigating life with a ticking time bomb. This is a common experience among spouses whose significant others have PTSD. So much so that there’s even a common shared phrase. “I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells.”


No one deserves to live like this. NO ONE. Yet we sit there, perfectly happy, avoiding the real issues while the people who matter most learn how to live in an active minefield.


Ultimately, our failure to act leaves no room for love, no room for our spouse or significant other, and no hope for recovery. When we allow ourselves to stay in our misery and neglect our mental health needs, we are telling them that we will never change. What choice do we leave them? What options do they have to choose from? Stay with us and watch us become more angry, bitter, and hateful because we don’t want to face our fears and ultimately become just as toxic as us.


If we truly love our spouses and want to see our marriages thrive rather than barely survive, we must shed our insecurities and ask for help. If not, our lives and those who love us will be plagued with misery and regret. Take it from me, face your fears today and start getting help NOW!


A marriage is worth fighting for, but only if YOU are willing to fight your demons and trauma.



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