Wednesday, June 9, 2010


To: "Jason Davidson" []
From: "Jennifer Foley" []
Subject: Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress
Sent: 24 August 2029, 11:43 a.m.

Dear Jason:

Captain Keller asked me to write to you, as your wife is due to return from the War later this week, and he's diagnosed her with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My husband Roger went through the same thing when he came back a few months ago, and apparently (at least in Captain Keller's mind), I did a good job of helping him readjust. We've never met, if you were wondering, but both of our spouses were in the Fourth Infantry (though Roger was on Team Striker, and I understand your wife was part of Team Warhorse).

Just to get this out of the way up front -- I'm probably not the best person in the world to talk to you about this kind of thing. I don't like to operate in the world of heavy emotions. I mostly find them distasteful, so it's kind of up in the air if anything I can say will help you and your wife Kylie. Yeah, I know that's kind of messed up, but I've never been much of a people person. I think my general lack of attachment to strong emotion has probably helped out in the situation with me and Roger.

I'm not sure any of the methods I've used to help Roger readjust will be of any use to you, but if there's the chance that something I say here can help, I suppose it's worth a shot.

First of all, be ready to not exist for a while. Or, sure, you'll be there physically, and your spouse will acknowledge you -- but you're not really there. Or, I guess, more accurately, your spouse won't be there. She'll still be back in the war most of the time, back in The Incident.

And let's be clear about this -- there is The Incident. No matter what kind of shit Kylie saw over there, there's going to be one thing -- one day, one event, one attack -- that's going to be on her mind more than others. The thing is, you can't ever ask about the incident, can't force her to tell you what happened. And even though you won't know what The Incident is for a long time, every conversation you have will probably work its way back to The Incident for quite a whole.

It'll be frustrating, talking about something when you have no clue what it is you're talking about. More frustrating still as anything you say will be the wrong thing. Nothing you say will seem to help, but you've gotta say it anyway. Even when you do find out what The Incident was -- and you will, sooner or later -- anything you say won't help. You'll try to be logical about what happened, but logic won't fix anything. Logic does very little to penetrate that kind of emotional barrier.

And your problems? The shit you've been going through while she's been gone, much less the stress of dealing with a wife who's physically around but mentally still fighting a war 10,000 miles away? You'll have to keep that to yourself for quite a while. It's not that Kylie doesn't care, it's just that it doesn't enter her mind that other people have problems, too. Her issues -- The Incident and all that it entails -- are going to take up all of her waking thoughts and even her dreams for quite some time. The only advice I have here is just hang in there, and deal as best you can. You've already been dealing for quite some time without her to lean on -- you're just going to have to do it a little longer.

Don't try to force Kylie back into the same patterns, the same activities the two of you used to have before the war. If she wants to go out, sure. But don't expect it to be much fun. Don't be surprised when you're in the middle of a conversation and she drifts off and stops talking.

Dealing with a spouse with PTSD is a little like fighting a war must be. You'll make progress -- little gains here and there that can be destroyed in an instant for no discernible reason. Advance, drop back. Attack, retreat. Do what you can to keep an even keel, and just keep listening.

She'll probably be resistant to seeing the Army psychiatrist, but suggest that she go anyway. Note I said suggest -- don't try to make her go. No ultimatums, no "do this for me"s. Just try to influence her to go, but support her decision no matter what.

I don't know if the two of you have kids, but that can be a whole other mess. We don't have them, so I'm afraid I'm not much help in that area -- I've been told you really want to keep an eye on your spouse around your children, and I can see that. Make sure you''re around when your wife is with your kids -- I'm not saying she'll do anything to them, but she'll be distracted, as I said above. You're going to have to keep an eye on them just like you did while she was away.

Oh, and get a dog if you don't already have one. Black Labs are good, as they tend to be affectionate as all hell and love unconditionally. That kind of positive energy is good to have around, and chances are it won't be coming from you or your wife for a while.

That's about it, I think. Just keep in mind that while it's going to be tough, eventually it will get better. You might never get things back to the way they were, but you and Kylie can live a pretty normal life again.

Feel free to keep in touch, and ask if you need anything.


Jennifer Foley
Army Wife, Team Striker, 4th Infantry Division

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