Nightmares and Depression

In my previous posts, I have gone over different symptoms of PTSD that my husband has suffered from, but that have also gotten better with time.  Nightmares and depression are two symptoms of PTSD that he still battles on a daily basis.

Let’s start with nightmares.  Sometimes he’s lucky and will go weeks without one, but then when he least expects it, they hit full force.  Most of the time they are triggered by something going on in his life.  Stress is a HUGE factor but simple things like watching the military channel will almost always result in a sleepless night.  Lately, learning of the deaths of Rangers he served with has brought on a wave of nightmares.  To his credit – he has done a great job of avoiding the things that he knows will trigger these sleepless nights.  So he avoids the military channel and war movies, and tries to not talk about things he did overseas.  But he can’t control the news and hearing of a comrade’s death really affects him.

When he does have a nightmare, one of two things will happen.  Best case scenario: He wakes up gasping for air, calms himself down and goes back to sleep.  Worst case scenario: He wakes me up from all the screaming, so then I wake him up.  He will then ask me to hold him, and while crying, asks me to please “stop this from happening.”  I HATE when this happens because there is nothing I can do to help him.  Talk about feeling like a useless wife!  All I can do is hold him and try my best to comfort him.

On to depression.  I use the term “depression,” but “sadness” is probably a better way to describe it.  My husband does not suffer from any sort of clinical depression – he simply becomes incredibly sad.  Nine times out of ten, nightmares are the culprit.  The day following a sleepless night is always a hard day for him.  He likes to be left alone and tends to be uninterested in fun activities.  If the nightmares persist, so does the sadness.  I can usually tell when he is down because he will walk around the house with his headphones on.  That’s my cue to just leave him alone.  I used to try to make him talk to me, but all he really wants is to be left alone.

And then there are days when he is just sad for no reason whatsoever!  He tends to be really hard on himself on those days – he will think he is a “failure” and will tell me that I deserve to be with someone better than him.  Again, there is nothing I can do but reassure him that all those things he feels are not true.  I always tell him how proud I am of him and of everything he has accomplished since I first met him when he was only a freshman in high school.  With time, he eventually snaps out of his “funk” and becomes his joking, funny self.

When I think about it, it’s harder for me to deal with the sadness than the nightmares.  As much as I love my uninterrupted sleep, seeing my husband get down on himself is so difficult for me.  Maybe because I have known him for so long and have seen him accomplish so much (both in the military and in his civilian life).  Or maybe it’s because when he is down it takes such a toll on me.  My husband is my best friend, and when he shuts himself off from me I just can’t function.  And then there’s the fact that I just can’t do anything to help him and that’s hard.  I have said it before and I’ll say it again – all I can do is love him.

Related posts:

  1. Living with PTSD
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2 Responses to “Nightmares and Depression”

  1. says:

    This is such an important post. Thank you (both) for sharing what a lot of mil families must go through! And thank you both for serving. :)

  2. Tamara Thomasson says:

    I can really relate, with much of what you said. I have been married to my sweet husband for 24 years. He was in the army during the first 7 years of our married life, was in the infantry and was in Panama (this was a very difficult deployment for him). He got out after I became pregnant with our third child. After 9-11 he wanted to go back in and so resigned up. He was wounded in Panama and then again in Iraq. The nightmares are very severe. You are right to say that there are days and sometimes a week or two will go buy before he has a severe nightmare. Most of them are talking and calling out orders in his sleep. He never uses profane language but during his nightmares it is a very different scenario. Many times he thrashes out and screams and yells. I usually gently touch him and calmly try to talk to him to get him to calm down, although there are times when he will swing and hit me. One time I got a pretty good black eye from a left hook I wasn’t expecting. My husband felt so bad till it finally went away.
    You talk about depression. My husband is clinically depressed and most days just sits and does very little to nothing. He is in chronic pain because of his wounds he received. There are days where he will be a little upbeat, but he is just not the same happy-go-lucky guy that he used to be. He knows that he needs counseling, and he will go after the kids and I have begged him to but after about going twice or three times he becomes frustrated and won’t go any more. I know that some of the issues are that he can’t drive any more nor can he do really any work. So he feels like a failure, but he is our hero in so many ways. I get really angry because when you look at him he looks like every other man out there, but he is in pain and is dealing with so much. I have had people tell me that “at least he didn’t lose an arm or a leg”. I want to scream at them and say “he might have not lost an extremity but he has lost so much more, I am not down playing what other soldiers have lost but just because he isn’t missing anything doesn’t mean that he hasn’t given as much or is not struggling as much. I love my husband and look forward to being married to him for another 24 years, but this has been a difficult time for us. I know that it will get better, but I pray for him every day that a breakthrough will happen and hopefully he will begin to work with memories and difficult times he had during the wars he has served in. I think I rambled on a lot, but I haven’t really talked to anyone or read anything else that I can even remotely relate with as I did with your post. I never dreamed that I would ever respond to a post!
    A loving retired Army Wife
    Tam

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