My children don’t know their father before PTSD

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t protect our children from every episode that ripped through our house. Here’s our story.

My children don’t know their father before PTSD

Soldier with PTSD walking out of the shadows (Photo/Wikimedia)

By Lea Farrow, Uniform Stories Contributor 

It has been almost five years since my husband was diagnosed with PTSD. In a lot of ways, it feels like a lifetime. And for our children, it has literally been their lifetime.

I knew my husband for nine years before his official diagnosis. However, I really only knew my husband for five years before the signs of the disorder started to show. 

My husband has been a paramedic for 15 years. His PTSD didn't develop overnight.  It was an insidious process after years of answering extremely traumatic calls, and receiving very little support or education through the service about ongoing stress management. We share a similar story with many military members, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, too. 

Many of the jobs that led to my husband's PTSD were pediatric calls. The job that triggered his major collapse was a horrific pediatric death. At the time, we had two small children of our own, our daughter was almost 3 and our son was not yet 1.

The day my husband came home from work a broken man, he fell to pieces in the kitchen. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen him cry before, but we could have both drowned in his tears that night.

Although I tried my best, I couldn’t protect our children from every episode that ripped through our house. Sometimes the pain would burst out of my husband so suddenly and ferociously, that all I could do was huddle my kids until the storm passed. Our daughter would ask, “Mommy, what’s happening? Daddy is really scaring me…”

I had to accept the reality that my children were not safe alone with their father.  One day I was torn away from work by a desperate phone call, and rushed home to a find a shattered man, only barely holding on. I often ask, do our children remember that day? Do they remember the raw anguish coursing wildly out of their father, who scarcely had enough strength left to direct it away from us? I sure do.

We found new ways to manage as a couple and as a family. I helped my husband begin to earn back the trust from his children and he found help for his PTSD (when he was ready to accept it). We have come a long way in the years since, but PTSD is still very much with us. It’ll be with us always. And our children sadly bear witness to some of its worst moments. They don’t know a life without PTSD overshadowing it.