by Jere Beery
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a recognized condition associated with traumatic events which an individual lives through. The diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hyper vigilance. PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any life and death experience, the threat of harm or death or sexual assault. The experience overwhelms the person’s ability to deal with social and emotional personal issues or the ability to hold down a job. In the end the person begins to battle bouts of depression, as well disassociates himself from his family or friends. PTSD is at times a non-reversible condition that worsens with time, if left untreated.
Over the past several years Operation Firing For Effect has heard from a number of women who have gone through a divorce claiming that they now suffer from PTSD, as the result of having lived with a combat veteran. Up until now I haven’t given these claims any credence. However, now my ex-wife is claiming she suffers from combat related PTSD, as the result of living with me. Therefore, I feel compelled to address the subject.
My ex-wife claims that she suffers from the same level of PTSD that I do, and she feels that the VA should compensate her for her pain and suffering. She has even gone so far as contacting the VA hospital in Atlanta Georgia and requesting information on how she can file a claim.
For the record; Yes, I did served 3 tours during 5 military campaigns in Vietnam from 1965 until 1968. Yes, I saw combat on numerous occasions. Yes, I killed combatants who were trying to kill me. Yes, I was wounded 3 times. Yes, I was severely wounded by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and nearly died. And yes, I have disfiguring scars which I see in the mirror every single day, which remind me of all the above. But, my ex-wife wasn’t there during any of this. We weren’t even married until 18 years after I was discharged from the Navy. She never personally experienced any of the incidents I was involved in while in the military.
Over the past several months I have spoken with doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists about the possibility of one person catching PTSD from another. The overwhelming response has been NO. A person can feel compassion and sorrow over what another has shared with them about a traumatic event, and even break down and cry. But, the reality is PTSD is not contagious. In rare cases, a person can subject themselves to a level where the person under goes a transference experience. Transference is a phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another, excluding the physical aspect of the traumas. However, this is still a second-hand emotional connection and not first-hand trauma induced PTSD.
During the 18 years we were married, there were moments of stress, not unlike any marriage. Towards the end of my marriage there were episodes that even resembled ‘War of the Roses’. And I did share many war stories about my military service with my ex-wife. At no time did she ever indicate that hearing those stories upset her.
Now, here’s the kicker to this story. I have undergone many interviews and filled out numerous questionnaires given to combat veterans by the VA to determine whether or not they suffer from PTSD. At no time in my 45 years enrolled in the VA have I ever been diagnosed with any level of PTSD, and I do not have a PTSD rating on my VA medical records. My ex-wife assumed that since I was receiving disability compensation for my combat injuries I must suffer from PTSD also. Boy, is she in for a surprise.
The day I can honestly say that I know what it feels like to give birth, that will be the day I will agree my ex-wife somehow contracted combat induced PTSD. Frankly, I personally think my ex-wife is suffering from an extremely rare form of emotional disorder known as; PMSD, Post Marital Stress Disorder.