Saturday, June 1, 2013


Hi there, g’day, welcome.

I've been thinking about my first blog post for some time. I wondered just what I might write, apart from hello!

You've probably ended up here having read my story in the PVA newsletter. As I mentioned there, for me it's time to start and open up the conversation around what it's like living and supporting a loved one  suffering from war related PTSD and depression. 

I’m really interested to see where the conversation takes us and the support that we might be able to give each other by connecting through shared experiences and being able to talk about what we struggle with day to day. 

I hope I find you popping in here and having a read and if you feel inclined contributing. I would love to hear from you. 

Let's see where this takes us.

Below is my story that I shared in the recent PVA newsletter.

Something was not quite right. In the days, months and years to come exactly what was wrong would slowly be revealed.

My husband deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. The man that returned was not the man that I had said goodbye to six months earlier.

This is my story.

On returning home my husband was; withdrawn, irritable, angry, having nightmares, in pain both physically and emotionally, prone to mood swings, had sudden explosive outbursts, fatigued constantly, depressed, increasing his alcohol use, in denial, shut down, silent for long periods, suicidal and so the list goes on. I was to finally learn this is what acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression looks like in real life.

Like many, the true extent and impact of the trauma took some time to truly come the surface. Along the way what was obvious was it wasn’t going away any time soon.

PTSD bubbled away intruding on our lives in unexpected ways and in doing so completely turned our world upside down.

The ripple effect of war related PTSD and depression on those around the veteran often has a huge impact and for me this was certainly case.

The grieving for what has been lost, the complete and utter helplessness felt when it looked like all avenues for improvement had been exhausted, the fine balancing act that each day required of me, the educating of family and friends while trying to make sense of what was happening myself, the transformation of my mate into a person I hardly recognised at times, the suffering in silence that was often the best way of dealing with a situation and the exhausting and humiliating process I have endured to access help via a bureaucracy that treats veterans' akin to tax cheats.

There were periods when there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyone living with a veteran who is suffering with PTSD and depression knows the path is often a rocky one. No two experiences are the same but what does seem to be common to us all in the early stages is the frustrating inability to help our loved one and to understand what it is that they are dealing with. I found the isolation, anxiety and loneliness hard. Often my own anger, resentment and despair would surface. I would often feel totally overwhelmed.

Five years on… countless counselling sessions, group work, books, internet searching, soul searching and writing to decision makers to highlight the huge gaps that still exist in their cumbersome processes, there are still days when I feel like I know very little about how to manage our new reality.

One thing I am very certain of.  The role we all play in keeping our loved one afloat during these horribly difficult times is incredibly important.

Often it’s all about them and that’s ok, it needs to be. However I believe we do need to be heard and acknowledged for the vital role we play.

For me, I feel the time has come to open the conversation up to those of us who ‘pick up the pieces’ and ‘keep the fire burning’ while supporting an acutely mentally ill person.

We are a rare breed but also a growing breed and as others before us have stuck together to get through the really tough times we will need to also do the same.

This topic is very personal.  In my experience there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and ignorant judgment by others can hurt.

There is so much we can share and exchange. The support we can provide one another should never be underestimated.

I have contemplated for some time what it is I can now do to connect with others who are going through, and have gone through, a similar experience to me. I want to talk with others and bring the conversations we have behind the firmly closed doors of counselling sessions out. If we can talk more broadly and openly about our experiences then that isolation that can so often be part of this process might actually start to fade.
This blog will just be a small, quiet space in an otherwise noisy, crowded and often demanding online world. I intend on sharing a story or an idea, or I might ponder how we can help one another a little more or share something that has worked for me or something I am really struggling with.

 Sometimes there will be no words. I’m a prolific iphone photo snapper. I love a good sunrise and I’m fascinated by clouds so they may make an appearance from time to time. There could be the occasional rant or vent but I hope it will be a space that is real, relevant and mostly happy!!

I would like it to focus on us, the partners, and what life is like for us.

Let’s get talking. After all, we’re all in this together.

We all have a story, what's your story? I'd love to hear it.

Have you had similar feelings to me?


  1. Hello out there. Read your blog and know your journey. PTSD is similar for many but different as well because we all bring our own uniqueness to the table.
    Our journey has been for 44 years post Vietnam..... Those clouds and sunrises sound really wonderful.....we have great ones here in Qld so I know what you are talking about. You can also use the beach and the waves and if you wave to them they will always wave back leaving you with a smile on your heart.

    If you look for the strawberries in life - most times you will find them. I have. Sometimes my basket has only one and at other times it is rather full. There are times it is empty and that is when you hold onto the basket rather tightly and keep looking. Thank you for your blog. It is a good idea. Stay strong there are many of us out here. Love Jani

    1. Hi Jani

      You are the very first person to comment on my blog and I whole heartedly thank you for that. It's always nice to know someone is reading out there.

      I totally agree that we all have very unique experiences of PTSD in our lives, we all have a story to tell.
      I'm pleased you like the sunrise shots, I'm excited by them each time I see them.

      May your basket always be full of beautiful sweet strawberries!

      Thanks again for your support, I greatly appreciate it.

  2. Yes Mel, I am reading your blog and feeling your pain and hearing your confusion. I would love to give you a wonderful expectation that life will get a lot better from here on in but the truth is that you will need to learn a lot more about how you can better manage the ups and downs that PTSD will cause you both to share.

    Just remember, the biggest battle for you is in your head. Be quick to listen and slow to speak or act. Take your time and learn to process slowly what is your next step. You save yourself a lot of pain that way. We raised six children and their welfare was a very high priority on my list.

    We get to see the sunset every evening and some are absolutely spectacular. I am astounded at the beauty that we can enjoy and it lifts our sights.
    Keep smiling girlfriend and here is a big hug for tonight.


    1. Hi Jani
      I really appreciate your wisdom and experience. I really appreciate your support and know what you mean about the biggest battle being in my head. At times I honestly don't know how my brain copes with all that is thrown at it. Your comments confirm for me that writing this blog will be another avenue that we can support one another.
      Thanks for the hug x

  3. Hi Mel, I read your article in the PVA magazine and felt each and every word.
    I love this idea of a blog because not everyone can join a Partners group for many varied reasons
    In many respects younger wives are blessed as the diagnosis is much easier now and a little more accepted. For years I thought I was causing the problems with my husband and learnt about the eggshells a long time before the Disorder.
    We have endured many highs and lows and after 3 years of an almost normal life he has again fallen off track.As you get older I find each episode is more difficult to cope with. This time I have experienced many dark thoughts and find myself longing for peace.
    The struggle is difficult but if you have one or two close friends and someone within the family circle it certainly helps.
    I am looking forward to your future posts.
    Cheers Jools

    1. Hi Jools

      Thanks so much for your comment and for reading my blog, I really do appreciate it. That longing for peace is so familiar to me and I truly hope you find it. Yes the struggle is in no way easy but having those around us to lean on when we need it certainly helps. It's these ups and downs that create the anxiety in me. Even though my coping mechanism and understanding has increased my frustration remains.
      I really look forward to chatting to you here and hope that this current 'low' passes quickly.
      Mel x

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    1. Hi Mel,

      I have been sick for a week so was a pretty miserable time. The weekend before our son came home unexpectedly so it was a great surprise. He is 31 and was 11 when his father was diagnosed so he has seen it all. He actually did a psych degree 'cause he thought he could work his father out- well that worked well NOT.
      We were discussing my run of bad luck with ailments of late and he just said well Mum it's the stress affecting your immunity system. All these years and I just didn't put it together; so we always have something to learn.
      Cheers Jools

    2. Take care of yourself Jools. Yes I think years of stress really can have a big impact sooner or later. I think we tend to absorb so much we don't even realise we are doing it. It can take those around us to point it out. Sounds like your son is a great help to you. I do hope you're feeling better soon, be kind to yourself x

    3. Hello anyone out there........I just need to tell someone that would understand that I am very, very rich this week.......... I have a week to myself. I don't know what to do first. Sit down and vege out, read a book, go for a walk, drink coffee, smile, cry, jump up and down, dance, sing or just take some deep breaths and make sure that I enjoy every precious minute of "me time".

      No one other than myself to get out of bed each morning. No one to check if the tablets have been taken. No one that has me making sure their life is as calm as possible. No one to make me extra careful what I say or do. No one to watch sit on the computer for hours on end and not want to go outside to kayak on our canal, or walk the surf beach. No one to write notes for, to remind him of the jobs that could be done, and in fact need to be done!

      Now the important thing is that I have enough energy left to do the things that I think he should be doing. Rest first then go to the beach. go to the beach. Yes that is what I will do.

      I am glad that I do not have PTSD and I do appreciate that he does. That is why after 44years, I am still here doing my best and looking forward to him coming the end of the week.

      Love to any who are reading this.
      Sisters united in an important job.


    4. Hi there Jani
      I am absolutely thrilled for you that you have some time just for yourself and I am even more chuffed that you shared it with us here on my blog. You have made my day. I hope your first day or 'Jani time' has been all that you hoped for and that there was plenty of coffee drinking and walking on the beach. It is such a great feeling to only be responsible for yourself. I admire you greatly for the care you have continued to provide for your husband. 44 years is a long time.

      Have a wonderful week doing just what you want to do and as you say enjoy every precious minute of it.

      Thanks again for sharing I for one relish time by myself and totally relate to how freeing it can feel.

      Take care Jani and have fun
      Mel xx

    5. Hi Jani and Mel,
      Wow know just what that decision is like- I just experienced it last week.
      My life was too much so I escaped to my son's while he was away. I just couldn't decide on my activities so I ended up spring cleaning. I find that physical stuff numbs my mind and stops the whatifs.
      I arrived home yesterday to start all over with the cleaning at home and await the first sounds of discontent- and they came right on cue.
      I think today I am in a worse state than before I left but I enjoyed the solitude while I had it.
      Each morning I awake and hope this is the day my man will be back not this person who is at present hosting his mind and body.
      I know from past experience this will happen so I just pray it is soon.

      Cheers to you both, time to find a mop I think.

    6. Hi there Jools

      Thanks for popping in and chatting here. Sounds like you've needed so time out as we all seem to do. Funny how getting stuck into something like the cleaning can make us feel ok while also seeing a result. Numbing the mind is a great way of describing it.

      I hope your week has improved a little. It sounds like you are doing it particularly tough at the moment and just know that you're not alone. We understand. If only we could fast forward our circumstances sometimes knowing there will be better days ahead.

      Take good care of yourself and thanks again for contributing here. Your comments will no doubt be helping others.

      Go easy with that mop!
      Mel x

  5. Hi Mel,
    I can't believe how long it is since I checked your blog. I have been in my own little whirlwind.- about 2 weeks after my last post we sold our home of 30 years and in the following 3 weeks we packed up, bought an other, moved and unpacked again and had a massive clean out both ends.We have moved into town after 30 years on acreage so things are a little strange; I have to remember not to use my country voice while calling my husband for one. I am glad to report that through all this stress my real husband is almost back. This move is something he has wanted for a long time so it has certainly been great therapy- on the other hand our dog's not too keen on the confines of a small yard. Naturally the dog is male- it's hard to keep both my boys happy-hehe.
    Thanks for listening, Jools

    1. Hi Jools, so lovely to hear from you again. Sounds like there has been plenty going on for you and your husband. What a big move for you but I really hope it's the start of a new exciting phase for you both.
      So wonderful to hear the husband you know is almost back. It really is the best feeling ever when we even get a glimpses of the person we once knew and even more so when those glimpses hang around.
      Hope your dog encourages some walking around your new neighbourhood and comes to like his new home too.
      Thanks for sharing here on my blog Jools it means a lot to me to have you share your experience here.
      Take care and happy Christmas to you xx

  6. Hi Mel,
    Are you still out there? I haven't checked for a while- Hope all is fine with you.
    Cheers Jools

  7. Hi Mel,
    I don't know if you are still out there but wanted to let you know that we have just returned from a trip to Vietnam. I went with bated breath but we had such a wonderful time. It was wonderful for my husband to meet people and look at the beauty of this country without wondering if he was llooking into the eyes of the enemy. A healing experience and it won't be our last trip.

    Cheeres Jools

  8. Hello Mel. I poked my head in the door this morning and was surprised to see 2013 is when we started. You have been silent. Please come back. Where are you? Hoping that you are kicking those legs and treading water to keep your head nicely above the water line. I am feeling my age lately but we just came back from a Cruise and both suffering with the flu, the world is looking decidedly dull at the moment but I remind myself that there is life post the Influenza Virus. Wow what a hit we have both taken!! Not to mention the entire ship probably. One get it and they share. Maybe we will be a little more immunized with Winter knocking on the door.

    I was happy to read about your holidayto Vietnam, Jools. How did you do it? An organized trip? My man would absolutely not be interested but you make it sound very worthwhile.

    As blogging goes we have a lot to learn but new skills take time to hone well. I am sending a hug to you both.