So, I took Bob's feelings personally. I thought if he was mad, it was my fault. I must have done something wrong, so I would try to change. That never worked, because his problems were not my problems, but I saw them that way. I didn't know what the problem was (PTSD) so I thought he was the problem, MY PROBLEM!
I misunderstood what was going on because there was no information on PTSD. My efforts to fix Bob were really ineffectual. So I tried harder. We spent 15 years after he came back thinking we were losers, crazy losers, and I thought it was all my fault because I wasn't trying hard enough to fix him and make him happy. Sometimes he agreed. We had no idea what the problem was or that it was getting a name. In 1980, it became Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My mother, Constance Hartwell, MD, was a VA psychiatrist who talked to veterans, and she would tell me Bob's problems had to do with the war. She sent him big bottles of Vitamin B-12 and told him to drink less and smoke more pot.
Our VA in Gainesville was fond of giving valium, and told Vietnam vets to go to the Vet Centers in Jacksonville or Tallahassee. Bob actually went up and got a pamphlet from the Vet Center, the DAV's Readjustment Problems among Vietnam Veterans. (The DAV had actually funded the first study, The Wounded Warrior Project, of Vietnam vets. No university, foundation or government agency would fund it.) We read the pamphlet and I cried all the way through it. What was happening to us had a name.
Nowadays there is much more information about PTSD, but none of it is formulated like this description of the symptoms as built-into-your-brain normal survival skills which keep you alive. Instead they are described as if they were a random collection of weird behaviors starting with re-experiencing. Then most of the current literature is slanted towards "only a few people will get this," "we can make you resilient," and "we can cure it." Like they can change human nature...
So the spouse thinks a. you won't get it, b. it can be cured, and c. here are the directions.
What I have learned is I did not cause this, I cannot control it, and I can't cure it. That is his job. It will be painful because he has to go back through painful experiences and I have to let him be in pain, be mad, be consumed with grief and guilt or whatever else he feels. So I had to learn to let go. I got help learning this from a couple of 12 step programs for people who want to run other people's lives.
More on this tomorrow