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Home : News : News
NEWS | June 30, 2021

Living with PTSD: Family Style

By Shannon Hall Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

Many people have heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and associate it with a tragic car wreck, military combat or sexual assault.

Although those events can cause PTSD, there are hundreds of other events that can cause and trigger PTSD as well, and the symptoms can last a life time. Many do not realize how simple life tasks like driving, cleaning or being outside can trigger a memory and take a person back to a horrific moment in time.

Retired Master Sgt. Jonathan Session, Air Force Wounded Warrior Ambassador, did not experience combat or a tragic car accident but did face death, loss and hurt during his time in the Air Force. Due to the events he witnessed as a young Airman, non-commissioned officer and again as a first sergeant, Jonathan was diagnosed with PTSD in 2018. Even though he receives therapy and is equipped with resources to help cope, he still has tough days.

“Every day may not be a good day, but it is a day that you have a chance and choice to be better than you were the day before,” Jonathan said.

The events that Jonathan witnessed that caused his PTSD, are moments that he will never be able to forget and affect him on a daily basis. One of the simplest tasks, being a daddy and husband, can be overwhelming and challenging when battling PTSD symptoms. Those who suffer from this disorder never know when they will have a good day, bad day, flashbacks or triggers while trying to live a normal life.

“Being a father and husband with PTSD has been challenging and one of my biggest struggles is knowing what my triggers are,” Jonathan said. “I try not to just avoid them, but know how to face them and maintain my father and husband traits that will make my wife and children be comfortable around me.”

Children have a tendency to be loud, run through the house, walk up behind you and have never ending questions for their parents. Spouses need help taking care of the home, the children, handling finances, their own personal space and attention from their partner. All of these things, although seem simple and normal, can become added stressors to those with PTSD and make home life difficult to manage.

Trying to cope and understand PTSD is hard on the person diagnosed, and spirals to their significant others as well. If they already struggle to understand their symptoms and triggers, how can they affectively teach their family when to notice something is off? It is a major adjustment for everyone involved, but there is hope in getting to a new normal way of living.

“To my family I can come off instantly aggravated sometimes and I don’t even realize it. My wife is amazing at reeling me in, reminding me everyone in the house loves me and that it’s okay to take a break to readjust,” Jonathan said. “I have also reached out to get the help I need to deal with the illness versus suffering in silence. That’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.”

Seeking mental help is one of the best resources for individuals suffering. Not only can they help people recognize their triggers, they also help come up with ways to divert that anxiety, anger, or stress and channel it into something positive. It is not an easy process, but it is well worth it.

“When I find that I am being triggered or in a place of high frustration, I am better now at giving myself permission to take a step back and give myself the timeout that I need,” Jonathan said. “One of the biggest things that helps me is working in my yard. It may not be yard of the month, but cutting my grass and getting my yard in order gives me a sense of calm and gratification that takes me to a happy place.”

Learning, coping and living with PTSD is hard on the person diagnosed and their family, but with the right resources and tools, conversations and understanding it can still be an amazing life. Remember to reach out when help is needed, to take a step back and never forget that you are loved and cherished.

“My children and wife help me get through hard moments by continuing to love me unconditionally, being patient with me and allowing me to have the time and space I need to calm down,” Jonathan said. “All wounds are not visible and getting help early will cause you to heal sooner rather than later. Your family needs you sooner rather than later!”