What is worse is this is not the first time I’ve received this comment. If this person would have looked at the damage to Bryan’s legs, revealed by the shorts he wore that day, they could have seen the lasting damage. What they cannot see is the damage to his brain tissue, the incurable PTSD, the anxiety and the depression that all linger long after the deployment. Instead, I replied with a simple “he might appear OK but he still suffers,” and ended the conversation.
I don’t think people realize that statements like that hurt. My husband has both visible and invisible injuries. Sometimes people notice the scars on his legs and ask what happened. Sometimes they don’t. I know people don’t really know what to say to someone with serious injuries but saying he appears OK is not the best option.
My husband really tries his best at all times to hide his injuries. He overcompensates at work because he knows he is slower or forgetful sometimes, both side effects of the damage to his brain. He tries to fight his PTSD and go into large crowds, social gatherings or concerts but it is hard for him. Veterans who suffer from PTSD quickly feel anxious and often threatened among crowds or loud and noisy places. Their minds instantly transport them back to the places where they were injured. It is impossible to feel safe.
Bryan has spent countless hours in treatment. There is no cure for PTSD and the success of treatments varies widely from patient to patient. It’s a slow process and a disease that can be completely debilitating. Still, we work and strive for recovery.
I am proud of him for trying to fit in and not make excuses for how he feels. This week has been especially hard —he has had a headache every day, another side effect of the injury. To make up for what he sees as a weakness, he works late when he isn’t feeling well. Now, his headaches seem to be more frequent and won’t go away.
I just wish that people would realize that things are not what they seem. Don’t discount or degrade what others have experienced. Just listen and try to understand.