Veteran Family Mental Wellbeing Series – Episode 4: Family Perspective

– As an Army wife, life
can be very challenging and yet, exciting. – The biggest thing that affected me as a child growing up in a military family was the absence of a father figure. So he was in and out of our lives quite constantly. – It was very much his career and I was at home with the kids. So for me, I kind of felt, probably a bit abandoned in
ways when he chose to go. – Before Phil was deployed
we were very excited, because it was exactly
what he had trained for. And the excitement build-up for him to finally go over and do
his job is definitely there. – Our husbands are deployed at any time. We have to be prepared for that. – But after a couple of months it turned to a lot of
stress and a lot of worry, because our friend
Private Benjamin Ranaudo got killed in action. – When he's gone there's
a very great chance that he wouldn't actually come back. I know, for him wanting me to be happy with him going away, he was actually expecting me to be okay with him not coming back. – I actually prayed that neither of our sons would join the Army, because I knew what a challenge it was and how it can affect
them psychologically. So when Michael went to East Timor I was worried for his safety. – I was upset from what
he had experienced. First, with his friend
Private Benjamin Ranaudo got killed in action, and then Phil being injured by an improvised explosive device. So it was just a lot of
stress on me having to, one, take care of phil
and then having to deal with our friend passing away as well. – It got to the point with Andy being away on that last employment, that I recognised a lot of damage, a lot of damage was being
done to our little family. And I didn't know whether we'd be able to come back, yeah. – It was very hard to let Gary
come back into the family, because he wanted to gain
control straight away. He was the father of the family and he'd done his service, and he was the head man. But the children were used to me and coming to me for all the decisions that need to be made. So there was a little bit of conflict there between the two of us. – I was so excited when
he was coming home. I was, like, yes, I'm gonna
have my teammate back. Life's gonna be easier. We're gonna do great things. It's gonna be great. – When Phil returned,
it was a very difficult experience as Phil was in the hospital. So I had to immediately be a carer for Phil when he returned. – Dad returning from Iran, he was profoundly
different to when he left. I was 12 years old at the time. How he changed when he returned from Iraq was quite profound. He was a lot more distant. He became vague. He became irritable. – I had to take the car keys off Gary. Gary came back from Iran and he was driving like a
lunatic through the traffic, so I had to slow him down. – Me being 21 at the time and Phil being 21 at the time, we didn't know how to deal
with the situation at hand. – The Army gives you booklets and says what it's like
when he comes home. And it's gonna take him three months to, kind of, settle back into routine. But about six months in, I realised we were still
walking on eggshells. And Andy was pretty much completely removed from the family, from our family. – Phil found it hard
to communicate with me, so he found it even harder to communicate to his family what he was going through. – It's a real contradiction. On one hand, he's very busy, active, having to do things all the time and on the other hand, he has to have space to be on his own. – I felt he was actually destroying, trying to destroy and sabotage our family. He was really pushing me away. And the hardest thing for me though was to watch the disconnect
between him and the kids. – It can be very disillusioning
when they come back and they behave in this manor, because you are looking forward
to your partner coming home and having that intimacy
and connection again, and they're not there. And so you feel very lonely. You feel very isolated. You're very much on your own. – At first, the signs and symptoms were really hard to recognise, because I wasn't aware
of them at the time. But looking back, becoming exceptionally
withdrawn from work. He didn't go to work maybe for a year. He excluded himself from any social event. I don't think we went to a
family event for two years. He couldn't be by himself, so he was always at my work or within my range of
work to always get comfort from me or hear from me if he needed to. Also, drinking alcohol was a massive symptom. He was drinking heavily at the time, not sleeping at night. Being awake all night and sleeping all day was definitely another one. It was very difficult just
to watch him go through it and not knowing what to do at the time. – Most obvious symptoms of
PTSD for me were the anger, the uncontrollable anger, and it was just outbursts of rage, really. Self-medication, I would
see a lot of the drinking, just ridiculous amounts of drinking. Probably the other thing
too was nightmares. Andy would have these nightmares. He would actually act them out. At one point he picked up one of the kids and was bandaging them in their sleep, thinking that they were… He was explaining to me, "She's bleeding, she's bleeding. I've got
to stop this bleeding." And that, for me, became a real concern. Those, probably those
three were definitely the most obvious. – I didn't realise at first he had PTSD. It was unknown to me, but he was very isolated. He would isolate himself. He would close himself off in his room. He would be very angry. He was very irritable, couldn't focus on things. There were lots of little
signs that let you know that, hey, this isn't
the man who went away. And at first you think, that's fine. It's just, he's recovering from his trip. He's been under a lot of stress, but it goes on. – I said to him, oh my gosh, you have to go and see someone because you are destroying us. You are destroying this family. You need to go and see someone, because if you don't, I'm gonna have to take the kids. I'm gonna have to walk. This is failing. This has failed. And he actually went
and saw a psychiatrist, and they actually diagnosed him with PTSD. And I remember feeling so much relief, because he hadn't just
become an absolute ratbag. There was actually a problem. – So he is a very clever man, very intelligent and he made sure that
he went and saw somebody who could counsel him. And then we both became
aware of what it was and saw counsellors. So, one getting counselling
and just understanding what PTSD was, and then
how to get through it or be supportive to Phil at the same time. The key message is that there is a lot of support out there. I didn't know at the time
that I could get help myself until Phil made me aware of it. – We realised that we needed help. Gary saw counsellors. I went and saw counsellors
with Gary as well. So I found that I needed
to go and see somebody who could counsel me, to
know how to deal with Gary. – He was in a dark place. It was hard not for me to go to a dark place with him So at the time, I found it difficult to even know that I needed help as well. I think, once I spoke about it more and went to counselling, it became easier for me to not only be supportive to Phil but to understand what
was going on myself. – I think it's very
important for you to know that you're actually not alone in this. There are lots of families and couples that are really struggling. And I think one of the
hardest things to do is actually to reach out for help. That was definitely my experience. But there definitely is help out there and you just have to ask for it, you've got to reach out and grab it. Your family does matter. You, as the partner, definitely matter. Your kids matter. – It's very important
to be kind to yourself. Look after yourself, nourish yourself. Take time out for yourself. Have a girl's day away. Have a girl's weekend away with friends. Enrich your own life so that
you can help your husband to heal in his circumstances. – I think it's easier now
because Phil would tell me, whereas before, he wasn't even aware of what he was going through. So it was difficult for even him to say, "Hey, I'm going through this. I need your help." So I think together, just the communication
makes it a lot easier. PTSD, I could actually say that PTSD is the worst thing that's ever happened to us. But I would also say it's actually been the best thing to happen, because the hope that I saw in his eyes when he said to me, "Okay,
I'm not gonna give up." It was that hope that I thought, okay, if he's not giving up, I'm not giving up. I think my message for people is, PTSD doesn't have to mean the end. I would just say, don't give up. Don't give up on each other.

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