Finding support for a veteran with PTSD is difficult, but finding support as a spouse of a vet with PTSD can be even more disappointing. Shawn Gourley has worked hard to ease this struggle for everyone affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) is a natural reaction to an unnatural and traumatic event. It is a psychological injury that leaves an invisible wound that never really heals. Veterans who come home with PTSD find it difficult to function in the civilian world and their care falls to the family, usually their spouse. The veteran and family alike suffer from PTSD and often times feel isolated in their struggle. Their isolation comes at a time when they need the most support, but between the bad press on PTSD, the ignorance of civilians and their reactions to veterans, and the overly taxed Veterans Administration there simply is not enough help to go around. One military wife is trying to change that and has garnered an amazing amount of support.
Shawn Gourley who has gone through hell and back to save her husband and family has broken her silence and put her story out there for everyone to see. Her courageous effort to bring light to PTSD in her book The War at Home has been a beacon for veterans and their caretakers. Many who have read the book have said "Finally, someone who knows. Someone who is going through what I am going through!" These spouses and veterans began to gather at a Facebook page Shawn set up to help promote her free minibook. The page is called simply Military with PTSD and has now become a support group that is responsible for saving lives and marriages since it was established in August 2010.
The cover for The War at Home, a book about living with PTSD by Shawn Gourley.
Providing support for veterans and caretakers is only the tip of the iceberg. Shawn is also working with law enforcement to help develop training programs and give other educational information on how to react to domestic disturbances and other situations involving veterans with PTSD. In an interview Shawn indicated that she wanted to address the connection between PTSD and Domestic Violence. In The War at Home, Shawn describes an incident where she felt compelled to call 911 on her husband, Justin, who was acting violently. In the book it is described from her side of the story, as well as Justin's, to demonstrate what is going on in the mind of not only the spouse but the veteran. From Shawn's perspective Justin was being violent and irrational and out of fear she called 911. From Justin's perspective things seemed to be getting out of hand and he attempted to get them under control using intimidation tactics he was taught to use in the military. While some people would see Justin's response as that of a typical abuser, in his mind he simply was reverting to training to keep order in a chaotic situation. Recognizing these differences is important as most caretaker spouses are reluctant to call the police to protect themselves in similar situations for fear of ruining the life of their loved one who is simply ill and needs care, not a jail sentence.
Shawn wants established Veteran's Courts to include cases of Domestic Violence due to PTSD to help give caretakers a tool to keep themselves safe without forcing them to betray or harm their veterans. The Veteran's Courts would have the option of giving the veteran an ultimatum to seek treatment for PTSD or choose to go to jail. The option of seeking treatment can empower a spouse to help their veterans. Shawn said if Veteran's Courts had been established for Domestic Violence cases Justin may have received treatment years earlier and saved much heartache for her family.
Justin Gourley has been extremely supportive of his wife in her endeavors to help others like she helped their family. You can find him on the Facebook support page talking to spouses and veterans from time to time and helping them gain perspective of simply a companion in the struggle. He and his wife, as well as others, have devoted themselves to veterans and spouses who are confused, upset, and sometimes even suicidal or violent. Shawn and Justin have helped talk people down from harming themselves and gave them guidance to a better solution.
The Military with PTSD Facebook support group is there for anyone who needs it. If you or a loved one have PTSD and if you want to understand this injury more visit the page and read Shawn's book The War at Home.