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The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD By Shawn Gourley

Updated on February 19, 2014

The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD Book Review and Sneak peek

Shawn Gourley has written a new book titled "The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD" to spread awareness of spouses dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It will give an understanding of what it is like living with a veteran who has PTSD through her personal experience.

In this book you will find Shawn's fight to save her husband and family from PTSD. Through her story, you will feel her struggles and pain when dealing with a loved one who suffers from PTSD. Gourley shows the symptoms of PTSD that her husband was experiencing, and the struggle to get help for it. This book will provide hope and understanding to many families.

Many books have been written where an individual veteran tells his story, but Gourley tells her own story in this book. She goes into great detail about the hell her family was living in. By hearing this story, spouses and families learn they are not alone, and they learn how she dealt with the trauma they are experiencing. Her story also will help loved ones understand what her husband has experienced and why those experiences have resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Honesty is a great strength of "The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD." Gourley is completely honest and tells all in her story. She allows her husband's military experience to be told as she highlights points showing her husband's changing attitude as events were happening. Then she tells her story as the wife of a veteran, focusing particularly on her husband's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how she and her children coped with it for almost 5 years before they realized what caused her husband's anger and irrational behavior. Many books have been written about PTSD and many veterans have recounted their stories, but Gourley is the first author I know to tell the story from the spouses point of view; consequently, her book will help many families recognize that their loved one suffers from PTSD, and family members will find they are not alone in how the disorder has affected their families.

Beyond telling her own story, Gourley goes a step further; she includes the frightening story of her daughter who developed secondary PTSD. Many family members develop secondary PTSD as a result of walking on eggshells around their loved one, never knowing what might set the veteran off. As Gourley shows how everything is a crisis with PTSD. Somehow it is all connected with the war and survival. Something as simple as startling a veteran can make him go into survival mode and become violent, or he may be irritable over something as small as the noise from something accidentally falling. Family members begin to live in fear of setting off the veteran's anger, which makes them develop secondary PTSD.

"The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD" stands out among books about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because it is written for both veterans and their families. Anyone who served in a war or who has a loved one who served will find it helpful and eye opening. Gourley has succeeded in opening up communication in families and restoring hope and understanding where before there was confusion and despair. "The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD" may help many spouses and families deal with PTSD instead of leaving.

What you just read was a book review of my book "The War At Home". I would also like to share with you a chapter out of the book below.

The War At Home - The Book

The War At Home

My children and I did not volunteer to go to war.

How could you not warn me the war was coming straight into our home?

I had no warning or instruction as to what to watch out for.

The soldier returned home and not my husband.

I got a little pamphlet explaining that most soldiers may have to readjust to being home.

I believed you and trusted you when you said that the readjustment period may take a few months but they should experience a successful transition back into the home.

Months turned into years and every time I would call for help I was brushed away.

I called for help because my home had turned into a battlefield.

Guns were being drawn and my children and I became the enemy.

We lived our life walking on eggshells out of fear.

For almost 5 years we lived in hell.

I had to use every ounce of strength I had to keep this family together.

My husband proudly served this country, and would gladly do it again if asked.

But when his family needed help, you allowed them to suffer for years.

We did not want money. We wanted to have a normal life.

We would have had a chance if you would have been truthful. If you would have told these soldiers families what to watch out for.

You should have told us about PTSD!

Never Say Goodbye

The war is not over, and it has been going on for longer than most people know.

Returning Home from the War

Chapter 2

Justin returned home June 29, 2004. I was so excited to have him home. Our baby was due within the next two weeks, and I was ready to settle down into married life. Little did I know this was the beginning of what would be a five year nightmare.

I expected it to take a little time for Justin to get used to not being in the military and to readjust to civilian life. I mean he went from someone telling him what to do and where to be, to having a wife, a stepdaughter, and a baby due any time.

I guess the first thing I noticed was that any form of intimacy was nonexistent. Just holding hands or giving me a kiss almost always would turn into a fight. I was left feeling very alone and confused. We had not seen each other in 6 months and he was not interested at all in having sex.

A week after his return home our daughter Jesse was born. I remember his face and for a brief few days thought I had my husband back. He was such a proud dad and a very good father. But that, too, would disappear very quickly.

Once we were back home and getting settled in, I started to unpack Justin's bags. He flipped out. I didn't understand what was going on and kept telling him that this was his home and he didn't have to live out of his bag any more. It would be two months before I was able to fully unpack his bags.

Justin started having nightmares shortly after our daughter was born. He would start yelling in his sleep and kicking and hitting things. I made the mistake one night of grabbing his arm trying to wake him up. He raised his head up and pointed to his arm and said, "You see this? I will kill you with it." Well needless to say that completely freaked me out. I could barely sleep the rest of the night. The next morning I was so scared that I did everything I could to avoid Justin.

Well, it didn't take him long to wonder what was going on. I told him that he scared me to death and told him what he had done. He didn't have a clue what I was talking about. I couldn't believe that he didn't remember telling me that he would kill me with his arm, but by the look on his face I could tell he was telling the truth.

Over the next few months the nightmares continued, we fought a lot, and I started to notice some other things that Justin was doing. For starters, Justin would not answer the phone. He would go to great lengths to not have to say hello. It did not matter what I was doing, he would run with the phone and give it to me to answer. It drove me nuts.

I could be in the shower, and if the phone would ring here would come Justin, running across the house and as soon as he got in the bathroom he would push the talk button and shove the phone in the shower with me.

Something else came up one night while we were watching a movie. I casually asked him if we were in a hostage situation like in the movie, what would he do? He looked at me and with no emotion whatsoever and said, "I'd shoot you." Don't ask me what made me ask that, but I did. I started in on him with, "I am your wife and you would shoot me? Without hesitation, you would just shoot me?" Justin looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Yes I would shoot you if you were in between the person with the gun and my shot."

I tried to get him to understand that his answer was not a normal one. If the roles were reversed I could not and would not shoot him. "When you love someone, you do everything you can to protect them from harm. Not put their life in jeopardy by shooting them." I could feel the lump forming in my throat. I blinked my eyes to fight back the tears. I sat there for a moment hoping he would say something, anything. But Justin just sat there staring at me.

I slowly closed my eyes and swallowed trying not to get choked up. I looked back up at Justin and said "But you would try to get me away first, right? You would do something right?" And then I smiled slightly because I knew in my heart that he was going to say yes. "No", he replied. My mouth dropped and I got butterflies in my stomach. Who was this heartless man? But once again I thought, he will be OK, he is just having a hard time adjusting to being home. It will be all right soon.

Justin was also starting to become very reckless behind the wheel. One time he was flying off the handle and driving like a madman. I was scared to death and told him to let me out of the car. When he refused I started telling him to pull the car over immediately. He started yelling at me and then all of the sudden slammed on the brakes on one of the busiest streets in our city, sending me headfirst into the dashboard. I jumped out of the car and started walking. About five minutes later he came to me apologizing and begging me to get back in the car. Fortunately for me he never pulled that stunt again but the road rage didn't get any better. If he was in a car and got mad you had better believe it was the pedal to the metal as he is screaming at the vehicle he feels is in the wrong.

In the fall of 2004 Justin had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet. He never thought it would be so difficult to find a job coming out of the military. Justin worked second and third shift and I worked first, so that didn't leave us much time to see each other. With Justin's schedule our daughter had to go to daycare while I was at work and that meant I had all the responsibility of taking care of the baby while he worked.

You would think that not seeing each other, things wouldn't be too bad. But it seemed what little time we had together we spent fighting. The smallest things would send Justin into a rage. One time when he was upset about something, I went to a friend's house and stayed two nights. He never called or came looking for me. I started questioning then if Justin really loved me or not. When he was home he would be asleep, sit and watch TV by himself, or say he was running somewhere and be gone for hours.

It was at this point that I discovered he had a problem with pornography. I was completely crushed. I couldn't understand why he would rather watch that than be with me. But once again he had an excuse for that. He told me that with being in the Navy for so long he got used to that because it was against the rules to be with women on the ship. I told him I understood, but that he was home now and had a wife who was more than willing to take care of him.

At that point I started recommending counseling, telling him that I thought he was just having a hard time adjusting to being home.

In May of 2005 Justin got a job at Toyota and I remember thinking, "Finally, maybe he won't be so stressed all the time now." Well that was wishful thinking. It seemed like even though he had this dream job, things were only getting worse. We fought all the time, mostly because I had to work, get the baby to daycare, pick the baby up at the end of the day, take care of the baby while Justin was at work, and had all the responsibility of the house too. I might as well have been a single parent with a roommate that I never see, but that I have to clean up after every single day.

I decided this job was not for us. Yeah the money was real good, but I wanted my family. And that became the new theme for our fights. I didn't care about all the money we had. And Justin was always quick to spend it like he had something to prove. It was almost like he was trying to use material things to satisfy himself.

Finally I'd had enough. During of one of our fights, I told Justin I didn't care about all the nice things we had. I told him I would rather live in a shack if it meant getting my husband back. That obviously didn't sit very well with him. He flew off the handle calling me ungrateful and any other name you can think of. Normally at this point I, would go off by myself and cry and let him go to avoid a bigger conflict, but for some reason I decided to open my mouth. I told him that he was materialistic and that his toys meant more to him than his family.

The next thing I know he went back to our bedroom, got his gun, and brought it right back into the room that I was in. I took a step back not sure what he was going to do. I know he saw the horror on my face, but I had pushed him too far. He got right in my face, cocked the gun, and started waving it around yelling at me "What do you want me to shoot? I'll take it all out myself. There will be nothing left. I will shoot this whole fucking house up." I was terrified. I fell back on the couch not sure whether to look him in the eye or not. All the while thinking this is it, I am going to die. I let him yell and scream and I didn't say word. I didn't know if I might say something that would set him off and make him start shooting.

He stayed in his rage for what seemed like forever, until finally he put the gun down, looked at me and said, "Do what you want", and walked out the door to go work. I sat there after he left trying to figure out what just happened. I had never seen him so angry. It was like he snapped and had no control over his actions.

When I finally pulled myself together, I called the VA hospital to try to get him in to see someone. They told me at that time that he didn't qualify for any veteran's benefits, and he needed to find a psychiatrist to speak to. I was so mad at that point, before I hung up the phone I told them, "You broke him, now you need to fix him." Their reply was, "I hope you can find him help."

So it was either take him to someone that has no clue what he's been through or fix him myself. I decided I had enough love for both of us and I could help him adjust to not being in the military and be happy again. But making Justin change would not be an easy task so I decided the change had to start with me. If he was getting angry and yelling, I would agree with him. If he wanted to do something we did it. I did anything to make Justin happy.

Walking On Eggshells

Is not healthy in ANY relationship! It will only make things worse.

PTSD is Controlling Our Lives

Chapter 2 continued

By August 2005 I was pregnant with our son. My plan was somewhat working. For the most part it kept the peace around the house, and I really felt like we were starting to get back to a normal family. Well, as normal as can be for not seeing each other and me really not speaking when we were together.

But like always, feeling somewhat normal was just a temporary thing. And by November things were starting to unravel fast. I passed 70 kidney stones in 7 months. I spent 7 months in the hospital during my son's pregnancy. My girls were being bounced from place to place never knowing where they would go the next night. And all the while Justin is living a carefree life. He goes to work, comes up to the hospital after to get some sleep, and wakes up an hour before he has to go back to work.

I was a basket case missing my girls, but not seeing them for long periods of time did not bother Justin in the slightest bit. I know he cared about the kids and me, but it was almost like that was all. I started telling myself that Justin loves us as much as Justin possibly could love. I came to the realization that my husband was not passionately in love with me, and cared about our children as much as he could. I had to decide if I wanted to leave or continue living like this.

Looking back over the last two years there wasn't much reason to stay. But then I thought about our two beautiful kids, our first house, our marriage vows that I hold sacred in my heart, and the man I fell in love with. How could I walk away? This was my husband, and whether he knew it or not he needed me.

So after my son was born I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I figured that way I would be able to see Justin a little bit more, the kids would be able to see their dad, and I would be able to fix Justin's issues. Staying at home was a big adjustment for me. Not to mention having a newborn and trying to get our daughter adjusted to being back home and having a baby brother. The first few weeks I don't think I got more than two hours of sleep a night, because my son had colic.

And then one night I found out my son would sleep with a vacuum cleaner running. Finally I was getting some sleep until Justin walked in the door to all the lights in the house on and the vacuum cleaner running.

As soon as he turned it off my eyes shot open and my son started screaming. I jumped up and quickly turned the vacuum cleaner back on. The sound must have startled Justin because he turned around and ripped the cord out of the wall. Once again he started yelling about how this stuff can't happen. I was in no mood to argue so I just said okay.

I really felt at this point so long as I continued to walk on egg shells and put up with his rants that things would get better and would continue in that same direction. But this is where it gets dangerously worse. A month after our son was born, Jesse was so freaked out by a storm that she kicked a candle off the table in a rage, and our house caught fire. So Justin took some time off work to help me with everything that needed to be done. For two weeks we lived in a hotel, and it was a nightmare with the two kids.

One-day Justin pulled one of his disappearing acts and left me stuck in the hotel with the kids for hours. When he got back I was mad and for the first time in a long time I spoke my mind. Justin started flying off the handle again and I told him to get out. When he told me no, I grabbed him by the shirt and tried to force him out the door. He turned around and grabbed me and slammed me back into the couch. It was the first time he ever put his hands on me in a rage.

PTSD Affects the Whole Family

But We Found Help

Once the work on the house was done and we moved back home, Justin returned to work. I was relieved that I would actually get some time every day that I wouldn't have to worry about upsetting him. But that relief quickly went away when Jesse started acting like Justin. She was destructive, would go into a rage when I didn't give her my undivided attention and she was physically violent.

I know you're probably thinking that it's a two year old. How bad could it be? It got so bad that I was afraid to go to sleep at night for fear of what she would do. She picked up a fork and tried to stab me with it in the back when I was changing the baby's diaper and hitting me in the face became an everyday thing. It didn't matter what I did, I could not regain control.

So now not only did I have my husband to deal with, I had an out of control toddler. And to make it worse, when she would act out, it would set Justin off. This quickly became a dangerous vicious cycle. One of the times I tried to stop Justin from being so hard on her, he flew into a rage and threw me across the kitchen. I grabbed the phone and called 911. Before the call went through he ripped the phone line out of the wall but neither of us realized it was a different phone cord.

The whole time he was screaming and kicking things, 911 was on the phone. I was begging him to just leave and telling him how bad he was scaring me and the kids, but he just kept coming at me until he had me backed up against the wall. He punched a hole in the wall, barely missing the side of my face. He kept screaming at me and did it again. By this time I was crying hysterically and scared out of my mind. Then he just turned around and left.

I picked up the phone and must hit the off button because within seconds 911 was calling our house. They asked if everything was okay and told me an officer was on his way. I hung up the phone and called Justin telling him to stay away because the police were on the phone and heard everything. When the officer arrived, I let them come in and told them everything was fine we just got in a fight.

Again they asked me what happened and again I told them that it was just a fight. After he left I was so upset that I kicked the stuff over and punched holes in the wall myself. Why I protected him I still don't really know. But Justin was so afraid that I was going to send him to jail that it scared him straight. That was the last time he ever touched me.

On the following Monday I called the VA clinic again asking for help. Once again I was told there was nothing they could do. I was lost and scared to death of what my family's future would hold.

With Jesse and Justin's behavior I had my hands full 24 hours a day seven days a week. Feeling completely hopeless I sunk into a deep depression.

When I thought things couldn't get any worse, Justin lost his job. Now I had Justin and Jesse back together 24 hours a day, which only made things worse. It seemed like anything I said would set Justin off, which would make Jesse destructive and even more physically aggressive. For six months Justin was without a job.

Things were so bad, family members were starting to notice. My mother tried to talk to me about how Justin was acting. She said she had never seen me cower like that before. She asked me what she could do because I was being abused. I blew her off and told her I was not being abused. I mean it wasn't like he was hitting me. I told her that I was not cowering, I just didn't want to start a scene in front of people.

Justin's dad and stepmom also tried to help. They took Jesse and tried to work with her, then would take Jaxson for a while so I could spend one-on-one time with Jesse. As long as it was just me and Jesse she did pretty well. But the minute anyone else came around she would turn back in to an evil child. And Justin could not deal with the way she acted.

His rages started turning towards the kids and I started questioning him punishing them when he was so mad. And to make things worse I was starting to notice bruises on Jaxson. Justin's stepmom questioned the bruises and I assured her that I would remove the kids if I thought they were caused by Justin. The last straw came when Justin stepped on a toy one night and completely snapped. He started yelling and slamming the toy into the wall until it broke. He turned around and started screaming and cursing at the kids.

When Jesse ran in her room he jerked her up by her arm and started spanking her. I started screaming for him to stop and he put her down and started yelling at me. I told him to get out of our house or I would call the police. As he stormed out he knocked Jaxson out of the way.

First thing the next morning, I called Justin's stepmom and told her what had happened and told her I needed her to take the kids for a while. She told me to also bring the gun so it was not accessible to Justin. I quickly got the kids and everything together and got them away from Justin for their own safety.

In a last-ditch effort I called the VA and begged them for help. They asked me if he was an OEF/OIF veteran and I told them yes. They transferred me to a caseworker who talked to me about what was going on. I told her about his rages, the gun, and how he kept going from job to job among many other things.

I told her that I felt like he could not adjust to civilian life, and how he was a totally different man since coming home. She asked me if I could get him down there quickly. I told her yes, but I still had questions. I could tell by the way she was talking that this was not new to her. It also struck me as odd that for years I could get no help, and now he could get help. So I asked her if a lot of veterans had these problems. Her response was a simple yes. I was pissed now and when I started trying to ask more questions she said, "I can answer all of your questions when you are here, but I need you to bring your husband down here as soon as possible."

I did not know how I would get him to agree to go down there and talk to someone, so she told me to tell him that he might be eligible for money compensation if this was due to his time in the service. I sat there for a few minutes after we got off the phone trying to figure out how to approach Justin. I don't ever remember crying that hard in my life. But I honestly could not tell you if it was tears of joy or intense fear. Once I got myself pulled together, I stood up, wiped my face off, and headed straight to the room my husband was asleep.

You would have thought I was 10 foot tall and bulletproof the way I was walking. But I was determined. I knew no matter what, I had to hold my ground.

When I got to the door I stopped, took a deep breath, and then walked in. I had to yell a few times to get Justin to wake up. I waited until he responded and then very bluntly said, "Get up we are going down to the VA. I don't want to hear any arguments. You either go, or I am leaving you." He didn't say anything and so I stood there for a second waiting for a response. Nothing so I repeated myself again.

This time he responded as he got out of bed, telling me that I needed to go to counseling not him. So I listened to his rant while he got in the shower expecting at any moment for him to say, "No I am not going." But he never did. I do not know if deep down he knew he needed to go.

As we were leaving, he asked about the kids. I was not going to open that can of worms alone, so I told him they were at his stepmom's until we were done.

Once at the VA clinic, we had to fill out some paperwork and, were taken back to an OEF/OIF case worker. She introduced herself and told us about what she did for veterans returning from war.

She looked at Justin and asked him what he did in the Military and why he thought we were there. Every time he answered, it always started with "I guess." "I guess I have anger issues, I guess I am having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, I guess I scare her and the kids." Everything was, I guess, I guess, I guess. So I sat there and waited until he was finished.

If you have read the book please leave your review here.


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