One stays behind and the other enters a combat zone. For civilian spouses, the stress and anxiety of watching their military husband or wife or significant other suffer from depression, PTSD, and substance abuse brought on by the horrors of battle or the demands of military life can be overwhelming. You may be asking yourself how you can be supportive and what your role is within the relationship and your family.
As the spouse, you could also be watching your military wife or husband spiral ever deeper into mental illness, which is often accompanied by alcohol or substance abuse, is and sometimes accompanied by violence.
While you can’t cure your spouse, you can do as much as possible to keep yourself healthy and able to deal with raising children or preventing yourself from also developing mental illnesses. Statistics indicate that spouses to military personnel have a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, so seeking out help for yourself as well as your spouse are crucial to your overall well-being.
Here are six things you absolutely need to be doing if your military spouse is suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or other mental health issues:
- Get Support. Fellow military spouses, church congregations, close family members, and friends are all part of your support network. Don’t think that being strong means refusing to acknowledge your worries and questions or keeping quiet about them with others. There are many who have experienced similar situations and are able to help you articulate your concerns as well as offer sound advice. Just knowing you aren’t alone can give you much peace of mind.
- Find Therapy. Having a spouse with a mental illness or substance abuse problem puts a huge amount of pressure on you. Seek therapy for both yourself and your spouse, including individual and couples’ therapy.
- Seek Sound Financial Advice. It’s no secret that the majority of military personnel aren’t highly paid, which means that military families are often living paycheck to paycheck even if the civilian spouse is also working. This kind of financial stress is exacerbated by a military spouse already suffering from mental illness, and the stress also exacerbates the mental illness.
- Take Care of Your Health, Too. You need sleep, nutritious food, and a regular chance to relax in order to continue supporting your spouse. Seek medical help, have a sleep test done if you suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues, and eat healthfully in order to lower your own burdens.
- Exercise. We could include this under keeping yourself healthy, but exercise is important enough to merit its own section. Regular exercise releases stress and can help you feel strong and confident in at least one area of your life. Find exercise buddies or join a gym to keep yourself motivated.
- Finally, Acknowledge that You Can’t Change Anyone Else. If a mentally ill military spouse continues to be depressed or becomes violent, remember that none of this is your fault. You can do as much as possible to support your spouse, help him or her find help, and show love, but you can’t force him or her to do anything to change mentally. You cannot cure anyone else through sheer force of will; you can only change your own attitude. Should your situation at home become unbearable or dangerous because of your spouse’s actions, do what you need to to keep yourself and any children safe from harm and don’t count it as a personal failure.
San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is experienced at helping military personnel deal with and overcome depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol or substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Please visit our Homepage today to get more information and to call for a free and confidential assessment.