I have been thinking about all the adult children around the country (and the world) who grew up in a home with a veteran affected by PTSD. For adult children today, we grew up before the times of understanding about that which we call Post Traumatic Stress. As a culture we are now moving away from calling PTS a ‘disorder’, because we have come to see that when people (men and women) experience one more more traumatic events, it is common, even normal, that such experiences affect the human spirit in a negative way.
However, back in the day, even through the Vietnam war, people did not talk that way about war/combat trauma of the emotional/mental kind. So, there are many, many adults living their lives today, still trying to understand why their parent (most often a father) was ‘the way he was’. Recent generations have become familiar with being an adult child of an alcoholic, and now I feel that we have to call a spade a spade, which is that there is a reality in being an adult child of PTSD (specifically caused by war experiences). I have been thinking specifically about a man I knew once, a man about my own age, and his father too was a veteran of the Vietnam war. A number of years ago he listened to my audio book and told me that until hearing my story, he thought that his father’s behavior while growing up (as he put it ‘lying on the couch, smoking cigarettes and not talking’) was just his dad. After hearing about my father, he realized that his dad had PTSD from his war experiences.
So, yesterday morning I was thinking about how many adult children of PTSD there are now, and how many children of vets returned from OIF, and returning from OEF, will also grow up in a PTSD household. I made some calls to some of the 23 networks of the Veteran’s Administration (called VISNs) to connect with each VISNs “Designated Learning Officer” to send them one of my books. Then I decided to take a walk with my dog to clear my head. I rounded the corner on my block, and a bicyclist was riding the opposite way. Dressed in his riding outfit, he said ‘Hi Quynn’ as he rode by. I looked at him , trying to figure out who he was. ‘Who are you’ I asked him. He turned around and spoke his name. My jaw dropped. It was the exact man who I had been thinking about. The adult child of PTSD who I had not seen in a number of years. We spoke for a few minutes, catching up, and then I told him I had just been thinking about him and his story, and I asked him if I remembered it correctly. I recounted my memory of his experience and he said it was correct. ‘However’ he said ‘I think I knew, even at 7 years old, that what was wrong with my dad was PTSD, even though I didn’t know about PTSD then.’ He knew there was something in him that didn’t belong. He went on to say that his relationship with his father is not at all close, that there is nothing to say. He said his father has much power, and if his dad directed it in a good way, he would be a powerful man. ‘I have the same power’ he said.
We said goodbye for now, and I walked away feeling that a message had just been sent my way. Adult Children of PTSD is something, and there are many of us, going on with life, getting along, doing the best we can. Every day. I came home and started a facebook group called PTSD Daughter. If you are in FB, come join me there.