Family Matters Blog: Spouse Combats Army Husband’s PTSD
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 I met an Army wife a few weeks ago who truly embodies the marriage vow “for better or for worse.”
Catrina Tomsich and her husband, Army Sgt. John Tomsich, talk about the emotional journey they made as a couple following the soldier's injuries and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio, Nov. 10, 2011. DOD photo by Linda Hosek
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Catrina Tomsich stuck by her soldier husband through a war injury, severe post-combat stress and emotional abuse -- not because she condoned the behavior, but because she had an unwavering belief that with time and care, he could find emotional healing.
“I believe you should never give up,” she told me while I was visiting with her at the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio. “No matter what we’re given in life, we can choose how we deal with it.”
Army Sgt. John Tomsich had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since his first deployment in 2005. Catrina encouraged him to get help, but he refused. He believed at the time that discussing issues such as anger or depression would be a sign of weakness to the soldiers serving under him. Instead, he told me, “You try and fight it and not tell anyone you have problems.”
While he maintained a stoic front on duty, he couldn’t contain his rage at home. “For five years I heard, ‘I hate you; I don’t love you anymore’ every day,” Catrina said. “That can definitely take an emotional toll on someone.”
Tomsich deployed again in 2009, this time in Iraq. About six months in, he suffered a spinal injury to his neck that caused him to lose the use of his right arm. He was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center for treatment, and Catrina drove down on weekends to see him. But when he developed a stomach illness that required surgery, she knew he’d need a full-time caregiver.
It was with trepidation that Catrina left her life in Houston behind to take on that role. She shut down her financial education business, left behind a network of friends and uprooted their then-5-year-old son.
Tomsich’s physical injuries were under control – in time, he regained the use of his arm with medication -- but the abuse worsened. After a particularly bad episode one weekend, Catrina decided enough was enough.
“He had so much anger and rage,” she said, “and that weekend our son saw it, and was crying and scared of Daddy. I wasn’t about to let that happen anymore. I put my foot down.”
Catrina marched into a trailer where she knew behavioral health specialists worked and demanded to speak to a counselor. A week later, Tomsich was placed in counseling for severe PTSD.
With medication and counseling, her husband has come a long way, she said. He’s still not where he was when they got married, she added, but “he’s 100 times better than in 2005.”
Given Tomsich’s initial reluctance to seek help, I was surprised they had decided to go public with their story. But it’s their hope, they told me, that their story will encourage others to seek the help they need.
Catrina said she’s seen enough marriages break under the pressure of a spouse’s physical and emotional wounds. “Women come and tell me, ‘He’s not the man he used to be.’ I tell them, ‘Never give up.’ If I had, we wouldn’t be here together now.”
If you are struggling with PTSD or other issues or know someone who is, the Defense Department offers a host of resources to help. Here are just a few:
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
For more family related posts, visit AFPS' Family Matters blog.