The day he told you he was going overseas, you were overwhelmed by a jumble of emotions. You were so proud of his bravery and patriotism, so afraid of the dangers he was about to face, so worried about not having him around, even a little angry at him for leaving when he was needed at home, and wondering what his absence would mean to you.

He waved goodbye, and you faced a new set of emotions. There were those lonely nights without him. Family events that just weren’t the same. The terror every time you heard of an attack or an accident. The surprise call when he had access to a phone, followed by weeks of little or no contact at all. You stared at his photo and slept with his favorite shirt. When you heard that he was coming home after just a few months, you were overjoyed.

He was just as happy to see you, and eager to settle back into life at home. But it soon became obvious that something was different. There was an odd look in his eyes, as though he saw something in the distance. He’d wake up in the middle of the night, trembling and soaked in sweat. Someone dropped a pan in the kitchen, and he ran into the room with rage in his eyes. You ask him about what’s bothering him, but he can’t find the words. The man you knew so well is gone, and you’re not sure who took his place. What can you do to help him and help yourself?

Many veterans want to put their combat experiences behind them, but their minds and bodies won’t let that happen. You may have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD). It’s what your grandparents may have called “shell shock.” When the mind and body are exposed to severe trauma or a life-threatening event, shock is a natural and temporary defense. But in some cases, the shock doesn’t disappear. It stays under the surface and reappears when stressful events occur — even very minor events. Something in the brain says “you’re in danger,” and the reflexes take over.

Having PTSD doesn’t make someone a bad person or suggest that they’re a coward. It’s not a character flaw, mental disease, or being “crazy.” It’s a natural, normal reaction to levels of stress most of us will never encounter. And there are ways to recover from PTSD and reduce its impact on a veteran’s daily life.

Our professionals understand PTSD and can help veterans (and others, like first responders) manage the symptoms and address the causes. If a veteran you love is struggling with PTSD, we’re ready to help.