I finished reading Debbie Sprague’s A Stranger in My Bed: Eight Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Morgan James Publishing, 360 pp., $24.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle) late at night. It had been a worthwhile, red-eye learning experience.
Sprague, a certified life and career coach, begins her book with a painfully raw narrative of life with her Vietnam War veteran husband. The reader is taken into a world of darkness and chaos, confusion and fear, anger and hopelessness. The possibility of financial disaster is always on the front burner, and infinite frustration grows with the turn of each page.
The most serious PTSD symptoms of the author’s husband began in earnest thirty years after he came home from Vietnam. It was as though he were pushing some kind of envelope, unconsciously crying out for help. Many will be able to relate to the author’s inclination to ignore small aberrations of behavior, hoping they would go away.
The chapters describing the gradual dissolution of the couple’s marriage were heartbreaking. Little by little, Sprague’s husband would spend more time with friends where everything was fine, and less time with his wife where their marriage was one continual conflict. His purchase of guns added a serious threat. Daily life became so traumatic that the author herself was diagnosed with PTSD.
Why didn’t the couple simply divorce and start their lives over? The answer to that question is what makes this book so different from other PTSD books I’ve read.
Sprague loved her husband deeply despite his faults, and she was very committed to her marriage vows. Her courage and tenacity to stick has similarities to what a soldier in combat goes through in order to not turn and run.
Perhaps it was prophetic that the couple’s turnaround began while they were on their way to church on June 6, 2010, the anniversary of D-Day. Her husband read aloud a warning sign telling of a dead-end street by saying, “Debbie’s a dead-end.” As the words echoed through her ears, Sprague said she silently screamed, “NO! I am not a dead-end! I am not a quitter.”
Thus began the turnaround in the life of a true heroine, and the fodder for an excellent PTSD reference book. Perhaps the most important thing Spraque explains is that while it is often impossible to change the actions of another person, it is always possible to change one’s own reactions to those actions. She also shares the sage insight that we can only make progress when we deal with reality and not illusions.
Sprague’s use of biblical verses becomes more frequent as the book goes along. She uses sacred words in a realistic, practical way, though, and does not pontificate.
The final two thirds of the book consists of a well-organized PTSD textbook. It contains information on developing support systems and coping with fear and anger, shame and guilt, and sexual dysfunction, among other things
Were Debbie Sprague’s efforts to pull her much-loved husband back from the abyss worth it? Readers will undoubtedly concur with his response:
“I will be eternally grateful for Debbie and her commitment, not only to me, but to veterans, their spouses, and their families everywhere. God bless her, and God bless our veterans and their families.”
The author’s web site is http://astrangerinmybed.com