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National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day 2024: The man I married has started to re-emerge… 


My husband Joel spent 10 years serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, in police and close protection, serving in Afghanistan and Bosnia. When he was released in 2008, he had such severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that everyday tasks and being in public generated so much anxiety. 

Our family hit rock bottom after Joel’s final tour in Afghanistan. He worked in Close Personal Security and the Military Police. When our second child was just an infant, Joel’s PTSD reared its ugly head. A parked car at the side of the road would set him off looking for snipers in the trees. He couldn’t set foot in the grocery store. I can remember the days when he didn’t come up from the basement. Where he spent the entire day downstairs playing video games.  

I talked to our family doctor and a few close friends, and we convinced him to start medication and therapy. I don’t know where we would be today if we didn’t have help. In 2016, Joel participated in the Orlando Invictus Games, and it was the step needed in his recovery. With every day, he became better at managing stress. He competed in the early years of his recovery, and it was very outside his comfort zone. Being on a military base was triggering, so were airplanes, and hearing other soldiers talk about their experiences could send him spiraling. But he pushed himself to compete and connect in brand new ways. I was overjoyed when he won a silver medal in archery!  

I remember the flight to Orlando was a huge challenge and trigger. But our son held his dad’s hand the entire time and afterwards stated that he was like a service human for his dad. And Joel has told me so many times that standing on the podium after winning a medal was one of the first times in our son’s lives that he really felt his kids being there. Even today, our son asks Joel every morning how he slept and if he had nightmares.  

As a social worker, psychiatric nurse and now palliative care nurse, I think about and talk about resilience with patients and families every day. I also live, breathe, and feel resilience every day as the spouse of a Veteran living with PTSD. And for me, resilience is this: accepting that you don’t have the same life as anyone else. Our normal is not anyone else’s normal, but it’s ours. If it’s a really bad day, and Joel hasn’t slept, and he’s anxious or paranoid, we know the day will wind down and we’ll carry on the next day. If our house sometimes looks like a tornado hit, we know that everyone is fed, clothed, safe and loved.  

Resilience is recognizing that PTSD does not define our family, it does not define our life. They say in the army: adapt and overcome. We live that every day, but in terms of being resilient and rebuilding our lives since Joel’s diagnosis. When COVID hit, I was on the front lines in nursing homes and working with vulnerable seniors. I became the soldier, and he became my support. That’s resilience!  

These days, we focus one day at a time; we don’t plan too much ahead and accept that Joel will have good days and bad days. But thanks to Invictus Games, Joel is participating in everyday life; going to the grocery store, participating in his therapy, spending time with family and friends. He is an amazing father to our boys, Zack and Jake, and he loves our chaotic Chocolate Lab, Cooper. I’m proud to see him play such an active role at home. 

The man I married has started to re-emerge…from the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

Marie-Andrée Malette, RN, Spouse to Corporal (Retired) Joel Guindon, Invictus Games Orlando 2016 

Story and photos credit of True Patriot Love 

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