GSN launched its first impact report “Growing Connection, Resiliency and Agency: The impact of community-led trauma-informed peacebuilding in response to violent extremism in Kenya” at the second annual Paris Peace Forum (12 November 2019).

A CHANGED MAN

He was screaming again. He has been doing that a lot, it’s become the new normal. He’s screaming his head off because the keys are not where he had last left them, and he can’t believe that anyone had the audacity to move them. His screams would have you assuming a gun trotting intruder has entered the house but no, he’s screaming about keys. His voice takes on this high decibel you’d never have imagined his voice could rise to, his eyes are bulging dangerously, and you almost fear that they can pop out of their sockets anytime. He’s a scary figure and the worst thing is that he has no idea.

Last week he was screaming about his misplaced slippers. The week before that was a light switch. It doesn’t matter what the offense – real or imagined is, his reaction is extreme and in direct contrast to the offense.

There are many other ways he’s changed. He’s angry all the time now, even when he is silent you can feel the waves of anger surrounding him, the aura around him is one charged with aggression. He’s also very unfriendly now. This previously mild man, as meek and gentle as a dove, is now hostile. You can feel his hostility meters before you approach him and now only the very brave dare to cross his path.

I now shy away from having guests over at our home, his moods swings are unpredictable, and I don’t want to have our guest bear the brunt of his hostility or witness his screaming matches. I also avoid accompanying him in public; again, I’m not sure how he’ll behave, and I’ve been embarrassed too many times to put myself at risk again. His mood could suddenly change, and he might start arguing and complaining bitterly, or he could suddenly get bored with whoever is talking to him and he might unceremoniously walk away.

Everyone who knew him before knows something is amiss, they just don’t have a name for it. His mannerisms have changed, his personality is altered, his character is now unrecognizable, his moods are unpredictable – everything that used to make him who he was has been erased and we are no longer sure just who we are now dealing with.

Before the Wellbeing and Resilience sessions, I had heard about Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) only in passing. Now, I not only know what it is, but I finally have a name for what is ailing my husband.

My husband was working for the American Embassy when it was bombed in 1998. When it happened, he was assumed dead and family and friends had even started gathering to condole with us. Then he reappeared home as if by magic and our joy was indescribable. We felt as if he had resurrected from the dead, our joy and relief was such that we could not bear to even be physically parted from him – it’s as if we were afraid we would lose him again.

After some time though, it became apparent that the man who had come home was not the same man we were expecting. From a happy, friendly, mild mannered man, he became an irritable, belligerent and contrary stranger we were all afraid of. From a father and husband whose company we all enjoyed, he morphed into an unfamiliar man we all tiptoed around afraid of rousing his now legendary anger. We learned to walk on egg shells around him lest we triggered whatever was ailing him.

I’m not the woman I once was, my husband’s change has brought our once happy family to the very brink of hell. The atmosphere in our home is now one of tension where previously happy laughter could be heard. My attempts to have him seek help have greatly damaged our marriage – he maintains that he needs no help yet the man I used to know is no more.

I’m so relieved to finally know what my husband is suffering from. Knowledge is indeed powerful and solving this frustrating puzzle has not only empowered me but my entire family. Having undergone the Wellbeing and Resilience sessions, I’m very eager to share my knowledge with my family and colleagues who no doubt know many other people who could be suffering from PTS.

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