Warrior and Spouse Vow Peace, Protection, and Prosperity During Couples Project Odyssey
Sidney Brady and his wife, Elizabeth, are no strangers to the stresses of marriage and raising a family. Adding another level of complexity, Sidney copes with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from his deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom. Returning home, Sidney registered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) to get involved with Project Odyssey®, a program that helps with combat stress.
“When dealing with my PTSD, I know things can get out of control,” said Sidney, an Army veteran. “I get very anxious, angry, and frustrated and simply want to avoid everything and everybody.”
Sidney recognizes the way he coped with PTSD placed an unhealthy strain on his relationship with his wife and children, and it changed the entire dynamic of their home life. During these times, it was not the happy home he and Elizabeth set out to build for their family.
“Before attending Project Odyssey, I didn’t know what to do,” said Sidney. “I felt that secluding myself for days was the best option because I didn’t want to deal with anything … not even my own family. I knew that my bad days made everybody else’s days miserable, and I needed to change that.”
The one constant in Sidney’s journey with PTSD is Elizabeth. “No matter how I am feeling, she is always there to step in where I leave off,” said Sidney. “I tend to forget that and take it for granted, and I wanted to work on not only coping with PTSD but also showing how important she is to me and the health of our family.”
To reach this goal, Sidney and Elizabeth registered for a couples Project Odyssey, which focuses on both warriors and spouses. The first segment is a multi-day rehabilitative mental health retreat designed to address relationship strains due to effects of PTSD and combat stress. The second part is a 90-day follow-up where warriors and their spouses receive continued coaching from WWP staff to reinforce what was discussed, learned, and practiced during the rehabilitative retreat.
“Our goal was to improve communication and intimacy,” said Sidney. “We also needed guidance on how to act and react during my PTSD episodes, and I was looking for ways to get myself out of those moments and back to being present in the moment.”
“The couples Project Odyssey curriculum is based largely on the Sound Relationship House theory developed by renowned therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman,” said Ryan Kules, WWP Combat Stress Recovery director. “The theory lists and examines fundamental processes to build and maintain healthy relationships between spouses, and it is metaphorically represented using a house with a foundation, walls, and multiple floors with each structural element representing a specialized segment of relationship-building.”
“Having each segment of our relationship dissected into parts we could identify, and target was extremely helpful,” said Sidney. “The walls of our Sound Relationship House represent trust and commitment. Within those walls, we were able to explore our interactions, how to manage conflict, and how to turn toward one another instead of away from each other during difficult moments.”
Sidney and Elizabeth took each aspect of the couples Project Odyssey seriously – vulnerability and honesty were two areas most important to them to focus on during the Project Odyssey experience. “We addressed not just the task of communicating, but how we communicate,” said Sidney. “We worked on our tones, inflections, sarcasms, and passive aggressiveness when communicating with each other, and we learned how to avoid the heat-of-the-moment situations where words can hurt and destroy relationships and families.”
During the Project Odyssey, each couple not only shared vulnerability in group sessions but also challenged themselves during activities designed for discovering something new about their significant other. These included kayaking, painting, and building a family crest. “One of the things we admired most is the family crest and motto we created together,” said Sidney. “During our 90-day follow-up sessions, we often point back to the motto as the foundation of our family’s health and happiness, including our intimate relationship.”
That motto: We will be each other’s peace, protection, and prosperity.
Sidney offered some encouraging words to other warriors who might be involved in strained relationships due to effects of PTSD. “Give it a chance and open your heart and mind to the experience. You have to let down the walls even if only for a moment to truly understand what is possible and what good things are waiting for you on the other side of those walls.”
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About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more: http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/about-us.