Real Life Spouse Story | Hope Bradley | Domestic Violence and PTSD

by | May 29, 2020 | Blog, Wellness Unfiltered

The Real Life Spouse Stories Series is part of our Wellness Unfiltered™ program. It’s a platform for military spouses to share their struggles with tougher wellness topics in a Facebook Live series. They’re sharing these stories to help with their healing, open up conversations so other military spouses know that they aren’t alone, provide resources to people struggling with something similar, and to help the community know how to better help others who are going through difficult wellness issues. Below is an excerpt of Hope’s feature.

Hope Bradley

Hope Bradley

I have beautiful scars from an experience that wasn’t so beautiful but can now give hope to others.
— Hope Bradley

Hope Bradley is a Navy wife, very involved in community service and is an advocate for military communities. She was recently named a finalist for Military Spouse of the Year for Naval Base San Diego. Hope is passionate about raising awareness of the issues that affect the mental health of military dependents. She has received Congressional awards for Outstanding Community Service.

Click on image for Facebook Live interview about domestic violence and PTSD with Hope Bradley and Crystal Niehoff.

Click on image for Facebook Live interview about domestic violence and PTSD with Hope Bradley and Crystal Niehoff.

Tell us briefly where you are now in overcoming a tougher wellness struggle.

I’m in a really good place and learning coping strategies for my PTSD. I am doing yoga on the beach, participating in an intensive Bible study with women that have similar experiences, and seeking counseling and therapy.

How did your story begin?

I have a very loaded past riddled with mistakes and bad decisions, many of them due to not processing various traumas in healthy or productive ways. But the main source of my PTSD stems from an abusive marriage. I was married to an Army National Guard Solider whom I reconnected with when I was looking to go into the service as a single mom struggling financially. We went to high school together. Our relationship progressed too quickly as with many young military couples. I was pregnant again within a year of dating him and we married shortly after I had our son. He had various trauma and issues from his childhood as a military brat and he struggled with substance abuse. Early on in our relationship, the abuse was mainly emotional and financial. But after the birth of our son, and as the financial pressures increased, it escalated. When we moved away from our hometown following a job prospect for him, things quickly went from bad to really bad. I was working during the day on the base and at night as a bartender to help make ends meet. His jealousy and possessiveness increased due to me being around other active duty males at work. I made excuses for him and covered my bruises with my clothing and makeup. However, my boss on base knew that something was going on because my husband began frequenting my place of employment randomly when he should have been working. The fights and hitting escalated until I woke up on life support in the hospital with blunt force trauma and swelling on my brain. I’m not sure if the lack of memory from the incident is a result of physical or mental trauma. But I do remember him telling me that he would kill me before I blacked out and woke up in the hospital surrounded by my family. 

How did being a military spouse affect your situation?

I was very reluctant to become a military spouse again. Two years after my divorce and recovery however, I reconnected with my high school sweetheart, and father of my daughter, who had recently joined the Navy. My journey as a military spouse has been beautiful and painful all at the same time. In twelve years, we have moved seven times and my spouse has deployed eight times. Not having something constant as I tried to process and heal from my trauma was probably the hardest thing. I think that many people who have experienced significant trauma feel the need to control things. We all know this is nearly impossible in military life. Plus, dealing with isolation and loneliness can have serious implications for someone who already struggles with mental health issues. The fear I often felt was another trigger. Being alone in a house for months with small children and not feeling protected many times contributed to some of the substance dependency I faced along the way.

Can you identify a turning point when you recognized you needed help? What led you to that moment?

Honestly, it has only been within the last two to three years that I have been real enough with myself and others to recognize that I even suffer from PTSD. To the world outside of our home I always put up a good facade. I was heavily involved in the schools, with command support and functions, and within the community. Only a very few close friends even knew about my history. Working so hard to appear perfect and normal probably contributed further to the exacerbation of my PTSD.

What are you doing now to overcome this situation?

Admitting and recognizing my PTSD has been vital. When you’re in a community of heroes who do hard things and risk their lives for others, PTSD isn’t something you necessarily feel entitled to. I think many of us deem ourselves unworthy of certain issues because we haven’t seen combat or witnessed first-hand the loss of someone we love. As dependents we think that we have to have it all together, put on our big girl panties, and deal. Now I am transparent and honest about my struggles with my husband and my community, but most importantly with myself. I have learned how to utilize healthy coping strategies to process stress and negative emotions.

What have you learned that has made a difference for you on this journey?

The power of community and transparency. How freeing it is to acknowledge that sometimes I need help, or I don’t have it all together, and not to sweat the small stuff. My longing for control of some aspect of my life made me a VERY anal mother whose home always had to be perfect and who scolded her kids for stained clothes, shoes, or an out of place hair. Everything was a mess on the inside so outward appearances had to be perfect, and it was exhausting.

Who were your biggest supporters during this time? How were they supportive?

My military spouse community, especially the rare few gems who are truly sisters. The ones that tell you the hard truths even when they know it might make you angry. My family and my faith. Honestly, now I don’t seek validation from outside sources (again, the most freeing feeling EVER). I only share my story and struggles in the hope that someone out there can benefit from it. I hope that it helps someone leave an abusive relationship, feel less alone, seek counseling, or just speak truth to a trusted friend. I tell my story in case it might save someone else’s life.

How can our community best support you right now?

Be kind to one another! Offer some grace and understanding and recognize that we don’t always know what someone else is dealing with. Often those outward manifestations that we judge others for are deeply rooted. Let’s just love one another to the best of our abilities and realize that we are all truly in this together.

What are your sources of strength?

My faith has been a big one, and the example I want to set for my children, my girls especially. I practice yoga pretty faithfully these days, but I also really enjoy weightlifting. These physical activities allow me to still my thoughts, clear my mind, refocus on the good, and celebrate my body and strength. And again, my community. Those sisters that I can call to vent and cry, or when I need to be checked!

What do you see the future holding for you as you move forward?

Foremost, continued healing as I strive to also give hope to others. I have prayed that I would be given a platform to be able to advocate for the multitude of mental health issues unique to our military dependent community. But I also feel really called to have the hard conversations about domestic violence, dependency issues, stigmas related to suffering from mental health issues, and the weight of the expectations we put on ourselves and others to be “good” military dependents.

If a military spouse is going through this right now, what resources should he or she turn to for help?

There are so many resources! Family advocacy programs currently offer so much support. Even outside of the military community there are safe houses, a national domestic violence hotline, and other organizations committed to helping survivors get out, establish a “normal” life, and be safe. However, I think the most overlooked and underutilized resource is people. Community is essential, resources without relationships are just another number on a flyer hanging on the bathroom stall. We have to love our neighbors and be willing to invest in other people on a meaningful level.

Looking back, what is something positive that has come out of your experience?

At this point in my life, I can honestly say all of it. I have a beautiful family and a beautiful life filled with people that choose to love me even with my flaws. And I have beautiful scars from an experience that wasn’t so beautiful but can now give hope to others.

Domestic Violence and PTSD

Domestic Violence and PTSD


Hope Bradley

Hope Bradley

Hope Bradley has a background in healthcare and social work as well as over seven years of experience in the non-profit sector serving our military community. She has been an active duty Navy wife for twelve years and was recently named a finalist for Military Spouse of the Year for Naval Base San Diego. She is committed to serving as a community advocate, and is passionate about raising awareness of the issues that affect the mental health of military dependents. She has received Congressional awards for Outstanding Community Service. She is currently serving as an Employment Specialist with Vet Jobs (CASY) & Military Spouse Jobs (MSCCN). Hope is always seeking opportunities to create a positive impact within the community that she loves.


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