Heartache, Perseverance and Healing (Ashley’s PTS Story)

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬

A truth I will learn through heartache, perseverance, and healing.

Written By: Ashley Braden

Ashely and Benny at their wedding Nov. 24, 2013

     I’m standing in front of him, blocking the door, trying to keep him from leaving…again. He’s yelling at me to move. Cursing me for standing in his way. All I want is a hug, a kiss, and a simple “I love you” before he leaves. I beg. I’m crying harder than ever. He looks at me and it appears that he feels zero sympathy. It feels as though he doesn’t love me or our kids, even though I know he really and truly does. A scenario that we’d played out before and would continue to play out off and on for months to come. 

Phot Courtesy of : Outmersive Films


I’d never had to “deal” with anyone suffering from PTS before. We didn’t even realize that’s what was going on. All I knew was that my new husband acted like he hated me every single time we would disagree over anything, even the small stuff or when the kids would get too loud or argue or make a mistake. “That’s it, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” were words I heard too many times… my response? “No. We are married, this is my house now too and we have 3 kids. I’m not leaving.” So he left. Every. Single. Time. I would text and call over and over. Each and every time he left, I would go to the safe and count our handguns to make sure they were all there. I prayed he would not be found somewhere in his truck with a self inflicted gunshot. I worried myself sick sometimes and cried myself to sleep most times. He would leave and stay gone until the next day and when he would come home it would be as if nothing had ever happened. I would try to talk to him but he would not discuss anything. It was during this time that I really learned to pray.. when I learned how to spill my heart to God, trust him, and wait… wait very patiently. 

My Beardedself and my Beautiful Bride Ashley


One time when we were arguing, most likely over something small and unimportant, he decided to throw a bunch of my belongings outside… this included the wedding dress that I married him in. I picked my things up as he once again told me to get out and that he wanted a divorce. I left this time. I drove approximately 10 minutes away to my aunt and uncles. I pulled up and after my uncle made sure that the children or I had not been physically hurt, I asked him to please go check on Benny. I knew something was not right. He was dealing with a demon much bigger than I had ever had to face. I had some trouble with depression a couple of times as a younger adult and I knew this was not depression. I had also dealt with anxiety and this was like an anxiety attack on the largest dose of steroids you could imagine. After my uncle left I contacted a couple of our friends, Mike and Jonathan. They also headed towards our house. Benny was still there, in the back yard, digging. Digging. Digging. We were in the middle of a major addition project on our house. More stress for him. They talked to him, calmed him down. But it did not end the fits he had. 

Benny Braden


The fits continued…like a toddler version of the Hulk who hadn’t slept in days and all they wanted was for you to buy them a new toy…having a major meltdown with every toy you passed in the toy aisle at Walmart. And every time he left, I got stronger. I started praying like never before. I started loving Benny harder and loving God more. Each time he’d leave, I’d write a note and leave it on his pillow. Or I’d write down my prayers and leave them out for him to read. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. And when I thought I couldn’t pray anymore, I prayed again. I KNEW God would fix him. I praised God for answering my prayers before he ever answered them. 

Ashley Braden in Frozen Head State Park

He kept saying he was broken. And I kept reminding him that God mends all things. I knew this because God had mended me. Many many times. He healed me of depression and anxiety when I was 18 and had lost my great-grandmother. He healed me of depression, anxiety, and self harm when I was going through separation and divorce with my ex-husband. I KNEW God could heal him. And that’s when he started backpacking. 

My Beardedself on top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park


With every backpacking trip, he had fewer meltdowns. With every backpacking trip, we grew closer. With every backpacking trip, I saw sparkle come back into his eyes. He would share with me the beauty of Gods creation that he saw. He would explain how close he felt to God while he was hiking.

My husband was being mended. God was answering my prayers just as I knew he would. We both grew closer to God and as we grew closer to God, we grew closer to each other. Our family was happier. Less stressed. Over time it got better and better and we all no longer felt like we had to walk on eggshells around him. There came a point where I could no longer remember the last time he left in anger. I could no longer remember when we’d had our last argument. We could disagree and it not turn into an atomic bomb exploding in our house. Our kids could argue like siblings do or be loud like kids are and it would not send him into hysterics. He finally figured out what was causing the anxiety attacks and the outbursts.. Post Traumatic Stress. 

My Beardedself as 1st Lieutenant, Head Rescue Diver, EMT, Water Rescue Team Leader, Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and Vehicle Extrications Instructor at Roane Co Rescue Squad.


Before we met, Benny had been an EMT worker, a rescue diver, a rescue squad member, etc. He’d seen too many things in this life that stuck with him long after the job was over. It took a toll on him and led to PTS. Finally we could put a name to what had caused his explosions. It made perfect sense now. My husband had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress. He still gets anxious occasionally but that’s when I say, “Honey..it’s time for a hike.” And even if he just takes a few hours on the trail…he doesn’t explode. He has left home since the hard times in moments of anxiety and frustration.. But I understand now that sometimes he just needs space. I don’t stop him if he needs to go and he has not stayed gone all night in years. He comes home and climbs in bed beside me and wakes up feeling refreshed again. He wakes up to face another day. To hike another hike. To live another moment. To be free. 

Always thinking of my beautiful bride while I’m out on the trail.

About plugitinhikes

I'm a follower of Christ, married to my "Beautiful Bride" Ashley, dad to 5 children and oh yeah,..... Ultralight backpacking and living outdoors is my thing.
This entry was posted in Day Hikes, Hiking, Personal Stories, Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Ultralight Backpacking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Heartache, Perseverance and Healing (Ashley’s PTS Story)

  1. Thank you both SO very much for blessing us with your testimony. Praising the Lord for all He has worked out in both of your lives!
    Much love!! 🙌🏼🙌🏼❤️❤️

    Like

  2. Lisa Spoone says:

    Wow! What a woman! To hang in there and never give up is absolutely a God thing! Amazing story! Thanks for sharing! God bless your family!

    Like

  3. David Rough says:

    God is Faithful! Thank you for sharing your story. I have done some hiking as well and the peace of the trail is amazing. God uses His creation to glorify His name and calm the soul of man. May you both continue to love the Lord and love one another within the healing grace of God’s blessing.

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  4. Lisa Davey says:

    This is a beautiful testimony of God’s love.
    Thank you for sharing Ashley.
    I remember those days and praise God they are in the past.
    We love you both so much.
    May God continue to bless you & Benny.

    Like

  5. Loneoak says:

    Luv this my friend 🙂

    Like

  6. Dana says:

    I read and reread this many times…in tears. I know this to be true. A love like yours is not common. It’s extraordinary. I’m referring to your love for one another as well as your love for God. It’s the God part that makes your part extraordinary because only God can lead us to that kind of healing. Healing in Benny, and in Ashley…and in any marriage that is that painfully fractured. God led you, Benny, to a trail where he put a Love Patch on your pain. And he gave Ashley the Love and tenacity to wait on His plan to be discovered. You two were blessed by God (and of course your beautiful children are seeing a mighty good example set before them)
    I’m thankful that our paths crossed. I quickly recognized Benny’s peace and complete appreciation for God’s creation the first (and ensuing) time I hiked with him. He always lifted you up, Ashley, in such a beautiful light…which makes sense because she was being the Light. That is our mission on Earth before God…to reflect his Son Jesus-The Light. ❤️ I love you guys!

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    • Thank you so much my friend. God has truly blessed both Ashley and I. The story was very humbling. I too cried every time I would read it. I’m so thankful God sent me such an amazing woman who would give up on me or us even after I had. Thank you so much for your friendship. Your influence on me plays a bigger role on me than you think. Love you my friend.

      Like

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