Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A PTSD story far too many of us "get"

Received the story below this week from a Veteran's wife. Her story sounds like so many (including mine). It is my heart's strongest desire that we reach a point where families have enough information and tools that they have a fair chance of surviving in "PTSD world". It's so unfair that we're expected to fight this stupid disease without the weapons we need. I pray for the Victors of this world... and for those who face the heartbreak and trials of loving a suffering hero. May they all find help and hope.

I would also like to point out, that many families (again, including ours) report PTSD getting worse as time at home progresses instead of better. Veterans who seem to be coping in the first months at home can become gradually more and more withdrawn and angry. The best way to stop this downward spiral is to get help for your spouse. I know it's easier said than done, but getting help early can really make a difference.

Anyway, here's the story...

The husband I knew before he went to Iraq would take me back, would understand why I did the things I did. I left him and took our new born 1100 miles back to Texas with me. Why? Because being a new mother and taking care of our 1st child and taking on all these new responsibilities and emotions of being a mother plus taking on this horrible demon inside my husband became to much. I told him a month after having her, I finally wanted a divorce. He said all these hateful things to me all the time, and would throw out the divorce word at me all the time anyways, it was what he said he wanted. And logically anyone who thought with their brain, and not their heart would have left 2 years ago.

I wanted to protect our baby, and make sure she was in a stable environment. And through the irrational things he would say to me and I didn’t understand why he would say the things he said. But I stayed for so long because I new who he was before Iraq and deep down in my heart he was still that person . Some days I could see that person, and it gave me hope. People would think I was crazy for staying with someone and loving someone like this. But they didn’t know him before Iraq. The only thing I could say to friends or family before I understood this was all just PTSD is, "I love him and when we were on R&R it was perfect, my Victor I fell in love with was there for the last time, and now I see him sometimes.” We were so good to each other.

I couldn’t step back and take a look at the big picture and say he was suffering from PTSD, I was so engulfed with anger and why he couldn’t just stop. But that’s another wonderful thing about this website. I was starting to mirror his actions or suffer from Secondary PTSD. I had never felt so angry in my whole entire life and completely consumed by it. I can imagine the uncontrollable rage he has been feeling then and now.

Yes, he had some signs of PTSD when he first came back, and I thought it was something that would go away. He hid under a bar once while we were out at a club because he saw a sniper. It was horrible, I knew my husband was no longer whole. But no one told me anger and simple things would make him snap on a daily basis, no one told me he would be irrational and could easily snap while we were having a good time, having a casual drink with friends or family.

Even the most important days like when we found out we were having a little girl he had an episode. I hated him so much for ruining that day. When really it wasn’t his fault, it was just PTSD’s fault. I had no idea that it would linger even after 2 years of him being home.

A solider can become mentally damaged for life and it’s natural, after being in an unnatural environment, a war zone. People perceived him as a bad husband, who treated me like crap, and I didn’t know why he did the things he did now. All I knew was my Victor was in there, even though he went away sometimes.

But after having our child and multiple talks with him before our child came. And telling him to find out how to control his demons, and prevent our child from being exposed to them. Which is a cruel irony, I didn’t know Soldiers are in denial that they have PTSD. I got tired, exhausted, and my pay off no matter how hard I tried, there was eventually one of his dark episodes.

It’s a hard blow to take and to stand tall and strong and look that person in the face and say I you love. I knew from the beginning who he was, and we had a strong loving built relationship before Iraq, even after that it can almost be impossible to say I love you to your solider. Call me crazy but I’m a person of faith believing without seeing, I wouldn’t see Victor the one I love, for sometimes hours or days, but I believed every time that Victor would come back, even if it was just for a few minutes.

But once I saw that precious face of our little girl, my faith in him was shaken, I felt guilt for being so selfish for someone treating me this way for so long. I promised myself I wouldn’t let him mentally debilitate her like he did me. And his irrationality I started to believe it. I remembered when he used to tell me before Iraq our wedding vows and even when we dated I was his world, I made him happy and he would spend the rest of his life making sure I was happy. He made these promises and broke them, could I really believe he wasn‘t going to mentally hurt my little one the same way. I was living proof he would, I feared my little girl would be treated like a little princess and eventually be crushed like I was. I started planning an escape away out to save my little girl. I promised myself the day he made me feel threatened between my daughter and I, even if it was just another one of his stupid mind games, I was going to leave. I wasn’t going to deal with mind games when it came to my child, and that’s what happen so I left.

It‘s been almost 2 months. He tells me he loves me and misses me and checks on his little girl. He finally listened to me after years of telling him to go talk to someone about what’s going on in his head and make himself happy again and taking medication! And he is taking medication for his back and talking to Drs about that too. I’m so mad now that I finally have our baby after 4 years of trying, and I finally leave him. He starts to care and take care of himself and has a little more control. He wants me back, but he doesn’t know how he will react to me coming back and doesn’t want me to go through one of those dark episodes revolving around that subject. Which is still good he’s showing signs he cares!

I‘ve begged for our happy life back. Even though he may never be whole minded again, it‘s worth it. And that one person may never have me back, he might have these dark episodes the rest of his life. I want to be able to kiss my husband goodnight and sleep next to him, sleep under the same roof as him, raise our child together fight for our family even though things may never be perfect.

I saw that person while we were out at Buffalo Wild Wings. He was visiting us for a few days to talk things out, and see his little girl. He gave me a hug and said “Why? Why did you have to do this?” In the most loving and sincere voice. And even then I lost him again, as I tried so hard to explain to him, he had another episode that slowly escalated over 5 hours and finally reached it’s peak the last 2 hours, it was brutal. His dad was there to and could tell when it started, which helped me not feel so crazy.

Even then I was clueless about PTSD. And I hadn’t run into this site yet. Thankfully our baby can’t talk and understand all the horrible things he said. But it was one of his best episodes he’s ever had, because he snapped out if it, and apologized! Even though it was 10 minutes before I needed to go home for the night. I remember crying and hugging his dad that night because I thought Vic would never snap out of it and it made me feel a little better at least someone would huge me good bye.

Before he wouldn’t have apologized, or things would not be discussed why it happen. And he said he was sorry, and he was so angry he couldn’t stop thinking about the next time he would get to see his little baby girl and mad at me for leaving he couldn’t control the rage and he was sorry and loved me. But it was worth it, I got to see that little piece of him, even though I was completely emotionally numb, and I couldn‘t look him in the face and could hardly say the words I love you. I did tell him how much of a damn fool he made me feel like for putting my heart back out on the line again and he crushed it. But the important thing was he snapped out of it we talked it out, he said he was sorry, and he cared!

I’m Okay, now that I know! I went through so much with him without knowing or fully understanding it was PTSD. Imagine what I could have done, what I could do, if I was still there fighting for us. I want to find ways to cope with PTSD. I want to get counseling. I want to be there, I know it would be so much easier knowing what I’m fighting against PTSD and not just a crazy husband. I ran into this website recently last week and realize I was just one of hundreds going through similar things and finally recognize my husband wasn’t crazy for being the way he is, and this website made me understand there really is something horribly wrong with my husband PTSD and I wasn’t stupid for sticking things out with him for so long and I wasn’t crazy for loving this man.

If I had only known sooner my responsibility and how important it was that I was caring for a solider suffering with PTSD. If someone had taken the time and cared to really evaluate my husband. If only he had gotten some type of counseling. If only someone had a meeting that was mandatory for all spouses to take, to help identify symptoms and know your loved one is suffering from PTSD, to seek counseling, to find help, to know how to cope with all the responsibility, and someone to just to help you. Maybe I would still have my Victor and I would have never left. But I didn’t know that this was natural for him to feel and be this way, after being in an unnatural environment. I don’t want anyone else to go through this experience the way I did. I don’t want them to say "Well I didn’t know", and almost loose the one they love.

The Victor I knew before Iraq, please take me back.