We all know that this life leads us through many different obstacles and even more to overcome. Where we use to plan far in advance, we now find ourselves no longer planning and just living for the day, hour, and even sometimes, just for that moment. It can all change so quickly and without reason...
My name is Brittney Biddle and I am a new person on the team of Family of a Vet, as the Community Blog Coordinator. My husband is currently going through the medical separation from the Army, primarily for severe PTSD but many other things as well. Through all of this he finally received the formal diagnosis of TBI... Needless to say, we were already aware of the TBI, but through this we have received more information regarding it. I wanted to share some of my story with everyone. Just know, even in our darkest hours, we are never alone.
Earlier this evening my husband called me after his appointment with what was supposed to be a consultation for his sleep study. This appointment also left us wondering about more and also having a better understanding to things. The sleep study that he has been scheduled for takes place next month. They are going to monitor him for so many things during this time… the main reason started off to see if he suffers from sleep apnea… which the doctors are pretty much sure he does. We just need the sleep study to verify it all.
See, my husband has deployed a couple of times to Iraq and the time there has left him struggling daily with the nightmares and hell that he experienced over there. He has severe PTSD and is currently in the process of being medically retired from the army. The PTSD is just one of the many reasons they are retiring him. He is very limited to what he can do in life from all the physical and emotional injuries he has endured. Physically, he has had multiple surgeries, has permanent nerve damage, problems with his knees, backs, arms, and more. As far as his arms go, at times his hands become stuck in a paralyzed form that even surgery could not fully “fix”. He still does not have full feeling in his hands. He has scars that take up most of each arm from the nerves having to be moved around and reconnected. My husband got so bad that he could no longer hold items in his hands nor could he open his water and Gatorade bottles. For the most part he has regained the ability to open bottles. His back tends to get worse as time goes on. He has to see the chiropractor and acupuncture doctor a few times during the week for his problems. He has degenerative disc disease, bone spurs, crushed vertebrae, and more that affects his daily life. He cannot turn his head all the way to the left. His back is misaligned. His head slumps forward as he is unable to hold his head all the way back. This and more is all combat related….
Two deployments, with constant missions, being a lead or tail gunner, being thrown from his vehicle, being caught in the middle of numerous IED’s, running and taking cover from mortars and FOB attacks has all left my husband scarred for life. There is so much more that I could write in this area, but I won’t. There is no need to fill everyone in on every detail that pertains to our lives. This is all anyone really needs to know. I am just trying to give you a better understanding of what he has been through and what we face on a daily basis.
He also suffers from TBI, which today we were able to find out more information on this matter. I know that we are all aware of the different sections of the brains and that each section has control of areas of the body. Well, the front part of your brain helps plan and control behavior. If this area is damaged, the person directly affected may have problems controlling his or her anger. In return, this may lead to fights, anger outbursts, emotional abuse, and much more. When my husband and I first met he was a pretty laid back kind of guy. He has always been “short” tempered, but never one to have mood swings that change on a moment’s notice. Maybe “short” tempered was the wrong term to use… Let’s say he has never had patience which in turn may have led to him running his mouth. Lol.
Shortly after returning from his 2006-2007 deployment, I noticed many changes in him. Of course, this was expected. They had just survived a living hell. The stories I have been told have left me speechless, which is hard to do. They have left me full of pain, heartache, love, and more respect that I ever imagined for my husband. As time went by, I noticed more anger outbursts and fights between us. Before I go on, no he has never been physical with me in a harmful way. I noticed us drifting apart which broke my heart. I was at a loss! He was home for about 17 months before deploying again. Everyone that understands and lives this life knows that just because he is home doesn’t mean he is actually home. Those seventeen months were taken over by training, FTX’s, NTC, and whatever else came along with it.
Early 2009 my husband was sent back overseas. During this deployment he became a man that I didn’t know. Our fights became worse and more frequent to the point we were on the verge of calling it quits… I won’t go into much detail on this. He was sent home from Iraq after about 7-8 months for corrective and emergency surgery. This is when his hands had just quit working and he was paralyzed. Following this, we did separate for a short time. Short as in not long enough to account for anything, yet long enough for us to open our eyes and get it together. 2010 was by far one of the best years, emotionally, for us. We were able to reconnect and become better as a couple.
However, I still saw the angry outbursts and it scared me. Not for my sake or even our kids, but because this was not my husband! At least not the one that I had met and fallen in love with years before. I remember one day, we went to the Wal-Mart Market, our local grocery store. He was in a fabulous mood when we left the house, which had me so excited. We were waiting for this extremely slow driver to remove themselves from the space that we were waiting for when another guy came flying around the corner. This jerk acted as though he was going to cut in front of us and take the spot. I thought nothing of this until I saw the vein in my husband’s nose pop out and his jaw starts flinching. I was amazed at how quickly his mood had changed. He had gone from one extreme to the next in a matter of seconds. In a serious warning tone, he made it clear that if that “f’ing jackass parked there it was going to get pretty damn ugly”. Thank God, we were able to still park in that spot. Again, I won’t go into an ugly detail of what went through his head at this time, but I had never seen him act like this. Had something happened and he acted out, my husband would have gone to jail, then probably to the mental hospital for a while. This is just one of many incidents.
Back to today with the doctor. She explained to him that she has no doubt he has TBI, or Traumatic Brain Injury. The front of his brain is permanently damaged from being hit so many times, this leading to his angry outburst. This is the reason we stay at home like we do and we never put him in crowded situations. Yes, I have had to give up things due to this, but there is no regret at all. I would rather see my husband enjoy life any day than to sit in a movie theater or at a concert. These guys with TBI are not taken seriously enough and it is sad. This goes for the PTSD as well. I could write for days on each topic and what my husband and family have been through, currently live through, and will face in the future. Stay tuned and I am sure you will hear more on it all! So, if you have a spouse that angers and shows it through situations like this, there may be more to it that either of you realized. We now know that on top of the PTSD he really is suffering through TBI. He also has moments of seeing black or close to when he gets this angry. It will last a few seconds.
No, I do not walk on egg shells with him. I have learned that plans change in a moment’s notice. We may have plans to go out with friends or eat dinner somewhere, and those plans are quickly stopped. That’s okay with me. I have adjusted to this life. As I said before, I wouldn't change it. Though my husband is far from the same, he still came home to me. And that my friends, I will NEVER take for granted. I never plan far in advance due to this. I just tell people that we will have to see as the time gets closer. I never expect anyone to understand, nor do I care to put our personal lives out in the open for everyone to take place in. This is something that directly affects five people every day and that is all that truly matters. All else falls into place as it happens. There are days when phone calls won’t be answered nor returned. Not because we are avoiding anyone, but more because we need a quiet house. We need that downtime.
I am going to now bring this to a close. The main purpose was that I wanted to explain that I found out more about my husband’s angry outbursts and weak moments in life. I now have a better understanding to what is behind the TBI and that it isn’t always a short term thing. It can be lifelong. Hold the ones you love close, because we never know what tomorrow will bring. If you are married to someone that is in the military that has been through this, you know not to take life for granted and to cherish the small things and moments in life. Once they deploy, there are things we will never get back, however, there are also things that we gain from it all. Don’t hold on to the past, let that time go. Look forward to the future and what it has in store. We may never know what one day to the next will bring, but we all have a lot to be thankful for. If you can sit down at night and look at your spouse, then that is all you could ask for. If you a parent or a child of someone who suffers from these things, be thankful that your parent or child made it back. In this condition, you are just lucky to have them. We all are. Hold that close and let that lead you through the moments of darkness and hard times. Quit letting the moments of plans changing or moments of forgetfulness be such an issue in life. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Quit getting so mad or bent out of shape because they don’t feel up to being around people or going to dinner. Stay home with them and cherish the fact they are still here! Take a step back and realize what these men and women have had to endure and how the direct effect of it has taken a toll on them. Do you think they want this or want to feel this way? Each of us only knows what we are told and will NEVER know the whole story and all the images and stories. If you want to be so tough on them, then please take a walk in their shoes. Until then, each of us need to be the support and backbone I know we are all capable of being. There is no one and nothing (other than your children) that should matter more than your spouse. If they are having a rough day, don’t go out without them. Be by their side and show them that you will ALWAYS be there for them, rain or shine, good day or bad… I know it can sometimes be difficult, but you have the strength within you... We all do.