Last night, Kev looked at me during one of our conversations and said, "Remember when I volunteered to stay over in Mosul for an extra month as part of the last ones back?" I had kind of forgotten about that part because I had been so excited to have him home when the time did come, which is what I told him. He then proceeded to tell me that he didn't want to come home because he was all messed up in the head. I was surprised when this was admitted, and asked "So, you already knew?". He then told me that he knew something had been real off and that he wasn't right at all..... I felt sick knowing how he actually kept his composure around me and others for the first couple of months of being home in 2008 following redeployment in December 2007.
I then thought of the fact that on New Years Eve, only two weeks after him coming home how we were all shooting off fireworks. I wonder how he was able to do that, but then again, all the guys were drinking a good bit that year. As wives, with limited knowledge on PTSD, we just thought it was mainly them coming home and allowed to drink again. At that time, PTSD wasn't known as it is now. Which, sounds crazy, I know. Today it's talked about a lot more, yet it's still kept real quiet. This is one and what I have lived through are some of the big reasons on why I want to make a difference and why I have become such an advocate with PTSD, TBI, and other after war issues that arise, mental or physical.
Around March or April is when I really began to notice many differences in him. He had started to become real distant and would lose himself in video games. That actually seemed to take over when he was home. I was doing everything around the house. One night I woke up him holding a pillow over my face and struggling to breathe, with him having no idea what he was doing. When June came around, we made a trip to Atlanta for my Brother-in-law's wedding and we all witnessed Kevin drinking a lot on this occasion, which is not normal for him. He wasn't drinking at home, yet in front of his parents and our family he was drunk...at a wedding.
We left the girls in Atlanta for a few weeks in order to let everyone see them and for them to enjoy much needed time with the grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I realized July 4th how that was the best decision we could have made for them. We didn't do anything out and about for July 4th, because he said he just didn't want to and we were tiling our house. As we were putting tile throughout it, the local people around us started up with the firecrackers and partying. This was the first time I had witnessed him extremely jumpy and starting to freak out. This is when I realized something was truly wrong and how much he had changed. For months, he had done so well holding himself together and keeping his battle within away from us. I knew things had changed, but with kids and work, sadly I didn't realize how much. With in no time that night, we were arguing and to this day, I can't even tell you why. We spent the rest of the weekend at each other's throats.
From this point the episodes and rages became more frequent. He would scan the bridges like crazy when we would drive near one, acting as though he was back in the gun turret. He watched everyone around us and all that they were doing, more suspiciously that I had ever seen before. He would snap at the oddest moments and times towards me and the kids. Yet, no matter what I said or did.... he refused to seek help because he told me that I would understand had I been there, lived through the hell that he had, done and seen what he had, witnessed the fire fights, the IED's, VBEDS, Mortars, RPG's, cleanup details, recovery missions, and more. In time he began to tell me detailed stories and experiences. Again, I felt sick and angry knowing the hell my husband had just lived through. No wonder he wasn't the same. This just wasn't right.
Not even seventeen months after his return, he was on a plane heading back over. He was placed on a special mission and left with nine other guys that he was leading, more than a month before Advon even took off. While he was over there our marriage went to hell, we were ready to file for divorce, he was having major breakdowns and episodes....to the point he said he didn't care if he came back or not. We heavily fought and said the most ugliest things to one another. I was so angry with him after many of our conversations. Yet, no matter how angry we were, we never hung up without telling each other we loved one another and me telling him to watch his surroundings. Regardless of where we were in life, there were still three little ones that needed their daddy; and quite honestly, my heart was breaking. I could not have handled something happening to him, no matter how cold I acted towards him.
After that deployment, he finally decided to seek mental health. Upon doing this, we realized just how destroyed he really is and all that he carries on him. There was a lot more to be learned and worked on than either of us realized. He sunk into a drunken stupor and was popping pills like they were candy. People around him knew more than I did, just how bad he was drinking. He became a pro at hiding his drinking and pill popping, even from me. Which, to this day infuriates me because now I feel as though I should have known. Yet, they did nothing to prevent this or to let me know. I was in the dark on a lot of it. He started buying whiskey almost every other day and would mix it with everything he could, to the point of just drinking it straight. This was all new for us. I started to keep the kids busy with any activity I could, just to keep them away from him. I watched everything he did and became overly worried. After months of this and a complete breakdown from me, he finally stopped. Throughout the drinking, he was still under the care of mental health. The only thing that kept them from committing him was because they knew that I had a hold on him and that he wasn't a threat to us at home. We never felt threatened and still don't today. I don't fear for us, just for everyone around us that may strike a nerve or anger him. He is on many different medications for everything he is going through. Without them, I want to beat him because of his attitude and actions. I refuse to let him skip out on taking any of them because he really does need them in order to function and process things the best he can now.
PTSD is not a joke and there is no way I could put into words all of our experiences. Nor, would I want to share everything that we have battled. Some details are just too harsh. I watch my husband struggle on a daily basis from and through many things. I see the battles that he fights from within himself. I've seen his good days and some of the worst. There have been days I have seen this amazing man just break into tears and my heart hurts, then breaks. The stories I have heard, the things he has done and lived through, his experiences... none of it seems fair. I could never put into words what knowing all of this has done to me. The good part to knowing, is knowing the triggers, understanding why he is like he is to the best of my ability for someone that wasn't there, able to better protect our kids when moments are rough and he falls into a single episode or a week of ruts, and to know the signs that he is about to have a bad time. I have a better grasp on his struggles and am told by him, that I am the one that gets him through every moment of it. I am his security. I am the only one that can keep him from doing something he shouldn't and who can slap him back into reality. He tells his doctors and anyone that asks, that I am the only one that can handle and control him. In so many ways, this all means more to me that I can express. I say this because I have seen the majority of spouses be pushed to the side or feel clueless in what to do, how to handle their service member. I don't know how I do it, I guess it just depends on the situation. However, I do it because I wouldn't choose any other ways. I do it because he is my life and I love him. I do it because I want him here to see our kids grow up, for them to have their daddy with them, and selfishly because I can't imagine my life without him in it. There are days when I have to get in front of him and just yell for him to stop. I have to show a terrible attitude to break him out of it. I have seen others try, yet it doesn't work with them. Somehow he says I am the one that holds the key to it all. There are days I can simply just talk to him and calm him down. It all just depends on the situation. I never gave up hope, and I never will. We have a long road ahead of us with many challenges that we will face in our daily life. We can do it though. I am here for the long run and will fight this right beside him.
To the ones that feel lost like I did for so long, and like I do from time to time now, never give up hope. Keep pushing to remain strong. When you don't feel that strength, contact someone. Find your outlet. Email me if you would like. I will always be a message away to anyone that I can help. Just, don't give up. These men and women need us more than we realize, just like even on their worst day, we need them. Educate yourself on PTSD and TBI. I did for endless hours and I still do. I have learned so much in doing this and it's all been worth the time spent on it. Through our battles, it has become my goal to help as many as I can, to let them know they are not alone, to hold their hand while they work through these struggles, and to be their outlet if need be. This life is not easy, but it's worth it for many reasons to stand beside your husband, wife, mother, father, or child. Just don't give up. Their battles and the demons they face every day and night, are a lot larger than what any of us realize.
FOV Community Blog Coordinator