Join us in reading Walking On Eggshells, Part Three from Mrs. S and stay tuned for the release of Part Four next Monday!
My husband's weekly OIF/OEF group had ended up with a temporary new coordinator....a wonderful, motivational amputee Marine Veteran. My husband was very motivated by him. He'd come home so much more positive after his group sessions following this man. I was so thankful that my husband had a new friend that was such a positive influence. He was inspired when he learned that his new friend had such perseverance... participating in marathons, triathlons, and surfing with only one leg. My husband no longer worried about his knee pain, seeing how lucky he was to still have both of his legs.
He signed up for a Memorial Day 5K Wounded Warrior Run with his new friend. We were so proud, but worried that his knees may give him problems; yet he seemed to have no worries. We were so happy to see him run across the finish line with is friend; he even turned around to locate my uncle , who also ran the 5K, just to run the rest of the way with him. This brought tears to my eyes. It was such a huge accomplishment for him. The whole day was wonderful, a huge military celebration with helicopter landings, military vehicles, kid play area, car show, and a Memorial Tribute.
As night began to fall, we decided to visit the Memorial Tribute before leaving. There were huge banners of local fallen heroes from the OIF/OEF wars. We stopped and paid a silent tribute to each one. When we got the the second to last banner, my husband started to cry. I was glad he felt comfortable enough to finally show emotion and I tried my best to comfort him. When he was able to gather himself, I asked him what exactly made him cry. He told me that the soldier on that second to the last banner was the one who took his place during a mission in Iraq that was ambushed. Who would've known that the person who lost his life in place of my husband was from the same area that we lived? I couldn't believe that we were just standing there, paying a tribute to a banner of a soldier that could have so easily been my husband.
I didn't even know what to say. All I could do was let him know it wasn't his fault and that he must be meant for bigger and better things. Besides, it that were him on that banner we wouldn't have out youngest child and our older two would be without their father. Over the next few weeks I could tell he was sad, but I tried to encourage him to have a new perspective on life.
One day while we were out picking up our daughter from martial arts, we came home and found Animal Control parked in our driveway. They had one of our dogs loaded up in their truck and were trying to catch our other. I took the kids in the house while he talked to them in order to find out what was going on. Apparently, our dogs had escaped our backyard and the neighbor called to report them. When Animal Control arrived to pick them up, she and one of the dogs were attacked by bees. She was finally able to get the dog attacked by bees in the truck and noticed she had blood by her mouth that was thought to be from bee stings. She then explained the situation to my husband and issued him a ticket for having loose dogs. We got both dogs back into the yard and repaired their escape area. Two days later, Animal Control was back to inform us that while our dogs were out, a smaller dog was attacked and almost killed. The owners of the dog was taking us to court to sue for the dogs hospital bill, which was over $3000! We were flabbergasted. We had no idea that our dogs had caused any harm and now they had to be declared viscous.
This was all starting to take a toll on my husband. He became so frustrated at school he flew off the handle at another student, yelling and cursing at him. He never went back to that class. He was angry all the time. One day he, yet again, started to lay into me on how I ruined his career in the army by asking him to not re-enlist. I just couldn't stand being blamed anymore and lashed back telling him to quit feeling sorry for himself. I went to leave with our baby in my arms to go get the other two kids from the bus stop. He reached out to stop me from leaving and I moved his arm out of my way. He grabbed me and pushed me into a wall telling me how easily he killed people ‘over there’ and how easily he could do it now too. I couldn't believe it. My ‘mama lion’ instinct came out with vengeance. I started punching him in his arms screaming at him to get a grip. He had such a puzzling look on his face. I couldn't understand what had just happened and I don’t think he did either.
I was so shaken, angry, scared, and emotionally hurt. I left the house and got the kids from the bus stop. I debated calling the police but knew he had enough legal issues lingering and I didn't think him going to jail would help him in any way so I called his OIF/OEF VA case worker, his mom, and my uncle instead telling them what happened. I also emailed our marriage counselor. I sat in the car at the bus stop for almost an hour just sobbing and feeling overwhelmed. When I finally calmed down the kids and I went to stay at my moms.
Had I had enough? What the hell was going on with him? How could he push me while I was carrying our baby? Has he completely lost it? What am I going to do? Is this combat PTSD? Who is this person? What did I do so wrong? How can I help him? These among many other questions were going through my head over the next few days. I just tried to keep it together as much as I could for our kids but inside I was falling apart. I even attempted to take the kids to their back to school night. As I was pulling into the parking lot, one of the school janitors directed me to another parking area…and when I started to pull into that parking area, another school janitor flagged me down to tell me that I couldn’t park there. I just bursted into tears…I turned around and went back to my moms. I wasn’t emotionally stable enough to even attend my kids’ back to school night. I felt like a failure as a mother.
I returned to the house the next day to get clothes for us when I knew he wouldn’t be there. As I was rummaging through stuff I found knives under his pillow. I couldn’t understand why he had slept with knives under his pillow. This scared me.
We talked on the phone and he said how sorry he was and didn’t know why he lost it but said that the military was such a big part of his life and he couldn’t let it go. I asked him why he had slept with knives under his pillow. He said it was because he felt like I was going to send the police after him and they did come, he’d go out in a blaze of glory. He felt like he was losing control. His OIF/OEF case worker talked with him a lot over those few days and let him know that they were obligated by law to report the situation to child protective services. They also told him that he was really suffering from severe PTSD and recommended he go to an inpatient stay at the National Center for Veterans with PTSD. He quickly agreed and dropped out of school to go there in hopes of getting some real help. I was on board 100% and was excited to learn what I could do at home to help.
We soon found out that this program was only aimed toward the veteran. If he was learning new ways to deal with life at home I felt that I should have been learning too, so we could be on the same page. I requested but received no information and didn't know how to learn to live with him gone again. He did decent there at first. He met some new friends there at the center but had instant issues with the staff. He lasted about 9 days before he told everyone there to f*#k off and drove himself home. He committed to attend a local OIF/OEF weekly PTSD group and continue with our marriage counseling instead. He had to deal with his legal issues anyway and planned to start school again.
After going to court for the car and the dogs…we paid well over $5000. Then we started receiving statements declaring that he owed at least $5000 back to the GI bill since he had previously dropped classes and had dropped out of school completely to go to the national center. Our landlords also told us that the homeowner’s association of the neighborhood we lived in no longer felt safe because of our dogs so we were forced to find a new home for them.
If it wasn't one thing, it was another at this point. We had to sell our nice new big vehicle, had to have a yard sale, and he had to take on odd jobs so we could make ends meet. We had to beg his mom to let our dogs live in a kennel in her backyard until we found someone to adopt them because we couldn't bare to have them put down. We also had to deal with the constant dirty looks from our neighbors. Even though we were making payments on the GI bill, his VA compensation check started getting garnished.
I too started isolating by this point. I became pretty depressed and standoffish. I also became easily startled and very quick tempered. Needless to say, we were arguing quite often but I would do anything I could to not aggravate him more. If he started to become frustrated, we would walk on eggshells…when he started to shout we would shutter and scatter.
Once again I thought things will be fine once we get all this debt paid off. We figured that if he went back to school GI bill would be paid off quicker so he did. We were accepting our lives as they were and starting to just roll with the flow until we received a call that his Grandpa had a bad fall that caused his brain to swell. His Grandpa was a huge influence in his life and he had been a drill sergeant in the army during the Korean War. My husband had spent a lot of time with his grandpa growing up. He was the reason he wanted to be a drill sergeant too. My husband was so devastated when he learned that his grandpa was ailing.
We drove three hours to the hospital where grandpa was at and three hours home quite a few times during those two weeks causing my husband to miss a lot of school. Grandpa was going from bad to worse and it was a hard time for the entire family.
After Grandpa passed we went to his house for a celebration memorial. We brought our quads to ride as that was something Grandpa would have liked us to do. It was an emotional time but we kept a brave face and tried to have some fun. On our way home we stopped at our favorite riding spot to ride our quads. Our older kids were riding together and began climbing a steep hill on the quad. We were yelling to them to stop or turn around but they didn't hear us. They became stuck and my husband ran up there to help but starting screaming at them instead. He became so enraged and smacked our daughter in the head…not hard and she had her helmet on, but it was still shocking. Others at the off-road park had even seen what had happened and started screaming at him to take it easy on the kids. I was so upset and embarrassed.
We loaded up and left, not saying a word to each other the entire ride home, not as if we could with the baby screaming his head off the entire ride. He knew how pissed off I was. I kept trying to tell myself that he was just under too much stress. When we got home we talked as a family and he told the kids that he was sorry and that it is never okay to hit anyone in anger, even if they have a helmet on. We needed to find a better way to eliminate some stress. We talked about spending more quality time as a family and starting family counseling. He decided to drop a class to free up some time for that. He had fallen behind anyway from missing classes during grandpa’s hospital stay. This caused him to yet again owe more to the GI bill.
Summer came and we invested our lives in the kid’s sports. He tossed around many career ideas and even thought to start a non-profit for disabled vets to ride ATV’s. Ideas came and went like the weather. If I didn't jump up and down and throw confetti about every new idea he had…I wasn’t supporting him. Day to day was exhausting. I never knew who I would wake up to so I didn't even care about how I felt anymore. I based what I said, what I did and how I felt on how he was. We continued to go to marriage counseling and he continued to go to his groups but things weren't getting any better. He started school again in the fall and was very pro-active. He was very dedicated and took advantage of any opportunity offered. He even started an OIF/OEF group at the school and through his automotive class, created his own internship at a local dealership. He seemed happy with his new job but overwhelmed with school.
Out of the blue one day, he became distraught. He didn't seem well at all and even mentioned suicide. We left him alone since I didn’t want to aggravate him anymore. I felt that anything I said or did could just make it worse so I sent a text all of his close friends explaining that he was having a bad day. I could hear him in the garage occasionally yelling, hitting things and talking on the phone with his friends so I figured he was getting whatever it was out of his system and would be fine.
I didn't tell the kids anything because I didn’t want to scare them…besides, they knew to avoid him when he was angry anyway. Unfortunately, our daughter went out to the garage to ask daddy a question and found him sitting in a chair, crying, with a gun in his lap. This shook him enough back to reality that he put the gun away and came in. He realized he didn't want to leave the kids that way. I couldn’t believe he was actually going to take his own life in our garage. I didn't know what to think or how to react or interact with him.
Within two weeks he had an appointment with his psychiatrists. I went with him and made sure they knew he had become suicidal. They strongly suggested he start eliminating stress by quitting his internship at the dealership. I felt that his internship brought him happiness and I wasn't sure that quitting would relieve whatever was going on with him, but he quit anyway. His psychiatrists also suggested that all guns be removed from our home. He didn't agree to get rid of them though so I asked him if he’d at least keep the ammo and guns in two different locations.
We were in the middle of moving during this time too …to a house that we could have our dogs back in our yard. I thought for sure that him having his dogs back would help him and bring him some peace. This was short-lived though. He stopped going to marriage counseling and his PTSD group stating that they just cause too much stress and besides, he felt they only tell him what’s wrong with him instead of what’s wrong with everyone else. He told me that I was the one who had something wrong with me. I told him that I was more than willing to accept that I need help too and would love to get counseling for myself but couldn't without medical insurance. Our marriage counselor said she could only legally see me individually a couple times without him. She eventually sent me an email saying that she didn't think she could counsel us anymore anyway.
He requested to see a new psychiatrist about 40 miles away. We decided to meet with him together for his appointment. The timing of his appointment required us to pick up our son from school and bring him along with us. On the day of the appointment we started getting ready and planned to pick up our son. My husband started becoming angrier by the moment. Every minuscule thing seemed to bother him. We proceeded to our son’s school to pick him up anyway. We argued the whole way there. I was so frustrated by the time we arrived I slammed the door as I got out of the car. This really set him off and he started screaming profanities at me on the school campus in front of the office. I was so humiliated. I thought that this would definitely be reported to child protective services and I refuse to loose our kids because of his behavior.
I was going to just stay at the school because I didn't want to get back in the car with him. He told me if I didn't though, I would regret it. I didn’t want to cause more of a scene so I got back in the car and we drove home instead of his appointment not speaking the entire car ride. By the time we reached home we were both calm and he couldn't figure out why he had exploded. I told him that was what the trip to the psychiatrist was for…to help him and his explosions. I convinced him to keep the appointment and I called his mom to pick up our kids from school explaining that he was having a ‘bad’ day.
The psychiatrist seemed understanding and familiar with PTSD. He prescribed some low doses of different meds and sent us home in hopes that the medication would help my husband’s moods would improve.......