Friday, June 24, 2011

My Hero's Struggle

In honor of PTSD Awareness Day, June 27, Alice James decided to share her experiences with us as she came into this life after deployments and his discharge.  Thank you, Alice.
 A Veteran's Wife with no Military background
 I met my husband in 2008 about a year after he was discharged from the Marine Corps. He spent 10 years in the Marines and was deployed to Kosovo and twice to Iraq


When I first met my hero he was fun and active and we had a great time together. We had a deep connection and bond almost instantly. Neither of us had felt so close to another person before. I was a little hesitant to get into a serious relationship with my hero because early on I found out he had already been married 3 times and he was just 30 years old! I had never dated a military member before and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. 


We continued to date and slowly the signs of PTSD started to emerge but my hero was able to control them well. There were a few outbursts and fights but nothing that truly concerned me. He also had difficulty getting and keeping a job, but things started looking up when my hero was hired as a Private Investigator and started to excel in this position. He had difficulty sleeping and would be crabby when he was hungry or tired. He also rarely talked about his 10 years in the Marine Corps or anything about his combat tours in other countries. 


I just thought all of this was part of his personality. Especially since I did not know him before combat and it didn't seem to be a problem at the time. 


We got engaged Christmas Eve of 2008.


Then my husband was involved in a car accident in January of 2009. This is when he began to spiral out of control. My husband was diagnosed with Spondylolithesis. His L5-S1 disc had slipped forward in the car accident and was causing him a lot of pain. My hero started to go through bouts of depression, anger and anxiety.  Most of the time would not open up to me about how he was feeling but would lash out at me and others...seemingly for no reason. 


I was also scared to bring him out in public with me for fear he would “flip out.”  For example if we went out to a movie and someone bumped his chair from behind he would loudly say “Excuse You!” He explained to me that even a little bump would cause him a great deal of pain. I would try to explain that he needs to think before he reacts because I highly doubt the person intentionally caused him pain. He seemed to think that things like this were personal attacks on him and would then have an outburst. Also when we went out it would just escalate. If there was one incident then there most likely would be more throughout the day so it made me less likely to invite him out with me if I had errands to run. 


He would get upset at our dog for not “listening” to him when he wanted to come back inside from walking her. 


My husband then had surgery in March of 2009. We were excited and hopeful that this would heal his pain and he would be able to move forward in his life and chosen career. Unfortunately things only got much worse. My husband was no longer able to conceal the symptoms of PTSD because of the immense amount of pain he was in. He got into an argument with his mother and sister and he was essentially estranged from them for a long time. The argument started on Facebook so some of his friends and family contacted me telling me I needed to control my husband. I was working a 40 hour+ work week and coming home to care for my husband after surgery...how was I supposed to control his anger and aggression too?


About this time we started to talk about counseling but my husband was completely against it. Things continued to get worse and my husband would get upset at seemingly minor issues than lash out at me.


One night we got into a huge argument, I can not remember what started it, and my husband berated me and went through a list of things that I have done that hurt our relationship...all of this was news to me and he had never mentioned any of the issues before that day. Once he was done he went into our spare room and started playing video games. I was not done and wanted to address the issues. I marched in the room and started to yell right back at my husband when he appeared to be ignoring me and deeply involved in the video game I lost it and pulled back my fist... I truly felt in that moment I could punch him in the face. I didn't and he laughed at me which only angered me further so I decided the only way to make him listen is to give him back his engagement ring. He accepted it back and packed up his clothes and left our home. 


I was devastated and inconsolable. He would not answer the phone or anything and I had no idea where he was going, he was still estranged from his mother and sister and I didn't know of any close friends he would turn to.


Luckily he went to see my brother-in-law who was able to calm him down and he eventually came back home when he cooled off and we talked it out. To date this is the biggest argument we have ever had and I can not tell you what it was about or why it started. We again talked about counseling but my hero was still hesitant because he did not want to pay for that especially on our reduced income since he was injured and on disability. He also didn't want to drive all the way into the local VA hospital and spend all day waiting for an appointment.


I searched and searched for any VA programs to assist us. Finally after months of searching I found the Vet Center a few months before our wedding. The Vet Center was a god send. We started counseling and my hero wanted me to be present to make him feel more comfortable. It's funny because we still go together but it's not so much about us as it is about my hero and how to cope with PTSD. Now that he recognizes the signs and realizes how much happier he can be in his life he is thankful that we were able to find a place to help us. We have been going to counseling for about a year and my husband has also submitted a claim for PTSD compensation and he has admitted he needs medication to lengthen the fuse on his anger. He also recently started going to group therapy. He is the only one in group who is an OIF Veteran, everyone else is a Vietnam Veteran, and every week he is amazed that the Vietnam Veterans are suffering from the same issues that my hero suffers from. 


We are still working to find a medication that will help to lengthen his fuse on his anger and dealing with the VA medical side can be a struggle in itself. Unfortunately my husband's injuries still have not resolved, as his disc did not fuse from the first surgery and we are working through a lawyer to get a second surgery, also a struggle. There are a lot of triggers in my hero's life but together we are working through it. Luckily we have had the support of the Vet Center to help us navigate the VA Medical System. Our relationship is much stronger and less volatile now.  In fact we are expecting a baby girl any day now.  This will be the first child for both of us. I am sure that there will be new struggles and triggers with raising a child and we are happy to have the Vet Center to help us with that as well.
~ Alice James

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