Monday, March 25, 2013

I Refuse to Be Shamed into Silence

I am the wife of a "good soldier" who has and continues to serve our country bravely and valiantly. He, as a soldier, is my hero and I will always be proud of his service to our country.

From the outside looking in, it appears that we are living the American dream. In measure of material things, we have more than most. When we are in public, he seems to be a caring and supportive husband. Often other women will tell me how lucky I am because I have such a good, hard working and loving husband. I flash them that "Yes I Know" smile, hoping they don't detect it is only a mask I hide behind to cover the tears that have often flooded my marriage since my husband returned home from deployment in 2006.

The man who came home from that deployment was not the one I sent off to war. Before the deployment, I had a loving, caring and attentive husband. After, I had a husband who was paranoid and full of rage. Before, I never knew my husband to have a headache. After, he had headaches so bad he would almost drop to his knees. Crowds made him nervous and he often had nightmares.

He also did things that revealed he was struggling with impulse control. One day, shortly after he returned home, we had just finished grocery shopping and were pushing a cart full of food to our car. He decided someone had parked too close to our car, so he grabbed a bag of groceries, raised it up in the air, and looked like he was going to throw it on their car. When I frantically asked, "What are you doing?" he froze in his tracks. Not only was I shocked by his behavior, I became more concerned than I had been before. It was at that moment that I realized something was wrong, seriously wrong, but I didn't know what to do about it.

Since that time, we have dealt with many other episodes of his poor impulse control and explosive temper. Most of the time, he seems like a shell, devoid of the ability to love or care about anyone, as if he is empty of all emotion. If anything goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else, never him. Despite all this, he is still a "good soldier" because he does his job and he does it well. He has become a workaholic. I'm not a doctor or psychologist, but I think he buries himself in his work so he doesn't have to deal with or think about what is causing his anger issues. Because he is a "good soldier", his chain of command does not acknowledge there is a problem and won't have him evaluated for PTSD or anything else that might have caused this change in his personality. After all, he is a "good soldier." A wife and children are unneeded extras in his life. I mean, who hasn't heard the old saying, "If soldiers needed wives and children, they would be issued to them."

If not for my strong faith in God, I know I could not have emotionally survived the last seven years. I don't expect people to understand why I have stayed with him because most don't get it. But in my heart, when I took my vows to him and before God, I fully meant everything I promised. No matter what, through richer and poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, I intended to stay the course and to protect and nurture our marriage. That is what I have tried to do. I am not going to say it has been easy, because it hasn't. At times, it has been nothing but hell on earth. My husband, or the man the military sent home to me after the deployment, became emotionally abusive. I thought I was good at handling it, knowing that it wasn't my husband, but instead some monster inside him. I just wanted to take care of him and help him get better. But somewhere in the process of trying to take care of him, I forgot to take care of myself. The harsh reality of that fact hit me when I found myself being taken to the crisis center in an ambulance in the middle of the night after my husband's intentionally cruel treatment sent me into deep despair. It was then I realized I must take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.

Healing doesn't happen quickly. I'm not sure I will ever be completely healed. I know I will wear the scars from this for the rest of my life. After hours upon hours of prayer; after struggling with my faith at times; after feeling like God had abandoned me and my marriage; I came to the realization that God was giving me insight that needs to be shared. By doing so, I believe He will help me to continue to heal from the horrors of "this war at home."

This is a difficult topic to write about because there is shame attached to it. This shame causes many to remain silent and suffer alone. It shouldn't be that way but it is. Society tells us we should leave certain types of relationships, so people can sometimes be very judgmental. They don't understand that war has caused "invisible" damage to  many of our soldiers and despite news stories to the contrary, our military leaders are still often ignoring this. Wives and children are now becoming causalities of war as our soldiers return home. Our pain is simply the cost of war and we are just collateral damage in the eyes of many. I refuse to accept that. 

I refuse to be collateral damage in America's most recent war. I refuse to become  a statistic of combat related PTSD and domestic abuse. I refuse to allow people to shame me into silence.

I know I am not the only military wife going through this. I know I am not the only one struggling to get some help for a husband who came back from war an entirely different person. I know I am not the only one who has a need to be heard. I hope that by my sharing the trials and tribulations my marriage has endured due to my husband's military service, not only am I able to continue in my own healing process, but to also help others who need to heal.

Submitted By: "Military Wife"
"This War Is At Home"

2 comments:

  1. Hi Aimee,

    Thank you for talking about your experiences dealing with PTSD in your family to openly. This issue needs to be talked about more.

    I am a musical artist who has a song in a short film about combat PTSD. The film is called "Wounds of War" and the song is my version of "Ave Maria." I hope you will find some value in the film and song: http://wp.me/p3mOze-R

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    1. Thank you for your response. I just wanted to clarify that the above post was a submission from a lady who wished to go by the pen name "Military Wife". Aimee is FOV's Communications Liaison who handles the Blog postings. Where as she is also the spouse of a disabled veteran with PTSD, she was not the one who wrote the above post.

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