Friday, June 21, 2013

PTSD Awareness: Sometimes Two Parts are Stronger than the Whole

Photo by mimagirl

Homecomings can be both the best day and the worst day of deployments.  As family members, we wait for months to see the person we love walk off a bus and come home.  Sometimes, the time away is true of the eloquent but simple statement, “absence makes the heart grow fonder."  However, it is not that simple anymore.
It is one thing when your love comes home from War tired, anxious, and disconnected from the family. All of this is expected and changes with time.  It is another thing when they come home empty.  You look into the eyes of the person who promised to love you forever, searching for that love.  You are filled with a deep, chilling fear when you see nothing.
After multiple deployments, that is what I saw and what followed was completely unexpected.  We left the military base where we were stationed and moved on to the next phase of our military life.  I hoped that the move would be the change we needed.  I hoped that with time, we would heal and he would come to terms with the agonizing pain of War.  Post-traumatic stress is a simple fact.  Our service members are facing trauma and they have to deal with it in some manner.  The stress is the mind's attempt at coping.  It is when the stress becomes unmanageable that we acknowledge the disorder and make an attempt to support it with therapy and medications.
But what happens to those that appear to "manage" it?  Their empty shell becomes their new essence and their rage becomes their weapon.  My family would not have been identified as one in need of help. But behind closed doors, we were falling apart.  I stayed awake countless nights, afraid to fall asleep.  I learned to keep my head down, hoping to avoid antagonizing his pain.  I realized the man that I married hated me and everything I did to soothe him only made him angrier.  I feared him.  I was no longer a partner in life but his enemy.  And how empty that must have made him feel.
We attempted marriage counseling countless times.  I was surprised at how many times the "experts" missed the cues about what was really happening in our world and each time we were told the same thing.  "I don't think there is anything I can do to help you."
I promised myself that I would leave if our young children were affected. Funny thing about kids, by the time you see the impact on them, it is already too late.  I hung on, hoping that someone would recognize our dire situation and save us.   One night, I sat in my car, on the edge of a cliff, begging God to take away our pain.  I knew I needed to make some very hard decisions.
Our family had been through so much--we should have been able to make it through it all.  In honoring a commitment to serve his country, my husband sacrificed much of his soul, the part that belonged to us. 
Our family has now become a part of the growing statistics.  A story with no name, children whose lives are forever changed because, they too, were expected to sacrifice for their country.  Although fractured, my family still cherishes the friendships made with our fellow military families.  We "soldier on" and slowly, we are separately becoming whole again. And while I am no longer a military wife, I will always honor the commitment that my husband, and my family, made to this country. 

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