Friday, February 19, 2010

The Support Group

After searching, I finally found out that there as a PTSD support group that met once a month at the VA and was for spouses. I don't know whether I just built it up in my head that this would be finally the time in the last two years that I would feel understood, or even not so alone in the fight. I waited for a month till the next one rolled around, drove forty-five minutes and managed to find a parking spot which is next to rare at this VA. After a two mile hike, found the room and immediately thought I was in the wrong place. The person running the group asked me if I was there for the PTSD spouse support and I replied yes....but I so wanted to tell her I think I am in the wrong room. There was only seven present and they were in their 50's or older age groups. All of them are Vietnam vets wives, and seemed friendly as well as welcoming. However, when it came to my talking about my personal experience and situations with my husband, it felt like I was being judged in their comments back to me.
Now before you think, "well you probably just misinterpreted it" let me tell you that their comments were "I have lived with PTSD and been miserable for 40 years of marriage"....pretty much to sum up this meeting I so looked forward to, it was "I really don't want to hear your issues as I have been there and done that". It wasn't also the issue of just not feeling accepted of my experiences, it was the age gap as well as the era/war gap. Now I know from reading and being a history buff, the Vietnam Vets have it much harder than our current soldiers do. I mean, for years PTSD wasn't even a diagnosed concern let alone any type of treatments available for them. I just felt like I had to explain every little military terminology or acronym because no one knew what I was talking about. Not only that, but I think the age difference made me singled out. It was as if my marriage and my experiences didn't amount to a hill of beans to any of those ladies.
This was the first disappointment of the group. The second was listening to these ladies tell their stories. Each of them haven't been to a restaurant in years with their husband or shopping. One lady hasn't been to a movie theatre since Smokey and the Bandit first hit the silver screen. Now not telling my age, but even I was around when that movie came out. I think just listening to the verbal abuse, the being ignored, the indifference their husbands show their families, just freaked me out! One lady said she was currently in AA due to her drinking issues. I felt sorry for her when she said sometimes a bottle of wine a day was the only way she could make it through the hours with her husband. The others had emotional problems, basically said they lead their lives and raised their children on their own, and pretty much have no idea what's going on with their husbands or even what they are doing.
So after hearing all the misery these ladies have been through, I felt like a fool. Like I had no right to be there complaining about my two years of hell. Selfishly, I wanted to say "hey you know, my two years count to! "But do they really when you are next to a spouse that has made it through 25+ of marriage? Did I have a right to feel like I mattered or my problems at home were just as important? When it was all spoken about their marriages and their husbands, I asked why they stayed and lived like that. A simple question in which they answered with honesty and all in agreement. It was an answer in such short words but was what I feared the most. "Because I knew I was all he had and leaving meant leaving him alone without anyone".

The same sentiment I feel now. I sit here day after day, especially after it's been a tiresome one filled with bitterness and resentment; reminding myself I am all he has. if I left him, what would he do? Would he do something irrational? Would he take care of himself? Would he take his medicines?
After an hour and a half, the time was up. Nothing was accomplished except my hopes for understanding dashed, my positive upbeat feelings about this meeting group completely slaughtered, and any hopes and wishes for the future completely destroyed. I left the room, and back out to the main building. I rode the elevator with a Vietnam Vet who was talking to himself. Sweetest man there ever was and offered to show me back out of the psychiatric ward of the building to the main lobby since I had gotten turned around and was lost. As angry and devastated as I was, I felt so bad because I know they can't help it. I felt mortified that I was selfish enough to sit there and think to myself, "what about me?" Then when you see these soldiers, no matter what war, or realize that perhaps family is really all they have. Without them, who by the way are really the only ones who can deal with it, where would these soldiers suffering be if they had no one? Even this veteran who was talking to himself and answering back, sported a golden ring on the left hand.
So far, I have done research....sought help that is supposed to be available as PTSD now is "no longer attached with a stigma" the Army says (but we know the truth don't we?). Gone to therapists, sought marriage counseling, read tons of books and online information, and in the end.....I realized the military isn't really there for you although it was promised, help is really not helping at all. Doors they claim that are open for families and the soldiers are not only closed, but locked. So what now you ask? I don't know. I am caught in that movie Groundhog's Day it feels, do I simply give in and accept this is my life for the coming many years of marriage? Do I try to keep going and fight for not only my husband and others who are in the same situation? Is it a fight that I won't win but come out of with bruises and more resentment? Or do I simply walk away and hope that quitting was the answer?
Regardless, my encounter with this "PTSD Support for Spouses" really didn't help me at all. Matter a fact, it has increased my bad mood since I left it and probably won't go back again. The only help it gave me was understanding that as the years go by, you either just got to accept and deal....or find comfort in the knowledge that through thick and thin, you stuck to your marriage vows although it means sacrificing personal happiness, love, friendship and family. These doctors I have come across only know what's in their medical books...perhaps they did a rotation in their medical schooling that just happened across a soldier with PTSD. I am so sick of hearing, "well I studied it but actually have no experience with PTSD nor do I know someone with it". Isn't it about time we have professionals who know what they are dealing with rather than spouting off medical and psychiatric terminology as the answer to everything? Live with it, and then come back and tell me again that term of "avoidance" and what it means to you, or be on the downhill runoff of his moods when a trigger is set off and then tell me what you know about the term "Triggers" and the coping skills you read about in college.

Hopefully, I am not the only one in the world with this feeling. It can't be so. I just think I am the only one with a big mouth and don't mind talking about it. Perhaps one voice will lead into many and that will make things happen. That is about the last hope I hold on to every day..........

Until Then,
A Supporter Of Been There's and Done That's

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