I recently had spoken to another spouse on the phone after she was given my number by referral from a mutual friend. Her husband had just come back from Iraq mid last year and was encountering some issues. For a while, she said she just ignored much of it and hoped it would eventually just pass. As things progressed and so did the months, she said she just began lying to herself that everything was ok. This led me to thinking about all the times I had lied to myself, and even to others about what goes on behind closed doors.
I am one of those people who has a high tolerance for many things save but a few. Those "few" include stupidity (there is a HUGE difference between that and ignorance), rudeness, racism, and liars. Now I am no saint...I will admit that. I have from time to time, been known to whip out the little white lies. Called in sick to work when I wasn't, faked a headache when I wasn't in the mood, and included Santa, Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy in my little white lies with my children. Overall though, I see no point in lying and am an honest person. I am one of those firm believers that lying will come back to bite you in the end and because I am honest, I expect the same in return. To lying, I always had that mentality of "Give yourself enough rope, you will eventually hang yourself."
When it comes to PTSD though, a reoccurring statement amongst most spouses is the Veteran lying. It can be about anything; money, drugs, alcohol, having affairs, among many others. No one stops to think about how much lying is done on behalf of ourselves, the spouse/caregiver. We lie about everything. We lie to our families or as one spouse stated "lied by omission". We lie to the outside world, and some even lie to their counselors about what goes on in their marriages as if that lie is going to make counseling work better for them. We choose to talk about what we want and leave out the rest. We lie to our friends and co-workers...we lie to our children. We lie to each other, meaning Spouse to Veteran. THEN when the lies couldn't get any more in numbers, we start lying to ourselves.
I could seriously relate to the young lady who told me she lied to herself....I have done that myself. Me! The person who hates liars...Me who holds contempt for those that lie to me when its unnecessary. Yes, I lied all the time. Looking back over the past years, did it really help me any at all? To this day....after all the education, the firm belief that there isn't anything to be ashamed of or be judged for...still doesn't tell my sister everything. I still lie to myself, with the whole statement of "maybe it will just go away". I look back now, and can't even remember when I had to start lying!
I think with the families of PTSD and TBI, you really do put on this false mask of truth and wear it in front of others. I can remember most time smiling, and not knowing how the hell that smile plastered itself all over my face when I really wanted to show my "pissed off- don't screw with me I have been through enough today already-all I want to do is scream and cry" face. For those that have active military careers, the lies become larger and more complicated....for those in physically abusive relationships due to PTSD, the lies increase in size and frequency. It's often said that Veterans can be very deceptive, but who is really more deceptive? The Veteran or the Spouse? Are we to blame for being isolated because of the world, or did we somehow put ourselves there?
I knew when I thought about starting this support group that I would have to stand up and say "This is what my PTSD and TBI family looks like". "Yes, we look normal on the outside". I would have to lay all my cards down and show my full hand....and quite honestly, this scares me somewhat. I really want to help others in our situations and say "you know, you can make it through it; it does get easier" but at the same time...I still want to put on that stupid smile and say "yep, everything's fine!". A huge part of me still doesn't want to talk about certain things. I don't know if its more of the "none of anyone's business" aspect that disturbs me the most or the " I really don't want to rehash that crap in my head" part. That forces me to look at most of the lies I have told, and really focus on the truth of the situation at hand.
If we all told the truth...I mean really laid it all out there...I wonder if it would make any difference? When we as spouses meet one another by chance, I wonder if they look at me and think the same thing, "come on just spit it out"? I really want to tell them "hey, you don't have to hide from me...I have totally been there and lied about it". I have to say, I don't think there isn't anything that another PTSD Veteran's Spouse could tell me that shocks me anymore. I used to sit and think that if we all came out from behind the curtain and REALLY showed it all...if this would change the way the world looks at PTSD/TBI and the way that the military covers it all up?
So I know I said I wouldn't make any New Year's resolutions and just somewhat winging it this year but I think I will definitely make this one a resolution. I plan on taking the mask off and be a little more forthcoming about our experiences with PTSD. I have been candid and honest in all my posts here on my blog, but there are some things I still don't say. There are things I bypass and try not to write about, and why is that? What am I afraid of? Being flamed or being judged by readers? Nah....I get that all the time now as it is! Who cares what they think and I guarantee you....that person who hollers the loudest is wearing that same mask as most of us and the biggest liar. I guess the fear stems from the unknown stigma that placed us here to begin with...the stigma that forced us to be in the place of shame and fear for admitting our Veterans have PTSD.
What a shame that our soldiers go off to war and serve proudly only to come home to this. What a bigger shame that we as couples and families, have become the most skilled at the art of deception when it comes to PTSD. Forced into lying, banished to the isolated places of society where no one wants to hear us, and forced to help ourselves if possible......all to serve our country and secure our freedom. PTSD and other mental health issues are slowly becoming an epidemic for our era's war and we are still dealing with the aftermath of Vietnam and all the poor souls who came home with problems.... I wonder how long the government will keep lying until the day those lies come back to bite them in the asses? We lie to protect ourselves, our Veterans and our families....so what's the government's excuse?
No Longer Lying To Myself,