Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Escape At A Snail's Pace

Well, we made it through our first weekend pass from the PTSD Rehabilitation center and I have to say went pretty good. I know much of it was because we haven't seen each other in two weeks and we haven't been separated since deployment for more than just a couple of days. I had some sincere and justified concerns about him being able to come home so soon, but they were really somewhat unnecessary. I mean, we have been through so much much worse could it get?  Yet, past experiences seem to weigh me down and well, I pretty much expected the worst and hoped for the best. My husband didn't come in til late Friday night since they can't leave until after 4 so really we just had all day Saturday and part of Sunday to spend together. For a belated wedding anniversary, my husband wanted to take me out to dinner which was a shocker in itself. We really couldn't afford to eat out but sometimes you just got to say "what the heck" and do it. After a few things around the house to knock off some "honey do" things, we went to dinner early.

I learned that by going at an earlier time, say around 4 p.m. to such crowded more popular restaurants, you will hit the "senior" crowd which is really quiet. Often times, the loudness combined with the crowds means no dinner for us! On the way there, my husband was telling me a tip he learned from someone there in rehab and how we just needed to ask for a seat against the wall. Hate to say it Readers, but I couldn't believe how simple the idea was, it definitely made sense...and how dumb I felt over the fact that it just never crossed my mind!

When we went in, I asked the hostess to please sit us at a table where my husband's back could be against the wall facing outward with no one behind. She looked at me like I just told her I had landed and wanted to abduct everyone that was inside to take back to Mars! She looked at the other hostess who had the "deer caught in the headlight" and "we are going to get robbed" look but they managed to quickly figure I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I explained my husband was a disabled Iraq Veteran and he doesn't feel comfortable with people behind him...she had this immediate look like Ohhhh ooook! It wasn't five minutes, they had us in the quietest, far back booth with a seat against a wall. Our waitress was very sweet and wanted to make sure that this placement was acceptable and my husband said it was just perfect. She said "Good. I also want to say thank you sir for your service." which was kind of nice to hear.

I have to say by using this tip, it really made a HUGE difference. It was the first time in going on five years, that we a. got to eat our meal, b. didn't leave cussing and yelling at one another with me in tears, and c. we enjoyed each others company. I noticed that although nervous, he wasn't scanning the area or constantly turning around or acting jumpy. I made sure that when we left, that I stopped to tell the hostess how much we appreciated her doing that for us and she said it was an honor.

Throughout dinner, we caught each other up on home stuff and rehab stuff which was interesting. I enjoyed hearing about his new friends and some of the things he wanted to try and work on while there. I did notice though he came home with slight tremors that have me slightly concerned and just have recently showed up. The severity of them come and go, which really bugs me. I was so concerned that even with the smaller and quieter patrons there....maybe it was really upsetting him to be there. He said he was fine, but I just didn't believe him. He was nervous, but he told me he had the tremors since he has been there at the Rehab program. I do know they placed him on another medication just for nightmares and rearranged his others. We are hoping that this nervous tremble in his hands are just side effects from these changes. I also noticed the jumping of his legs, like constantly. At times during dinner, the nervous up and down jumping was making the table shake slightly. Not really sure what that was, but maybe it was a coping mechanism for the extreme nervousness he was experiencing? Or maybe it was just the side effects of the meds he was on. I worry a little because the nightmares have returned with severity, but I am sure its because he is having to face all of the hidden stuff once more.

We went to a couple of craft stores in search of the "dying art" of model car kits for him. Volunteer services at the VA didn't have very much and this keeps my husband busy. I also read somewhere that such items were really good for TBI sufferers. We really couldn't afford the two that we bought, but if its good for him then it's worth cutting back on something else. There with the crowds, coupled with the fact of not finding what he was looking for....the PTSD beast reared his ugly head a few times. I will say though, after his "moments"....he looked at me and said " I'm trying...I really am.". I wasn't really shocked because I had been mentally awaiting the beast with my numbing armor on, but was overly surprised that he noticed himself which is something he hasn't really fully admitted in the past. I also suddenly didn't feel angry or hurt...but felt more sorry for him. I knew he was trying, and really hard.....but I think no matter how hard they try, PTSD will always be there overcoming even their best efforts.

So during the evening, we just chit chatted and a few things came up. One of those was his "adrenaline" rushes in the forms of cheating, having emotional affairs, and drinking vs finding new outlets he is learning for finding the same thing in such activities like the kayaking . I am not sure how we came across the sore subjects but I felt during this "open and honest" time, I needed some answers to questions that have literally been eating me inside out.

My husband revealed that he never slept with this other woman he had been talking back and forth to recently and nothing was ever said of anything more than friendship. It wasn't that he needed her, or even that he wanted her...he just said it wasn't him at all. It was like another person doing it, and he wasn't aware of it. He told me he thought that maybe he was simply punishing himself but is learning through therapy its not only hurting him, but me. Not sure what to believe on that since infidelity was a HUGE issue when he came home. I will have to chew on that some more I think. Surprising enough, I never really concerned myself with the drinking (as in it to the point of being an alcoholic) or the possibility of using drugs because I can't even get him to take Tylenol for a headache or seen him drink more than one beer or so. Now he had a few times where he came home three sheets to the wind, so I asked him about it. Did you ever drink more than you let on other than the times you came home stinking drunk? "yes, and more than what you thought....I just hid it very well.". I was kind of taken back.....I mean, here I am thinking I know everything about my husband and somehow missed all the drinking and the hiding it? Had my husband become an accomplished liar after war? Or did I just subconsciously ignore the signs?

I felt better knowing some answers strangely enough even though it was me who felt on the defensive and not really wanting to "go there" but it just happened. It was easier mostly because he told me in a calm manner and seemed to really be honest about all even if it did hurt a little. It was actually nice to kind of talk about such issues without him completely shutting down on me and giving me this blank look, or screaming and automatically switching between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

We didn't talk about much of the program mostly because he can't and I am not going to ask. I figure if he wants to discuss something, then he will. He did say it was a hell of a week and that the nights he called and poured the proverbial shit pot all over me....he was really using me as the usual "scape goat". I was a little bothered by this, but appreciated his honesty and while I don't know what all he is going through there.....I could feel that raw hurt and open wounds he was enduring while sitting across from him. This weekend it was like a light went on inside of me, allowing myself to accept that often times his "dumping" methods really had nothing to do with me at all....I was simply an escape route away from everything that bothered him and while that's often times the root of all our somehow made me feel better because, wasn't me. He is facing many demons on the inside, and it's just easier to take it out on me because I am physically in front of him. Is it acceptable? Absolutely not, and this is one thing he is going to have to learn how to cope with because I can't always be there to accept the blame or be the escape route from the pain. Hell, that's the reason my self-confidence and esteem are so low, so something has to change in that.

The only issues I noticed while here at home is of course, when the little ones got too noisy or fussy. I did caution him before he came home that they had been sick with strep all week, so still not feeling up to their normal selves.....I was concerned that since daddy had been gone, the kids would be a little on the hyped up side which they were. I did notice the antsy, jerky movements and the slight irritation coming on, but I figure as long as he is not throwing furniture or trying to kill was all good. Saturday night he started to get back to the "pod" person with the snappy comments and pissed off looks which I understood because I was feeling the same stress from the kids. I have found that living with PTSD has dramatically changed my patience, my temper and mostly....just because I know how it sets him off. I can't stand when someone makes a loud noise or drops something as I often will jump and be startled, then immediately cap my hands over my ass waiting for my husband to blow. After a while, it becomes more than just walking on eggshells as the spouse of a PTSD almost becomes a high wire walking act. After a while of the kids bickering and fighting to get them to bed....he started finding little things to fuss about. One of those being the idea of buying a new kitchen table and chairs. Well yes, its been a couple of weeks but we don't have the money to do so. Although slightly disappointed that the good mood had left, I understood what he was saying about that because it is a reminder of the day his bottom fell out. I feel that way every single time I walk into our home or that's a constant sore festering here. I promised I would start looking for something on craigslist or yard sales.

The hardest part sometimes is juggling your wallet with their PTSD. Not only are you sometimes dealing with all the issues of PTSD but the side issues, such as spending without telling you...or purchasing items that are detrimental like alcohol, drugs etc. While you can get those under control after a period of time and with help, I realized this will always be dealing with the "great escape".  This is what I call the sudden onsets of spending money to find an escape from what's eating at them or bothering them at the time. It's like the kitchen table and chairs he destroyed when his "bottom fell out"'s so easy to demand "I want one now, now, now! It's a reminder, it's won't go away" or "I have to have this particular item" and they will really give you this explanation of how it soothes them, or makes them feel better....It's a simple quick fix/escape to get out of a bad situation for them.  However, I have found that often times this puts more shit on us and stress. I wanted to say out loud that "yes I know it's a reminder but even with a set replacing it...that memory is always going to be with me" but I didn't. I am glad he has taken an interest in the model cars, but he is almost to the point of fixated on it and lord have mercy, some of these can be very very expensive! We simply just can't afford it and there I go right back into the "mean authoritative dictator" position I always seem to fill when common sense and saying no to him comes into play.

Overall, it wasn't bad. I can say the weekend pass sex was incredible. Or as we jokingly called it our "Rehab Conjugal Visit" Ok....that was probably too much information but hey, that's a huge part of complaints with our Veterans! It wasn't so much the sex as the attention he gave me and even more so the fact that we didn't have any issues this go around. We had fought so much before the admission date came around so sex was absolutely out of the question, especially since I was so angry and hurt. Prior to that, it was another excuse of the medicines, or the fact he would push me away. I know the bedroom will be often a hard place for us and for a variety of reasons, but it was nice to have a little bit of normalcy back in my life.

I awoke Sunday morning, got him ready to go back to KY and with a new sense of closeness. I don't know...I guess for the first time in a long time, I didn't feel like just a caregiver, but his wife as well. I felt like when he left, I had a new sense of purpose and strength. I started to second guess this program, thinking maybe it would be just another failed attempt on our part....but this weekend I did see some tiny changes and some in myself. I know this program is not going to take it all away, but even at a snail's pace, there are a few small things that have come out of it and I consider that a big victory. I figure if he can learn how to use some coping skills, learn to control some of the anger and redirect some frustration and consider his family through all of that....then I can honestly say that I am happy he went. I guess anything more from this program, will just be extras.

Slowly But Surely,


  1. glad that you are finding some success already! have you tried Ebay for those model cars? I oftentimes have good luck here....

  2. My husband is in the PTSD program for the second time. We also just finished up our first weekend pass. Hopefully he sticks it out this time and finishes the program.

    I'm right there with you, reading your blog is like reading my life.


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