Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Confession of a Serial Second Chancer

As I have been sorting emails and trying to play catch up on some forums, chat boards, Facebook pages and the many other groups I belong to.....the one thing I noticed was that it seems the PTSD Beast is rearing its ugly head all over the U.S as of late. In some sick twisted way, this made me feel better mostly because it meant I am not so alone. It is something that occurs this time of year; some experts claiming its the post holiday blues, the change of the weather, the winds or the tides, chemicals in the water, too many acids in our foods, or some other psychobabble crap they spin. Either way, most of us spouses find that we are trying to keep up with the incoming changes that are bombarding our homes. The invasion often leads to nasty arguments, things said meant or not, then leaving most of us scratching our heads wondering what the hell we did to get all the blame when we were really not at fault.

The past few days here have been really rough. Started with one little thing and before I knew it, it became out of control with curse words, left field accusations, paranoia mixing in with severe delusional thoughts. If my husband had said Elvis was conspiring to take him back to his home planet and a purple monkey was standing at his side....I don't believe I could have been any more shocked than some of the things he said. When he gets like this, there is no way to "redirect his attention and focus" which is a common statement you will see and hear in many books and classes on PTSD and TBI. I have often wondered about those who constantly shove that crap in our faces, if they have actually had to use this technique while being in a stand down with a full blown episode/spell. I really don't think they have and most of them are just out of college, still thumbing through the psychiatric DMV book as they are telling us this. From experience, watching him and knowing how things go....much of his explosions are linked to upcoming stressful events that we are dealing with.  It becomes a show down in the house meeting at high noon. Him with the loaded pistol of verbal garbage and crap I have no idea where it comes from and me standing with my eyes closed waiting for the bullet to hit home because I know fighting and arguing back makes it worse.

Just when you think you have everything in routine, paranoid thoughts and delusions somewhat already used to, they begin to change leaving me at least, not understanding or not  knowing what the hell to do. In my last post, I mentioned the LT Col who told me I wasn't trying enough and how it made me cry because I couldn't believe someone had the gall to sit there and judge me without knowing the whole story. After the last couple of days? I really would love to tell her what I think of her and where she could shove her bubble gum machine training she received and offer her to pick up the work that I have done. I wonder if I showed up one day and dropped my husband off at her door and said "Here ya go. You know so much and obviously have it all figured out. You deal with him." what would she do? Bet her almighty tone of voice would drop, and she would sing a different tune then.

Still fuming on her words, dealing with all that I have this week with my husband, and reading yesterday of all the other women still picking up the pieces in their home and made me stop and think about second chances. My mother was a "stand by your man" Southern belle, with a backbone made of steel and a sense of humor that always broke the enormous chunk of silence that would follow a bad argument. My father was no saint and there are still things I am learning about my mom even now after seven years of her being gone. Some days, in my mind, I talk with her and I want so badly to ask her how the hell did she do it? How did she take care of us kids, my father and still maintain happiness and strength? Was my mama truly happy and fulfilled?

I receive emails all the time from spouses asking me what they should do. Stay or leave? Stick it out or file for divorce? Moms asking what they did so wrong. Fathers who can't figure out what they did to get the foul mouthed, yelling screaming son/daughter they are taking care of. I get daily veterans asking me why their wives can't get "it". The truth of the matter is that I can't answer a single one of these questions because like most of you....I am still trying to find my way just like so many of you. This past few days have really made me evaluate a huge part of my life and all that is lost. It's a constant pattern. His fuse gets lit, it begins to slowly crawl towards ignition, then KABOOM there we go. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it so sudden you don't even have time to duck and find cover. He just doesn't yell, throw things or scream at the top of the lungs but rather, he goes for the jugular. The beast finds and recognizes every single weakness you have as a person. It is somewhat fascinating because the intellectual person I am, I wonder how it is that my husband can remember such weakenesses and knows where to ambush me where it's going to cut to the core. He doesn't blow up so it's sudden death to the opponent...he wants you to suffer long and make the pain last. Yet, he can't remember to take his medicines, remember what happened during a short conversation on the phone, keep track of time or remember what you said five minutes ago.

After it all goes down, there is anger, sincere and bone deep hurt on my part coupled with a silent scream that just builds and builds. Confusion sets in, questions begin whether I did something or not....and I really have nothing to say to him for a long time. After his blow ups, he acts as if nothing happened and "forgets". When he thinks I am going to surely walk out the door...he says "I'm sorry I vented". Vented? Venting is getting upset and fussing about something in particular. We have the C&P tomorrow for re-evaluation. Yelling at me about that would not have bothered me at all or even bringing it up in the conversation would have made my mind say "He is just scared and worried about this event coming up". Screaming at me and telling me how much he hates another story. Hate is a strong word and I can't remember ever in the almost 13 years we have been together, that I have ever said I hated him. That word just isn't in my vocabulary nor would it be something I would say to someone I love. I hate brussell sprouts, water chestnuts and jello still bothers me to this day...but hating a loved one? No. I have been through so much in my life that I know that life is precious and we have to remember that some things said...we could never ever take back. That was one of those times.The apology he gave me was back handed, half assed but I guess an apology overall because he knew it was what he thought I needed to hear.

I sat yesterday and read all these emails and comments on boards and wondered when do we as the Caregiver and Spouse, give too many second chances? Second chance means just that. One time we overlook something bad, we forgive, we try to forget and move on. We give that person a one time, get out of jail for free card and a chance to redeem themselves. I was raised with the Christian thought of giving, charity, love and being kind to others and that everyone deserves a second chance. As a self revelation yesterday, I realized how many second chances I had given my husband. I lost count, couldn't even think of all the times he had been so mean, nasty, low, cut to the bone hurtful, crude and hateful and yet....I gave him another second chance. I then thought to myself when my sense of humor kicked in that I have now become the "Serial Second Chance" spouse. I can no longer blame PTSD or TBI for his repetitive problems...I can now only say to gave him too many chances.

Do we give second chances because we know they aren't well and have serious problems? Or are we just allowing them to continue to think that we will always be there to take it and say "aw honey, it's ok. I know you are upset about this or that". If my children had thrown such a fit I would have done a time out, grounded them from something to show I was serious or busted their bottoms. When it comes to care giving for a loved one,  how do we draw the boundaries? How do we give them a time out? I love my husband dearly and in sickness and in health I took my vows seriously, but I have to say sometimes my biggest fantasy includes a one way ticket to anywhere and the opportunity to allow myself a second chance. I think what hurts the most is knowing that my husband hates me and tells me so all the time when he is angry. I used to chalk it up to just being angry and the garbage disposal in his mouth and mind was working overtime, but now I am starting to wonder if its the truth. If so, I can't think of a reason why he would hate me so much. Looking back over the years, I can't think of anything I have ever done to hurt him, been dishonest, not been there for him, or anything that could give a such a word to throw at me.

At what point in our lives, do we just say screw it and no more second chances? I wonder why I am trying so hard to keep my family intact all while I am slowly breaking apart, when he won't even give .0005% of trying at all. I shook my head sadly yesterday while I read all these stories, comments and other issues that spouses are dealing with ending with "I feel so alone". No one is alone but I can relate. I know of one spouse in my entire area and there are more than 12,000 of us here. I really wish we could just gather us all up and meet in one location so we could look around and just see. Maybe it would give us strength, courage and the will to keep going. There is always that saying that "Misery Loves Company"  but hell in our case, I think we need that company. 

I think the biggest thought this week rolling around in my head is, I wonder if my husband would have taken all this crap if the rolls had  been reversed. What if the caregivers were the ones who came home like this? Would we have been given any second chances, or would we have seen them walk out the door? I think in my case.....the answer would be no. So I can't help but wonder why I am trying so hard when he isn't?

Blaming my Mood on the Preservatives in My Loaf of Bread,


  1. Hey USM, I just had a huge argument with my best friend yesterday along the same lines of this post. I was delusional and she asked some questions that I assumed meant something other then was said. We have had these kinds of arguments before, but she said I was destroying our friendship and that shook me. It made me try and think of a way to stop these kinds of arguments, when I am not rational and people become confused by my behavior. I think maybe a code word, it has to be tied to a sense of camaraderie during these moments.

    In combat we had to learn the team concept, this may be a key to unlocking the battlefield at home. By engaging WITH your husband, joining the team. When my kids were little, we use to play war all the time. I used my kids as an anchor to this reality, the flashbacks were still there, just incorporated into my interaction.

    When we fight the dissociative aspects of combat PTSD it worsens the flashbacks, hallucinations and delusions. By accepting them and allowing our mind to work through the dissociative episodes, it can begin to piece together our fractured minds. When our minds are fighting itself, we have difficulty differentiating threats even from our loved ones. Articles on this subject I have written this last month, funny you are here with this, as I am on the other side of it. Maybe we can write this out together, write at PASP again!

    You are absolutely correct in that arguing with or engaging in a constant barrage of questions can and will trigger us further. The key word for me is going to be; break. Yep, that's it. Hope it works. It is a command I use for my new puppy! A black lab, 7 mo old and training him to be a Psychiatric Service Dog, yay!

    You should tell him to read this post, I am here for you as always girl.

  2. We need to find a blog made by a male caregiver where his wife is having trouble as she came home. Maybe that will open our eyes, eh?

  3. I believe that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. The last ones you wrote are legitimate concerns and shouldn't be rhetorical. Ask your spouse; "What would you do if I were the one who was traumatized, and you were my caregiver, and I said that shit to you when you were caring for me?" maybe force a little empathy on him, or just start another rage event?

  4. I am sitting right next to you nodding, screaming and crying!!!! Sending you gigantic bear hugs!

    These last 2 months have seemed insane! My husband just keeps getting angrier and fouler every minute. Each outburst is trying to top the last. And I know EXACTLY what you mean about cutting you through the bone and straight to your soul and all the while forgetting everything else. How is it that we take what they dole out. Yet if my girlfriends were going through this with someone NOT diagnosed with PTS/TBI, I would tell them to leave the bastard! I continue to accept bad behavior, ignore it, take it personally...Yet I really feel deep down in my guts that it's time to set some boundaries. My husband is recovering from the 3rd surgery in the last year and I needed a time out! I called his father and he came down to stay and I came home. My task for my time out is to decide what my deal breakers are for his behavior. My therapist said with PTS/TBI you have to deal with them like a 14 year old. Set clear, concise and black and white boundaries AND be willing to follow through with what you say. So, I am staying at my papa's house writing things like "No calling me the C word." Or "No sleeping with other people". The list goes on and on and on. Then I have to decide in this maze of grey. Which things mean the end of my marriage. This scares me to my very core. I love my husband dearly. He is the love of my life. Yet, I am realized I have forgotten how much I loved myself before all of this crashed into our life. So, I am working on that and trying to do little things to show myself that I am just as important as him and his illness.

    I also have to speak to that HORRIBLE person telling you your not doing a good enough job. F*CK 'em!!! People like that who hand out judgement on our lives would crumble after 2 days living with someone going through this. My rule is, unless you have walked in my shoes, do not tell me how to live my life.

    Try to remember you are NOT alone. You DESERVE to be cared for and have support. You are a STRONG, GIFTED, AMAZING woman.
    And if anyone can find a way to navigate this it is you. Your words have saved me on countless more sleepless nights. And tearful days when I thought I was the only spouse going through what I was going through.
    When you find your answers it may not be what you want. But, I am a firm believer that you will absolutely know in your gut it is the right answer for you.
    I am sending hugs and well wishes for recovery.

  5. Thanks all. Janice, I would LOVE to see a blog written by a husband caring for a female soldier. I have yet to see one but gosh, with as many of us that are women, moms know it has to be rougher on them. There isn't much support for them out there. We always seem to hit a rough patch starting Sept through about this time of year in which I don't know why in particular. I understand he is under stress and worried, but there is a fine line of venting and being destructive. However, when I do ask him like KW asked me, he just looks at me and says "I guess". Sometimes I think I just ask too much. Perhaps I just expect things from my old husband and don't realize it. The other part of me though says this is more than just venting and I am fed up. I think I am more hurt than anything because I have given so much and so have my children. I think what bothers me most is afterward, he acts like nothing happened. And I in return, am expected not to be hurt, sad, cry or be mad. I need to feel those things because I am human. I have told him so as well. He just sits there and zones me out. I will get out of this rut. Just been a very rough few weeks hence the absence. Thank you Sara for your support and kind words, and know I love you man. Anytime you want me over at PASP I am there! The delusions scare me though as we went through this before his suicide attempt. Some things are always directed towards me like I am storing money in offshore accounts. Like the VA pays us so much right? Hahaha! I am trying to have him permanently committed. I think that hurts the worst because one, I couldn't do it and second, I never would. God, how the hell did our Vietnam wives make it through all this?

  6. I'll tell you how they did it; they did it the same way all Combat PTSD/TBI Caregivers the way up to the end of the twentieth century. The combination of lack of resources and information we fought it out and licked our wounds. We cried and laughed and loved until we couldn't any more. Some of us stayed and some of us left, I did left in both cases. I blamed them for it when in reality I was delusional. I didn't realize this until later after I became friends with my exes.

    The two major factors for veteran benefits were the landmark Caregiver benefits and it was in 2005 when the VA changed the format for ruling out PTSD (VA speak, it's important to know). The process used to last three days 4 to 7 hours a day doing nothing but talking about your war trauma. But since you didn't have the diagnosis yet you didn't get treatment for it so to go through the process most veterans would go crazy and not be able to complete the process therefore in the VA's eyes. PTSD was still not ruled out, meaning indefinite failure in obtaining benefits. Now, you can have therapy along with the process the process takes about 3 hours in one day. It is highly scripted in the questions and the interviewers have had specialized training in the process.

    The emotional toll in being a Caregiver can be crippling as we, the Combat PTSD/TBI Veteran, we lash out to our loved ones because we trust you so much. That is the crux of the problem, the thing that allows us to cause the destruction we do begins to melt away that sense of trust. I was so broken in mind and spirit when I got home, I would zone out most of the day for years. The first two years after combat where the worst; I had dissociative fugues as a mainstay, along with the flashbacks, nightmares and let’s not forget the delusional thinking. This feed into the fear of sleeping, insomnia, depression, etc. The issue I had was the lack of grieving my traumas and sense of loss of self and life. I lost my ability to grieve in 1991 and it blocked me from connecting with everyone on a level that is needed to maintain a lasting relationship. My two relationships during this time lasted around 7 years each.

    It may help to think of your veteran having different personalities to explain the stark differences he or she exhibits today after combat. We had to develop a bad-ass self that could be superman at a physical and mental cost to be determined at a later date. You see, in combat you will destroy part of yourself in either or both arenas of the holistic self. This manifests in psycho-social and spiritual internal battles when we return home. The different personality has a set of rules we operate from during our dissociative episodes. A Combat Values Structure, these operational procedures were deadly effective and can subsume our minds at times. During these times our minds are trying to process what we did in combat. During these moments anyone can be the enemy; we had a mechanized vehicle penetrate our defenses of sand dune and barbed wire, after we tried to make radio contact and fired warning shots. We detained a second lieutenant and his driver, lol. We almost had a friendly fire incident. Lesson in the Combat Values Structure; distrust everyone who is not in your squad. So, lesson for the Combat PTSD Home; become part of the team during dissociative episodes.

    By engaging with your spouse during these moments it may mitigate the fallout by anchoring him or her to reality. The flashbacks do not have to take us; we can experience them without leaving out loved ones. Most of the anger and rage come during the flashbacks for me, I get caught up in the flashbacks and interacting with them when in fact I am being surgically devastating to my loved ones by way of delusional carpet bombing barbs. Still working on how that works to honest, lol. What do you think about it?

  7. AMEN! Some of the things that they say are awful and hit to the heart more than anything. If you figure out how to fix this, let me know. If I figure it out, I will let you know. LOL Neither of us should hold our breath though!

  8. Good Lord, you just summed up all that I have been thinking since 10/2010 when my husbands last PTSD "spell" STARTED. It's still going on. I'm tired, mentally drained, physically exhausted and about to crack. I want out but I made vows that I will keep. God help me, I don't know why...

  9. I am sitting on my couch crying this evening. Thinking all the things you mentioned in your blog today. I often wonder why I stay with my husband. We have been dealing with severe PTSD for over 2 years now. I know the answer. My children. They need their Dad. But they really need their Dad as he was prior to this most recent tour. I often question if we would be better off not living with Dad but then I would have to send my children off to spend the weekend with him frequently and that would be worse for them because then I would not be there at all. The good news is that he usually directs his anger at me most of the time. One of the really frustrating aspects is that I am not allowed to be human, to be hurt or angry. He tells me that because of his PTSD this is just how it is and I have to live with it. He has improved and he does go to counseling. Because he shows that he is trying, I am still here. For how long, I do not know. Probabaly until the kids are older or until we can financially support two homes.

  10. As I read your post I cried because I can relate. As a matter of fact the reason I found your post was because I was searching for a chat room to discuss this very issue. I did this after getting into an argument with my husband on skype. My husband has PTSD and depression and is currently medically retired from the Army. It's been over 10yrs and it seems to only get worse with time. He gets angry easily, is unmotivated to do anything and has a nasty mouth. Like you I have given him chance after chance. I feel like it's at my own expense..stealing my soul. I feel empty inside, unhappy and unloved yet I stay. I find we have a very "empty" marriage. Love/marriage shouldnt feel this way. I also believe in the marital vows I took (in sickness and in health)..but when does it become too much. I had the same question you had..would he have done the same if the situation was reversed. Frankly, I think he would have walked out the door and if he stayed he would certainly have a mistress on the side. I'm tired of crying and feeling lonely. I would want nothing more than to have a happy marriage with him but I dont know if that will ever happen.

  11. As a husband and caregiver for a wife with TBI (TBI outbursts are identical to those described in this site for PTSD)that when things are bad I feel the same long can I continue living in neutral, never able to move forward, waiting for that break in between outbursts so I can just relax,etc.It seems that the normal times are like a carrot on a stick, just enough to stay with it all, then another outburst or "TBI Moment" that lasts hours to days , up to sometimes over a week. Now, 5 years after the Injury, it seems to just get worse.
    Call it torture, purgatory, rock and a hard-place, no one understands unless they are in your shoes.


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