Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Embracing of PTSD

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around it, does it make a sound?

That question has stumped many and often causes a healthy physics vs philosophical debate because many believe that sound is only created when its heard. I don't know much about science or sound waves. Whether if it falls and does indeed make a sound because of vibrations, cosmic patterns and movement, or whether its silent because no one is there to hear it. I do know that I often think of this topic my Science teacher once proposed to us back in 5th grade. Funny how we can forget the 80's and the God awful hair and clothing, but yet one single question from a teacher that I particularly didn't care for, has always remained in my mind. 

Through Not Alone, I was able to get counseling in which I had my first appointment yesterday to assess my needs and what type of counseling I needed right now. I was at the point where I felt like I was screaming out and no one was there to hear me. I had suddenly become the tree that fell and no one heard it. It wasn't that I was acting like a lunatic, or feeling like taking out a Walmart. Just confused, hurt, angry, having a hard time processing much of what has been going on and trying to deal with emotions that I no longer had and should have. I looked forward to this appointment and had a positive attitude, even a playful sense of humor about "The Help getting the Help". My sense of humor is my defense mechanism when I am nervous. I got ready for my appointment, made the drive to the office, got out of the car and immediately was spoken to by a man standing outside smoking. He said "Hello". Surprised, I said "Hello to you!" back. He looked at me quite deadpan and said "I wasn't talking to you!". I looked around me as it was just me and him and a part of me started to panic a little. Was I making the right decision to be coming to a mental health clinic for an assessment for counseling? How could I be falling apart to warrant the need for counseling to begin with? All sorts of things ran in my head as I walked in and signed in at the front desk. I looked around me and the panic began to build more because I felt I did NOT belong there. At all. 

Before I could pick up my skirt tail, so to speak, and run like hell to my car....the Doctor who was supposed to assess me came out and took me by the arm gently. I felt a little better after seeing her because she was just kind looking and well, understanding. She didn't have that judgmental scowl upon her face, and one that said "Trust me, I have heard it all". I sucked it up, felt how could I walk away now when my family is depending on me, and how could I run when I advocate getting help for the caregiver? After getting through some paperwork, I let it all out. She explained to me that I must have been a pretty important person, because someone had told her that I was an online superstar. Although that made me laugh out loud and smile because I knew it had to come from my dear friends who set this up, it somehow just made me feel better and gave me confidence. When I said I let it all out...I meant it. I let the last five years tumble out of me and I went on overload flooding with tears. I don't know why I felt so comfortable with her, and even the past that has burned us so badly as far as therapists and such, didn't even bother me at that time. All I knew was that she was there, and she heard me. 

After two hours of telling our story; the ups and downs, sadness and grief, the loneliness and the anger.....she got it. She kind of sat for a minute with pen in hand and chewed on all that I said. I felt suddenly naked and very vunerable with her stare so I laughed and said "Let me guess, secondary trauma which is common among family members, spouses and caregivers". She chuckled and said "Oh no honey...we are WAY beyond that!" I really began to panic because all I could think of and ask her was "Like call security, way beyond, or white jacket beyond?". She really got tickled over that and after laughing with me, she said no, in her professional opinion....I had moved beyond secondary trauma and now suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There it was. 

I huffed and told her its not possible. But she explained that when I said spouses relate more to their Veterans than what they gave us credit for as I was using my husband and I as examples, it was exactly correct. Where my husband suffers from panic, I suffer from panic because I anticipate his reactions. My reaction to the crowds at Sea World and panic, was similar to that of his because we have a tendency to isolate ourselves and there again, anticipation of how he will react. My husband sees pictures flash in his head or memory of Iraq, I see pictures of him with a gun in his mouth. He fears dead animals or trash on the roadside, I fear his "beast" will rear up and I must yet take on another battle. With all the ups and downs, came the natural instinct to compartmentalize my feelings and just take on the protect mode because I had no other choice. With my writing, she said it was no surprise why I tended to understand and could relate to so many Veterans who write in and then could still hold the power of words to reach out to other spouses and caregivers and understand them. It's because I sit on both sides of the fence. I never really thought about it that way.

It kind of made sense for me. I was extremely upset. Extremely defensive and probably looking like a deer caught in a headlight yesterday. I was angry. So very angry. Here I was, "Uncle Sam's Mistress", the one who is supposed to have the answers or at least try to find them for myself and others....suddenly carrying the label of PTSD. I am the one who is bringing the non-sugar coated day to day life to light, when in the midst of it...I am suffering now myself. It made so much more sense though and then I could pinpoint and say "I am not scatterbrained or just overreacting, its because of this". Then when she asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I told her. I want to write a book. I want to start a support group for not only spouses, but all of us who were discarded by the military and walked past by the rest of the world. I have so much to give, and there is a part of me missing. Everything I knew was taken away from me and I haven't had time to grieve for any of it. Much of it is because I need to be around people. However, all of us know, we no longer fit anywhere anymore. I laughed and said, "I want to create that community for all of us lepers because I know I am not the only one in the dark desperately trying to reach the light". She shook her head and said "Well get off your ass and do it. Write that book. Do the support group. Be that light. What is stopping you from taking chances? Why must you be superwoman, super wife, and super mom? It's not your responsibility alone." 

She is right. 

I no longer feel so burdened and lighter, so I am glad I went and will continue to do so weekly. I know my "inside my computer friends" have told me this very same stuff, even our Federal Recovery Coordinator but I felt like it was a biased, just "make you feel better" comment that friends make because they love and respect you and you can count on them to make you smile. Most of it though was me, scared of taking the jump, letting go of some of the reigns and taking myself seriously. I realized then that most of us all know the answers, and we don't have any fancy degrees of psychology on the walls or Masters Degree in Psychiatry. I didn't shy away from the stigma of being labeled as having PTSD. I am going to embrace it. Although my friends live inside my pc, social networking and online friends are still very much just as important as real ones and studies have shown that those we befriend online? Actually last longer than those people in person. So I can't discredit my friends whom I have never met face to face with, but have known for the past five years because they are the truest of friends that ever could be had. The only part I hate is not being able to give them a hug in person. 

I decided on the drive home yesterday that my husband isn't dead. I shouldn't be held responsible or try to make up for his mistakes. If he screws up, he needs to learn responsibility and consequences. I told myself firmly that I am going to back off and let him do some of this paperwork and talk to his coordinators and make his own decisions. I have always included him and always asked what he wanted, but he refused to talk with anyone. He always said "take care of it" but I feel like it was the easy way out for him to let me do it all and it was my fault for not drawing the lines sooner. I will always be there to help him and he is going to need it, but he needs to try. I will be his Caregiver and remain the best that I can be, with limitations and not so many heavy expectations from anyone, especially from those I put upon myself. I feel like I took on the fight, but then he kept piling more on me. After all is said and done though, he resents me for doing it all rather than be appreciative just because its so much damn easier for him to be angry than be happy or grateful. So the best thing I can do right now is let him try, and be there to help him IF he needs me and comes to me for help. It will be hard because I am so used to doing it all and really, other than a few minor things....the major fight has been fought by me and done. I have brought him this far and on my own. He needs to be able to stand on his own. It's time I put down my battle weapons, lay aside the deck of cards that I have so carefully held in my back pocket, and take a rest.

I don't need to keep myself locked up in the tower and blame everyone, I need to take responsibility for isolating myself and not doing anything sooner about it. I made a lunch date with a friend that is about four years overdue this Saturday and super excited about it. My mother in law is coming to get the family and Mommy is going to have the weekend by myself. I am going to be working with an organization to get this support group started and dammit...I may just write that book. It wasn't that my husband's words of "You didn't accomplish anything" that he said out of anger to hurt me, that made me step back two weeks ago. It was a blow and a heavy one as the beast knows how to go for the jugular. I realized this week though, I did accomplish a lot... but for everyone in this family. I may not have made accomplishments for myself, and this blog is really all I have that is my own but it still counts. He counteracts that its about him though, but my words are my own. My writing reflects my feelings, my pain, my love, happiness and my hurt. Not his. 

My husband and I talked a long time last night, and he was angry that I am stepping back but it is time. I am placing myself first and going to stick with it. I told him that I am weary of being the enemy all the time, I am tired of fighting with him, and most of all....I miss my friend and husband. I will love him always and always be there to help him, but he is going to have to step up to the plate and take one for the team. I got him this far and its time he started standing on his own. I think its only fair.

I don't blame him for my issues, and God knows sure can't compare our issues as one and the same. I just feel like if we are going to make it, we are going to have to be on the same team and not opposing ones. The one thing that the Psychologist did tell me and something I probably never will forget....was my fear of my husband and possible suicide. I have friends who have been through that and truly, scares and confuses me. She told me that when dealing with such issues as PTSD and TBI, along with the combination of Veterans, its not a possibility that we can ignore. We have to be able to think about it, process the idea and have the knowledge that the "What If's" are there. I understood what she was saying, and she is right. However, it shouldn't be that way

The "what ifs" for me have always included health problems like heart attacks, getting hit by a car, thunderbolts from the clouds, sudden illness like cancer...never suicide. Why must we spouses and family members accept that suicide is part of the "What Ifs" and mentally prepare ourselves for it? Are we the generation of war that suicide has become an automatic part of of life's plan? Something is wrong if that is the case. We all know that it's a possibility. Hell, our Veterans tells most of us every day how they wished they had died overseas or that they didn't want to come home. Mine tells me often that he wishes he never came home to us at all. So why can't my mind wrap around that and accept that as a "What If"? I guess a part of me still refuses to give up on him and let him give up on himself. If this is the case and its expected...then that is something I want to change. If not for my husband, then maybe help change it for others.

I don't know where to start on my plans. It's weird to wake up and say "Today I am doing something". I think there is a reason for everything and somehow someway....we have made it this far. For once though, this ol' gal is heading in a different direction and one that is on my own. I know it will be a challenge, but one that my kids can be involved in and one that my husband can do if he so wishes to join his family. Most of all...I need this for me and to fulfill something that is missing inside me. It's time I took back my life and quit living his. 

I Finally Heard Myself Fall,


  1. Thank you for posting about NotAlone. I have contacted them about getting help. I do not want to do this by myself anymore.

  2. I'm very glad you were able to find someone to talk too who listens & respects you<3

  3. I think you are on the right road, stay the course. What we feel is something we may never be able to control, if we love someone we can't change that, many of the things that make us scared or angry we cannot control, (often times being scared or angry can be good). But we can control our actions. It is not easy and we will often fail by taking the wrong action, but we all must be responsible for our own actions. If I get angry there may be any number of issues or people responsible for that anger. But if I put a hole in the wall because I am angry; only I am responsible for the action.

    When I do something stupid my wife and kids have a right to be angry, but they are not responsible. And when they love me anyway I am not responsible I am blessed.

    Been down a similar road, it's not easy but it is worth it.


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