but I do believe the aftermath is a bitch.
I haven't really had the momentum to write much as many of you pointed out but, rather than give you all excuses or many numerous reasons why; I think I will just be honest to admit I just don't know what to write about anymore. Things have been rocky here, to put it mildly. The MEB crept up a lot faster if you remember my mentioning that. This in turn caused a lot of stress especially since we are pretty much on our own with much of the how to's, what comes next and because we fell in the cracks it seems no one can really help us or understand as we are going into it completely backwards. There were positives and negatives with this, but it honestly hasn't been that bad because we went at it differently than many. We finally got to see a real doctor who specializes in brain and spinal cord injuries. Two appointments, many phone calls/questions and many many weeks later...it all boiled down to my husband having Central Nervous System Impairments, Eye to Hand Coordination Impairments, Balance Impairments, Sensory Neuro losses, and well many many more. We kind of walked in and was sat down only to be laid all of this at our feet.
Finally after five years of fighting, years of telling the VA they were wrong and hearing "he may have TBI but he is ok and there are no lasting impacts" just went away. It not only validated that I wasn't just a pissed off spouse taking it out on the VA but truly telling the truth. It gave my husband a reason to lift his head just a little more although he really didn't understand what all this means. We both really, don't know what all this means period especially as the years tick by. It's different when you as a spouse/caregiver knows, its different when the Veteran knows something just isn't right but a whole lot harder when you have a specialist laying out all these diagnosis-es; bombarding you in medical jargon and staring at you like you have three heads because no one caught this five years ago. It was literally one after another; speech, language and communication impairments, cerebellar gait (this means listing-walking to one side) and then the recommendation of sending him to Internal Medicine for testing for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Early Dementia. All of this on top of the TBI confirmation and that because it went untreated, it is now affecting his body at the five year mark which is common this specialist stated. Post Concussive Syndrome was added to it to explain all the lesser complaints like headaches, vertigo and dizziness. We wanted answers, validation and someone else besides someone saying "eh, he's alright" but it was one of those where you have to be careful of what you wish for.
The hardest part of it all was the drive home. I had to literally suck up the tears. I had to swallow and push it all back as far mentally as it would go. I had to lie and tell my husband, as he was confused, that all will be ok. I promised I would get him better medical care. I promised we would take it one day at a time and no matter what? I would be there. I still to this day, have it shoved back in the furthest darkest corner of my mind where light and your memory can't even tickle it. I daily, remind myself of the promises but honestly readers? I am not sure I can even keep those promises. I carried my husband and family through all this hell for five years alone but what if there are promises we just can't keep unintentionally? I called the VA to let them know; not to rub it in but to say hey, you know what? We tried to tell you. I got "Well we knew this for years but there was nothing that we could do". No apologies, no concern but somewhat sorrow in the voice and I know every VA is backlogged. My question is.....how many more slipped through? How many more at the fourth and fifth year are declining?
My husband and I haven't really spoken much since July 13th. We tried to fake the smiles, answer the calls with confidence; just trying to survive one day at a time as promised. August zipped by with school starting and getting the rest of the MEB appointments completed. I think all of that has been stressful just because we talk to people who aren't familiar with our case and its not easy trying to explain why your Soldier went as one MOS but served as another. How the hell did he get injured when he was supposed to be doing this? Why doesn't he have his CAB? Why didn't he get the MOS if he served that long? Why wasn't he sent to a Warrior Transition Unit? Constant; like the slow pulling of the band aid off a festering wound. Every damn week. How does one eventually heal when its all the time? I want to scream and say "you know what? Why don't YOU answer these questions because honestly I don't know and I would LOVE some answers!" I try to play on the safe side, trust no one and protect my family....but after a while? You just get so damned weary. Weary of talking about it. Weary of listening to the passing of the buck, excuses made and stories changing.
While my husband is here, he really isn't. I never had time to absorb all of what the specialist had to say and I really think my husband is probably scared therefore pushing the family away. August was busy with the oldest in ROTC, the middle one transitioning into 1st Grade from Kindergarten, and the youngest developing more health issues. All of that has been pressure building on top of me but somehow I still find the strength to get back on my feet every single morning. With him though....I feel like whatever steps we made this summer moving forward, we got knocked back down hard. I honestly don't know what is going on with him except I do know fear. Anger is showing up again and the PTSD Beast has been a fight that I simply can't win. Memory loss and admitting to it or realizing things just aren't good, has in turned set him off. Little things such as thinking he bought Gatorade, and not doing it, turned into the entire family hiding said Gatorade and conspiring against him to make him look crazy. Little outbursts like this are hard to deal with. You want to be angry, you want to be pissed and hurt and all the feelings flood you....but all you can do is just feel sad. Sad because you watch your husband deteriorate and see him so angry at you that tears roll down his face as he throws those accusations. "The Gatorade Conspiracy theory" has been just one of many but will say that was the worst because I honestly, just didn't know what to do. All I could do was show him the receipt from the store, ask if possibly the cashier just missed it, and did he maybe leave it behind? There was no soothing him and all I could do was tear up because he refused to believe that he honestly didn't buy it. It turns out he really didn't but was thinking about it but he just didn't remember.
We made it through August and now heading full on into "Hell Months" as well call it. I try to remain quiet and let him do what he needs to do. Five years, I have learned so many horrific stories about the month of September and October that I know better than to say anything cross. Some days though, the ghosts of war become so bad that I just want to have my husband exorcised, drowned in holy water, something...anything...just to get a little peace. We haven't spoken much at all. He just seems to want to be away and that's hard because the kids think he is angry with us. Hell, I feel like I am being punished too and I am lonely. Single parenting is hard in this life we all lead and no matter what you say as a parent, any excuse you give just doesn't make it better. I try to explain that dad is with a buddy because he needs some time to himself, but that doesn't make up for a missed funny story of snorting soup out of so and so's nose at the cafeteria during lunch, the latest promotion in ROTC, the A's or B's on spelling and reading test for a 6 year old who hates school. I didn't think my heart could be broken anymore than it already has and while the smart part of my brain knows all the ins and outs of PTSD and TBI; I honestly don't know how to tell my heart not to hurt. How do you not be lonely? How do you learn not to have anyone to talk to when they sit right there? Sleep right next to you? Does one ever really get used to all this?
Less than 10 days and September will be over with and then we will move on to October which is the worst. By this time, we have surpassed all the memories of IEDs, VBIEDs, body parts, roof top sniper attacks and firefight. October is when the ghosts really show themselves. Death of many, the passing of 18 and 19 year old babies. The sounds of TAPS being played, the photos in his mind of boots placed with helmets, gun and dog tags for memorial which is now permanently etched on the inside of his entire arm. I don't know what its like to be a Combat Medic nor has my face ever been the last someone ever saw before they died with the echoed lies of "Everything will be ok". I wasn't there but God have I seen it in slow motion time in a rerun for the past five years. I wonder if that will ever get easier or this time of year should we just cross off this part of the calendar and go on without him. We have come far since the beginning because at least he is not seeking answers in the bottom of a bottle somewhere, we aren't dealing with suicide attempts. However, he just shuts down and pushes everyone away. It begins in August with dread and then we just added all this on top of us with the MEB.
Sometimes I sit and just watch him as he stares out of the window or is looking at the TV but not really "watching" it and wonder if he remembers that I have been there since day one. If he remembers the hell of these months that caused some memories of my own to wound me. I think he forgets how many calls I did get and some I didn't want to get. That September through December I panicked, watching that front door and remembering the sinking feeling of seeing an unmarked black car drive slowly by. The empty hollow voice of him assuring me he was ok although I could hear incoming bombs. How many phone calls after loud explosions did the lines suddenly go dead. The last call home at the end, to tell me he didn't want to come back but would rather die there. Memories are so hard to face but I just wish sometimes we could talk to each other about them and know that we both are hurting. It's hard being all to someone but not being anything to them.
So that is my excuse. I am trying to limit myself online and only answering some emails in moderation. It's not because I don't care but quite honestly? I just don't have the answers for many of you. When I think I have an idea, everything changes again. I try to give you no BS, just let you know what I think because you ask, but I don't believe there is truly an answer for many of us. All we can do is share and hopefully learn from each other. I think I need this small time here and there to sort out my own feelings, to get through the stress of these months and hope that each of you understand if I don't get back to you immediately.....I will eventually but, just have so much on my plate.
So my plan right now is to dig deep on some projects that are over due, some that are long time needed, some that I would like to venture into and concentrate on my children with blogging last of my priorities. I will prop myself up in a corner so should he decide he needs to talk, I am there. Pray every night that these days will go by as fast as the rest of this year did and still keep fighting for the rest of my husband's case. Maybe just maybe...these ghosts of war will slowly come but quickly go.
If We Can Just Make It To December,