I know I am jumping out and all over the place with my writing. I promise to sit down and write Part Two on my last post. However, the purpose of my writing was to provide a silence I need and give me my secret shelter at which I could run for cover when needed. I am struggling this year. Maybe a lot more than I ever have before and I know my husband is thinking similar thoughts. When all the fights are done, and some battles won and lost; there seems to be a void that you face and the question of “What do I do now?” This question is not just hard on him solely; I am plagued with the fact I am supposed to have the answers for my Veteran and my children as they all look to me as that cornerstone that pulled us together and held the world at bay. Sometimes I wish I could shuck that responsibility as easily as I do my old sweat jacket and run care free.
My health I mentioned earlier isn’t that great and, that has played havoc on both of us. The worries, the stress, the tests, treatments, the meds, and so much more that the summer blew past us like a freight train. There was no time for fun in the sun in which I was riddled with guilt for my kids, no time for rest and no relief on the stress. I tried to lie, tried to cover and hide but at the end? My poker face merely crumpled. I thought this time; this time I have no choice but, to take care of me. That is the one area where I am terrible at. I backed away from the world and hid for a while. I don’t mind saying that I probably pushed a lot of people away and most of all? I lied to myself thinking that I could handle all of it. I think a lot of it had to do with my husband’s incapability to show any emotions and, his inability to show he cares for me. He can smile for the VA and maybe laugh but, in his eyes there is a distance that no one connects. I see and hear the falseness that lies in an empty laugh or a hollowed out joke. He is the master of “what is supposed to be” for everyone….for everyone but me.
In all honesty, my mind knows the areas where he is doing worse and where there are major changes. I am educated on every aspect of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries because I chose to be. Even with the head trauma of the wreck, I knew more than the damn doctors did. Part of me knows that he just simply can’t take care of anyone and you would think that me…..I would know that it just isn’t going to be the same as the battles I have faced before. Even as much as I read and study on PTSD and TBI, doesn't mask the hurt I feel sometimes or the loneliness. So I dealt with the blows, the ups and downs and smiling through the pain even though the other parts of me were let down and heartbroken because he was so cold, distant and just not there. I feel sometimes robbed that I can’t be weak or show that I need someone and how do you tell someone you need them when they need you more? Then I fuss at myself when I see him stomping up and down, yelling, screaming, and rambling on and on about nothing in particular but, just to be mad at the world…and I wonder why I could ever want that fake side of him to show me a little compassion or maybe not need me so much because I just was too weak to give more? I guess I wanted any comfort that I could get. These are the times where I miss my husband who never came home.
We had the car wreck last year in which I think covered and masked a lot of the demons that come around September to April. Much of those demons were exorcised by anger fueled determination to get home, to get back to me and sheltered, to get out of the wheelchair to walk again and for a while, I was grateful that the demons were busy and their focus was on the wreck. On anything really as long as it wasn’t me. This year snuck up on us and, Hell opened its doors with new demons we don’t recognize. It used to be “Ahhh there you are, you Nasty Son of a Bitch! Come on! Bring it! I’ve batten down the hatches and know how you play your games!” It wasn’t like that at all this year. I had forgotten just how bad this time of year can be. I was reading one of the social media outlets and another wife’s comments of “it seems to me that a certain time of year he becomes this way or that way. Will it be this way every year?” She was new to this life and I realized how simple of a question it was but yet, so damned complicated. I started to answer and on automatic mode say “YES! Yes, it does. Every. Single. Year. It does get better in some areas but, worse in others. It changes. Most of all, it’s not so much as they get better, you just get used to most of it and then sometimes the “pod person” throws you a curve ball that knocks you out of the game at the first inning. She also said it wasn’t that bad just out of the ordinary.
I have to be really honest here. I felt ashamed for the post I had written as I sat here with my finger on the mouse ready to hit “post” and, I have to say that it was the tears I noticed dripping onto my shirt that stopped me. I didn’t have it in me to give her something positive because my years with my Veteran doesn’t seem to get any better but, I see so many that do. I am sincerely happy for them but, at the same time wonder why we’re so different and mine can't be one of those that eventually sees that light at the end of the dark ass tunnel? I didn’t have the words to give her; my answer was choppy, riddled with hurt and, so I deleted what I said. Just because I was having a bad day didn't give me an excuse to be so blunt and show no compassion. Hell, I know what it's like to start asking questions and everyone looking at you like "Sigh...here we go. A new girl". I didn’t hit post; I didn’t do anything at all. I don’t know what I was ashamed of for offering our story just in case. A part of me was just ashamed I didn’t have the answers to that great elusive question we all seek. I know some who are like us and every year brings new struggles but, it’s hard when you don’t see them post or talk much. Then I wondered what if I had told her of our story and, hers was not as bad? What if he got better and that when they got to their eight year mark as we did, nothing came at all anymore?
All I could do was walk away and say “I should have told her things change". Two words in our lives that is about the only thing you can count on “but, even then? It still felt wrong to say it. This is where things get tricky with sharing one person’s story. What may be good for one person may not be for many others. What’s good for many isn’t good for one. I’ve never been one of jealousy but, I have to say I had that feeling that day. I wished that I could merely just say “Hey, he has moods that are sort of bad and I was just wondering”. Instead, we as a family are seeing different things every year. The challenges become harder, obstacles are bigger and we all keep it a secret. It’s as if we aren’t allowed to speak of such things.
I spent the last eight years trying to find a way to keep pieces back in their respective places which is the most daunting thing one can undertake. While wielding my sword of what was important and right, I laid patterns, routines, structured environments.... just anything that would help him. I didn’t want to impend him from getting better because God, I needed the break and I wanted him to overcome. I don’t know which one of us was counting on that the most. I think it was him of course. Honestly, it does help setting up routine, structure and, it was the last chance I had to keep our family together. Stable was really one of the hardest things to take on and to keep adjusting it until you got to the right setting where “stable” was just that. It’s hard to try and put forth independence and success for your veteran time after time, day after day, when sometimes all you see is that all your efforts led to failure. It hurts me to see that again, I failed him once more and I see the anger flare up in him. Its hard to see the disappointment or see that anger directed at you because these "success set ups" let him down.
I often wonder as I watch him toss in his sleep or dreaming, does he resent me for trying to show him he can do things or he is successful if we could only find the right thing? That he has so damn much to be proud of? Some nights I lie awake and just study his profile in the shadows of night. His face and jaw line relaxed, and I wonder if he knows how much I truly, truly love him because even though it’s not my whole husband, I still see parts of what he used to be. It was enough for me to keep at it, to keep trying to break the cycle, to give him a new life even if meant to forsake all things. I wonder if he knows that I somehow would always give when I knew I would receive nothing back in return?
For us, we use that structure and routine as our mode of operation to meet day to day needs and, there were some dark ones. Some of the hours seemed to stretch as far as I could see; second hands on clocks would seem to drag. I wonder if I am doing the right thing at times with providing this structure or am I setting him up for failure one day? This world seems to keep knocking us down and the last thing I want to do is see him flail around….lost with no way back. It is the only way that we can function with my husband. Things run on time, same place, same date, same day…repetition was and will be our closest friend. The downside to all that is that if that balance gets off, it really screws with the whole universe. I have a dear friend and fellow Blogger who feels a million miles away but who truly “gets” me which is rare. I am actually very much a loner but, maybe that’s what brought us together. She is seeking new things like I am semi-doing and she said once “I firmly believe you get what you put out in the universe”. I really pondered and chewed on that for a while. I wish I had her gumption to keep finding things to give back to that universe. There are days where my entire body fills empty and I’ve not anything to give back to that universe except my words.I admire her determination which never falters like mine does at times.
Our relationship/marriage has changed drastically. There are some days where I feel I don’t know who he is, days where I don’t recognize myself anymore. The relationship is built on the same grounds but, the dynamics feel weird and unbalanced. We go through bad spurts, and all I can do is start shutting myself down, building walls high to brace for the storm and begin to build that safety net around him. After a while, you begin to start feeling numb and everything becomes predictable with him. This Fall, I tried to step back and give him a gentle nudge off the tree limb to see if he could spread his wings and fly like mothers do to their baby birds only to see him fall further. I sit and wait in the shadows to catch him if he falls. He was angry with me for everything even when everything meant nothing that had to do with me. I get it though. I am the one who is here and his sounding board. Sometimes though, that starts to wear you down a little. One morning last week after a month of really, really bad times….he woke up on his own early, came out to the kitchen and just threw his arms around me and started crying.
I was at a loss of what to do, what to say....what to make it stop because it broke my heart further to see him sobbing. He told me he was really struggling this year and, he didn’t know what to do. He didn't understand the "whys". I said “I know you are but, you can’t push the kids and I away when no matter what, we love you and we’re here. You had the wreck to focus on last year so this is going to feel all new again”. I hated to see him this way but, at least he was communicating with me in the only way he knew how. It’s like watching one of your children being mistreated by someone and unable to say or do anything. I sometimes get angry that I can’t make things easier or hell, even just acceptable to meet his needs and wants. There are times when what I do, seems like the biggest mistakes ever in his eyes.
Our biggest challenges right now are filling that “void” I mentioned earlier. The last eight years, we had mutual enemies, the same causes, the same battles, and God, the same pain some days. Now we don’t have that. It’s like everything has been on fast forward for the past eight years and now has suddenly stopped in slow motion. We are looking at each other and noticing the changes in both of us and to be honest, that scares the hell out of us. He doesn’t want to be known as a Veteran, a Wounded Warrior, not even a military member. I can understand that but, he shouldn’t be ashamed of his service, or his disabilities. I meant what I said about truly understanding him. I wake up every day thankful I can still move my tired body and have enough strength to get through the day. I am ashamed I became very ill and the futures not looking like what I wanted it to be. In his eyes, it’s a different thing though; in mine it is somewhat comparable in frustration, dreams crushed and some hope lost. I try to understand him some days and, I just can’t. He tries one thing, stumbles and then gives up. Then, because he can’t get one thing he just gives up completely and starts to look for another…..purpose. He says I don’t understand but God, I do. I understand him now more than I ever did before. It’s because I am facing the same dilemma.
Purpose…..The very definition of what we are supposed to be doing and that is one thing that there aren’t any answers for. I wasn’t a very good advocate but, I tried. Some days I am the worst dual parent in the world. I did a lot on my own but, he always was cheering me on and, to see him sigh with relief gave me enough courage to keep going. I did a lot on my own but, together? We made a pretty good team and, we both had purposes. While he is looking for his "now" after so much has fallen through, the angrier he is and, he starts to notice more things wrong with him. I see desperation in his eyes as he looks at me to solve these riddles all while I am struggling to find my own way too. He wants more out of his life, I want more too. I got up on the worst days filled with sickness and smiled through it just to show him he can get up too. I tried new things like cooking and cracking some restaurant recipes that we always wondered about. The purpose of that was to lead him, to encourage and while he reveled in my successes and laughed with me over my epic failures…..it still didn’t work. Caring for someone can come natural to many women as we are born nurturers but, in these tough times? Trying to help someone find a purpose in their life is torture.
I did take some time for me though which is something I am not nor is my family used to. I began to read books I said “one day I will read” and never did, tried new things, started on projects in our home, caught up on old films and sitcoms that I never got around to do, that was just for me. With that, it pulled him closer and he was able to come out of the shadows and enjoy it with me. Then just as we laugh and talk about something that we just saw.....the light switch gets thrown and the dark mood appears. It's so fast some days that it's very difficult to navigate in that.
I wish we were millionaires to meet his ideas that suddenly come from nowhere. His emotions are really screwed up but, I see the glimmer of excitement which is rare. I also see that at times he gets those ideas that are just not available to us and while I never say it, I see in him the sudden switch that remembers that we can’t do those things. At the same time though, I wonder if we did have it, would we burn through it just to seek one single purpose. It reminds of how many “purposes” we have gone through like model cars, puzzles, and much more sitting in boxes collecting dust; cast offs of anger and the inability to complete. So we keep searching for one more and more would pile. He said “I wish we were rich and I could do what I want to do!” I shake my head in understanding but, at the same time I feel like I can’t give him the answers to what he is seeking and at this point he couldn't tell you what he is wanting to do or why he wants millions of dollars.
Would we find that one single success finally or would we just buy ourselves more mistakes, failures or more let downs and anger? He has always worked his entire life, even during high school. To suddenly be medically retired, disabled and not be able to handle but, very little on his own, has to be so hard to try to grasp. I always worked myself and both of us had life goals, dreams and all that was taken from us leaving all that in pieces on the ground. So we started new things and with my mind telling me that he wasn’t the only one that lost everything. Now, these new purposes are starting to fizzle out, can’t do them due to his disabilities or the frustration that makes him so angry he walks away. I just can’t keep up the pace anymore and I get mad at myself because I can't find the strength to keep that pace.
I sat out on my back porch with a cup of coffee one morning after a really bad night and thought, this is it. This is what we are now. “Mr and Mrs. Used to Be”. There isn’t romance, there isn’t a marriage, there is no sign of life of getting that back or anything that remotely looks like what was before war, post war and well, just post everything. Somehow the Caregiver and the Wounded Warrior suddenly found ourselves away from the same team and looking at a huge void in between us. There is trust on his part I will always care for him, faith that I’ll always figure out a way to clean up messes, help him when he falters, make the standard apologies and knowledge that I will find more outlets or purposes for him to dabbled at. Most of all, he counts on me not to give up. In my eyes though, I don’t know who we are but, we are two different people trying to work together in a mutual relationship of awkwardness and silence facing ourselves in the same mirror and not knowing who we are anymore.
I have never sky dived before but, I have seen it on television. You know how they jump from the plane and multiple people have to time it just right to grab on to the other person’s hands to create this formation? I feel like that. Falling at a fast pace and the both of us trying to reach out and grab each others hand but, we just can’t seem to get a good tight hold. I can go to bed at night knowing I did my very best that I could. I cared for him and sheltered him from the outside world even when I needed the shelter the most. I sleep some nights because the weariness goes so deep inside and other nights I lie awake and know that we will wake up and start all over again in the same structure, same time, and same channel seeking new purpose for the day for him, setting up successes and dealing with the fall outs. There are moments of sheer laughter, delight or pride in our children, days where a hug means everything, desperate tears and a long hug with silence gives us a suspended moment of just mutual unspoken understanding, and some days where words can slice open the old wounds again.
We have so much in common, he just doesn’t see or understand it. Yet, it still feels we're sitting on opposite sides of the river with no way to cross. We both don’t fit into any certain category with others which make it lonely sometimes. We just get by with our sense of humor which has stayed intact and do the best with what is left. I still cling to the hope that “used to be” will turn into something we can look back and say “look how far we’ve come! And here we worried this was permanent”. I am starting to wonder if this is a premature mid-life crisis. I think stopping, with it all, just made us realize how empty our lives were and for him, he is "ok" with things but, not satisfied as a disabled person. Funny how words or terms can affect you so much. Labels and phrases can be so detrimental to someone.
I still laugh and shake my head when I think back to post deployment when the Army told us that our soldiers might exhibit some "sleep issues" when coming home. Hell, I thought it just meant jet lag or time differences. We've come so far, surely this can't be all there is..............
Wishing There Was A Light For Me On Somewhere,