Friday, February 19, 2010

The Support Group

After searching, I finally found out that there as a PTSD support group that met once a month at the VA and was for spouses. I don't know whether I just built it up in my head that this would be finally the time in the last two years that I would feel understood, or even not so alone in the fight. I waited for a month till the next one rolled around, drove forty-five minutes and managed to find a parking spot which is next to rare at this VA. After a two mile hike, found the room and immediately thought I was in the wrong place. The person running the group asked me if I was there for the PTSD spouse support and I replied yes....but I so wanted to tell her I think I am in the wrong room. There was only seven present and they were in their 50's or older age groups. All of them are Vietnam vets wives, and seemed friendly as well as welcoming. However, when it came to my talking about my personal experience and situations with my husband, it felt like I was being judged in their comments back to me.
Now before you think, "well you probably just misinterpreted it" let me tell you that their comments were "I have lived with PTSD and been miserable for 40 years of marriage"....pretty much to sum up this meeting I so looked forward to, it was "I really don't want to hear your issues as I have been there and done that". It wasn't also the issue of just not feeling accepted of my experiences, it was the age gap as well as the era/war gap. Now I know from reading and being a history buff, the Vietnam Vets have it much harder than our current soldiers do. I mean, for years PTSD wasn't even a diagnosed concern let alone any type of treatments available for them. I just felt like I had to explain every little military terminology or acronym because no one knew what I was talking about. Not only that, but I think the age difference made me singled out. It was as if my marriage and my experiences didn't amount to a hill of beans to any of those ladies.
This was the first disappointment of the group. The second was listening to these ladies tell their stories. Each of them haven't been to a restaurant in years with their husband or shopping. One lady hasn't been to a movie theatre since Smokey and the Bandit first hit the silver screen. Now not telling my age, but even I was around when that movie came out. I think just listening to the verbal abuse, the being ignored, the indifference their husbands show their families, just freaked me out! One lady said she was currently in AA due to her drinking issues. I felt sorry for her when she said sometimes a bottle of wine a day was the only way she could make it through the hours with her husband. The others had emotional problems, basically said they lead their lives and raised their children on their own, and pretty much have no idea what's going on with their husbands or even what they are doing.
So after hearing all the misery these ladies have been through, I felt like a fool. Like I had no right to be there complaining about my two years of hell. Selfishly, I wanted to say "hey you know, my two years count to! "But do they really when you are next to a spouse that has made it through 25+ of marriage? Did I have a right to feel like I mattered or my problems at home were just as important? When it was all spoken about their marriages and their husbands, I asked why they stayed and lived like that. A simple question in which they answered with honesty and all in agreement. It was an answer in such short words but was what I feared the most. "Because I knew I was all he had and leaving meant leaving him alone without anyone".

The same sentiment I feel now. I sit here day after day, especially after it's been a tiresome one filled with bitterness and resentment; reminding myself I am all he has. if I left him, what would he do? Would he do something irrational? Would he take care of himself? Would he take his medicines?
After an hour and a half, the time was up. Nothing was accomplished except my hopes for understanding dashed, my positive upbeat feelings about this meeting group completely slaughtered, and any hopes and wishes for the future completely destroyed. I left the room, and back out to the main building. I rode the elevator with a Vietnam Vet who was talking to himself. Sweetest man there ever was and offered to show me back out of the psychiatric ward of the building to the main lobby since I had gotten turned around and was lost. As angry and devastated as I was, I felt so bad because I know they can't help it. I felt mortified that I was selfish enough to sit there and think to myself, "what about me?" Then when you see these soldiers, no matter what war, or realize that perhaps family is really all they have. Without them, who by the way are really the only ones who can deal with it, where would these soldiers suffering be if they had no one? Even this veteran who was talking to himself and answering back, sported a golden ring on the left hand.
So far, I have done research....sought help that is supposed to be available as PTSD now is "no longer attached with a stigma" the Army says (but we know the truth don't we?). Gone to therapists, sought marriage counseling, read tons of books and online information, and in the end.....I realized the military isn't really there for you although it was promised, help is really not helping at all. Doors they claim that are open for families and the soldiers are not only closed, but locked. So what now you ask? I don't know. I am caught in that movie Groundhog's Day it feels, do I simply give in and accept this is my life for the coming many years of marriage? Do I try to keep going and fight for not only my husband and others who are in the same situation? Is it a fight that I won't win but come out of with bruises and more resentment? Or do I simply walk away and hope that quitting was the answer?
Regardless, my encounter with this "PTSD Support for Spouses" really didn't help me at all. Matter a fact, it has increased my bad mood since I left it and probably won't go back again. The only help it gave me was understanding that as the years go by, you either just got to accept and deal....or find comfort in the knowledge that through thick and thin, you stuck to your marriage vows although it means sacrificing personal happiness, love, friendship and family. These doctors I have come across only know what's in their medical books...perhaps they did a rotation in their medical schooling that just happened across a soldier with PTSD. I am so sick of hearing, "well I studied it but actually have no experience with PTSD nor do I know someone with it". Isn't it about time we have professionals who know what they are dealing with rather than spouting off medical and psychiatric terminology as the answer to everything? Live with it, and then come back and tell me again that term of "avoidance" and what it means to you, or be on the downhill runoff of his moods when a trigger is set off and then tell me what you know about the term "Triggers" and the coping skills you read about in college.

Hopefully, I am not the only one in the world with this feeling. It can't be so. I just think I am the only one with a big mouth and don't mind talking about it. Perhaps one voice will lead into many and that will make things happen. That is about the last hope I hold on to every day..........

Until Then,
A Supporter Of Been There's and Done That's

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Said What?

So after reading other spouse's talk about their issues and symptoms on behalf of their soldier, I feel somewhat better that at least I am not crazy or just imagining these things when they appear. The biggest pet peeve, if you can even call it that, is the communication problems and misunderstanding. I don't even know if that's the way to explain it or if that's the category it should fall under.....I don't even know if it's really PTSD or if it's just my husband as a male. Hahah!
The thing that irks me the most is when I say something and that somehow gets turned around. I stand there like "what just happened here? I said What!!". It can be something simple and some things more important. Sometimes it can be a simple stretch and I walk away thinking I don't know how he did that, but ok.....other times I walk away and the connection between what I said and how he interpreted it is as different as apples and oranges.
It's quite frustrating I can assure you as most of the time I always look like the bad guy. When I simply remind him of an appointment or to do something because his forgetfulness is notorious, I am nagging. If I tell him we need to talk and sometimes I just get tired of fighting, its interpreted as bitching at him constantly as he quickly reminds me. If I ask him a question, and there is no response....I say well ok then. He jumps my rear and says "I didn't mean it like that or I said yes". Now I know I am not deaf, nor am I not paying attention as I am looking at him where was the response?
Valentine's Day was just another let down yesterday. I don't know why I had it in my head to think anything would be different but was just hoping for some type of love shown. I bought him a lightweight jacket I found to bum around in his garage or the house, and a beautiful card. I also got him his favorite candy. Wasn't much but my heart was in it and that's what counts. Every year we always buy each other a little tiny something on Cupid's Day, but since he has been home I have gotten nil. I got "I forgot, I meant to but just forgot"...yet he remembered to go to his buddy's house, or to go fix something for someone else.....I guess I just expected a little more but because I had my feelings hurt and didn't say much yesterday, this has turned into "I didn't say the right things you wanted to hear" or "maybe you should go find someone else to treat you better"...I never said that! Why could he have not ran me a bath, or perhaps actually come to bed for once and make love?
It never has been about cards, or flowers and he knows's just a simple thought to say hey I love you. With three kids, I knew no one would watch them for us to go out to dinner or do I bought us steaks, potatoes, fresh corn, and made a dessert for my family and husband. I got "supper is good" and that's it. After dinner, he scrapes a couple of plates and goes off to watch tv. I guess I had just hoped for more, but this morning he has turned it around on me as if I am the bad guy. Rather than saying, hey I forgot but love you more than anything, thanks for fixing such a nice supper" I get the "are you gonna be bitchy today?".
Now if I am in the wrong, I will admit it proudly. Will be the first to apologize if I am grumpy, I will even tell him in advance that I am grumpy but has nothing to do with him. I don't need flowers to show me his love, or a silly card.... just needed to hear I love you and maybe do something nice for me during the day. Maybe I just expected to too much.....when I tried to explain it to him, its "nothing I ever do is good enough for you"...I never said that either. I just wanted what most women get for Valentine's Day. I wanted a good day for once....a little love and attention perhaps. Now I am in the wrong because I think I deserve all this as everyone else does...I work the hardest in my marriage...should I not?
I wish for once he could listen to what I am saying and actually hear what I am saying. Rather than jumping on the defensive side of the fence and automatically making me the bad guy. If I say something, that is it. It's meant as I say it and nothing more. If you are wrong, just admit it but at least try and make it up. Not turn it around and make it seem like I am the bad person. Our anniversary is coming up here in a week and I won't get my hopes up for anything. This way no more let downs and anything above my heart getting trampled on is an improvement I suppose. Do I even have a slight right to have my feelings hurt that my husband did not even acknowledge this over commercialized holiday? I think it stems from just more than a day to make you spend goes back to my birthday he didn't acknowledge, the Christmas he half-a@@ed made it through by buying me things I didn't want or never asked for, and the past anniversaries that have been ruined. I don't understand why a simple statement of "I just want to know you love me" suddenly turns into me being in the wrong, assumingly asking too much, and should just know that by him sleeping in the recliner for many nights means he still cares for me. Sometimes it's just more than I can bear on one person's shoulders.

Until Then,
A voice that's never heard

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good Days Or Bad

So yesterday was a good day. No. It was actually a great day! On his way home from work he called and wanted to know if I ate any lunch. I hadn't by then so he brought us home pizza and we watched a little tv together. After being up all night with a toddler who had a tummy bug, I was really dragging. So we both went and piled up for an afternoon nap and just snuggled while the little ones were down for theirs. We recently purchased a house and still some things to tinker with which he tackled with gusto. No throwing things, no yelling or cussing, and we joked back and forth like we used to do all the time. We finished up a movie with popcorn and a little conversation. I went to bed later that evening thinking about the day and how unstressed I was and, was like a normal relationship. So why the hell was I so leery of it? I feel so guilty at times because it's those days that make me either paranoid or waiting just positively sure that something will go wrong to ruin it. How else am I supposed to react though? When you have more bad days than good, there really isn't a right way to react to normalcy.

The hardest part is knowing its days like these that make me want them more. Kind of like dangling a large bag of delicious chocolates in front of a person who is dieting. I mean, one piece sure isn't gonna be all that bad for your diet...but it doesn't mean you would not want the whole bag right? My good days are like that bag of candy calling my name and one good day just makes me want them more even though I am probably not going to get them. Sometimes I wish there were no good days at all and I would not feel so let down when the bad days return. I try really hard to be appreciative so don't get me wrong but, it's still just an awful tease that pulls out the old heart strings and plays me. Some days I think it's just easier to let them all be bad days so at least I know how to be prepared or know they are coming.
I know he is going to have his days, we all do. I know I do especially with two little ones running me to death and a pre-teen with the "look" and the huffing noise he gives me all the time. I don't want him to be perfect or in a good mood all the time, but man I would love to have at least three days of the week where I am not stressed about him or trying to tiptoe around him like he is some kind of time bomb. He asked me earlier today after returning some movies if I had rented him The Hurt Locker. If you haven't seen it, it's a military movie and based on a bomb technician in Iraq. Now I have never liked any type of military movies as they always make me mad, make me cry and well it's mostly the crying part. I know he has already seen it and feels it's good enough that I should watch it. So my dilemma is, should I watch it to please him? Or watch it and act like I am enthused about watching soldiers get blown up? It kind of hits home those movies and, I also notice that he tends to get moodier when he watches these types of movies hence the reason I neglect to bring them home. I have to look at it in this type of do I or don't I category. I mean I fuss because we don't get to do much together, so a part of me feels like I am the one who is turning down what little quality time we do have. However, in the same thinking I have to look at whether I am going to be up all night with him tossing and turning or talking in his sleep. Or is he going to be in a foul mood afterwards and short with me?
Guess I am full of questions huh? Maybe I think too much. There are days when I wish I could shut my mind off for about three hours but have yet to find that off/on switch. One thing always leads to another thought and before I know it my head is pretty full. I read in some articles about PTSD that some families can actually mirror the PTSD sufferer's symptoms. Although it is not medically diagnosed, it happens frequently and man, I can probably vouch for it. I jump at loud noises but not for the same reason he does of course....mine is simply "Oh ^%$&! He is gonna yell". I do find that I am more irritable, withdrawn and tense. I do have trouble sleeping and my nerves are pretty much shot these days. I take an anti-depressant for medical purposes but I think that one pill is only half of what I probably truly need. I wonder what would happen in you walked into your doctor's office and said "hey, I think I have secondary PTSD"? I bet the doctor would look at you like you were truly off your rocker. I can see why though this secondary PTSD is happening more and more frequently amongst family members. I just worry my kiddos will suffer in the long run. I mean, at this age they don't understand. I am in my mid 30's and still don't understand a lot of it. I wonder if they will ever get a simple cure for PTSD?

Ok...too many questions to lay on anyone at this time of night! Let's say a goodnight prayer (or seven) that tomorrow will bring a better day. If not, at least one with some sunshine! If anyone is actually reading this, would love to hear if you are exhibiting symptoms as well or just clarification I am losing my mind.

Until Then,
The Military Movie Hater

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Enemies & Excuses

As I was posting to a dear friend of mine (we'll call her A) on my most favorite Army Spouse Board, and to my other dear friend of mine (B), it came to dawn on me how much I have pushed away my friends in the past few months. I would not say I was depressed, as I am neither down or completely at a loss with what to do with my life, nor did I wish to exclude them in any manner...but I would classify myself as having a slight case of mid-life crisis. Seems here in the past year, that I have been a mother, a wife, a cook, a maid, a volunteer, and an FRG leader. Not to exclude the resident peace keeper, the monster shoo-er from bedroom closets and beds, the dog walker, fish feeder, advice on girlfriend giver to a pre-teen son, and on top of everything that I must do to hold a family together. Stay at home moms have the hardest jobs in the world I think and no amount of money could ever compensate us for everything that we do. To do all this, and in turn also keep up with my "pod person", it's amazing I am not a full fledge alcoholic or a lunatic locked up somewhere! To my friends, especially A and B....I am truly sorry I missed so much in your lives. I love all of you dearly and didn't mean to push you away. I just didn't want to bring anyone else down with me.

I used to talk with my husband in the "honeymoon phase" of our relationship and what it would be like to be older and care for each other. We both decided then and there, no nursing homes unless we just are too bad that we can't care for each other. We would sit in rocking chairs, clean each other's dentures and keep an eye out for the white flag coming up the mountain side notifying us of our grandchildren so we didn't shoot. I don't see that as I am the primary caretaker of my family. While my husband may make the money, it seems like a lot of extras have fallen on my plate here in the last two years. I find myself apologizing more and more for silly things, and some not so silly things. When he is wrong, somehow things always get turned back on me...then I am the one in the wrong as always and therefore apologizing. It's frustrating and defeating when I walk away thinking to myself "was this correct? Did I do something wrong?" . I defend him no matter how wrong he is and no matter what he does...I come up with tons of apologies at the drop of a hat and make excuses if his attitude or anger has made a situation such as a get together gone bad.
I can come up with some pretty good excuses for not going places when invited, or turn down a girls night out because I am afraid to leave my kids with my husband out of simple fear that their noise or whining might irritate him. I have mastered the art of keeping the house quiet in fear that any loud noises are triggers. I learned to keep family members and problems at bay out of concern that I would get the backlash. I try to keep in the background always waiting with an apology to keep the backlash from landing squarely on my shoulders when I can see it coming. The only thing I have yet to master and probably due to my stubbornness is learning to accept every bit of his problems. I get frustrated with the memory loss, the attitudes and most time when he is angry I become angry. I am angry at him, angry at the military for expecting us to deal with all this alone, and most of all at myself. Angry mostly because no matter how hard I try, there is no pleasing him. No matter of the amount of time I corral, defend, delegate, and blanket is ever good enough for him. There is always something else he finds to get mad at.
I have sacrificed so much in the last two years, given up precious moments and special memories that are forever marked by a bad mood or outburst. I gave up romance, a fantastic sex life, and most of all....I gave up my rock to lean on when times get rough. If looking back on all the things I gave up, or lost...that would have to be the one I miss the most. I take care of it all, make most of the decisions, leave all the issues on my shoulders so not to burden or stress my husband out, and no one is there to take away my problems. I feel like I really don't have anyone to lean on to or a rock to shoulder some of the responsibilities that I must every day wake up to. Some days just coming up with supper ideas is daunting or knowing that I must once more deal with a sick child on my own while being sick myself. Some days my toddler who bless his heart, asks "why" to every little thing, seems as excruciating as answering the question of life itself. How I get the strength is always a miracle because some days I just want to shut down me and be left alone. I push and drive on though...hoping that the day will get better, or the next. Before I know it, the time is gone and all I can hope for is a better new year. I've gotten quite used to let downs and disappointments, and I know it's not my husband's fault...but he just gave up and left us behind. I sometimes resent him for that and so much more.

Sure I have friends, but most of who are friends with him. Almost all of them have noticed small things that have changed and I hear "he hasn't been right since he's been back". No one says anything though and occasionally when something happens outside of home, I hear "Not sure how you handle it all by yourself". His side of the family chooses to ignore it and looks at me like I am the one who is at fault. My family doesn't know too much about it due to my embarrassment. Counselors really mediate and therapy support groups only escalate the issues at hand, but not much help in finding a solution. No one knows my side, my story and sometimes that's the loneliest place to be.

You may read this and say, "why not divorce?" I can say this, I love my husband and when I gave my promise to him, I meant it for the long run. Occasionally I see a glimpse of my old husband and God, what an absolute thrill to see that. I could go for a million years broke and no clothes on my back and be just as happy as that one single precious moment. I wish for once he could see that. Everything I do is for him, and I just want him to be proud for once of me without having me to ask "are you proud of me?". Mine is a man of very little words, and I knew that...but he just shut down period. I wish he would see that saying nothing at all says a lot. He made a comment last night that we have just drifted apart, but I don't know how or how to get it back. If anything, he pushed himself away and refuses to see the path I am lighting up for him. How come I feel like I am the enemy here or the one at fault?

I will be selfish here ladies and even gentlemen, if anyone reads this.....I want so much to be taken care of. Not just be provided for as he claims is proof he loves me. A roof over my head or bills paid, is not's just bills and a roof. I could be homeless and happy if I knew no matter what that man had my back. I guess I am more afraid that one day, I will be the one who gets hurt the worst and left in the cold. Alone with all the heartache I have endured and hard work trying to piece together what we had. What happens to me then? Yes I could move on and live my life, but will the scars ever really heal and will I ever find that same love? In the meantime, I can only hope that this doesn't change who I am as he is bringing out the worst of me in every possible way. I hate the person I have become and I hate that I am even in this position to begin with. Would I walk away and feel better, or would I walk away and be eaten up with guilt that I didn't keep my vows? Is there really a right or wrong answer anymore? Worst of all, am I the enemy in his eyes and how did I become that way?

Until then,
My Own Worst Enemy

Monday, February 1, 2010

Victim Or Volunteer

From a Spouse who has endured the hell, I wanted to share with you the things they don't tell you in the books:

1. Anger and Resentment: It can be any little thing and any big thing. I find that he is angry about everything most of the time. Not sure always what about, and sometimes the anger is always geared towards me. I find myself wondering what did I do wrong this time? This happens on a weekly if not daily basis, when it's at its peak. Resentment: I find that sometimes I feel he resents me for being here. Resentful that he has children, resentment towards the military, resentment towards the air that he breathes.

2. Sleepwalking: This started out first when I knew something was wrong the first few days he was home. He would fall asleep and then when he was deeply asleep the games would begin. Sometimes it was hollering out, or kicking. Other times I would wake up after feeling movement and find he was standing on the bed trying to work with what reminded me of control buttons, invisible on the ceiling. How in the world this over six foot tall man detoured the ceiling fan that was going every night continuously amazed me. Other times he was walking around not only the bedroom but the rest of the house, looking for someone although never caught his name. Other times he would wake me up and grab me and curse at me. Scared me to death! I mean, getting woke up out of the blue and finding this pod person standing over you and cussing you, doesn't say good morning star shine! The hitting the kicking, was just about too much for me. One night, I woke up and he started yelling about someone not paying attention. When I tried to gently wake him up and say Honey it's me, I got the hands wrapped around my neck and called all sorts of names. Once I hit him back and said dammit let go! He stopped, rolled over and went back to sleep. I never told him about that night, not knowing if one he would believe me, but two make him feel bad. I knew he couldn't help it. I haven't had a good night's sleep since then and it's been over two years.

3. Going anywhere in public: Ok let's face it, most men don't want to go grocery shopping with their spouses or head to Wal-Mart because well Wal-Mart is sometimes a cornerstone to hell if you catch it on a busy day. I guess in the short amount of time we have had to spend with each other, I am so desperate for time with him even grocery shopping allows me to feel like he is with me. Some places he gets irritable and cranky, other places where people start bumping into him he flips out and starts cussing. Other places he just gets so bad I get embarrassed and he ends up leaving and I end up by myself on the verge of tears. Most of the time he is constantly looking for the exits in each room, or scans the perimeter as I see it. Sometimes he just doesn't want to go anywhere period. Our children love love love Chuckey Cheese, and although I can honestly say that place makes me want to be an alcoholic sometimes a parent must endure the crappy stuff just to see their children smile. He on the other hand would rather stay home, let me face the questions of "Mom how come we can't go here or there" and then try to explain that places like that upset daddy or simply, we will go another time. I resent that. Extremely so. I resent we can't go anywhere without an episode or ruining it for the whole family. Some days I just give up on the idea of making memories other than ones that are made here at home or simply put, any memory that we must face that doesn't include him.

4. Paranoia: Gosh, where does one begin? Since he has been home, there have been so many accusations I could not even remember all of them even if I wanted to. Some have been just out and out ludicrous, and others have been so hurtful that I am not even sure I could ever get those comments out of my head. They range from having affairs while he was gone, poisoning him via his meals during supper (although we all ate from same pot and at same time), stealing money from our account and hiding it in a secret stash (what money! It's not like we are making 100 grand a year), and the most hurtful of all......accusing me of getting pregnant on purpose with our two children, to even accusing me of getting pregnant from another man while he was gone and trying to pass it off as his. I got pregnant within the first two weeks he was home, and throughout the whole pregnancy felt no matter what I did I could not prove to him that this was his child. Naturally once he saw his son, and the tell tale trait of his side of the family, no denying that one.

5. Ruins Every Important Moment or Holiday: Sabotage I tell you and I can't figure out why! It doesn't matter whether it's Christmas or anniversary, there is either an instigated fight on his side or he acts like this total monster so we are all angry at him and the event has been ruined. Nowhere in all this PTSD resource information can I find anything remotely pertaining to this.

6. High Sex Drive: I think this has something to do with the adrenaline, or perhaps his medications. He could have sex every day three or four times a day and never be happy with anything less than seven days a week or 365 a year. I read that one of his medications causes his sex drive to be higher, but seriously? No woman could stand seven days a week!

7. Violence: He often gets mad and then he wants to kill that person who ticked him off, of course not literally but still just goes on and on. Sometimes it concerns me, but often enough this type of behavior makes me a little worried. There have been several occasions where I have pushed him out of my way or to get him out of my face and his temper gets the best of him. Once he slapped me in the face. I hate to admit that, especially to a void but this part of him concerns me and scares me. Never one to do such a thing before and he says he doesn't even remember doing it.

8. Blackouts: Sometimes he refers to blackouts like driving down the road and not knowing where he is going or how he got there. Other times when he gets in his tirades, he doesn't remember doing it or the things he says. It's like another part of him takes over and his mind is no longer there.

9. Everything is everyone else's fault: Let's play the blame game ladies and gentlemen! I don't know if this is even relevant to PTSD but seems to be consistent with other spouses I have spoken to whose spouse has PTSD. I can't even get an apology without adding a but so and so ticked me off, or I'm sorry but you constantly nag. Ummm ok. It seems to be a constant thing whether it be at work, friends, at home....always someone else's fault. Most of the time though, I take the blame for any and all....even when he doesn't tell me what's wrong.

10. The Stupid Syndrome: as I so lovingly refer to it. This can be from anything that gives them an adrenaline rush. One night under the influence of several of Busch's products, it was mentioned that him doing stupid stuff gave him the same high or adrenaline rush like he had every time he would go outside the wire overseas. Some can be petty, but others I want to smack him upside the head and yell "are you stupid or do you want to just try and kill yourself!". Hence the name "Stupid Syndrome".

11. Secrecy and Lies: Not really sure how to describe this one as I have all of these "times" rolodexed in my memory like the men claim we have. Mostly it has to do with money, or transactions. Others can be as small as where he was at a friend's house when he was actually somewhere else. At times, I often think he has an affair, as any sane woman would automatically think when there are lies and secrecy, but everything he has done has been verified. So why lie about something so piddly and unimportant? In the entire time we have been married, no lies and no secrets....just since he has been home.

12. The infamous "D" Word: Now I admit since he has been home that things have been so complicated and stressed, that I have said if we could not work things out or if he didn't love me anymore, then I should leave. I partially accept responsibility for the actions I have said, but it seems to me like sometimes that is the only way I can get him to listen if I say I can't take this anymore. However, in self-defense, when he gets angry, its "I don't love you anymore" or "You should leave and leave me alone", constantly. I have tried to explain to him that this I love you, get out....wait don't go I hate you, is not healthy for me or the family. Hell it wouldn't be for anyone! So why is it when we get angry, the big ugly "D" word comes out? Is divorce really what he wants? I don't know. Some days I feel if me and the kids left, he would probably kick up his heels and says yes! Another part of me says he really doesn't feel that way, it's just an easier way to hurt me because he is hurting and has no one else to take it out on. Other parts of me feels like he just doesn't care whether I stay or leave. The biggest part of me wishes though that the man I loved and married would look at me and say "If you leave, you will take all of my happiness and I can't live without you". Sigh....the romantic in me. Guess this is no movie ladies and the leading man fails to rescue his one true love.

So there you have it. Although many more, these are my top twelve. Hopefully, one of you will say exactly! Perhaps you feel as if I do. Some days its knowing that there are more of me out there that feel alone and lost, than those who do not understand. Maybe there are more of me going through the same amount of hell each and every day looking for that one last shred of what used to be our spouses. How long are supposed to keep looking though? Is this something that falls into the "for sickness and in health" portion of our vows? Did the person who came up with that portion of it ever face this constant emotional roller coaster ride we endure? When is the time do you say 'I can't take it anymore" and it truly be acceptable? My mama used to tell me that in every life, you have victims and volunteers. Those who try to get out and do something for themselves are simply just victims. Those who stay and stay, are volunteering themselves for more punishment. I love my mama and man do I miss her every day....but I do believe I would tell her she was wrong. I don't feel like a victim although some days it seems like I am being punished for something I didn't do. Does this rank me as a volunteer though because I stay? I am all he has left, and I keep thinking that one day he will wake up from this Iraqi endured coma and say wow, you really stuck by me through thick and thin. Am I letting myself down in the process though? It sure feels that way. It's more like the old saying of "Damned if you do, and damned if you don't". No matter how hard you try, and no matter how hard you never really gain anything in the process nor do you ever see the end of the tunnel.

Until then,
A Volunteer