There is something to a military spouse. The resilience, strength, and ability to adapt to change at a moments notice is something we as military spouses have, and continue to have, if not more so, after our loved one comes home. We have a bond and connection to one another even though we dont know one another. We have that knowing of “I’ve been there” empathy towards each other, or “I can only imagine what you’re going through”. We are a small community, and can even say family. We are one of a kind.
I found a video of A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas. This brings tears to my eye.
This interview was done in 2013 before the start of the first Families of PTSD Vets and Military Support group in Hampton Roads VA. I found someone had placed this on Youtube, so I am sharing it, hoping maybe it will help someone else out there.
Don’t think our service men and women don’t sacrifice? Think again. Not only do they sacrifice themselves when they go off to war, but while gone, they sacrifice time with their family, missing out on birthdays, holidays, births, deaths, and special moments. They miss that first step their child makes, or the first word, or even the first day of kindergarten. From war, many lose a piece of themselves, some physically, some mentally, some both and some lose their lives.
While yes, we do have a volunteer military, and our loved ones volunteered for their country, they did so so yours wouldn’t have to. If not for the men and women who volunteer for the war they go to (justified war or not), those who don’t want to go, would be forced to do so.
So while you may not agree with their mission, you can still support the ones that fight. They are still owed our gratitude and our respect. They have sacrificed so much, and are asked to continue to do so. Isn’t it time we sacrificed too? For many, the scars are deep, and for some, invisible.
The support shouldn’t stop once they are home. Support our Vets should be just as big of a catch phrase and action as Support our Troops.
We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. Shouldn’t it be time we tell them #youmatter?
I often see questions from civilians who do not have a loved one that is a vet or a service member, what can they do to show they support the troop by more than simply saying it.
As the spouse of a veteran with PTSD, here are some of my suggestions.
Get involved – Many communities are creating organizations to touch on military and veterans issues.
If you are in a church, find a way to create programs to help vets and their families. For example, create a children’s night. Have a safe place the parents can drop the kids off, knowing they are safe, to give the kids a chance to play with other kids, and a chance for mommy and daddy to reconnect.
If you are a pastor, educate yourself on PTSD, and get training so you can help those in your congregation that may be suffering.
If you own a business, hire a vet.
If you are a professional (Dr., psychologist, therapist, lawyer), offer pro bono work to veteran’s and their families. Many vets and their families are going without healthcare. Many need a lawyer because they have gotten themself in trouble, or they have family issues, or need help with appeals, ssi or initial filing.
Find ways to help them. Find out what their needs are. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to. Be there for them. Some are coming home to no help or loved ones. Try to become a friend to them. There are many ways people can help. When you say we support our troops, don’t just say it, but mean it.
The last suggestion I have is, educate yourself on invisible wounds. Help us raise awareness, and join us in fighting for them. Write your congressman and senators, demanding action. Demanding more help, and for them to start showing their appreciation for our vets. Find out which politicians are against veteran’s benefits, and NO MATTER WHAT PARTY THEY ARE IN, VOTE THEM OUT. We do not need politicians up there who want to take away the little benefits that our veterans do get. They have no business in Washington. I dont care what party they are in.
I remember when we first started the process of getting my husband into the VA, my husband’s case worker gave an analogy to describe PTSD. PTSD is like a pickle. You can take a cucumber and turn it into a pickle, but you cant take a pickle and turn it back in to a cucumber. There are several types of pickles; dill, sweet, bread and butter, “wickles,” etc. It is up to the person to decide what “type of pickle” they want to be. You then learn to love the taste of the pickle, but it will never be a cucumber again. That analogy has stayed with me. I know that my husband is forever changed, and the person who I knew is gone. He still has parts of him remaining, but he is forever changed. Learning to accept and love the “new pickled” him has it’s challenging moments, but I still love this man with all my heart, who he was, and who he is now, “pickled” and all.
One of the things I try to do is keep my own political views to myself, at least off my public sights concerning our veterans. One of the things I always remember my grandfather, and father say is you dont talk about politics (however this doesnt apply to them today, they are just like everyone else, freely speaking their mind about their views). We all have different political opinions, and unfortunately these types of conversation are rarely kept civil. Keep in mind, I am a Political Science major. Not because I want to be a politician, but because I want to “learn the game” to help our veterans and their families, however that leads me to helping them. The last thing I want to be is a politician, but do want the knowledge of how our system works, can lead me to finding ways to help.
With all of this said, I do want to bring up politics for a moment, but not for the reasons one might think. One of the things I see over and over again on the posts about the VA scandal is people who automatically begin blaming one political figure, one party or the other. STOP making veterans about the left or right. We lose 22 veterans A DAY to suicide. That is someone’s father, husband, brother, mother, wife, sister, friend. The number is likely HIGHER than that due to the lack of a streamlined reporting system, and only getting the numbers from 21 states. Our veterans issues not only affect the veteran, they affect the FAMILIES. These issues ARE NOT just a republican or democrat issue. It is AN AMERICAN issue. Stop trying to make it about blaming one or the other, and come together for the sake of our vets and their families. We have so many veterans families who are losing everything and many losing their loved one while people are arguing over who is to blame. JUST FIX IT, and put action behind “Supporting our troops.”
This type of point the blame attitude is the wrong attitude to have, and will not help our veterans. When we are so divided on this very important issue, very little will be accomplished to help them.
Do you ever feel like you have switched placed with your spouse? Somehow, someway, you have completely switched rolls, and in some ways, personality.
My husband and I simply put, have switched roles. My husband at one time was the take charge, take the lead type of guy. He would make sure business got taken care of, no matter how uncomfortable it was. Thoughtful and decisive, he made decisions. If there were bills that needed to be paid, he paid them, even if it meant not having money left over. He was ambitious, and dreamed of the future. He was positive, and upbeat, always having a laugh or a smile for someone. An impeccable memory, he was able to remember the smallest detail. Anyone could tell you that my husband could also talk forever. He loved to talk. It was his “thing.” Above all he loved to talk to new people, and travel, experiencing a new place, new people, and new adventures. I was complete opposite of that. My memory was horrible, although I love to talk, I wasnt one who met friends easily, being more reserved and quiet. Suffering from anxiety, there were times I stayed at home, not wanting to go out. Avoidance was a big thing for me, avoiding anything that was difficult, and having little ambition, or dreams.
Now, today, he and I are completely opposite of the way we once were. He hangs back, lets me take the lead and take charge. He waits for me to make a decision, or is hesitant in making his own. Conversations we have are forgotten days later. Medical appointments, dental appointments, are now up to me to make, and go with him so they are remembered/kept. I’ve had to help become his memory. We avoid crowds, and stay home a lot. When old friends are seen, my husband is now more quiet, more reserved, almost seemingly deep in his own thoughts. The laughter comes occasionally, but not like it once did. Some days, he spends his time in our bedroom, away from the world. Those are the bad days. Sometimes they come several days in a row, sometimes they dont. Plans are rarely made, for fear of them being broken. Invites are politely declined, to the point they are now rarely asked. Very few understand.
This isnt to say there arent good days. I see a smile, hear a laugh, and we actually venture out into the world. He works 5 days a week, which helps with consistency, and purpose. He takes care of the kids, giving him routine, and there again purpose. There are days, that I see he needs sleep or help. I help get our daughter to out the door to school and take our son to school to help him out, even though I will be late to work. Days where I have had to take off, in helping him, just by being there. Some days the kids and I have to go out without him, and some days he joins us. At times, we have several good days in a row.
With all these changes, I’m learning to find a new normal. Settling into new ways. Over the past few years, things have been chaotic and all over the place to say the least. The past year however, since my husband has gotten on a new medication, has been better, and we are settling in a “new normal.” Our new normal isn’t what I ever envisioned, but then again, life never is. I know some days I have to pick up the slack, and on most things take the lead in getting them done. It isn’t to say he does nothing. He tries every day. He tries for us, and some days I can see it is a struggle for him. It isn’t something I can describe. Those days if we are able, I leave him alone, and let him sleep. The kids, they keep him grounded, give him a purpose, and help him through “the darkness.” I’ve learned (although, don’t always abide by) how I communicate with him,, and when to communicate something, and when to wait. This is the beginning to our new “normal” life that we are still figuring out.
Code words. This is something my husband and I found that works for us.
We came up with a word that was totally random that we could use when he would begin to get into his angry rantings. This was used to diffuse the situation, and for him to know he needed to chill out. He would walk away and cool off. The word we use is acorn. We haven’t had to use it in a while. As the rages slowly went away, we would use it in other ways, if one of us were to go off into a drawn out rant about one thing or another and needed to cool out. Lately we haven’t found the need to use this code word, as we are both learning to communicate again. Please note that is an everyday process, and we still don’t have all the answers.
Another word we use is “noted.” We use it when I am saying something he doesn’t necessarily want to hear, which is usually about getting back into therapy or something to do with his health. So I know he hears me and understands, but doesn’t want to talk about it, he says noted. This way I back off, but I’ve at least said what I needed to. In doing this particular code word, I’ve also had to gage his moods, and know when I can approach certain subjects and when I can’t.
It has all been a learning curve, figuring out what works for us, and what doesnt. I’m still learning, and at times, adjusting. I don’t claim to know everything. In fact I know very little. I only know what we have gone through, what we have tried, what works and doesn’t work for us. Everyday it takes hard work. Sometimes when life is moving so fast you can’t catch your breath, it is easy to forget. I’m human and I make mistakes. But the key to that is learning from those mistakes, and changing it so I don’t do it again.
My parents always told me, in life, nothing comes easy. I never understood that until going through all that we have. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and it isn’t happily ever after. Life is about learning and hard work. Relationships take both. Love isn’t always enough. Learning to work together, instead of against one another has helped us. But it is one day at a time, one step at a time, taken together. I know there will be misteps, but it is taking from those misteps to try and make sure they don’t happen again.