As many of you know, my husband has PTSD from several deployments overseas in the military. What some of you DONT know is the hell that can/does come with it. This month, May, is mental health month, and starting tomorrow, June 1st, is PTSD Awareness Month. This is also a traumaversary month for my husband. Generally, Jan-June 1 is an exhausting roller coaster ride filled with sleepless nights, waking up not knowing who I’ll wake up to, locking down car keys, and credit cards, keeping 2 young boys quiet when finally, he does sleep.
It’s tiring, stressful, frustrating and lonely. It feels like you are fighting the world…fighting alone. You fight to keep your loved one alive, hanging on for dear life in the constant ups and downs. You fight the VA, who fails to see the trauma your family endures, and wants to lower their rate because they think, magically, your spouse is better. You fight alone, in silence, screaming on the inside, wishing the world tried to see the pain, and trauma endured, getting annoyed when you hear civilians thank a veteran or saying how they support the troops, with little action put to words. Words that feel like a saying to make them feel better, without doing any real work, or trying to learn, truly supporting veterans and their loved ones.
By Memorial Day, I’m exhausted, and depressed, frustrated, on constant high alert and still hanging on for dear life, having continually tried to keep a sense of normalcy and keep the ship that is our life, afloat. No one sees the daily struggles, the stress, the secondary trauma.
Most who meet my husband won’t know. They won’t know that he is “off” at the moment. His affect changing. They won’t know that he jumps out of bed between 2 and 3 am, like clockwork during this time. How he gets addicted from the adrenaline pumping through his veins. So he fights the meds, the sleep, and the eventual depression that he knows will come with the crash.
After 2 days of no sleep, my husband that I know and love begins to fade. By the 3rd day, a different person, more hyper, stubborn, almost a force of nature, takes hold. The speech becomes more rapid, more moody, more brash and sometimes unpleasant. He gets to a point where he won’t listen to reason. His decision making skills are questionable. Previously, during these blights of sleepless time, it has resulted in buying expensive items, to include expensive cars, we can’t afford. It’s resulted in locking down his credit, and limited his access to credit cards and our main accounts. In his clarity periods, he understands, but in times like these he gets mad, and forgets why these plans are in place. And although he wouldn’t admit it, I believe he has more thoughts of suicide, from comments he has made.
His memory, that’s another thing. He often repeats information or conversations we have continually had, especially during these periods, forgetting we ever had them. It’s a recurring theme. He doesn’t understand why I get annoyed. I try not to, but, my own trauma is in play. We almost play the same themes over each year, like a broken record. Same thought construct, same war movies, same trauma that comes.
Some things have gotten better. I mostly know what to expect. Our safety plan is working better and we are more prepared. We keep an open dialog with his psychiatrist. But, it doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t make the trauma we go through yearly, any less tragic than what it is. It’s hard to talk to people about what we go through, especially if they don’t understand.
We have simply been trying to survive the past 10 years, between his PTSD, and now, his lung issues. It’s been one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, even one hour at a time. The world doesn’t see what veterans, and their family, really, go through with having a loved one living with a mental illness. It isn’t their fault. The person they are when the episode takes place, isn’t who they are. It isn’t the person that we know and love.