It’s usually when the whole house is quiet and everyone is home that I cannot sleep. I sit up thinking about everything around me how we got here.. Not in a figurative way, I know how I made my way up to my bed, under the covers and how my children made it to their beds and my husband found the couch.. I know all that. I mean, how we got here. Here in life. How did we make it through all of that, yet still end up here? How did we survive that? How? None of it makes sense.
It feels like I was just sitting in that auditorium, on Fort Drum, listening to all these people brief us on what could happen, what will happen and when. It was just yesterday I was surround by all these people, thinking none of this applies to us, he will never do that. Yet here we are..
“God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
I knew after the first deployment, I’d never have my husband back the way he was before. I knew he was left somewhere in Afghanistan.. What I didn’t know was just how bad it was over there. I remember reuniting with him on that day in March. It didn’t take long before realizing I only had my physical husband back, but in every other sense nothing would ever be the same. But I love him still.
He had never really talked to me about anything that had happened in Afghanistan. I think he thought it would protect me from everything he had to see. I know he was just looking out for me.. but I wish I would have only knew half of what he had bottled inside.
“May the Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent from one another”
I heard stories from his battles, when they’d get to drinking together they would talk. I tried not to listen because as much as I wanted to know, I didn’t. I remember getting a call, shortly after R&R, saying they weren’t sure of many details but my husband was fine. Something about a grenade and 5ft, but he was okay.. I’m not sure if they really didn’t know or if I tuned out but it was the scariest call I’d received and it wasn’t the last.
After his return I had to learn to deal with his memory loss and work on picking my battles. It caused a lot of grief and dampened our marriage.. We worked hard to find our new normal and with time, it came but so did the second deployment.
This one came a little easier than the last. First because it would be three months shorter and second because this was round two, I had an idea of what to expect. I also wasn’t pregnant. Like the first, the second came with many struggles and hardships. We made it and late July, he was mine again. After our visitors left and it was just our family again, reality sank in and the war at home became obvious.
He, again, shielded me from many details and though frustrated, I am thankful. I can’t imagine what he and his brothers went through.. but it was all too soon that I would find out.
“Truck tires on a gravel road
Laughing at the world, blasting my radio
Cannon ball splashing in the water
Doing whatever whenever you wanted
‘Cause baby you don’t sound like you anymore”
In December we moved back to Kansas. It was a blessing in disguise. Our life slowly started to unravel and it was nothing like it seemed, nothing like it was suppose to be.
Anytime we tried to do anything together it always ended in an argument. Nothing ever went right. He was angry all the time, even when he seemed okay it was only a matter of time before the next outburst. He was yelling, all he wanted to do was drink, sleep and be alone. Alone. It was all I could feel.. & all he could feel was numb.
It was late on a June night, driving down the interstate when reality hit me like a ton of bricks. The war at home was real. We had just got on the interstate and he had been yelling for a good minute or two now. Yelling things I had no idea where it came from.. It wasn’t until nearly 6 months later that I finally put the final piece into the puzzle of that night.
We had been talking and I was trying to tell him a story while he was trying to give me subtle hints that something was wrong, something had been bothering him and before I knew it, he was going to blow. & he did with my not as simple as I thought comment of “…NO! I said that like 5 seconds ago ….” That is when the real argument began. Until recently, I played that night back over and over again trying to find what I had missed. Trying to find that missing piece..
5 seconds. Do you know what can happen in 5 seconds? More than you would think. 5 seconds could make all the difference in the world. So much happened before those 5 seconds and much more after but those 5 seconds are the exact seconds that changed everything.
He reached for his 9mm that was sitting right between the two of us and cocked it. It was that very moment my life stood still. Our kids. My husband. My life. It was all right there and one wrong word, one wrong move would change it all, forever. He was still yelling, at this point, I can’t even remember what he was saying. I don’t remember pulling the truck over. But I can see it in my mind every single time I drive that road. Every time I’m in that truck. I see it.
I spent many days between then and now, driving his truck down the interstate – thinking, wondering, beating myself up inside. How did I miss it? How could I be so blind? I knew what war could do to a person… A person. Some one else. Not him. Not my husband. Not us.
There we were, on the side of the interstate in the realest moment of my life. War was here, it was home.
I can’t tell you how I was feeling as many emotions ran wild within me. I can’t tell you what was said as real and terrifying as it was, it was mostly a blur. I don’t know what made him release the gun from his side, pointed at the floor.. but he did. I do know there was something inside him that kept him from pointing the gun and also pulling the trigger, I don’t know what it was; I am okay with that. He released the gun to me and thankful doesn’t begin to describe how it made me feel.
It was a waking moment in our life. A few days later, I gave him the ultimatum. You tell them, or I will. Your choice. I thought for sure it was going to be yet another battle. No one, no soldier, wants to go in and say the unspeakable. No soldier wants to make that appointment. No soldier wants what that brings..
“PTSD is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of absolute strength. PTSD is earned by doing what others fear.” – unknown
Within a few more days he came home and told me he would be talking to a therapist. Some will understand how huge of a step this is for him. I felt a small sense of relief at this point, almost like a little weight would now be off of me. In a way, though, it added just a little more. It was no longer our war alone. More and more people, sources, would find out and before long… it would all be out. I wasn’t ready for that – but much like everything else; ready or not — here I come. Said Life.
So that was it. He started talking to someone and life went on..
I spent weeks trying to make sense of it all. Trying to imagine our future, trying to prepare. At that point, nothing was happening. He started talking to someone and that was suppose to solve it all. Everything was suppose to be okay.
The Army did what they do best; handed him a script and directed him to the pharmacy. Patted him on the back and told him he’d be okay, good job for speaking up. Formation is at 0600, don’t be late.
Then it happened again. I came home from work at 0630 one morning to find all the kids, husband and dog asleep in my living room. I felt the hardest tug on my heart walking through the house. I should have been home. This wouldn’t have happened, had I been home. Working nights, working in general, meant much more responsibility placed on him. But it had to be done.
As it all unravelled, it became clear how things happened. I felt sick. He wasn’t getting better. What I already knew flooded my mind.. he cannot unsee what he saw. He will never be the same. He may never be able to handle what most men, husbands, fathers can. That medicine was hurting my family more than it could ever help. I didn’t know what to do, where to turn, who to turn to. Because in that situation, how could any one else understand?
I will never be able to thank those who were there for me through all of this. I will forever be indebted to those few who did undeniably understand.
Almost like we were at step one, again, he walked back in that office. This time we went together. I was completely unprepared for the reality that room brought. The emotions. The feeling of being underwater without my oxygen tank..
I’ll never forget the expressionless face his therapist worn when an exhausted, fearful, attentive wife stared her in the face and said the unspeakable — “so two isn’t enough? we have to wait for a third, a third that could be successful or at the very least land him on a hospital bed adding more trauma to my small children and self than we’ve already endured.. we have to wait before anything will be changed?..” As much as she couldn’t believe I said that in front of him, I couldn’t believe she had said what she did.
Until that point, I felt relieved. I felt like progress was, whether fast or slow, being made and one tiny step at a time – – we were getting somewhere. Until then.
I’d like to think they were more surprised than I to hear of the second episode. I’d like to think that. The reality is; this stuff happens more than anyone wants to believe. This wasn’t their first rodeo, I’m certain of that. It was ours, though.
Days later, he walked in the door quickly shutting it not to allow anyone to see inside as he told me his 1SG and Commander were here. They need to talk to us.. and remove weapons. My heart sunk. I was relieved. At the same time, terrified. How did we get here? Why is this happening? Is this real?
I’d heard stories like this. I knew it could happen. We’d never been in the presence of higher ranks in our living room, in uniform, making demands. Using authority. I was this houses commander. But not in that moment..
Soon after, things slowly started to happen to get us here and ever since I’ve been trying to grasp it all, trying to accept it. Sure, he’s the soldier. Of course, this all directly affects him in ways I will never understand –but, it affects all of us. The military is all we have known. It’s been home. We’ve never had to worry much about anything because they’ve taken care of us. We’ve always had a home, insurance, a paycheck.
Now, life as we know is ending. We don’t know what we are doing next. It’s scary, ya know? Somehow, though, we always find our way..