PTSD: RETURNING FROM IRAQ WASN'T THE MAN I SENT THERE Part 2
Violent, Aggresion, Anger
I noticed the PTSD before he did but I wasn't sure how to discuss it. He was in Iraq the second time and he was starting to have really noticeable memory problems. I received an email from asking me to call our insurance company USAA and ask a question and I did. I even told him on a phone call what they said. I also did what he asked and talked to Service Credit Union and asked what questions he needed. I remember explicitly because the answer was not satisfactory for my husband and he proceeded to get very angry with the main office. I knew there was a problem; my husband doesn't publicly display anger. He even has me call when he wants someone to confront a situation and it may get heated. He was a very private person and this was not like him.
When I had seen him on leave from his deployment he had been himself. My husband was a giving and loving man. I had just fought for custody of my eight year old son with Autism and he had made sure I had my attorney, had even put me on a flight out of Rammstein Air Force Base in Germany called a MAC flight. I flew a free cargo plane to the states because of the extreme need and he got an AER (Army Emergency Relief) Loan for me to travel from the East Coast to Texas where my ex-husband had hid my son's. He had just had surgery and dental work done that was painful and kept my daughter and our infant son that had no passport; just so I could try and get my son. All a week before deployment. Then on leave came home early to surprise me and spoil me with an extravagant glass ware set etched in gold he bought for my birthday. That was the man I married. On leave we discussed my plans for Christmas and he helped with a budget that would let me take my three children to the states for the holidays to visit my oldest son staying with his stepmother during his father's own fifteen month deployment. One we painstakingly planned ahead for and that his father had moved his leave to be there during the visit to see his other two children.
So when I got to the states and was unable to contact him right away I knew that once I left an email detailing my plans and how we were and how the trip was going he would understand I had no way to contact him. The email was full of the I miss yous and the wish you were here's. I had even gone as far as saving all my child support so that he didn't have to spend any more money on this. Total it was already over three grand and I know money is a stressor for him. I was wrong though; he emailed me back angry almost immediately. The fact they had no house phone was a problem. Then I totaled my ex-husband's car ( I was not at fault ) and injured and he was really irate because even though USAA was covering the accident and I was not at fault; my ex demanded I pay the five hundred deductible. With no verbal contact my husband was already very upset but I promised I would do what I could.
Around Christmas I was loading up the car with my four kids to go visit my sister's family and my mother for the holidays. I ended up missing a back road in Texas and getting lost through New Mexico with a ten year old trying to help me navigate. I had no sleep, nothing was open to eat in so we ate from random gas stations. I was so deliriously tired by the time we got there I broke down in tears. All I wanted to do was talk to my husband but I fell asleep. My sister won't let me download Yahoo Instant Messenger on her computer so I had to use email. I tried using myspace IM at the time and that didn't show him on there and he didn't use face book as I didn't at the time. I was sitting down to tell him in email of the horrid trip and I open it to the most angry, disrespectful, full of profanity email I have ever read. My heart was broken. I didn't try to not talk to him on Christmas. My only thought all day was my husband in Iraq.
To make matters worse on New Years Eve I get a call from my ex's wife saying when she picked Jay up at the airport she told him she wanted a divorce. I just fell to the floor. I knew she was thinking of divorce and I couldn't stand the woman. She was hitting my kid with a fly swatter in the shower for goodness sakes. But I didn't want this. I begged her before to wait until he got home in September because I had left my husband while he was in Iraq the first time. I had mental issues due to a medication that really damaged me; another whole series on that one, and I was his best friend and he mine for our entire marriage. He is still mine. I then called him and heard his voice and packed the kids up and headed from Colorado to Fort Hood immediately. I had to make sure he had family, his kids. Although we hadn't gotten along since the custody issues this was my baby's father and my best friend and only family.
When I got there I ended up staying at their house but it was just supposed to be me and in the end was me and him with six kids. Nothing happened. Heck, we fought for the last two days but I didn't communicate well to my husband I why him getting a divorce was keeping me stuck. That he was saying to take my son but that he wouldn't give me the passport. If I had to go home I would have had to leave him with that women; what mom would want to do that? He had also claimed my son Andrew on taxes and wasn't supposed to then refused to give me half the money like we normally would have. I had to give him that five hundred dollars. Virtually I was stranded stateside with four kids, no where to go and a husband who thought I was leaving him for my ex.
I had one denying me money and help and a passport and another one saying if I wasn't on a plane in twenty four hours I was to go file for divorce. I ended up living in Love land, Colorado in a two bedroom apartment with not even extra child support or help with things they needed from their father. My husband was giving me money but I hadn't heard from him in months. I didn't hear from him until someone else called me to tell me he filed for divorce. I was just dumbfounded. This wasn't the man that had a crush on me since meeting me at an FRG meeting. Heck we didn't meet he saw me asked who I was and found out I was SGT J. wife. We were casual friend and the whole time he was my soldier I accounted for and I was his fantasy. Who leaves there fantasy? The one girl that they beg to talk to on yahoo for his roommate and my best friends husband to laugh and say just because she is divorcing doesn't mean she will want you. To look at your roommate and say you are going to marry her one day and the whole time she barely knows you.
He did marry me. He was so in love with me and all of a sudden treating me like I was not important to him. Disrespecting me and not talking to me....then he finally did talk to me and he told me he had thought of killing himself and I just fell apart. To love someone that much I couldn't imagine but I had to love him and open up to him. This man wasn't sleeping, was on medication and oversleeping after that and getting in trouble for being late. He was miserable. His memory worse. His temper, his Internet flings, his manipulative behavior all not characteristic of him. So I talked to him and we opened up and I saw my husband cry for the first time. I thought it was me at the time. I thought it was because he needed to know that I loved him and I had to let that last wall down and let him in so I did.
He dumped over a thousand dollars on plane tickets. My oldest went to family for the remainder of the summer and we went home. We were going to be there for him at homecoming.
Homecoming = Happy Ever After; Or Does It?
The aggression I thought would pass of course. I knew he probably was still going to have some issues being he's been deployed twice but we had discussed that ultimately he just needed to know I loved him. That I was going to do until I took my last breath. He was my reason for just being. We are connected even still; though he will adamantly tell you otherwise unless you are blind everyone has seen it and actually been taken back by the connection. We are one soul in many ways though we are so opposite. I am outgoing and social and he is a homebody and private. I am loud he is quiet. I believe in God he is an atheist. We have different beliefs on everything under the sun yet were perfectly matched. Plus who doesn't like that someone worshiped you and you didn't meet yet. That you were there fantasy. Plus, we had no problem sexually that some couples do have a problem with. His temper and my emotionally driven life did cause problems but we agreed communication was our key downfall and if we learned to communicate; me not to over communicate and him to actually start communicating we would be able to survive this. We wanted therapy. I did tell him no at first but only because I needed to figure out my own issues as his were on my mind the entire time. To really see myself for what I was not what I thought I was. This is always a hard process.
Homecoming was in June. He didn't think I would be there because I couldn't drive in Germany; it scared the living daylights out of me to have no speed limit on an autobahn. I knew he was having a friend and his family bring him home but I wanted to surprise him. We found a way there by my downstairs neighbor and even after being delayed for four hours decided to wait it out. I didn't want to not be able to make it back to the kaserne. The gym was small but not many people were coming in. Just 68 Transportation Company. In Fort Hood it was a lot of people and in Fort Stewart even more and they had a bigger ceremony outside on the parade field. This was in a small gym by the bowling alley and was the best homecoming I thought of my life. I didn't lose my husband this time.
He didn't know we were there so when he saw me I think he just recognized the neighbor. I wasn't upset he didn't see me but I did panic inside. He looked dull in his eyes something was missing. I thought it was me; that he regretted me coming home. The hug was like the ones I get now...forced, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking to me for it feels like he is a limp noodle and cares nothing for me. We get in the car and he held my hand and tells me he was just surprised. I still felt out of sorts. Once we go home it was fine. He was my husband and we of course, made love and all was right with the world. I saw the love in his eyes and felt our souls connect again and I would never have thought we would split again. Never. His leave was great. I thought anyway. We didn't fight, we spent time together and with the kids, he bought the things we needed and spoiled me on my birthday. He couldn't go to his home state to see his son but the money from travel pay was sent to the wrong account and came in after block leave but I told him to spend it on himself. Then orders came down last minute change from the next year to Fort Bliss to six weeks from that day to Fort Stewart.
We didn't fight it because he asked me if I wanted him to and deep down I was screaming yes because Germany was my home. My best friends and god parents to my son were here. I loved the quiet and calm and same everyday life. I didn't want to go back but he hated it there and he needed to be happy again. To see his son finally. So we took the orders and we started fighting. He withdrew and snapped on me every chance he got. I saw him losing more of his memory. He began to yell at me during arguments and belittle me which he never did before. Then one day close to the last day to move out; the last day to clean out the apartment I had a panic attack and the worse one I have ever had. He heard me begging for an ambulance, a phone something. I was having trouble breathing and my blood pressure skyrocketed and plugged a few times. I fell to the floor unable to stand or even dial the phone and he got in my face and screamed I was not good for anything, he regretted coming back, he didn't want me as a wife, I was lazy, on and on every hurtful thing he could think of. He didn't take long to come back for me. I know he felt bad and he helped me calm down. I had blood running from my ear and he hugged me forever that day. He had taken anger management a long time ago and never broke his steps and he was never violent or verbally abusive to me. In fact he hugged me so hard that day because he took me from a relationship that did that to me everyday.
We never got us back I don't think. The next episode was a few days after in the states at people's house we were staying at that he told me to be a fake person and pretend to like them after stuff done in the past because we had no where else to go. I don't like being that person but he was right and turned out I really liked being there. He snapped his computer in half one night and tried throwing mine out the door. I held on to it and it almost got violent and he took off. When he came back the same night he told me that he had been to mental health that day. That when our son was crying it was the first time he wanted to hit him for no reason and he doesn't even spank the kids. He was given medication soon after. He was seeing a therapist at first but I think at some point he stopped going. He didn't get violent again until February but he was so withdrawn, only into a PC virtual reality game, finances became an issue with him unlike before, he wouldn't take me anywhere, didn't interact with the kids, family day stopped. He wouldn't watch movies or cuddle anymore and he would snap at me all the time for everything. I was falling deeper and deeper into a despair kind of depression and gained forty pounds in two months. I couldn't get out of bed. I stopped sleeping with him and we had no sex life. This made it worse for him because he thinks you don't love him if you do that. I was hating myself this whole time trying to figure out what to do to help us. Then it happened...the violence escalated and I could only think of ending my own life to fix the pain (but am suicidal afraid to die and love my kids too much so I wouldn't do it). I did start cutting myself; not a lot and I don't like blood so that stopped fast but I did start. Ended up getting a tattoo instead and will do so every time I ever feel like that again. My life felt like it was ending.
Last Straw...So I thought.
He wasn't taking his medication and I knew he wasn't. Never did take even one of the anti-psychotic's he got for sleep. He was sleepwalking which he had never done before. I couldn't stop his nightmares anymore. He was looking sick and pale and nothing we said was right it was always something. Then tax return time came around and no matter what we had planned he flipped out when I brought home an anniversary gift for him. It was only 60 dollars but it was a plain wedding band because he had always joked complaining about how girly his looked. I thought when he deployed in July he could take the more plain one instead. I put a lot of thought into it. He yelled about it and just put the box under the computer. I cried for hours that night wondering what I did wrong. I just wanted my husband back.
After dinner we were sitting down and he went to sit next to me and knocked over the guitar for guitar hero. I was joking and made a smart comment smiling and he picked it up and he threw it across the floor. I flipped out then and I started yelling at him and he just looked at me and said to get out that he couldn't take it anymore. That I was the one that was at fault and to find a new place to live. That is the nice way of saying it. It was full of hatred, profanity, he looked like he was disguised with me. I collapsed on the bedroom floor sobbing into the phone and he was just sitting on the couch and not caring. My friend said to get the kids in the car and just go there.
I tried to get the kids ready and he was getting ready to keep me from taking the car. He didn't want to be "stuck for the weekend with no vehicle". I was livid; STUCK, how about ME being stuck EVERY DAY. If I left without the kids he hadn't done anything all day and I would have to just clean it anyway and catch up taking care of the kids. It wasn't a break it was more work. I didn't want to get yelled at if i got home later then I thought. I didn't want the kids to upset him. We were all on edge all the time. I am not saying I was perfect even though I did try with nothing but best intentions. I was falling deeper into despair and depression and became withdrawn and almost agoraphobic. Anxiety plagued me and I got re-medicated and doubled my dose of Paxil.
He tried to keep me from taking the car and jumped on it with the crowbar and I know that is when we both really saw it went to far. As I said he had never been violent and despite swearing he was done with me three days later we came home to him to try to see what we could do. The next four months were blissful and I have to say the memory I hold on to of my husband. I love the man more then my own life and nothing he did do I hold against him. I stayed because I was an Army wife, born and bred military. Why would I leave my husband if I could stay and fight my own war when he went and fought theirs. That war did this to him we didn't, he didn't. I don't blame him for any of it or even in the constant denial of his he still has that he doesn't have PTSD. Despite that he knew there was a problem and despite that he knew and got himself help for I never forced that. You can't help someone until they are ready to be helped. I have been getting my own help for I did want to save our marriage. Those four months I hold on to because that is my husband. Because one day he comes home and leaves not coming back that night. My life changed and I saw the worst I have seen. I hold on to the four months and the memories of even not so great times because its who my husband really is and the man that I fell in love with the one that fell in love with me. The man that I know still loves me deep down and I know it will be hard when he is okay enough to see what he has pushed away.
I may be divorced but I am still an Army wife. When he needs me I will be there. I may be the only one that will but its me that took on that responsibility and me that stayed faithful through a trying time and truly a nightmare. Its the man that I know he is and sacrificed his own mind to fight this war. They keep sending him and I get into that later but I fear every-time he won't come back. I am still that army wife because if he hadn't forced me to leave; I would still be fighting. I silently fight for his safety and though I may have to move on I will never put blame on anyone; not me nor him. The Army failed my husband and failed my family and especially my children. He wasn't perfect and far from it and I know that. I am not blind or live behind rose covered glasses. Even what I share with you as the public is no where near what is still left unsaid as we as every man and wife shared things we won't share with anyone else and things that aren't mine to share.
I hope that in divulging what I have so far that it only does one thing and make aware of the serious nature this illness has on people and families. Through my series about PTSD I hope that you become aware its common, its something the Army is stripping benefits away from and its something that is causing drastic rise in suicide rates. I also later will get into why the Anthrax and other vaccinations not only have affected Autism if you believe as I do that they are definitely a factor; but why the Army isn't taking responsibility and that its a serious issue and these men are men...human beings...and families are being destroyed. That they are sending mentally unstable men that they created back to war when they know they shouldn't be there. That I can't go into very much on my end but I do have plenty of other stories from the media and such that will basically show what I am not saying. I owe him his privacy in areas of his life that he trusted me with. Just as I hope he would do for me. Though I tell all about my life I don't hide much. Its not my choice to do that for him. Maybe one day he will feel able to share his own story and I hope he accepts one day what the truth is. I do love him with all my heart and I do pray for him everyday.
I may be divorced but eternally I owe him...I will always be an Army wife.
I don't want to share the last traumatic incident as its something I believe is his to do and its not just mine at this point but I want to say we did have a three day vacation from the other and we had a four month's following that were the best of my marriage and I will cherish that time in ways that I won't any other as its the last time I really saw my husband the way he used to be. I miss the man that was that man. I wish daily he would have accepted his PTSD and we could go to therapy but I have had to move forward because he forced it. He doesn't think its anything but me most of the time and I think I have come to a point where I needed to let him go until he could find what he needed to find.
However, unlike any other divorce I will always be his Army wife and in the end when he needs someone to help him up from rock bottom or to pick up broken pieces my hand is the first and god forbid only one; there to help do just that. My love doesn't stop and my sacrifice as a wife of the army doesn't stop. My job was to stand by and support him and I did in every way I could even if it was not the right way. I never would do different.
- PTSD, by any other name, still haunts troops - Stripes Central - Stripes
HBO premiered a documentary about the psychological toll of war at the Pentagon Thursday night.
- Tetris blocks PTSD symptoms - Good Game - Stripes
An Oxford study concludes playing the puzzle game Tetris is more beneficial than either drugs or therapy during a four-hour window.
- Military grapples with mental health issues - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Af
As the war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year, repeated deployments have been linked to stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among troops, as well as rising rates of suicide.