Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PTSD: A family diease

Philip and I were always laughing.  Laughing with one another, laughing with friends and family, enjoying our children and enjoying life and every new day that we were blessed with. In love we were very much.  Nothing or no one were able to come between the love we shared for one another.  Our days were filled with smiles and new adventures.  Whether we were taking the kids out on outdoor adventures, or even a trip to the movies, we were always busy doing something.  It did not matter what it was.  Not only did I find in Philip a wonderful partner, I found in him an amazing father and also my bestfriend.  What drew me to this man was his character, his heart, and the happiness that he had for life.  When he smiled his beautiful eyes would just shine, they were so full of life.  The strength of our special connection was our communication.   We could talk about anything.  We would listen to one another, we would give one another advice, criticism and sometimes the harsh words that no one else will say to you but you need to hear things.  We had an understanding between each other.  Even though we came from very different walks of life you would never be able to tell.  We truly were an image of "When Two Becomes One."

After a beautiful summer together filled with great laughs and memories, Phil was deployed.  It was a dream of his.  He had served at that time almost seven years in the military.  His dream had come true and the energy of excitement and fear was just booming off of him.  As a partner it is sad to let go and have a deployed spouse.  You are always wondering if they are safe, it's like life stops and it revolves around letters, emails, and phonecalls.  The feeling of relief of hearing their voice over the phone or opening that email is unlike anyother.  For me I could not imagine being over there.  It's like a different world.  Only through pictures could I catch an outsiders view of what went on over in Afghanistan, but to even understand the realities of even just being there I could not.

Philip came home from his deployment on his HLTA tired, and exhausted but not empty handed.  No, I am not talking about all the goodies from his shopping trip in Dubai, I am talking about a promise.  A commitment. An offering.  Valentine's Day 2009, the man of my dreams dropped onto his knee in -40 weather and proposed to me, asking ME of all the people in the world to spend the rest of my life with him.  I beside myself.   We spent the rest of his time home on cloud nine, our "see you soons" were definitely hard but without a doubt in that short time I was ready to have my soldier home. He was the last to come home on leave which left us not a lot of time until he would come home for good from tour.

Months later my warrior came home. We were excited to start our wedding planning and go shopping for our home.  It was a week and a half after he had returned that I started to notice that something was not right.  Every little thing that our son who was two at the time did, or anything that I said, or even a facial expression he would become so irritated and confrontational about.  I felt like I was walking on eggshells.  We had talked about the furniture we were going to buy, and the excitement we had for creating our lives together, and here he was arguing with me over how long it took us to decide what color place mats we wanted.  This was not Phil.  This was not the man I fell in love with.  I would wind up in tears and frustration not knowing what I did.  Things did not become easier.  Three weeks after he returned home from his deployment I was pregnant.  Imagine that.  We all know what comes with woman when they are pregnant.  Well with me anyways.  Demands, and HORMONES.  So here are the two of us, emotional, moody, and tired.  I figured maybe he was just stressed and tired from being gone. Maybe he was nervous about the baby.  Things progressively got worse.  He would be waking up with night terrors, his patience was that of a ticking time bomb ready to go off any second.  He would fall into a pit of depression and isolate himself from his family and friends.  All his time was spent playing video games.  He would come home from work, and that was where he would be. 

I couldn't wrap my mind around what was going on.  Was it me?  Did I do something?  Why is he treating me this way?  Maybe this is all a mistake.  We would get into arguments and he would fall into fits of rage. The littlest thing would bother him and eat at him.  It would ruin his whole day.  I became so angry at times, felt so helpless because he would not communicate with me his feelings I felt like it was time to walk away from all of this.  In my head I felt that maybe we weren't as compatible as I had thought.  Many times I had threatened to leave him.  That was when he would snap out of his funk and realize what was going on.  Apoligies were given, we would decided on different ways to deal with our diffferences and that was that.  We would have a period of a week with no problems, Phil would act like nothing had happened and we would fall back into it.  His anger had finally turned me off.  I became so partial to this numbness, this anger that Philip had I became depressed and angry myself.  As an army wife in most cases, you give up everything.  I felt that I had made sacrafices for the love of my life, and here I was being treated like garbage.  Here I was excited and relieved that my partner was home from the war, but here I found myself in a war with him, and him fighting a war within himself.

Parts of Phil would come around and he would come to his senses.  I don't remember at what point in all this mayhem he realized that something within him was wrong.  But the main thing was that he realized it.  There were many hoops and barrels to jump through and over but he was finally diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and PTSD.  He was out on medications and was receiving counseling.  I was proud of him for going and was willing and wanting to learn more about his mental state, and learn why he was the way he was but again he shut me out.  He would get angry if I brought it up, rather than seeing me as supportive, he felt that I was prying.  I know now that it was his ego.  He often told me he was a broken soldier.  Here my proud First Nations husband who always held his head high, was defeated within.  Little did he know by getting help he was winning.  It took well over a year for him getting counselling and medication, but he seemed to have overcame this battle. 

He had weaned himself off of his pills, he was that man I knew.  HE WAS BACK.  It's now been a few years, a few kids later(we have four), our wedding and a new posting... and once again here we find ourselves back on the PTSD battlefield.  I had slowly noticed the change in Phil, but with welcoming a new child into the world and Philip settling into his new posting I did not want to say something.  It was then when I acknowledged the fact and made aware how he was being again that all the anger and the change in temperament and the isolation and depression began for him.  This time it was worse.  His anger had overcome him and I was very unsettled with whatever demon he had inside of him.  I threatened to leave him if he didn't change up on his attitude.  I did end up taking the kids and leaving for a week. I was ready to just walk away.  Our friend who started up Military Minds had a talk with me and explained that he does not realize how his actions are affecting his family.  He does not understand, he just knows what he is going through and half the time with PTSD he doesn't know what is wrong.  I really sat and thought about all of that. 

I said vows to Philip.  For better or worse,  in sickness and in health. I now realize rather than trying to fight him, together we have to fight this battle together.  He may not like it, he may not want it, but I need to support my soldier.  Our little squadron needs its leader.  I try to let him be and be more understanding to his moods. I let him know I am not against him and that I love him.  I do not understand what it is that he is fighting inside, but I want him and need him to know that I am here to take the front lines with him.  Educating oneself is the most important thing a partner can do. Rather than being silenced, this mind disease needs to come out of the shadows and be broken into the light.  We need to be picking up our war wounded soldiers and be providing them with all the help and support that they need.  Although wounds are not visible, there is a huge battle amongst our soldiers that needs to be beaten long after they have come home from war.  Not only is PTSD something that affects individuals I believe it is a family disease.  I really hope my story can give some insight into someone elses struggles.  I have not re read this.  I am not going to edit this not.  I have just been writing as is.  So here I bleed onto this paper for you in hopes that someone else will join forces and fight this battle with us.  We shall overcome.