I "write" several blogs in my mind as the days go by and they never actually get written down or posted. It's not because I don't feel that I need to release some anger or express myself, I just don't think it's safe to bring my laptop into the shower with me or carry it while I'm vacuuming. By the time I'm done I've usually moved past what's been bothering me or I don't have time write then to post. Sometimes by not saying anything, things will keep eating away at me and then I find that I snap at someone or post a quick status on Facebook and that usually garners me unsolicited advice. So as the wife of a wounded warrior, there's a few things that I feel the need to get off my chest.
1. I have a different set of circumstances than most people. I don't want your advice or have you try and relate to me or tell me you understand. That means if you don't get to experience being the brunt of someone's PTSD on a daily basis, or have to deal with the aftermath of injuries both physical and mental, then there's a pretty good chance that you don't understand. It also means that I definitely do not want you making excuses for his behavior or laughing it off as that's just the way he is. No, this entire experience changed him and there are days I don't even recognize the person he has become.
2. Please do not question me as to why I put up with it, stay with him, and whatever other things you feel the need to point out. I am not stupid and yes I do have a backbone. I do not feel that I am being walked all over or make excuses for him. Yes there are times when he is being an ass and I will usually point that out to him. However much in the same way that I waited for him throughout his deployments, I feel that it's important that I do everything that I can to continue to support him, good and bad. I have a handful of wounded warrior wife friends who have made the difficult choice to leave their husbands and I completely support them in those decisions as well.
There are times when I have felt like I had one foot out the door and I was horrified at the thought of spending the rest of my life with someone who behaved this way. In the past nearly three years, my husband has been put on hundreds of different medications, all with different side effects. Trying to keep him from becoming an addict has not been easy because that means he has to live with constant pain. Constant pain that means he is not always much fun to live with.
3. Do not tell me this is what we signed up for or that it could always be worse. Yes being killed or wounded was always a risk with his job. At no time did we ever sign up for or ask for him to be blown up. Nor did we ask for him to go through that many surgeries or have that many infections, or still be here waiting. I'm well aware that it could've been worse. I'm reminded of that every day and just because he is still alive does not make things easy. Despite what you think, an amputation would not have been worse for him, and would've actually have been better in some ways. Because they did a limb salvage, he will always be disfigured and full of shrapnal and scar tissue, therefore will always be in pain. That is far from being the only pain he has. I can't even explain it all.
4. Just because the amount of time that has passed does not mean he's recovered or I'm dragging out the caregiver thing. He will never make a full recovery. I think he has adapted incredibly well and I am amazed at the process that he's made. I'm not thinking glass half empty when I say it's probably not going to get any better. It is what it is and he will be dealing with the effects of it long after he's out of the military and for the rest of his life. It's not just fire fighting that was taken away from him, there are several civilian jobs that he won't be able to do now. He has no muscle or strength in that arm and fingers that don't even work. He's extremely sensitive to cold yet something could be burning his hand and he wouldn't even realize it.
5. I don't always feel like being positive. In fact sometimes I feel like being downright negative and having myself a nice little pity party. Sometimes I just want to start screaming at someone and wonder why I am left with some other person than the one who I married. Sometimes things get to me and I don't need advice about how I need to have a positive outlook and not be such a downer all the time and only I can change my situation. You know what, some days my situation tends to suck big time. Sometimes I get pissed off at why things we can't be a normal family and do fun things together without having to worry about how my husband is going to act around a crowd of people or why he just shuts down and tries to avoid the whole thing. It angers me and makes me sad that my kids have to miss out on so much and they've dealt with much more than most kids because they never asked for any of this. Yes I could do some of this stuff on my own but you know, I did that enough while he was deployed and I don't want to have to feel the same way now that he's home.
6. Just simply be supportive or act like you care. I'm sorry if at times I seem self absorbed or that I seem to thrive on stress and crisis. I don't know how to deal when things are calm and quiet because they haven't been for so long around here. We just simply roll with the punches and do the best we can. Has some of this made me bitter? Absolutely. We've dealt with more in our 7 years of marriage than a lot of people deal with in 50 years. I don't always know how to be anything but bitter and resentful that we just don't have a normal life anymore. Sometimes what might be a big deal to you wouldn't be more than a blip on my radar. This whole ordeal has taken away a lot of my empathy and I've learned to have to be strong on my own without anyone to offer me a safety net or help me pick up the pieces. I don't like feeling that way but I don't know how to do things differently.
7. I'm starting to lose my connection with other military spouses. Say what you will, but military families deal with a lot different circumstances than civilian families do. I have friends who would like nothing more than to skip every holiday instead of having to plaster a smile on their faces and feel like celebrating because their husbands are on the other side of the world. I have never forgotten what that feels like for even a moment. Some days even though my husband was wounded, it feels like it's been easier than when he was deployed. I guess I should be happy that he's now nondeployable and unfit for duty, but that just means that someone else will have to take his place on the next deployment.
That said, I now have different circumstances than most military spouses. I can't relate to someone who insists their husband is a lifer because I know how fast that can all change. I know how important it is to have a backup plan. Some of the things that affect other spouses just don't affect me anymore. I don't care about the measly pay raises because my husband has been stuck at the same rank for 9 years and has been maxed out on the pay grade above his for several years. It doesn't matter anymore if he gets promoted because based on the 36 month plan that's what he'll be paid his retirement on. Does it suck? Sure it does and regardless of things being out of his control, it doesn't matter anymore. I hate that it makes him look bad or like he did something wrong and that he has more time in service than most of his superiors but I'm just ready for him to get out and move on.
8. Stop asking if he can stay in. I asked him once to switch to active duty from the Guard. He was then deployed and blown up. I'm not about to ask him to stay in for another 9 years until retirement. It is his choice and I support him. I also understand exactly why he feels the way he does about the military. He hates putting on his uniform and can't take it off fast enough when he gets home. It is sad to see someone who loved what he did start feeling this way. I have some anger and bitterness toward his previous units for contributing to that. I have flat out hostility towards the rear detachment for screwing up the notification and feel just a little bit better about getting you in trouble for that. When someone is wounded, all bets are off. How dare you make that situation harder on me when I had enough to deal with. I think you get it now and will hopefully think twice next time.
9. Realize just how difficult it is for us to visit. I always extend invitations to family and friends to come visit, knowing full well that people have their own lives and jobs and things going on. I would just like to spend time with people when one of us is not hospitalized. I do understand why people can't visit but try to keep that welcome mat out there at all times - provided you call first. Don't ever show up unannounced, I will hold it against you for life.
Aside from that, I don't think people realize just how hard it is for us to pick up and take the time to see everyone. For us to fly to the nearest large city close to our hometown (still hours away), would be $1800 round trip. So instead we opt to drive the 20+ hours one way to visit. We have never once asked for gas money although to give you an idea it's roughly $500, depending on the price of gas. That doesn't take into consideration the necessary oil changes before and after the trip or the food along the way. We try to drive straight through to avoid the cost of lodging both ways. Between the military and the VA who feel that my husband needs at least 10 doctors appointments each week, getting the time off is usually a battle on it's own. Sometimes we only get a week to spend with family. This usually happens once or twice a year if we can swing it and usually ends up with us feeling rushed and stressed out by the time we leave. There is very little relaxing on our vacation and it never fails, someone always bitches about not being able to spend enough time with us. Granted most of the family is grateful for what time they do get with us and we appreciate that. But please do not pout and try and insist that we spend an extra day with you than what someone else gets when you never spent any time with us when we lived 20 minutes away. And for the love of God, do not expect us to change our plans to accommodate you. We have made this trip 10 times and every single time we've had to adjust our plans for someone else who lives hours and hours closer. That is the quickest way to piss me off. We understand people have different schedules and we do what we can to work with everybody to spend time with all of you but it doesn't always work out that way. Don't ever tell me again that family is not that important to me when I'm busting my ass and breaking the bank to see you at all. I realize that the world does not revolve around us and that it sucks that we live so far and can only see you once or twice a year and miss out on pretty much everything, but we do the best that we can. I can't stand driving as far as we do with what little time we have and having to change all of our plans for people who have more opportunities to visit than we do. That just makes me more bitter and resentful and to the point where we just stop visiting and do what we want to do.
10. Try to understand how frustrating it is to have your life turned upside down and be full of uncertainty. I can't make plans more than a few weeks out. I'm afraid to make any solid commitments. We have no idea when we will hear back about his rating and if it's acceptable to us. I'm terrified of being stuck here because I can't find a job where we want to move. That alone adds so much stress that sometimes I'm not sure how to deal with it. I'm very unhappy here and can't wait to move on one hand but on the other there are so many changes on the horizon that it's overwhelming. Please don't remind me that God only gives us more than we can handle. As well intended as you are, that just makes me want to punch you in the face. Sometimes it feels like more than I can handle. Sometimes I just need to vent and then I can usually move on. Don't take it too personally. Throughout this whole experience I've found out who my friends are. I've realized that some friendships are meant for the long term and some definitely are not. I'm grateful to those who have stuck by me through all of this, dealt with the good and bad and ups and downs and who are unconditionally supportive.