Tuesday, June 7, 2011
This past weekend, I came to the realization of the true impact that my husband's injuries have had on me. Not even just him being wounded, but how I've handled other things that have come my way, like dealing with death and moving across the country to a new place, far away from my family and friends. Somewhere along the way, I lost a part of myself and simply became an extension of my husband.
When asked to describe myself, I would immediately say something like I'm a mom of two great kids and the spouse of a wounded warrior, etc. Look at my blog description and you'll see just that. While I'm proud of my husband and kids, that's not what truly describes me. I don't even know how to describe myself anymore. It's so easy just to go on and on about my husband's recovery and what he's accomplished and I just kind of fade into the background. He said to me this weekend that despite what happened, he's pretty much done everything that he's wanted to in life except for a few things and he has goals set in mind for those. It feels like I have a bucket list of regrets and things that I wished I had done.
I was so focused on his recovery and being the caregiver that I ended up shortchanging myself and the kids. I was stuck in survival mode because I was certain that's what I had to do and there was no other option. People would constantly tell me that I was so strong and they didn't know how I did it. The thing is, I never felt strong. I felt like I didn't do anything differently than anyone else would have done if they were in my shoes. Before I realized it, I had become a victim of my situation. I got so used to the constant wave of stress that I didn't know how to function when things finally calmed down. The depression felt like it was eating me alive and the more depressed I became, the less support that I felt.
There were so many times that I stayed in bed all day just hiding behind my laptop or just trying to sleep the pain away because my mind wouldn't shut off at night. It was easy to chalk it up to my hypothyroidism and getting used to daily medication. While I have no doubt that does contribute to it, I was still hung up on the events of July 2, 2008.
When I talked to my doctor about getting on medication for my depression, he asked me if I had any desire to harm myself or others and I said no, which in turn disqualified me so to speak from obtaining a prescription. While suicide is not ever an option for me, because I refuse to leave my kids without a mother since I know first hand how painful that is, I often wondered if I could just simply fade away and give up. I didn't want any responsibility for our lives. I didn't feel safe or secure and constantly worried to the point of being afraid to leave the house at times. I was once this strong, independent military wife and now here I was codependent on my husband. My emotions were just below the surface and I would find myself crying at random times over the most stupid things. I guess I had suppressed those emotions and feelings for so long and never had an outlet to deal with them.
Eventually it began to affect my marriage and my parenting. I would see pictures that my friends posted online of happy times with their families and I would feel sad that our lives would never be "normal" like that. My husband couldn't handle crowds and didn't have the opportunity to take trips because of his schedule and not knowing when he would be retiring. Instead of taking the initiative on my own to do stuff without him, the kids and I missed out. I thought if we couldn't do things as a family then there was no point in doing them at all.
I was also envious of my friends whose husbands were able to work normal jobs and come home for dinner every night. Not have to be gone for a year at a time or be disabled. I was wishing that I was as successful as they were and didn't have to give up my opportunity to go back to work or finish school because I was suddenly thrust in the role of being a caregiver.
While there were so many things out of my control, I wasn't doing anything to change any of the things that I could control. It was simply easier to use him being wounded as an excuse to stop living my life. Before that, the excuse was him being deployed or my mom dying, or whatever was convenient at the time. I wasn't being strong this whole time, instead a part of me was dying inside because it was easier to be a victim than to do the hard work that it took to get what I wanted out of life. It was easier to put my education on hold, to stop being interested in doing the things that I once loved, to procrastinate, and to hide behind a wall of pain.
My husband nearly stopped talking to me. He said it was too hard to sit there and watch me destroy my life. In a way I had taken on some of his symptoms of PTSD and blamed him for the way I was reacting. I did let his mood swings affect me at times. He opened my eyes a lot this weekend and made me realize that life is short and our kids are growing up fast. I don't need medication, I need to get serious about what I want out of life and go out there and make it happen because no one is going to do it for me. I can't keep being sad that I miss out on opportunities unless I take the initiative to make them happen in the first place.
My husband's injuries don't define me. There is so much more to me than that. I got lost along the way and it's time to start living again.