Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reality Check

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.


liz said...

Hi Again, :) I hope you don't think I'm crazy for leaving a comment, but every now and then I like to hop on your blog and check on you to see how you are doing.

Without going into too much detail, when I read your words, I feel like I can understand and sympathize with you SO MUCH! I'm sure that's hard to believe, since by reading my blog, it appears like all is fine and dandy... but through my life's experiences - some, that go back to my childhood - some that come from recent events - I have experienced many emotional pains and have had to recover, and still work hard every day to choose how I'm going to react to life's VERY hard challenges!

While our actual experiences are different, many of the feelings you describe, have been the same. And my heart aches for you that you have... or still do feel that way. Thankfully, thanks to doctors, medicine, PRAYER and my Heavenly Father, I am out of that darkness now. But it took a lot of time, and patience on my part. There were definitely times when, just like you, that I wanted to give up and just lay in bed all day and be done.

I guess, the reason why I tell you all of this, is just to give you hope, that it can get better! You are on the right path! It takes time... sometimes a LONG time... there will be good days, bad days, you'll go two steps forward, one step back... but DON'T give UP!! :)

And sorry if you think I'm a dork for getting so up close and personal, when we don't even know each other... but something about your story just touches me and I couldn't help but reach out and let you know that I am thinking of you and hope for the best!

:) Hugs!

Warren Baldwin said...

Linked here from Wife of a Wounded Soldier, which I follow and read. Don't know how to respond to a post like this exceptto say, "I'm sorry for what has happened" and "Thank you for your husband's, your family's, and your personal service."

Our military families are in our prayers.

detours2dreams said...

Hi, As I read your words they could have been my own, except my husband has no visible wounds. He has PTSD, and many complications from diabetes - thank you agent orange. For him all the symtoms began 7 years ago, just three years
after we were married. His time in
Vietnam was so long ago, but suddenly he was speaking Vietnamese in his sleep - not to mention kicking and hitting that stranger laying next to him. Like you, I just wanted to fade into nothingness and hoped no one would even notice my departure. One day I woke up and it hit me - I am not at a dead-end in my life, I can rise above this. I had after all watched my 11 yr old son die from cancer and I survived that - how can I let this situtation destroy me. I began reading everything I could find on his condition and looking for help for myself. I found little - two counselors told me to get a divorce. That was not what I wanted. Over time I did everything I could to find the tools to "come back to life" and finally I did. Not to say I don't continue to struggle, but those bad times are better, because I know that I CAN go on - because I had found new meaning to my life. I took on the mission to help other people who were also suffering to be able to find themselves and regain their happiness. I am creating a educational program to share what I've learned and have recently completed my certified life coach training. I would love to get your input on what your greatest challenges have been, and what tools have worked for you, and share some of the tools that I have found useful.


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