How to Love Your Military Spouse – Part One

As I stated in my post ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Intro’ I don’t want to focus only on the spouse without PTSD in the relationship because it quite frankly isn’t all on them. Like all relationships, effort is a two way street. To help me with this series I’ve recruited my husband, a Marine veteran with PTSD. I asked him to especially help me with the spouse with PTSD side of the table because, well, he’s the one sitting on it. So here are the unsparing words of wisdom from a combat veteran himself boys…

 

SAY YES TO COUNSELING…

First and foremost, get counseling. There is no shame in seeking out help from a professional. You yourself are a professional ass-kicker. A head shrink can’t do your job, so don’t try and do theirs. You know your head better than anyone else so be honest and wholly explain to them what’s going on in your hatrack and they will teach you how to get things under control. No one can promise it will be an easy process, but I promise it will be a worthwhile one.

 

EMBRACE THE FUNK…

You have to remember that civilians are ignorant. That’s not saying they are stupid, just simply that they did not go through the hell we did so they just flat out don’t stinking get it! They don’t understand why we have to sit facing the main entrance at a resturant, or why we’re constantly “looking around” instead of “listening” (which by the way..WE ARE LISTENING!). They don’t understand that we just need to make sure everyone and the situation are safe. We’re not checkin out other chicks or tuning our significant other out. We feel sorry for making them feel that way but if they had gone through what we did, they’d be doing the same thing. With that being said you cannot EXPECT civilians to understand, and getting frustrated about it will get you nowhere. The sooner you accept that fact the sooner you can move on with it. So Ass Kickers carry on. Do your thing. If it brings you even a little peace-of-mind while enjoying a dinner date with the wifey, then face the door.

 

COMMUNICATE!

Communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE! Tell your spouse what’s going on in your brain housing group. Again, they wont fully understand, but it’s a start. They can’t be supportive and good for you if they don’t know what’s going on. They do understand that things are not right with you now, that you are somehow different, but YOU have to make the first step forward. Don’t wait for your civilian counterpart. It is truly on you to be the leader first. Take charge of your mind, body, and family. Don’t be an asshole, but be an understanding leader that realizes they (your family) cannot understand anything unless we tell them what’s going on with us.

 

You can find an ever growing list of communication tips HERE!

You can also find tips for spouses of PTSD on the sister post ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Part One’!

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Brace yourself for another broken heart…

As I sit back in my chair and let my phone drop to my lap my mind scrambles for more ideas, another way around this, something we can do to win. After a couple months of paperwork my husband just called from work to tell me his recruiter called to tell him he was disqualified for service. They wont let anyone with PTSD or higher than a 30% disability reenlist anymore. They can stay in, but once they’re out they can’t come back. Not even an interview or a chance to prove they are still capable dispite their “disability” just thrown into the pile of “unfits” and “head cases” with everyone else. All he wanted to do, all he’s ever wanted to do is serve his country. Now this label hasn’t just hung over his head like an ugly cloud, it’s cursed him. It’s held him back.  

It started about three months ago while I was away, we’d been talking about him going back in for a while, but it really started when he finally called the recruiters and asked about joining the National Guard. They told him he could be cyber security. Not exactly on par with a bullet-catching Marine but he thought it would be great. Something differen’t, and something he could certainely do. This was the first time I have ever seen him so excited about something. He’s usually so lost and indecisive. No dream has ever been able to replace that of serving. I feel like we haven’t been waiting months for him to return to service but years. Ever since he got out in the first place. He’s never belonged in the civilian world.

Now I sit crying, waiting for him to get home. Thinking what on earth could I possibly say to him to make him feel better this time. How can I comfort and tell him things are going to be ok when they’re simply not. Nothing he does has worked out and every dream he’s had has practically been shot down by the big man upstairs himself. He just wanted to fight for his country but now they’ve used him, thrown him out, and labeled him only to tell him he can’t be of anymore use because they’ve “overused” him. 

Meanwhile I sit at home. With no one to call because no one would understand. I can’t talk to the one person who would about how I feel because this isn’t about me it’s about him. So instead I wait. I cry by myself, try to pick up the house and muster up some cookies. As if that would help. I think and pray and beg for something, anything. God, what on earth will I ever say to mend this broken heart of his? Such a deep contagious wound that’s poured out and broken my own heart and spirit. My heart aches for him and everyone else in his place. But when he gets home I wont tell him this. I wont cry. I won’t let myself need him. Because he needs me…and I’m afraid it’s going to take all I have left to watch him live through this defeat. 

A Man’s Best Friend..

rhgh

I adopted my dog Ranger as a puppy about 3 years ago from the OKC shelter. He’s been absolutely AMAZING. I’ve never had to have him on a leash, he’s protective but not dangerous to be around people, loving, and incredibly smart. I can literally take him for a stroll through a busy mall off leash and never have to worry about him leaving my side. Anyways, sorry had to brag on my baby for a minute.

My husband and him have bonded really well since we met 2 years ago, they’re best buddies. One time in college I had him in my car when I forgot I had a test to take in one of my classes that afternoon. My husband was on campus too and it was too hot to leave him in the car so we asked my husband’s professor if he could hangout for just the one class period. So they snuck him in the back door and my husband took him to his history class. He did great of course, despite the girls cooing and loving all over him.

We’d already thought about trying to make Ranger a service/therapy dog but mostly just because we wanted to be able to take him everywhere with us (classes, shopping, ext) and since my husband has disability we thought hey why not? We might be able to get away with it. After my husband took Ranger with him to class though we learned that having Ranger around actually DID help. My husband has a problem with large crowds, sometimes it can be very debilitating and some days he literally just cant be around anyone. Classrooms have never really been a huge issue or anything but no matter where my husband is he’s gonna be hyper aware and at least a little anxious.

Having Ranger with him in class actually made him feel abnormally calm for that kind of situation. I know they use therapy and service dogs for veteran’s with physical disabilities as well as PTSD. They even have a few programs out there that link the dogs with the Veterans. So now we are really looking into trying to make him a therapy dog for my husband. We could of course just go ahead and get the vest off line but I’d feel more comfortable with an actual certification, just in case. My husband may have to go back to the VA and have them officially qualify him for one as well but that shouldn’t be a problem since he’s 60%. I can’t wait to see how having Ranger with him at all times might help prevent panic attacks in large crowds such as state fairs and Church, or maybe even help motivate him to go places he’d otherwise avoid.

For many men and women coming home with PTSD a dog can help not just calm them down but make them feel like they aren’t failing everyone around them. Sometimes even when we don’t try to make our spouses feel this way they feel like a burden on their families. They can feel like they are always messing up or failing them. A dog however is always happy to see you despite any kind of stress going on. A dog can also help motivate a veteran (or even a spouse or child) to keep-on-keepin-on. After all, a dog’s gotta be fed, walked, and played with. It could even help with physical therapy. Say a soldier needs to continue walking on his/her new prostetics or a healing injury, or exercise daily to keep blood flowing..a dog can help motivate that soldier to do so.

In the future I think it would be really cool to start a program where we rescue dogs from pounds/shelters/streets and make them therapy/service and/or just good pets for veterans, military personnel, and their family. I’m curious what all of you think? If you are a veteran, spouse, child or military yourself do you think it would be beneficial to your spouse to have a dog companion? Or for you and your kids to have a dog while your husband/wife is away? I’m thinking sometimes it may even just make the spouse more comfortable when they’re deployed knowing that there is a dog at home that can protect his/her family.

I may be dreaming a little for the stars here but I would love to be able to send or take dogs to miltary hospitals and veteran’s retirement homes myself just for a little animal therapy.

Please let me know what you think and spread the word to any other veterans or family members you know! I’d love as many opinions as possible.