A little over a year ago, in my husband’s and my college town, a man was involved in a confrontation at one of the local bars, and upon leaving the man he was in confrontation with attacked and ran him over with a large truck in the parking lot of this bar. The man that got run over was a Marine, just back from Afghanistan and out of the corp only a couple months earlier. He ended up making a full recover to my knowledge but was in very critical condition for quite a while. The 18 year old boy who attacked him was easily caught and is in prison now. When my husband and I found out about the incident we, like most of the community, were absolutely outraged. At this point (and for several following weeks) it did not look like this man was going to survive. My husband’s angered response to the news was “He just survived hell for his country only to come back and lose it all because of some piece of shit 18 year old BOY!” The story broke many people’s hearts including our own. The man had a wife, two kids, and a baby on the way at the time. This was right around Christmas and the Collegiate Veterans Association (a club my husband helped start at the local college while we were there) had been collecting money and helping the family since the incident occurred. When it got closer to Christmas my husband and I decided to send the family a Toys R Us gift card for the kids and a spa gift certificate for the mother (I’m sure she could’ve used a little stress relief whenever she finally got the chance to use it). We didn’t put a return address or our names. We only knew them through mutual friends and peers, we’ve never actually met them. Sometimes I really wish I could’ve seen if it helped at all or how it made them feel, but I have never cared if they ever knew that we were the ones who did it. I was really proud of our community for how they responded to the incident. I am always so humbled by how much people can come together to help others during times of crisis, loving others without expecting anything in return is what humanity is meant to be about.
The quality in others that bugs me the most has to be ignorance and lack of care for others. On a more biased note it REALLY bugs me when people do not even attempt to understand, tolerate, and/or genuinely care about veterans, military, and their families. Being that I am surrounded by the military culture everyday these peoples have not only become my family (quite literally) but have also become my passion. So it is only natural that I be a bit biased towards everything pertaining to them. Ironically one of my least favorite characteristics in people may also be one of the least desirable characteristics in myself. While I try my best (but can always do better) to be understanding and caring of others I too am not always great at this. There are many things I am ignorant about myself. I have actually thought quite a bit about this contradiction and how to solve it in myself as it both frustrates and confounds me.
It can be really difficult, especially if you’re an over thinker like me, to both be passionate about something and unbiased about it at the same time. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s basically impossible. One can surely work to understand and listen to opposing sides of something, but by human nature we are biased. Period. It’s also pretty impossible as humans to know and care deeply about any and every cause out there. We can support all the causes we find “good”..cancer, veterans, abused children, AIDS awareness, ext….however being active and genuinely passionate (in the word’s deepest form of meaning) of so many things is simply impossible. And what I’ve learned over time is that is OK. In fact, this kind of biased can be a GOOD thing.
If we were all passionate about everything we thought worthy of our passion then we would never get anything done (as funny as that sounds). It’s the same idea that if EVERYONE was an amazing football player, then essentially NO ONE would be a great football player because we would all be equal. Or the fact (yes I said it, FACT) that not EVERYONE can be a winner, otherwise NO ONE would win.
We are all good at certain things because if we were all good at the same thing we would never accomplish anything. Society and life requires that we all be better at different things. We all have our unique gifts and likewise we all have our unique passions. If everyone was passionate about fighting cancer, then who would be left to stand up for abused children? If we were all passionate about teaching, then who would there be to invent advancing technology?
In realizing this I have also formed the opinion that I believe counseling would be so much more productive and helpful if we didn’t have just “general psychologist/counselors/ext” but if each psychologist/counselor worked specifically with the issues they were most passionate about. Of course a theory like this requires a perfect world where we would never be short of counselors for every kind of issue/peoples. But hear me out. If I am most passionate about military, veterans, and other service workers such as police and firefighters then I am naturally going to be much better at helping them and listening to them than I would be at listening to someone, who say, suffers from multiple personality disorder. However someone who is very passionate about families and children and keeping them together are going to be much better at marriage, family, and child counseling.
This is not to say that I don’t care deeply about all kinds of people and issues, but we all have specific passions. And even as someone whose passion is to help people through counseling, generally speaking they will also have a more specific passion for certain types of issues. I think by focusing on our passions this would not only make for better counseling and help, but also less burnout for counselors and psychologists/psychiatrists.
So I guess to get back to the point of this whole rant. While we all have our pet peeves and dislikes, we are all just as guilty of distasteful characteristics to others. However I think that, like our differences in passions, our differences in personality go hand in hand. We are all different, and we cannot expect to like everyone around us, but through our differences comes the success and beauty of mankind.
I woke up just like I would any other Saturday. Well rested and happy to have the whole day free of work. To my right was a wall and to my left lay my handsome strong man, still sleeping in. I smiled thanking God for my luck and climbed over him and outta bed. I fumbled my way into the bathroom and then down the hall to the living room/kitchen of our two bedroom apartment. I wasn’t one to put breakfast off for very long after waking up.
I started some bacon, let my dog Ranger out to go to the bathroom, and went back into our bedroom. My boyfriend was awake, but still in bed, trying to soak up as many extra minutes of sleep as possible I’d guessed. He seemed groggy and still exhausted. Like he’d only gotten a couple hours of sleep instead of nine. I kissed his forehead and told him I was making breakfast. The response that came next was completely unexpected..
“Im not hungry baby don’t worry about it.”
To anyone else that might not have been a big deal, but for him it was. He was never one to turn down a meal, especially not breakfast in bed made by his favorite cook. Something wasn’t right. But maybe he was just tired, maybe feeling kinda sick. So I let the first wave of concern cruise through my mind without a second thought. I went back to working on breakfast and checked on him again.
“Are you sure you don’t want breakfast baby?” I asked coming back into the bedroom.
“Maybe later. Im just not hungry right now.” Came his voice from deep beneath the covers. He had turned toward the wall and wrapped himself into a tight caccoon, his face barely uncovered.
I knew something wasn’t right then. I grew up in a completely dysfunctional family. My mom a mental case, with severe depression among the list to go along with her frequent emotional crisis. My father with anger issues. It was the perfect brew for daily blowups and conflicts. There were a few things I learned to do very well from my childhood. One was how to make myself blend into any situation, the other was how to let others depend on me, rather than leaning on them. The third was probably the most healthy and invaluable lesson of the the three. I learned how to pick up on changes in people sooner than normal. I knew this was more than just him being tired or not feeling good, at least in the sense of being sick. I crossed the room and sat next to him on the side of the bed placing my hand on his shoulder..
“Baby whats wrong?” I asked.
“I just don’t feel like getting out of bed today, I don’t wanna deal with the world.” He almost cried out, not angrily, but his tone somehow urging me desperately to understand. Something was definitely not right. “…Im sorry..sometimes this just happens.”
I sat his breakfast on the dresser next to him ten minutes later. He never touched it. I had no idea what to do. I knew this had something to do with his PTSD but I still didn’t understand what was going on. Why was he feeling like this? What triggered this? What I didn’t realize then was that there wasn’t always a “trigger” for days like these. Or rather there isn’t always a trigger for the nightmares that caused these days.
He finally emerged from the bedroom late in the afternoon, only to replace the bed with the couch. He walked up to me slowly, shoulders uncharacteristically slumped, and hugged me close to him for a long moment before falling into the couch and turning on the tv. He seemed a little better, but not much.
In reality this event wasn’t as bad of a day as I thought when compared to what future “bad days” would hold. He watched the tv with an expressionless stare, occasionally closing his eyes and tensing his face in a grimace. His thoughts having wondered away from the cartoons displayed on the screen. He didn’t speak to me unless I talked to him first. He wasn’t rude or angry, but his answers were short and forced.. Like the mental energy it took pained him to speak. The way someone whose sick or hit rock bottom might respond. He didn’t feel better until the next morning. It was as if he had simply slept it off.
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Like I said in reality this was an easy day. In retrospect it probably only seemed as difficult as it was because it was the first time it happened since I’d been with him and I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I felt worried, anxious, and confused. I felt more helpless and useless than I had ever felt before in my life, a feeling I would quickly become familiar with. Days like this come as frequently and infrequently as my husband’s brain dictates. It is almost always caused by nightmares the night before. Those nightmares can be triggered by something obvious or be seemingly random.
Sometimes I can sense these days coming on even before my husband realizes it, other times it doesn’t take long to pick up on. There are fortunate days where my husband has nightmares but doesn’t fall into such a deep depression that he can’t function. Other days he can’t even muster the will to get out of bed, many days he can’t be around people. I can’t do anything to change this. I can’t “fix” it because there is nothing to fix. The war is a part of my husband and will be forever. My duty is only to support and love him while he carries this heavy burden for the rest of us.
I am working on a page that describes my husband’s PTSD and symptoms personally. I will also continue to post more about our experiences and struggles through this battle.