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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How to Love Your Veteran – Intro

So recently I have started getting pretty active in searching the internet for more support and resources for myself as well as my husband. I came across some pretty decent stuff..a few more blogs, some various support groups (though none were close enough to join), and a facebook page for wives of PTSD. My search has proved more promising than the past, however I started to notice one pretty common and a bit frustrating trend. So many wives have fallen into this idea and mindset that they are suffering and becoming victims to their HUSBANDS, rather than seeing themselves AND their husbands for what they really are which is victims of PTSD …not eachother (I personally don’t even like to use the term victim simply because it seems to often breed that victim mentality rather than a warrior mentality which is what we should all strive for when facing hard struggles…but the term still holds a lot of truth). I see a lot of women and support groups leaning towards this idea that they are somehow the only ones struggling in the situation, that they are victims of some kind of abuse, and they often begin to resent and blame their husbands. I like to call the sort of mentality I’ve been reading about “Self Victimization”. It’s something that people from all walks of life often fall into but for the sake of staying on subject I wanna focus on couples struggling with PTSD.

Before you read further don’t think I’m about to just bash the women in the relationships. Husbands are not all innocent in these situations either. (Also, please keep in mind that I am only using the husband/wife labels to make this article easier to follow…Of course the same goes for husbands with wives suffering from PTSD, as well as unmarried couples, and same sex couples, ext…this applies to everyone). I’ve always felt pretty blessed that my husband and I have had very open and strong communication in our relationship. I think it has made living with PTSD that much easier for us and I want to share some tips and advice for couples who may be facing some unessesary struggles in their battle. Marriage and relationships are hard enough work without adding things like PTSD into the mix, but I believe in the strength of true love (I know cliche cliche) and I hope these tips may help some spouses overcome and move forward so that they can learn to better love, support and enjoy eachother again…

If you are a spouse of someone with PTSD click here to read ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Part One’ !

If you are a veteran with PTSD click here to read ‘How to Love Your Military Spouse – Part One’ !

Second Chances

Growing up I was always told that God works in mysterious ways. I realize not everyone believes this or believes in a higher power but I wanted to share a story about “coincidence” and second chances…

About every three months our church holds a giveaway to the community. We have a friend who runs a warehouse in Texas whose mission is to give back to the needs of the community and minister to them through love and compassion. He usually brings up a semi truck full of food, diapers, school supplies, toiletries, ext. We pass out flyers before hand and usually get about two hundred or better people from our small community to come out. They are always in such need and an act of kindness and compassion like this is just amazing to watch quite literally change their lives….

So the last giveaway we had a few months ago my husband and I really wanted to participate in (because of various schedule issues wed never been able to before). We signed up but come the morning of the giveaway my husband woke up after a night of relentless nightmares depressed, anxious, and in no state to be around a large crowd. He insisted I go so I reluctantly left him at home and headed that way. Of course I was running late, nearly ran out of gas, a “car won’t start I was fallin apart” kinda morning. I almost turned around and went home several times. Thank God I didn’t though because I would’ve missed out on an amazing experience.

I finally made it there in time and was assigned to the group helping carry stuff to the cars and praying with those who wanted us to. About halfway through the morning myself and a friend helped a middle-aged woman carry her bags to her truck. As we approached the truck I noticed a native american looking man approx in his mid 40’s (her husband) sitting in the driver’s seat. No big deal. I also noticed as we were loading the truck (he got out to help) a faded army sticker on the tailgate. Maybe it was just my crazy obsession and passion for anything military or maybe it was God but I just had an unexplainable urge to talk to this man.

He never said a word to us but he seemed kind. He was sort’ve distant and I easily noticed his slightly paranoid demeaner…he kept non challantly looking around watching his surroundings. His wife, a tiny woman with already greying straw like hair and skin that symbolized a lifetime if smoking, seemed nice but very private as well. One might not have noticed at first glance but her body language was not just closed off but almost protective..of him. I recognized this behavior not because I’d seen it before, but because I’d felt it. This woman was me in thirty years..

So I asked the standard “here’s your sign” question just to break the ice.. “Are you army?”

The man looked and acknowledged me for the first time and spoke with dignity and confidence, “Yes. My daughter too.”

We got to talking a little small talk. He told me he served in Desert Storm and now his daughter had served in operation Iraqi Freedom..

“Wow..my husband was over there too..he was an infantryman in he corp..Iraq 04-05. He fought in Fallujah.”

This got him talking a little more…he said he was infantry as well..a toe gunner if I’m not mistaking..

He mentioned that he needed to get down to the VFW but hadn’t gotten himself to do it yet….I was so close to getting him to trust me I thought..to open up just a little more about himself…his wife stood calmly beside him..no doubt dutifully and meticulously watching him…waiting for the moment he either opened that door or slammed it shut again and shed have to hopelessly watch him work through the haunting pain she had become so familiar with.

So I took a chance and chose to trust him first… “My husband was actually supposed to be here with me today…but he couldn’t. He had nightmares last night and just can’t be around people..he has PTSD.”

It seems like a small thing to share but if you have or are close to someone with PTSD you know it’s not so easy to tell people. The understanding in the mans eyes told me I had made the right choice though…Its hard to describe but his body and soul almost visibly relaxed and opened up to me…like walls falling down. A stranger finally finding a familiar friend..We continued to talk and both him and his wife shared with me how restricted their lives had been. He has nightmares too and his own kids knew not to come into his bedroom when he slept because he sometimes fought in his sleep and had accidently hit and choked people before. He can’t even go to Walmart with his wife and he’s been reluctant to get any help from the VA and even visit the VFW.

On top of his daily torment he was also tormented by the experiences of his daughter. She had suffered a TBI in Iraq and was now going through treatment for brain tumor caused by the incident. Imagine going through hell and then watching your baby girl walk right into the same hell just to come home still fighting for her life..

After talking for a while we decided to pray so I could get back to work. I got them to agree to stick around for the raffle. Later I actually saw him come out of the truck and join the crowd. Although he still looked stressed and anxious and left his back to no one it was a huge step few would recognize….

As we gathered to pray I felt overwhelmed with happiness that this man had shared with me and was planning on going to the VFW as soon as possible now. What happened next I never expected. His wife, who’d been mostly silent letting him speak, grabbed my hand and handed me a piece of paper with her number on it. “If you ever need someone to talk to about your husband..” She said.

I had never though before then about how lonely it was having no one to talk to about my husband and what we go through together. No one else who understood my position. She was the first person to encourage me to start talking and to start this blog. Before that event I was closed off and never thought I deserved help too. I had already written off the rest of he world as separate from me, that they could never understand our lives.

I’m sharing this story because I don’t believe God is a complacent God that doesn’t care. I believe he is an active loving God and he can use anyone for good if we let him. I believe everything happens for a reason and healing can be found through his love and compassion carried out through us. This Saterday we are having another giveaway. My husband will be there this time…and I can’t wait.

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.

“People always …

Quote

“People always call me a hero, I’m no hero. To me a hero is someone who will take a stand for what is right. Whether it helps or hurts.” – Edward E. Vezey Jr, 93 year old WWII veteran, anti aircraft gunner on the USS Oklahoma and Pearl Harbor survivor