I sit here writing the hardest truth I’ve ever had to face. After multiple separations, months of counseling couldn’t change the ultimate truth: My husband of 8 years and I are better off not being married anymore.
Would our marriage have survived if the military hadn’t been a part of it. Had my husband never been injured, would we have still crumbled under the stress? I really can’t answer that except to note that the military’s burdens on my husband were so extensive that I went to most the couples counseling solo. At the end of it all his self destructive tendencies were as out of control as the wildfire raging in southern California.
I can’t be the only spouse who has experienced this nightmare cocktail of PTSD and TBI. I’ve been asked which is worse the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or the TBI (Tramatic Brain Injury)? I honestly feel the TBI is worse in our case. The cycle of good months, then the alcohol starts, then the medicines, then the anger, violence and destruction. The explosion that almost ruins our lives before it all starts again. The roller coaster you just cant get off.
A prime example when I found out I was pregnant with our youngest. Sitting at the breakfast table and my husband asks me what my plan for the day was. I just sat there trying not to let the realization that this was going to be one of the challenging days ruin our appointment to confirm the pregnancy. You see what happens sometimes with his brain injury is he forgets conversations, he has a hard time making new memories that really “stick”. Honestly some days its like his brain just isn’t firing on all cylinders. There have been days my husband while remembering me can not recall my name. That day he called his parents for the first of three times announcing our pregnancy.
He can be unaware or unable to recognize his body’s signs of hunger and thirst. Thinking hes eaten when he hasn’t same for most activities such as bathing. Medications are a big problem, he cant remember to take them correctly yet wont relinquish control. Now imagine this man is also handling the money because it’s HIS income. I’m just the one caring for everyone, keeping CPS at bay, and well, keeping us all afloat.
Do you have any idea how many times a person with cognitive issues can watch a movie without it “sticking”? Having no retaining memory of the movie. There was one movie he ordered from pay-per-view 19 times in one month. No joke. 19 times he rented Real Steel at $7.99 a pop. He still doesn’t believe he’s seen the movie.
He couldn’t be left alone with the kids because he had no concept of consequences. He couldn’t tell when he was safe to drive and honestly he still drove like a bit of trash in the road could be a road side bomb. I didn’t like him driving in general because of it.
Just a few examples of the life that left me exhausted, feeling like life was swallowing me whole. All while praying for glimpses of the man I fell in love with. Half the time he’s not there though, there is a stranger in my husbands body who sometimes gives moments of who I’ve lost. I had become angry at him, myself, the situation and taking it out on everyone else but him. Because at the end of the day it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t anyone’s, it just was.
So I have done the hardest thing in my life. I packed myself, the kids, put most our stuff in storage. I moved home. I am still caring for a grown man but this time it’s my father as his health declines. I am soaking in the stories of family members already gone. I’m learning from my mother ways to parent without anger. My sons are getting to spend the summer with my father before the chance slips away.
Hopefully, this time is helping them as much as it has saved me. I know that this distance is making it easier to co-parent in a way that hopefully wont damage the kids too much. As I write this my husband is doing better than I have seen him in years, maybe because for the first time in 8 years he really has to take care of himself. Just as I do.
I found this quote that rings so true to me, it breaks my heart. “Trauma is survivable but often not much more. It kills you while allowing you to still survive.” ~James Frey
I don’t want to just survive, I want to live. Grow. Thrive.