Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A moment to ponder "before" and "after"

This post is in response to a quote from this blog post, on Family of a Vet. You may read the entire post of hers at http://blog.familyofavet.com/2012/09/im-not-sure-why.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+familyofavet+%28Family+Of+a+Vet+-+PTSD%2C+TBI%2C+%26+Life+After+Combat%29

****"Some days I wonder if it would have been better, if I had never known, the man he was before PTSD and TBI."***** This is a quote from Melanie, a fellow wife of a Wounded Warrior.  She is amazing, she is strong, she is wildly productive, and most of all, she is a beautiful spirit, and that is deeply punctuated by her smile, and her piercing eyes. 

Melanie, a woman I recently met online, and then had the great fortune to meet in person, makes the comment above.  She, unlike me, has known her husband for years.  She has seen the "before" and "after" of war.  I do not know the "before" and "after" of my husband.  I see his Mother, and his Sister, recognizing changes, and for a long time, that caused many conflicts for us.  He came home from war.  He was profoundly different, yet, they did not know the extent of damage done to him.  He looks fine on the outside (aside from his rotting feet~ yet to be successfully treated~ or even healed completely), yet there was just enough "difference" in him to cause mass confusion and tension. 

I suspect much of my in-law turmoil was a result of lack of knowledge and understanding.  I did not know what we were dealing with, so how could they?  I was so new to this life, "LIFE AFTER COMBAT" that it was difficult, no, IMPOSSIBLE, for me to explain to them what was going on, why we did what we did.  I myself didn't even know.  I was poorly managing my husband's state of affairs, and for awhile, before FOV, I was very much contributing to the chaos.  I know better now.  I believe there are unhealed spots in my mother in law and sister in laws hearts over their son/brother.  There will always be those tender spots, after sending your most beloved boy to war I would imagine.  I am deeply afraid that because everyone (and by everyone, I mean my husband, and myself as well) was so unfamiliar with PTSD and TBI, it was all too easy to look for a causitive relationship between the changed soldier, and his girlfriend he hooked up with after the war.... I was the VISIBLE thing that changed in his life, it was easy to see.  I was the only thing "different" then.  He was who he was, went away for four years, came home and didn't even move back near his fam, but picked a random spot in central MN, and immediately hooked up with me.  You can see the picture I'm painting here, right? 

Add into that picture a little of my own dysfunction, and you have a family still hurting from a brother/son being in a war zone for a year.  For being overseas a total of four years.  They never got to reconnect with him, they never got to have him home.  And then PTSD decides to really do a number on everyone, and because of this, he is easily startled, doesn't like crowds, prefers to be with other military families, is quickly angered.... He didn't like going "home" to visit very often.  He liked to be alone.  He liked to isolate. 

It was a very complicated ordeal, completely charred from my inability to see the bigger picture, and completely wild from my own secondary ptsd I developed, I made it worse. And no one could fix it because NO ONE really understood what the problem was. 

It was a HUGE lesson for me, and continues to be a huge lesson to me daily.  I am not perfect though, but now, when I don't make that connection with others like I wish (and often so very much need), when I feel tired and don't want to try to connect (even though I really want that), I simply don't beat myself up anymore over it.  Nor do I beat anyone else up for not understand that. 

So with all of that said, Melanie poses an interesting question in my mind.  Is it better to have not known the pre war James Peterson?  Is that easier on the heart???

Many times I find myself regretful and sorry that we were not together sooner.  Many times I feel a little uncomfortable when surrounded by the *real* army wives.  I often have to ask questions about what is even being talked about (when talked about things in the service, living abroad, living on base, military terminology...).  Thank goodness they never mind.  Just ask Brannan about my story when I asked her what a "Coin" was....

Sometimes I feel like I was ill prepared to handle this life.  I wonder, had I been his wife during war time, I would have been expecting this somehow.  That I would have been taught how to handle this.  That I could have braced myself.

In many respects I am lucky to have only come along right after.  There is no "he is completely different" here.  My husband (to me) is who he has always been to me.  The piece picker upper. 

I have voiced my concern to a few extrememly close wives (all of whom were there before, during, and after).  I have never been responded too with so much will to include ever in my life.  We are all here, dealing with the after effects of this war, and we are all in this together, one told me. 

The question of whats better, knowing them all along, or just knowing them post injury, is a difficult one to answer, and my best response is "pick your poison." 

Thank you Melanie for your friendship, your honesty, and for allowing me in your life. 

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