Thursday, May 27, 2010

But Monday Was So Perfect

I would like to thank Erin from Luck and Bliss for mentioning me on her blog. I am touched that she felt like sharing our story with her readers. When I saw her post about us yesterday I was motivated to do a really positive update. I had just dropped Jay off at the hospital for his second day in outpatient care. I had straightened up my house and felt pretty on top of things. Jay had seemed so good. He had presented one of his breathing tics the night before but other than that it seemed like we were at the beginning of recovery.

So I began my post by blathering on about the night before. I was going to talk about how he had wanted to go to a public place again, to walk around and get himself back into circulation. Then how we had gone to a small flea market and he had appeared nervous at every turn. I was going to say how he had wanted to pump gas but had forgotten how to use the debit machine at the pump. Then I thought I'd throw in how when we had gotten home he had taken his shoes off and sat them on the dining room table. I was also going to bring up that he was bathing a ridiculous amount. He had been taking three to five baths a day since he came home from deployment. But then I was going to wrap it up that these were just little quirks that we could move past. After all lots of people get skittish in public places. And he could forget how to do simple every day things, he hadn't pumped gas in a very long time. Shoes on the table? A silly little mistake. Five baths a day just means he likes to be clean. But before I could finish my post it was time to go pick Jay back up from the hospital. I would have to come back to the computer later.

Later would prove to be pretty awful and that positive update I wanted to share will have to wait. Because those quirks from the night before weren't quirks at all but warning signals that I refused to see. I had wanted him to be well so badly that I was going to ignore every oddity. It was just a replay of what had happened when he first came home from Afghanistan. Things had seemed fine at first but in a moment everything shattered. Yesterday afternoon we were joking with each other and flirting and making naughty plans for after Rush's bedtime. Then before I knew it, he was angry and throwing things around in his garage.

Since I am shielded by anonymity I will speak freely. Jay and I had a little conversation earlier about what he wanted me to wear to bed that night. He suggested little bitty short shorts. Short-shorts barely flatter teenage girls. I'm 34 and have three kids. There is little hope for me looking anything other than pitiful in short-shorts. He kept asking, like husbands do. I kept saying no, like wives do. He then said, "Just tell me what you want ME to wear and I'll wear it!" Sounds like a man, doesn't it? I had to explain to him that I didn't need for him to dress up and that even if I did, he would look good from every angle because he isn't cursed with cellulite and all the other nastiness that comes with bringing three people into the world. I said, "In order for this to be comparable I would have to ask you to do something that took you so far out of your comfort zone that you would rather poke your eye out with a pencil than do what I have asked." He went quiet, then walked away.

I thought that we had just had some friendly, flirty banter. No voices were raised. There was no hateful sarcasm. He was simply asking for something and I was coyly saying no because I'm uncomfortable with my body. This isn't an unusual conversation in a marriage. We have a wonderful life in the bedroom. I am open to lots of things. But leave my thighs out of it please. That's all.

When I had gone out to his garage and saw that he was throwing things around a bit and cussing for what seemed like no reason I knew that things had shifted. I stepped inside the house to help Rush get setup with an activity so that I could talk with Jay about what was going on. I returned to the garage and saw my husband sitting in his chair with his head between his knees just sobbing. This was the first time I had seen him cry since he got home a month ago. I thought that maybe the emotional stress from dealing with this disorder every day had gotten to him. I thought maybe he was upset that he didn't understand why this was happening to him. I'm a chick. I understand just needing to cry. I knelt down on the floor and put my arms around him and let him weep. I rubbed his back. I kissed his cheek. I thought to myself, "this is good, let him get it all out."

He probably WAS crying for all those reasons. But they were background reasons. What started the tears was my rejection of him. When I had said that I didn't want to wear short-shorts he didn't hear the friendly, flirty banter. He heard "I would rather poke out my eye than do that for you." I know that he's been misunderstanding a lot of what people have been saying this past month. I've noticed a lot of times where he has been quick to jump to the conclusion that someone is being hateful or is out to get him when this has never been the case. Now it was happening to me. He had taken what I had said and processed it completely differently from what I had actually meant. I did my best to clean up my mess. I didn't get defensive or upset. I gave him nothing but gentle patience. Despite his acceptance of my explanations, it ended up not being enough.

When he first came home from deployment I wrote that I felt that it was a horrible storm that shook Jay and started his breakdown. This time it appears that short-shorts were the catalyst for what appears to be another round. Last night the tics came out full force; the erratic breathing, the facial twitches, the wobbly, marionette-legs. It was all back and I couldn't stop it. I just wanted to scream out. He had only been home for three days. Three days.

I'm hopeful that lack of sleep is playing a big part of this. Just like before his hospitalization he had stopped sleeping for more than an hour at a time. And just like before, last night I had to follow him around so that he didn't set himself on fire because he would drift off while smoking. I had to watch him in the tub because he would nod off and slide down into the water. Finally, he gave in around 11:30pm and I felt that I could close my eyes. When I woke up this morning I realized that in the night he had gotten up and fixed himself four pop-tarts, a bowl of cereal, had eaten a package of cheese, and had taken another bath!! I noticed that stuff was out of place. He had crumpled up a clean uniform and thrown half of it in front of the washing machine. He doesn't even wear a uniform right now and my husband never even kind of puts dirty clothes away. Getting clothes (all be it clean ones) that close to the washing machine is completely out of character. When I asked him what had happened in the night he couldn't remember any of it.

I'm scared. I'm afraid that I can never turn my back on Jay again. I'm terrified that this is how we will have to live from now on. I'm also terrified that when he is in therapy today they will not let him come back home. I'm expecting to get a phone call telling me to bring him his things. He has a four day weekend. No therapy, no expectations, no place to be for four whole days. It starts tomorrow. If I can just get him home this afternoon, I can hope that he will get some rest and that everything will be fine again.

What kind of woman wishes that her husband doesn't get the care he needs? A woman in denial, I guess.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

His First Full Day

Yesterday Jay finally got to walk out of the hospital. It was a really sunny day and his face was just glowing. I could see that he was scared to death though. One of the things that terrifies him is being on the interstate. It used to never phase him but now it paralyzes him. Naturally, there was absolutely no way to get home (within a decent amount of time) without getting on two different freeways. Lucky for us since it was just after 9am the traffic was pretty light. He did really well on the way home and I was so proud of him.

We had some therapy related errands to run and I could tell that he was anxious to get everything in line. He started outpatient today and he needed to clear with his command whether or not he could even go and whether or not he would have to go to formation every morning before being at the hospital at 7:15am to catch the van that takes him to outpatient in the city. It's hard to believe that someone who is NOT a doctor--not a medically trained individual in any capacity, can decide whether or not a REAL doctor's orders should stick. Luckily, Jay was free to go. However, he still has to show up at formation every morning at 6am. Which means that Rush and I get to sit in the parking lot every morning for formation since Jay is still not ready to drive. Then we'll make a mad dash to get Jay changed out of his uniform (street clothes are encouraged at the hospital) and over to catch his ride.

His unit is going on block leave for several weeks starting this weekend. We are still unsure whether or not Jay will be using his leave or not. He will be going to outpatient every day regardless. Since he won't get back until after 1pm every day from the hospital it is unclear right now how the rest of his day will go. And that means I don't know how the rest of my own day will go. This could end up being the 'Summer of Waiting in Parking Lots'. Which sucks because it's also the 'Summer The Air Conditioning Went Out in the Car'.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fury, Then Perspective

Friday---The Fury

Today was supposed to be the day that Jay could come home. I kept it in the back of my head that they might keep him into the middle of next week. But after a meeting with his team (doc, therapist, etc) it was decided that if all went well I could pick him up Friday. Friday-today. Today as in yesterday-it-was-clear-that-the-next-day-would-be-FRIDAY!!!

The key I guess is that little phrase, "if all went well." All did not go well but not because of any fault of my husband. Things could not get processed in time for him to be released before everyone left for the weekend. Apparently, Jay has to make a stop in at the behavioral health center on post after he is released from the hospital. At noon today I got a call from my very depressed husband. He said that there is a 2pm deadline to process everything. So, from yesterday afternoon til 2pm today NOTHING was done in time to get Jay home. Now, he has to sit in the hospital all weekend even though he is technically cleared for release!!!

I had to listen to the disappointment in his voice as he explained to me that he couldn't come home because someone didn't start the process to release him early enough to meet the 2pm deadline. All of the office people who made this decision got to go home at 5pm. My husband gets to stare at the hospital walls for another three nights for no medical reason. Tell me how someone could know on Thursday that Jay was to be released but could wait until it was too late to file paperwork. Or tell me how it is that someone in behavioral health could deny the process knowing that it would mean that someone would have to stay in the hospital another weekend. I knew at 12pm that this was happening. In my eyes that's two whole hours that SOMETHING could have been done.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is really not that horrible. It just frustrates me because he just came home from a deployment. Then almost immediately he was hospitalized. He misses his family. This mishandling is just frustrating. I could be seeing it all wrong. Maybe to the people at the hospital it wouldn't hurt for him to stay a few more days. Fine. Then don't tell him he could go home on Friday. Don't even give him that sliver to hold on to. Jerks.

After receiving the news that I wasn't picking Jay up I immediately went into big-pig mode. I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor plowing my way thru a bowl of pasta salad. According to the box on the Betty Crocker Bacon-Ranch Suddenly Salad, my food therapy cost me nearly 800 calories. I just couldn't stop myself. I can't help but turn to food during all this.

The week that Jay was in all that turmoil before the hospital, I lost five pounds. Everyone commented on my weight loss and it felt great. It seemed like a silver lining around a cloud that was otherwise raining down complete poo. Then after he was admitted it occurred to me that I had lost those five pounds because I had neglected to EAT! Now, I just shovel it in. A few days ago it was a bag of Doritos and a box of Swiss Cake Rolls in the course of two days. I'm a mess.

Thankfully, it's a gray, cloudy, sad-looking day. My favorite when I am depressed. I want to pout in peace without that bastard, the Sun, poking his fat, chipper head out making me feel guilty for just curling up on the couch.

I started writing this post last night. A big storm came thru and knocked out the power. When it came back on I never went back to finish. Instead I spent the entire night (til 4am) reading blogs by different military wives who were coping with varying degrees of hardship and heartaches.

Saturday---The Perspective

It's pretty common thinking that if you think that your life is bad there is always someone out there who has it worse. I don't believe I would go so far as to say my life is bad but I'm also not above crying in the shower, wishing I could just get carried down the drain by a bubble of soap.

After reading the blogs (pages and pages) I see how much I have to be thankful for. These women were not only dealing with PTSD and TBI but it was usually on top of severe physical injury. I am blessed that Jay didn't lose any limbs. I am blessed that he doesn't have any internal injuries. I am blessed that he is alive.

I am most blessed that he still loves me and WANTS to get well. After that, what else is there? We just keep going forward.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A New Week

Monday again. Yesterday was visitation and it went really well. Two of Jay's friends from work surprised him. It was nice to see that people care about him enough to make the trek up to the hospital on a weekend. Jay seemed a lot like his old self. I could tell though, that the hospital is getting to him. He is ready to come home. He's scared to death of the real world but I know he is tired of being away from me and the kids.

Today I had a meeting with Jay and the therapist. What a really nice guy. He asked a lot of questions that really got Jay to open up about things that I was completely unaware of. For instance he feels useless right now. I had no idea. I am heartbroken that he feels that way.

I wanted to tell him that being useful was never why I loved him in the first place. I wanted to say that if being useful meant doing things around the house, he was never exactly "useful" to begin with:) I wanted to say that he doesn't have to BE anything or DO anything to be loved in our family. It's a free ride. Just a perk for being one of us. I wanted to say that if there was any 'reason' why I loved him, it had nothing to do with usefulness. I love him and want to be with him for purely selfish reasons. I want to be near him because he makes me feel like I am the only girl in the world. He makes me laugh like no one else can. And he makes me feel safe. Not financially safe. Not physically safe. He makes me feel safe in a way that means that what we have is real and it's not going anywhere. Money: come or go. Mental health: come or go. WE are forever.

Those are the things I wish I had said. In reality all I said was, "I wish you didn't feel that way." V-e-r-y helpful. sigh.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another Weekend

These weekends without Jay are really bumming me out. I mean, we made it thru another deployment yet here we are apart some more. Enough whining. I did get to talk to him a bit this afternoon over the phone and he seemed in good spirits. His smoke breaks are timed so he told me he'd call me again tonight. I'm counting on it.

Yesterday I had to tell him that I couldn't get his new ('87) Mustang started. He told me when he went into the hospital to keep going to the garage and starting it every few days. I totally forgot. How? I have no idea. But when I went out there to finally start it up, the battery had died. I'm not sure why. The day Jay went to the hospital he wanted to sit in his car for a bit before we left. Maybe something was left on and drained the battery. I hope that's all it is. I don't know anything about cars but when it makes no sound at all when you turn the key, I suppose a dead battery is a safe bet.

Also, I had to tell him that the Army is screwing with his paycheck AGAIN. He is owed some back pay that he never received while deployed. He tried to get it fixed while he was in Afghanistan but it never was. He went in to have it fixed when he got home and I was hoping that they had finally decided to give him his correct pay. No luck this payday. Maybe in another two weeks. I want interest.

He's also owed another chunk of money for being deployed that he had to turn in some paperwork for. Unfortunately, all the other guys did this when he was going into the hospital. So we have to wait for Jay to get released before we can even turn ours in. I suppose I could just turn in the paperwork to one of his superiors and just hope for the best. I think, given the track record of complete FAILURES I've witnessed within our time here, I will just wait til Jay can take care of it personally.

On a positive note, it IS the weekend so that means my daughter, P, is here. We are having our last Ghost Whisperer marathon later today. Three discs from Netflix completes Season 4 and brings us up to date. I am a little sad that these little marathons are ending. The regular season of the show is ending next weekend. What will we do all summer???

I suppose it is perfect timing that it is all coming to an end since Jay will be home sometime soon. Given that he sees ghosts of his own right now, I don't want to upset him by watching it on TV. It's weird how a guy who once LOVED horror movies now needs to be sheltered from something as innocent as Ghost Whisperer. Whatever it takes. That's an easily avoided trigger, so avoid it we will.

And as for how soon he'll be home, maybe within a week. Finger's crossed!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday's Visitation

Because Jay's Wednesday's visitation is at 6 I have to cross the city during rush hour. This terrifies me. I don't mind stop/start stoplight traffic. But this particular traffic requires alot of merging as I dart across freeways. I hate it. So much in fact that I left my house early enough to completely avoid it. Which put me in the hospital's neighborhood around 4pm. Early, early.

There is a giant mall a couple stop lights down from Jay's hospital so Rush and I just hung out there for a bit. I was hoping that there would be a play area like there is in our hometown mall, but no such luck. Next week we will look for an outdoor park close by. If it's raining I know we can still hang out near the fountains in the mall. I'll just bring Rush's nintendo DS and I'll grab a magazine. Maybe we'll have a snack or something. Anything to avoid killing someone on the freeway.

Sunday was Mother's Day and I wrote that I was livid that Jay's parents didn't come to visitation. Jay was disappointed but not surprised. I felt that it was totally unacceptable seeing how the hospital is less than an hour away from their house. I called them on Monday not sure if I was going to be able to maintain any grace and poise. I didn't have to worry about it. Jay's dad immediately went into apologetic mode and said he'd be there on Wednesday. I politely told him that I was very protective of Jay's feelings and I wouldn't stand for him to get hurt therefore I wouldn't be telling him that they were coming. If they showed up, then it would be a nice surprise. But it wouldn't be a letdown if they flaked...errr....if something came up.

They DID show up. And they stayed the whole time. They even got there an hour early because they worried about the traffic too. I was so impressed. I know it seems obvious that parents should want to visit their son in the hospital. But this family is DIFFERENT to say the least. They are moving up my ladder of respect just for coming.

My other-mother did make the comment to Jay, "Sooo, what are we doing for Mother's Day?" He told her, "Mother's Day has passed." Uh, yeah it did, remember? You weren't there!!!! She wants us to take her to the movies. Ugh. I want to have a normal relationship with this woman but this just rubs me the wrong way. I guess we can tell her we are taking her to the movies and then just NOT SHOW UP!!!!

Clearly, I have some anger issues for this family. They have put Jay thru so much over his lifetime and even though he is eager to put it all behind him, I am not so forgiving. Still, every time we see them I tell myself we can start over and build from here. We have built from "here" so many times that "Here" could have it's own zipcode.

On a positive note, we find out today about how long Jay has left in the hospital. It could be as little as a week and a half. I'm trying not to think about it because of course, it could be longer.

Whatever happens, at least we do see each other twice a week. I get to touch his face and he always pulls my chair as close as possible to his. He keeps his arm around me the entire hour and a half and at least once "accidentally" brushes against my chest. It feels like high-school. Especially since we have visitation in a cafeteria. In fact, it might be kinda sweet to look at it like that. We are just flirting right now, seeing each other occasionally and when he gets out it will be like our first date. Hmmm, but will I put out on our first date?? After a deployment and almost immediate hospitalization (not to mention stopping the mood-killer Zoloft!) I doubt it's even up to me!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Visitation Day

Sunday was visitation day and I spent the whole morning begging for the afternoon to hurry up and arrive. I can only visit Jay from 2:30-4pm. Not nearly enough time. It was Mother's Day and my mother-in-law (the other-mother) was supposed to show up with Jay's dad and niece. I was kinda jealous because I only have three hours a week to spend with him and I don't want to share. BUT he does need to see other people so I will graciously step aside if others want to visit.

I don't know why I even thought that they'd really show up. As I was sitting in the parking lot, getting ready to go in, I got a call from the-other-mother. "Emme," in a sad, little voice, "We aren't going to be able to make it." WHY? "Jay's dad didn't get up in time and hasn't had a shower." Ummm, really? This is your excuse? I said, "Don't worry. I'll let him know you tried." Later I learned that Jay's dad told his grandmother that they hadn't come because the niece was sick. Which is it? Whatever.

Here is what you missed! Jay walked into the cafeteria holding two little flowers. He had them sticking out of eye-drop bottles. One for me and one marked 'mom'. AND YOU WEREN'T THERE!!! Yours just wilted in my car along with any raveling of respect I ever could have mustered for you. SHAME. ON. YOU.

I have become incredibly protective of Jay's feelings. I will destroy the person who makes him sad. Luckily, I suppose, he's been dealing with this family his whole life and expects this type of behavior. He wasn't the least bit surprised. Disappointed for sure, but not surprised. I do not accept this. I have been nice for years because Jay is determined to build a relationship with his parents. He keeps trying and keeps trying. And over and over again they just keep letting him down. It's hard to watch. He wants for us to be the bigger people and let things go. I keep holding my tongue because he wants me to. I don't know how much longer I can keep my mouth shut.

On a positive note, Jay looked amazing! He was cheerful and very happy that a friend from work had stopped by for a few minutes. I loved seeing the surprised look on his face when he saw his friend sitting at the table. He was completely unexpected and perhaps helped guard Jay's heart a little from his parents' absence.

Jay experienced one little episode while I was there. He was mid-sentence about the cafeteria lady when he suddenly stopped speaking, got a blank look, started having his breathing tic for about 30 seconds, then began his sentence again. He was also startled by the air conditioner kicking on. But, all in all he seemed so much like himself.

I learned that the zombie-like behavior he was exhibiting before wasn't because of too much medication. It was sensory overload. He's missing alot of memories from that first week home. For example, I brought up the neighbor's break-in and how I had called the cops. He didn't remember that day at all. At the time his brain must have just shut off from all the excitement. It was explained to him as if he was living his life thru the lens of a video camera but it wasn't recording.

He is doing much better now. Initially, we were told he might be in there for a couple months. But now it looks like maybe he will be home in three weeks or so. That, plus the week he has just finished would be the classic 28 days. I hope that it is enough. At this point I don't even care. I just want him home. I just want to take care of him again. If he never drives again, if he never works again, if he can never step foot in Walmart again, I don't care. I just want our family back together. Of course, I want him to get well. And I will wait as long as it takes. But sometimes I can't help but think we can just shut the world out and make our own reality.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Friday, May 7

Today was Jay's appointment with the social worker, Jan. Since Jay is unavailable at the moment, Dr. W suggested I keep it. I was a little nervous going in. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that Dr. W wanted me to speak with Jan because he knows that what Jay is going thru is affecting the entire family. But I didn't know if I would be expected to talk about my feelings or if we'd work together to make a plan of action to keep my family together thru Jay's battle.

I sat in the waiting room filling out the health questionnaire. A thousand questions but so easy. I have wonderful parents, I had a beautiful childhood, I don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, I don't have anger issues, and there are no dark family histories lurking in my family tree. I am the most boring client/patient EVER. Since I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of whining about my feelings on our situation I decided I would go in there and just focus on what Jay needs from us. I'm not saying that a wife shouldn't go in there and whine if she is feeling overwhelmed or sad or angry. She most certainly should get those feelings out to someone who has the power to help her. It's just that I am not at that point.

Rush came with me so all worries about what Jan and I would talk about were for nothing. He dominates the room. Especially since he's currently obsessed with tornadoes. He talks about them non-stop, he watches videos on the computer, he "tracks" the weather on the radar, and he draws them incessantly. He doesn't seem afraid of them. At least not in the usual sense. As he says, "They are just in my head and I can't get them out." Naturally, Jan was all over this. She made the connection that anyone might about how Rush's life might feel like a whirlwind and out of control right now. I thought to myself that this was straight off a TV movie. Is it ever really so cut and dry? Jan told me of an art therapy for children that's going on thru July. I definitely think I need to get him into that. He carries a pen and paper everywhere and he draws almost continuously thru out the day. Art therapy sounds perfect for him.

When Rush was busy with other things Jan and I were able to talk. She is so easy to talk to. She has a look that says "You are safe here." She reminds me of a high school art teacher with her big beads and her long skirt and the funky posters on the wall. She carries a bag of aromatherapy bottles in a sparkly bag. She is really special.

The conversation stayed mostly around what I can do to make sure my marriage doesn't become a victim of Jay's disorder. THAT I am comfortable with. Jay and I are dedicated to each other. He and I have been thru so much over the years and I absolutely refuse to let this come between us. I will do whatever I can to help him thru this.

After our appointment I was off to get P. It's nearly three hours round trip and when I got home I was dragging my feet. Thankfully, our Friday dinner ritual lately is biscuits and gravy. P loves it and since I use a sausage gravy mix (much to my mother's horror!) and canned biscuits it's almost as fast as drive-thru but for less than $2. Our other Friday night ritual is Ghost Whisperer. My daughter loves that show. We have been clogging up the Netflix queue with past seasons. Every Saturday we have a Ghost Whisperer marathon to get her caught up. I thought that our weekend tradition might end or at least slow down once Jay got home from Afghanistan. But, here we are just like old times. In fact, last night Jay called and I stepped out of the room. When I came back to the couch P said, "It feels like he's still deployed." It does. He's just forty five minutes away but at times it feels as though he hasn't come home at all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6

Today is my first day with no physical contact with Jay since he got home from Afghanistan. He was admitted on Tuesday and visitation was yesterday. Today I am on my own. We've been apart so much that being without him is quite normal. But being away from him when he is sick is breaking my heart. I know that this is a journey he needs to take on his own but I can't help but want to at least hold his hand while he goes thru it.

I waited all day to see if he would call. I finally called him around 9pm. I figured he was waiting til just before bedtime to call me like he did when he was deployed (which he was) but I just couldn't wait. I needed to hear his voice. I needed to hear that he was upbeat and positive. I needed him. We only spoke for a few minutes before he was called away by something. But those few minutes put me at ease.

One of the things I was looking forward to at the end of deployment was finally being able to walk from room to room without worrying where my cellphone was. I guess I am still chained to this thing for a little while longer.

Wednesday, May 5

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Visitation Day

Even though I had just dropped Jay off at the hospital yesterday I am ecstatic that today is visitation day. It's from 6-7:30pm which puts me on the edge of downtown right at rush hour. I spent the night with Grannie which is north of the hospital. I had to battle the bumper to bumper snake-line around the city. Thankfully, it was an easy trip with little exiting and merging and everyone around me seemed calm and patient.

My nerves were shot by the time I got there. I had stopped earlier to get him a calling card, a magazine and a few other things. I got WAY down the interstate when I realized I hadn't ever bought the calling cards which were the most important thing. I stopped at one gas station but they didn't have any. I didn't want to fool around guessing if another gas station might have some so I back-tracked to where I knew there was a Walmart. With my mistake, the traffic and me getting slightly lost once I got in the area, I ended up being about 20 minutes late.

He didn't care. I had been led to the cafeteria where we are allowed to visit. I waited for him to come down and when he popped around the corner he was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. He actually smiled. I hadn't seen that in several days and it was so wonderful. We sat at the table and tried to talk while Rush kept himself busy with a salt shaker. There are no toys in the area and I don't believe I am allowed to take any items into the cafeteria. It appears that visitation is going to be a little frustrating. It's hard for a five year old to sit still for an hour and a half.

We sat there holding hands and occasionally just laying our heads down on the table. We are emotionally exhausted and it was nice to just sit together, touching, but with no pressure to speak. I wonder how long he will be there. Dr. W told me to expect 6 weeks but to not be surprised by 2 1/2 months. The lady who admitted him said that a baseline is 28 days. When I talked to Jay he said his doctor told him a couple weeks.

I don't want to rush him because I want him to be well. But, I just miss him so badly. We have already done the deployment. This is the time that we are supposed to be together getting to be a family again. I have had it with the Army life. It's not for me. It's not for Jay. I'm finished. Since he joined the Army nearly FOUR years ago we have spent 14 months together. And two of those months were block leave and R&R. Jay has missed three out of Rush's five birthdays. We have spent one anniversary together. Enough already. I. AM. DONE.

Tuesday, May 4

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.


I woke up when the alarm went off at 4:45am to find Jay sitting at the table tying his shoes. At least that was the last thing he was doing. He had fallen asleep mid lace. What a sight to see him fully asleep with his butt in the chair and his face nearly in his boot. Poor guy. I was so angry that even though he was being admitted to a psychiatric hospital today he was not excused from formation. Good God, heaven forbid he not show up to stand in the wet grass for ten minutes.

We made our way to the hospital in the city. Jay was so nervous and kept stalling. I practically had to drag him in there. It was absolutely the saddest day I can remember, short of a death in the family of course. I had packed his bag with three complete changes of clothes, tons of cigarettes, and his toiletries. He was allowed little else. No cellphone, no ipod, nothing. I helped get him admitted and hugged him as tightly as I could. I told him how I was so very proud of him and how I would come to visit him as soon as they let me. And then a very nice lady walked him thru the door and left me in the lobby. I made my way back to the car and sobbed til I could barely breathe.

I drove up to get Rush from Aunt B's. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing. I had the window down and as I crossed the big bridge that leaves the city from one state into another, a peacefulness washed over me and I knew that Jay was going to be ok. We have spent tons of time apart. Years in fact if you were to add it all up. But this was different. This time, he wasn't leaving to do something he had chosen to do. This time I felt like he was a victim and left to struggle thru treatment. A victim of the Taliban, a victim of our government, a victim of a navy doctor who did little when my husband was begging for help. But, I know that he is not truly a victim. Thanks to thousands of Vets before him, he is receiving treatment that was unheard of thirty, twenty, maybe even just ten years before.

I finally made it to Grannie's house and fell asleep in her recliner. This past eleven days had been the most exhausting of my life. I was thrilled to have my husband home, devastated by what he was up against and completely convinced that I needed so much help to get him well again. Where I thought in the beginning that I could just love this little problem away, I clearly see now that it is WAY bigger than me.

Monday, May 3

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Trying Day

Jay rarely became aware at all today. He was stubbornly awake but never fully lucid. He had the day off and I really wanted him to just relax all day. The next day he was to begin the outpatient treatment and I knew he was nervous. But life had another direction. We went out for him to smoke but I immediately had to shuffle Jay and our boy back inside as I was witnessing a break-in at our neighbors house. Jay didn't catch on right away to what was happening. I would have loved to just pretend I didn't see anything so I could let Jay skip the drama that would follow. But, of course, I called the police and waited for the mess to unfold.

I didn't know the address of the house that was being broken into as it was behind us. It was irrelevant anyway because the man had darted out of the house when we had gone outside. So, the cop came to my house. I met him before he could come in and tried to quickly explain to not startle my husband. He understood and was very polite. He went about his policeman business at the house behind us but left his car in front of my house blocking our car. Another police car was now parked behind his. Wonderful. Not only does the whole neighborhood know that I have called the cops, they are all out wondering what's going on.

Thru it all, there is poor Jay, looped out of his mind from his medication, teetering on the edge of sanity from this stupid disorder, and all our neighbors are gathered around to find out what's going on. This is to be expected and was actually kind of helpful as there has been a string of break-ins to peoples' vehicles lately. The truck across the street from my house was broken into not long before Jay came home. A couple months before that, a guy had come to my door late at night. I didn't answer the door but spoke to him thru the window. He was trying to sell me a GPS he had pulled from his pocket. Thru talking to my neighbors I learned that he had tried to sell it to another guy as well and then another neighbor spoke out and said it was HIS device that had been stolen! What a world. I am now afraid to go into my own backyard. This jerk smashed in the neighbors window (which is right behind my house) at 2 in the afternoon in broad daylight. What else is he capable of?

After the excitement wore down Jay decided we needed to go finish our business at the BMV. I wrote earlier that we had gone before but just as we were paying our bill, the entire state's computer system crashed. So we made our way over there shortly before closing time and walked up to the door to see a sign stating that they couldn't accept debit cards at the moment and they were sorry for the inconvenience. We have an out of state bank and there was no time to gather up the cash so we just decided to come back another time.

We got back to the car and I saw a little black truck in the parking lot with the Airborne emblem on the back window. Days before, in this very parking lot, we had met a little old man from the 2-504, which is Jay's old unit. They had talked a little bit but we left with nothing more than a handshake. Jay was upset that he hadn't asked the man for his number so he could take him out for lunch. Could this be our chance? We waited in the car for the man to come out. Yes, it WAS him. I was so excited. I went up to him and asked if he remembered us. He did. I told him a little bit about Jay's story before Jay could get out of the car. He asked to exchange numbers so we could get together sometime. The man was so nice and I'm sure he was a little shocked by all the attention. Jay just felt such an attachment to him and I felt such an attachment to someone who had made my husband so happy. I'm sure the man wasn't expecting all that for just driving to the BMV.

When we first ran into the man I told Jay that maybe it was destiny that they meet. If the system hadn't gone down when it did and we hadn't waited fruitlessly for it to come back up we never would have met the man. I said that maybe Jay was meant to give that old vet a boost that day by showering him with admiration. Now, I'm convinced that it's so much more than that. Why would their paths cross twice like that? If there hadn't been a break in at our neighbor's house we would have left much earlier in the afternoon to go to the BMV. But as it happened, there they were, two generations from the 2-504 exchanging handshakes in the parking lot again. Maybe they never actually meet for lunch. But something happened that afternoon. Maybe Jay helped that man in a way that I'll never know. Who knows? It was no coincidence. That much is true.

With all the excitement from the day Jay crashed on the couch as soon as we walked inside. I would have left him there all night but Dr. W called and said that he wanted Jay admitted the next day instead of fooling with the outpatient treatment. This meant that I had to drive all the way back up to Aunt B's house. (Aunt B is Jay's aunt and the ONLY woman who watches our boy). That's almost a two hour drive. But I knew that admitting Jay the next day was going to be a big deal and I didn't need little Rush (as he likes to be called) to be there witnessing it or interfering with it.

I was able to wake Jay to explain what was going on. I got everyone to the car and made the long journey to Aunt B's and Grannie's house. They live in the same apartment complex so when we see one, we see the other. By the time we got home it was 1:30am and I was worn down. But Jay couldn't sleep. He was too nervous about the next day. He can't be alone in the tub and I struggled to stay awake as he had yet another bath around 2:30am. I finally fell asleep at around 3am and woke up when the alarm went off at 4:45am to find Jay fully dressed in his ACUs almost ready for formation.

Sunday, May 2

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

The Calf

We woke up at Mom's and it was a lazy, rainy day on the farm. Mid-morning we were outside with Mom on the porch chit-chatting as she was preparing the grill. Jay was very talkative and it was so nice to be out there with two of my favorite people away from all the noise of town. Nothing in sight but cows and trees. So peaceful. Until we heard gunshots in the distance. Immediately Jay jerked around to see where the shots came from. Mom quickly explained that it was just hunters far off in the woods. But, Jay was shaken up so we went back into the house. He took a Clonipin which immediately sends him into a zombie-trance. I sat on the floor and he clung to my lap til he fell asleep.

A few days before, a calf had been born to a momma whose milk never came in. My parents had been feeding him from a giant bottle. My husband, the great animal lover, jumped at the chance to feed the baby cow. Everyone trekked out to the barn in the rainy, nasty muck to see the calf. We all stood in the barn laughing while Jay made jokes with the calf. He was so at home out there with that animal. Then the rain just poured down. The noise on the tin roof stopped Jay mid-sentence. He wrapped his arms around me and buried his face into my shoulder and stood their shaking til it passed. No one said a word but I looked at my mom and her eyes were watering up. I couldn't look at my dad because I knew that I would start crying and I really needed to hold myself together so Jay wouldn't be embarrassed. Finally, he let go and went back to finish his sentence.

Jay, being a medic, gave dad tips to help build up the calf's energy. I don't know if my dad needed the advice or not but he appeared that he appreciated it. Jay knew that the calf needed a sugar boost and advised dad on what product to buy from the farm supply store. Dad needed to give the calf a shot of antibiotic and this would normally have been Jay's playground. But needles are a trigger for Jay, so he just asked my mom to get some honey to rub in the calf's mouth. He held the calf while my dad gave him the shot and then went about rubbing what ended up just being syrup (as Mom was out of honey) onto the calf's gums. This little cow soothed my husband in a way that nothing else had so far. He was like a little boy and even asked if we could take him home.

We were then off to say bye to Mamaw and then make our way to Jay's Grannie's house. My Mamaw can be an unemotional woman. I love her to pieces but she can seem a little cold sometimes. Not to me, of course, but to others for sure. When Jay walked in the door she immediately took him by the hands and her eyes welled up with tears as she went on and on to him about how wonderful he was. She said she could feel him shaking and he was having a little trouble speaking. But it truly was a beautiful moment. I have loved this woman my entire life and I don't remember ever seeing her cry. I have been with her at funerals where I'm sure she did cry but I have no distinct memory of seeing tears. And there she stood, a tiny little woman, broken-hearted by my Jay.

Jay slept on the way to his Grannie's house. She made him grilled cheese and tomato soup. Comfort food that provided as much comfort to her as it did to him. Then we were off to drop P off at her dad's before stopping by Jay's mom and dad's. He wanted to see everyone because he knew there was a chance that he would be admitted for a while once he got to the hospital for his outpatient care. It turns out he would be admitted. And we would just skip the whole outpatient step.

Saturday, May 1

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Busy Day

Jay has been home for a week. He woke up groggy but ready to get going. He hadn't slept well as he kept getting up to check the locks on the doors. A few days before he had installed little alarms on them. They don't connect to anything but just let out a shrill beep whenever the door is open. Normally, people would have these set just at night time. But Jay insists they stay on all day so he knows when the door is open. There is also a setting on the alarm so that instead of a shrill beeping there is a small ding-dong sound. That is our compromise during the day. So now if you come into my home it sounds as if you are walking into the corner market. Welcome! How can I help you today?

Jay and P (our daughter) spent the afternoon removing speakers from the truck to put into my car when Jay gets to feeling better. While they were outside our neighbor struck up a conversation with him. I glanced outside and saw them standing together and smoking. Jay has been very out of it since beginning his medication and I could only imagine what the neighbor must have been thinking since I wasn't there explaining Jay's behavior. Jay appears high or drunk. Very much NOT what is actually happening to him. It turns out that the neighbor is a Vietnam vet who was badly injured in the war and I would later learn as I spoke to him a few days after, his life was saved by a medic. He felt a connection with my medic-husband, maybe even a protectiveness.

Jay decided he wanted to go visit my parents and my brother. My brother lives next door to my parents as does my grandma (Mamaw as we say where I'm from.) I had told my mother to tell everyone what was happening to Jay so that they would be prepared. I explained that it was hard to watch but to act as if everything was ok. They didn't have to ignore that things had changed, but Jay didn't want them to be alarmed. I knew that she did her best but I knew they were all more than shocked when Jay walked thru the door.

My dad is a vet himself. And although he never saw actual combat, he had been deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and witnessed more than enough destruction. I could tell that he was upset at what was happening to Jay. It tugs at my heart in a good way though. Jay and my dad are VERY different. Dad is very straight-laced: no smoking, drinking, cussing etc. Jay chain smokes now (thanks to his nerves) , has had trouble with alcohol in the past, and cusses like a...well, not a sailor, but like a soldier. He also has a complete sleeve of tattoos on one arm and half of one started on the other. My dad loves country music, my husband is death-metal to the core. They could not be more opposite and it has been obvious ever since Jay and I got together. But now, as Jay is struggling, my dad has opened his arms to him and all differences are irrelevant. They are just two comrades and my dad's heart has gone out to him.

My mother is a saint. She had a brain tumor removed over a decade ago and while she has seemed to recover, she still battles memory loss and confusion at times. She has assured Jay that although she doesn't know exactly what he's going thru, she does know what it feels like to be scatter-brained and lost all the time. She was quick to make Jay feel like he was perfectly normal even though his behavior showed otherwise.

We went up to visit my brother and his wife. My brother, E, and Jay are really good friends. I could tell that E was very upset by what Jay was going thru. Jay's tics were very obvious and his medication had made him very wobbly. He had a great time visiting with E and his wife, S, though. He was joking and almost seemed like his old self. He was plowing thru a box of Swiss Cake Rolls when he had a really bad attack on their kitchen floor. It was scary for everyone but we just sat back and let him finish. I rubbed his back while he gasped and hit his head. It seemed to last forever. But, finally it was over and we all pretended that everything was ok. It took everything I had to not start sobbing right there on the floor.

Jay would have stayed up all night anyway, so it was nice to be around family til around 4am when we finally decided to go back down the street to Mom's house. The thunder and lightning were really terrible and he was so afraid. He was smoking on the porch and just shaking. I begged him to go inside so we could go to bed. He was just so afraid of sleeping. Finally around 5am I was able to get him in the house, get him undressed and into bed. Which of course was actually a blanket on the floor in the living room next to the door. My sister's bed was available since she was out at a friend's. But, just like at home, he needed to be near the door at all times.

Before he fell asleep he told me that my family makes him feel safe. This means alot to me. My family is full of really wonderful people. We are not rich and successful. But we have great character and that means more than anything.

Friday, April 30

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Finally The Weekend

I got Jay off to work today and then picked him up again at 11am. Everyone had been let go but had to be back later that afternoon. We decided to run to the BMV to transfer the title and register the Mustang. It was very crowded and instead of taking a number and taking a seat like we normally see, the line snaked around like at a bank. It was alot for Jay to take so he slipped out and waited for me to get closer to the front of the line.

It was finally our turn and all was going well. We signed what we needed to sign, their guy had gone to inspect our vehicle (since it was an out of state title), and just as we were getting ready to pay, the system in the ENTIRE state failed. We were so close. She had our license plate sitting on our paperwork. My debit card was out and almost in her hands. And then, bam. Nothing. We waited it out for about twenty minutes but gave up. She stapled our paperwork together and told me I could come back later. Argh.

The place was quite packed by then and as we were walking out a little old man in a little old truck pulled up to the door to check things out. I politely told him that he might want to come back another time since the computers were down. Jay recognized the emblem on the old man's hat. I didn't but I recognized the sticker on his truck window. He had the same Airborne symbol as the patch on my husband's uniform. Completely out of character, my husband reached out his hand and struck up a conversation with the man. They talked for a bit and discovered they were both from the 2-504. Don't ask me what all that entails because I don't know. But it was a sweet coincidence to run into this old man who had been one of those "Devils in Baggy Pants" back when the Devils actually jumped into combat. Jay isn't with the 82nd anymore but he went to Iraq with them. It was heart warming to see my husband attach himself to a stranger so quickly.

When we got to the car Jay expressed his irritation that he had forgotten to ask for the guy's number. He would have liked to take him out for coffee or lunch just to hear what the old man had to say. I told him that it might have been destiny that those two meet. I mean, after all, had the computers not gone down we would have been in and out of the BMV without ever running into the man. I said that maybe Jay was meant to be there at that particular moment in time to remind that vet how much he was still admired. (Days later I would begin to think that it was a little more than that.)

I drove Jay back to work and I headed out of town to pick up my daughter. Last year Jay re-enlisted so we could change duty stations so I could be closer to my two children from my past life. They are 11 and 15 and have friends and lives of their own in our home state. We have all come to the conclusion that it is easier on them to remain where they are and for me to just pick them up on weekends. My son rarely comes down as he is very attached to his dad and his dad's family as well as his friends. I have come to terms with this. I had him all to myself for 12 years and it's ok that now he wants to be with his dad more than me. I know he loves me and he knows I love him. As for my daughter, she is with me any minute we can get. It was especially difficult her not living with me all the time. But she can only go to school in one place so it's easier on her not to switch. So every Friday I make the hour and half drive to pick her up after school and then again on Sunday to take her back. I can't wait for the summer!

My daughter has been Jay's step-daughter since she was four. They are very attached to each other and she is a bright little light that just makes our whole house happy. On the way home I explained to her what Jay was going thru. I had confidence that she could handle it. She is very intuitive and knows how to put people at ease. I couldn't wait to get her home because I knew she had the power to really lift Jay up. I raced home after picking her up to find that he and his friend had just pulled up as well. Perfect timing. Thank God for his friends. They have helped him in Afghanistan while he was trying to ride out the deployment while battling his PTSD, they have helped get him home after work, and they have offered to help with anything they can.

He was so exhausted today. But he insisted on taking his friend out to the garage to show off his car. I have often second-guessed my decision to run out and blow our emergency fund on that car since he is unable to even drive it. But at times like this, when he is able to brag to his friends, I see that it was worth the expense. The insurance is costly too but it is a small price to pay for my husband to still feel like a man. Maybe he won't be able to drive it for a while. At least he knows it's his.

Again, Jay fought sleep all night. I had grown weary of following him outside to the garage every time he wanted to smoke so I gave in and decided he could smoke in the house. JUST until he gets better. Since my first apartment when I was 18 years old no one has been allowed to smoke in my home. This was a very big deal to let him light up on my couch. I hate the smell of cigarettes. But I am deathly afraid of Jay starting a fire since he often drifts off while smoking. I really had no choice if I wanted to maintain my own sanity.

We had a big weekend ahead of us and finally Jay gave in to sleep and drifted off sometime after midnight.

Thursday, April 29

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

The Trip, The Cell Phone, and TMI

Since Jay had slept for 14 hours I was hopeful that today would be a good day. I got him to work and luckily everyone was released at 9am. I had been waiting in the car for three hours. Since it was so early in the morning it wasn't hot yet, but our son was awake this time. It is very difficult to keep a five year old busy in a car for three hours. But, Jay had asked me to wait, so wait I did. On the way home I asked him how he felt since he seemed less zombie-like. He told me he felt numb. It hurts when the man you love is so sad from the inside out.

We had an errand to run in the city. A trip to the city requires about 25 minutes on the interstate. Right now the interstate is not Jay's friend. Semis zipping by at 70 mph send Jay up against the car door grasping the handles. Our errand took us downtown where I do not like to drive. This time of year is BIG for this little city and the traffic was not pretty. I do not enjoy driving and I HATE driving in the city. Period. We got a little turned around and I was getting very nervous. I'm always afraid that I am going to make a stupid mistake and cause an accident. This anxiety is very real and has paralyzed me since I was 16.

But, only one person at a time can have anxiety issues so I really need to learn to keep mine in check. The beautiful thing was Jay took my hand and calmed ME down. He helped me figure out where I needed to be and helped me see that my fears were unwarranted. We got lost on our way out but I didn't care because I knew that he was with me. And thankfully, he was lucid enough to help me. I'm happy I had the little attack. It provided me a window into what my husband must be feeling. In my case, I knew why I was feeling the way I was and I knew that it would stop as soon as I was out of the situation. Jay feels that panicked feeling thru out the day and he doesn't know when it will end. I will go to the end of the earth to make this stop for him.

Jay has been very restless. Always on the move. He wanted to go pick out new cellphones. His had a broken hinge and although I had managed to use it for his entire deployment, when he got home he didn't have the patience to open it gingerly enough to keep it together. My phone's charger has been messed up since October. But I don't like to change phones. I get used to one and it becomes an extension of me. I have no desire to learn how to use another one. I would be happy to just keep going out to my car to charge my old phone. It really is out of date, I guess. Who keeps a cellphone for 2 1/2 years?

We were in the Sprint store being helped by a really sweet girl when Jay got a call from one of his superiors. Normally, Jay would have just excused himself and walked away to take the call. This time he just answered the call in front of the girl and then just walked out with no explanation. And left her standing there. She turned to me to finish her presentation of the phones. I then offered her the explanation that my husband had just got home and needed a little time to acclimate himself socially again. She seemed to understand.

An hour before, Jay had received a text to wear his beret the next morning. Apparently Jay didn't respond that he had received this message and someone was a little upset. Good grief. This would normally be no big deal for Jay. He would just let it roll off him. But, now he is so fragile emotionally that this little episode had real power to ruin our night. So he stayed outside while I finished setting up his new phone. I will return later to pick out mine.

After he picked out his phone (the most complicated one, by the way) he wanted to go to Walmart to look around and to just keep moving. We were doing fine until we got in line. Being in line is very stressful for Jay. I guess he feels enclosed and confined and it gives him serious anxiety. We were in the middle of a conversation and he just walked away mid-sentence to go to the bench across from the registers. A peaceful calm came over me. It was as though this was perfectly normal and we would just pick up our conversation when we got to the car. I think that our normal is going to be very different now. And I am ok with that.

When we were at the doctor's Monday, Dr. W expressed to us how important it was that we remain intimate. He was worried that the side effects from the meds would kill Jay's libido. He gave him a prescription to help him along. In the car on the way home that day Jay laughed a little that he would never need help in that department. But here we were Thursday and we had not been physical since Sunday afternoon. A 29 year old, fresh from a deployment, would normally want to be rolling around in the hay every minute. But, all this medication has Jay zapped. He tried the prescription but even with my efforts we just couldn't make it happen.

It was a half-hearted attempt on my part, I confess. I knew that Jay was only trying because he felt that I wanted it. Right now Jay has no interest in anything, not just sex. I don't feel the neglect that he assumes I do. If we had not been intimate for several weeks then maybe I would feel neglected but it had only been a few days. A few exhausting days at that. So, my goal was to just get him to our bed. My hope was that once he was horizontal and in the dark he would get sleepy and be able to drift off. And that's exactly what happened. Under any other circumstance a woman would be ticked that she had shaved and prepped for nothing. But at that moment in time, I couldn't have been happier. I watched him sleep for a few minutes and ran my hands over my smooth legs. It would be another week before I even had the time to shave again.

Even though the prescription didn't have the effect Jay was hoping for, at least something good came from it. When I woke up the next morning I found that he had eaten 10 pizza rolls, several Poptarts, and a bunch of cookies. That was more than he had eaten since he got home. And while he hadn't rested in the night like I thought he had, at least he had filled his belly.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, April 28

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Sleepy Time

I had a very hard time getting Jay to work today. He was so out of it. I dressed him and got him to the car. I had begged him to let me call someone so he didn't have to go in to work but he refused. I reluctantly dropped him off at formation but I waited in the parking lot for 3 1/2 hours just in case he needed me to take him home. I was half afraid that his superiors would call the ambulance to have him admitted. I knew that between his exhaustion and the medication he just needed rest.

Thankfully, our son just slept in the backseat while I waited. I drifted off myself and had I been able to stay awake, I would have noticed that all of the guys had been bussed to a different location. I was sitting in the parking lot waiting on NOBODY. When I finally got the courage to leave and go home I was a nervous wreck until I got the call I was expecting. "Come get your husband. He can't stay awake." Well, duh.

He fell asleep immediately in the car. Somehow I got him into the house. I managed to get him down to his underwear and onto the couch. He slept there until I had to wake him for work the next morning. Not a peep for fourteen hours. He had been so afraid to sleep since he came home and he was in so much turmoil. The sound of him snoring was the most beautiful sound in the whole world. (It would be the last serious block of sleep that he would get before he was admitted)

Tuesday, April 27

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

First Day Back to Work

Today Jay had to go back to work. The doctor wanted him to have a little time off but because the guys had just returned from a deployment he was required to complete Reverse SRP (soldier readiness processing). I consider that BS (no explanation needed). I drove him to work as he was not able to drive himself. The medication that Dr. W had prescribed had yet to really kick in but it was clear by that point that he didn't belong behind the wheel.

I was afraid to leave him so I drove to the Walmart just off post and walked around for an hour. According to his profile he was allowed to call me to get him if he needed me. I drove home not sure if he was going to make it thru the morning. I knew they only had a half day or so, so the odds were good that he'd make it. His friend drove him home and although he still had the breathing tic when he came in the house, he appeared well.

Around 1pm he became very sleepy but refused to lie down. (This would be what I would battle for the next week.) He would be exhausted to the point of sleeping while standing, but would absolutely refuse to sleep. So, I would follow him around the house to make sure he didn't hurt himself. My mother had called me in the afternoon and since I needed to charge my phone in my car I asked Jay if he wanted to smoke in the car while I talked to her. While we were out there he asked me to look for something in the house. I ran in the house to get it and when I came back outside he was asleep and burning a hole in his pants with his cigarette.

Although he was beyond tired he demanded that we go to the pet store. He had his heart set on getting two baby rats. I wanted him to stay home where it was safe but he insisted. So off we went to find his babies. He presented several tics at the pet store and appeared very withdrawn but the employee that helped us was so kind. I live in a very rural military community. This employee was a big man with a gorgeous tan, lots of jewelry and a ton of mascara. Not exactly the good ol' boy that is the norm here. He was also a rat lover. So, I believe that he knew what it felt like to be different and he made us both feel very, very normal. For as long as I live I will never forget how he looked at my husband. It was such a look of subtle understanding and acceptance.

The medication had put Jay into a zombie-like state but he seemed to come out of a bit as he was putting together the cage for the baby rats. It was so sweet to see him on the floor building their habitat with our son. My husband always, ALWAYS, has something living to take care of. We have not been allowed to have dogs or cats anywhere we've been but in the last couple years we have had a snake, a ferret, some hermit crabs, fish, and several rats. Actually, the love of rats came from the snake. Jay had bought a feeder rat for our snake that turned out to be too big for him. The rat and Jay bonded and we realized how smart and sweet they actually are.

Dr. W called tonight and recommended Jay start outpatient care on Tuesday. I would drive Jay to formation around 6am and then have him at the Army hospital at 7:30am where he would take a bus with some other patients to a clinic in the city. Jay's only job for a while would be to get well. I told him that Jay couldn't sleep. Wouldn't sleep. Was afraid to sleep. He told me to have him take Klonopin and Ambien. I fixed Jay a plate of food and went to get ready for bed. I came out to find him with his face nearly in his food, fast asleep. Thank God.

He slept soundly til the alarm went off at 4:30am. Ugh. Formation.

Monday, April 26

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Diagnosis Day

Today we went to the psychiatrist. Jay was so nervous but I was relieved. He was finally getting help. Help from a real doctor, in a real office, close to a real hospital. I sat with Jay in the waiting room. The doctor came to personally escort Jay to his office. I was ecstatic that he suggested that I come along too. I had no intention of speaking but I wanted to be there to hold Jay's hand. I am so glad I got to meet Dr. W. A civilian!! A man with his own mind and not chained to protocol and agenda. A man who was not hesitant to diagnose Jay with PTSD. Unlike the doctor before him, a navy doc on the FOB (forward operating base), who could only hand Jay a diagnosis of "anxiety disorder". I don't know why that doctor made the choices he did so I will not slam him here. But I will say this- a year ago my husband was a boy at heart who loved playing guitar, loud music, and fast cars. Today he barely picks up his guitar, is afraid of the slightest noise and is unable to drive. Anxiety Disorder my ass.

I want my husband back. Dr. W assured me we would get there. He suggested hospitalization but because Jay had just returned from a long absence he said that maybe jumping into the hospital wouldn't be best after all. He decided to put Jay on a 3 month profile which in a nutshell meant that he would keep working but in a very limited capacity. Jay is a medic but cannot think clearly, hold anything steady or handle blood right now. So the next 3 months would likely be a wait and see period. Either he gets much better and life continues on or he starts the process of getting discharged.

I am beyond happy that Jay has a doctor who is looking out for HIM and not the Army. He said he would call Jay every night this week. Thank you, God, for Dr. W.

Between picking up prescriptions (of which there are now six) and our appointments today we were on post for nearly four hours on what was supposed to be Jay's day off. We were exhausted. Jay had to get back to work the next day so we stopped for a haircut. Jay's tics were very obvious and as he sat in the chair the woman asked him if he was sick. He just told her he was tired. Later, he told me he felt like a freak. I hate how much pain he's in. I hate that I can't protect him from everything. I want to put a shield around him until he is well again.

When we got home we were up against a long night. Jay didn't sleep last night and tonight wouldn't give him any relief either. He stood barely awake staring under the hood of his Mustang. He told me later that he saw a light coming from underneath. When he leaned in closer to see where it was coming from there was a burned and twisted body holding the light. He would explain to me that he believes the visions he sees are dead men that are coming back to haunt him. He was afraid to go back into his garage. We determined that if this was really a dead man who wanted revenge it was clear that he was attacking something that Jay loved and shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. I think he was able to take control of the situation after that. And although the vision kept him awake all night, at least he was able to go back into the garage.

Sunday, April 25

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

The New Car

The week before Jay came home he told me about a car he had found online. An '87 Mustang GT in beautiful condition. He mentioned that it was in the next state over. Fortunately all of our family is there so I immediately thought that I could get this car for him. I didn't realize that the car was actually on the other end of the state. It's my own fault for not knowing my home state geography. Luckily, Jay's aunt stepped up and we drove to pick up the car. Driving back I was so nervous. I've driven long distances before but this car was not designed for a 110 lb girl with weak arms and high heel sandals. Shifting gears took everything I had. The next day I could hardly move. But I had managed to get it parked safely in Jay's aunts parking lot. Because she lives nearly two hours from us, I figured that Jay and I would drive up together to visit family and he could drive his new car home.

He had wanted to go pick up the car the day he got home. But it was raining very hard and he was nervous about driving the Mustang back. Of course I drove us up and he had a horrible panic attack on the way. I can't say I remember exactly when I first saw the facial tic. But it presented itself on the first day along with a periodically gaspy breath that seems like a spasm. And he has incredibly shaky legs at times that remind me of a marionette.

As it turned out, we did leave the car that first day. So on Sunday we woke up and he decided to try again. I felt like he was stalling. It took us several hours to get out of the house. His legs were really shaky and I was very scared for him to drive. We picked up the car and I followed him on the long way home. He drove WAY under the speed limit and I consider it a gift straight from God that we didn't cause an accident. But we did make it home safely. It was that trip that cemented in my brain that our lives were probably going to be changed forever.

May 6 2010- Looking back on those first couple days I see what a foolish decision it was to let him drive. He desperately wanted his car to be in his own garage and I desperately wanted to believe my husband was well. Jay has not driven since and won't be driving for some time.

Saturday, April 24

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

He's Home!

Our second deployment is over. Finally over. The reunion ceremony had been pushed back several days because of the volcano in Iceland. Never in my 34 years could I have imagined that volcanic ash floating across the Atlantic would impact/disrupt my life. But, ash or no ash, my soldier had eventually been released back to me. We practically ran to the car as we were both more than ready to start our lives together-again.

This time around things would be very different though. A couple months before coming home Jay had told me that he felt like he was breaking down. His dreams were beginning to get out of hand and his shaky hands were making it hard to do his job. I knew that his previous deployment had been very challenging and had taken a toll on him mentally. So I wasn't completely surprised that those old demons were out hunting him again.

When he returned from Iraq two years ago there were significant changes that I couldn't ignore. Most noticeable being that he would no longer sleep in our bedroom. We got rid of our bed and have been sleeping on a makeshift bed on the living room floor. Every night I bring it out and every morning I roll it up and put it away. Being in the center of the house, with access to all the doors, is the only way Jay can sleep.

There were other things like intense bad dreams that would leave him unable to move and gasping for air. Then the alcohol. He drank a lot and it was really tearing us apart. Thankfully, thru pure miracle, he stopped drinking on his own without intervention. It has not crept back into our lives but I am keeping a sharp eye out for that wicked little whore.

Of course there were little things too. He was jumpy and startled easily. He didn't like to be in the dark. He stopped driving except to go to work. He would become very uncomfortable when his brother, an EMT, would talk about things he'd seen on the job. He avoided talking about Iraq.

Looking back I wish I had demanded that he get help. But with the Army's hand-dandy little deployment schedule of one year home/one year away Jay had only just settled into life at home when he was deployed again.

I was relieved that because of a change of duty station we were closer to family. Also, Jay would be deploying with a group that would unlikely see actual combat. But, while I rarely worried about IEDs and gunshots this time, I did fear that Jays old demons would take hold and not let go. And that's exactly what happened.

After one particularly bad dream he decided to seek help. Since I wasn't there I cannot say exactly how it went but I know this much- he was given medication and a choice to be sent home or ride out the remaining two months of his deployment. My personal opinion is it is very unfair to ask an ill soldier if he wants to stay. What do you think he would say? And as the days pass, the angrier I get that he wasn't sent home. If the treatment is left up to the patient, then what use is the physician? That is two months of treatment lost. As I write this (5/6/10) my husband is sitting in a psychiatric facility. Perhaps if someone had the balls to make an executive decision to just send him home my husband would be sitting at home with me instead.

Over the last two months Jay told me that he felt he was getting worse. He told me to be prepared for him to not be in the Army much longer. Of course this sent me into a panic. I had felt secure that our lifestyle wouldn't change for three more years when his enlistment would end. We have children to support and him not being in the Army scared me. I only have a high school diploma and nothing more than factory experience to fill a resume. I certainly couldn't support us. Plus, we had plans to start a business and buy a home when he got out. He had plans to go to school. We definitely needed that three years to save and prepare. How selfish he must have thought I was. Not selfish, I promise. Just fearful.

I became convinced that whatever was going on in his head I could make it all better. All I needed was for him to get back home to me and then I would "love" away his demons. I would soon see that loving away PTSD is as effective as loving away cancer.