Thursday, May 6, 2010

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.


  1. I agree! My husband is in the reserves, so I know what sort of mentality there is within the military. Asking him whether he wants to go home is tantamount to saying "Well, if your a whimp..."

    It's one of those things that makes me want to rip my hair out about the military (or maybe men in general). It's the old brain vs bronze all over again.

    My brother, when he was in Iraq, was required to stand guard over his friends body for eight hours... alone, at night. My husband told me that is because the rule is that once a soldier dies, as a matter of honor, his body is to be constantly in the care of another soldier until he gets home.

    That sounds very romantic and all, but not very smart. And I honestly have never been able to decide what creates that atmosphere in the military.

    Is it the fact that they are men, and all men are like that? Or is it that the men who join the military are like testosterone charged versions of the regular man? Whatever it is, the underlying feeling is if you say 'I'm not comfortable with that' or 'I need help' then you are to soft, to weak.... and that is so very dangerous when you consider what they are dealing with over there.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad to hear that you share my feeling that this whole Alpha-Male business is straight nonsense. And I agree with you that it is so dangerous to make these guys (and girls) feel as though they are weak if they seek help. What a mess!

    And as for your question about men, military and testosterone---I believe it's as tricky as what came first: the chicken or the egg;) If a guys wasn't necessarily testosterone driven before he joined, he will certainly exit the military that way;)