Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Mad Hatter

Just weeks before he came home from Afghanistan Jay mentioned to me how much he wanted a Mustang he had found online. I knew that he had been receiving treatment for his then suspected "anxiety disorder". I knew that he was feeling low and uncertain of his future. Yet, I was positive that as soon as he got home, I would make it all better. I thought, naively, that one look at the kids and me and all would be perfect again. But, just to be sure, I would drive out of state and pick up this magical car for him because THAT would be the icing on the cake-of-recovery.

We needed a second car but we certainly didn't need this particular car. It's terribly impractical, hard for me to drive, and loud. When I drove it home it drew so much attention that I felt very uncomfortable. It's not a fancy or expensive car. Just an old '87. But, to talk to Jay, you'd think that every hope and dream he ever had rumbled under it's hood.

Now here we are nearly three months later. Jay has all but lost his mind, has received a PTSD and TBI diagnosis, spent several weeks in a psychiatric hospital, and returned only slightly better. The car that he lusted over sits in the garage undriven, except for the couple times he's had the courage to test out whatever new whatchamacallit he's decided to put on it.

I have often regretted buying that car. I drained our emergency fund to buy it. It raised our insurance. It is a money pit as there are endless (unnecessary) projects that Jay is indulging in. And although he won't say it, I think it's a constant reminder of the fact that Jay is sick because he can't bring himself to drive it. But, thru it all -bad decision or not- it is making Jay happy. And it keeps him busy and gives him something to focus on.

Still, the car makes me very nervous. I rarely turn my back on Jay right now because I never know when his mind is going to slip. Our daughter spends a lot of time with him out in the garage when she's home so I am able to do other things in the house. I opened the garage door not too long ago to find the car jacked up with my love and my daughter underneath it. I nearly threw up. He was teaching her how to change the oil. That's fine. But all I saw was a million ways that this could end badly! They changed the oil without incident. But, just three hours after this, Jay had a horrible episode that I can only describe as a seizure. What if it had happened under the car? What if he had made some kind of mistake and hurt P? He would never forgive himself.

Just before he came home from deployment I took the kids to see Alice in Wonderland. I nearly cried when I watched it. It was so clear to me that The Mad Hatter had PTSD. Of course, he was already 'mad', supposedly from mercury poisoning from the hat making process. But, after the horror he witnessed during the massacre of the White Queen's people by the Red Queen's Jabberwocky, he changed completely. His personality flip/flopped depending on the situation at hand. He had flashbacks. He would get a sad, lost, empty look in his eyes sometimes. Tell me these aren't symptoms of PTSD.

I told Jay this and as he watched the movie later he felt the same way. I can't imagine how it must feel to identify with a character that has gone crazy.

Like a lot of guys, Jay names his vehicles. When it came time to name the mustang, after we had thrown out a dozen ideas, The Mad Hatter became the perfect fit.

Naturally, my car became Alice by default. Although, I think it's quite fitting. In the movie, Alice becomes very attached to The Mad Hatter and takes it upon herself to look after his mental health. She chooses her words carefully to make him believe that 'normal' is terribly boring and she, herself, is convinced that Crazy is a wonderful place to be. I could learn a lot from her.


  1. You have such a gift for expressing difficult-to-explain emotions, and it's like I know exactly what you're feeling because you describe things so clearly and poignantly. Save these blog posts you're writing, and turn them into a book. Seriously. (((hugs)))

  2. Kristen, what a lovely thing to say! I will hold on to your sweet comment forever. I worry so much that all the thoughts in my head sound like gibberish to the poor soul who has to decipher them on the screen. Thank you so much for letting me know my words make sense to you!

  3. adderall and ptsd? bad mix!

  4. I admire both your conviction and courage to try and work through the issues that you deal with day to day. I know several close friends, and an ex, who deal with both TBI and PTSD on a day to day basis. It's not easy, in fact I know day to day things that are normal and easy for the average person become daily struggles. These struggles are not only embarrassing but also are fuel added to the fire of anger. I think you are amazing in all that you have dealt with and stuck through as I know from personal experience that it's not easy to feel loved and be happy when the one person you love the most is unable to show you that they love you in return. I love your post and how articulate you approach your everyday life. I think more people should read this blog as many don't understand the consequences and daily struggle of the men and women that come back from war with this type of trauma. I also would encourage you to continue your blog and look into having it published as I feel it could be an eye opener for many. Thank you for sharing such personal details of your everyday life with us that are interested and I applaud you and your husband for both your services. You for your amazing blog and your husband for his bravery to defend our freedom here on the homefront. Our soldiers deserve so much more than just our thanks.

  5. Thank you so much for keeping this journal, it's a huge help to others going through the same things. By far the best thing I have read online so far. Thanks so very much.