Friday, August 13, 2010

Friends and Losses

It seems as though I've been neglecting my blog. My family has needed my attention and I haven't had a lot of time to write. Recently Jay's grandmother passed away. She lived out of state so we could not make it to the funeral. I don't think Jay could have tolerated the experience even if we could have gone. But, it wore at him terribly that he wasn't able to be with his family to say goodbye.

Also, last week, a young man from Jay's therapy group killed himself. This was devastating to his small group. I will not go into this much now because I am so filled with rage that I only have nasty things to say. Not towards this poor boy, but to the people who let him down. I feel that the Army drops the ball quite a bit when it comes to caring for its soldiers. But, THIS...well, sometimes when you drop the ball, you can't just pick it back up again.

I have so many negative feelings for the Army right now that I think I should shift gears for a little bit.

I have been thinking a lot about friends. While I do not have a lot of friends, I do have three that I intend to keep for the rest of my life. One from high school, one from my days working at a nursing home, and one from my days packing bottles at a plastic bottle factory. They do not know each other and each of them represent a different stage in my life. I have felt that these women are sisters to me. That's why it was particularly hurtful that when Jay came home from Afghanistan and went into the hospital these friends disappeared. It's not as though I was being Debbie Downer. I never got the chance to be. After the first phone call updating them about what was going on they all high-tailed it out of my life. I have known these women for YEARS. I have been with them thru so many of their life experiences that I was crushed that I was left to fend for myself. Not one of them has called me back.

But, I recently read in a PTSD relationship book, in a chapter about friendships, something I found so valuable, "Do not be angry with your friends for leaving you. They are just not in a place in their own journey to be there for you." I believe that my friends are not horrible people. My family is in a dark place right now and maybe my friends do not know how to deal with that. Maybe it's easier to just turn away and hope that someone else is going to handle it.

I know that this is a rational thought because I have been that horrible friend myself. Many years ago when I was a new mom I met a girl at work who was exactly my age. We got along so well even though we lived very different lives. I was a wild child/single mom and Tara was the classic devoted wife; married to her high school sweetheart. Though she was still quite young and only a newlywed, she prayed and prayed for a baby. When she got pregnant everyone knew she was going to be the greatest mom ever. After the baby came we would go to lunch and share stories about our baby boys. I was in awe of her devotion to God and to her family. But at times I would resent her for all that she had. I was alone, struggling because of poor choices I had made as a teenager, and there she was--lit from within by a light that I had no idea how to find and wrapped up in the cozy cocoon of a family she had created for herself.

One night after work, when her son was five months old, my friend lost control of her car. Her precious baby was killed instantly. After the funeral I did not know how to talk to her. I knew she had friends and family so I thought, "What can I possibly do for her that other people aren't already doing?" A complete cop-out. She never returned to work so I just faded away from her life. I abandoned my friend because her loss was so great and her grief was so big that I did not know how to face her. She did everything right. She followed all the rules. She had the perfect life. And she faced the ultimate loss. There I was, a mess of a girl with no future, no faith, no prospects and my baby boy was safe in my arms. My guilt was so overwhelming that I did not speak to her for ten years. Am I a bad friend? I certainly was to her. Am I a bad person? Absolutely not.

Some time ago, thanks to My Space, we were able to reconnect. I was again in complete awe of her. She was (and still is) married to that same high school sweetheart and they went on to have three more children together. And though my guilt still prevents me from getting too close to her, she welcomed me back without so much as a single word about my abandonment. If she could be that generous with her grace then surely I can show my friends some slack. I am in no way comparing my situation to the tragic loss of a child. We are at opposite ends of the pain-spectrum. But, if SHE can show so much loveliness and warmth, I really have no excuse.

I have chosen not to call my friends again so that they can have an easy way out. I do not want them to be uncomfortable. Should my friends ever call me again I will behave as if I just spoke to them last week. I will not let on how wounded I have been that they have left me alone. I will understand that my friends are not at a place in their own journeys to be there for me. I will show them the grace that Tara showed me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just Some Rambling

A couple Saturdays ago Jay went in for some brain testing. We are still waiting for those results. Hopefully they will be able to help pinpoint where (if any) damage occurred. Why does this matter? I don't know. Maybe I just want to see it on paper. Maybe I just want to be able to slam that paper on someone's desk and say, "FIX THIS!!!! IT'S RUINING OUR LIVES!!!!" Will it change anything? No. Not one bit.

The day of the test Jay had to miss two doses of some very important medication. I knew it was going to be a rough day but I had no idea exactly how bad it could get. To make a long story short, by the end of the day Jay had demanded a divorce, took the car keys, and drove himself into the city. I said a lot of prayers and was more than relieved when he walked back thru the door, safe and sound, a couple hours later.

But, honestly, and embarrassingly, I was also relieved that he had asked for a divorce. I wanted to run away. He'd been so mean and I was so tired of always trying to say the right things that for that bit that he was gone, I was actually excited to have been given my ticket to leave. I know that I don't really want to leave. I don't want my marriage to end. But, just for that little bit of time, I was free and I felt better than I had in weeks.

We managed to work things out and after his medication leveled back out, things returned to normal. He has not had any angry outbursts since then and I think this combination of medications is the key. We have still had moments of frustration that were never a part of our lives before PTSD, but at least we are at a place now where we seem to get along. I know we love each other. Thankfully, we have many years of that love behind us as a foundation.

Nearly everyone in Jay's therapy group (all soldiers with PTSD) has recently divorced or is on the verge. It's so sad. It's sad because the marriages are ending. But it's more sad to me because when I ask Jay why it's happening his reply is always, "The wife just doesn't get it" or "He says his wife's a bitch."

I've never met these women so I can't say if these things are true or not. But I can say this--it is VERY hard to be the wife of someone with PTSD. It's not like he's just in a bad mood sometimes or he's a little paranoid. PTSD controls our entire lives. He's in a bad mood ALL the time. He hates everyone and everything. It makes him stutter. It makes him shake. It keeps him from sleeping. It turns him away from his God. It scares his children. It keeps him from being 'him'.

Those wives were probably just like me. They married someone who was sweet and kind and loving. And then before their eyes their husbands morphed into some monster that they barely recognized. Why did their marriages end? Was it really because the wife just didn't get it? Or was it because she was just broken down and couldn't deal any more? You never know what goes on behind closed doors. That is such a common phrase but I think that it is one of the truest.

Will that be us someday? Will this stupid disorder claim our marriage? I'm hoping not. I cannot let Jay live alone like this. This disorder isn't his fault. What's happened to him isn't his fault. And as long as he's still trying to get well, and as long as he's still trying to not be swallowed up by drugs or alcohol, then he deserves for me to ride this out with him.